Friday, October 31, 2008

St. Eleni (Helen) the New Virgin-martyr of Sinope

St. Eleni the New Virgin-martyr of Sinope - Commemorated on November 1st (icon taken from
"She was a maiden of fifteen who lived with her parents in the Christian enclave of Sinope in Pontus during the 1700s. One day, as she went to the marketplace, she passed by the house of the local Pasha (governor), who, seeing her beauty, was seized by lust for her. He ordered his servants to bring her to him, and made two attempts to defile her; each time, however, he was prevented by a mysterious power that kept him from her like an invisible wall. Determined to have his way for her, he kept her prisoner in his house; but she was able to slip away and run home to her parents' house.

Enraged that his prey had escaped, the Pasha called together the leaders of the Christian community and promised that, unless Helen were handed over to him, all the Christians in the town would be massacred. Grief-stricken and fearful, the leaders persuaded Helen's father to return the girl to the palace. The vile Pasha made several more attempts to rape the Saint, but once again he was restrained as if by an invisible wall as she recited the Six Psalms and all the prayers that she knew by heart. Realizing that he was powerless against her, the Pasha had her thrown in the common jail, then ordered that she be tortured to death. The executioners subjected the maiden to several cruel torments before killing her by driving two nails into her skull and beheading her. They then put her body in a sack and threw it in the Black Sea.

Some Greek sailors followed a heavenly light to the place where the sack had sunk, and divers retrieved the Saint's relics, which immediately revealed themselves as a source of healing for many. Her body was taken to Russia; her head was placed in the church in Sinope, where it continued to work miracles, especially for those who suffered from headaches. When the Greeks were driven from Sinope in 1924, refugees took the head with them. It is venerated today in a church near Thessalonika [St. Marina, Ano Toumpas]."
(taken from:
The Holy Skull of St. Eleni of Sinope, the Church of St. Marina, Ano Toumpas, Thessaloniki (taken from:
Another icon of St. Eleni the New Virgin-martyr of Sinope (taken from:
Απολυτίκιον Ήχος πλ.Α΄ Τον συνάναρχον λόγον
Tής αγνείας το άνθος το ευωδέστατον και Σινώπης το κλέος και θείον βλάστημα Παρθενομάρτυς τού Χριστού Ελένη πάνσεμνε, η αθλήσασα στερρώς , και καθελούσα τον εχθρόν, της πίστεως τη δυνάμει δια παντός εκδυσώπει, ελεηθήναι τας ψυχάς ημών.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
The most-fragrant flower of purity and the boast and divine offspring of Sinope Virgin-martyr of Christ Eleni most-pure, who struggled steadfastly, and cast down the enemy, with the power of faith and entreats for everyone, to have mercy on our souls.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O Lord Jesus, unto Thee Thy lamb doth cry with a great voice: O my Bridegroom, Thee I love; and seeking Thee, I now contest, and with Thy baptism am crucified and buried. I suffer for Thy sake, that I may reign with Thee; for Thy sake I die, that I may live in Thee: accept me offered out of longing to Thee as a spotless sacrifice. Lord, save our souls through her intercessions, since Thou art great in mercy.
(taken from:
Κοντάκιον Ήχος Δ΄ Επεφάνης σήμερον
Ως παρθένος άμωμος εν τη δυνάμει του Χριστού κατέβαλες, τον πολυμήχανον εχθρόν, και μαρτυρίω κεκόσμησαι, Παρθενομάρτυς Ελένη πανεύφημε.
As an undefiled virgin in the power of Christ you cast down the much-contriving enemy, and you are arrayed in martyrdom, O Virgin-martyr Eleni the all-praised.
Χαίροις της Σινώπης άνθος τερπνόν και της παρθενίας το αλάβαστρον το σεπτόν χαίροις των Μαρτύρων, ισότιμος Ελένη, οία Παρθενομάρτυς Χριστού αήτηττος.
(, English texts are amateur translations from the Greek, except for the second apolytikion)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

The Life of St. George Karslides the Righteous of Drama (+1959)

Picture of St. George Karslides the Righteous of Drama (1901-1959) - Commemorated on November 4th (icon taken from; Note: the following five icons from the life of St. George are taken from the ornate, beautiful copy, I believe, of the official Patriarchical acknowledgment of his Sainthood posted on the Metropolis of Drama website:

Below are excerpts and summaries from the life of St. George given in an excellent book: Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit: The Lives and Counsels of Contemporary Elders of Greece, by Herman A. Middleton. Published by Protecting Veil Press 2003.

