My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
The 26th of October, Memory of the Holy, Glorious and Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessaloniki, the OUTPOURER OF MYRON (Myrovlete)
Saint Demetrius suffered in Thessaloniki during the reign of Galerius Maximia (306 AD). He belonged to one of the most distinguished families of the province of Macedonia and was widely admired not only because of his noble ancestry and grace of bearing but also for virtue, wisdom and goodness of heart surpassing that of his elders.
The military expertise of Saint Demetrius led Galerius, as Caesar of the Eastern Roman Empire, to appoint him commander of the Roman forces in Thessaly and Proconsul for Hellas. But for all this, Demetrius remained ever aware of the underlying realities of life. Since faith in Christ had touched his heart, all the glory of this world meant nothing to him, and there was nothing he preferred to teaching the word of God.
Despite the persecution directed against Christians by the pagan Roman Emperor, Saint Demetrius brought a large number of pagans to the Christian faith. His words convinced them because they saw in the righteousness, peace and brotherly love that marked his life an illustration of the truth of which he spoke.
The Emperor Maximian had just won a series of brilliant victories over the Scythians and was on his way back to Rome when he halted at Thessaloniki to receive the acclamations of the populace and to offer sacrifices in thanksgiving to the idols. A number of pagans, envious of the success of the Saint, took advantage of the Emperor's presence in the city to denounce Demetrius as a Christian. Maximian's astonishment gave way to violent indignation when he gathered that Demetrius' fellowship with the disciples of Christ extended to making use of his official position to spread the Christian faith. Saint Demetrius was summoned and confined in an insalubrious cell, located in the basement of nearby baths.
When Saint Demetrius entered the cell a scorpion approached his foot, poised to give a fatal sting. The Saint simply made the sign of the Cross and it vanished. Then he was left alone in the humid, foul-smelling atmosphere, but he took no account of it since he was full of joy at the thought of soon sharing completely in the Life-Giving Passion of the Lord. He was only sorry at having to wait for the end of the celebration of the Emperor's triumph before he could fulfill his martyrdom.
As was usual on those occasions, Maximian arranged for games and gladiatorial combats to take place in the amphitheatre of the city. He had brought with him a man of gigantic stature and Herculean strength called Lyaios, a Vandal by origin. Such was this man's strength and skill in single combat that no one could withstand him. There was in the city a young Christian called Nestor, who observing the empty pride of the Emperor in the victories of his champion, made up his mind to show him that real power belongs to Christ alone. He ran to the baths where St. Demetrius was imprisoned and asked for the protection of his prayer in going to confront the giant. The holy Martyr made the sign of the Cross on the brow and heart of the boy, and sent him like David before Goliath. He reached the amphitheatre just as the heralds were crying out on all sides for any who would stand against Lyaios. Advancing towards the Emperor, Nestor threw his tunic to the ground and shouted, "God of Demetrius, help me!" In the first encounter, at the very moment the giant rushed upon him, Nestor slipped aside and stabbed him to the heart with his dagger. There was uproar and amazement at the marvel, and people asked themselves how a mere child, relying neither on strength nor weapons, could so suddenly have brought down the hitherto invincible barbarian. The fact is that Nestor placed his entire hope in the Lord, "The Master of the contest," He Who delivers their enemies into the hands of the faithful.
Rather than yield to this sign of the sovereign power of God, the Emperor flew into a rage and ordered the immediate arrest of Nestor and his beheading outside the city. He had heard Nestor calling upon the God of Demetrius and, supposing the Saint had used some kind of witchcraft, Maximian ordered his soldiers to go and thrust Demetrius through with their lances, without trial, in the depths of his prison cell. There were some Christians, including Demetrius servant Lupus, present at his martyrdom, and when the soldiers had gone, they reverently buried the Saint's body. Lupus kept the blood-stained tunic of the Martyr and, taking the royal ring from his finger, placed it on his own. By means of these two trophies, Lupus wrought many miracles and healings; but when Maximian got to hear of them, he immediately sent soldiers to behead the faithful servant.
It was God's Will that the grace with which He filled Saint Demetrius should remain active even after his death. This is why He caused to flow from his body a myron with a delightful scent, which had the property of healing all who took it as an unction, with faith in the intercession of the Saint. Time and again, during sixteen hundred years, Saint Demetrius has given proof of his benevolent care for the city of Thessaloniki and its inhabitants. He has defended them from the attacks of barbarians, fighting for them on the ramparts; he has preserved them from plague and famine, healed the sick and comforted the afflicted. So many are his miracles that attempting to number them all would be as senseless as trying to count the grains of sand on the sea shore.
The same day, Commemoration of the Translation of the Holy Icon of Saint Demetrius, that lay on his tomb in Thessaloniki, in the Monastery of the Pantocrator in Constantinople.
The Emperor Manuel Comnenus was on his way to war in Sicily in 1149, when he met Joseph, the Egoumenos (Abbot) of the Monastery of the Pantocrator at Constantinople, in a village near Thessaloniki. The Egoumenos reminded the Emperor of his ancestors' promise to give the miraculous icon that lay upon Saint Demetrius' shrine in Thessaloniki to the Monastery of the Pantocrator. The Emperor was pleased to honor the promise, and the holy icon was solemnly translated to Constantinople, where it was welcomed by an immense crowd of monks and laity, who rejoiced to lay claim, like Thessaloniki, to the protection of the Holy Martyr. (Source: The Synaxarion: The lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church)
HYMN OF PRAISE: THE HOLY GREAT MARTYR DEMETRIUS
Thessaloniki glorifies its wonderful Saint-St. Demetrius, servant of the Most-High God. Demetrius, the commander, Servant of the Creator and Lord.
Saint Paul bedewed Thessaloniki with tears, Demetrius watered it with his blood. Demetrius, the commander, Servant of the Creator and Lord.
The tears of the Apostle and the blood of the martyr are the glory, salvation and pride of Thessaloniki. Demetrius, the commander, Servant of the Creator and Lord.
Let us also glorify Christ's soldier, The myrrh-gushing Saint and courageous martyr, Servant of the Creator and Lord.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Tone Three
The whole world has found you as a mighty champion in dangers, O victor, who rout the nations. Therefore as you destroyed the pride of Lyaios in the stadium by giving Nestor courage, holy great Martyr Demetrios, implore Christ God to grant us his great mercy.
Glory. Of the Saint. Tone Eight. By Anatolios
Your most godlike and blameless soul, revered Demetrios, has her dwelling to the heavenly Jerusalem, whose walls have been adorned by the hands of the invisible God. While on earth this famous temple holds your all-honored and most valiant body, an inviolate store-house of treasures, a remedy for diseases; to it we have recourse and draw healings. Guard the city which magnifies you, All-praised, from assaults of foes, for you have boldness towards Christ who glorified you.
An Illyrian nobleman, Leontius, was afflicted with an incurable illness. He hastened, with prayer, to the holy relics of Saint Demetrius and was completely healed. In thanksgiving, Leontius erected a much larger church on the site of the old church. The Saint appeared to him on two occasions. When Emperor Justinian wanted to translate the holy relics of the Saint from Thessaloniki to Constantinople, flaming sparks sprang from the tomb and a voice was heard: "Stop, and do not touch!" And thus, the holy relics of Saint Demetrios have remained for all time in the city of Thessaloniki. As the protector of Thessaloniki, Saint Demetrios has appeared many times, and on many occasions has saved Thessaloniki from great calamity.
In Byzantine sources, many miracles are mentioned. One such is the following, taken from Prof. Ch. Bakirtzis' book: The Miracles of Saint Demetrios. The governor of Illyricum, Marianus, was staying in Thessaloniki, in the praetorium to be exact, which was quite a distance from the church of Saint Demetrios, probably in Galerius' palace. This high official suffered from paresis, or loss of voluntary movement. This means that he had to lie in bed, with none of his limbs functioning, unable to move at all and incapable even of putting food into his mouth without assistance.
Marianus had a vision of the Saint telling him to trust in Divine Providence, because "every illness which attacks people is sent by the providential power of our Creator and is for the good of the sufferer." And the great Martyr remarks: "...I shall soon release you from your bodily ailment. Come to my house then and you'll see the glory of God revealed to your through me." Thereupon two servants of the governor, at his behest and because he was unable to move in many other way, tied hands together crosswise and carried the patient to the church of Saint Demetrios.
When the governor had been set down on the floor of the church, he prayed fervently with humility and repentance, and requested those with him to lift him and place him on the mattress they had brought. He then saw the Saint again in a vision, telling him: "Christ has healed you, our God Who sets to right those who are broken." And at once, shedding copious tears the governor sat up on the mattress and asked to be given clothes and shoes immediately. The people with him went and borrowed them from neighboring houses. Now dressed, the governor went by himself to the ciborium under which rested the holy relics of the Saint in order to thank him for the health he had granted him. When he left the church, he refused to ride on a horse and left for the praetorium on foot, only to return shortly to the Church with precious gifts (gold and silver), which he distributed to the poor of the town.
About Aghios (Saint) Demetrios we have this account: There lived once an ascetic on the Mount of Solomon who, hearing of the reports of the holy myrrh, had doubts, saying in his mind that there were many other great martyrs who suffered more than Saint Demetrios, yet they were not honored by God in such a manner. And one night after he saw, as if in a dream, that he was in the church of Saint Demetrios and he met the man who had the keys to the tomb of the Saint, and he asked him to open the tomb of the Saint to venerate it. When he was kissing the shrine, he observed that it was wet with fragrant myrrh, and he said to the keeper, "Come, help me that we might see from whence comes this holy myrrh." They dug, therefore, and came to a large marble slab which they removed with great difficulty, and immediately there appeared the body of the Saint, shinning and fragrant, from which welled up abundant myrrh coming from the openings of his holy body made by the piercing of the lances. There flowed so much myrrh that both the keeper and the ascetic were drenched, and fearing to be drowned, the monk cried out, "Saint Demetrios, help!" Whereupon, he awoke from this vision and found himself to be drenched with the holy myrrh.
In recent years, after the conquest of Constantinople, these two Saints, and many other soldier saints also, are painted as riding horses: Saint George on a white horse, Saint Demetrios on a red one.
The armor which these Saints wear, depicts spiritual weapons, like those of which the Holy Apostle Paul speaks saying, "Put on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and the Powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high. Therefore take up the armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and stand in all things perfect. Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of justice and having your feet shod with the readiness of the Gospel of peace, in all things taking up the shield of faith, with which you may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take up unto you the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, that is, the word of God" (Ephesians 6:11-17). This heroic and persevering character, which the warriors have who were martyred for Christ like harmless and innocent sheep, has reference to spiritual things.
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God