Feeds:
Posts

Archive for December, 2012

From various accounts of the lives of the Thirteen Syrian Fathers of Georgia, we can see that they were diligent not only in evangelising the Kartvelian people of the region, but also the Mountain People of the North Caucasus. Today we commemorate the life of Saint Ise (Jesse) of Tsilkani, who is famed not only in his diocese of Mtskheta-Mtianeti but amongst the Ossetian peoples of Samachablo and North Ossetia-Alania also. Contact between Georgian missionaries and the Mountain Peoples of the North Caucasus pre-dates Russian missionary efforts by over 500 years.

The Alans, an Iranian tribe and the ancestors of today’s Ossetian people, had been recorded by the Romans as living in scattered settlements in the North Caucasus since the first century AD. Around 100 AD, a large number of Alans had settled between the Don and Volga Rivers in southern Russia, where they were initially evangelised by Greek missionaries.  In 350, this European Alan kingdom was destroyed by the Huns, and the population scattered. By the 6th century, many had settled in what is now the Russian Republic of Alania-North Ossetia. The first Georgian missionaries reached them in the mid-sixth century, most notably Saint Ise of Tsilkani. The Alan people maintained their own religion, and by the 10th Century a substantial number were Jewish under the influence of their Khazar neighbours. By the early 10th Century, Alania‘s king was an Orthodox Christian and most of his subjects converted soon after. Georgian and Alan missionaries later co-operated in evangelising the Chechen and Ingush people with some success. Despite current difficulties and territorial disputes, the Georgian and Ossetian peoples have a long history of cooperation and mutual support; while divided by politics, they are united in a common faith.

The Monk Ise (Jesse), Bishop of Tsilkan, was born at Syrian Antioch in a pious Christian family. While still a lad he felt the pull towards the spiritual life, and with the attainment of mature age, and the blessing of his parents, he set out to one of the Antioch monasteries, where at the time asceticised the Monk John Zedazeni.

The Monk Ise was included amongst the number of the 13 holy Syrian (Cappadocian) Fathers, who were chosen by lot by the Monk John Zedazeni (as commanded him by the Mother of God). The Monk Ise arrived in Georgia together with them, and with them he taught and instructed the people in the pious life, providing an example of sanctity and healing the sick.

The reports of the deeds of the 13 Syrian Fathers spread about among the people such, that the Katholikos-Archbishop of Georgia Eulabios (533-544) proposed having a council of bishops meet and choose certain of these ascetics to fill empty cathedra-seats. Because of the difficulty of whom to choose, since all alike were worthy of the dignity of bishop, they proposed to go to the city of Zadeni, where the ascetics dwelt, and to choose those who at the time were celebrating the Divine Liturgy. In this manner thus became bishops: the PriestMonk Habib and the MonkDeacon Ise, appointed to the Tsilkani cathedra-seat.

Having arrived in his diocese, Ise was astonished by the rampant pagan rites, customs and superstition. He zealously concerned himself with the restoration of piety, preaching constantly and making frequent Divine-services. His work bore fruit – in the Tsilkani diocese Orthodox piety was affirmed, and with it also was affirmed the Church of Christ. Continuing also his ascetic efforts, Saint Ise attained to great gifts of prayer and wonderworking. Through his prayer, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ there separated off from the River Khana a stream of water, which – in following the course that the saint intended, formed the bed of a canal and stretched to the church of the MostHoly Mother of God (near Tsilkani).

Having put his diocese in good order, Saint Ise set off preaching to the mountain peoples of the great Caucasus Mountain range. He made the rounds of the ravines and the rocky crags with the Gospel and cross in hand, everywhere affirming the teaching of God’s revelation.

