Святой Великомученик Димитрий Солунский

Мы получили этот материал от архмн. Алексея из Лондона. Там изложен богословский аспект «стояния» в вере и проявления»исповедания» веры в истории церкви на примере жития влкмч. Димитрия Солунского и современное наше отношение с государственными властями «над нами поставленными».Теоретически мы знаем, …»что Христос и вчера и сегодня один и тот же», что заповеди Его даны на все времена одни и те же, но мы пытаемся толковать трагедию происходящих событий, не из богословской сокровищницы церкви , а из информации «социальных» сетей, совсем забывая божье предупреждение…»испытывайте писания», не каждому духу доверяйте». А это соблазняет некоторых прихожан и вносит разделения во взаимоотношения между нами. Во что превращается наше»единомыслие» как только не в» слова лукавствия и собирания грехов к грехам».

Революционный дух неподчинения, отрицание реальных событий — это то, что в «духе» может «отлучить» нас от Христа. Да не будет этого!

A HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE HOLY GREAT MARTYR DEMETRIUS

(Oct. 26/Nov. 8)

An Account of the Passion of the Holy Great Martyr, and About Our Sacred Duty of Obeying the Civil Authorities.

Brothers and sisters!

Last Sunday, we commemorated one of
the greatest saints of modern times, the holy, righteous archpriest
of Krondstadt John, and today we celebrate the memory of one of the
greatest saints of antiquity, the holy, glorious great martyr Demetrius
of Thessalonica.Saint Demetrius was governor-general of Thessalonica,
a position that gave him authority not only over the city, but over all of
Macedonia, as well as other parts of Greece and some areas of
modern Bulgaria. The emperors at that time were the brutal
Diocletian and Maximian, who presided over the most ferocious
persecution of the Church in history, except for the one perpetuated
by the Bolsheviks in Russia during the twentieth century.

As military governor, Demetrius was responsible for
apprehending and executing the Christians of the region, but the
young general was himself a secret Christian and instead used his
lofty position to further the faith of Christ, becoming a new Saint
Paul to the Thessalonians. Word of this of course reached Emperor
Maximian, who at that time had just concluded a campaign in the
northern Balkans. Learning that Maximian was on his way to deal
with him, Demetrius freed all his slaves and gave his possessions to
the poor. Then he prepared himself with intense prayer and fasting
for the coming ordeal.

Maximian imprisoned Demetrius in the lower rooms of a public
bath, which have survived to this day as the crypt of the great church
of the saint in Thessalonica. Meanwhile, the Emperor sought to win
the people’s favour by holding violent games of the sort to which the
Romans were so addicted. Among these were wrestling matches
featuring Maximian’s Vandal lover Lyaeus, a huge German.

A platform was set up, surrounded by spears pointing upwards, and the
barbarian would hurl his opponents onto the spears. Many Christians
were among the unfortunates forced to wrestle with Lyaeus. The
tyrant and most of the soldiers were delighted when the brute
skewered his victims, but the Thessalonians were horrified, for the
better part of them had been converted to Christ by Saint Demetrius.
One of the soldiers who had been under Demetrius’ command, a
teenager called Nestor, visited the saint and asked his permission to
take on Lyaeus. Although it seemed a hopeless mismatch, Demetrius
blessed him to do this. Nestor miraculously prevailed over the
barbarian and threw him to his death on the spears, for which
Maximian had the youth beheaded. Then, having learned that
Demetrius had blessed Nestor to contend with his favourite, the
Emperor sent soldiers to the bath, and they ran through Saint
Demetrius with their spears.

During those days, brothers and sisters, things could hardly have
looked darker for the Christians, but only God, not man, can know
the future. Soon the Lord raised up a ruler very different from
Diocletian and Maximian. This was the renowned Emperor
Constantine, and he put an end to the Great Persecution and
legalised Christianity. A chapel was built over Saint Demetrius’
grave, and many miracles were worked there. Later, a grand church
dedicated to Saint Demetrius would cover the area, a building which
exists to this day and is visited by every devout pilgrim to
Thessalonica. For centuries, vast quantities of healing myrrh poured
out of the great martyr’s relics. The ducts that carried it to the basin
from which pilgrims drew it still survive. So copious was the flow
that the Thessalonians were known to baptise babies in it!
Alas, because of our sins the city, for centuries kept inviolate by
Saint Demetrius, eventually proved unworthy of his constant
protection, and experienced a series of terrible sackings. Yet despite
these calamities, even now the pious citizens of Thessalonica remain
devoted to Saint Demetrius, and every day come to his basilica to
pray, or simply to be in his presence. Anyone who has visited the
church senses that the Thessalonians continue to love this saint
above all others, and still trust and put their hope in him.

Brothers and sisters, Roman history is filled with the reigns of
persecutors and deranged tyrants, men like Diocletian and
Maximian, Caligula and Nero. By comparison, most of our
contemporary American politicians would seem to be paragons of
uprightness. Yet, Saint Demetrius and the other early Christians
submitted to the authority of such rulers and obeyed it, except when
these men were specifically commanding something that indubitably
contravened incontrovertible principles of faith. This is difficult to
comprehend for many modern-day Christians, whose inclinations
tend more to suspicious and insubordinate, not to say fantastical
political theories than to the devout spirit of subordination,
cooperation, respect, and obedience. Yet the early Christians were
acting precisely in accordance with the teaching of the Scriptures
here, the Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testaments.
In a brief sermon, I cannot quote you every relevant scriptural
passage, but let us review at least portions of some of the more
important:

From Exodus: Thou shalt not speak ill of the ruler of thy people.(1)
From Ezra: Whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law
of the King, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it
be unto death, or to chastisement, or for a fine of his property, or
casting into prison.(2)
To these lines from a letter of the Persian King Artaxerxes, the holy
Ezra adds this comment: Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers,
who hath put it thus into the heart of the King.(3)
From Ecclesiastes: Observe the commandment of the King, and that
because of the word of the oath of God.(4)
Also, from the same book: Even in thy conscience, curse not the
King.(5)
From Romans: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.
For there is no power, but of God: the powers that be are ordained
of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the
ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves
damnation.(6)
From Titus: Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and
powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to
speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all
meekness unto all men.(7)
And from First Peter: Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man
for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the King, as supreme; or unto
governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of
evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will
of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of
foolish men.(8)
It is noteworthy that both authors of the New Testament texts
adduced, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, were put to death namely by a
Roman emperor, the depraved Nero, who reportedly used Christians
as torches to illumine his banquets. Perhaps when they wrote, the
saints did not know every crime Nero would commit, but the All-
Holy Spirit, Who inspired their epistles, most certainly knew!

Nevertheless, their epistles command obedience to the civil
authorities — pagan, even anti-christian civil authorities — in the
strongest terms.
Why so, dear Christians? Saint Paul, the mouth of Christ,
explains: Rulers, he writes, are not a terror to good works, but to the
evil. Wherefore, ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but
also for conscience sake.9. In other words, even pagan governments
are frequently motivated by an interest in furthering the public good.
Besides this, we must obey government for conscience sake; that is,
we must have a spirit not of indiscriminate complaining, criticism, and
disobedience, but of pure-hearted subordination and obedience to
government, in order to have a pure conscience before God — the
prerequisite to pleasing Him. Since we Christians are forbidden to
judge with undue harshness private individuals (our equals) in respect
to private matters, much more are we obliged to extend to the civil
authorities (our superiors) all possible benefit of the doubt with regard
to their basic good intent in the exercise of their governance.
Of course, all governments do act at times in an unwise, unjust,
or ill-intentioned manner, and certain governments act in extremely
evil ways, with varying degrees of consistency. But this does not
void the scriptural principle of Christian subjection for conscience
sake. Rather, in the specific situations in which the civil authorities
attempt to compel disobedience to the higher law of God or create a
profoundly impossible moral dilemma, the Christian is relieved of
the general obligation to submit and obey, but for that instance only.
We see this in the life of Saint Demetrius, when the Emperor
expected him to massacre the faithful, but instead he spread the faith
among the people. In modern times we have seen it in Russia, when
the Catacomb Church refused to collaborate with the murderous
anti-religious campaign of the Bolsheviks.

These exceptions notwithstanding, it is abundantly clear from the
language of the scriptural texts cited that God has delivered to us a
command, not an option, to obey the civil authorities. After all, Saint
Paul states plainly that those who resist the power of the
government, ordained of God, shall receive to themselves
damnation.10 Therefore, a heavy burden of proof rests, not on the
civil authorities, but on those who frivolously impute evil motives to
them or foster a spirit of inward or outward rebelliousness against
them. We must never fall back on the exceptions to the rule lightly,
for they are indeed a “court of final appeal.”
Also, it is important to remember that God works His purposes
through the secular powers as through all creation, and that our
ultimate citizenship is not earthly, but heavenly. This means that
things not to our liking — including onerous or even cruel actions of
the government — may nevertheless be to our benefit. In difficulties
and hardships, Christ calls us to maintain the spiritual perspective
and to endure gladly for His sake, because, as He says, In your
patience possess ye your souls.(11)

Obedience is not so much doing what we want to do, as doing
what we would rather not. Except in the most exceptional of
circumstances, it is not submission and obedience to the secular
powers that is reprehensible, but the spirit of insubordination and
disobedience. Sacred Scripture shouts this aloud. Unless we are
being forced to sacrifice to idols or perform some other heinous
deed, insubordination and disobedience to the civil authorities are
not signs of an Orthodox mindset or conscience, but of ignorance, or
sin, or misbelief, or unbelief.

