The Feast of St Demetrios

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings to you, as we celebrate the feast of the Holy Great-Martyr, Demetrios, whose relics still stream myron in the city of Thessaloniki, and are visited and venerated by the faithful from all corners of the world.

St Demetrios is one of those saints who is loved and venerated not only by Orthodox Christians, but even by Muslim Turks. During the Ottoman centuries, the Muslims of Thessaloniki visited his church (turned into a mosque) to venerate his relics, knowing the generosity of the Great-Martyr in hearing the prayers of all who sought his intercession, and Muslims in Turkey still venerate him and visit his holy spring/ayazma in Istanbul.

Below his life, from the Orthodox Church of America, the akathist to the Great-Martyr is appended.

Happy Feast!

The Great Martyr Demetrios the Myrrh-gusher of Thessaloniki was the son of a Roman proconsul in Thessaloniki. Three centuries had elapsed and Roman paganism, spiritually shattered and defeated by the multitude of martyrs and confessors of the Savior, intensified its persecutions. The parents of Saint Demetrios were secret Christians, and he was baptized and raised in the Christian Faith in a secret church in his father’s home.

By the time Demetrios had reached maturity and his father had died, Emperor Galerius Maximian had ascended the throne (305). Maximian, confident in Demetrios’s education as well as his administrative and military abilities, appointed him to his father’s position as proconsul of the Thessaloniki district. The young commander’s principal duties were to defend the city from barbarians and to eradicate Christianity. The Emperor’s policy regarding Christians was expressed simply: “Put to death anyone who calls on the name of Christ.” The Emperor did not suspect that by appointing Demetrios he had provided him with the opportunity to bring many people to Christ.

Accepting the appointment, Demetrios returned to Thessaloniki and confessed and glorified our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of persecuting and executing Christians, he began to teach the Christian Faith openly to the inhabitants of the city and to overthrow pagan customs and the worship of idols. The compiler of his Life, Saint Simeon Metaphrastes (November 9), says that because of his teaching zeal he became “a second Apostle Paul” for Thessaloniki, particularly since “the Apostle to the Gentiles” founded the first community of believers in the city (1 Thess. and 2 Thess.).

The Lord also destined Saint Demetrios to follow Saint Paul on the path to martyrdom. When Maximian learned that the newly-appointed proconsul was a Christian, and that he had converted many Roman subjects to Christianity, the Emperor’s rage knew no bounds. Returning from a campaign in the area of the Black Sea, the Emperor decided to lead his army through Thessaloniki, determined to massacre the Christians.

Learning of this, Saint Demetrios ordered his faithful servant Lupus to give his wealth to the poor saying, “Distribute my earthly riches among them, for we shall seek heavenly riches for ourselves.” He began to pray and fast, preparing himself for martyrdom.

When the Emperor came into the city, he summoned Demetrios, who boldly confessed himself a Christian and denounced the falsehood and futility of Roman polytheism. Maximian ordered Demetrios to be thrown into prison. An Angel appeared to him, comforting and encouraging him.

Meanwhile the Emperor amused himself by staging games in the circus. His champion was a German by the name of Lyaeos. He challenged Christians to wrestle with him on a platform built over the upturned spears of the victorious soldiers. A brave Christian named Nestor went to the prison to Saint Demetrios, his instructor in the Faith, asking for his blessing to fight the barbarian. With the blessing and prayers of Saint Demetrios, Nestor defeated the fierce German and hurled him from the platform onto the spears of the soldiers, just as the murderous pagan would have done with the Christian. The enraged commander ordered the execution of the holy Martyr Nestor (October 27) and sent a guard to the prison to kill Saint Demetrios. At dawn on October 26, 306 soldiers appeared in the Saint’s underground prison and ran him through with lances. His faithful servant, Saint Lupus, gathered up the blood-soaked garment of Saint Demetrios he took the imperial ring from his finger, a symbol of his high status, and dipped it in the blood. With the ring and other holy things sanctified the blood of Saint Demetrios, Saint Lupus began to heal the infirm. The Emperor ordered his soldiers to arrest and kill him.

The body of the holy Great Martyr Demetrios was cast out for wild animals to devour, but the Christians took it and secretly buried it in the earth.

During the reign of Saint Constantine (306-337), a church was built over the grave of Saint Demetrios. A hundred years later, during the construction of a majestic new church on the old spot, the incorrupt relics of the holy martyr were uncovered. Since the seventh century a miraculous flow of fragrant myrrh has been found beneath the crypt of the Great Martyr Demetrios, so he is called “the Myrrh-gusher.”


Akathist to St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrh-streamer
written by the former bishop of Thessaloniki, St. Athanasios Patelarios, of Crete

In the Plagal of the Fourth Tone

Kontakion 1: O faithful, let us praise with hymns and divine praises the Myrrhstreamer, who deposed the cruelty of the tyrant, and conquered the audacity of Lyaios, and preached Christ as God clearly, and let us cry out to him: Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Ikos 1: Angels were astonished in heaven, beholding the godless rage of the tyrant (3), and as you were put to death by his decree, O Demetrios, we cry out to you thus:

Rejoice, the sacred pinnacle of martyrs,
Rejoice, the joyous radiance of Saints.
Rejoice, for you were placed in a pit as one condemned,
Rejoice, for you ascended to Heaven as one without a body.
Rejoice, dweller in the ranks of the Angels,
Rejoice you who bore the tortures of the tyrant.
Rejoice, for you despised the wiles of the enemies,
Rejoice, for your soul now dwells in Heaven.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 2: The divine Nestor, beholding himself in manliness, approached the king with boldness: “Your exceeding danger appears as an abomination to my soul. For I will put to death the godless Lyaios, crying out: Alleluia.

Ikos 2: Having godly knowledge, O Demetrios the boast of martyrs, you said to the tyrant: “From soulless matter [i.e. idols], how is possible to give birth to God? Speak to me.” To [the Martyr], the faithful who honor God cry out with fear:

Rejoice, the most-radiant lamp of Thessaloniki,
Rejoice, for you overcame Lyaios in victory.
Rejoice, you who pours forth divine myrrh from your grave,
Rejoice, you who bears divine zeal in your heart.
Rejoice, for your blood was a purifying bath,
Rejoice, for through you there is blotting out of sins.
Rejoice, you who deposed the delusion of the idols,
Rejoice, you who censured the mania of tyrants.
Rejoice, for you healed the passion of hemorrhage,
Rejoice, you who offered your soul from its depths.
Rejoice, for you delivered Marinon from leprosy,
Rejoice, for your beloved Istron you sent.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 3: Power from heaven then strengthened Nestor to fight, and he took up arms against the utterly strong Lyaios, and with swift hand, he struck him down as dead, and therefore cried out to the Savior, chanting: Alleluia.

Ikos 3: Having the divine desire to obtain the body of Demetrios, the pious Emperor [Justinian] went., but as [St. Demetrios] did not desire this, fire came forth from his grave threatening death. And he said to him such words in fear:

Rejoice, the unemptying river of wonders,
Rejoice, the irrevocable icon of traumas.
Rejoice, for you did not offer your Relic to him who sought it,
Rejoice, for you grant sanctification to those who venerate you.
Rejoice, for you summoned fire from your divine grave,
Rejoice, for you censured the mania of the tyrant.
Rejoice, for you deposed the worship of the idols,
Rejoice, for your body was pierced with spears.
Rejoice, for your blood was given as drink to the godless,
Rejoice, for you sanctified the whole world with your body.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 4: Having godless confusion and evil thoughts, the senseless king was enraged, beholding the Martyr not preaching the delusion of the idols. We, beholding the unjust slaughter of the Saint at his hands, cry out: Alleluia.

Ikos 4: The ends of the world heard of the murder of Demetrios at the hands of the senseless tyrant, and beholding him dead, they hastened to him, seeing the sacred wonders that he pours forth throughout the whole world, as they honor him, saying:

Rejoice, he who traded the corruptible things for the heavenly,
Rejoice he who deposed the counsels of the evil ones.
Rejoice, you who joined chorus with the bodiless Angels,
Rejoice, you who entered the land of the greatly-suffering Saints.
Rejoice, you who serve together with the spotless Cherubim,
Rejoice, you who walk together with the pure Seraphim.
Rejoice, for you served the Lord of lords,
Rejoice, for you bore within the seat of divine thrones.
Rejoice, the most-fervent fellow servant with the Angels,
Rejoice, the most-wise fellow counselor with the Archangels.
Rejoice, the sacred adornment of the Venerable,
Rejoice, the radiant rejoicing of the Martyrs.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 5: Perceiving Demetrios to be a God-bearer, the most fervent man hastened to be delivered through him from the terrible demon. And having touched his deliverance, he rejoiced in the Lord, crying out: Alleluia.

Ikos 5: Leontios, the son of the Orthodox, formerly saw the unspeakable might of the Martyr, and desiring to come to him, he sought for Istron to hasten to pass by him with his robe, and cried out to him:

Rejoice, he who through his robe worked awesome wonders,
Rejoice, he who did not bear stains of offenses.
Rejoice, for your streams have become our own.
Rejoice, for you drove back the campaigns of barbarians,
Rejoice, for you dwell in the thrones of the Martyrs.
Rejoice, you who drove away the plague from Thessaloniki,
Rejoice, our sun which shines upon the faithful.
Rejoice, he who delivered from idol-mania,
Rejoice, he who delivers all from the bonds of slavery.
Rejoice, he who grants grace to all those who approach him,
Rejoice for you ever dwell with those who praise you.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 6: The deluded became preachers of corruption of souls, as they hastened through Thessaloniki, performing idolatry and preaching atheism everywhere, as the Martyr left the tyrant like a mule, as he said: Alleluia.

Ikos 6: The divine Nestor, shining together with the sacred Demetrios, drove away the darkness of error, for they anathematized the idols steadfastly, and cast them down, while the faithful who were saved cries out to those strugglers:

Rejoice, O Demetrios, the firm support,
Rejoice, O Nestor, the splendid pride.
Rejoice, you who granted strength to Nestor,
Rejoice, you who granted corruption to Lyaios.
Rejoice, you who firstly censured the blind tyrant,
Rejoice, you who secondly kept [St. Demetrios’] example.
Rejoice, he who received death by spears,
Rejoice, he who received incorruptible life through the sword.
Rejoice, he who was murdered in prison like a convict,
Rejoice, he who was preached throughout the world as one immortal.
Rejoice, he who before death worked awesome deeds,
Rejoice, he who after death works wonders.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 7: The holy dyad of Martyrs then passed on from this world, as the sacred Martyrs had greatly endured lawless murder. Therefore, those who behold this are astonished, and cry out to the Lord: Alleluia.

Ikos 7: A new song was found, as we bitterly sing the funeral hymn to Demetrios, for he was slaughtered by a godless tyrant, and did not sacrifice to the idols. We therefore hymn him and fervently cry out:

Rejoice, you who were placed dead in a grave,
Rejoice, you who ride throughout the world as one alive.
Rejoice, for your blood was shown to be a new cleansing bath,
Rejoice, for your soul is mixing with the Angels.
Rejoice, for you are hymned from the ends of the earth,
Rejoice for they draw forth from your fragrant myrrh.
Rejoice, lamp amidst the Martyrs,
Rejoice, ray of godly graces.
Rejoice, you who were dyed with your holy blood,
Rejoice, you who were sanctified in your divine body.
Rejoice, you who received diamond crowns,
Rejoice, for you now dwell in the halls of the ever-memorable.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 8: Beholding a strange wonder, the idols were moved by the bravery of the martyrs. Therefore, he who now dwells on high gives bravery to those who dwell on the earth to take courage, and aim their arrows at the idols. To him we now cry out: Alleluia.

Ikos 8: Having his mind wholly on things above without departing from earth, was the most-pure Martyr, for he clearly conquered the delusion of the idols, and preached Christ with boldness, hearing thus:

Rejoice, for you were killed on behalf of Christ your God,
Rejoice, for you desired the joyous things of Paradise.
Rejoice, for you traveled the upper road to Heaven,
Rejoice, for you inhabit the dwelling-places of the pure.
Rejoice, for you now travel with the Angels,
Rejoice, for you have come to dwell with the Saints.
Rejoice, for you preached your Christ like a holy trumpet,
Rejoice, for you dwell in the spotless mansions of Paradise.
Rejoice, you who put forth myrrh from your godly body,
Rejoice, you who scoffed and the rubbish of the godless,
Rejoice, for you broke asunder the intrigues of rulers,
Rejoice, for you trampled upon the delusion of the idols.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 9: You received every grace from heaven, O Martyr Demetrios, and preached paradoxically that the inaccessible God became man, being the Son of God. Therefore, to Him let us cry: Alleluia.

