January 29, 2016

Holy New Martyr Demetrios of Chios (+ 1802)

St. Demetrios of Chios (Feast Day - January 29)


Thessaloniki is not alone in having its boast.
Chios also has a Martyr named Demetrios.
Moreover, he has become an ointment being slain by cruel men.

Demetrios was born into a devout family on the island of Chios in 1780, his father being called Apostolos and his wife Maroulou. While still young, he went to work for his elder brother Zannes who was established as a merchant in Constantinople under an employer. After some time, between twenty and twenty-two, he got engaged without seeking his brother's consent, choosing first to write to his father of his plans, which so angered his brother that he and his employer threw Demetrios out of the house. Homeless and hungry, he remembered that one of his brother's Turkish clients owed a sum of money. Desperately he went to his estate as if on an errand from his brother to collect the debt, but really intending to make use of the money himself. The Turk was not at home and he was received by the man's daughter. She knew Demetrios by sight, for he had often come with goods, and she had been much taken by his handsome appearance. She managed to lure him into the home and employed her charms with diabolical skill, bringing him to the point of denying his faith and of promising to become a Muslim in order to marry her. Though he quickly came to change his mind, he spent about two months with her in the house as if a prisoner and under close surveillance, for observing his sad and gloomy countenance, the Turks of the household suspected that he might go back on his decision. Demetrios however looked for any opportunity to escape.

He fled from the estate one night during Ramadan while the Turks were asleep and sought refuge in the house of a Christian whom he knew. Shedding torrents of tears, he tore at his face as, sobbing, he confessed his shameful sin. His brother and confessor were sent for. He explained everything that had taken place, confessed his apostasy and told them that all he now wanted was to wipe out his offense in the blood of martyrdom. He sent a written confession to his parents soon after, in which he asked their blessing to go before the Turks in order to confess Christ and, by dying for His love, to make amends for his treachery.

Demetrios spent his time in fervent prayer, often reciting the Salutations to the Theotokos, and other prayers he knew. Then one night, on the eve of the feast of Saint Nicholas, after falling asleep while praying, he beheld a majestic Woman with an Infant in her arms in the midst of a beautiful plain. In a distance he beheld an executioner. The Woman then said to Demetrios: "If you will not fall into the hands of the executioner, you will not inherit this most delightful plain." Awakened by this, he understood that it was God's will that he die a martyr. Fearing lest his desire be all too emotional and that he might relapse when the time of testing came, his confessor Fr. Agathangelos tested his resolve by giving him a severe rule of fasting and prayer. For twenty days and nights with almost no food or sleep, partaking of only a little bread and water once a day, studying spiritual books, confessing his sins daily, shedding tears continually, and with a spirit straining forward towards God alone, the holy Martyr sustained his resolve with ever more ardent zeal. He even spent five days in constant vigil while barely dressed.

At last, on the fifth night of his vigil, having received assurance in a luminous vision that martyrdom was indeed the will of God and that, through the intercessions of the All-Holy Mother of God, Christ would give him strength in the contest, he obtained the blessing of his confessor, communicated of the Divine Eucharist, and went bravely to present himself before the Islamic court in Constantinople. He told the story of his denial, confessed his faith in Christ and, throwing his Muslim turban to the ground, declared that he was ready to endure suffering of any kind whatsoever. Kept for many days in stocks in a dark, humid cell, which he transformed by his prayers into a bridal chamber, he was brought out repeatedly for interrogations followed by beatings, one day he even received seven hundred blows with rods, all of which only strengthened his resolve.

The Muslim girl he had fallen for came to visit him him in prison, and used every deceitful means she could to lure him back to her again, but all in vain. The only female companion the holy Martyr desired was his chaste relationship with the Mother of God. The Christians who resided in Constantinople from Chios, fearing lest their fellow-islander give way under torture and deny Christ, got up a fundraiser and raised enough money to secure his provisional release. The Saint disapproved of this and rebuked them severely. He asked them, on the contrary, to distribute the money to the churches of the City, and for prayers to be offered for him at the time of his martyrdom.

Resisting with courageous fortitude the torments of the Turks as well as their soft words, and the satanic flatteries of the young woman, Demetrios received the sentence of death with joy. Brought to a place called Baloum Bazaar on January 29th in the year 1802, he refused to be blindfolded, knelt down calmly before the block, and bent his neck beneath the sword repeating the words three times: "Remember me, Lord, in Your Kingdom!" As soon as he was beheaded, numerous Christians present then rushed forward regardless of being beaten by the Turks, and they soaked cloths in the Martyr's blood, while others took a piece of his clothing or hair. One clergyman even payed twenty-five grosia to the executioner for the towel he used to wipe the blood of the Martyr from his sword. When he received the towel and unfolded it, and invisible hand inscribed it with many crosses in the Martyr's blood, astonishing all who were present. They were all filled with joy at the voluntary sacrifice of Saint Demetrios, which for them became a source of blessings.

His relics were buried three days later on the island of Prote, outside Constantinople, in a monastery there. Many from Constantinople, including the executioner, attended the funeral, and the miraculous towel was displayed and gave off a beautiful fragrance. Father Agathangelos also related other miracles of the Saint to the crowd following the martyrdom of the Saint. The Life and Divine Service for Saint Demetrios was composed by his contemporary Saint Athanasios of Paros, who taught in Chios, partially based on Saint Demetrios' own written testimony.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Rejoice offspring, delight of Chios, rejoice boast, of the Orthodox, steadfast in soul, young Demetrios, you disparaged the antichrist delusion, whose authority exists in insolence, as you proclaimed, fixing your mind on Christ, Who grants us the great mercy.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
The luminary of Byzantium, and City of great name, today is melodious, with a strong voice crying unto you, having wrestled supernaturally in the trenches, young Demetrios the Myrrhgusher, was slain for You Christ, wherefore he sings hymns to You, being God the Son by nature.

Those who praise with reverence, your brilliant struggles, and your contests Martyr of Christ, and who annually keep your divine memory, thoroughly save them Demetrios by your intercessions.