How many of us ever stand up and tell other people what we believe about Jesus Christ? How many of us are really convinced that our faith is so completely a part of what we are that is worth proclaiming happily to those who question us? Being one of Jesus’ disciples can not be easy, for as Jesus once said:
“Beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils… You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, and bear testimony before them and the Gentiles… Do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you will say… It will be given to you in that hour… You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:16ff)
Toward the end of the third century, there lived a Christian man named Marcos. He was the ruler of the Borolos and Zahfaran districts in Egypt. Marcos had only one daughter called Demiana. Her beauty and good character were legendary. Her father loved her dearly, and he did his best to raise her up in a true Christian way.
Demiana loved to pray and read the holy books in the seclusion of her room. She often cried, while praying, as she felt the love of her Savior the Christ fill her little heart.
When Demiana was old enough, her father wanted her to get married to one of his noble friends, but Demiana refused. She said that she gave herself up as a bride to Christ, and that she intended to live without marriage all her life, so she could serve the Lord Jesus Christ. Demiana also asked her father to build a house for her on the outskirts of the city, so that she could live in it, with her friends, as a nun away from the world and its temptations.
Knowing her deep desire for a righteous life, her father reluctantly granted Demiana her wish, and built her a large palace. Demiana changed the palace into a convent, and lived in it with forty of her friends. They were all unmarried girls, and the Lord’s hand was with them, giving them strength and comfort.
At that time Diocletian, the Emperor, began to torture and kill the Christians who refused to worship his idols (Apollos and Artemis). When Marcos was invited to kneel before the statues and offer incense, he refused. But Diocletian convinced him by promising to give him a higher position in the Roman Empire.
When Demiana heard that her father had knelt before the idols, she left the palace and went immediately to him. She said, “How could you deny your Savior who shed his blood to save you, and kneel down to stone idols dwelled by satan. What you did, my father, is cowardly and shameful.” When Marcos heard his daughter’s words he came back to his senses. He said, “Woe to me, how could I fall in the Devil’s trap and worship those idle statues.”
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 got really infuriated, and ordered the soldiers to kill him.
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.”
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 can not stand the torturing of the soldiers, you would better 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 crueller 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.”
Finally the commander ordered the soldiers to behead Demiana by the sword, along with the forty virgins. The total number of people who were martyred with Demiana was about four hundred.
Few years later, when King Constantine (the first Christian king) came to power, he sent his mother Queen Helena to Demiana’s palace. Helena buried all the bodies that she found in great honor. She put Demiana’s body on a bed made of ivory and decorated it with silk linen, and in the same place she built a church.
Saint Demiana has also a great convent in Belkas and many churches in Egypt bear her name.
May the prayers and the blessings of this great martyr, Saint Demiana be with us all. Amen.
On this day, Toba 13, St. Demiana was martyred. This chaste and fighter virgin, was the daughter of Mark, Governor of El-Borollus, El-Zaafran, and Wadi Al-Saysaban(1) in the Northern delta of the valley of the Nile. 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. He offered alms, candles and oblations so that God might bless her and keep her in His care.
When she was fifteen years old, her father wanted her to be wed. She refused, and told him that she had vowed herself a bride to the Lord Christ. When she saw that her father was pleased with her intention, she asked him 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.
Shortly after, Emperor Diocletian sent for Mark, St. 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 and forsook the Creator of the Universe. When Mark returned to his official seat, and St. 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.
Her father was greatly moved by the words of his daughter, and he wept bitterly. In haste, he went to Diocletian and confessed the Lord Christ. When the Emperor could not convince him with threats and promises, he ordered him beheaded.
When Diocletian knew that the one who turned Mark from worshipping the idols was St. Demiana, his daughter. He sent her a prince to try first gently to convince her to worship idols, and if she disobeyed him to behead her. The prince went to her with two hundred soldiers and the instruments of torture. When he arrived at her palace, he said to her, “I am a messenger sent from Emperor Diocletian. I came to call upon you according to the Emperor’s orders, to worship his gods, so that he can grant you all that you want.” The saint shouted in his face saying, “May God denounce the messenger and the one by whom he was sent. Don’t you have any shame at all to call stones and wood gods which are inhabited by devils? There is no god in heaven or on earth except one God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Eternal Creator, the Everlasting, Who is everywhere, Who knows all the secrets, and Who can throw you in hell where is the everlasting torment. As for me, I am the maidservant of my Master and my Savior Jesus Christ, and His Good Father and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity, Him I confess and upon Him I depend, and in His Name I die, and by Him I live forever.”
