April 6, 2017

Saint Gregory of Sinai (+ 1346)

St. Gregory of Sinai (Feast Days - November 27, February 11, April 6)


Perceived O Gregory as the consummate standard,
You encourage all to divine prayer.

By Monk Moses the Athonite

Venerable Gregory the Sinaite was a great neptic father and teacher of noetic prayer to Mount Athos and the Balkan people.

He was born in the village of Koukoulo in Smyrna in 1280 to devout parents. "Consumed with divine eros" he withdrew for Cyprus and Sinai, where he was tonsured a monk and received the name "Sinaite". There the monks remained "in the ecstasy of the immaterial and intangible life in which they conducted themselves." He was an excellent calligrapher, a good attendant, a diligent scholar, and he "exceeded all the other fathers there in learning" and in the knowledge of Holy Scripture. After many years he departed for Jerusalem and Crete. At Crete he was taught by a virtuous ascetic named Arsenios the secrets of the life of theoria.

He went to Mount Athos and found quietude at the Skete of Magoula. Gregory lamented, however, because the monks there "knew absolutely nothing about the meaning of noetic prayer or guarding the nous or watchfulness." To his many and good disciples he taught the work of deifying prayer. The demon who hates good however, hating his virtue and work, brought people to envy him. Thus he withdrew to quieter places, near the Monastery of Simonopetra, and "he did not want to even for a short time separate from theoria." A raid of Hagarenes forced him to leave the Holy Mountain and wander to different places. Returning to Great Lavra, new raids led him to Paroria in Bulgaria, where he built monasteries and acquired many worthy disciples, who continued his salvific work. In that land, after many victories against demons and miracles on behalf of the sick, he delivered his soul to the Lord.

Saint Gregory wanted to "drag all Christians to divine ascent by his teachings, to raise them, as well as himself, by means of the practice of the virtues to the heights of theoria by the continuous supplication of noetic prayer." He desired to accomplish the same purpose with his writings.

The author of his most valuable and wondrous life was his beloved disciple of many years Ecumenical Patriarch Kallistos I. This life was quickly translated to the medieval Bulgarian language by another disciple of Saint Gregory and enjoyed a large distribution. Paisius Velichkovsky translated it into Slavonic, Hieromonk Meletios into Romanian, Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite into modern Greek, and Archimandrite Justin Popovich into Russian and Serbian. A Divine Office to him was composed by Haralambos M. Bousias.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the First Tone
Thou didst reflect the angelic life, and thy soul was a vessel of theoria. O holy Father Gregory, thou radiant torch of virtues, the glory of Sinai and Athos, and enlightener of the Slavonic lands, guide us unerringly, that our souls may be saved.