Lives of the Saints

14th of May. Saint Queen Tamar King of Georgia (†1213)

posted May 14, 2020, 7:48 AM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated May 14, 2020, 7:49 AM ]

Saint Queen Tamar King of Georgia (†1213)

Memory 14th of May

In 1166 a daughter, Tamar, was born to King Giorgi III (1155–1184) and Queen Burdukhan of Georgia. The king proclaimed that he would share the throne with his daughter from the day she turned twelve years of age.

The royal court unanimously vowed its allegiance and service to Tamar, and father and daughter ruled the country together for five years. After King Giorgi’s death in 1184, the nobility recognized the young Tamar as the sole ruler of all Georgia. Queen Tamar was enthroned as ruler of allGeorgia at the age of eighteen. She is called “King” in the Georgian language because her father had no male heir and so she ruled as a monarch and not as a consort.

At the beginning of her reign, Tamar convened a Church council and addressed the clergy with wisdom and humility: “Judge according to righteousness, affirming good and condemning evil,” she advised. “Begin with me — if I sin I should be censured, for the royal crown is sent down from above as a sign of divine service. Allow neither the wealth of the nobles nor the poverty of the masses to hinder your work. You by word and I by deed, you by preaching and I by the law, you by upbringing and I by education will care for those souls whom God has entrusted to us, and together we will abide by the law of God, in order to escape eternal condemnation.… You as priests and I as ruler, you as stewards of good and I as the watchman of that good.”

The Church and the royal court chose a suitor for Tamar: Yuri, the son of Prince Andrei Bogoliubsky of Vladimir-Suzdal (in Georgia Yuri was known as “Giorgi the Russian”). The handsome Giorgi Rusi was a valiant soldier, and under his command the Georgians returned victorious from many battles. His marriage to Tamar, however, exposed many of the coarser sides of his character. He was often drunk and inclined toward immoral deeds. In the end, Tamar’s court sent him away from Georgia to Constantinople, armed with a generous recompense.

Many Middle Eastern rulers were drawn to Queen Tamar’s beauty and desired to marry her, but she rejected them all. Finally at the insistence of her court, she agreed to wed a second time to ensure the preservation of the dynasty. This time, however, she asked her aunt and nurse Rusudan (the sister of King Giorgi III) to find her a suitor. The man she chose, Davit-Soslan Bagrationi, was the son of the Ossetian ruler and a descendant of King Giorgi I (1014–1027).

In 1195 a joint Muslim military campaign against Georgia was planned under the leadership of Atabeg[1] Abu Bakr of Persian Azerbaijan. At Queen Tamar’s command, a call to arms was issued. The faithful were instructed by Metropolitan Anton of Chqondidi to celebrate All-night Vigils and Liturgies and to generously distribute alms so that the poor could rest from their labors in order to pray.

In ten days the army was prepared, and Queen Tamar addressed the Georgian soldiers for the last time before the battle began. “My brothers! Do not allow your hearts to tremble before the multitude of enemies, for God is with us.… Trust God alone, turn your hearts to Him in righteousness, and place your every hope in the Cross of Christ and in the Most Holy Theotokos!” she exhorted them.

Having taken off her shoes, Queen Tamar climbed the hill to the Metekhi Church of the Theotokos (in Tbilisi) and knelt before the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. She prayed without ceasing until the good news arrived: the battle near Shamkori had ended in the unquestionable victory of the Orthodox Georgian army.

After this initial victory the Georgian army launched into a series of triumphs over the Turks, and neighbour countries began to regard Georgia as the protector of the entire Trans-Caucasus. By the beginning the 13th century, Georgia was commanding a political authority recognized by both the Christian West and the Muslim East.

Georgia’s military successes alarmed the Islamic world. Sultan Rukn al-Din was certain that a united Muslim force could definitively decide the issue of power in the region, and he marched on Georgia around the year 1203, commanding an enormous army.

