THE HOLY GREAT MARTYR DEMETRIUS THE MYRRH-STREAMER
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS
The Holy Great Martyr Demetrius the Myrrh-streamer, Commemoration of the Great Earthquake in Constantinople (740), Eata of Hexham
ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO TIMOTHY 2:1-10
Timothy, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hardworking farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything.
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel, the gospel for which I am suffering and wearing fetters like a criminal. But the word of God is not fettered. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory.
JOHN 15:17-27; 16:1-2
The Lord said to his disciples: "This I command you, to love one another. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It is to fulfill the word that is written in their law, 'They hated me without a cause.' But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.
The Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios the Myrrh-gusher of Thessaloniki was the son of a Roman proconsul in Thessaloniki. Three centuries had elapsed and Roman paganism, spiritually shattered and defeated by the multitude of martyrs and confessors of the Savior, intensified its persecutions. The parents of Saint Dēmḗtrios were secret Christians, and he was baptized and raised in the Christian Faith in a secret church in his father’s home.
By the time Dēmḗtrios had reached maturity and his father had died, Emperor Galerius Maximian had ascended the throne (305). Maximian, confident in Dēmḗtrios's education as well as his administrative and military abilities, appointed him to his father’s position as proconsul of the Thessaloniki district. The young commander's principal duties were to defend the city from barbarians and to eradicate Christianity. The Emperor's policy regarding Christians was expressed simply: “Put to death anyone who calls on the name of Christ.” The Emperor did not suspect that by appointing Dēmḗtrios he had provided him with the opportunity to bring many people to Christ.
Accepting the appointment, Dēmḗtrios returned to Thessaloniki and confessed and glorified our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of persecuting and executing Christians, he began to teach the Christian Faith openly to the inhabitants of the city and to overthrow pagan customs and the worship of idols. The compiler of his Life, Saint Simeon Metaphrastes (November 9), says that because of his teaching zeal he became “a second Apostle Paul” for Thessaloniki, particularly since “the Apostle to the Gentiles” founded the first community of believers in the city (1 Thess. and 2 Thess.).
The Lord also destined Saint Dēmḗtrios to follow Saint Paul on the path to martyrdom. When Maximian learned that the newly-appointed proconsul was a Christian, and that he had converted many Roman subjects to Christianity, the Emperor's rage knew no bounds. Returning from a campaign in the area of the Black Sea, the Emperor decided to lead his army through Thessaloniki, determined to massacre the Christians.
Learning of this, Saint Dēmḗtrios ordered his faithful servant Lupus to give his wealth to the poor saying, “Distribute my earthly riches among them, for we shall seek heavenly riches for ourselves.” He began to pray and fast, preparing himself for martyrdom.
When the Emperor came into the city, he summoned Dēmḗtrios, who boldly confessed himself a Christian and denounced the falsehood and futility of Roman polytheism. Maximian ordered Dēmḗtrios to be thrown into prison. An Angel appeared to him, comforting and encouraging him.
Meanwhile the Emperor amused himself by staging games in the circus. His champion was a German by the name of Lyaeos. He challenged Christians to wrestle with him on a platform built over the upturned spears of the victorious soldiers. A brave Christian named Nestor went to the prison to Saint Dēmḗtrios, his instructor in the Faith, asking for his blessing to fight the barbarian. With the blessing and prayers of Saint Dēmḗtrios, Nestor defeated the fierce German and hurled him from the platform onto the spears of the soldiers, just as the murderous pagan would have done with the Christian. The enraged commander ordered the execution of the holy Martyr Nestor (October 27) and sent a guard to the prison to kill Saint Dēmḗtrios. At dawn on October 26, 306 soldiers appeared in the Saint's underground prison and ran him through with lances. His faithful servant, Saint Lupus, gathered up the blood-soaked garment of Saint Dēmḗtrios he took the imperial ring from his finger, a symbol of his high status, and dipped it in the blood. With the ring and other holy things sanctified the blood of Saint Dēmḗtrios, Saint Lupus began to heal the infirm. The Emperor ordered his soldiers to arrest and kill him.
The body of the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios was cast out for wild animals to devour, but the Christians took it and secretly buried it in the earth.
During the reign of Saint Constantine (306-337), a church was built over the grave of Saint Dēmḗtrios. A hundred years later, during the construction of a majestic new church on the old spot, the incorrupt relics of the holy martyr were uncovered. Since the seventh century a miraculous flow of fragrant myrrh has been found beneath the crypt of the Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios, so he is called “the Myrrh-gusher.”
Several times, those venerating the holy wonderworker tried to bring his holy relics, or a part of them, to Constantinople. Invariably, Saint Dēmḗtrios made it clear that he would not permit anyone to remove even a portion of his relics.
It is interesting that among the barbarians threatening the Romans, Slavs occupied an important place, in particular those settling upon the Thessalonian peninsula. Some even believe that the parents of Saint Dēmḗtrios were of Slavic descent. While advancing towards the city, pagan Slavs were repeatedly turned away by the apparition of a threatening radiant youth, going around on the walls and inspiring terror in the enemy soldiers. Perhaps this is why the name of Saint Dēmḗtrios was particularly venerated among the Slavic nations after they were enlightened by the Gospel. On the other hand, Greeks dismiss the idea that Saint Dēmḗtrios was a Slavic saint.
The very first pages of the Russian Primary Chronicle, as foreordained by God, is bound up with the name of the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios of Thessaloniki. The Chronicle relates that when Oleg the Wise threatened the Greeks at Constantinople (907), the Greeks became terrified and said, “This is not Oleg, but rather Saint Dēmḗtrios sent upon us from God.” Russian soldiers always believed that they were under the special protection of the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios. Moreover, in the old Russian barracks the Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios was always depicted as Russian. Thus this image entered the soul of the Russian nation.
Church veneration of the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios in Russia began shortly after the Baptism of Rus. Toward the beginning of the 1070s the Dimitriev monastery at Kiev, known afterwards as the Mikhailov-Zlatoverkh monastery, was founded, The monastery was built by the son of Yaroslav the Wise, Great Prince Izyaslav, Dēmḗtrios in Baptism (+ 1078). The mosaic icon of Saint Dēmḗtrios of Thessaloniki from the cathedral of the Dimitriev monastery has been preserved up to the present day, and is in the Tretiakov Gallery.
In the years 1194-1197 the Great Prince of Vladimir, Vsevolod III the Great-Nest (Dēmḗtrios in Baptism) “built at his court a beautiful church of the holy martyr Dēmḗtrios, and adorned it wondrously with icons and frescoes.” The Dimitriev cathedral also reveals the embellishment of ancient Vladimir. The wonderworking icon of Saint Dēmḗtrios of Thessaloniki from the cathedral iconostasis is located even now in Moscow, at the Tretiakov gallery. It was painted on a piece of wood from the grave of the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios, brought from Thessaloniki to Vladimir in 1197.
One of the most precious depictions of the saint, a fresco on a column of the Vladimir Dormition cathedral, was painted by the holy Iconographer Andrew Rublev (July 4).
The family of Saint Alexander Nevsky (November 23 also venerated Saint Dēmḗtrios. Saint Alexander named his eldest son in honor of the holy Great Martyr. His younger son, Prince Daniel of Moscow (March 4), built a church dedicated to the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios in the 1280s. This was the first stone church in the Moscow Kremlin. Later in 1326, under Ivan Kalita, it was taken down and the Dormition cathedral was built in its place.
The memory of Saint Dēmḗtrios of Thessaloniki is historically associated in Rus with the military, patriotism and the defense of the country. This is apparent by the saint’s depiction on icons as a soldier in plumed armor, with a spear and sword in hand. There is a scroll (in later depictions) on which is written the prayer of Saint Dēmḗtrios for the salvation of the people of Thessaloniki, “Lord, do not permit the city or the people to perish. If You save the city and the people, I shall be saved with them. If they perish, I will perish with them.”
In the particular spiritual experience of the Russian Church, veneration of the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios of Thessaloniki is closely linked with the memory of the defense of the nation and Church by the Great Prince of Moscow, Dēmḗtrios of the Don (May 19). “An Account of the Life and Repose of the Great Prince Dēmḗtrios of the Don, Tsar of Russia,” written in the year 1393, already regards the Great Prince as a Saint, as other old Russian histories do. Great Prince Dēmḗtrios was a spiritual son and disciple of Saint Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow (February 12), and a disciple and associate of other great figures of prayer in the Russian Land: Saint Sergius of Radonezh (September 25), Dēmḗtrios of Priluki (February 11), Saint Theodore of Rostov (November 28). The Account states:
He [Great Prince Dēmḗtrios] worried a great deal about the churches of God, and he held the territory of the Russian land by his bravery: he conquered many enemies who had risen against us, and he protected his glorious city Moscow with wondrous walls. …The land of Russia prospered during the years of his reign.
From the time of the building of the white-walled Kremlin (1366) by Great Prince Dēmḗtrios, Moscow was called “White-Stoned.”
By the prayers of his Heavenly patron, the holy warrior Dēmḗtrios of Thessaloniki, Great Prince Dēmḗtrios, in addition to his brilliant military victories, also gained the further prominence of Russia. He repelled the onslaught of the Lithuanian armies of Olgerd, he routed the Tatar army of Begich at the River Vozha (1378), and he smashed the military might of all the Golden Horde at the Battle of Kulikovo Field on September 8, 1380 (the Feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos), set between the Rivers Don and Nepryadva. The Battle of Kulikovo, for which the nation calls him Dēmḗtrios of the Don, became the first Russian national exploit, rallying the spiritual power of the Russian nation around Moscow. The “Zadonschina,” an inspiring historic poem written by the priest Sophronios of Ryazem (1381) is devoted to this event.
Prince Dēmḗtrios of the Don had a great reverence for the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios. In 1380, on the eve of the Battle of Kulikovo, he solemnly transferred from Vladimir to Moscow the most holy object in the Vladimir Dimitriev cathedral: the icon of the Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios of Thessaloniki, painted on a board from the grave of the saint. A chapel dedicated to the Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios was built at Moscow’s Dormition Cathedral.
