Sunday, October 26, 2008

St. Demetrios the Great Martyr

Another hat-tip to Christopher Haas, who does us all such a great service by posting his "Word from the Desert" series.

There was a certain bishop from the country of the Africans, Cyprian by name, who cared for the true priesthood and led a life most deserving of God. He arranged to journey to the queen of cities, Byzantium, on a pressing matter of necessity. And when they had sailed for many days and had already drawn near to the regions of Greece, he was captured by the most fierce Slavs together with all his [companions]. When they had divided these captives among themselves, the [Slavs] enslaved the aforementioned bishop together with his [companions]. When these things had been done in this way, they returned to their native places, and each barbarian placed the burden of slavery upon his captive according as he wished. Bishop Cyprian managed his lord's stores and distributed his foodstuffs wisely and with foresight, and in praiseworthy fashion took comfort in prayers, vigils, and fasts. And he said to the Lord, "Although I am without any merit, you appointed me a shepherd of your flock; how have I now been brought to such a state that I have been demoted from such rank to the service of the barbarians? But I call to mind that this has happened to me on account of my sins, and that it is for this reason that I am held ensnared by this affliction. Who will guide my sheep now that their shepherd has been captured by barbarian animals?"
While he was weeping about these and similar things, a beautiful young man, decorous in form, with a military bearing and appearance, said to him, "If you want to be freed from the slavery in which you are held and to be rescued from the barbarians, rise and follow me. Watch yourself, while we are walking, lest you say anything at all to me; but let us march each striving for quiet and praying to God in our minds." Then the bishop replied to him, "Who are you and from where have you come here?" The other said to him, "I am called Demetrius, and I am a soldier of the great emperor. My house stands in the middle of the city of Thessalonica, to which I will lead you without harm if you follow me." Rising, therefore, he followed him, and they both proceeded in silence. They marched during the night and rested during the day. Furthermore, Demetrius used to leave the bishop in the morning and return to him again as the evening drew near, bringing with him fruit from various trees, together with the berries of shrubs, with which he fed his companion, and when they had taken their food, they used begin their journey.
After eight days, when they had drawn near the walls of the city already mentioned, Demetrius set Cyprian in front of the gates of the city and disappeared. When the bishop looked for his faithful guide and good companion and did not find him, he entered the city. He made enquiries of those he met and asked them where was the house of Demetrius the soldier. And when they replied that there were many Demetrii in the city who discharged military office, he remarked, saying, "The house of the one I am looking for is in the middle of the city." Therefore, since they were are all at a loss in this matter, the man being sought was found nowhere. However, the inhabitants of the city led the bishop to the church of the martyr. When he entered, he immediately surrendered himself to prayer, and gave thanks and praise to God the Savior; and as he raised his hands and eyes in prayer, he saw an image of the martyr Demetrius in the clothing of his companion and guide. Then, in the presence of all, he cried out, declaring that, without a doubt, it was Demetrius himself who had guided and saved him, and that this was the house which the martyr himself had mentioned to him as he appeared to him in the beginning.

Anastasius Bibliothecarius, The Passio of St. Demetrius
Great Martyr Demetrius, commemorated 26 October