Having encamped near Basiani, Rukn al-Din sent a messenger to Queen Tamar with an audacious demand: to surrender without a fight. In reward for her obedience, the sultan promised to marry her on the condition that she embrace Islam; if Tamar were to cleave to Christianity, he would number her among the other unfortunate concubines in his harem. When the messenger relayed the sultan’s demand, a certain nobleman, Zakaria Mkhargrdzelidze, was so outraged that he slapped him on the face, knocking him unconscious.

At Queen Tamar’s command, the court generously bestowed gifts upon the ambassador and sent him away with a Georgian envoy and a letter of reply. “Your proposal takes into consideration your wealth and the vastness of your armies, but fails to account for divine judgment,” Tamar wrote, “while I place my trust not in any army or worldly thing but in the right hand of the Almighty God and the infinite aid of the Cross, which you curse. The will of God — and not your own — shall be fulfilled, and the judgment of God — and not your judgment — shall reign!”

The Georgian soldiers were summoned without delay. Queen Tamar prayed for victory before the Vardzia Icon of the Theotokos, then, barefoot, led her army to the gates of the city.

Hoping in the Lord and the fervent prayers of Queen Tamar, the Georgian army marched toward Basiani. The enemy was routed. The victory at Basiani was an enormous event not only for Georgia, but for the entire Christian world.

The military victories increased Queen Tamar’s faith. In the daytime she shone in all her royal finery and wisely administered the affairs of the government; during the night, on bended knees, she beseeched the Lord tearfully to strengthen the Georgian Church. She busied herself with needlework and distributed her embroidery to the poor.

Once, exhausted from her prayers and needlework, Tamar dozed off and saw a vision. Entering a luxuriously furnished home, she saw a gold throne studded with jewels, and she turned to approach it, but was suddenly stopped by an old man crowned with a halo. “Who is more worthy than I to receive such a glorious throne?” Queen Tamar asked him.

He answered her, saying, “This throne is intended for your maidservant, who sewed vestments for twelve priests with her own hands. You are already the possessor of great treasure in this world.” And he pointed her in a different direction.

Having awakened, Holy Queen Tamar immediately took to her work and with her own hands sewed vestments for twelve priests.

History has preserved another poignant episode from Queen Tamar’s life: Once she was preparing to attend a festal Liturgy in Gelati, and she fastened precious rubies to the belt around her waist. Soon after she was told that a beggar outside the monastery tower was asking for alms, and she ordered her entourage to wait. Having finished dressing, she went out to the tower but found no one there.Terribly distressed, she reproached herself for having denied the poor and thus denying Christ Himself. Immediately she removed her belt, the cause of her temptation, and presented it as an offering to the Gelati Icon of the Theotokos.

During Queen Tamar’s reign a veritable monastic city was carved in the rocks of Vardzia, and the God-fearing Georgian ruler would labor there during the Great Fast. The churches of Pitareti, Kvabtakhevi, Betania, and many others were also built at that time. Holy Queen Tamar generously endowed the churches and monasteries not only on Georgian territory but also outside her borders: in Palestine, Cyprus, Mt. Sinai, the Black Mountains, Greece, Mt. Athos, Petritsoni (Bulgaria), Macedonia, Thrace, Romania, Isauria and Constantinople.

The divinely guided Queen Tamar abolished the death penalty and all forms of bodily torture.

A regular, secret observance of a strict ascetic regime — fasting, a stone bed, and litanies chanted in bare feet — finally took its toll on Queen Tamar’s health. For a long time she refrained from speaking to anyone about her condition, but when the pain became unbearable she finally sought help. The best physicians of the time were unable to diagnose her illness, and all of Georgia was seized with fear of disaster. Everyone from the small to the great prayed fervently for Georgia’s ruler and defender. The people were prepared to offer not only their own lives, but even the lives of their children, for the sake of their beloved ruler.

