St. Demetrios & Spiritual War

Saint Demetrios, the Great Martyr

Icon of Saint Demetrios.
Icon of Saint Demetrios.

Spiritual War

War.

We all know it well. We all are involved and take part in it whether we want to or not. We all have very personal stakes in this war. It is being fought right now in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Australia, in Greece, in America. In our homes in this very church… the war over the souls of man… it’s the spiritual war. It is being fought against us all. We are the combatants and the prize.

This spiritual war has been being fought since Adam took that first bite of the fruit from Eve’s hand. And, that rebellion and disobedience has carried on for centuries… in the battlefields of our lives and minds.

This month, we (Orthodox Christians - particularly, Greek Orthodox Christians) celebrate the victory of St. Demetrios in that war on October 26th. We call to remembrance the way he lived his life and the way he stood as he died.

He, side by side with us, awaits the return of Christ. But, until then we must fight the good fight and stand in the gap defending against the bombardment of the enemy… but, be of good cheer Christ has warned us of the war, told us of the battles and said "Hear, O Christian: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; ‘for the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.'"

Drawing from the Gospel of John on the feast of St. Demetrios: Jesus tells us that “If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before it hated you… A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you… all the things they will do to you for My name’s sake [is] because they do not know Him who sent Me.”

It is clear.

Jesus’ words ring true of warning. He does not use words such as 'dislike', He uses the word 'hatred'. And, hatred is an all-consuming fire that tries to kill what it cannot understand. Throughout the scriptures Jesus tells us that we are hated because of Him but we are still to love our enemies.

One such example is St. Demetrios, the Roman soldier who was thrown into jail—for being a traitor to the heathen gods and teaching about Christ. He found himself in chains for his faith—again in a world who hated Christ. He refused to do what the emperor instructed and was given his reward. But, St. Demetrios—I guarantee as he was taken to be killed remembered those precious awesome words that were meant for strengthening us…"They hated Me without cause…when the helper comes whom I shall send to you from the Father, the spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. These things I have spoken to you that you should not be made to stumble.”

With examples such as this we are strengthened and never fall. Wait a minute. Could that be true? We are still under that hatred. The world still hates us for our faith. And, a lot of times we feed that fire of hatred. How? Do you ask? By denying forgiveness to those who have wronged us. By lying and cheating. By giving in to our own selfish ambitions and lusts. We give in to the world that hates us because we want to have no conflict in our lives. We are happy just living our lives.So we do not pray when we go to the restaurants, we do not tell people of God’s love because we do not want to make them uncomfortable. We have given the OK for liberality, heathenism, Satanism, etc. to have sway over our country and our lives. In my research, I read a very disturbing article that tells us that because we have allowed the censoring of our Christian public officials, teachers, and elected representatives the predictable is happening: “A generation of young people is growing up with very little understanding of the spiritual principles on which our country was founded. And, then we wonder why so many of them can kill, steal, take drugs, and engage in promiscuous sex without any pangs of conscious.” The prophet Isaiah tells us “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Can you see it? The war? The hatred? But, be of good cheer for the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.

The hymn of St. Demetrios tells us that his strength was found in Christ. It tells us that “the world was found in you, O victorious one, a mighty champion in dangers, who conquered the nations.” We must go boldly into the gladiatorial ring as Nestor did from the mere word of St. Demetrious who gave the courage to defeat Lyaios. We face the same giants in our lives who threaten to take our lives. We face the Lyaios’ of the government and society who are trying to tell us how to live and believe. But, we pray for St. Demetrios’ supplications - his intercessions - to Christ our God to bestow on us His great mercy.

A lot of people ask me, "why do you pray to saints?" For the Orthodox and Catholic Christians, the answer is easy - we have the Saints and Martyrs as witnesses for Christ. Martyr comes from the Greek word and literally means - 'witness'. We pray for the Saints/Martyrs intercessions because their belief in Christ, their Faith in God, was so strong and powerful that they endured.... they endured hardships - most, even unto horrific deaths. Essentially, these were and are still mere mortals that had the faith, hope in, and love of Christ that we all need. These men, women and children are role models - heroes - for any Christian to emulate in witnessing to Christ. Forget movie stars, celebs of all types, rock stars, or athletes that just signed that those multi-million dollar contracts and then you read about them letting you down ethically or morally somewhere down the line - the saints/martyrs didn't choose to follow Christ because they were getting a big signing bonus... they didn't follow Christ, because it the 'cool thing to do', they had real faith, real hope and real love in God to try to emulate Him toward the ends of their live - attaining the immortal crown/reward.