It is no accident that heretical and unbelieving commentators and
historians routinely pillory the Orthodox Church for subservience to
the civil authorities, whether under ancient Rome, Byzantium, the
Ottomans, or Tsarist Russia. The Orthodox Church, precisely
because it is the Church of Christ, the Church of the apostles and
martyrs, teaches submission and obedience to the government and
cooperation with it, except when this would be the clearest, most
blatant, most unquestionable betrayal of Christ and His truth.
Here there can be no question of personal, much less political
prejudices entering in. All such opinions lie outside the realm of the
Church’s teachings. All of them are fallible. None of them are
dogmas of the Church. Even bishops must obey the government,
except when the government attempts to compel obedience in a
matter that flagrantly and indubitably contravenes the law of God or
interferes with the Church’s purely internal affairs. The apostles do
not except bishops from their command that Christians obey the
civil authorities. If this be so, then what of us ordinary Christians?
Besides this, we must be especially careful to avoid bringing in
theories connecting current political situations and events to the
reign of Antichrist. The Holy Chief Apostle Peter says plainly: No
prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.(12) Many
people over the centuries — occasionally even holy people — have
forgotten this warning, with the inevitable result that, having misled
others, they were always proved wrong in the end. If this were not
enough, we have Christ Who, although omniscient as the Son of
God, as the Son of Man tells us: Of that day and that hour knoweth
no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but
the Father.(13) After this, who would presume to speculate on the
subject!

Unfortunately, in our time the Internet and social media have
made possible the unprecedented proliferation of misinformation
and ill-reasoned, ill-supported, yet cunningly devised14 theories
regarding all sorts of topics. Worse, some of this is being propagated
by persons in clerical rank. No sooner does a new event occur or a
new trend emerge, than the self-anointed pundits rush to provide
their glib explanations, the ingenuity of which is often bounded only
by the limits of the inventors’ imaginations. Intellectual
circumspection and integrity demand that we view their
explanations in every case with considerable skepticism, but the
more so when accepting them might well incite our base passions
and put us at variance with the clear, age-old teaching and ethos of
the Church of Christ.

This is why, dear Christians, we must be especially wary when
demagogues attack the basic good intent of the secular authorities.
Such unsparing criticism has become the norm, not the exception in
our society, and modern technology is likely to make this pernicious
trend ever more prevalent for the foreseeable future. But in many, if
not most cases, these assaults do not meet strict standards of proof,
or even plausibility. In any case, if the authorities have in fact acted
with poor judgment or bad faith in one instance, this is no wise
necessarily establishes that they have done so in another. For this
reason the overstretched theories in question, with their saltations in
evidence and logic, and but rarely stand up to serious scrutiny.
It will be readily understood that the complexities of
administering public health care in the era of the novel Coronavirus
provide a field day for these attacks of demagogues and conspiracy
theorists.

Again, to accuse falsely the powers that be — which, according to
the Apostle, are ordained of God (15) — is intrinsically a graver sin than
to accuse falsely a private individual — itself a serious transgression.
Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk, in his wonderful book, On True
Christianity, expresses this clearly. “Although it is a sin to condemn
anyone,” he writes, “and a grievous sin at that, speaking evil of the
authorities is a far greater sin.” (16) So, let us tread with extreme
caution and not rush to judge those set over us with civil authority,
but offer them the willing obedience that is their due, in all except
the most extreme circumstances. So doing, we shall prove ourselves
followers of the blessed ancient Christians such as Saint Demetrius
the Myrrh-gusher, of the inspired authors of the divine Scriptures,
and of our Saviour Himself.

We shall prove that we have the mindset, not of the world, but of
the Holy Church of Christ, which teaches us to judge our own faults,
and not to judge them that are without.(17) We have courts to judge
governmental and medical malfeasance. And where these have not
established criminal wrongdoing, we have, in this country, the ballot
box and the free market system to express our sympathies and
preferences.

If we humble ourselves and put away political and secular
prejudices, discerning spiritual things spiritually,(18) and maintaining
proper balance and moderation, as the people of God should, we are
certain to choose the right approach here. This means always
remaining intensely focused on our own personal spiritual life,
which is vastly more important than our political notions.
May God help us to maintain true inner peace and thereby to assist
others in maintaining theirs, by the prayers of the Holy Great Martyr
Demetrius and all the saints. Amen.

1 Ex. 22:28; Acts 23:5
2 Ezr. 7:26
3 Ezr. 7:27
4 Eccl. 8:2
5 Eccl. 10:20
6 Rom. 13:1-2
7 Tit. 3:1-2
8 I Pet. 2:13-15
9 Rom. 13:3,5
10 Rom. 13:2
11 Luke 21:1
12 II Pet. 1:20
13 Mark 13:32
14 II Pet. 1:16
15 Rom. 13:11
16 On True Christianity, Vol. 4, Article 4, Ch. 4:11
17 I Cor. 5:12
18 Cf. I Cor. 2:14

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