St. George Karslides was born in Argyroupolis, Pontos in 1901. He was orphaned very young, so it was his pious grandmother, who raised the young Athanasios (St. George's baptismal name) to have a "holy fear of God and a fervent love for the Church's divine services." The region of Pontos in Asia Minor has historically been a great seat of Orthodoxy, and more recently was also the site of such spiritually important monasteries of Panagia Soumela, Peristereota and St. John Vazelonos. At the age of five Athanasios began tending his family's flocks, all while bearing the harsh treatment of his older brother, who made life difficult for him and for his younger sister Anna. They bore this with love, perseverance and holiness. In fact, when Anna died at a young age, light emanated from her grave. Three years later when her remains were exhumed, her bones had the same yellow hue as the Saints of God. "Thus, Athanasios's early days were permeated both with the piety and holiness of lives dedicated to God, as well as with the pain of the corruption and instability of this life. This very realistic understanding of life was to prove to be a firm foundation for Athanasios's future spiritual development." (Middleton)

Because of the extremely difficult situations he was facing, at the age of seven Athanasios decided to run away, and was sheltered for awhile by some crypto-Christians. St. George the Great-martyr was a great protector of Athanasios, and he appeared to him, told him to mount his horse, and helped him to travel to Tiflis, Georgia where a pious priest took care of him. The priest was impressed by his spirituality and maturity, and clothed him in a cassock from age nine. In 1919 Athanasios was tonsured a monk with the name Symeon, and during his tonsure the bells of the monastery began to run by themselves. Fr. Symeon still faced many difficulties, however, as his monastery was soon closed by the communists, and the monks were humiliated, imprisoned, and threatened with execution.

The following is a beautiful story of St. George's time in this prison:

"The imprisoned monks and clergy asked permission at Pascha to go to church. Having been denied this, they fervently prayed for continued strength in the struggle. As they chanted, "Christ is risen," the prison shook and the doors opened of their own accord. The inhabitants of that area hastened to see what was happening and beheld three holy figures who, chanting "Lord have mercy" and holding a cross, were processing in a circle above the prison. The vision lasted until dawn, when the captives were prepared for execution. They were tied together and led to the edge of a cliff. The firing squad took aim and fired. Three bullets hit Symeon, but only grazed him, and did little harm. He was dragged off the cliff, however, by the weight of the others. Miraculously, he fell without being killed and this escaped death." (Middleton)

Once released from prison, he was ordained by Metropolitan John Tsiaparaski of Grouzia Scheta in 1925, and was given the new name George. He was recognized by many as being a God-bearing elder. Despite his difficult situations, he was constant in his ascetical struggles, eating mostly wild greens, sleeping little, and pursuing voluntary poverty (for example, refusing a new cassock to replace his old one which was falling apart). His service of the sacraments was filled with his love, care and attention.

St. George Karslides (source)
"During the preparation of the elements [in the Proskomedi, preparation for the Divine Liturgy], God would inform him of the spiritual state of those he commemorated, both the living and the dead. With great pastoral discernment he would pass the information on to his parishoners, either to encourage them to pray more fervently for the souls of the deceased or to bring sinners to repentance. Before bringing the Holy Communion out to the fathful, he would ask that those who wanted to commune come to the left-hand door of the iconostasis where he would read the prayer of absolution over them and anoint them with oil...[St. George] would sometimes be seen levitating during the Divine Liturgy. When he celebrated he would often be visited by the Saints, who would serve him." (Middleton)

In 1929, most likely because of his failing health (not quite thirty years old and semi-paralyzed), St. George moved to Greece, and settled in the town of Sipsa near Drama in northern Greece. He gradually recovered with the help of the local inhabitants, who became aware of his holiness and sought his help. In 1936 the Elder went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands, where he met his uncle (who was a monk) who urged him to return to serve in the world, where there was a great need for spiritual guidance. Later, the Elder was given a plot of land by the Greek government, and in the year 1939, a monastery he founded and dedicated to the Ascension of Christ was consecrated.

Many of the accounts of the counsels and miracles of St. George come from this later period of his life as the shepherd of the community of Drama. He forsaw both World War II and the Greek Civil War. During the civil war, three different groups of fighters went to slaughter the inhabitants of Sipsa, and they each felt intense remorse and apprehension and repented beforehand without harming the villagers. The Elder had forseen this danger, and instructed the inhabitants to have a procession around the village with the icon of Panagia. Thus the village was saved from certain destruction.

There are many other stories of St. George's discernment and spiritual gifts: "On another occasion a woman visited him and before she even managed to greet him he told her, "Your hands are on fire. They are burning, but we don't see the fire. What work do you do?" She told him that she was a midwife. "How many children have you killed?" he then asked. She denied having kiled any. "Shall I tell you? Five." He went on to tell her in which villages and of which mothers the children were whom she had aborted. Speechless, the lady wept and through active repentance was reconciled to God." (Middleton)

"One day a lady brought some quinces to the Elder. A pregnant woman stopped her along the way and asked for some, but she refused. When she arrived at the monastery and gave them to the Elder, he told her, "On the way the gate of Paradise opened and you closed it." (Middleton)

In early 1959 St. George forsaw his upcoming death. As the day approached, he gave instructions to his spiritual children on his departure. "On the eve of his repose he asked to be helped to go into the monastery church. There he venerated the icons and partook of the Holy Mysteries one last time. A few hours after midnight on November 4th, 1959, St. George reposed in the Lord.

