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November 2, 2022

An Abbess Recalls Her Experiences With Saint Gabriel of Georgia

Abbess Theodora (Makhvilandze) recalled the following about her experiences with Saint Gabriel the Confessor and Fool for Christ of Georgia:

The first time I met Elder Gabriel in 1986, it was in the Sioni Cathedral. His strange behavior caught my attention. During the Divine Liturgy, he shouted continuously and loudly. Leaving the temple, I saw the Elder falling at the feet of the Patriarch, asking for forgiveness. From then on, his form was imprinted on my memory. We often noticed his strange behavior. The Elder could call a taxi and not pay the driver, while giving the other driver more than he was entitled to. Furthermore, he could expel from the church any government employee or even a simple citizen, with shouts and without any apparent reason. His attitude towards people was tailored towards the individual.

Once we set off together for the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi. Suddenly, the old man started begging for money, asking for alms. And the people were responding. All the collected money the Elder ostentatiously handed over to me. Among the congregation there were acquaintances of mine. I could tell from their surprised faces how strange I looked, but I didn't care at all because I was next to grandpa. I lost track of time around him, not being able to tell if we were talking for a few minutes or whole hours. As time went by, I understood more and more that what the Elder said and did, although it seemed, many times, strange, was nevertheless a consequence of his deep faith and sacrificial love for God and his fellow man.

During the night, his voice could be heard from his cell. Sometimes he was shouting, sometimes he was arguing with someone or just chatting. We, however, knew that the Elder was alone. Sometimes I was frightened by this nightly communication of the Elder with invisible powers. Personally, I never doubted that Father Gabriel had his own special experience. He dedicated his whole life to the loving relationship with God and with fellow man. He encouraged them all, revived them, inspired them with hope, something that continues even today. The Elder is still with us today.

Source: Translation by John Sanidopoulos.