God sent Tamar a sign when He was ready to receive her into His Kingdom. Then the pious ruler bade farewell to her court and turned in prayer to an icon of Christ and the Life-giving Cross: “Lord Jesus Christ! Omnipotent Master of heaven and earth! To Thee I deliver the nation and people that were entrusted to my care and purchased by Thy Precious Blood, the children whom Thou didst bestow upon me, and to Thee I surrender my soul, O Lord!”

The burial place of Queen Tamar has remained a mystery to this day. Some sources claim that her tomb is in Gelati, in a branch of burial vaults belonging to the Bagrationi dynasty, while others argue that her holy relics are preserved in a vault at the Holy Cross Monastery in Jerusalem.

Exalted among the saints, O Holy and Righteous Queen Tamar, thou didst erect churches atop the highest peaks, strengthen the armies of the Christ-fearing Georgian nation by thy prayers, and defeat the Muslim armies with thy right hand. Intercede with Christ God to save our souls!

Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze


posted Dec 14, 2019, 11:52 AM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Dec 14, 2019, 12:02 PM ]

15 December.


Memory 15 December

Saint Ise of Tsilkani arrived in Georgia in the 6th century with the other Syrian fathers and companions of St. Ioane of Zedazeni.

At the recommendation of St. Ioane of Zedazeni, Catholicos Evlavios of Kartli consecrated St. Ise as bishop of Tsilkani. The holy father traveled throughout his diocese preaching the Holy Gospel. Passing from city to city, from valley to mountain and back, the kind shepherd worked wonders, healed the infirm, cleansed lepers, cast out demons and raised those who were confined to their beds.

Once, with the blessing of his teacher St. Ioane of Zedazeni, St. Ise performed a miracle to strengthen the people in their Faith. He descended to the bank of the Ksani River, followed by Fr. Ioane and a multitude of people. He made the sign of the Cross over the river, touched his staff to the water and commanded: “In the name of our Lord and God Jesus Christ, I command you, river: follow me!” Immediately the river reversed its current and began to flow backwards, following in St. Ise’s footsteps right up to Tsilkani Church.

Those living near Mtskheta and Tsilkani who witnessed this miracle glorified the Lord Jesus Christ for bestowing upon one of His children the gift of wonder-working.

When the Lord made known to the saint the day of his repose, he gathered his disciples and church servitors, bade them farewell, blessed them, partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, and reposed in peace. His last words were “Lord, into Thy hands I commit my spirit!”

St. Ise of Tsilkani is buried in the Tsilkani Church of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Thou didst shine forth brilliantly as a radiant star and enlighten the hearts of the faithful with thy divine preaching. O Holy Hierarch Ise, pray to Christ God to forgive the sins of those who glorify thy holy memory!


posted Jun 27, 2018, 3:16 PM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Jun 27, 2018, 3:19 PM ]


Memory 13 (26) June

    Saint Antimos of Iberia was one of the most highly educated people of his time. He was fluent in many languages, including Greek, Romanian, Old Slavonic, Arabic, and Turkish and well-versed in theology, literature, and the natural sciences. He was unusually gifted in the fine arts — in painting, engraving, and sculpture in particular. He was famed for his beautiful calligraphy. Finally, St. Antimos was a great writer, a renowned orator, and a reformer of the written Romanian language.

   Little is known about the youth of St. Antimos. He was a native of the Samtskhe region in southern Georgia. His parents, Ioane and Mariam, gave him the name Andria at Baptism. He accompanied King Archil to Russia and helped him to found a Georgian print shop there, but after he returned he was captured by Dagestani robbers and sold into slavery. Through the efforts of Patriarch Dositheus of Jerusalem, Antimos was finally set free, but he remained in the patriarch’s service in order to further his spiritual education.

   Already famed for his paintings, engravings, and calligraphy, Antimos was asked by Prince Constantine Brincoveanu (1688–1714) of Wallachia (present-day Romania) to travel to his kingdom around the year 1691. After he had arrived inWallachia, he began to manage a local print shop. The printing industry in that country advanced tremendously at that time, and the chief inspiration and driving force behind the great advances was the Georgian master Antimos. He succeeded in making Wallachia a center of Christianity and a major publisher of books for all the East.

