October 26 2014 -
"GREAT MARTRY OF THE CHURCH . . ."
Not very many of the saints of the church are called “Great Martyrs.” ST. DEMETRIOS is one of them. He died for his faith during the violent persecutions of Diocletian in the early fourth century, in the year 306.
Demetrios was a soldier, but he was also a skilled orator and leader. More important, he was a Christian, and it was a time when believers in Christ were hounded by the pagan rulers and killed for their faith. Demetrios was named to a governmental position at Thessalonica. But instead of persecuting the Christians there, Demetrios preached to them and guided them.
It wasn’t long before the emperor heard of his faith and ministry and ordered him arrested. He was promptly put into prison. While there, he urged a young Christian named Nestor to engage in combat a famous gladiator who had thrown many a believer to death in the amphitheater. This time the gladiator was killed before the angry mob. Soon after, Nestor was martyred and Demetrios was pierced with spears.
A church was built over the remains of St. Demetrios at Thessalonica and devotion to him spread far and wide. This early church was destroyed by fire in the 7th century and replaced by another, containing artistic Byzantine mosaics.
Icons of St. Demetrios are depicted in many ways: Often as a soldier, holding a lance; at times on a horse, other times as a protector of children. He is widely revered and his day is commemorated with great festivity in Thessalonica.