Monday, October 27, 2014

A Narration on the Conversion of the Iberian Nation by a Woman

St. Nina, Equal to the Apostles (Feast Day - January 14 and October 27)

The following narration of the conversion of the Iberians by a woman, not named in the account but popularly known by the name of Nina, in 332 A.D. was given by Theodoret in his Ecclesiastical History (Bk. 1, Chs. 23,24), and placed for commemoration by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite on October 27th. Below is the account of Theodoret, together with the Verse of Praise by St. Nikodemos.

A Narration on the Conversion of the Iberians, otherwise Called Georgians, Brought to the Knowledge of God by a Woman

The modest woman did a great work,
She converted the entire nation of the Iberians.

Iberia was guided into the way of truth by a captive woman. She was constant in prayer, allowing herself no softer bed than a sack spread upon the ground, and accounted fasting her highest luxury. This austerity was rewarded by gifts similar to those of the Apostles. The barbarians, who were ignorant of medicine, were accustomed, when attacked by disease, to go to one another's houses, in order to ask those who had suffered in a similar way, and had got well, by what means they had been cured. In accordance with this custom, a mother who had a sick child, repaired to this admirable woman, to enquire if she knew of any cure for the disease. The latter took the child, placed it upon her bed, and prayed to the Creator of the world to be propitious to it, and cure the disease. He heard her prayer, and made it whole. This extraordinary woman hence obtained great celebrity; and the queen, who was suffering from a severe disease, hearing of her by report, sent for her. The captive held herself in very low estimation, and would not accept the invitation of the queen. But the queen, forced by her sore need, and careless of her royal dignity, herself ran to the captive. The latter made the queen lie down upon her mean bed, and once again applied to her disease the efficacious remedy of prayer. The queen was healed, and offered as rewards for her cure, gold, silver, tunics, and mantles, and such gifts as she thought worthy of possession, and such as royal munificence should bestow. The holy woman told her that she did not want any of these, but that she would deem her greatest reward to be the queen's knowledge of true religion. She then, as far as in her lay, explained the Divine doctrines, and exhorted her to erect a church in honour of Christ who had made her whole. The queen then returned to the palace, and excited the admiration of her consort, by the suddenness of her cure; she then made known to him the power of that God whom the captive adored, and besought him to acknowledge the one only God, and to erect a church to Him, and to lead all the nation to worship Him. The king was greatly delighted with the miracle which had been performed upon the queen, but he would not consent to erect a church. A short time after he went out hunting, and the loving Lord made a prey of him as He did of Paul; for a sudden darkness enveloped him and forbade him to move from the spot; while those who were hunting with him enjoyed the customary sunlight, and he alone was bound with the fetters of blindness. In his perplexity he found a way of escape, for calling to mind his former unbelief, he implored the help of the God of the captive woman, and immediately the darkness was dispelled. He then went to the marvellous captive, and asked her to show him how a church ought to be built. He who once filled Bezaleel with architectural skill, graciously enabled this woman to devise the plan of a church. The woman set about the plan, and men began to dig and build. When the edifice was completed, the roof put on, and every thing supplied except the priests, this admirable woman found means to obtain these also. For she persuaded the king to send an embassy to the Roman emperor asking for teachers of religion. The king accordingly dispatched an embassy for the purpose. The emperor Constantine, who was warmly attached to the cause of religion, when informed of the purport of the embassy, gladly welcomed the ambassadors, and selected a bishop endowed with great faith, wisdom, and virtue, and presenting him with many gifts, sent him to the Iberians, that he might make known to them the true God. Not content with having granted the requests of the Iberians, he of his own accord undertook the protection of the Christians in Persia; for, learning that they were persecuted by the heathens, and that their king himself, a slave to error, was contriving various cunning plots for their destruction, he wrote to him, entreating him to embrace the Christian religion himself, as well as to honour its professors. His own letter will render his earnestness in the cause the plainer.

Letter Written by the Emperor Constantine to Sapor, the King of Persia, Respecting the Christians

"In protecting the holy faith I enjoy the light of truth, and by following the light of truth I attain to fuller knowledge of the faith. Therefore, as facts prove, I recognize that most holy worship as teaching the knowledge of the most holy God. This service I profess. With the Power of this God for my ally, beginning at the furthest boundaries of the ocean, I have, one after another, quickened every part of the world with hope. Now all the peoples once enslaved by many tyrants, worn by their daily miseries, and almost extinct, have been kindled to fresh life by receiving the protection of the State.

The God I reverence is He whose emblem my dedicated troops bear on their shoulders, marching wherever the cause of justice leads them, and rewarding me by their splendid victories. I confess that I reverence this God with eternal remembrance. Him, who dwells in the highest heavens, I contemplate with pure and unpolluted mind. On Him I call on bended knees, shunning all abominable blood, all unseemly and ill-omened odors, all fire of incantation, and all pollution by which unlawful and shameful error has destroyed whole nations and hurled them down to hell.

God does not permit those gifts which, in His beneficent Providence, He has bestowed upon men for the supply of their wants to be perverted according to every man's desire. He only requires of men a pure mind and a spotless soul, and by these He weighs their deeds of virtue and piety. He is pleased with gentleness and modesty; He loves the meek, and hates those who excite contentions; He loves faith, chastises unbelief; He breaks all power of boasting , and punishes the insolence of the proud. Men exalted with pride He utterly overthrows, and rewards the humble and the patient according to their desires. Of a just sovereignty He makes much, strengthens it by His aid, and guards the counsels of Princes with the blessing of peace.

I know that I am not in error, my brother, when I confess that this God is the Ruler and the Father of all men, a truth which many who preceded me upon the imperial throne were so deluded by error as to attempt to deny. But their end was so dreadful that they have become a fearful warning to all mankind, to deter others from similar iniquity. Of these I count that man one whom the wrath of God, like a thunderbolt, drove hence into your country, and who made notorious the memorial of his shame which exists in your own land. Indeed it appears to have been well ordered that the age in which we live should be distinguished by the open and manifest punishments inflicted on such persons. I myself have witnessed the end of those who have persecuted the people of God by unlawful edicts. Hence it is that I more especially thank God for having now, by His special Providence, restored peace to those who observe His law, in which they exalt and rejoice.

I am led to expect future happiness and security whenever God in His goodness unites all men in the exercise of the one pure and true religion. You may therefore well understand how exceedingly I rejoice to hear that the finest provinces of Persia are adorned abundantly with men of this class; I mean Christians; for it is of them I am speaking. All then is well with you and with them, for you will have the Lord of All merciful and beneficent to you. Since then you are so mighty and so pious, I commend the Christians to your care, and leave them in your protection. Treat them, I beseech you, with the affection that befits your goodness. Your fidelity in this respect will confer on yourself and on us inexpressible benefits."

This excellent emperor felt so much solicitude for all who had embraced the true religion, that he not only watched over those who were his own subjects, but also over the subjects of other sovereigns. For this reason he was blessed with the special protection of God, so that although he held the reins of the whole of Europe and of Africa, and the greater part of Asia, his subjects were all well disposed to his rule, and obedient to his government. Foreign nations submitted to his sway, some by voluntary submission, others overcome in war. Trophies were everywhere erected, and the emperor was styled Victorious.

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