   In 1694 Antimos was enthroned as abbot of Snagov Monastery (in present-day Romania), where he soon founded a print shop. In the same year his new print shop published Guidelines for the Divine Services on May 21, All Saints’ Day. The book was signed by Subdeacon Michael Ishtvanovich, future founder of the first Georgian print shop.

   In 1705 Antimos, “the chosen among chosen abbots of Wallachia,” was consecrated bishop of Rimnicu Vilcea, and in 1708 he was appointed metropolitan of Hungro-Wallachia. The whole country celebrated his elevation. As one abbot proclaimed: “The divine Antimos, a great man and son of the wise Iberian nation, has come to Wallachia and enlightened our land. God has granted him an inexhaustible source of wisdom, entrusted him to accomplish great endeavors, and helped to advance our nation by establishing for us a great printing industry.”

   Under the direct leadership of St. Antimos, more than twenty churches and monasteries were erected in Wallachia. Of particular significance is All Saints’ Monastery, located in the center of Bucharest.

   The main gates of this monastery were made of oak and carved with traditional Georgian motifs by St. Antimos himself. The metropolitan also established rules for the monastery and declared its independence from the Church of Constantinople.

   From the day of his consecration, Metropolitan Antimos fought tirelessly for the liberation of Wallachia from foreign oppressors. On the day he was ordained he addressed his flock: “You have defended the Christian Faith in purity and without fault. Nevertheless, you are surrounded and tightly bound by the violence of other nations. You endure countless deprivations and tribulations from those who dominate this world…. Though I am unworthy and am indeed younger than many of you — like David, I am the youngest among my brothers — the Lord God has anointed me to be your shepherd. Thus I will share in your future trials and griefs and partake in the lot that God has appointed for you.”

   His words were prophetic: In 1714 the Turks executed the Wallachian prince Constantine Brincoveanu, and in 1716 they executed Stefan Cantacuzino (1714–1716), the last prince of Wallachia.

   In his place they appointed the Phanariote[1] Nicholas Mavrokordatos, who concerned himself only with the interests of the Ottoman Empire.

   During this difficult time, Antimos of Iberia gathered around him a group of loyal boyar patriots determined to liberate their country from Turkish and Phanariote domination. But Nicholas Mavrokordatos became suspicious, and he ordered Antimos to resign as metropolitan. When Antimos failed to do so, he filed a complaint with Patriarch Jeremiah of Constantinople. Then a council of bishops, which did not include a single Romanian clergyman, condemned the “conspirator and instigator of revolutionary activity” to anathema and excommunication and declared him unworthy to be called a monk.

   But Nicholas Mavrokordatos was still unsatisfied and claimed that to deny Antimos the title of Metropolitan of Hungro-Wallachia was insufficient punishment. He ordered Antimos to be exiled far from Wallachia, to St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai. Metropolitan Antimos, beloved of the Romanian people, was escorted out of the city at night since the conspirators feared the reaction of the people.

But Metropolitan Antimos never reached Mt. Sinai.

   On September 14, 1716, a band of Turkish soldiers stabbed St. Antimos to death on the bank of the Tundzha (Tunca) River where it flows through Adrianople, not far from Gallipoli, and cast his butchered remains into the river.

   Thus ended the earthly life of one more Georgian saint — a man who had dedicated all of his strength, talent, and knowledge to the revival of Christian culture and the strengthening of theWallachian people in the Orthodox Faith.

   In 1992 the Romanian Church canonized Antimos of Iberia and proclaimed his commemoration day to be September 14, the day of his repose. The Georgian Church commemorates him on June 13.

Thou didst dwell on earth as an angel, O Holy Hierarch Antimos, and now thy soul rejoices with the angels above. Grant that we also may be made worthy of everlasting life!