Icon depicting the repose of St. George Karslides the Righteous of Drama (+1959) (taken from:

Today a monastic community of nuns continue the spiritual legacy of St. George at the Monastery of the Ascension of Christ in Sipsa, Drama, in northern Greece. St. George has continued to work many miracles after his repose in the Lord. In 2008 St. George was officially acknowledged to be a Saint by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Once again, many thanks to the author of the following book for translating the truly inspiring life of the newly-revealed St. George: Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit: The Lives and Counsels of Contemporary Elders of Greece, by Herman A. Middleton. Published by Protecting Veil Press 2003. For a full biography and many stories and miracles from St. George, see: The Blessed Elder George Karslides (1901-1959), translated from the Greek text of Monk Moses the Athonite, by Orthodox Kypseli Publications. Also see:

Picture of the Icon of St. George and his holy Skull at the Monastery of the Ascension of Christ, Sipsa (taken from:

For a beautiful video of the Saint's Monastery of the Ascension of Christ in Sipsa, see:
Icon of St. George the Righteous of Drama (taken from:

Apolytikion of St. George Karslides the Righteous of Drama (amateur translation from the above Greek)
O river of Divine Grace, O God-bearing George, and vessel of miracles of all kinds, we praise him crying out, Ascension, Holy Monastery's Founder, and Drama's protector and shelterer, do not despise those who entreat you, and magnify you, O Righteous Father. Glory to Christ Who glorified you. Glory to Him who sanctified you, Glory to Him who showed forth this new ascetic fruitful.

Apolytikion (for a Monastic) in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
The image of God, was faithfully preserved in you, O Father. For you took up the Cross and followed Christ. By Your actions you taught us to look beyond the flesh for it passes, rather to be concerned about the soul which is immortal. Wherefore, O Holy George, your soul rejoices with the angels.
(altered from:
St. George Karslides (source)
Holy Father George, intercede for us!
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sts. Kosmas and Damian the Unmercenaries and their mother St. Theodoti from Asia Minor

"Cosmas and Damian were unmercenaries and miracle-workers. They were brothers both in the flesh and in the spirit, born somewhere in Asia Minor of a pagan father and a Christian mother. After their father's death, their mother Theodotia devoted all her time and effort to educating her sons and raising them as true Christians. God helped her, and her sons matured as sweet fruit and luminaries of the world. They were learned in the art of medicine and ministered to the sick without payment, not so much with medicine as by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were called ``unmercenary physicians,'' that is, unpaid physicians, for they healed freely and thus fulfilled the commandment of Christ: Freely ye have received, freely give (Matthew 10:8). So careful were they in healing men free of charge that Cosmas became very angry with his brother Damian because he accepted three eggs from a woman, Palladia, and ordered that he not be buried alongside his brother Damian after his death. In fact, St. Damian did not accept these three eggs as a reward for healing the ailing Palladia, but rather because she adjured him in the name of the Most-holy Trinity to accept these three eggs.

Nevertheless, after their death in the town of Fereman, they were buried together according to a revelation from God. The holy brothers were great miracle-workers both during their life and after their death. A snake crawled through the mouth and into the stomach of a certain farm laborer during his sleep, and the unfortunate man would have died in the greatest pain had he not, in the last moment, invoked the help of Saints Cosmas and Damian. Thus, the Lord glorified forever the miracle-working of those who glorified Him on earth by their faith, purity and mercy."
(taken from:
Icons of Sts. Kosmas and Damian working miracles (taken from the Church of the Holy Unmercenaries - Attika, Greece:

And another miracle of the Holy Unmercenaries (taken from

"Many miracles were worked upon the death of the holy unmercenaries. There lived at Theremanea, nearby the church of Cosmas and Damian, a certain man by the name of Malchos. One day in setting off on a distant journey, and leaving behind his wife all alone for what would be a long time --he prayerfully entrusted her to the heavenly protection of the holy brothers. But the enemy of the race of mankind, having taken hold over one of Malchos' friends, planned to destroy the woman. A certain while went by, and this man went to her at home and said that Malchos had sent him, --to take her to him. The woman believed him and went along. He led her to a solitary place and wanted to molest and kill her. The woman --seeing that disaster threatened her --called upon God with deep faith. Two fiercesome men then appeared, and the cunning man let go of the woman, and took to flight: he fell off a cliff! The men led the woman home. At her own home, bowing to them deeply she asked: "What name do they call you? --my rescuers, to whom I shalt be grateful to the end of my days! II I'We are the servants of Christ, Cosmas and Damian" -- they answered and became invisible. The woman with trembling and with joy told everyone about what had happened with her, and glorifying God she went up with tears to the icon of the holy brothers and offered up prayers of thanks for her deliverance. And from that time the holy brothers were venerated as protectors of the holiness and inviolability of Christian marriage, and as givers of harmony to conjugal life. And from ancient times their veneration spread also to Russia."

