September 15, 2020

Saint Joseph of Alaverdi, One of the Thirteen Holy Syrian Fathers (+ 570)

St. Joseph of Alaverdi (Feast Day - September 15)

Venerable Joseph of Alaverdi was from Antioch and became a disciple and companion of Saint John of Zedazeni, who in the sixth century arrived in Georgia with twelve Syrian ascetics to spread the Christian faith.

With the blessing of his teacher, Joseph settled in the village of Alaverdi in eastern Georgia, then a small village and former pagan religious center dedicated to the Moon. According to tradition, he carried with him a cross formed from the wood of the original Life-giving Cross of our Savior.

At that time the region around Alaverdi was deserted and barren. One day the Lord sent a nobleman to hunt in the valley where the pious hermit dwelt among the wild animals. Seeing the Saint, the nobleman guessed immediately that before him stood a holy man. He bowed before him, kissed him, and humbly asked what had brought him to this deserted place.

Inspired by Saint Joseph, the nobleman vowed to erect a church in the Alaverdi Wilderness, and he laid the foundations of Alaverdi Monastery in fulfillment of this vow. Venerable Joseph was overjoyed at the accomplishment of this God-pleasing work.

Soon the people began to hear stories about the holy elder who was laboring in Alaverdi. Crowds of the faithful flocked there to see him with their own eyes and hear the blessed Joseph’s preaching. As a result of his unceasing efforts, unbelief was uprooted, and the divine services of the Church were firmly established in that region. Many of the faithful were so drawn to Abba Joseph’s holy life, boundless love, and miracles that they left the world to join in his labors.

Gradually the number of hermits increased, and a large community was formed. Saint Joseph was the first abbot of this brotherhood. Utterly exhausted from a life of God-pleasing ascesis and labors, Saint Joseph sensed the approach of death and prepared to stand before the Lord God. He gathered his disciples, blessed them, instructed them for the last time, appointed a new abbot, and peacefully departed to the Lord.

With great honor Saint Joseph’s disciples buried him at the Alaverdi Church. Many miracles have since occurred over the grave of the venerable elder.

At a height of over 55 m (180 ft), Alaverdi Cathedral was the tallest religious building in Georgia, until the construction of the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi, which was consecrated in 2004. However its overall size is smaller than the Cathedral of Svetitskhoveli in Mtskheta. The monastery is also the focus of the annual religious celebration called Alaverdoba, a harvest festival of several days climaxing on the September 15th, the feast day of Saint Joseph.

Alaverdi Monastery

Tomb of St. Joseph