|St. Demetrios of Constantinople (Feast Day - January 27)|
By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite
A heavenly light was set upon your relics,
Having been beheaded for Christ out of divine love.
Demetrios was a native of Galata in Constantinople and resided in the precinct of Karakoy, where he was a bartender at a tavern owned by a certain Hadji-Panagiotis. He was only twenty-five years old, handsome in appearance, and sober in conduct. For these virtues, he was always hated by the Laz Muslims,* who frequented the tavern. In various ways, they attempted to divert him from the Faith and make him a Muslim, but they strived in vain.
One day, according to their habit, they went to the tavern and indulged in heavy drinking to the point of intoxication. A brawl ensued, and one of them was stabbed. Seeing them, the blessed Demetrios went with his friends to pacify and disperse the quarrelers, according to the authority vested in him by the state - which all tavern operators possessed - to reconcile those who brawled on their premises. Demetrios and his friends succeeded in quelling the quarrel and sent everyone home. However, the following day those sinister patrons, who nurtured intense hatred for the Christian Demetrios, took the wounded Turk and brought him to the judge. They falsely testified that Demetrios had knifed him. Therefore, according to their law, Demetrios had to either become a Muslim or face death. The judge then ordered that Demetrios be brought to court, where he said to the Saint, "Behold the magnitude of the crime you are accused of! How do you answer regarding this charge?" Without fear, the young man recounted the entire matter to the judge as it had occurred. The judge interposed, "You must do one of two things: either you shall become a Muslim, or you shall die." Christ's confessor courageously answered, "Neither did I strike a Turk, nor will I become one. May God forbid it! For I was born a Christian and will die a Christian."
Perceiving his resoluteness the judge issued the order to behead Demetrios. When the executioners took the Saint near the place of execution, the judge decided to issue another order that he was to return to the court. When the Martyr was brought before him, the judge began to flatter him with promises of honors and financial rewards, if only he would become a Muslim and deny Christ. The valiant Martyr, however, was not swayed by these words; much rather, he boldly and eloquently censured their religion. Consequently, the judge turned him over to his accusers, who took Demetrios back to the coffeehouse where a large crowd of Turks had gathered. They heaped flatteries upon him, urging him to become a Muslim. Nevertheless, Demetrios stood firm and continued to oppose them and their religion. Thereafter, the judge commanded them to bring Demetrios before him again. They varied their pressure upon him: at times they offered flatteries, and at other times they pronounced threats if he did not adopt their beliefs. In spite of their wrangling, they failed to convert him; so the judge withheld his ruling until a third hearing.
After they brought forth the Martyr for the third examination, the judge again offered privileges and gifts. He then resorted to threats; yet he was unable to change Demetrios' mind. Therefore, he sentenced Demetrios to be beheaded outside the tavern. In this manner the ever-memorable and thrice-renowned man of Christ received the unfading crown of martyrdom in the year 1784. Throughout the night, a heavenly light shone around his martyred relics. Under cover of night, the Christians went to recover his relics. However, the guards snatched Demetrios away, and consequently had to be bribed with a considerable sum. After the passage of three months, one morning, the Laz Muslims also slew the blessed tavern keeper, Panagiotis, when he was leaving his home, because of the intense hatred they still harbored for the Martyr Demetrios. Through the intercessions of Saint Demetrios, may we all be made worthy to attain to the kingdom of the heavens. Amen.
* Laz Muslims are descended from the "Lazes", a Caucasian people, which, in the fourth century, formed a kingdom allied with the Roman Empire. As a result, the south-east region of the Black Sea as far as Trebizond came to be known as Lazica. They were Islamicised from Christianity in the sixteenth century, however they remained in opposition to the Turks, and were known for being pirates and bandits.
From the New Martyrology.