Sunday, April 30, 2006

Saint Demiana

It is a story of love and courage. A story that shows the bond between a parent and a child. It takes place during the reign of Diocletian. I have already addressed the horror of Diocletian's rule in the post on the Theban Legion. It is at this dangerous time to be a Christian that the story of St. Demiana begins:

Saint Demiana was the daughter of Mark, Governor of El-Borollus, El-Zaafran, and Wadi Al-Saysaban in the Northern delta of the Nile Valley. She was the only daughter to her parents. When she was one year old, her father took her to the church of the monastery of Al-Maymah and offered alms, candles and oblations so that God may bless her and keep her in His care.

When she was fifteen years old, she vowed herself to live as virgin for the sake of Christ. She asked her father to build her a place where she could worship God in seclusion with her virgin friends. He fulfilled her wish and built her the house that she wanted. She lived in it with forty other virgins. They spent their time reading the holy scripture and in worship.

St. Demiana wanted nothing more than to worship her Lord. She vowed herself a virgin, giving God all that she was. Think for a moment of the parents. This is your only daughter, and we hear of no other children to the house of her father.

St. Demiana makes the choice of a religious life. There will be no grandchildren. There will be no weddings or dances. Are we told of here parents reaction to this? We are told that her father:

He fulfilled her wish and built her the house that she wanted.

It is a difficult choice when a person wishes to vow virginity. Nuns, monks and Priests (depending on what church and if they are married before ordination) all make a very difficult choice. In this day and age the common thought is that such a vow is insane. I won't enter into that debate, but I will look at another view from today. The view that it is not the buisiness of the parents what the child chooses to do. The thought that nothing is shown of St. Demiana's father by the line:

He fulfilled her wish and built her the house that she wanted.

In another version it says:

Knowing her deep desire for a righteous life, her father reluctantly granted Demiana her wish.

But it is one of the most telling lines in the story. For a parent to support a child in what is god's will for them, is sometimes the most difficult thing to do. It is, and act of Love. An act of Faith. So the line tells us that Mark, the father of Demiana, loved his daughter and had faith in the Lord.

So knowing that, what happens next shocks us:

Shortly after, Emperor Diocletian sent for Mark, Saint Demiana's father, and ordered him to worship the idols. He refused at first, but after the Emperor appeased him, he obeyed his order and worshipped the idols.

At first he refuses. But in what seems to be a short time he obeys Diocletian. Why? It says:

after the Emperor appeased him.

Another version says:

by promising to give him a higher position in the Roman Empire.

Power. Greed. This sways the man. Is this the man we know? Is this the man who loves his daughter and God? Is this the man who supports his child in a very difficult decision? No. But he is human, and power can sway us. So can fear. He must have known what the next step should be, should he refuse Diocletian's "kind" offer. Greed and fear turned him from the Lord.

Next we are told of the reaction of St. Demiana:

When Mark returned to his official seat, and Saint Demiana knew what had transpired, she rushed to meet him. She did not greet him, but said, "What is it that I heard about you? I would have preferred to hear about your death rather than to hear that you have renounced your faith and forsaken the God Who created you from non-existence into being, to worship gods made by hands. Take note that if you do not return to your first faith and renounce the worship of stones, you are not my father and I am not your daughter," and she left him.

What did we know of the man? He loves his daughter and has faith in God. He has the promise of a high position and his life. But everything around him is shattered. His loving child has said:

You are not my father and I am not your daughter!

It is a hammer blow. Do I picture St. Demiana striding with confidence away from this meeting? Walking away unaffected? No, I imagine that there are tears. Tears from her. Tears from her father. But there is truth. St. Demiana has made another hard choice. It is becoming what we know of her. She will walk strongly the path of God, no matter what the sacrifice. No matter the pain.

What of her father? Is he a good man? Is the the man we know from the beginning or from later? Is he:

He fulfilled her wish and built her the house that she wanted.

or is he:

after the Emperor appeased him, he obeyed his order and worshipped the idols.