Finally, another miracle is attributed to Sts. Kosmas and Damian: the first transplant. I haven't found a detailed account anywhere, but a priest in the 4th century had a diseased leg, and Sts. Kosmas and Damian appeared to him, and taking the leg from an Ethiopean man who had passed away, they gave the priest a new, healthy leg, which was evident to all those around him. This has also been recorded in the iconography, for example, of some churches of the Holy Unmercenaries in Greece.

Sts. Kosmas and Damian the Holy Unmercenaries miraculously performing the first transplant (αγία-κυριακή/)
Sts. Kosmas and Damian, and all the Holy Unmercenaries are invoked in the service of Holy Unction in the Orthodox Church, and hymns to them are traditionally chanted after the service while the faithful receive the Holy Oil. They are also the patron saints of the "Philoptochos" ("love for or frends of the poor") organization of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, which does many philanthropic acts. They are great Saints of our Church, and may we honor them while emulating their faith, voluntary poverty and charity, and zeal and love for Christ and service to others.

 Icon of Sts. Kosmas and Damian - Decani Monastery (taken from
Saints Cosmas and Damian
(by St. Nikolai Velimirovich)
The Church glorifies the miracle-working physicians,
Shining stars that shine with the Lord,
St. Cosmas and St. Damian,
Two Christians, wondrous giants.
Theodotia was the mother of these sons;
She nourished these giants.
The glorious brothers fulfilled the law,
And by their mercy pleased Christ.
They pleased Christ, the Merciful One,
The greatest Unmercenary Physician.
They received the gift, and became physicians;
They received the gift, but did not sell it.
They gave the gifts of God to the poor,
And in the name of Christ healed them.
Time has not covered God's saints with darkness;
Thus it has always been, and thus it is now.
Nor has it covered the wonderworking physicians;
They shine today as they once did,
And help the infirm and the unfortunate
By mighty and willing prayers
Before Christ's heavenly throne.
Honor and glory to the wondrous physicians!
Icon of Sts. Kosmas and Damian with scenes from their lives (taken from:
Hymns to the Holy Unmercenaries Sts. Kosmas and Damian
Sicheria in Tone 6. Model melody.
Placing all their hope in heaven, the Saints treasured up for themselves an inviolable treasure; freely they received, freely they give remedies to the sick; in accordance with the Gospel they possessed neither gold nor silver; their kind deeds they shared out to humans and beasts alike; that being in all things obedient to Christ they might intercede with confidence on behalf of our souls.

They spurned all perishable matter on earth, while like Angels in the flesh they were declared citizens of heaven, the united comradeship, the like-minded and harmonious pair of saints. And so to all who suffer they award healings, granting their kindness without payment for the needy. Let us worthily sing their praise with yearly feasts as they intercede with confidence on behalf of our souls.

Bringing all the Trinity to dwell in them, the holy pair, inspired Cosmas and Damian, like fountains pour out waters of healings from a life-bearing source; whose relics too heal passions through a touch; and their names alone drive sicknesses from mortals; they are saviours for all who flee to them as they intercede to Christ with boldness on behalf of our souls.

Apolytikion. Tone 8.
Holy Unmercenaries and Wonderworkers, visit our weaknesses; freely you have received, freely give to us.
(from Fr. Ephraim Lash:

Sts. Cosmas and Damian the Holy Unmercenaries (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sts. Zenobios and Zenobia the Martyrs

Icon of Sts. Zenobios and Zenobia, Eutropia, and Kleopas the Apostle of the 70 - Celebrated on October 30th (taken from

"They were from the town of Aegea in Cilicia. They inherited the true Faith and great material wealth from their parents. Working zealously for the Faith and with great love, they distributed all their wealth to the poor. Because their hands were so generous, the hand of God shielded them from every evil intent of men and demons. The generous hands of Zenobius, which gave to the poor, were endowed by God with the gift of miracle-working, and Zenobius healed the sick of every kind of infirmity merely by touching them. Zenobius was appointed Bishop of Aegea. During a persecution, the Prefect Lysias arrested him and said: ``I offer you two choices: life or death; life if you worship the gods, or death if you do not.'' St. Zenobius replied: ``Life without Christ is not life but death, whereas death for the sake of Christ is not death but life.'' When Zenobius was subjected to cruel tortures, Zenobia came to the judge and said: ``I also want to drink from this cup of suffering, and be crowned with that wreath.'' After being tortured in fire and in boiling pitch, both were beheaded with the sword in about the year 285. Thus this brother and sister took up their habitation in the Kingdom of the Immortal Christ the King."
(taken from:

Icon of the Martyrdom of Sts. Zenobios and Zenobia from Decani Monastery (taken from

Απολυτίκιο. Ήχος δ’. Ταχύ προκατάλαβε.
Ως θείοι αυτάδελφοι, ομονοούντες καλώς, Ζηνόβιε ένδοξε, και Ζηνοβία σεμνή, συμφώνως ηθλήσατε, όθεν και των στεφάνων, των αφθάρτων τυχόντες, δόξης ακατάλυτου, ηξιώθητε άμα, εκλάμποντες τοις εν κόσμω, χάριν ιάσεων.

Apolytikion for Sts. Zenobios and Zenobia - 4th Mode (amateur translation of the above Greek)
As divine siblings, of rightly the same mind, Zenobios most glorious, and Zenobia most pure, together you suffered, and the unfading crowns you were granted, and glory unending, and you were made worthy therefore, to shine in the world, the grace of healing.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Thy Martyrs, O Lord, in their courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since they possessed Thy strength, they cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by their prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
With songs inspired by God, let us now render honour, as is due unto Zenobius and wise Zenobia, the pair of siblings in the flesh, who proclaimed true religion; those two martyrs of truth, who, passing their lives as one, also received together through martyrdom crowns that shall not fade.
(taken from:

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sayings of St. George Karslides the Righteous (+1959)

Icon of St. George Karslides the Righteous (taken from:

"God cares for everyone. Despair is in effect a lack of faith"
«Ο Θεός φροντίζει για όλους. Η απελπισία είναι σχεδόν απιστία».

"The Panagia does not want big candles, she wants charity shown to the poor"
«Η Παναγία δεν θέλει μεγάλες λαμπάδες, ελεημοσύνη στους φτωχούς θέλει»

The Elder said that what saves man is «the good works of God, humility, obedience, love, and charity».
Έλεγε ο Γέροντας ότι αυτά που σώζουν τον άνθρωπο είναι «τα έργα τα καλά του Θεού, η ταπείνωση, η υπακοή, η αγάπη, η ελεημοσύνη».

He said to a woman he met at the monastery: «What? You go to church every day and have not forgiven [made peace with?] your children?».
Είπε σε μια γυναίκα που τον συνάντησε στο μοναστήρι: «Τι; πηγαίνεις κάθε ημέρα στην Εκκλησία και δεν έχεις συγχωρεθεί με τα παιδιά σου;».

«Do not sit at the hour of the Divine Liturgy. Your nous should not fly here and there. As long as you are in church make the decision to devote all of the time to prayer ».
«Να μην κάθεσθε την ώρα της θ. Λειτουργίας. Ο νους σας να μην πετάει εδώ κι εκεί. Όσο θα είσθε στην εκκλησία να το πάρετε απόφαση, να διαθέσετε όλο τον χρόνο στην προσευχή».

«Do not think only about what you eat, what to wear, how large a house you will build. Knock on the doors of the poor, the sick, orphans. Prefer more the houses of the sad rather than happy. If you do good works, you will have a large reward from God. You will be made worthy to see miracles, and in the other life you will have endless jubilation ».
«Να μη σκέπτεσθε μόνο τι θα φάτε, τι θα φορέσετε, τι μεγάλο σπίτι θα χτίσετε. Να κτυπάτε τις πόρτες των φτωχών, των αρρώστων, των ορφανών. Περισσότερο να προτιμάτε τα σπίτια των θλιμμένων παρά των χαρούμενων. Εάν κάνετε καλά έργα, θα έχετε μεγάλο μισθό από τον Θεό. Θ’ αξιωθείτε να δείτε θαύματα, και στην άλλη ζωή θα έχετε απέραντη αγαλλίαση».

«The Christian who loves all people has a great reward, especially if he forgives those who do him evil. For if we don't love our neighbor, all the good works we do will be worthless. They amount to nothing, we will be worthless. Love, my bretheren, God requires love from us.»

(Quote from Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit, Middleton; the rest are amateur translations from the Greek taken from:, from: Μοναχού Μωϋσέως Αγιορείτου, Ο Μακαριστός Γέροντας Γεώργιος Καρσλίδης.Γ.Κ. Χατζόπουλου, Θαύματα και Προφητείες του οσίου πατρός Γεωργίου Καρσλίδη.)

