November 2, 2019

The Self-Sacrifice of Saint Gabriel the Fool for Christ

By Malkhaz Dzhinoria

One day, when his spiritual children decided to leave after an ordinary day with him, the Elder suddenly turned to Otar Nikolaisvil, whom he very much trusted, and asked him to drive him to the Ghvtaeba Monastery in Martqopi. He, with some embarrassment, explained to him that his car was not in good condition and suggested that they go another day. The Elder was generally upset when he was not heard or objected against. He often said, "The tongue runs forward and the mind stays behind," while in his cell you were not allowed to move a single crumb without his blessing.

So his faithful disciple tells us:

"As he looked at me, I realized that it made no sense to raise other objections. So we started for Martqopi. Thoughts swirled within me: 'This time you had to listen to me, Father Gabriel. After going straight, my car will stop on the first uphill. We'll have to spend the night in the woods and I will come out as having told the truth. At least you will take account of my words next time.' So thinking about these things, we were approaching the forest and the uphill. Suddenly the Elder opened his hands and in an unusual voice said to me:

'My child, don't look back. Saint Anthony of Martkofeli is sitting in our car.'

It was evening and out of my fear the hairs of my head had risen. I really wanted to look back but he warned me more categorically:

'Don't look back, hold the steering wheel and watch out for the road ahead.'

Where the car was going to stop, something suddenly broke on the accelerator pedal and fell down. Immediately the throttle accelerated and the car started running, on the rugged and narrow roads, just as I was turning the steering wheel. In fact, uphill I was trying to hold the throttle! I had the feeling that a thousand people were pushing the car. Then I thought of looking back at least through the mirror. I did not finish my thought, and Father Gabriel again made it clear to me:

'Don't look back!'

We approached the entrance of the monastery. The gate was open and the car rushed into the courtyard, then immediately the engine went off.

The Elder said relieved:

'What madness came over me wanting to come here. At least they may have good wine!'

In the monastery we were received with love and respect. At that time Father Joseph Kikwaze was the abbot. We were called to the refectory when we heard noise from the courtyard of the monastery. Some drunkards threatened and insulted the monks:

'Why do you ban us from partying in the monastery courtyard? This is our pilgrimage. Today we will beat you so much that you will not be able to stay here anymore.'

Father Joseph and the monks were trying to calm them. But the situation seemed to end in conflict. Then I decided to intervene. Father Gabriel immediately looked at me, as if he were saying to me, 'Am I so small in your eyes?' And he said to me:

'They will calm down quickly and leave.'

Then he went out, stood in front of the monks, opened his hands and cried out loud:

'Hit me first! If you are thirsty for blood, mine is enough! But leave them be! If you kill me, the Lord will forgive you. But if you kill them, no.'

As soon as the invaders saw an elderly monk speak in this way, they were surprised and did not know what to do. Slowly they calmed down and began to apologize. Some knelt down, took his blessing and quietly left the monastery. When we got back to the refectory, the Elder said smiling:

'What a voice I had, what a pronunciation! What kind of actor would I be, what role would I play?'

Pleased with the happy outcome, the monks asked him many questions, and the Elder said to them with his characteristic theatricality and humor:

'First bring me a "professor" [namely some wine or alcoholic drink]. Don't be stingy! They would have taken it by force from you. Give me a little, don't be greedy!'

So in his own way the Saint taught us how to behave towards each of our brothers in a spirit of self-sacrifice."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.