August 7, 2014

Saint Dometios of Persia as a Model for our Lives

Venerable Martyr Dometios the Persian (Feast Day - August 7)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The venerable martyr Dometios came from Persia and lived in the fourth century. The religion of the Persians could not satisfy his spiritual hunger and thirst and give him fulfillment and meaning in life, so he longed with all his soul to know the true God, Who did not overlook his prayer, but He arranged things so that he can come to know a Christian, who catechized him. After his baptism he went to a Monastery in Nisibis. He then moved to Theodosopolis and settled in the Monastery of Saints Sergius and Bacchus. The abbot, seeing his spiritual progress, suggested he become a Presbyter, but the Saint requested that he be allowed to complete his life as a simple monk. After receiving a blessing he fled into a deserted place and settled in a cave, together with two of his disciples. There he gave himself over with greater zeal to asceticism and prayer. One day Julian the Apostate passed by that place together with his soldiers, and when he saw the Saint and his two disciples, he ordered that they be killed by stoning.

The life and disposition of the venerable martyr gives us the opportunity to highlight the following:

Stoning is one of the harshest martyrdoms. This is because stoning constantly increases injuries and it is a slow death with terrible pain. The saints endured this martyrdom, as well as all forms of martyrdoms, silently and prayerfully, but they did not achieve this on their own and it was not due to strong will or strong character, rather it was the work of the uncreated Grace of God that encompassed their entire existence, their soul and body, and it empowered them, strengthened them and consoled them. When a person, by the Grace of God and their personal struggle, conquers their passions and is sovereign over them, then the Grace of God overshadows them and dwells in their entire existence, and then a person acquires perfect love and all the other virtues. This is why they selflessly love others, as well as all of creation. They fervently desire martyrdom, since perfect love by nature is martyric, sacrificial and a cross. Also, it gives a fragrance to their entire existence, their words and actions, their soul and their body, which still continues to be fragrant after the departure of the soul. The myrrh-scented relics of the saints are a seal of their authenticity and holiness, and they also confirm the teaching of the Church in regards to the resurrection of the dead and about eternal life.

Anyone who reads the synaxaria of the saints will find that many of them were made worthy to spill their blood for Christ and "left" this world in a violent and martyric way, and yet others "left" in peace, namely "perfected in peace". However, the way of life of all saints is martyric, because the saints do not belong to this world, which is why the world doesn't understand them and cannot tolerate them, but rather hates them and persecutes them. The words of Christ are well known: "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you... If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (Jn. 15:19-20). Of course with the word "world" it does not mean the creation of God, which is a true ornament and "very good", but people who are imbued with a carnal mind, who are in "enmity with God" and death, and are contrary to the will of God, which is life and peace. He who puts to death the carnal mind and is reborn spiritually or is struggling to achieve their spiritual regeneration and their personal sanctification, will endure martyrdom without indignity against God, but continuously thanks and glorifies God for everything that is happening to him, both for things that are pleasant and things that are unpleasant. Martyrdom then, according to the Holy Fathers of the Church, is also considered to be patience during the unfortunate events of life. Saint Diadochos of Photike stresses that "patience during the trials of life and gratitude to God for suffering will be accorded by God as a martyrdom and such a person will receive a crown of martyrdom".

Of course, it is not easy for one to endure temptations with their own strength, which is why many end up in despair, hopelessness and depression. "In the fallen state, which has become 'natural' for us, we can endure only a small dose of sufferings. And when this dose of suffering reaches its highest limit then we are at the verge of death. Many have even died from suffering or ended in suicide. There exists in man, however, a certain spiritual strength that comes from Above, and then he is capable of undergoing an incomparably greater amount of suffering" (Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov). Temptations are a great blessing from God in view of the fact that they give a person the ability to mature spiritually and become a source of blessing for their family, their society, their environment and for all of creation. As for people who, intentionally or unintentionally, cause others to suffer, when we forgive them from our heart, and love them and pray for their repentance and prosperity, then our heart generously accepts the Grace and blessing of God and changes it into a real paradise. So we exude an aroma and scent of peace, love, joy and all the other virtues.

When someone is stoned in various ways, such as through insults, swearing, slander, or with failures, serious illnesses, loss of loved ones, and unbearable temptations in general that cause pain and sorrow, and endure them without complaint, with prayer and thanksgiving for all things to God, then they will receive the "Grace of martyrdom and a crown of martyrdom".

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Οσιομάρτυρας Δομέτιος καί οι δύο μαθητές του", July 2011. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.