October 23, 2023

The Holy Week of Saint Demetrios

Professor Antonios Papadopoulos, as early as 1963, with his work: "The Feasts of Saint Demetrios of Thessaloniki", spoke about the special way of celebrating the Saint in his city of Thessaloniki. In 1970, Professor John Fountoulis pointed out that the majestic celebration of Saint Demetrios, which is celebrated based on the Church's Menaion, and which includes "the ecumenical celebration of the great martyr", "is a shadow of what was celebrated in the city of the Myrrhgusher in the Byzantine era" (Rational Worship, p. 271).

Professor John Fountoulis is primarily responsible for the modern revival of the special liturgical honor of Saint Demetrios, with the publication of the services of the in Holy Week of Saint Demetrios. On the basis of two 15th century codices, originating from Thessaloniki, but also from other manuscripts, he reconstructed the order of the services of the seven days that precede the feast of Saint Demetrios, taking into account "the traditional form, under which the pre-festal services appear in the manuscripts, in combination with the modern liturgical and pastoral information." Of course, the days of the "Holy Week of Saint Demetrios" are not the same as the days of the same name in the calendar. For example, Holy Monday of the Holy Week of Saint Demetrios is always October 20th, regardless of which day the current year's calendar shows, and October 26th is Easter Sunday, even if the calendar shows Thursday, as this year's feast.

It is clear that the "distinctive feature of these services is the attempt to emulate the celebration of the memory of Saint Demetrios after Easter." The martyrdom of the Saint is compared to the passion of Christ. We even find this in the hymnography of the Menaion. In the Doxastikon, for example, of the Stichera of Vespers, we chant: "Rejoice, you who were pierced in your members, your blessed passion is spiritually reenacted for us like Christ;" and in the Doxastikon of the Liti, we chant: "Your undefiled side, was pierced all-revered one, imitating the One who was pierced on the wood." Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki in the 14th century wrote of the feast of Saint Demetrios: "This bright day is an image of the resurrection of the Savior." Saint Philotheos Kokkinos calls the martyrdom of Saint Demetrios: "An imitation of Christ ("Christomimito")."

Despite the predominance of Easter and the other days of Holy Week in the services of Saint Demetrios, there are in the hymns of these services echoes of two other feasts as well: (1) from Christmas, with a Prosomoion according to "Αἱ ἀγγελικαί προπορεύεσθε δυνάμεις", because of the consideration of the anniversary of the death of the martyrs, and thus also of Saint Demetrios, as their "birthday", and (2) from the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, with the eight-toned Doxastikon "Ὤ τοῦ παραδόξου θαύματος" in tone one, to show the similarity of the martyr's dormition with the dormition of the Theotokos, though of course, the dormition of the martyr is not followed by a metastasis.

The above information comes from the introduction to the publication of the services of the Holy Week of Saint Demetrios by Professor John Fountoulis, who, taking into account the contemporary liturgical and pastoral conditions, suggests that, where these services are held, they should be held together, that is, not to be intertwined with the daily services of the Menaion and the Parakletiki. He writes: "It would be more correct to perform them in small vigils, completed in the middle of the night, which should include Vespers, Matins and the Divine Liturgy. Depending on the time available in each case, the vigil could be extended, according to the monastic all-night vigil typikon, adding to the Vespers the Anoixantaria or "Blessed is the Man", Old Testament readings, a procession and an Artoklasia, and to Matins the Kathismata of the Psalter, the Polyeleos and the Eklogi."

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