Commemorated on March 16
Saint Demetre the King, also called “the Devoted,” was a
great-grandson of Holy Queen Tamar. God sent Saint Demetre many
tribulations during his childhood, thus encouraging him in the Faith
from an early age. Demetre was still an infant when the Mongols killed
his mother, the pious Queen Gvantsa. His father, King Davit V
(1258-1269), died when Demetre was just ten years old.
When he reached the age of twelve, the royal court sent him to the Mongol ordu
(the military camp and headquarters of the Mongols. This particular
camp of the Ilkhanid Mongols lay in Mughan of Azerbaijan.), to the ruler
Abaqa Khan (1265-1282) (ruler of the Ilkhanid Mongols (descendents of
Qubilay Khan’s brother Hulegu).
As the Georgians were under Mongol dominion, they asked Abaqa Khan to proclaim Demetre king, and their request was honored.
with virtue, King Demetre ruled the nation in wisdom and kindness. At
night he would go out in search of the poor, the infirm, and the
orphaned to distribute his wealth to them. The king took advantage of
comparatively peaceful periods to build and restore churches and
monasteries and to strengthen fortifications.
Many of King
Demetre’s lofty goals, however, were never realized, because the khan
was constantly calling the Georgian soldiers to arms. A vast number of
Georgia’s finest soldiers fought and perished in the khan’s battles.
Soon Georgia was exhausted from battle and the sacrifice of her sons’
blood in the wars of foreign nations.
Internal strife began to
tear at the Georgian people, and in desperation they began to pillage
the lands and villages that belonged to their own Church.
this difficult time, Demetre yielded to a temptation. Although already
joined in a marriage of political convenience, he abducted Natela, the
daughter of southern Georgia’s ruler, Beka Jakeli. She bore Demetre a
son, whom they named Giorgi. He would later be honored with the title
Giorgi V “the Brilliant” (1314-1346).
After the death of Abaqa
Khan, his brother, Ahmad Tegüder (1282-1284), was proclaimed khan. In
the second year of his reign, Ahmad’s brother, Qongurdam, plotted to
overthrow him but failed. A short time later, Abaqa Khan’s son, Arghun
(1284-1291), rose up against his uncle and seized the throne. Finally,
Bugha Chingsang, the khan’s prime minister, organized a plot
against Arghun. On January 17, 1289, Bugha Chingsang was executed along
with his fellow conspirators.
Demetre, who had been on friendly terms with the khan, was now summoned to the khan’s ordu as a suspected member of the plot.
Demetre immediately surmised the reason for this summons: “The khan is
very angry and has called me to him,” he told his court. “I am certain
he intends to do me evil, but my kingdom will lie defenseless before him
if I do not go. How many Christians will die or become his slaves? How
many churches will be laid to waste? Truly my life cannot be so valuable
that I could live and bear this sin while many Christian souls are left
to perish. It is my wish to go to the khan. God’s will be done: if I am
killed, I will be certain that my country is saved!”
court tried with all its might to convince Demetre that it was foolish
to go, meet certain death, and leave the country without a ruler.
Catholicos Abraam alone supported King Demetre’s decision and advised
him, “If you sacrifice your own life for your nation, we, the bishops of
this land, will bear your sins, and will pray to God that you be
numbered among the holy martyrs. For the Lord Himself said, Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). And if it is good for a man to lay down his life for just one neighbor, how profitable is it for a man to die for the sake of many?”
hearing these words, the king rejoiced exceedingly and began to prepare
for his journey to the Mongol ordu. He took with him Catholicos Abraam,
a certain priest Mose, his son Davit, and several members of his court.
At the ordu the Mongols could find no fault in the young Georgian king,
but they imprisoned him nevertheless. Then a group of Georgian faithful
forced their way into the prison to see him and offered to help him
escape. The king was deeply moved by their compassion, but nevertheless
he told them, “I knew from the beginning the death I would suffer, and I
offered my life for this nation. If I escape now, the nation will be
destroyed. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36).”
khan ordered his execution. Fully prepared to meet death, King Demetre
prayed fervently, received the Holy Gifts, and gave up his soul to the
Lord. Those present witnessed a divine miracle: the sun grew dark and an
ominous gloom enshrouded the whole city.
The holy relics of the
Royal Martyr Demetre were guarded until the catholicos and the priest
Mose secretly retrieved the body and, with the help of a group of
Tbilisi fishermen, returned the king to his homeland. He was buried in
Mtskheta, in the burial vault of his forefathers at Svetitskhoveli
SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2016(with 2015's link here also and further: 2014 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and even 2008!):
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