Today is Saint Dimitrie’s day, so also ‘my’ day as Dimitrie is my name too, given to me when I was baptised on 26th October. In the Eastern Orthodox Tradition, the name day corresponds to the day on which a saint “fell asleep”, or died (Gregorian calendar).
I was given the name in the Orthodox church of ‘Stefan cel Mare Domnesc (the Lord’s Church of Stephen the Great), Iasi, the church I attended when I lived in that Romanian city (and the church in which I was married).
Although in Romania the saint is known as Dumitru, I chose the Russian version – hence Dimitrie – and that is how my several Orthodox priest friends, and some other friends, call me.
When I was in Romania people would call at my home on this day and share a drink and a snack, or even a celebration meal. Now, in the UK, I receive email messages and ‘iconograms’ from friends and relatives in Romania, especially from my Godparents – Godfather Vasile, now a mathematics lecturer in an Australian university, and Godmother Gabriela.
I first went to St Stephen’s church for the wonderful choir; there are no instruments in the Orthodox church other than the human voice and perhaps for that reason choral singing in church is often magical. However, I met Vasile when he was a mathematics teacher in a high school in which I was teaching English; we became friends and he introduced me to understanding of the Orthodox church service, so eventually to my name.
Saint Dimitrios was a Thessalonian, of noble parents, an important soldier but also a teacher of Christianity. This is a story associated with him:
When Maximian (Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus Herculius Augustus, Roman Emperor from 286 to 305) first came to Thessalonica in 290, he raised the Saint to the rank of Duke of Thessaly.
However, at a later date it was discovered that the Saint was a Christian and he was arrested and kept bound in a bath-house.
While the games were underway in the city, Maximian was a spectator there. A friend of his, Lyaeus, a ‘barbarian’ who was a notable wrestler, boasted in the stadium and challenged the citizens to a contest with him. Everyone who fought him was defeated.
Seeing this, a youth named Nestor, an acquaintance of Dimitrios, came to the Saint in the bath-house and asked his blessing to fight Lyaeus single-handed. Receiving this blessing and sealing himself with the sign of the Cross, he presented himself in the stadium, and saying “O God of Dimitrios, help me!” he engaged Lyaeus in combat and smote him with a mortal blow to the heart, leaving the former boaster lifeless.
Maximian was very upset by this and when he learned who was the cause of this defeat, he ordered Dimitrios to be pierced with lances and killed while in the bath-house. Nestor, as Maximian commanded, was killed with his own sword.