Saint Nino, Equal-to-the-Apostles

posted Jan 26, 2018, 11:57 PM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Jan 26, 2018, 11:58 PM ]


Archimandrite Raphael (Karelin)

The most significant event in the history of Georgia was the country’s conversion to Christianity in the early fourth century by St. Nino, Equal-to-the-Apostles. The light of the Gospels brought by the virgin Nino to Georgia like a lamp lit from the fire of the Jerusalem church took flesh in the wondrous works of Christian literature and ecclesiastical art, in magnificent cathedrals resembling sculptures hewn from whole blocks of granite, in churches—stone blossoms that adorned the entire country as the garden of the Most Holy Theotokos, in chapels crowning the mountain peaks, so that the mountains and cliffs themselves are like footstools for the chapels. This light shines from the ancient icons and frescoes of extraordinary spiritual depth. This light sparkles in sacred chants. It illuminates the pages of Georgian Saints’ Lives and chronicles; but most importantly—the light brought by St. Nino changed and transformed the soul of the people.

* * *

Christianity made man a new creation. It gave him the dignity of the image and likeness of God, and revealed an imperishable spiritual treasure. Christianity turned man’s thoughts and heart to eternity. It gave his soul the possibility to be reborn and resurrected through mystical experience. Christianity revealed to man the true freedom of love, instead of the pagan freedom of passions and tyranny. Christian theology gave an answer to the age-old questions raised but not answered by philosophy. The Gospel teaching showed that each human personality—inimitable and unique—is of supreme value. Christianity became a powerful impulse for rethinking and developing the relationships between people and nations, founded upon respect for man as an image of God and a manifestation of eternity on earth. The light brought by St. Nino illumined Georgia’s historical path for many centuries. The Baptism of Georgia was the beginning of a new era in the spiritual life of its people.

The Gospel was first preached in Georgia by the apostles themselves. It was like the first rays of the sun that brighten the mountain peaks, as if tearing them from the captivity of darkness and night. Ancient ice and snow burst into flames of blinding light, but in the gorges and passes the fog still curls like the black smoke of a campfire. The world is sunk in pre-dawn night and sleep. The peaks illuminated by the light were the first Christian communities founded by the apostles. But the people remained in pagan captivity. Apostles Andrew the First-Called, Simon the Canaanite, and Matthew had cast the seeds of Gospel teaching into Georgian soil, but three centuries passed before this land would be covered with wondrously beautiful flowers. Just as the Aragva River changes its flow from south to west at the borders of Mshkheta, so did the Baptism of Georgia in the Aragva turn Georgia’s entire course of history from Iran to Byzantium.

The fourth century was a time of conversion to Christianity in the Caucasus Mountain region. Georgia’s brothers, Armenia and Caspian Albania, also converted, and this Christian house became an impenetrable fortress against their enemies.

St. Nino was, according to ancient tradition, a cousin of Great-Martyr George the Trophy-Bearer. There is a great similarity between the image of the knight who slays the dragon and the young virgin, who raised the cross in her hands like a spiritual sun over Georgia.

Georgia is the portion of the Most Holy Theotokos. The Virgin Mary chose a virgin to be the apostle of Georgia—St. Nino, who was almost a child at the time. With the cross as her sword she was victorious in battle with paganism, and illumined the nation with the light of the Gospel. She captivated people’s hearts with the fire of love, which Christ had brought from heaven to earth. She converted the people to Christ not with artful words, but through the power of grace. Nino’s chosenness was marked by the gift of miracles and healing. But the conversion of a nation through a young virgin was the greatest miracle. It is impossible to prove the existence of light—it has to be seen. St. Nino herself was a bright lamp; those around her felt this light with their souls, and beheld the eternal beauty of the Gospels. They received Nino’s preaching as a new life, hitherto unknown to them.