The Epistle reading from 2 Timothy tells us that we must endure the hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ and that no one engaged in this warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this world. Why is that? So we can please the one who enlisted us—our Lord Jesus Christ. Look at the words Paul uses in the epistle. The first word I want to bring to mind is the word 'engage'. This is essential for us as Christians to not sit idly by.It is not enough to come to church and sit at liturgy we must be the good soldier as we are commanded to be and draw our swords and get in the mix. And, the second word I want to bring to mind is 'entangled'. Yes, we need to submerge ourselves into to war but not at the expense of getting entangled in the affairs of this world. The nuance of this word is powerful. Entanglement lets us feel as if we are free, but - yet, we cannot escape. 'Hear, O Christian: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them.'

We of today’s world must keep these things in our minds and heart. Christ died and rose again. He lived among us to give us the example of being able to live on the earth and yet not get entangled by its affairs. We often tell ourselves that “yea, but, He was God—of course He could resist.” But, we must remember that He was also man. Satan came to Him as Satan comes to us and tempted Him to fall. We have the Holy Spirit within us. We too are man, but, we also are partly God by in as mush as we have the Spirit who dwells in our temple.

Be of good Cheer my brothers and sisters in the Lord.The Lord our God is.

He who has gone before us and fought the enemy—and won.

He came—He saw—He conquered.

Death and hell have no sway over us as long as we live in the grace of our Lord’s great mercy.

The War—Jesus has won it.It’s the battles that we must engage in. The battles that take place across every mind struggling to realize that Christ is the conqueror. We often ask ourselves how can God allow such wickedness to prevail, but really, if you look closely God is preparing us for the real trials to come. But, the end result is the glory of God shining through and the prize is taking grasp of the deed to the mansion that awaits us in heaven.

So when you leave here today I want you to remember the words of Joshua.“Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth… And, if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether it’s the idol’s of this world or the gods [of this world], in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

Serve the Lord in sincerity and in truth.Be of good cheer by brethren the Lord our God is with us and stands before us in battle. Yes, the world hates us but it hated Christ first. Yes, we love Christ but remember…He first loved us.

Here are some other enlightening books:

The Crimson Knight
The Crimson Knight

I have ruined many under the hooves of my horse, and their screams,oh their terrible screams constantly fill my head. Am I any different than the evil that destroyed my world? The evil that I kill? I have become a man that even I do not know. Sabastian wants to be free. He is looking for forgiveness, peace, and somewhere to call his home. But he is at war with an unrelenting enemy: The world. After seeing his family and community brutalized by invading forces, Sabastian is kidnapped and taken to a foreign land where he is trained to be a warrior. Deep in his heart there burns a poisonous hatred and desire for revenge against the people who killed his family. He tries to serve The Knight who is the Light but seems to constantly fail and succumb to the violence of his new identity. But faith may find him when he least expects it, and salvation may be the only thing left worth fighting for. Will Sabastian overcome his pride and anger to follow the Knight who is the Light? Will he summon the strength necessary to defeat the Dragon King and restore peace to himself and his loved ones? Join author Demetrious Glimidakis for a thrilling tale of war, love, sin, and redemption in The Crimson Knight.

 
Saint Demetrios of Thessaloniki: Civic Patron and Divine Protector, 4th-7th Centuries Ce (Harvard Theological Studies)
Saint Demetrios of Thessaloniki: Civic Patron and Divine Protector, 4th-7th Centuries Ce (Harvard Theological Studies)

The late antique city of Thessaloniki claimed particular devotion to a local Christian hero and martyr of the early fourth century named Demetrios. Hagiographical texts depict Demetrios as a young Roman citizen who was arrested, jailed, and martyred during a visit by the emperor Galerius to Thessaloniki in the first decade of the fourth century. A popular local veneration of the saint quickly developed. By the middle of the seventh century St. Demetrios was venerated as a divine patron and protector of Thessaloniki.

Through examination of archaeological, art-historical, and textual evidence, this book seeks to analyze the process of how Demetrios rose to the status of divine urban patron. The evidence shows how the cult of St. Demetrios developed in a manner quite different from other contemporary martyr cults, thus suggesting wider implications for the history of martyr veneration in early Christianity. Includes maps, figures, and photographs.

James Constantine Skedros is Assistant Professor of Orthodox Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

 
Unseen Warfare: The Spiritual Combat and Path to Paradise of Lorenzo Scupoli
Unseen Warfare: The Spiritual Combat and Path to Paradise of Lorenzo Scupoli

This spiritual classic was written by Lorenzo Scupoli, a sixteenth-century Venetian priest. Immensely popular in its own day, it was ranked by Francis de Sales with the Imitation of Christ. In the general rapport between Western and Eastern Christendom, it reached Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, who first recognized its immense spiritual worth, and later, in the nineteenth century, Theophan the Recluse, both of whom edited and translated the work.

Rich in its references to the teachings of the saints and Fathers, Unseen Warfare combines the insights of West and East on that spiritual combat which is the road to perfection and the stripping away of all that militates against it. Staretz Theophan wrote in his foreword, "the arena, the field of battle, the site where the fight actually takes place is our own heart and all our inner man. The time of battle is our whole life."

Unseen Warfare is a perfect complement to the Philokalia.

 

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