Demetrius, the Great-Martyr, is celebrated in the Byzantine Churches on October 26th. Although, I didn’t know much about this saint – actually, only that he existed. So I thought that I’d learn and share his story, as well as ways to celebrate this great martyr’s feast day!
The Holy and Glorious Great-Martyr Demetrius, from Whose Tomb Myrrh Streams Forth
St. Demetrius (285-310) was born in Thessalonica to devout parents. They had been childless a long time and prayed for a child and were given Demetrius. Growing up, Demetrius was known for his wisdom, virtue, and noble birth. Demetrius’ father was a commander under the Emperor, and died a while after Galerius Maximilian became emperor. And so Demetrius then took his father’s place as commander in Thessalonica.
Emperor Maximilian gave orders Demetrius to persecute the Christians. But Demetrius was a Christian. So, instead he went and preached the gospel in Thessalonica.
When Maximilian came back from a war, he went to Thessalonica to bring tiding of his victories and to receive praise from the peoples. So he brought some gladiators with him, including the mighty Lyaeus (sometimes written Lyeios). Lyaeus was a gladiator whose strength and victories made him the pride of the emperor Maximilian. Lyaeus also was known for mocking Christians.
Once Maximilian arrived in Thessalonica, he received reports from the pagans about how Demetrius was using his post to convert other pagans to Christianity. Maximilian called Demetrius to find out if this was true. Demetrius came, and openly rebuked the emperor for his idolatry and proclaimed the truth of Christianity.
And so, Demetrius was thrown in prison.
Now at that time there was a young man named Nestor (St. Nestor of Thessalonica). Nestor felt called by God to prove the power of the Lyaeus to be worthless. So, Nestor went to visit Demetrius in prison. There, Nestor asked for Demetrius’ for God’s protection against Lyaeus. The saint granted this blessing on Nestor, who went off to battle with Lyaeus.
In the arena, Lyaeus rushed at Nestor. Nestor sidestepped Lyaeus’ blow, and with a small dagger inflicted Lyaeus with a mortal wound. So the “small boy” amazed the crowd by defeating the “giant Lyaeus.” (Sounds familiar, right?). And Nestor proclaimed that his victory came from Christ.
Emperor Maximillian was furious! So he sent his soldiers after Nestor, who was chased and martyred outside the stadium. (Nestor is commemorated October 27th). The soldiers were then sent to kill Demetrius without trial. The soldiers came into the prison cell and pierced his body with lances. So Christians came and collected his body, which had been left for wild animals to eat. And when they went to bury him, a myrrh proceeded from the saints’ body. All who were anointed with it were healed.
Demetrius had a servant named Lupus, who was present at the saint’s death. So Lupus collected some relics from his master’s body, and distributed the saint’s property to the poor (as he was instructed to do by Saint Demetrius before his martyrdom).
A church was built over Demetrius’ burial site after Constantine the Great became emperor.
Prayers for St. Demetrius’ Day
Troparion: (tone 3)
In you, O Martyr Demetrius, the world has discovered a champion in its troubles, and so, as you have routed the nations and smashed the pride of Lyaerus, and encouraged Nestor to struggle, pray to Christ our God to grant great Mercy to our souls
Kontakion: (tone 2)
With the streams of your blood, O Demetrius, God, who gave you invincible strength, has died the Church in royal crimson and preserved your city, invulnerable for you are its fortification
Prokimenon: (tone 7)
The just man shall be glad in the Lord, and shall hope in him
Verse: Hear my voice, O God, when I make my petition to you
Ways to Celebrate
St. Demetrius’ relics have been mystically gushing fragrant myrrh. We can make honey treats to remind us of this fragrant gushing. Byzimom has a recipe you might like to try out here.
Also, get some myrrh for your icon corner. Or a lovely scented candle, and put a picture of St. Demetrius’ icon on it.
And finally, pray the prayers for this feast day! Go to a Divine Liturgy if you can. And if you cannot, say them in your prayers in front of your icon corner.
The Byzantine Life
Thank you for checking out this week’s article. If you haven’t already, you can read our article about how to develop a relationship with a saint. Or our article on a Byzantine Halloween (with a bit on Harry Potter and my conversion story).
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