Feast of St Demetrius: This is the brilliant victory, this is the Church’s trophy

Veneration of the relics of St Demetrius
in the church dedicated to him in Thessaloniki.

The chant is the Great Doxology (Glory be to God on high) and Trisagion.

**

In the year 306, the pagan Emperor Maximian put up Lyaeus, a mountain of a man, against any Christian challenger in the gladiatorial arena of Thessaloniki.

The diminutive Nestor was minded to accept. But first he visited his friend Demetrius, a nobleman formerly in the Emperor’s favour, but now under arrest for being a Christian.

Having obtained his friend’s blessing, Nestor went out to meet the challenge, making the sign of the Cross for all to see. He advanced on Lyaeus, veteran of countless victories, and with the cry “O God of Demetrius, help me!” Nestor slew him.

Both Nestor, who was beheaded, and Demetrius, who was run through with a lance, were summarily martyred, refusing any temptation to give up their faith.

It is of course for this victory in an invisible arena within, not the victory against Lyaeus, that they are celebrated today.

**

O DEMETRIUS, martyr of Christ, as once thou didst by the grace of God cast down the frowns and conceit and whinnying arrogance of Lyaeus, strengthening the noble Nestor in the arena by the power of the Cross, so also strengthen me at all times by thy prayers, O victor, against the demons and against the passions which corrupt the soul.

At Matins.

**

An icon of St Demetrius the Great Martyr, standing above the casket of his myrhh-streaming relics, in the Church dedicated to him in Thessaloniki

An icon of St Demetrius the Great Martyr, standing above the casket of his myrhh-streaming relics, in the Church dedicated to him in Thessaloniki.

**

FOR this is the brilliant victory, this is the Church’s trophy, thus is the Devil overthrown when we suffer injury.

For when we suffer, he is taken captive; and himself suffers harm, when he would fain inflict it on us.

And this happened in Paul’s case also; and the more he plied him with perils, the more was he defeated. […]

Wonderful was David who laid Goliath low with a single stone.

But if thou wilt examine Paul’s achievements, that is a child’s exploit, and great as is the difference between a shepherd and a general, so great the difference thou shalt see here.

St John Chrysostom, Homily XXV on the Epistles of St Paul to the Corinthians. Source.

**

The relics of St Demetrius give out a fragrant myrrh even today.

I PRAY thee, O Demetrius, wipe me clean of the streams of unclean passions and foul air of the mire, and by thy myrrh, shew me forth as a worthy vessel of the sweet-scented myrrh of Christ.

Theotokion

MANIFEST thou art, all-pure Lady, as a casket of divine myrrh, a choice vessel of the sweet scent of Christ: I beg thee, redeem me from the foul air of the mire of sin.

At Matins. My amateur translations, from Analogion.

**

For another reflection on David and Goliath and our battle with the passions, see Mark the Ascetic on True ardour makes the soul eager for salvation.

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