|St. Demetrios of Philadelphia (Feast Day - June 2)|
Suitably the fire trembled before you Demetrios,
You died for God, and creation trembled.
You died for God, and creation trembled.
Demetrios, the newly-appeared Martyr of Christ was born in Philadelphia of Asia Minor and was a member of one of the city’s most illustrious families, being the son of Doukas the priest. Upon his father’s death, his mother undertook to rear him in the instruction and admonitions of the Lord until his eighteenth year. Since the youth was modest by nature, handsome in appearance and gifted, certain Hagarenes took undue notice of his comeliness and, motivated by malice, seized him. Now either through trickery or promises of gifts and honor, or perhaps by threats of torture, they persuaded the immature Demetrios to renounce Christ. Wherefore, he was turned over to the service of a leading Hagarene of Philadelphia. He attained considerable favor with this Muslim, so much so, that within a few years he acquired esteem, honor, and wealth, including livestock and property. Furthermore, since he was courageous physically, he was elected Commander-in-Chief of the city’s militia. By virtue of these achievements, he also became engaged to one of the foremost Muslim maidens of Philadelphian society.
By God’s grace, when Demetrios reached the age of 25 the Lord beckoned him. The godly Demetrios began to recall his former piety and faith. He perceived the Muslims’ deceptive religion to which he had succumbed. He sighed from the depths of his heart and cried within himself:
“O the ignorance of me, the pitiful one! Woe to my misfortune, accursed Demetrios! How many years have I spent in this darkness? How was I beguiled and denied my Lord? Nevertheless, I will again confess Him before men, because I know a similar predicament befell many martyrs of old, whom I will have to help me make my confession of faith.”
With this firm resolve and armed by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, he hastened to the contest of martyrdom.
“Hearken, lords and princes of this city: It is twelve years since I have been blinded and not able to see the light of my Orthodox faith. Now, however, my mind has been enlightened by the Holy Spirit and instructed by Christ, the King of All, my true God, Who delivered Himself up to death for our love, and I learned that the Muslim religion is false and can do nothing for the soul’s salvation. For this reason I deny and detest it, and I confess and worship Christ as true God, making me a Christian as before with the name of Demetrios. By this name and for the love of my Christ, I am prepared to be sacrificed and die. Therefore do not tarry, but cut my body to pieces. I reverence Christ, my Savior; as for your prophet, I abhor and hold him in contempt.”
The holy Martyr then kept his peace. Following these searing utterances the Hagarenes set upon him, and with brutal force pushed and dashed him to the earth, furiously administering 315 strokes with rods. The Martyr joyously lifted his voice and intoned:
“Glory to You our God, glory to You. Help me, Saint Demetrios and Saint George. Come quickly, Saint of God, Nicholas!”
After this punishment, they threw the Martyr into prison since, perchance, Demetrios would recant. That same evening the Hagarenes summoned their teachers and a certain Arabian magician and sent them to the prison to try to persuade or dupe him by various ruses or black magic to forsake his piety. But they all travailed in vain. In the morning the governor released him from prison and dismissed the case. But the Martyr, seeing that he was thus deprived of the crown of martyrdom for which he earnestly yearned, went to a cafe where a large crowd of Hagarenes were gathered. In a loud voice he commenced to reprove them:
“O miserable Hagarenes, what do you believe? That your faith is correct and the truth? Thrice-wretched ones, you are mistaken and deceived! How blind you are and do not see the light of truth! I, however, believe in Christ, the true God, Who took upon himself all the sins of the world; Him alone do I worship.”
The Saint ended his protest by removing the white fez from his head and his green tunic, and dashing them to the earth. As he trampled upon these items, he remarked:
“Just as I step on these objects which are a sign of your religion I trod upon your faith and laws, renouncing and loathing them.”
Straightway, the Hagarenes pounced upon him as lions gnashing their teeth. Some rushed with clubs and others with stones. Striking the holy Martyr, they cast him to the ground as dead. At that point many believed him to have expired. But the holy Martyr was strengthened by our Lord Jesus Christ and even though he was sprawled out half-dead, he prayed noetically. Whereupon, when he overheard the Muslims, who presumed him dead, planning to burn him in the fire, he left off his prayer and in an instant was on his feet, making them the following offer:
“I have money to give you so you may purchase wood to burn me. So do not think that I died, for as is evident, my Christ has endued me with strength.”
They could not endure to behold the Martyr risen and speaking. They stabbed him three times in such away that the knife penetrated from the back through his chest. Notwithstanding, the Martyr of Christ did not surrender his spirit, but was kept alive by Divine power.
As they conducted Demetrios to the site where they would commit him to the flames, one of those present smote the Martyr in the head with his knife, cleaving his face into two. O the strange wonder and superhuman courage of the Martyr! He held the divided parts of his skull with his hands, and raising his eyes to heaven invoked the assistance of Saint Demetrios, and fused the two halves of his head perfectly. When the thrice-accursed ones beheld the miracle, they wounded him a second time in another section of the head creating a new fissure. Once again, the Martyr healed the disjoined halves as before. The restoration to his original state left no trace of blood, nor the appearance of a scar from the mortal injuries. Nevertheless the savages, instead of becoming tamed at witnessing such an unparalleled phenomenon, pushed and kicked the Saint in the direction where they intended to reduce him to ashes. While en route, the Martyr beheld a Christian church. He knelt and with utter humility and reverence cried aloud with tears streaming down his face:
“My Lord Jesus Christ, today I am coming to You in order to become Your sacrifice, and I surrender my spirit into Your hands.”
The executioners could not tolerate the sight of him so they struck the Martyr with a rapier, severing the calves of his legs. This time, Christ’s athlete finished his course and attained the crown of martyrdom on the 2nd of June in the year 1657.
Quickly the Hagarenes collected wood and coal from a bathhouse and set fire to it, and into the conflagration they heaved the Martyr’s body. Lo the wonder! The fire divided into two and did not threaten the Martyr in the least but left him intact and whole. Yet even beholding this marvel their stubbornness increased, and they took five earthen jugs of oil and poured them over the flames. Yet neither by this attempt nor any other contrivance, would the flames be goaded to come in contact with the Martyr. Finally they were at a loss at how to accomplish their heinous deed. In desperation they poked at the wood in the fire, and with the iron implements and accessories of the bath, they hacked the struggler’s relics into pieces. After his death the sacred relics performed, and continue to work, many miracles for those who approach them with faith. By his intercessions may we too be made worthy of the Kingdom of the Heavens. Amen.