I believe this is an ornate, official copy of the Patriarchical Proclamation of the recognition of St. George as a Saint. There are icons of him and scenes from his life. (taken from

For more information on St. George, see the following excellent books:

-Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit: The Lives and Counsels of Contemporary Elders of Greece, by Herman A. Middleton. Published by Protecting Veil Press 2003.

-The Blessed Elder George Karslides (1901-1959) by Monk Moses the Athonite. Published by Orthodox Kypseli Publications.

Also, see other posts on the life ( of St. George, along with a clip from his canonization service ( Also see:
St. George Karslides (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Life of St. Demetrios the Myrrh-flowing


Tomorrow (October 26th) is the great feast of St. Demetrios the Great-martyr and Myrrh-flowing of Thessaloniki. Below is the account of his life compiled by Fr. Demetrios Serfes (
Fresco of St. Demetrios by Manuel Panselinos the Great Iconographer, in the Church of Protaton on Mount Athos (circa 1290AD) (icon from
"THE FEAST DAY of Aghios 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 armor, but in later years they were depicted armored 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 satins also, are painted as riding horses, St. George on a white horse, St. Demetrios on a red one."

Portable Mosaic of St. Demetrios from the Monastery of Xenophontos on Mount Athos (12th Century) (icon from
"This 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 agains the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the Princeipalities and the Powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, agains the spiritual forces of wickedness on high. Therefore tak up the armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, adn 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 shied of faith, with which you may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take uunto you the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, that is, the word of God" (Eph.6:11-17). This heroic and perserving character, which the warriors have who were martyred for Christ like harmless and innocent sheep, has reference to spiritual things."
St. Demetrios depicted as a teacher of the faith, before some of his likely students: Sts. Anysia, Matrona, Chionia, Agape, Irene, Alexander, Loupos and Nestor, the Martyrs of Thessaloniki (source)
"AGHIOS 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: Diocletian, Maxentius, Maximian, Galerius, Licinius -- hard headed, firce-faced, strong-jawed, grim-mouthed, with short thick necks like barrels, ruthless, and therrifying. 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.

Fresco from the Patriarchate of Pec depicting St. Demetrios before Maximian (taken from:
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 great honor 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 the 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."

Fresco from the Patriarchate of Pec depicting St. Demetrios blessing St. Nestor (taken from:
"Aghios 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."

Icon of St. Nestor defeating Lyaeus, and St. Demetrios praying for him in the background (Icon courtesy of used with permission)
"And they going to the bath lanced St. Demetrios (note holy icon above top of the page) 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."

 Icon of the Martyrdom of St. Demetrios from the Monastery of Megisti Lavra on Mount Athos (icon from
St. Demetrios' martyred body was initially thrown within a well in the bathhouse where he was martyred, but was later buried piously by the Christians of Thessaloniki (
"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."

Icon of the Dormition of St. Demetrios from the Patriarchate of Pek Kosovo (icon from

"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, California"; Compiled by Fr. Demetrios Serfes (

For another account of the life of St. Demetrios, see:
For a previous post on the Veneration of St. Demetrios and Thessaloniki, see:

For a post with numerous miracles of St. Demetrios, see:

The Holy Skull of St. Demetrios in October 1978, when it was uncovered in the Abbey of San Lorenzo in Campo, Italy, and finally returned along with the majority of the rest of his relics to their home in the city of Thessaloniki (source)
Glory. Of the Saint. Tone 8. By Anatolios.
Your most godlike and blameless soul, revered Demetrios, has her dwelling in the heavenly Jerusalem, whose walls have been adorned by the hands of the invisible God. While on earth this famous temple holds your all-honoured 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.

St. Demetrios the Great Martyr, with Sts. Nestor and Loupos the Martyrs (
Apolytikion. Tone 3. Your confession.
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.
(Text from Fr. Ephraim Lash:
St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrh-streamer, with scenes from his life (
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Veneration of St. Demetrios and Thessaloniki


I hope to make an additional post on the life of St. Demetrios the Great-martyr, but I wanted to make another post to discuss the incredible and moving veneration that Orthodox Christians all over the world, but especially in the city of his martyrdom and his patronage, Thessaloniki, Greece, show towards such a great Saint of our Church. (see the following post for the life of St. Demetrios:; and for more miracles of St. Demetrios see:

Picture of the Holy Relics of St. Demetrios the Great-martyr, from his Church in Thessaloniki. His relics continue to give off Holy Myrrh. During the weeks before and after his feast, they are brought out for more public veneration by the faithful. Behind the relics are icons of St. Demetrios standing, and being martyred by being pierced with spears on his right side (as was Christ). (taken from

St. Demetrios' Holiness according to St. Gregory Palamas
St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki was well aquainted with the great grace and holiness of St. Demetrios. In the following quote, Bishop Ierotheos Vlachos discusses St. Gregory Palamas' view of St. Demetrios:

"The facts that the monastic life is the evangelic life and that a monk is one who lives evangelically can also be seen in St. Gregory Palamas's homily on St. Demetrios of Thessaloniki, in which St. Demetrios is presented as a monk. Naturally in the time of St. Demetrios there was no monasticism as we know it today, but every Christian who kept the will of God was essentially a monk.

