The Life of the Holy Great Martyr Demetrios
the Myrrh Gusher of Thessalonica
The life of the holy Great Martyr St. Demetrios the Myrrh-Gusher of Thessalonica, whose memory is commemorated in the holy Orthodox Church on October 26th.
THE FEAST DAY of Agios Demetrios is a great feast for all of Orthodoxy, but especially Thessalonica, which is his birthplace. His church is a building dating from the ancient Christian era, built one hundred years after his holy martyrdom which was in 296 A.D. But after 300 years it burned, and was rebuilt in the days of Leo the Wise.
St. Demetrios along with St. George are the two brave lads of Christianity. These two are below on earth, and the two Archangels Michael and Gabriel are above in heaven. In ancient times there were painted without armour, but in later years they were depicted with swords and spears and dressed in metal breastplates. On one shoulder they have their helmet hanging, and on the other their shield. At the waist they are girded with the straps which hold the sheath of the sword and the quiver which has in the arrows and the bow. In recent years, after the conquest of Constantinople, these two saints, and many times other soldier saints also, are painted riding horses, St. George on a white horse, St. Demetrios on a red one.
This armour which these Saints wear, depicts spiritual weapons, like those of which the holy Apostle Paul speaks saying, “Put on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand agains 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, agains the spiritual forces of wickedness on high. Therefore take up the armour 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 unto you the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, that is, the word of God” (Eph.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.
AGIOS DEMETRIOS, the Great Martyr and Myrovletes (myrrh-emitting), was born in Thessalonica in 260 A.D. His parents were illustrious people and along with the transitory glory which Demetrios had from his family, he was adorned with imperishable virtues, with prudence, with sweetness, with humility, with justice, and with every noble comeliness of the soul. All these were like precious stones which shone on the crown which he wore, and this crown was the faith in Christ.
In those days, there reigned in Rome Diocletian, and he had appointed as caesar in the parts of Macedonia and the East a hard-hearted and bloodthirsty general who was called Maximian, a beast in human form as were all those military rulers (polemarchs) who then ruled the world with the sword. He in turn appointed Demetrios ruler of Thessalonica and all Thesaalia. When Maximian returned from a certain war, he gathered the officers of Thessalonica in order to offer sacrifice to the idols. Then Demetrios revealed that he was a Christian, and did not accept hewn stones as gods.
Maximian went into a rage and ordered that he be tried and imprisoned in a bath. And all the while he was imprisoned, the populace ran with mourning to hear Demetrios teach the people of Christ. A young lad, Nestor, also went every day and heard his teaching
During those days, many brave men fought in the stadium and Maximian rejoiced at these spectacles. He even had a prize fighter a certain henchman Lyaeus, a beastly man, brass-knuckled, an idolator and blasphemer, brought from some barbarous nation. Nestor, seeing that this Lyaeus had defeated all and boasted that he had the strength of Ares, the pagan god of war, and that no native dared wrestle with him, went to the prison and besought St. Demetrios to bless him to defeat and put to shame Lyaeus and Maximian and their religion.
Agios Demetrios prayed and made the sign of the Cross over him, and immediately Nestor ran to the stadium and wrestled with that fierce giant, and he threw him down, and slew him. Then Maximian became beside himself with rage and learning that Nestor was a Christian and that St. Demetrios had blessed him, he ordered the soldiers to have them put to death.
And they going to the bath lanced St. Demetrios with their spears, and thus he received the eternal crown on the 26th of October, 296 A.D., at the age of thirty-six. It is written that when he saw the soldeirs thrusting their spears at him, he raised high his arm and they lanced him in the side, so that he might be deemed worthy to receive the lancing which Christ received in His side, and there ran blood and water from the wound. Nestor was beheaded the next day (holy Martyr Nestor of Thessalonica is commemorated in the holy Orthodox Church on the 27th of October) outside the wall at the place of the Golden Gate with his own sword.
The holy Christians took the holy remains and buried them side by side, and from the grave of St. Demetrios there came forth holy myrrh which cured many diseases. For this reason he is called Myrovletes. Over his holy grave and the place of his holy martyrdom there was built a church in the form of a basilica which stands to this day. In 1143 the Emperor Manuel Comnenos sent from Constantinople and brought the holy icon of the Saint which was at his tomb and put in the Monastery of Pantocrator, whose church was build by the Comneni and is called today Zeirek.
This then is the holy martyrdom of Aghios Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrh-bearer, who loved our Savior above all things of this life – – pleasures, wealth, honors – – and longed to be dissolved that he might be found with Him in the celestial Kingdom, through whose prayers may we also be deemed worthy of like fate. Amen.
Source: The Orthodox Word, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, CaliforniaApolytikion (Third Tone)
The world has found in you a great champion in time of peril, as you emerged the victor in routing the barbarians. For as you brought to naught the boasts of Lyaios, imparting courage to Nestor in the stadium, in like manner, holy one, great Martyr Demetrios, invoke Christ God for us, that He may grant us His great mercy
Απολυτίκιον. Ήχος γ’.
Μέγαν εύρατο εv τοις κιvδύvοις, σε υπέρμαχοv, η οικουμένη, Αθλοφόρε τα έθνη τροπούμενον.Ως ουν Λυαίου καθείλες την έπαρσιν, εν τω σταδίω θαρρύvας τον Νέστορα, ούτως Άγιε, Μεγαλομάρτυς Δημήτριε, Χριστόν τον Θεόν ικέτευε, δωρήσασθαι ημίν το μέγα έλεος.