St. Nino lived from her childhood in a Jerusalem church under the care of her uncle, Patriarch Juvenal. This church was located on the slopes of Mount Sion, where the Holy Spirit had descended upon the apostles (the Church of the Resurrection of Christ the Savior had not yet been built). St. Nino grew up under the eaves of the church, similar to how the Virgin Mary lived for ten years in the Old Testament temple in fulfillment of her parent’s vow. The Virgin Mary had access to the Holy of Holies. The virgin Nino prayed in the place where the Holy Spirit descended in the form of fiery tongues and founded the New Testament Church in the upper room on Sion.

Jerusalem is a book made of stone, written about Christ. There the air preserves the breath of His lips, and the earth, His footprints. There, it is as if time has stopped, and it seems that Christ is near, like the time of His earthly life.

St. Nino lived at the church, like a nun in reclusion. The church is a concentration of spiritual light. Outside the church the light becomes dispersed and dim. In the silence of the church she heard the voice of angels, and in visions she conversed with Christ the Savior, as St. Paul conversed face-to-face with Jesus in the Arabian Desert. The Mother of God appeared to her as she did to the apostles after her Dormition. She saw with her spiritual eyes the beginning and end of the world. Prayer transfigured her. The young virgin seemed to be the embodiment of the spirit of ancient prophetesses, or angels who had taken on human appearance.

At the Savior’s will and the Mother of God’s blessing, she came from Palestine to the capital of Georgia, Mshkheta, which became a second Jerusalem. The day of her arrival, August 6, was the New Year and festival of the Zoroastrian divinity Ahura Mazda—the main festival of fire-worshippers. St. Nino entered into combat with Ahura Mazda and conquered him, as St. George conquered the dragon. The dragon was slain by the power of prayer, and the idol of Ahura Mazda fell and shattered into dust. This day became the spiritual new year in the life of the Georgian people.

Mshkheta greeted St. Nino with festival noise, solemn processions, and a sea of fires lit to honor Ahura Mazda. For Mazdaists, every first day of the month was dedicated to Ahura Mazda, and this first day of the year was celebrated with particular solemnity. On the left bank of the Kura River, opposite Mshkheta, King Parnaoz built a fortress and a pagan temple called Armazi. On the left side opposite Mshkheta, on the mountain peak stood idols of the Zoroastrian divinity, wrought of metal and decorated with precious stones. One of them held a bared sword in an outstretched arm and stood over Mshkheta like a conqueror, looking over the city from the heights of a citadel.

St. Nino fell to her knees and began to pray that the Lord would cast down the idols with His might, just as the idols of Memphis shook and fell when the Virgin Mary and her Infant passed through the city gates.

A miracle occurred. A storm arose. The horizon was darkened by clouds as if the sky was furrowing its brow. Dark clouds like black glaciers flows over Mshkheta. The sun’s light turned to dusk, as if time was turning back and night was on again. Lightning tore the clouds. The whole earth seemed to shake from the thunder. A whirlwind like a tornado flung Ahura Mazda into the gorge, like a knight throws his combatant from his horse. Torrential rain poured down mixed with hail, like molten metal and stones cast from battlements. The water of the Aragvi became covered with foam, as if it was boiling—waves heaved upwards, as if they wanted to reach the mountain peaks. It seemed that the river would crash over Mshkheta and drown it in its belly. People ran to their homes in horror. The city emptied, like a graveyard. But the storm passed as quickly as it came. Again the sun shone in the sky cleansed by wind and washed by rain. On the mountain peak there were no longer any idols to be seen, as if St. Nino had torn the military emblem from the walls of the Acropolis. In the thunder and wind, in the blinding flashes of lightning a new page opened in the Christian chronicles of Georgia, magnificent as Caucasus nature.

St. Nino began to live in the house of the king’s orchard keeper, the Jew Anastasios. Here she built a hut out of branches covered with clay on the edge of the king’s orchard. Her bed was a piece of wool felt thrown over the earth in place of a carpet, on which she prayed most of the night, falling asleep just before daybreak. On this site is built the Samtavro Monastery of St. Nino. In her desert cell is the cross made of grapevines, given to her by the Virgin Mary. This cross, a great sacred treasure of Georgia, is kept in the Sion Cathedral in Tbilisi.

