This sermon was given by Met. Ephrem in the town of Kousba on October 26, 2010. The Arabic original can be found here.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
You have heard, beloved, the Epistle and the Gosple that are read for every feast of a martyr. The Gospel, the word of God, is the source of teaching for us. Does it teach us how to honor the saints?
The Gospel passage today from John begins with a new commandment from the Lord Jesus. It is the point of departure and the endpoint. The Lord Jesus Christ says, "Behold I give you a new commandment: love each other as I have loved you." This is the chief reason for martryrdom for Christ. If martyrdom does not come from love of the Lord Jesus and faith in Him, then it is in vain. The Lord continues and says, "The world will hate you."
Everyone who loves Christ and acts in life according to His commandments must expect to anger people because they first hated Christ. That is something natural in this world. Without God, the world hates God and exploits creation. For someone to put into practice the Lord's commandments, from the perspective of this corrupt world which is immersed in its own corruption and passions, this causes the people of this world to reject him. The fallen world flees from the commandments of the Lord, finding them burdensome and hating them.
The Gospel says this strange prophetic verse: "They will hate you without reason." We will encounter resistance and jealousy, envy and hate without cause. Christ God has given us every good thing. Christ only did good. He healed the sick and gave up His life for our sake out of love for us, for every person, for those who love Him and for those who do not love Him. This is what the holy martyrs did. And so they suffered without reason. As one of the saints says, this hate comes freely without reason in return for the original love which comes freely. And so every martyr, every holy martyr, mimics the Lord Jesus and so people hate him. However, he bears witness to Christ and so he is a martyr and witness. He lives in the love of Christ-- this means that he does not repay evil with evil. And so he goes to death with joy, suffering and knowing that he is doing this out of love for Christ and out of love for those who are killing him.
This is the teaching that we take from the martyrs who gave their life for the Lord and suffered martyrdom out of love for Him. They teach us that even if we are weak in this world, every person who believes in Christ, in His suffering, in His death, and in His resurrection, every true Christian must at some point bear witness to Christ in his life, must not lie, must live according to the commandments of God, and the Lord will help him. There is great grace which is given to those who suffer martyrdom through shedding their blood for the sake of the Lord Jesus, and they receive a great crown, the crown of the kingdom of heaven.
This was the life of Saint Demitrios whom we celebrate today. The Church everywhere rejoices today with the joy of the victory of the saint over every evil, amen.