St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrh-streamer (source)
Homily of Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes on St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrh-streamer: “O God of Demetrios, help us!”
Today is the feast of St. Demetrios,
and thousands of people celebrate. Many villages and cities
celebrate, because the name Demetrios is one of the most common and
beloved names in the Orthodox Church.
St. Demetrios is honored in all places
where there is Orthodoxy. If we were to go to Serbia, we would meet
the name of St. Demetrios, and in Bulgaria and Romania and even in
Russia, the name of St. Demetrios is loved, honored and venerated.
What was St. Demetrios? A monk? Did he
get up and leave his house and go into the mountains and crags to
live in asceticism? No. What was he? A priest or a bishop? No. He was
a layman. He was a soldier. And however, he became holy. What does
this mean? That there is no career that hinders one from becoming a
Christian and becoming holy. The farmer who works the soil, and the
shepherd who keeps sheep, and the artist who directs, and the
teacher, and professor, and soldier and general, small and great, all
can become holy. We see, in other words, that the Saints come from
Demetrios was therefore a Saint. But
what does “Saint” mean? A Saint means to be a hero. Not in the
small and humble way that the world perceives. The world calls a hero
him who takes up weapons, ascends into the mountains, and fights and
kills. These are the heroes that the world perceives and honors. But
above those heroes, who are victorious in battles, there are other
heroes, who are a rarer kind of hero.
Alexander the Great, who conquered the
whole world, complained and said: “I, who conquered the whole
world, have been conquered by my passions.” Because of this, our
ancient forebearers said that “to conquer one's self, that is the
highest victory.” Someone could subjugate the whole world, like
Alexander the Great, but still, however, be a slave to his passions.
A hero, therefore, is he who conquers his weaknesses, conquers his
passions, his evil deeds, the sinful world that resides within his
heart. A hero is he who conquers, as the Fathers say, “the world,
the flesh and the devil”. This is the higher form of heroism.
From this perspective, St. Demetrios
was a hero. And why was he a Saint? First of all, because he believed
in Christ, and he did not hide his faith, he was not a
crypto-Christian. Whoever has deep feelings does not hide them, but
reveals them, relates them, preaches them. This is what St. Demetrios
did. He did not just hide within his heart the name of Christ, but
revealed it, preached it everywhere, wherever he went.
St. Demetrios preaching the faith (source)
Within the city of Thessaloniki, he
tried to make other people Christians. He was not at peace until he
made the idolaters Christians. Especially, he showed care to children
and young people. He tried to win them over for Christ, and he
regularly preached to them about Christ. Whereas today a catechist
might ring the bell to call the children to Sunday School, something
similar we could say was done by St. Demetrios. He was a radiant
catechist, a radiant preacher of the truth. Within Thessaloniki, he
had gathered children, adolescents and young people, whom he
catechized. A special phalax gathered near to St. Demetrios. Besides
the soldiers, whom he trained like a general in the barracks, he had
another army, a peaceful one, trusting in the name of Christ, and
these were the children that he catechized.
For this Christian ministry which St.
Demetrios undertook, the arms of the idolaters were raised against
him. They condemned him, they seized him, they removed his rank, and
they threw him in prison.
Among those whom St. Demetrios
catechized, the brightest, most heroic child was Nestor. In those
days, in the great stadium of Thessaloniki, games were occurring. And
those games would gather thousands of people to watch them. There
were also the kings and rulers and the soldiers. There appeared
Lyaios, a huge man, three meters high, a gigantic wrestler. He was a
beast, with terrifying power, and he endangered the whole people. He
was a barbarian who blasphemed Christ, and no one would dare bother
him. Like when a lion escapes from his cage, and everyone begins to
tremble and hide out of hear, the same thing happened with Lyaios,
who traumatized all of the athletes and no one would dare to go before
Nestor, however, a 17 year old child,
said: “I will go battle with Lyaios, and I will beat him!” Futily
they told him: “What are you doing? Do you want your death? He
is wholly like a lion. Whom could you take with you?”
Nestor went to the cell of his teacher,
St. Demetrios, who was bound in prison for his faith of Christ, and
knelt before him. He sought for his prayer. St. Demetrios made the
sign of the Cross over him, in the name of the Father and the Son and
the Holy Spirit, and told him these famous words: “You will both
conquer Lyaios and be martyred for Christ, my child.”
St. Nestor receiving St. Demetrios' blessing in prison (source)
In reality, Nestor went to the stadium
and began the fight. When Lyaios saw him, he laughed... But Nestor,
full of boldness, made the sign of the Cross and cried out: “O God
of Demetrios, help me.” And like lightning, he fell upon the giant,
and threw him down and conquered him. King Maximian became greatly
angered at the defeat of Lyaios. He did not want to accept this
He ordered them to put Nestor to death.
Thus, Nestor was martyred for Christ.
And St. Demetrios? His end was also
martyrical. As Nestor was martyred, he was martyred as well. Not only
with his mouth, but with his blood. This “I believe...” [i.e. the
Creed] which we hear in the Divine Liturgy, is not written with ink
and pen. This “I believe...” is, my brethren, written with the
blood of the martyrs. This “I believe...” St. Demetrios also
signed with his blood.
They went to the prison where he was,
and the soldiers ran him through with spears, like Christ was pierced
in His spotless side, when blood and water poured forth. Thus
similarly, from the side of St. Demetrios, was poured forth myrrh,
This in a few words, my beloved, is the
life of St. Demetrios, whose name is honored by all of the towns and
cities from Dounavi to Crete, from Kerkyra to Cyprus, and from
Australia to America and everywhere. A great Saint.
There where they buried St. Demetrios in
Thessaloniki—this is not a myth—thousands of people would go to
his tomb, men and women, widows and orphans, poor and sick people
who had lost hope in physicians and medicines of this world. And all
of them became well. Thousands of miracles occurred and continue to
occur through St. Demetrios. And the greatest miracle occurred in our
How many years passed since then? In
his holy church, the Turks had built a mosque. The hodja ascended and
said the “allah, allah”. For 500 years the Turks were there. But
in 1912, on a holy day when the Saint was being celebrated, the Turks
fled, and instead of the crescent moon which they had on the mosque,
they raised a blue flag, the sign on the Cross.
On that holy day, Turkey had no longer
any position in the holy city of Thessaloniki. On that holy day, the
children of our fatherland, with the voice of Nestor cried out: “O
God of Demetrios, help us”, as the new Nestors who believed in God,
conquered the Lyaios of the East. Because the Turk was a Lyaios, and
continues to be.*
And today in the Balkans, Lyaios again
has returned. And he is being supported, unfortunately, by powerful
people. As for us? O God of Demetrios, help us! We are small and
insignificant, disregarded Nestors. But these small and insignificant
people, if we are men of God, faithful men, will be granted again by
God to conquer the modern Lyaios once again. And then our mountains
and crags and the bodies and graves of our forebearers will cry out:
“You will conquer Lyaios and be martyred for Christ. Amen”
(homily of Metropolitan of Florina
Avgoustinos Kantiotes, which was delivered in the holy church of St.
Demetrios, K. Kallinikis, Florina, 10/26/1976, source)
*Note: Metropolitan Avgoustinos is not at all being racist or implying that every citizen of Turkey is the same. By the term "Turk", he refers to those muslims who worked great oppression and atrocities against Christians for hundreds of years. While we are always called to love and forgive our enemies, God often even in this life, grants us deliverance from our oppressors and the freedom to follow Him.
St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrh-streamer (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!
You don't need to be so fearful of the epithet "racist". Perhaps you yourself aren't, but plenty timid souls are.
When I was a boy, when I used foul language, my mother, who was from Thessaloniki and whose parents had fled Pontos, would tell me, "You curse like a Turk." There were, you see, neither Turks nor 21st century left-wing activists in our home to become offended. We understood what such a saying meant.
This among all the feast days of our saints is especially dear to me. Nice post.
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