Ikos 9: O Martyr Demetrios, you showed the many words of the orators of the tyrants to be foolish, for they were astonished at how you strongly condemned the delusion of the idols. We, being astonished at this paradox, cry out to you:

Rejoice, the rose of virginity,
Rejoice, the pinnacle of continence.
Rejoice, you who lived purely before you were killed,
Rejoice, you who after you were killed were led towards God.
Rejoice, in whom the light of God was planted,
Rejoice, in whom the grace of the Trinity made its dwelling.
Rejoice, the length and breadth of the pious,
Rejoice, the sharp sword against the faithless.
Rejoice, you who shine with the rays of the sun,
Rejoice, you who drive away the mania of the tyrant.
Rejoice, tree bearing the fruits of many graces,
Rejoice, for you bore the shoots of many victories.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 10: Saving the Orthodox from the delusion of the godless idols, you came straightaway, O Martyr, and you preached the Lord as perfect God to the deluded and idiotic tyrant, crying out to him: Alleluia.

Ikos 10: You are the shelter of the Martyrs, O Champion and Martyr, and all those who take refuge in you, for you revealed the Maker of heaven and earth to all, and deposed the tyrant and the idols. We therefore cry out to you:

Rejoice, the deliverance for those in sickness,
Rejoice the savior of the continuously hemorrhaged.
Rejoice, you who sow grace among all those who hymn you,
Rejoice, for you are a pillar of graces.
Rejoice, divine power, the casting-down of idols.
Rejoice, pure dwelling-place of God,
Rejoice, chaste type of Christ.
Rejoice, for your blood became as a new baptism,
Rejoice, for your body received death.
Rejoice, bridge leaving those who die from earth to heaven,
Rejoice, for you are a guide to the faithful.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 11: We your servants all offer funeral hymns at your grave, O Martyr, shedding tears and offering odes and psalms to you, for we are not at all worthy of what has been accomplished through, as befits your grave, but we cry out to the Savior: Alleluia.

Ikos 11: Your grave, O Martyr, has been shown to be light-bearing, shining forth with grace like light. For all those who approach are suddenly granted joy and health, while we who approach you cry out these:

Rejoice, you who preserved your Church unharmed,
Rejoice, you who trampled upon the wiles of the evil one.
Rejoice, for you drove back the nation of the Slavs,
Rejoice, for you trampled upon the rule of the idols.
Rejoice, you who uprooted the pride of the barbarians,
Rejoice, you who cast out the conceit of the tyrants.
Rejoice, you who preserved your city unharmed,
Rejoice, you who shook up the delusion of the godless one.
Rejoice, you who punished Onesiphoros for his theft,
Rejoice you who uprooted the danger of the idols from the earth.
Rejoice, the sure consolation of those who take refuge in you,
Rejoice, the salvation of the souls of those who approach you.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 12: Bearing grace from above, O Demetrios, you drove out all the campaigns of the enemies. You preached Christ upon the heard as a steadfast hoplite of grace, and you cast down the idols, as you chant along with everyone: Alleluia.

Ikos 12: We hymn the wonder that you worked, O Martyr, as your city was preserved victorious, as you appeared as a god to the faithless, sending forth Angels speedily, saying: “Drive them far away from the city”, therefore we cry out:

Rejoice, for at your will your city was saved,
Rejoice, for through your strength the enemy was cast down.
Rejoice, you who met Achilleos in your flight,
Rejoice, you who sent out Nestor with your strength.
Rejoice, you who drown Lyaios in blood,
Rejoice, you who raged against the faithless in spirit.
Rejoice, you who strengthens your city through your presence,
Rejoice, for if you left her, your city would be lost.
Rejoice, you whose grave is beloved by hymnologists,
Rejoice, you who put to death falsehood through your might.
Rejoice, you who grants to us a sea of graces,
Rejoice, you who sows the mercy of your myrrh within all.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 13: O pair of Martyrs, who preached Christ as the surpassing Word before all, (3) receive these funeral hymn and odes, and deliver us from every danger, and the coming trial through your prayers, those who cry out to the Lord: Alleluia.

Ikos 1: Angels were astonished in heaven, beholding the godless rage of the tyrant (3), and as you were put to death by his decree, O Demetrios, we cry out to you thus:

Rejoice, the sacred pinnacle of martyrs,
Rejoice, the joyous radiance of Saints.
Rejoice, for you were placed in a pit as one condemned,
Rejoice, for you ascended to Heaven as one without a body.
Rejoice, dweller in the ranks of the Angels,
Rejoice you who bore the tortures of the tyrant.
Rejoice, for you despised the wiles of the enemies,
Rejoice, for your soul now dwells in Heaven.
Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

Kontakion 1: O faithful, let us praise with hymns and divine praises the Myrrhstreamer, who deposed the cruelty of the tyrant, and conquered the audacity of Lyaios, and preached Christ as God clearly, and let us cry out to him: Rejoice, O Martyr Demetrios.

2/15 September: The Feast of St Mamas

At the end of a beautiful day, this evening’s vespers, honouring the Holy Great-Martyr Mamas, were chanted before his holy icon, with the candlelight light revealing the holy youth riding to his passion and martyrdom in the city of Cappadocian Caesarea.

The young martyr rides willingly to his torturers on the back of a lion, after a mountainside life of peace and fellowship with the wild animals with whom the fearless relationship of Adam in paradise had been restored, such was the sanctity and purity of the young orphan – still a teenager when he was martyred for his immovable and unswerving faith in Christ.

What lessons St Mamas can teach not only our children and young people, but those of us beyond our youthful years, but still so weak and imperfect in faith.

Such inspiring faith in one so young led to great love and devotion for St Mamas across the Orthodox world, particularly in Cyprus. His holy skull was brought to Langres, in the Champagne region of France by the barbarian Crusaders who sacked the Imperial City in 1204, so that devotion to him was also known in the mediaeval west.

May St Mamas inspire us, intercede for us, and protect us by his prayers.

Happy Feast!

The Holy Great Martyr Mamas was born in Paphlagonia, Asia Minor in the third century of pious and illustrious parents, the Christians Theodotus and Rufina. The parents of the saint were arrested by the pagans for their open confession of their faith and locked up in prison in Caesarea in Cappadocia.

Knowing his own bodily weakness, Theodotus prayed that the Lord would take him before being subjected to tortures. The Lord heard his prayer and he died in prison. Saint Rufina died also after him, after giving birth to a premature son. She entrusted him to God, beseeching Him to be the Protector and Defender of the orphaned infant.

God heard the dying prayer of Saint Rufina: a rich Christian widow named Ammia reverently buried the bodies of Saints Theodotus and Rufina, and she took the boy into her own home and raised him as her own son. Saint Mamas grew up in the Christian Faith. His foster mother concerned herself with the developing of his natural abilities, and early on she sent him off to study his grammar.

The boy learned easily and willingly. He was not of an age of mature judgment but distinguished himself by maturity of mind and of heart. By means of prudent conversations and personal example young Mamas converted many of his own peers to Christianity.

The governor, Democritus, was informed of this, and the fifteen-year-old Mamas was arrested and brought to trial. In deference to his illustrious parentage, Democritus decided not to subject him to torture, but instead sent him off to the emperor Aurelian (270-275). The emperor tried at first kindly, but then with threats to turn Saint Mamas back to the pagan faith, but all in vain. The saint bravely confessed himself a Christian and pointed out the madness of the pagans in their worship of lifeless idols.

Infuriated, the emperor subjected the youth to cruel tortures. They tried to drown the saint, but an angel of the Lord saved Saint Mamas and bade him live on a high mountain in the wilderness, not far from Caesarea. Bowing to the will of God, the saint built a small church there and began to lead a life of strict temperance, in exploits of fasting and prayer.

Soon he received a remarkable power over the forces of nature: wild beasts inhabiting the surrounding wilderness gathered at his abode and listened to the reading of the Holy Gospel. Saint Mamas nourished himself on the milk of wild goats and deer.

The saint did not ignore the needs of his neighbours. Preparing cheese from this milk, he gave it away freely to the poor. Soon the fame of Saint Mamas’s life spread throughout all of Caesarea.

The governor sent a detachment of soldiers to arrest him. When they encountered Saint Mamas on the mountain, the soldiers did not recognize him, and mistook him for a simple shepherd. The saint then invited them to his dwelling, gave them a drink of milk and then told them his name, knowing that death for Christ awaited him. The servant of God told the servant of the Emperor to go on ahead of him into Caesaria, promising that he would soon follow. The soldiers waited for him at the gates of the city, and Saint Mamas, accompanied by a lion, met them there.

Surrendering himself into the hands of the torturers, Saint Mamas was brought to trial under a deputy governor named Alexander, who subjected him to intense and prolonged tortures. They did not break the saint’s will, however. He was strengthened by the words addressed to him from above: “Be strong and take courage, Mamas.”