In his homily on St. Demetrios the divine Gregory puts in relief the chastity of his body and soul. He lived in general chastity even though he was the highest officer in the Roman army.

 According to St. Gregory Palamas, St. Demetrios was graced with splendid prophetic power and was counted worthy of "the apostolic and teaching diaconate and a high position". He was full of virtues and was not inferior to the saints in asceticism "and in their radiance of life". But he was behind some, was like others; superior to some and surpassing others. He possessed many gifts.

 The warfare which St. Demetrios waged within his heart was comparable to the warfare of the great ascetics. He kept his nous pure of any unseemly thought, protecting the immaculate Grace of holy Baptism, had a will that harmonised with God's law "like a book of God and a tablet and plaque engraved by God or a writing tablet written by the finger of God and placed before all for the common use". In this way St. Demetrios was chaste in both body and soul. He had his citizenship in heaven and walked on an equal footing with the angels, having a body as well. So St. Demetrios seems to have had an angelic life and citizenship.

 The patron saint of Thessaloniki was "both a teacher and an apostle, wise and chaste and holy, and we may say very beautiful and spotless, and made radiant by nature, zeal and grace".

Comparing St. Demetrios with Job of the Old Testament, St. Gregory says that while Job was blameless, righteous and pious, just as Demetrios was, Job was not praised by God for chastity, something which St. Demetrios had. His chastity showed St. Demetrios to be higher than nature and on a par with the angels."
(Metropolitan Ierotheos Vlachos, St. Gregory Palamas as a Hagiorite, taken from:; see: On the Saints: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas for the full text of St. Gregory's homily on St. Demetrios,  

St. Demetrios the Myrrh-Streamer
St. Demetrios bears the title "Myrovletes" (or "Myrrh-streamer") in commemoration of the miraculous spring of myrrh from his holy relics which continues to flow to this day. The following is a brief historical account:

"[T]he testimonies to the flow of myron are numerous. According to a Jacobite Synaxary,
Every day a perfumed oil flows, which heals those who accept it with faith, particularly on the feast of St Demetrius. That day, in fact, it flows more copiously than others, even from the walls and columns of the church. The people in great numbers wipe it from the walls and put this oil in flasks. This miracle will endure until the end of time. Virtuous priests who have seen this have spoken of it and given witness to it."
(O. Tafrali, Thessalonique au XlVe siècle, Paris, 1913, p. 138, n. 1, cited after Bibliotheca Orientalis I, 3, Paris, 1903, pp. 376-7;

5th Century mosaic of St. Demetrios from his church in Thessaloniki (taken from:

I found the following story incredibly moving. It also discusses the great miracle of the Myrrh from St. Demetrios:
"There lived once an ascetic on the Mount of Solomon who, hearing of the reports of the holy myrrh [of St. Demetrios], had doubts, saying in his mind that there were many other great martyrs who suffered more than St. 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 St. Demetrios and he met the man who had the keys to the tomb of the Saint, and he asked him to open it that he might 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 did 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, shining and fragrant, from which welled up abundant myrrh coming from the openings of his holy body made by the piercings 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."
"The Church of St. Demetrios in Thessalonica was built over the site of his holy martyrdom - - the Roman bath in which he was imprisoned. This bath is preserved to this day in a crypt under the holy sanctuary of the Church. As I pointed out already a great fire broke out in 1917, which destroyed most the city, and this was the cause for the discover of the bath - - the floor of the sanctuary having fallen through. Among other things there was discovered the first chapel built over the place of Aghios Demetrios martyrdom (martyrium) with an earthen vessel planted in the Holy Table, containing earth with human blood - - evidently of the holy Martyr. A great marble basin [shown in the picture above] was also discovered which was used to gather the holy myrrh from the grave of the holy Saint of our Lord God." (Text from, picture from

St. Demetrios and Thessaloniki
The faithful of Thessaloniki show great honor to their patron and protector, St. Demetrios. For almost a month before his feast, they hold the Demetria festival of services, lectures, and concerts in his memory. The week before his feast day, they hold multiple services every day as a sort of "Passion Week" to commemorate the days leading up to his martyrdom, including vigils every night. For more on the so-called "Holy Week of St. Demetrios", see:

Even after the Great Vespers and Orthros and Divine Liturgy on his feast day, these services, Paraklesis services and vigils continue for days after his feast. Thousands of the faithful take part to honor this great Saint and seek his help. (See the following link for a beautiful video of the church of St. Demetrios, his relics, and the remnants of the Roman bathhouse below the church where St. Demetrios was martyred:

Detail from an icon of All Saints of Thessaloniki. At the center of all the many Saints depicted is St. Demetrios and St. Paul (Icons courtesy of used with permission)

And besides being a patron of the city of Thessaloniki, St. Demetrios is a helper and defender of all the faithful throughout the world, to whom he continuously works countless miracles. His apolytikion is always chanted at the service of Holy Unction. (For another account of St. Demetrios' life with his relationship with Russia, see:

May Saint Demetrios intercede for us and protect us all!

