February 23, 2022

Saint Gorgonia, Sister of Saint Gregory the Theologian (St. Justin Popovich)

St. Gorgonia of Nazianzus (Feast Day - February 23)

By St. Justin Popovich
Among the chosen Christian families, in which all or almost all of their members have dedicated themselves to the Lord, is the holy family of our Holy Father Gregory the Theologian. In this holy family, holy parents were also celebrated with holiness: the father Gregory and the mother Nonna, and their holy children: Gregory the Theologian, his brother Caesarius and his blessed sister Gorgonia.

Blessed Gorgonia would have been born in the small town of Nazianzus, near Caesarea of Cappadocia, but according to her brother Gregory, her true homeland was the Jerusalem Above, a city in heaven to which all true Christians aspire and in which Christ is king and all the saints of the heavenly Church are citizens. firstborn. As for her nobility, adds Saint Gregory, it consisted in preserving the image of God in the soul and in reaching the likeness of God through virtue (η της εικονος τηρησις και η προς το αρχετυπον εξ). Her parents were a new Abraham and Sarah, that is, Saint Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus, and his holy wife Nonna. Saint Nonna was born and raised in the house of Christian parents, while Gregory was initially a pagan and an idolater. Saint Nonna converted him to the faith of Christ with her faith, virtue and wisdom, because he was a man of good and gentle nature. Converted to Christianity by Saint Nonna, he was so famous after his holy baptism in faith and virtuous living that he was elected bishop of the Church in Nazianzus, where he served as a bishop wisely and reverently until his blessed death in 374. Blessed Nonna was a model of Christian virtues and piety, an excellent wife and godly mother, an ornament and praise to the female race. She nurtured so much piety towards the temple of God that, according to her son Saint Gregory, she never turned her back on the east where the Sanctuary and the Holy Altar are, nor did she ever talk in the temple during the holy services. With such virtues and her unceasing prayers to God, she raised such holy and virtuous children and dedicated them to God.

Saint Gorgonia was in everything the image of her holy mother. Raised in such a holy home and by such holy parents, she became another Nonna, an example of virtue and chastity for all women of her time, and for those who lived before and after her. Since her parents gave her in an honorable and lawful marriage, she also surpassed many virgins in chastity and humility while living in marriage. Because she united marriage and chastity by surrendering all of herself to God, and although she had a husband for her head, she never forgot that God was her first and most important head. Because of all this, she dedicated herself to God. But her great and precious feat was also in the fact that she managed to attract her husband to a godly life and do good deeds. In addition to her husband, she made her bodily fruit, that is, her children and the children of her children, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, because she gave birth to all her family and home spiritually and dedicated them to God. This blessed one clearly showed that marriage is also praiseworthy and sublime, although not as much as virginity, as long as if in marriage it is pleasing first of all to God and if its fruits are according to God.

In her chastity, Blessed Gorgonia surpassed that chaste woman described by the wise Solomon in his stories (cf. Proverbs 31:10). Because she was quiet and calm in the house, she rarely appeared outside, and she kept her eyes and other senses in chastity and a perfect measure of virtue. She was modest in both dress and demeanor. She did not adorn herself with rich dresses, nor with gold and precious stones, as many unrestrained and debauched women do, nor did she smear her face with scents and colors, because only those who oppose the work of the Creator do that and spoil the image of God on their face. This blessed woman considered decorating her soul with Christian virtues and good deeds as her only decoration. And in her virtues of wise knowledge and pious reasoning, this blessed woman imitated her physical and spiritual parents, and because of that, many turned to her for advice and instruction. As for piety and love for the temples of God and for the priests, she was in the forefront here as well, and also in love for the suffering and in mercy for the needy. As Righteous Job in ancient times, so she received everyone in her home and hosted them with love. She was truly a refuge for the poor and a mother to the orphans, while doing all her good deeds secretly and hidden from others. She practiced two virtues at the same time, which people do not usually do together, such as: by giving abundant alms to others, she honored and abstained for herself. She often read the word of God in the Holy Scriptures, and even more often she kept vigil in prayers, sometimes standing and sometimes kneeling in prayer.

It would be impossible to enumerate all the virtues of this blessed one, so let's tell only two cases, where the reward of God that God gave her is clearly visible, still here on earth, for her many God-pleasing virtues.

Once Gorgonia rode in a cart to which mules were harnessed. It is not known why, but these mules suddenly became enraged on the road, and like savages they started running along the road, so the cart overturned and she fell between the wheels. As the mules did not stop even then, but continued to run furiously, the cart pulled her along the road, and many of her limbs and bones were broken. This event would be a great scandal for unbelievers, because they wondered: how could God allow such a holy woman to experience such a great evil? This saint, in spite of her great wounds and pains, did not want to call a doctor so that she would not expose her body, and she did not want to ask for other help, but transferred all her hope only to God. And indeed, not much time passed and the blessed Gorgonia was completely healed, and at the same time the miraculous wisdom and gentleness of God were shown. For God allowed this woman to suffer as an ordinary man, and then healed her in an unusual and superhuman way. This is how those who were offended before were healed by this miracle.

On another occasion, this blessed woman became seriously ill, and all her body and blood in her veins burned for an hour like in a fire, and for an hour she cooled and froze again. This condition changed several times, and the saint lay in bed with her limbs completely numb, and no medical skills or medication could help her, not even the tears of her parents and the prayers of many around her. What did Saint Gorgonia do then? Having lost hope of any human help, she turned to the only physician of all - God. One night, when the illness had subsided a little, while everyone was asleep, she went to church and with strong faith turned to the Holy Altar, calling with all her might for the help of God who is glorified on that Altar, and reminding Him of all His philanthropic good deeds done to people. Then, as in the Gospel, where that bleeding woman touched the edge of the robe of Christ and was healed, so she also touched the Holy Altar with her head and with tears and cries of prayer she said to Christ that she would not leave until she was healed. After anointing her body, O the wonder! she immediately received salvation and healing. And she of illumined body and more illumined soul and mind, got up and returned home healthy, thus gaining the fulfillment of her firm hope in God.

Blessed Gorgonia departed in this way. Since she had long wanted to leave the earth as soon as possible to be with Christ, before Whom she had great freedom, she experienced this before she died. After a long prayer vigil before God, she has a sweet dream. In that dream, she saw a vision in which she would be shown the exact day and hour of her departure to the Lord. She did not have a special need to prepare for death, because her whole life was pure, and in addition she was completely cleansed by the Holy Spirit in the holy baptism she had received. She only prayed to God that her husband would be baptized with his baptism, which God fulfilled for her, because He always does the will of His faithful servants. When the announced day of her death came, Blessed Gorgonia presented herself to the Lord after a short illness, as she had previously told her children and husband and acquaintances everything she had to say to them as her blessing and advice and lesson. When the Blessed One was dying, her blessed father, the old Bishop Gregory, leaned over her and heard her say softly these words of the divine Psalmist: "I will lie in peace and sleep" (Ps. 4:9), which is really true of her and related. Blessed Gorgonia reposed before reaching old age, but rich in virtues and godly deeds. She reposed around the year 370.

From The Lives of the Saints. Translation by John Sanidopoulos.