October 27th is the Synaxis of the Feast of St Demetrios. A synaxis is the day after a major feast, commemorating a person who played a significant role in connection with that event. On October 26th, we remember St Demetrios, notably his martyrdom. On the Synaxis of the Feast, St Nestor is celebrated. He was a protégé of St Demetrios and was encouraged by him to face the formidable barbaric wrestler, Lyaios.
Nestor, being much smaller in stature, was at a huge disadvantage, yet his belief in the God of Demetrios, Jesus Christ, made him victorious against Lyaios. Nestor defeated him with a single mortal blow to the heart. However, the fame of his victory made it to the ruthless Maximian who ordered the execution of both Demetrios and Nestor.
The world has found in you a great champion in time of peril, as you emerged the victor in routing the barbarians. For as you brought to naught the boasts of Lyaios, imparting courage to Nestor in the stadium, in like manner, holy one, great Martyr Dimitrios, invoke Christ God for us, that He may grant us His great mercy (Festal Apolytikion).
The Nestor and Lyaios narrative is similar to the David and Goliath one: Now the Philistines brought their armies together for battle, and they gathered at Sochoh of Judah…and Saul and the men of Israel gathered, and they were encamped in the valley. They were to set up in battle formation opposite the Philistines…And a mighty man went out from the battle line of the Philistines named Goliath, from Gath. His height was four cubits and a span. He had a helmet on his head, and he wore a breastplate of chain mail; and the weight of his breastplate was five thousand shekels of brass and iron. And he had armor made of bronze on his legs and a bronze shield between his shoulders (1 Kingdoms 17:1-2, 4-6).
Goliath was nearly seven feet tall, a formidable foe just like Lyaios. Also, he was armed with a spear and a shield. David, like Nestor, was a youth and of much smaller stature, armed with just a staff and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook (ibid, 38). Despite Goliath being of much greater size and might, possessing armor and weaponry, David was not afraid.
So the Philistine said to David, “Am I as a dog, that you come against me with a staff and stones?” Then David said, “No, worse than a dog.” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of heaven and the beasts of the field!” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a shield. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of Sabaoth, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you reproached today. Today the Lord will deliver you into my hand… And the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David. Then David put his hand in his bag and took out one stone. He slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone penetrated through his helmet and into his forehead. He fell to the ground on his face. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone. He struck the Philistine and killed him, and there was no sword in the hand of David (ibid: 22-25, 27-29).
The Philistines then fled but the Israelites went after them, defeating them.
There are similarities with both narratives. Nestor, like David was not obligated to fight his opponent, but bravely and with faith rose to the challenge. Both young men were smaller in stature compared to their enormous adversaries. Both were men of great faith, not doubting for a moment that God would protect them and lead them to triumph. David refers to God and Nestor, the God of Demetrios, Jesus Christ. Both young men are referring to the same God of course.
The difference is David lived before the Incarnation of Christ; Nestor, some three hundred years after.
In the Old Testament, God refers to God the Father. However, in the New Testament, the Son of God, the Logos, becomes Incarnate and reveals the Father to us. He who has seen Me has seen the Father (Jn 14:9) …Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me (Jn 14:11) … I and My Father are one (Jn 10:30). The Son of God, Jesus Christ reveals the Father and sends the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father. Both Demetrios and Nestor lived at a time when Christianity was illegal but, on the rise. Many were martyred for their faith in Christ. It was the witness of the martyrs, thus, the outpouring of their blood which propelled the Church to grow so rapidly.
Typology is a common application used to make connections between different historical figures of the Bible, usually between the Old and New Testament. Nestor is a “type” of David. Both were young, brave men who were triumphant despite overwhelming odds. Was it luck, or was it the Divine Will of God?
Nestor is indeed the “New David,” one who was martyred for Christ. We should beseech his supplications before the Lord when we are faced with an overwhelming situation or great danger. Perchance he is the patron saint of the underdog.
You competed, with the strength of God, and you were victorious, all-blessed Saint. You were glorified, for you trampled the foe underfoot. You appear with a halo, with the rest of the divine Athletes, O Nestor. You exceeded Aaron, O Athlete of Christ, for like Abel you offered your own blood to Him. As you now stand near the throne of the Creator, with the orders of Angels, cease not interceding on behalf of us all (Festal Oikos).
The victory of both Nestor and David were extraordinary, perhaps miraculous since both faced overwhelming opposition. Nothing is impossible with God. Jesus assured us of this: I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you (Mt 17:20).
O Holy Martyr, Nestor, intercede for us!
A graduate of Long Island University, College of Pharmacy, and Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, John works to share the richness and beauty of the Orthodox Faith with the wider community.
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