“The world has found in you a great champion in time of peril…”
– From the Apolytikion of Saint Demetrios
Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,
In the month of October, the Orthodox Church celebrates one of the greatest saints in our tradition, Saint Demetrios. The saint lived in the late 3rd century and was killed for professing his faith while a soldier in the Roman army. To this day, his holy relics emit myrrh that people from all over the world come to venerate and receive, in the great cathedral of Thessaloniki which bears his name. Through his prayers, and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in him, he has come to be seen as a patron saint of many cities, including Thessaloniki in times of war, such as the Turkish invasion and Balkan Wars.
The term “martyr” (“μαρτυς”) literally translated means “one who witnesses.” In the case of those who were slain for our faith, few words are more applicable, as they literally witnessed through what they endured. Thousands and thousands, and eventually, millions of people converted to the Christian faith through seeing the witness of these holy men and women. The faith grew by their painful endurance of torture, persecution and death, the truest form of leading others to Christ: not by force, but by inspiration.
The heroes of our faith witnessed in a very powerful way, but for the rest of us who follow their lead, and by extension the lead of Christ, anything in our life can be a witness. We may never have to find ourselves in a situation of choosing life or death, but a tremendous example and inspiration can be made in other, seemingly miniscule ways. Perhaps crossing ourselves before a meal, abstaining from prescribed foods on Wednesdays and Fridays, using wholesome language, and especially going to church can all be powerful, lifechanging ways to witness to others without being forward about it. These subtle statements of faith can go a long, long way in the lives of those around us, those who live with us or even work with us.
Being true “martyrs” in the very literal sense is what the Lord asks of each of us, regardless of how many of us go on to become ‘Saints’ one day. This is a way of sewing seeds in the lives of our children, our spouses, and the whole world around us in order to share the blessings He has given us. In doing so, like Saint Demetrios and many others did, we will increase the “harvest of righteousness.” (Phil 1:11)
May we always remember that we, too, have tremendous potential and power to be instruments of witness in God’s Kingdom.
With love in Christ,
Father Niko Bekris