In the Greek Chronicles, St. Nino is called Nonna; that is, nun and recluse. For the heart of a monk, the desert is the place where he meets Christ. St. Nino often withdrew to the outskirts of Mshkheta, especially to the mountain that is now crowned with the Dzhvari church, where the noise of the city and waves of the river would not disturb her silence. In the mountains the quietude is like an impenetrable, transparent crystal wall. There she prayed for hours to God, and when the first stars appeared in the sky, like candles lit by an invisible hand before an iconostasis, she would descend to the capital city, where the houses’ windows glowed like stars fallen from the sky.

St. Nino’s preaching was accompanied by manifestations of God’s power, especially the healing of the sick. Through the Jews who had settled in the Caucasus by at least the seventh century before Christ, the peoples of Georgia had been acquainted with Biblical teaching. Christian communities founded by the apostles in as early as the first century formed separate islands that eventually turned into an archipelago, spreading across the sea of paganism. By the end of the third century, Christianity was the second religion in size after Mazdaism. Georgia now stood before a choice: what should it be from now on—pagan, or Christian; what should they choose—the Gospels or the Avesta, the light of the Cross or the fires of Zoroaster?

Queen Nana, who had been healed of a mortal disease by the virgin Nino, became a Christian. King Mirian, son of a Persian shah, had been taught from childhood that Iran was the land of light, and east and west of it was the kingdom of darkness—Turan and Rome. The priests of Zoroaster convinced the king that Christianity is the herald of catastrophes prophesied by Zoroaster, that it is the religion of women and slaves, not worthy of an Aryan, that the true faith would perish through a woman, as one Indian sage had written five centuries before the birth of Christ, that Iran was created by great heroes who had conquered the devs (giants) from Turan, and because of the Christians the Jews perished and Rome was in decline.

The king was sunk in heavy doubts.

Where is the truth? Where should he lead his people? Will his descendants bless, or curse his name? The scales of history wavered in his hands, and no one knew which cup would drop lower. But the king’s doubt was resolved by a miracle—he was saved from fatal danger when he called upon the unknown God of St. Nino. King Mirian became the first Christian king of Georgia. According to the Greek chronologists, Georgia’s conversion happened in 318 A.D., and the Baptism of Georgia according to the Kartlis Tskhovreba (Life of Georgia) happened in 326, while the time of the hierarchical establishment in the Georgian Church came in 337.

The priests and bishops sent from Byzantium baptized the people of Georgia and Aragva. The place where King Mirian and his princes were baptized is called to this day the “courtiers’ font”. Downstream on the river, like in an enormous font, the people were baptized.

The fires of Zoroastrianism were extinguished in the waters of the Aragva; in the waves of the Aragva the blood of human sacrifices spilled to idols before the reign of Reva the Righteous (two centuries B.C.) was cleansed away, as was the filth of pagan theurgy and magic. The shards of shattered idols were thrown like corpses in a common grave in the Aragva. The Holy Spirit descended into the waters of the Aragva, as it did into the waters of the Jordan.

St. Nino traversed all of Kartli and Kakhetia with her preaching. She ascended to mountain settlements that were like eagles’ nests clinging to cliffs over the abysses. She preached in the courts of princes and in the huts of paupers. Day and night she spent in care for the newly baptized people, like a godmother for her children.

Nino performed the ascetic labors of her life in the eastern region of Georgia called Ereti, in the settlement of Bodbe. Like a gravestone on her grave stands the Church of St. George the Trophy Bearer. Here St. Nino rests in body, but in spirit she abides in every church, city, and village of Georgia. She abides in the heart of Georgia, and Georgia, in her heart.