The Saint Dēmḗtrios Memorial Saturday was established for church-wide remembrance of the soldiers who fell in the Battle of Kulikovo. This memorial service was held for the first time at the Trinity-Saint Sergius monastery on October 20, 1380 by Saint Sergius of Radonezh, in the presence of Great Prince Dēmḗtrios of the Don. It is an annual remembrance of the heroes of the Battle of Kulikovo, among whom are the Schema-monks Alexander (Peresvet) and Andrew (Oslyab).
Saint Dēmḗtrios is regarded as a protector of the young, and is also invoked by those struggling with lustful temptations.
In 740, at the time of the iconoclast emperor Leo the Isaurian, there was a terrible earthquake at Constantinople. Seeing this as God’s just punishment for their sins, the people repented and prayed to the Most Holy Theotokos and to Saint Demetrius to help them. God had mercy on them, and the earthquake stopped.
Saint Theophilus of the Kiev Caves, Far Caves and Archbishop of Novgorod, was chosen by lot after the death of the holy hierarch Jonah (November 5). He was elevated to the dignity of Archbishop of Novgorod on December 15, 1472 at Moscow. Until his elevation, he had pursued asceticism in the Otensk monastery.
A harsh destiny was allotted the saint in the guidance of the Novgorod flock. The mayor Martha Boretskaya and her adherents stirred up and agitated the people against the Great Prince of Moscow, Ivan III. The monk Pimen, a Boretskaya partisan, roused enmity against the archbishop in the flock. Some of the Novgorod populace were inclined to go over to the side of Lithuania. Unfaithful to the Moscow principality, they were prepared to fall into apostasy.
Saint Theophilus stopped the rebellious Novgorodians saying, “Do not betray Orthodoxy nor become a flock of apostates. I’ll go back to my humble cell, from which you drew me out to the shame of rebellion.” This letter of disavowal of the saint, written in 1479, is preserved. The short-sighted people did not heed the words of the pastor, and a fratricidal war broke out between Moscow and Novgorod. The defeated Novgorodians were compelled to beg for mercy, and many of them owed their life to the intercession of the saint. In 1480, Saint Theophilus was sent by Ivan III to prison in the Moscow Chudov monastery and “he sat there a full three years, and died there.”
By tradition, when Saint Theophilus lay sick at the Chudov monastery, Saint Niphon of Novgorod (April 8), who is buried in the Kiev Caves of Saint Anthony, appeared to him in a dream. The saint reminded him of his promise to venerate the Kievan wonderworkers. It is said that the holy archbishop went to Kiev, and just as he approached the Dniepr his sickness increased. He received a revelation that although he would not reach the Caves alive, his body would rest in them. This was fulfilled.
His memory is celebrated also with the Synaxis of the Saints of the Kiev Far Caves on August 28, and on the Second Sunday of the Great Fast, with the Synaxis of the Kiev Caves Fathers.
The Martyr Lupus lived at the end of the third century and beginning of the fourth century, and was a faithful servant of the holy Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessalonica (October 26). Being present at the death of his master, he soaked his own clothing with his blood and took a ring from his hand. With this clothing, and with the ring and the name of the Great Martyr Demetrius, Saint Lupus worked many miracles at Thessalonica. He destroyed pagan idols, for which he was subjected to persecution by the pagans, but he was preserved unharmed by the power of God.
Saint Lupus voluntarily delivered himself into the hands of the torturers, and by order of the emperor Maximian Galerius, he was beheaded by the sword.
Saint Athanasius of Medikion Monastery (+ ca. 814) loved the monastic life and secretly left his parental home, but was forcibly returned by his father. After a certain time Athanasius entered the Medikion monastery in Bithynia with his father’s consent.
He was a companion of Saint Nicetas (April 3) and he died about the year 814. A cypress tree grew up on his grave; from which occurred many healings, by the grace of God.
Saint Joseph was a monk of Dionysiou Monastery on Mt. Athos, where he shone forth with the virtues of monastic life. He was an iconographer, and he painted the icon of the holy Archangels on the iconostasis of Dionysiou’s main church.
In obedience to the instructions of Igumen Stephen, Saint Joseph traveled to Constantinople with Eudocimus, who had apostasized from Orthodoxy to become a Moslem. Eudocimus repented, and wished to wipe out his sin through martyrdom.
When faced with torture and death, however, the unfortunate Eudocimus denied Christ again, blaming Joseph for turning him from Islam.
Saint Joseph was arrested and threatened with death. In spite of many tortures, he refused to convert to Islam. This holy martyr of Christ was hanged on February 17, 1819, and so he obtained an incorruptible crown of glory.
Some sources list his commemoration on February 17, while others list him on September 14 or October 26.
Saint Demetrius of Tsilibinsk (14th Century), founder of the Archangel Tsilibinsk wilderness monastery in Vologda diocese, was a beloved disciple of Saint Stephen of Perm (April 26). The monk built a church in honor of the Archangel Michael for the newly-converted. Beneath this temple he dug out a cave and for a long time lived there in solitude.