Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Saint for Orthodox Pacifists to Ponder

St. Nestor of Thessalonica

Today we celebrate the memory of the Holy Martyr Nestor of Thessalonica, who is not nearly as well known as the saint he was associated with... St. Demetrius of Thessalonica. What should be noted is that St. Nestor took up arms to kill a man who was murdering innocent Christians, but he first asked for and received a blessing from St. Demetrius to do so.

St. Nestor would no doubt have been more than happy to turn his own other cheek, had the occassion called for it; but he could not turn the other cheek for those were helpless. Just as Scripture commands us to turn the other cheek, it also commands us to defend the helpless, and this is what he did.

The following is the entry for October 27 o.s. / November 9th n.s. from the Prologue of Ochrid, by St. Nikolai Velimirovich.

In the time of the suffering of St. Demetrius the Myrrh-gusher, there was a young man of Thessalonica, Nestor, who learned the Christian Faith from St. Demetrius himself. At that time Christ's enemy, Emperor Maximian, organized various games and amusements for the people. The emperor's favorite in these games was a Vandal by the name of Lyaeus, a man of Goliath-like size and strength. As the emperor's gladiator, Lyaeus challenged men every day to single combat and slew them. Thus, the bloodthirsty Lyaeus amused the bloodthirsty, idolatrous Maximian. The emperor built a special stage for Lyaeus's battles, similar to a threshing floor on pillars. Spears, points upward, were planted beneath this platform. When Lyaeus defeated someone in wrestling, he would throw him from the platform onto the forest of spears. The emperor and his pagan subjects cheered as some poor wretch writhed in torment on the spears until he died. Among Lyaeus's innocent victims were many Christians: when no one volunteered to duel with Lyaeus, by the emperor's orders Christians were arrested and forced to duel with him. Seeing this horrifying amusement of the pagan world, Nestor's heart was torn with pain, and he decided to come forward for a duel with the gigantic Lyaeus. But first, he went to prison to see St. Demetrius and sought a blessing from him to do this. St. Demetrius blessed him, signed him with the sign of the Cross on the forehead and on the chest and prophesied to him: ``You will defeat Lyaeus, but you will suffer for Christ.'' Thus, young Nestor went to duel with Lyaeus. Maximian was present with a multitude of people; everyone felt pity for the young Nestor, who would surely die, and tried to dissuade him from dueling with Lyaeus. Nestor crossed himself and said: ``O God of Demetrius, help me!'' and with God's help, he overcame Lyaeus, knocked him down, and threw him onto the sharp spears, where the heavy giant soon found death. Then all the people cried out: ``Great is the God of Demetrius!'' But the emperor, shamed before the people and sorrowing for his favorite Lyaeus, was greatly angered at Nestor and Demetrius, and commanded that Nestor be beheaded and Demetrius run through with lances. Thus, the Christian hero Nestor ended his earthly life and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of his Lord in the year 306.

The Holy Martyr Nestor

St. Nestor was outraged at evil
And was zealous for the Christian Faith.
The young disciple of St. Demetrius
Seemed young and weak against the terrible Lyaeus,
But he traced the sign of the Cross on himself
And impaled the powerful Lyaeus on a spear.
He had been given power from above,
Like David against Goliath.
``You will conquer, but you will be tortured,
And will lay down your life for Christ.''
Thus Demetrius prophesied to him,
And as he said, so it came to pass.
Nestor jubilantly went to torture,
And wonderfully magnified the wondrous Christ
With sweet words and sweet hymns,
And fervent prayers for the Church.
Great in spirit, small in years,
He did not grieve over his young life;
His blood strengthened the Church,
And Nestor was eternally glorified.

By the way, if you are interested in getting a copy of the Prologue, click here. It is a great way to read the lives of the saints for each day, and also to read other short but edifying comments from St Nikolai Velimirovich.