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October 27, 2016

Saint Demetrius the New of Basarabov (+ 13th cent.)

St. Demetrius of Basarabov (Feast Day - October 27)

Saint Demetrius was born at the beginning of the thirteenth century into a peasant family in the village of Basarabov, situated in the region south of the Danube, which, at that time, belonged to the Kingdom of Bulgaria. From his childhood, Demetrius struggled valiantly for virtue, through fasting and prayer. One day, as he was taking out the cows to pasture, he trod on a nest of birds, hidden in the grass, and crushed the little birds in it. His penitence for what he had done as so great that he decided to go barefoot for three winters and summers.

He later joined a monastery and, having learnt obedience, went to dwell in a cave in the forest near the River Lom. There, unknown to men, he poured out his prayer and tears before God. He was forewarned of his death, and when the day came, lay down between two slabs of stone and gave up his soul in peace to God.

Monastery of Basarabov and the Cave of Saint Demetrius

The years passed and all memory of the holy ascetic was lost. Three centuries later, when the river was in spate, its waters rose and flooded the cave. The current lifted the stone slabs, carried away the incorrupt body of the Saint and left it buried in gravel. A hundred years after that, the Saint appeared in a dream to a little paralyzed girl and told her to ask her parents to take her to the river bank to be healed. When the news got around, the clergy of the diocese and a great crowd accompanied the family to the spot, where earlier the inhabitants of the district had seen a mysterious light. They began to dig and soon found the body of the Saint unharmed, shining with the grace of the Holy Spirit, through which the little girl was immediately healed. The holy relic was taken with great solemnity to the village of Basarabov, where other healings took place, and people came from all over the country to venerate it. The Prince of Hungro-Wallachia sent priests and dignitaries to see this miraculous discovery for themselves; he then built a church in the village where over the years the Saint worked many miracles.

Cathedral of Bucharest, where the relic of St. Demetrius rests today

In 1774, towards the end of the Russo-Turkish was, the Russian army encamped near the village, and General Peter Saltikov ordered the relics to be taken to Russia to secure them from the possibility of profanation by the Turks. When the relics and their escort reached Bucharest, a pious Christian and friend of the General, Hadji-Demetrius, asked him not to deprive the Romanian people of the body of their fellow-countryman. The General agreed, and only took one of the Saint's hands which he sent to the Lavra of the Kiev Caves.

Incorrupt relic of St. Demetrius

The body of Saint Demetrius was placed in the cathedral of Bucharest where, because of his many miracles, he has been venerated ever since as protector of the city and of the whole of Romania. Every year on 27 October, people throng to Bucharest for a three-day festival in honor of Saint Demetrius the New, who honorable relics never cease to distill a delightful scent.

From The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, Vol. One, Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra, Ormylia, 1998, pp. 490-491.