Today Christians all over the world celebrate All Saints Day for those that follow the Western Calendar. This day took on even deeper meaning for me after the passing of my brother 4 years ago. It is a special day to reflect on all of those who have gone before us. Loved ones that we remember, but then Saints who were the true heroes of our faith.
Last week, I learned about St. Demetrios and was moved by his story. Tonight as a family, I read this story and we talked about his life. It moves me to have boldness and courage to stand up for Christ no matter what my circumstances may be or whatever opposition we face.
Saintly Lives: St. Demetrios of Thessaloniki
(Commemorated on October 26th)
As a young man, he entered the Roman Army, where he quickly rose in the ranks and became a successful officer. However, he was, in his own heart and mind, a soldier of God first, and a soldier of Caesar second. He spent much of his time within the ranks preaching the Gospel of our Lord, telling his brothers the good news of the Resurrection, of all that Jesus Christ did for us. Eventually, though, his fame won him the attention of the Emperor Maximian. When St. Demetrios was called before the emperor to recant his faith, he did not fold or give in. Even though it would have been very easy to deny his faith and get himself out of a very, very dangerous situation, he remained, brave and faithful to His Lord. He told the pagan emperor, “Only in Christ do I believe.”
Now more furious than ever, Maximian had St. Demetrios thrown into prison. He was brutally tortured, but still would not crack, still remained faithful. A younger disciple of his, Nestoras, also exhibited much faith and loyalty, coming to visit his teacher and mentor often in prison—again, even though by doing so, Nestoras was engulfing himself in a dangerous situation. On one visit, Nestoras expressed a desire to fight in the name of the Christian faith at an upcoming gladiatorial battle, and he asked for the blessing of St. Demetrios.
Nestoras received the blessing of St. Demetrios and was instructed to fight not for personal glory, but for the glory of God alone. This would surely protect and keep him. Amazingly, Nestoras—who was small of stature, not muscular, and not a skilled fighter—handily defeated the best of the pagan gladiators, a giant known as Leo or Laios. During the battle, Demetrios cried out and prayed for victory in the name of Christ and for the glory of God. And Nestoras found victory because of his own great faith and Christian bravely—and because of the great prayers and supplications of his friend and spiritual advisor, St. Demetrios.
The emperor, insane with anger over this embarrassment, ordered Nestoras beheaded, and on October 26th, 306, St. Demetrios was brutally executed with a spear.
The disciples of St. Demetrios buried him at the spot of his martyrdom, in commemoration of his faith and courage in the worst of circumstances; later, the Church proclaimed him “Mirovlitis,” the “Myrrh Gusher,” because the of the fragrant scent that constantly emanated from his tomb. And this beloved saint is still, to this day, inspiring the lives of Orthodox Christians across the globe with his personal saga of courage, faith, and Christian friendship—all in the face of certain death. May his very real and inspired story be eternal in our hearts and minds, now and always. Amen.