August 17, 2018

Saint Tbeli Abuserisdze of Khikhuni, Adjara (+ 1240)

St. Tbeli Abuserisdze (Feast Day - August 17)

Our Venerable Father Tbeli Abuserisdze was born around 1190 and lived and labored in thirteenth century Georgia. His father John, the archduke of Upper Adjara, perished in a battle with the Turks. After Tbeli’s mother was widowed, she was tonsured a nun and given the name Katherine. Tbeli’s brothers, Abuseri and Bardan, were also well-known figures in their time. Tbeli received an education befitting his noble rank and succeeded in fully developing his natural abilities.

He left an indelible mark on the history of Georgian culture as a hymnographer, an astronomer, an expert in sacred music, and a scholar of diverse interests. We know from his works that he built a church in honor of Saint George in the village of Khikhani (in upper Adjara), and it has been suggested that he composed most of his works, including a chronicle of his own ancestry, in that village. He had seven children whom he brought there, and at the end of his chronicle he left a second testament, commanding that his family’s future generations be brought there as well.

Saint Tbeli contributed immensely to the life of Gelati Academy. Historians believe it was there that he received the broad education that allowed him to express himself in so many different fields. His collection of hymns to Saint John the Baptist, Saint John the Theologian, and Saint John Chrysostom reveals his true piety and talent as a writer of the Church. The profound theological ideas, the symbolic and mystical comprehension of phenomena, the “knowledge of the visible” and “comprehension of the invisible” evident in this work paint Saint Tbeli as one equally endowed as both a scholar and a theologian.

He was fascinated by the science of chronology, and he compiled an original work called Chronicles: Complete Commentaries and Rules or The Complete Timekeeper, which contains information related to calendars, descriptions of different systems for maintaining chronology, dates of ecclesiastic holidays, tables of moonrise and moonset, information on special cycles, etc. Abuserisdze's work is purely theoretical, based largely upon his own mathematical investigations rather than on direct astronomical observations. Combining a solid understanding of astronomy and history, this work conveys the cosmic meaning of the Julian calendar and Christian eschatology.

Saint Tbeli’s famous hagiographical work The New Miracle of the Great Martyr George contains valuable historical information about the Abuserisdze family’s efforts to revive Georgian culture during the ancient feudal epoch. The religious-historical work describes the construction activities of the Ajarian farmers, the art of the Kalatozi, the Potsk-Basil construction. It contains the Abouserdester's family of mathematics, as well as important information about the life and morals of that time, as well as the data of specific historical character. The chronological-astronomical treatise is an extensive cell reference that describes the advantages and disadvantages of different systems of the cycling system and provides a set of pilgrimages and lunar arrivals.

While pursuing his literary and scholarly interests, Saint Tbeli also labored as a holy and God-fearing pastor. (Scholars believe that the Saint was a bishop of Tbeti, from which he received his appellation Tbeli.) He reposed in peace in the year 1240. The Georgian Apostolic Church has numbered our Holy Father Tbeli Abuserisdze among the saints in recognition of the countless good deeds he performed on behalf of the Church and its people.