Saint Ise learned about his impending end through a revelation from above. Gathering his flock and clergy, he preached a spiritual instruction, communed the Holy Mysteries, and with hands upraised to Heaven he offered up his soul o the Lord. This transpired at the end VI Century. (The known exact day of the saint’s death is 18 August). The venerable relics of Saint Ise, already glorified by healing at the time of his burial, were consigned to earth in the church of the MostHoly Mother of God at Tsilkani, betwixt the altar-table and the table of oblation. The Church subsequently enumerated Saint Ise to the rank of the Saints and set his day of memory as 2 December.

From “Lives of the Georgian Saints” Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze,  St. Herman Press:

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Today is a busy day for the Georgian Church. In addition to commemorations for Holy King Vakhtang and the Apostle Andrew, the first two Catholicoi of the Autocephalous Georgian Church are commemorated today.

Catholicos is a Greek word (καθολικός ,plural καθολικοί, meaning ‘universal,’ or ‘general.’) and in the early days of the Patriarchate of Antioch, the term was used as the title of bishops under its authority, including that of Georgia. The title was also used by the Church of the East which split from Antioch, and by the non-Chalcedonian Church of Armenia, and continues to be used by those jurisdictions. The Patriarch of Georgia is currently styled as the “Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia” and is the only Eastern Orthodox patriarch to bear that title.

From “Lives of the Georgian Saints”

SAINT PETER

Saint Peter was the first Catholicos of Georgia. He led the Church of Kartli from the 460s through the beginning of the 6th century. According to God’s will, St. Peter inaugurated the dynasty of the chief shepherds of Georgia.

It is written in the biography of Holy King Vakhtang IV Gorgasali that the king was introduced to Peter, a pupil of St. Gregory the Theologian, during one of his visits to Byzantium, and he became very close to him. At that time he was also introduced to the future Catholicos Samuel.

The close spiritual bond of the holy king and the Catholicos, combined with their concerted efforts on behalf of the Church, contributed immeasurably to the establishment of friendly political relations between Georgia and Byzantium and the proclamation of the autocephaly of the Georgian Apostolic Church.

Having returned to his own capital, King Vakhtang sent an envoy to Byzantium to find him a wife. He also sent a request that the hierarch Peter be elevated as catholicos and that the priest Samuel be consecrated bishop. He pleaded with the patriarch to hasten the arrival of Catholicos Peter and the twelve bishops with him.

The Patriarch of Constantinople approved King Vakhtang’s request to institute the rank of Catholicos of Georgia. Since the Georgian Church was still under the jurisdiction of Antioch, Peter and Samuel were sent to the Antiochian patriarch himself to be elevated. The autocephaly of the Georgian Church was proclaimed upon the arrival of the holy fathers in Georgia.

St. Peter ruled the Church according to the principle of autocephaly and established a form of self-rule that would later help to increase the authority of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church.

The mutual respect and cooperation of the Catholicos and the holy king laid the foundations for future, harmonious relations between secular and Church authorities in Georgia. Their example defined the authority of the Church and a national love and respect for the king.

Peter accompanied Holy King Vakhtang Gorgasali to war with the Persians in 502. It is written that “the fatally wounded king Vakhtang summoned the catholicos, the queen, his sons and all the nobility.” St. Peter heard the king’s last confession, granted the remission of his sins, presided at his funeral service, and blessed the prince Dachi (502–514) to succeed him as king of Kartli.

Holy Catholicos Peter led the Georgian Church with great wisdom to the end of his days.

 

SAINT SAMEUL

St. Samuel ascended the throne of the Apostolic Orthodox Church of Georgia in the 6th century, after the holy Catholicos Peter.

Like St. Peter, Samuel was a native of Byzantium. He arrived with Catholicos Peter in Georgia as a bishop, at the invitation of King Vakhtang Gorgasali and with the blessing of the patriarch of Constantinople.

At that time Svetitskhoveli in Mtskheta was the residence of the Catholicos.


St. Samuel I

After the repose of Catholicos Peter, Samuel succeeded him, and King Dachi “bestowed upon him the city of Mtskheta, according to the will of King Vakhtang.” St. Samuel led the Georgian Church during the reigns of King Dachi and his son Bakur. He initiated construction of Tsqarostavi Church in the Javakheti region.

What we know of St. Samuel’s activity paints him as a pastor who demonstrated great foresight and cared deeply about his flock. He was also a close acquaintance of the holy martyr Queen Shushanik.

St. Samuel faithfully served the Autocephalous Church of Georgia and labored to strengthen the Christian Faith of the Georgian people to the end of his days.

The Holy Synod of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church canonized the holy Catholicos Peter and the holy Catholicos Samuel on October 17, 2002.

From THE LIVES OF THE GEORGIAN SAINTS by Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze, St. Herman Press

Read Full Post »

The Apostle Andrew is commemorated on the same day as Holy King Vakhtang.

He has a great significance for Georgians, as he preached here; according to Church tradition, the Apostles drew lots for which countries to evangelise, and the Virgin Mary was allocated Georgia. In a dream, she was advised to delegate this duty to the Apostle Andrew; the full story is presented in this video here.

The Apostle Andrew is also very significant to the Slavs, as he travelled throughout the Black Sea region to Crimea, and northwards up the Dniepr River to the Slav settlement of Novgorod. He was the first Patriarch of Constantinople, at that time a modest Greek city in Rome’s eastern provinces, and so is revered particularly by both the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow.

He was the brother of the Apostle Peter.  According to Orthodoxwiki.org

Andrew was a fisherman by trade, born in Bethsaida. A disciple of John the Forerunner, he left St. John to follow Jesus Christ following his baptism and brought along his brother, the Apostle Peter. Both are numbered among the Twelve Great Apostles. After Pentecost, the lot fell to St. Andrew to preach in:

  • Byzantium: he appointed St. Stachys as its first bishop
  • Thrace, Peloponnese, Greece, and Epirus: he converted many to the Faith and ordained bishops and priests for them
  • Georgia: he entered Georgia from Ajara, preached Christianity in Atsquri, built small church there and left miracle-working icon of Theotokos.
  • Russian lands: in Kiev he planted a cross on one of the high hills of Kiev, and he prophesied a city that would have many golden-domed churches, and a bright Christian future for the Russian people.

He was martyred in the Greek city of Patras by the Roman governor Aegeatos by crucifixion, in spite of the Apostle having cured his wife and brother of serious illness. Surviving for two days on the cross, he continued preaching the word of God to witnesses until his eventual repose.

Read Full Post »

Tomorrow we commemorate the passing of of the much venerated King Vakhtang Gorgasali. A powerful personality, he managed to evict the Eastern Roman Empire from its military occupation of western Georgia, while still maintaining an amicable relationship with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and having the Georgian Church’s autocephaly recognised. The father of Tbilisi as the national capital, his statue overlooking the Metekhi Bridge is a major Tbilisi landmark.

From “Lives of the Georgian Saints”

The holy and right-believing king Vakhtang I ascended the throne of Kartli at the age of fifteen. At that time Kartli was continually being invaded by the Persians from the south and by the Ossetians from the north. The situation was no better in western Georgia: the Byzantines had captured all the lands from Egrisi to Tsikhegoji.

After his coronation, the young King Vakhtang summoned his court and addressed his dedicated servants with great wisdom. He said that the sorrowful circumstances in which the nation had found itself were a manifestation of God’s anger at the sins of the king and the people. He called upon everyone to struggle in unity and selflessness on behalf of the Faith and motherland.

King Vakhtang led a victorious campaign against the Ossetians, freed the captive princess (his older sister), and signed several treaties with the Caucasian mountain tribes to secure their cooperation in the struggle against foreign conquerors. Then he carried out another campaign in western Georgia, freed that region from the Byzantines, reinforced the authority of KingGubaz, and returned in triumph to Kartli.

King Vakhtang was remarkable in faith, wisdom, grace, virtue, and appearance (he towered above all others at a stately seven feet ten inches). He spent many nights in prayer and distributed alms to the poor, in this way dedicating his life to God.

King Vakhtang could fight tirelessly in battle. Vested in armor and fully armed, he could carry a war-horse on his shoulders and climb from Mtskheta to the Armazi Fortress in the mountains outside the city. On foot he could outrun a deer. The holy king was judicious in politics, displayed great composure, and preserved a sense of calm even when critical decisions needed to be made.

On the brow of Vakhtang’s military helmet was depicted a wolf, and on the back, a lion. Catching a glimpse of the helmet with the wolf and lion, the Persians would cry out to one another: “Dar’ az gurgsar!” (“Beware of the wolf ‘s head!”) This was the source of King Vakhtang’s appellation “Gorgasali.”

During King Vakhtang’s reign the Georgian Church was first recognized as autocephalous. When the holy king banished the pagan fire-worshippers from Georgia, he also sent a certain Bishop Mikael — who was inclined to the Monophysite heresy, which had been planted in Georgia by the Persians — to Constantinople to be tried by the patriarch. The bishop had disgracefully cursed the king and his army for rising up against the Monophysites. In fact, he was so infuriated that when King Vakhtang approached him to receive his blessing, he kicked him in the mouth and broke several of his teeth. The patriarch of Constantinople subsequently defrocked Bishop Mikael and sent him to a monastery to repent.

More importantly perhaps, the patriarch and the Byzantine emperor then sent to the patriarch of Antioch several clergymen whom King Vakhtang had chosen for consecration. In Antioch the patriarch consecrated twelve of these clergymen as bishops and enthroned a certain Petre as the first Catholicos of Georgia.

Vakhtang fulfilled the will of Holy King Mirian by founding the Georgian Holy CrossMonastery in Jerusalem. In addition, he replaced a wooden church that had been built in Mtskheta at the time of St. Nino with a church made of stone. During his reign several new dioceses were founded. King Vakhtang built a cathedral in Nikozi (Inner Kartli) and established a new diocese there, to which he translated the holy relics of the Protomartyr Razhden.

King Vakhtang built fortresses at Tukhari, Artanuji, and Akhiza; founded monasteries in Klarjeti at Artanuji, Mere, Shindobi, and Akhiza; and established many other strongholds, churches, and monasteries as well. He built a new royal residence in Ujarma and laid the foundations of the new Georgian capital, Tbilisi. His political creed consisted of three parts: an equal union of the Georgian Church with the Byzantine Church, national independence, and the unity of the Church and nation.

In the year 502 the sixty-year-old King Vakhtang was obliged to defend his country for the last time. In a battle with the Persians he was fatally wounded when a poisoned arrow pierced him under the arm. Before he died, King Vakhtang summoned the clergy, his family and his court and urged them to be strong in the Faith and to seek death for Christ’s sake in order to gain eternal glory.

All of Georgia mourned the passing of the king. His body was moved from the royal residence in Ujarma to Mtskheta, to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, which he had himself built. There he was buried with great honor.

Some fifteen centuries later, with the blessing of Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, an addition was built onto the Sioni Patriarchal Cathedral in Holy King Vakhtang Gorgasali’s name, and a cathedral in his honor was founded in the city of Rustavi.

THE LIVES OF THE GEORGIAN SAINTS by Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze,  Herman Press:

 

 

Read Full Post »

Today marks the feast of one of Georgia’s famed Thirteen Syrian Fathers, Saint Abibos. He was martyred by Persian colonial officials as a result of his defiance of Zoroastrian fire-worshipping practices.

It is interesting that, after the conversion of Iran to Islam, Zoroastrians became a persecuted minority in Iran and many fled. While the largest community is in India (the Parsi and Irani communities), a substantial number took refuge in the Caucasus and the Russian Empire. There is still a functioning Zoroastrian religious community in Tbilisi which operates quietly without persecution. The author is familiar with several Zoroastrian families in Tbilisi who have accepted baptism into the Church over the past twenty years.

From “Lives of the Georgian Saints”

With the blessing of his instructor, St. Abibos began his apostolic activity in Nekresi, a village set among the hills in the eastern region of Kakheti. For his virtuous deeds, St. Abibos was soon consecrated bishop of his diocese.

According to the chronicle Life of Kartli, St. Abibos converted not only Georgians but also most of the mountain tribes — including the Dagestani/Didoians — to the Christian Faith. Abounding with apostolic zeal, St. Abibos journeyed throughout the villages of his diocese, preaching the Truth and calling upon all to strengthen the true Faith. The time that St. Abibos was serving as bishop coincided with a dark period of Persian rule in eastern Georgia. The Persians exerted every effort to implant their faith — the worship of fire — and everywhere erected altars where the fire burned without ceasing.

Once in the village of Rekhi the holy hierarch, finding a group of fire-worshipers forcing the Georgian faithful to worship the flame, poured water on their fire to extinguish it. The enraged pagan priests bound St. Abibos, beat him cruelly, locked him up, and reported the incident to the marzban. The marzban ordered that the bishop be brought to him at once.

St. Abibos was a friend of the holy wonderworker Simeon the Stylite of the Wonderful Mountain. St. Simeon received a sign from God of the imminent martyrdom of St. Abibos and, in order to console him, sent him a letter, an evlogia (a blessing — probably a piece of prosphoron or some other holy object) and a staff. While Abibos was being escorted to the marzban, in the village of Ialdo he met a messenger from Antioch who presented him with St. Simeon’s gifts. The letter and gifts gladdened the holy hierarch and strengthened him for his martyrdom. Then St. Abibos was approached by a group of Christians who offered to help him escape, but he graciously declined.

Having arrived in Mtskheta, the saint prayed at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, then requested that the guards permit him to meet with St. Shio of Mgvime. The Persians granted his request, and the spiritual brothers greeted one another with love and prayed together to the Lord.

St. Abibos was brought before the dread marzban and asked how he could dare raise his hand against the Persian god. He replied with complete composure, saying, “I did not kill any god; rather I extinguished a fire. Fire is not a god, but a part of nature, which is created by God. Your fire was burning wood, and a little water was enough to extinguish it. The water turned out to be stronger. Your fury amazes me. Isn’t it humiliating to call something a god which has no soul?” Furious at this response, the marzban ordered the holy hierarch’s execution.

The executioners mercilessly beat the blessed Abibos and shattered his skull with stones. Then they dragged his body through the city, cast it to the beasts, and assigned a guard to ensure that the Christians did not come to steal it. Nevertheless, that night the priests and monks of Rekhi came, took the body of the holy martyr, and buried it with great honor at Samtavisi Monastery (located midway between Mtskheta and Gori). Many miraculous healings have taken place over the grave of St. Abibos. During the rule of Prince Stepanoz of Kartli, the incorrupt relics of St. Abibos were translated from Samtavisi to Samtavro Monastery in Mtskheta, according to the decree of Catholicos Tabori. They were buried under the holy altar at Samtavro Church.

THE LIVES OF THE GEORGIAN SAINTS by Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze  St. Herman Press:

Read Full Post »

For westerners living in Georgia, it is perplexing as to why Georgian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, in common with the Churches of Russia and Serbia. Even more perplexing is that the Orthodox Churches of Greece, Constantinople, Romania, Bulgaria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria celebrate it on December 25.

https://i0.wp.com/farm5.static.flickr.com/4017/4254405656_ff9970d3a3.jpg

Throughout the Orthodox World, the old Julian calender was maintained for Ecclesiastical events until quite recently. The civil authorities in the Slavic Lands (the Russian Empire, Serbia and Bulgaria) maintained the Julian Calendar until the early 20th century; Church authorities continued using the Julian Calendar regardless. Various Patriarchates decided to adopt the Gregorian Calendar during the 20th century but Russia, Serbia and Georgia refused to change. They continue celebrating Christmas on December 25 according to the Julian Calendar, but that falls on January 7 according to the Gregorian calendar used by the civil authorities. The result is that the latter three Patriarchates celebrate Christmas two weeks later than their western and southern co-religionists.

This article by Roman Catholic writer William Tighe examines why the date December 25 in the Julian Calendar was appropriated by the early Church for the date of the Nativity in the first place.

“Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.

Continue reading the article here

 

Read Full Post »

Today the Church celebrates the Entry of the Virgin Mary into the Temple at Jerusalem, otherwise known as the Presentation. Church Tradition maintains she lived from the age of three as a temple virgin until the time of her betrothal to Saint Joseph. It certainly explains her piety and her capability in instructing her Son in the spiritual life; you may recall that when Jesus entered the temple as a boy, the priests were amazed at the depth and clarity of his theological understanding.

https://i1.wp.com/orthodoxwiki.org/images/6/6b/Entrance.jpg

While there is no mention of this is the four canonical gospels, it was maintained as Church Tradition from the earliest days of the Church. According to the Church

The Entry into the Temple of the MostHoly Mother of God happened, according to the preserved accounts of Holy Tradition, in the following manner. The parents of the Virgin Mary, Righteous Joakim and Anna, in praying for a solution to their childlessness, gave a vow that if a child were born to them, they would dedicate it to the service of God.

When the MostHoly Virgin reached three years of age, the holy parents decided to fulfill their vow. Having gathered together their kinsfolk and acquaintances, and having dressed the All-Pure Mary in Her finest clothes, and with the singing of sacred songs and with lighted candles in their hands they carried Her to the Jerusalem Temple. There the high-priest with a throng of priests met the maiden of God. In the Temple, the stairway led up fifteen high steps. The Child Mary, so it seemed, could not Herself make it up this stairway. But just as they placed Her on the first step, strengthened by the power of God, She quickly made it up over the remaining steps and ascended to the highest. Then the high-priest, through an inspiration from above, led the MostHoly Virgin into the Holy of Holies, and herein of all people it was only the high-priest that entered one time a year with a purifying sacrifice of blood. Therefore all those present in the Temple were astonished at this most unusual occurrence.

Righteous Joachim and Anna, having entrusted their Child to the will of the Heavenly Father, returned home. The MostBlessed Mary remained in the domicile for girls, situated near the Temple. Round about the Temple, through the testimony of Holy Scripture (Exodus 38; 1 Kings 1: 28; Lk. 2: 37), and also the historian Josephus Flavius, there were many living quarters, in which dwelt those dedicated to the service of God.


 The earthly life of the MostHoly Mother of God from the time of Her infancy to the time of Her ascent to Heaven is shrouded in deep mystery. Her life at the Jerusalem Temple was also a secret. “If anyone were to ask me, – said Blessed Jerome, – how the MostHoly Virgin spent the time of Her youth, – I would answer: that is known to God Himself and the Archangel Gabriel, Her constant guardian”.

But in the Church tradition there were preserved accounts, that during the time of the stay of the All-Pure Virgin at the Jerusalem Temple, She grew up in a community of pious virgins, read diligently the Holy Scripture, occupied Herself with handcrafts, prayed constantly and grew in love for God. In remembrance of the Entry of the MostHoly Mother of God into the Jerusalem Temple, Holy Church from ancient times established a solemn feastday. The decretals for the making of the feast in the first centuries of Christianity are found in the traditions of Palestinian Christians, where mention is made that the holy Empress Helen built a church in honour of the Entry into the Temple of the MostHoly Mother of God.

In the IV Century there is mention of this feast by Sainted Gregory of Nyssa. In the VIII Century Saints Germanos and Tarasios, Constantinople Patriarchs, delivered sermons on the feastday of the Entry.

The feast of the Entry into the Temple of the MostHoly Mother of God – foretells the blessing of God for the human race, the preaching of salvation, the promise of the coming of Christ.”

Calendar, Saint Herman’s Press

 

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts

%d bloggers like this: