Read Warrior Saints Pt. 2 Here
In the past two articles, we established that Warrior Saints were, in fact, warriors. We also discussed the warrior spirit that has endured since the Old Testament and is still alive and well today within Christianity. This time, I want to focus on the more saintly aspects of Warrior Saints. This will be the long-awaited explanation of what separates the heroic, venerated warriors of Christendom from the hollow idols that the pagans worship.
I’m a therapist. When I work with younger clients, I often like to ask them, “Who’s your favorite superhero?” And “What makes them a hero?” Often I receive answers like, “My favorite superhero is Deadpool cause he has guns and swords and kills people.” To which I usually respond, “But anyone can be like that. Villains are like that too. What actually makes a superhero a superhero?”
It is easy to get caught up in the “awesome” or even “funny” details of a Saint’s life. Like when they defeat great foes or have witty one-liners. One crowd favorite is the time Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus himself) punched the heretic Arius during an Ecumenical Council. But what are the fundamentals of the Christian faith that these Saints are practicing the other 99.9% of the time? The crazy stories that most people remember can serve as inspiration for us as Christians, but it’s more realistic that we will be doing the Lord’s work by keeping a diligent prayer rule or keeping the fast rather than punching heretics or slaying cruel giants.
Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki (A Military Saint) was the son of secret or “catacomb” Christians in the 3rd century A.D. His father was the governor of the second largest city in Greece at the time, and Demetrius eventually inherited the position. In addition, he rose to a high rank in the Roman military. Rather than hiding his Chiristianity, Demetrius openly preached to the citizens, bringing many to the Faith. When Emperor Maximian caught wind of this, he questioned Demetrius. The Saint boldly proclaimed his faith in Christ and thus was subject to imprisonment and torture.
Demetrius continued to preach and convert people to Christianity. And, while in prison, Demetrius gave Saint Nestor his blessing to go and slay Lyaeus (See Warrior Saints Pt. 2: An Ancient Tradition). For these acts of faith, Demetrius was run-through with many spears and made a Martyr of the Early Church. His faith was the reason for his Sainthood, not his military accomplishments. Saint Demetrius was a warrior, and that part can’t be separated from the man, but the holy way in which he lived and died is why Saint Demetrius is a Saint.
Lifting weights is a popular trend in today’s Christian men. I, for one, am glad that this has become popular and even a bit of a meme in online Christianity. Cultivating physical strength is a way in which we take care of our bodies as temples and icons of Christ. Exercise is also a way of learning the values of discipline in a tangible, physical way. But winning an arm wrestling match isn’t going to convert anyone to Christianity (If it does, please let me know.) Physical strength, as a Christian man, is not used to show power, but to show temperance.
Saint Moses “The Black” was known as being quite the mighty man. He was once a brutal bandit who became a Christian Monk. Years later when bandits came to attack his monastery, Saint Moses physically subdued them and dragged them to meet the Abbot. He asked the Abbot what he should do with the bandits, as he had no intentions of harming them. The bandits repented and became brothers of the Monastery. Moses displayed his strength as well as his mercy, something he could not have done had he not become strong in the first place.
So like Saint Moses, our strength can be used to show mercy. For how can one be merciful if they don’t have the advantage over their enemy? Matthew 5:5 (NKJV) says, “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.” Meekness is not weakness. Meekness is being able to be cruel but choosing to do otherwise. Just as courage is not being fearless. Courage is acting despite one’s fear.
In this way, “meekness” as we now understand it is not helpless. It is mercy and forgiveness, two things that we will discuss in the fourth and final installment of “Warrior Saints.”