Thursday, September 30, 2010

Saint Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia

St. Gregory the Enlightener (Feast Day - September 30)

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Life

Gregory was born of a prominent family which was related to the royal houses of Persia (King Arteban) and Armenia (King Khosrov). When these two houses made war against each other, Gregory withdrew to Caesarea in Cappadocia. It was there that he first learned of the Christian Faith, was baptized and married. He had two sons of this marriage, Bardanes and Aristakes, and dedicated them both to the service of the Church. After the death of his wife, Gregory returned to Armenia and placed himself in the service of King Tiridates. He faithfully served him, and Tiridates loved Gregory. But when the king learned that Gregory was a Christian, he became greatly enraged and pressured him to deny Christ and worship idols. Not succeeding in this, Tiridates subjected Gregory to many harsh tortures, then threw him into a deep pit full of poisonous reptiles to kill him. However, the All-Seeing God preserved St. Gregory's life in that pit for fourteen full years. After that, Tiridates set out to persecute all Christians in his kingdom, and attacked a convent where there were thirty-seven nuns, including the abbess, Gaiana. When he had killed all of them by terrible tortures, Tiridates went insane and was like a wild boar. His sister had a dream in which a man, dazzlingly bright, told her that Tiridates would only become well when Gregory was removed from the pit. Taken from the pit, Gregory healed and baptized Tiridates. Then, at the wish of Tiridates, Gregory became Bishop of Armenia. Through God's providence, Tiridates also helped him in enlightening all of Armenia and its surrounding regions with the Christian Faith. St. Gregory ended his earthly life of great labor in old age, in about the year 335. Meanwhile, his son Aristakes had been consecrated a bishop, and he continued the work of his father, both physically and spiritually. Aristakes was one of the 318 Holy Fathers at the First Ecumenical Council.


Reflection

Marvelous changes occur daily in the destiny of men - in the present, as in times past. Those humiliated for the sake of God's righteousness are raised to great heights, and the blasphemers of the Faith are converted to servants of the Faith. King Tiridates threw St. Gregory into a deep pit. The saint spent fourteen years in that pit, forgotten by the entire world, but not by God. Who among men could have thought that the greatest light of the Armenian people was to be found in the darkness of a pit? And who would have ever thought that the powerful and tyrannical King Tiridates would one day save the life of that same Gregory, whom he had condemned to death, and would help him more than the rest of the whole world could help him? After fourteen years, God revealed Gregory as still alive. Gregory then miraculously healed the insane king. King Tiridates, the unrestrained persecutor of Christ, was baptized and became the greatest zealot for the Christian Faith! It could be said that, with God's help, Gregory and Tiridates were both drawn out of the pit of darkness-Gregory a physical one, and Tiridates a spiritual one. Oh, the infinite wisdom of God in governing the destinies of men! The formerly wild and passionate Tiridates was softened and ennobled so much by repentance and the Christian Faith, that he came to resemble St. Gregory more than his old, unrepentant self.

See also: The Relics of Saint Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia


Hymn of Praise

Gregory was a great light
To his people and his nation.
He spurned glory and riches
For the poverty of Christ the Crucified,
Preferring eternal riches in heaven.
He raised his mind to heaven and thoughts of God,
And endured much physical torture,
As if it all were painless.
He was strong with the power of God's grace,
And nourished by God's heavenly food,
And armored against evil by God's providence.
He was lowered into the pit from his glory,
And from the pit he was elevated to the heights-
The heights of eternal glory.
Gregory, great and holy,
Enlightened Armenia with Jesus.
Even the wild boar, Tiridates,
Was baptized under the Cross and became a lamb.
With great glory, the land of Armenia glorifies
Its miracle-worker, St. Gregory.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
As a sharer of the ways and a successor to the throne of the Apostles, O inspired of God, thou foundest discipline to be a means of ascent to divine vision. Wherefore, having rightly divided the word of truth, thou didst also contest for the Faith even unto blood, O Hieromartyr Gregory. Intercede with Christ our God that our souls be saved.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Let us the faithful today all acclaim with divine songs and hymns the renowned hierarch Gregory as an athlete for truth's sake, as a shepherd and teacher, a universal luminary bright with splendour; for he intercedeth with Christ that we be saved.

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