Martyr Nestor was a young man of Thessalonica who stood up in a public arena to the invincible barbarian named Lyaios. Young and fragile, he looked no match to the brute, but he still had as much faith in his victory as he had in God. His feat made visible to all Thessalonicans that no brutal force on earth can overpower the heavenly might of our Lord.
It happened during a public celebration of Rome’s victory over the Scythians at the behest of Emperor Maximian, a ruthless persecutor of Christians. With him, he brought the ruthless Barbarian Lyaios, a giant and with a reputation for invincibility. For him, he built an arena. Underneath it was a large number of spears and swords pointing upward. Onto them, Lyaios threw his hapless victims where they met an agonizing death.
To demonstrate the superiority of Paganism over Christianity, he made many Christians fight Lyaios. Nestor was one of them. Yet he had the resolve, and his faith in his victory was as strong as his faith in God. Before going out to fight, Nestor went to Saint Demetrios, whom Emperor Maximian had cast into a dungeon for his faith, to get his blessing. Crying out, “Let Demetrios’ God help me!” he won the fight and threw Liayos onto the swords, where he died in front of the astonished crowd. Immediately, Maximian killed him with his sword.
With his life, Nestor teaches us to meet all our human challenges with confidence and faith. “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do to me.” (Psalm 118:6)
The spiritual message of the icon revealed itself with time. It promises eventual forgiveness to the Russian people and the return of the supreme power from the Holy Theotokos after a long period of suffering and repentance.
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The new martyrs found themselves in circumstances that most people today could barely imagine. Yet people who keep their faith at their most terrible times and obey God's commandments receive His help.
The example of the martyr saints shows how the grace of the holy spirit can empower us to reach untold levels of bravery and spiritual strength, despite our physical weakness.