November 20, 2010

Saint Gregory the Decapolite and His Relics in Bistritsa Monastery

Saint Gregory Decapolites (Feast Day - November 20)


A rampart surrounds you even after the end of your life,
Which is the living grace of God O Gregory.
On the twentieth Gregory was summoned to the heavens.

Saint Gregory the Decapolite was born in the Isaurian city of Decapolis in the eighth century, to parents whose names were Sergios and Maria. At the age of eight he was given over to be educated in sacred writings. From his childhood he loved the temple of God and church services. He read Holy Scripture constantly and with reverence.

In order to avoid the marriage, which his parents had intended for him from the time he began to grow a beard and mustache, he secretly left home. Due to the Iconoclast heresy, he spent all his life wandering: he was in Constantinople in order to denounce Iconoclasm, in Rome and throughout the West where he preached and worked miracles, he returned to Constantinople, and from there he lived as an ascetic on Mount Olympus for a while, where he was only recognized by his voice due to his extreme asceticism. Gregory preached the word of God everywhere, denouncing the Iconoclast heresy, and strengthening the faith and fortitude of the Orthodox, whom the heretics in those times oppressed, tortured and imprisoned.

Through his extreme ascetic effort, hard work, self-control and constant prayer, Gregory attained the gifts of prophecy and wonderworking. After overcoming the passions and reaching the height of virtue, he was permitted to hear angelic singing in praise of the Holy Trinity. From Mount Olympus Gregory went to Thessaloniki, then he left the Monastery of Saint Menas near Thessaloniki, where he had labored for a long time, and he went again to Constantinople in order to combat the Iconoclast heresy. At the capital, he found Symeon the Confessor and God-bearer, who was imprisoned due to his veneration of the icons, and Gregory venerated him and received his blessing. A grievous illness undermined his strength, and he departed to the Lord in the year 816.

Saint Gregory was buried at a monastery in Constantinople, and many miracles took place at his tomb. As a result, the monks removed the holy relics of Saint Gregory and enshrined them in the church where people could venerate them.

When Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, the relics of Saint Gregory were carried to the region of the Danube by a Turkish official. In 1498 Barbu Craiovescu, the Ban of the Romanian Land (Wallachia) heard of the miracles performed by the holy relics and bought them for a considerable sum of money. Barbu Craiovescu placed the relics in the main church of Bistritsa Monastery which he founded in Rimnicu Vilcea, where they remain to the present day.

A small book describing the miracles and healings performed by Saint Gregory the Decapolite in Romania has been written by Abbess Olga Gologan, who reposed in 1972.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
The twofold lamps of divine gifts, Proclus, shepherd of New Rome, and Gregory, scion of Decapolis, guide us by the light of grace as divinely-inspired fathers. Let us draw near and eagerly beseech them, that we may receive forgiveness and salvation of our souls.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
The Church knoweth thee to be a shining sun that enlight'neth all men with the rays of cures and with the beauty of virtue. Hence, O truly blessed Father, Christ's faithful servant, we all celebrate thy venerable memorial, O wise Gregory most righteous; and we now honour thy valiant struggles for Christ.