Archbishop’s Nicolae Meditation on the Feast of St. Demetrios the Myrrhgusher

On the 26th day of the month of October the Orthodox Church celebrates the Holy and Great Martyr Demetrios, who was raised and educated in the Christian faith during the persecution of the Christians at the hands of the Roman emperors. Demetrios was appointed by the emperor Maximian proconsul of the city of Thessalonica, thus becoming his father’s successor. One of his responsibilities was precisely to force all those who confessed the Christian faith to renounce it and to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods.

Once he arrived in Thessalonica and took up his post as proconsul, Demetrios confessed the Resurrected Christ and encouraged the Thessalonians to embrace the new faith. As St. Paul had done, Demetrios showed himself as a true Apostle to the city of Thessalonica. Not even the arrival of the emperor made him change his attitude, even though he knew that the punishment was prison or even death. A young servant by the name of Nestor, receiving the blessing of St. Demetrios, defeats the famous arena fighter Lyaeus, which angered the emperor greatly. Like many other Christians, Demetrios and Nestor are sentenced to death for their courage to confront the emperor and for the confession of their faith in Christ.

The story of the martyrdom of St. Demetrios is known to all Christians. We are all aware of the persecution of the early Christians in the first centuries after Christ. We are all aware of the fervor of those Christians, who paid a price of suffering and death, for confessing Christ as the God who saves us. They paid a price in likeness with the sacrifice that the Savior himself suffered for us.

How do we understand that we must confess Christ today? We live in a free world where we fear neither an emperor nor his servants. Therefore, we do not fear for our lives. Thus we can believe that confessing the Christian faith can be accomplished without danger. However, it is too seldom that we ask ourselves how we confess Christ in our times. We forget too quickly the words of the Savior himself, who exhorts us to confess that: „Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father, who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32) But we especially forget the warning which follows: „But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father, who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33)

Consequently the example of St. Demetrios’ confession of the Christian faith before the emperor, is not simply a beautiful story of courage, worthy of history textbooks. It is the fulfillment of Christian life which requires confessing our faith in Christ. Irrespective of time and place, the Christian reveals himself according to the measure of his courage to confess his faith. The words of the Savior are clear and they are not subject to our self-serving interpretations.

Let us listen to His words again and to ask ourselves how we will confess Christ before men in order to receive His confession before the heavenly Father.

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