Apolytikion to St. Demetrios. Tone 3. Your confession.
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.
St. Demetrios defending the city of Thessaloniki from the Kumans (icon taken from

(Ποίημα Ἁγίου Συμεών, Ἀρχιεπισκόπου Θεσσαλονίκης - Σε μορφή διαλόγου)

Ὁ Ἅγιος Δημήτριος: Ὦ Πατρὶς φιλτάτη μὴ δειλιᾷς, ἀεὶ γὰρ εὐχαῖς μου, ἐκ δεινῶν σὲ ἐλευθερῶ, ἀγαθῶν τε πάντων, πληρώσω σε ἐνθέων, καὶ σώσω καὶ φυλάξω, λέγει Δημήτριος.

Ἡ Θεσσαλονίκη: Ὑπὸ τὰς σὰς πτέρυγας Ἀθλητά, ἀεὶ σκεπομένη, ἐκλυτροῦμαι πάντων δεινῶν, νῦν δὲ ἡ πατρίς σου, κινδύνοις κλονουμένη, προστρέχω σοι καὶ κράζω· Μάρτυς βοήθει μοι.

Ὁ Ἅγιος Δημήτριος: Τάφος με καλύπτει Ἑλλάδος γῇ, ἀλλ’ ὁ κόσμος πλήρης, ἐκ τῶν μύρων μου τῆς ὀσμῆς, χαῖρε οὖν πατρίς μου, κατέχουσά με ἐχθρούς σου, πατάξω καὶ φυλάξω σὲ τὴν τιμῶσάν με.

Ἡ Θεσσαλονίκη: Ὄλβιος ὁ τάφος ὄντως ὁ σός, καὶ ὀλβιωτέρα, σοῦ ἡ πόλις ὡς θησαυρόν, σὲ νεκρὸν πλουτοῦσα, κρουνοὺς βλύζοντα μύρων, βοώσῃ· Δημητρίου Θεὸς βοήθει μοι.

Ἡ Ἐκκλησια: Χαῖρε καὶ ἀγάλλου σφόδρα ἀεί, ἡ Θεσσαλονίκη, ὁ ὁπλίτης γὰρ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, μετὰ σοῦ φρουρῶν σε, συντρίβων τοὺς ἐχθρούς σου, ᾧ εὐγνωμόνως κράζε· Χαίροις Δημήτριε.

Ὁ Λαός: Σχόντες τὸ σὸν Λείψανον σῷ ναῷ, Δημήτριε Μάρτυς, ὡς προπύργιον νοητόν, προσφεύγομεν τούτῳ, κινδύνοις καὶ πολέμοις, καὶ πάσης ἐπηρείας ἀπολυτρούμεθα.
St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrhstreamer, depicted protecting his city of Thessaloniki (source)
Megalynaria of St. Demetrios
(written by St. Symeon Archbishop of Thessaloniki – in the form of a dialogue)
(amateur translation from the above Greek)

St. Demetrios: O beloved Hometown do not grieve, for I will ever deliver you from dangers by my prayer, I will fill you with all good things, and save and protect you, says Demetrios.

Thessaloniki: Under your wings O Champion, ever protected and delivered from every danger, therefore your Hometown, surrounded by dangers, I take refuge in you and cry, O Martyr help me.

St. Demetrios: A grave may cover me O Grecian land, but the whole world is filled with the fragrance of my myrrh, rejoice O my Hometown, for I hold back your enemies, I conquer them and protect you who honor me.

Thessaloniki: Blessed is your tomb, and more blessed is your city as a treasure, though you are dead you fill up, pouring forth rivers of myrrh, cry out: O God of Demetrios help me.

The Chuch: Ever rejoice and be glad greatly, Thessaloniki, for the soldier of Christ, is behind you protecting you, shattering your enemies, cry out in gratitude, Hail Demetrios.

The People: Possesing your Relic in your church, O Martyr Demetrios, as a noetic protecting wall, we take refuge in it, and are delivered from dangers and wars, and all temptations.
St. Demetrios the Myrrhstreamer, depicted before his hometown Thessaloniki, which he has delivered and protected many times throughout its history (Source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!