The prince became exceedingly angry and ordered her to be placed in the Hinbazeen (the squeezing press), until her blood poured out of her body on the ground. The virgins were standing weeping over her. When they put her in prison, the angel of the Lord appeared to her, touched her body with his illumined wings, and she was healed of all her wounds. The prince used all his evil imagination to torture St. Demiana, once by tearing her flesh and another time by placing her in boiling oil. Through it all the Lord raised her up safely. When the prince saw that all his attempts were in vain, before the steadfastness of this pure virgin he ordered her beheaded, and all the other virgins with her. Thus, they all received the crowns of martyrdom.
Their prayers be with us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.
On this day, Bashons 12, the church commemorates the consecration of the church of the virgin St. Demiana. This pure and fighting virgin was the daughter of Mark, who was the governor of El-Borollus, El-Zaafran and the valley of Saisaban. She was the only child of her parents. When she was one year old, her father took her to the church that was in the monastery of El-Maima. He offered gifts there so that God might bless this daughter and keep her safe Him.
When she was fifteen years old, her father wanted to get her married. She refused and told him that she had vowed herself a bride for the Lord Christ. When she found that her father was pleased of her decision, she asked him to build her an isolated palace, so that she could worship God with her virgin friends, and right away he did what she asked. He built the palace where she and the forty virgins lived in. They spent their time by reading the Holy Bible and praying fervently to God.
Shortly after, Emperor Diocletian sent for Mark her father and ordered him to worship the idols, but he refused at first. However, after some persuasion, Mark obeyed him and worshipped the idols, forsaking the creator of the universe.
When Mark returned, and St. Demiana knew of what her father had done, she rushed to meet him without a greeting saying: “What have I heard about you? I wished I have Heard the news of your death, and not knowing that you have forsaken God who have created you and worshipped what is made by hands. If you insist on what you have done and you do not relent by denouncing the idols, you are not my father, and I am not your daughter.” She also said to him: “It is better for you, O my father, that you die a martyr and live with Christ in heaven forever, than you live as a pagan here and die with the devil in hades forever.” Then she left him. Her father was moved by what she said and wept bitterly. He went in hurry to Diocletian and confessed the Lord Christ before him. When Diocletian could not change his mind, he ordered him to be beheaded.
When Diocletian knew that the one who turned Mark away from worshipping the idols was his daughter Demiana, he sent to her a prince to persuade her at first, and if she did not obey, he would cut off her head. The Prince came to her with an entourage of one hundred soldiers armed with all instruments of torture. When he arrived to her palace, he went to her and said: “I am an envoy sent by Emperor Diocletian. I came to ask you, according to his orders, to worship his gods, so he might grant you whatsoever you wish.” St. Demiana shouted at the prince saying: “Curse the messenger and he who sent him. Are you not ashamed to call stones and wood gods that only dwelt by devils? There is no other God in heaven or on earth except the one God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Creator, Who has no beginning and no end, the Omnipresent, and the Omniscient God, who will throw you in hell for eternal condemnation. As for me, I worship my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Good Father and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity. I profess Him, depend on Him, and in His name I die and by Him I will live forever.” The Prince became angry of what she said, and ordered her to be placed in the body press. Her blood poured out on the ground, and the virgins were standing, weeping for her. Then they put her in prison, where the angel of the Lord appeared to her and touched her body with his celestial wings and healed her from all her wounds.
The Prince was creative in the ways he tortured St. Demiana, sometimes by rending her flesh, or placing her in boiling grease and oil. In all that, the Lord strengthened her and raised her up whole. When the Prince saw that his efforts were of no avail and the steadfastness of this pure virgin, he ordered her to be beheaded with all the virgins with her. They all received the crowns of martyrdom. (The account of her martyrdom is mentioned in the 13th day of Tubah)
The Prince returned to Antioch, the city of the Emperor. The faithful came and gathered the bodies of the martyrs and kept them until the end of the days of persecution and the reign of the righteous Emperor the Christ-loving Constantine the great. He ordered to destroy the idol temples and built many churches after the names of the martyrs. He gathered the bodies of the martyrs in every place and placed them in the churches. He endowed the churches with the necessary income to maintain them.
