(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press.Today's saint, Dasios, comes from Volume 4 of the series.)
"It was to the everlasting credit of the Greeks that they were among the first to be converted to Christianity by the apostles, but it was more to their credit that they did so in spite of the fact that they were so steeped in the tradition of polytheism that embracing the Messiah meant abandonment of the gods of their fathers and was akin to disowning one’s ancestors. It wasn’t an easy task for St. Paul, who stood on Mars Hill in Athens nearly two thousand years ago before a group of polytheistic Greeks and told them, in substance that they should discard a flock of powerful gods in exchange for a humble carpenter out of a place called Nazareth. It took an awful lot of persuasion to convince an Athenian who had worshiped Athena in the Parthenon on the mighty Acropolis – still venerated over the world to this day – to worship instead a man who not only was born in a stable but wasn’t even a Greek. But the mighty St. Paul was talking about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, not some caricature of a god, and the truth of the Savior came to be known to the Greeks.
Polytheism was still very much in evidence in the third century, particularly to the north of Greece in the valley of the Danube, which is where St. Dasios was born and where he achieved the immortality of sainthood. He came of Christian stock in a place where Christianity was discountenanced by the majority and where the emphasis was placed on all the wrong aspects of human nature, to the exclusion of the peacemaker and the glorifcation of the warrior. Dasios was able to reconcile these two factors without alienating either one, but it was inevitable that he would ultimately be forced to make a choice, at the cost of his own life if he followed the dictates of his heart and soul.
Dasios never took pains to conceal the fact that he was a devout Christian, nor did he, on the other hand, flaunt it in the face of his disbelieving friends, as a result of which he enjoyed immense popularity in the Roman army. His entire garrison respected him and the worst that any of his comrades would say about him was that he restricted himself to a solitary God whereas they – in their polytheism – had gods in abundance.
The polytheists had rituals which called for sacrifices, primarily the bloodletting of animals, but each year the worship of the god Chronos called for a human sacrifice to be made. The human invariably turned out to be an innocent Christian, usually just snatched at random and spirited away to the temple to be butchered on the altar. Dasios managed to avoid any connection with this sordid business, but in the year 298 he was caught unaware and placed in charge of a group of soldiers with orders to ferret out a Christian to sacrifice to Chronos. There was nothing his comrades could do for him without placing their own lives in jeopardy, and he told the garrison commander that his conscience would not let him carry out this order.
For this insubordination, Dasios was placed in prison. While he was awaiting trial on this charge, his case was called to the attention of the prefect, who had him brought for questioning about his Christianity. Dasios explained that although he was willing to fight in defense of his country, as his record amply proved, he would not take part in the slaughter of innocents, especially Christians. He was then informed that he would be given another chance to vindicate himself if he carried out his orders, or else he would be the Christian chosen for sacrifice. When Dasios refused, he was led back to prison to await his fate.
The garrison petitioned the Emperor Diocletian to overrule the prefect and allow their gallant comrade to return to the ranks to serve as he had served and die a soldier’s death in battle instead of upon a sacrificial altar. Diocletian agreed to interview the condemned soldier and had him brought to his court, where he was impressed by the noble bearing and sincerity of Dasios. After considerable questioning, Dasios was advised the prefect’s order would stand and that he was granted one last request. Dasios then asked that if he had to be sacrificed, let it be in the name of Jesus Christ and not the false Chronos. Dasios knew he was signing his own death warrant, but he was not put to death until he had suffered for many weeks. He died for Christ on November 20, 299."
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikimedia.