Saturday, May 20, 2017

Saints Zabulon and Susanna, Parents of Saint Nina of Georgia

Sts. Zabulon and Susanna (Feast Day - May 20)

According to Holy Tradition, Saint Nina and Saint George the Great Martyr were blood relatives on her father's side, who was from Cappadocia. At the same time as Saint George’s martyrdom, the nobleman Zabulon, the future father of Saint Nina, arrived in Rome from Cappadocia. Zabulon began to serve in the emperor’s army, and before long he was widely recognized as a courageous cavalryman and a fine soldier.

During a battle with the Franks the Lord granted victory to Zabulon — he captured the Frankish king and his suite and delivered them to the Roman emperor. The emperor sentenced the captives to death, but before they were executed they confessed their desire to be baptized into the Christian Faith. Zabulon relayed this to the emperor, and Zabulon himself became their godfather. Then he pleaded with the emperor to have mercy on his godchildren, and the emperor set them free.

Nearly all the Franks were converted to Christianity as a result of Zabulon’s efforts. A 9th-century Georgian hymnographer wrote, “Her father Zabulon converted Gaul with his sword, and blessed Nina converted Georgia with the Life-giving Cross.”


Some time later, Saint Zabulon journeyed to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage. While he was there he distributed all his possessions to the poor and began to serve Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem. There he met Susanna, the sister of the patriarch. Shortly thereafter they were joined in marriage by the patriarch.

The newly wedded couple moved to Cappadocia, where they had a baby girl whom they named Nina. While raising Nina, Saint Susanna served God and the needy with great dedication.

When Nina reached the age of twelve, her parents sold all their possessions and moved back to Jerusalem. With the blessing of Patriarch Juvenal, Zabulon departed for the wilderness to begin a life of asceticism. The place where he labored is known only to God. With the patriarch’s blessing, Susanna ministered to the poor and infirm.

On December 10, 1996, the Georgian Orthodox Church declared Zabulon and Susanna, the parents of Saint Nina, confessors of the Christian Faith. Living during a time when pagan religions were still widely practiced and Christians were often persecuted, they converted many people and then abandoned worldly things to follow God alone.

Chapel of Saints Zabulon and Susanna at the Monastery of Saint Nina in Bodbe, Georgia

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