When Constantine knew of all what had happened to St. Demiana, and how she endured for a long time in the valley of El-Saisaban, he delegated his blessed mother St. Helena to take burial clothing, go to El-Zaafran, and build a church in the name of St. Demiana and the forty virgins, there.
St. Helena came to the valley, went up to the palace, and found that the bodies were unharmed. She found St. Demiana in the place where she used to sit and around her the forty virgins. She kissed the body, taking the blessing of the Saint and wrapped the bodies with expensive shrouds. She gathered the craftsmen and architects, tore down the palace, and built instead a well built tomb (Cellar) underground. She laid the body of St. Demiana on an ivory bed, and covered her with a precious bedspread and laid the forty virgins around her in it. Then she built a small and beautiful church which had one dome on the top of it. The church was consecrated by Pope Alexandros, the nineteenth Patriarch of Alexandria, on the 12th. of Bashans. He also ordained a saintly bishop, priests, and deacons to serve in the church day and night in prayers.
The bishop of this area, El-Zaafran and El-Borollus, was martyred and his body was placed in this church among the bodies of other martyrs. Abba Yoannis, Bishop of El Borullus, said in his book, The History of the Church: “The church was destroyed in the 8th. century by one of the Arab rulers, who built in its place a palace for his residence.”
At this time, the water of the Mediterranean sea flooded the Delta of the Nile river until it reached the city of Samannoud to the western side of the church that called “Zion” by the old citadel. This flooding was caused by the deterioration of the barrier, which held back the sea water. When the news reached the king Hassan Ibn Atahia, he was saddened because this district brought the government much money because it was rich in its highly priced aromatic plants. One of his close aids, who was a Jew, told the king to bring the Patriarch of the Copts and order him to pray in faith to return everything to where they were before the flood.
God assisted this Patriarch through the help of one of the holy men who was known as El-Toffahi in this trying time. The Patriarch prayed in the church at Samannoud in the presence of the king. Then the Patriarch went out of the church raising the Cross. The people were saying Lord have mercy and the holy man, El-Toffahi, behind him. Instantly, the water receded to the north before them. The Patriarch, behind him El-Toffahi, the priests, the people, and the king continued to walk until they arrived to El-Zaafran where they erected tents for the king beside the destroyed palace, under which the body of St. Demiana along with the bodies of the forty martyrs were kept. The Patriarch prayed and knelt to the ground with all the people with him. At this moment, a great miracle and sign occurred that amazed everyone. A great wind blew in the sea and the waves became very high, which caused great quantities of sand to form a great barrier with the power of God almighty which was stronger than the original one. Then the winds calmed down.
The Patriarch returned to the king, who received him with honor and told him: “O Patriarch, ask from me, something to do for you.” The Patriarch replied: “I need your assistance in building a church in this place because it contains the bodies of Saints who were martyred, for they refused to worship idols. The king ordered that the place be cleaned. The Patriarch opened the door of the cellar, went down, and found the forty bodies of the martyrs around the bed of St. Demiana. The king ordered at once to build a church with one dome, which was consecrated by the Patriarch on the 12th day of Bashans.
The news of this church spread in all the country and the people came with their offerings to it. The church was consecrated for the first time during the reign of Constantine and the second time was on this day.
The king ordered that no one disturb the Copts, so it was a peaceful and tranquil time in all Egypt. The king returned to his palace in Misr (Cairo) and always asked the Patriarch to visit him periodically. He came to visit the king with great honor till his departure.
The king of Egypt at that time was Hassan Ibn Atahia, who was just, loved the churches, and treated the bishops and the monks with great respect. He loved Pope Khail the first, the forty-sixth Patriarch of Alexandria (743 – 767 A.D.), and came often to visit him. He discussed the affairs of the country with him.
May the prayers of St. Demiana be with us. Amen.
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