When they threw Saint Mamas to the wild beasts, these creatures would not touch him. Finally, one of the pagan priests struck him with a trident. Mortally wounded, Saint Mamas went out beyond the city limits. There, in a small stone cave, he gave up his spirit to God, Who in the hearing of all summoned the holy Martyr Mamas into His heavenly habitation. He was buried by believers at the place of his death.

Christians soon began to receive help from him in their afflictions and sorrows. Saint Basil the Great speaks thus about the holy Martyr Mamas in a sermon to the people: “Remember the holy martyr, you who live here and have him as a helper. You who call on his name have been helped by him. Those in error he has guided into life. Those whom he has healed of infirmity, those whose children were dead he has restored to life, those whose life he has prolonged: let us all come together as one, and praise the martyr!”

Saint Phanourios the Great-Martyr and Newly-Revealed

Here we are again, with the feast of the Holy Great-Martyr Phanourios marking the transition from summer to Autumn, as we enjoy the fruits of the season and make the most of the garden’s last summer-flowers.

I have been looking back at past Facebook posts, including our celebrations for St Phanourios, with the blessing of Phanouropita in the Little Oratory, replete with photographs of the garden Newman Hall as it passes from one season to another.

I will always be indebted to my Greek pupils and their parents, who introduced me to St Phanurios, who suffered so many tortures before his martyrdom, and then re-revealed himself to the faithful after being forgotten for centuries.

How often the saints introduce themselves to us – through an icon; through a chance encounter with their written life; through a conversation with someone; through the desires of one who wishes to share their love for a saint with us.

The saints continue to become loved by other nations, and other local Churches, becoming truly pan-Orthodox in their relationship with the faithful.

During my years in ‘Londonopoulis’, I had the joy of not only coming to ‘meet’ St Phanourios, but also the Great-Martyr Mamas, St Savas the New, the Greek new-martyrs, and so many holy-ones who have been glorified by the Lord in Greece, Cyprus, and in the other lands that were once the Christian Empire.

However, in St Phanourios we see something truly wondrous, with the finding of his icon in the ruins of a church on the island of Rhodes becoming the beginning of an intense spiritual relationship between the whole Hellenic people and the Great-Martyr: a glorious wonder!

We look forward to blessing Phanouropita at the end of our Liturgy on Sunday, when we will beseech the intercessions of St Phanourios, for our communities and the faithful.

Άγιε του Θεού Φανούριε πρέσβευε υπέρ υμών!

Saint of God, Phanourios, pray for us!

The following account of the life of Saint Phanourios was written by St. Nikephoros of Chios and included in the Kollyvades text known as the New Leimonarion.

Synaxarion

On the 27th of August, commemoration is made of the Holy, Glorious, and Great-Martyr Phanourios the Newly-Revealed

Verses: Phanourios bestows light upon all the faithful,Even though he long lay in the darkness of the earth.

From whence Phanourios, the splendid athlete of the Lord and invincible martyr, came, and of what parentage he was, and even in what age he lived and under the reign of which emperors he waged his struggle and fought his fight, we have been unable to ascertain, for the account of his life has been lost owing to the vicissitudes of time, as many other things also have been lost or become obscure or unclear. This only do we know, that when the Hagarenes ruled the renowned island of Rhodes, having conquered it because of our sins, he that became ruler of the island wished to rebuild the ramparts of the city that past sieges had ravaged. On the outskirts of the fortress were several ruined dwellings that had been abandoned by reason of their association with the old fortress, which was located a furlong to the south. From these ruins the Hagarenes were wont to gather stones for their construction.

It so happened that, while excavating and reinforcing that place, they discovered a most beautiful church, which was partly buried in ruins. Excavating as far as the floor of the temple, they found many holy icons, all decayed and crumbling, yet the icon of the holy Phanourios was whole and entire; indeed, it seemed as though it had been painted but that very day. And when this all-venerable temple was uncovered, together with its sacred icons, the hierarch of that place, Nilus by name, a man of great sanctity and learning, came and read the inscription of the icon, which said, “The Holy Phanourios.”