Each of us has a Gethsemane. Each of us has, at least once in our life, an agony in the garden...where we can commit the sin of Adam and lose our trust in God or follow the path of Christ. We are told:

Then he got up immediately and went to Diocletian. He crossed himself in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in front of everybody, and cried with a loud voice, "Let every one know that I worship the God of heaven and earth, my only God and Lord Jesus the Christ." Diocletian was troubled and tried his best to change Marcos' mind, but this time the Holy Spirit had filled his heart, and he testified even boldly that he was willing to die than to deny his Savior. Diocletian became infuriated, and ordered the soldiers to kill him.

And then Diocletian shows his evil and St. Demiana shows the strength of the Lord. She shows that the will of a petty and evil emperor can not overcome faith:

When the Emperor learned that it was Marcos' daughter Demiana who had changed her father's mind, he ordered one of his commanders to take one hundred soldiers and attack the palace. "First, try to convince her to worship our idols," said Diocletian. "But, if she refuses, threaten her, torture her, and even kill her so that she will be an example for the other Christians."

And indeed she will, but not in the way Diocletian would think:

When Demiana saw the soldiers approach the palace, she prayed to God to strengthen their faith until death. Then she told her friends, "If you are willing to die for Jesus' sake you can stay, but if you cannot stand the torturing of the soldiers, you would do better to hurry and escape right now." The forty virgins answered that they would not lose the eternal life just to enjoy a few moments in this evil world.

When the commander relayed Diocletian's message to Demiana, she answered, "How can I leave my Lord and God Jesus Christ and bow in front of blind, dumb, and deaf statues! You and your Emperor should be embarrassed of your shameful deeds, and I am telling you that even if you kill me, my faith will not be shaken."

The commander was very embarrassed, and he ordered the soldiers to torture Demiana in different cruel ways. As she felt the terrible pain through her body, she lifted her face up toward heaven, and prayed, "My Lord Jesus, the Son of the Most High who was crucified in order to save me, give me the strength to stand the pain." The forty virgins were watching and crying, but Demiana told them, "Do not cry, my sisters, our Lord Jesus Christ was tortured and killed because He loved us, even though He did not commit one sin. How much more should I welcome death in His name, especially if I am sure of the heavenly glory awaiting me!"

After the soldiers got tired of torturing Demiana, they threw her half-dead body in jail. But the Archangel Michael appeared to her, touched her with his heavenly wings, and healed her wounds. The next day, the commander thought that she had died, but when she stood in front of him in perfect health he was very puzzled. When some people saw what had happened, they cried, "We are Christians. We believe in the God of Demiana. We have no other God but Jesus Christ." The commander was even more troubled, and killed all of them.

The torturing of Demiana continued in an even cruelerr way for many days, but again, and again the Archangel Michael appeared and healed her.

On the last day before her martyrdom, our Lord Jesus Himself came to her and told her, "Have courage, my chosen one. I have prepared for you the crown of your wedding in heaven. Your name will be remembered forever as it will be the cause for many miracles, and in this place a great church will be built to honor your blessed name."

It is said that at one point she said to her persecuters:

Me, I am the servant of my Master, King and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is my God together with His Father and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity, King Eternal, the Giver of life, Creator of heaven and earth, Him I confess! Him I rely on! And by His name I should live or die!"

It is a story of the love of a father for his daughter, the love of a daughter for her father, their love for God and God's love for them. It is a story of a child instructing a parent.

Faith, in it's home in our hearts, resists the will of the emperor and performs the will of the King of Heaven.

St. Demiana, pray for us in the difficult choices that we may encounter in life, And may the Lord give us the strength to do His will.

The Story of St. Demiana (link)
and (link) and (link)

1 comment:

The Eyewitness said...

Thanks for the post, I pray in a church named after Saint Dimiana. Thanks.