The Saint was depicted upon the icon as follows: He was shown as a young man, arrayed as a soldier, holding a cross in his right hand, and at the upper part of the cross there was a lighted taper. Round about the perimeter of the icon were twelve scenes from the holy one’s martyrdom, which showed the Saint being examined before the magistrate; then in the midst of soldiers, who were beating him about the mouth and head with stones; then stretched out upon the ground while the soldiers flogged him; then, stripped naked while they rent his flesh with iron hooks; then incarcerated in a dungeon; and again standing before the tyrant’s tribunal; then being burned with candles; then bound to a rack; then cast amidst wild beasts; then crushed with a great rock; then standing before idols holding burning coals in his hands, whilst a demon nearby wept and lamented; and finally he is shown standing erect in the midst of a fiery furnace, his hands, as it were, uplifted towards Heaven.

From these twelve scenes depicted upon the icon, the holy hierarch perceived that the Saint was a martyr. Then straightway that good and pious man sent deputations to the rulers of that place, asking that they consign to him that temple for restoration, but this they declined to do. Therefore, the hierarch traveled to Constantinople alone and there obtained a decree empowering him to rebuild the church; thus it was restored to that state in which it can be seen even to this day, outside the city. And it has become the source of many miracles, of which I shall relate one for the profit of many, that all who love and venerate the Saint may rejoice.

At that time the isle of Crete had no Orthodox hierarch, but a Latin bishop, for it was ruled then by the Venetians, who had shrewdly refused to permit an Orthodox hierarch to be consecrated whenever one died. This they did with evil intent, thinking that with time they could thus convert the Orthodox to the papal doctrines. If Orthodox men wished to obtain ordination, they had to go to Kythera. It came to pass that there went forth from Crete three deacons, traveling to Kythera to be ordained priests by the hierarch there; and when this had been accomplished, and they were returning to their own country, the Hagarenes captured them at sea and brought them to Rhodes, where they were sold as slaves to other Hagarenes. The newly consecrated priests lamented their misfortune day and night.

But in Rhodes, they heard tell of the great wonders wrought by the Great Martyr Phanourios, and straightway they made fervent supplication to the Saint, beseeching him with tears to deliver them from their bitter bondage. And this they did each separately, without knowing ought of what the others were doing, for they had each been sold to a different master. Now, in accordance with the providence of God, however, they were all three permitted by their masters to go and worship at the temple of the Saint; and, guided by God, they came all together and fell down before the sacred icon of the Saint, watering the ground with the streams of tears, entreating him to deliver them out of the hands of the Hagarenes. Then they departed, somewhat consoled, each to his own master, hoping that they would obtain mercy, which in fact did come to pass; for the holy one had compassion upon their tears and hearkened unto their supplication. That night he appeared to the Hagarenes who were the masters of the captive priests, and commanded them to permit the servants of God to go and worship in his temple lest he bring dreadful destruction upon them. But the Hagarenes, thinking the matter sorcery, loaded them with chains and made their torments more onerous.

Then the Great Martyr Phanourios went to them that night and brought them forth from their bonds, and encouraged them, saying that the following day he would, by all means, free them. He then appeared to the Hagarenes and, reproaching them with severity, said: ‘If by tomorrow you have not set your servants at liberty, you shall behold the power of God!’ Thus saying, the holy one vanished. And, O, the wonder! As many as inhabited those houses all arose blind and paralyzed, tormented with the most dreadful pangs, the least with the greatest. But, though bedridden, with the help of their kinfolk they considered what to do, and finally decided to send for the captives. And when the three priests were come, they inquired of them if they were able to heal them; and they answered: ‘We shall beseech God. Let His will be done.’

But the Saint appeared again to the Hagarenes on the third night and said to them: ‘If ye do not send to my house letters of manumission for the priests, you shall have neither the health, nor the light [of sight] which you desire.’ And when they had again conferred with their kinfolk and friends, each one composed a letter of emancipation for his own slave, which were left before the icon of the Saint. And O, the wonder! Even before the messengers sent to the temple returned, those, who before were blind and paralyzed, were healed; and marveling they set the priests free and dispatched them to their homeland amicably. The priests, though, had a copy of the icon of St. Phanourios painted and took it with them to their own country, and each year the memory of the holy one is piously celebrated amongst them. By the prayers of the Martyr may Christ God have mercy upon us. Amen!

10 August: the feast of St Laurence of Rome

As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Martyr and Archdeacon, St Laurence of Rome, let us pray for the deacons of our diocese.

As a parish we continue to experience the great blessing of having a deacon dedicated to the well-being and life of the faithful of our community, assisting the priest, and aiding all who need help.

Let us read the words of St Ambrose, who wrote of Laurence as an ideal example of the diaconal ministry, and pray the canon to the saint.Continue reading