Archimandrite Raphael (Karelin)
Translation by

14th of January . St. Sava I, First Archbishop of Serbia

posted Jan 14, 2018, 4:33 PM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Jan 14, 2018, 4:33 PM ]

14th of January

St. Sava I, First Archbishop of Serbia

Saint Sava, First Archbishop of Serbia, in the world Rostislav (Rastko), was a son of the Serbian king Stephen Nemanya and Anna, daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Romanus. From his early years he fervently attended church services and had a special love for icons.

At seventeen years of age, Rostislav met a monk from Mount Athos, secretly left his father’s house and set off for the Saint Panteleimon monastery. (By divine Providence in 1169, the year of the saint’s birth, the ancient monastery of the Great Martyr and healer Panteleimon was given to Russian monks.)

Knowing that his son was on Athos, his father mobilized his retainers headed by a faithful voevod and wrote to the governor of the district which included Athos, saying that if his son were not returned to him, he would go to war against the Greeks. When they arrived at the monastery, the voevod was ordered not to take his eyes off Rostislav. During the evening services, when the soldiers had fallen asleep under the influence of wine, Rostislav received monastic tonsure (in 1186) and sent to his parents his worldly clothes, his hair and a letter. Saint Sava sought to persuade his powerful parents to accept monasticism. The monk’s father (in monasticism Simeon. He is commemorated on February 13) and his son pursued asceticism at the Vatopedi monastery. On Athos they established the Serbian Hilandar monastery, and this monastery received its name by imperial grant. At Hilandar monastery, Saint Sava was ordained to the diaconate and then presbyter. His mother Anna became a nun with the name Anastasia (June 21).

For his holy life and virtuous deeds on Mount Athos, the monk was made an archimandrite at Thessalonica. At Nicea in the year 1219 on the Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Ecumenical Patriarch Germanus consecrated Archimandrite Sava as Archbishop of Serbia. The saint petitioned the Byzantine Emperor to grant permission for Serbian bishops to elect their own Archbishop in future. This was a very important consideration in a time of frequent wars between the eastern and western powers.

Having returned to the Holy Mountain from Nicea, the saint visited all the monasteries for the last time. He made prostrations in all the churches and, calling to mind the blessed lives of the wilderness Fathers, he made his farewells to the ascetics with deep remorse, “leaving the Holy Mountain, as if from Paradise.”

Saddened by his separation from the Holy Mountain, the saint went along the path from Athos just barely moving. The Most Holy Theotokos spoke to the saint in a dream, “Having My Patronage, why do you remain sorrowful?” These words roused him from despondency, changing his sorrow into joy. In memory of this appearance, the saint commissioned large icons of the Savior and of the Mother of God at Thessalonica, and put them in a church.

In Serbia, the activity of the Hierarch in organizing the work of his native Church was accompanied by numerous signs and miracles. During the Liturgy and the all-night Vigil, when the saint came to cense the grave of his father the monk Simeon, the holy relics exuded fragrant myrrh.

Being in charge of negotiations with the Hungarian King Vladislav, who had declared war on Serbia, the holy bishop not only brought about the desired peace for his country, but he also brought the Hungarian monarch to Orthodoxy. Thus he facilitated the start of the historical existence of the autonomous Serbian Church, Saint Sava contributed also to strengthening the Serbian state. In order to insure the independence of the Serbian state, Archbishop Sava crowned his powerful brother Stephen as king. Upon the death of Stephen, his eldest son Radislav was crowned king, and Saint Sava set off to the Holy Land “to worship at the holy tomb of Christ and fearsome Golgotha.”

When he returned to his native land, the saint blessed and crowned Vladislav as king. To further strengthen the Serbian throne, he betrothed him to the daughter of the Bulgarian prince Asan. The holy hierarch visited churches all across Serbia, he reformed monastic rules on the model of Athos and Palestine, and he established and consecrated many churches, strengthening the Orthodox in their faith. Having finished his work in his native land, the saint appointed the hieromonk Arsenius as his successor, consecrating him bishop and giving his blessing to all.

He then set off on a journey of no return, desiring “to end his days as a wanderer in a foreign land.” He passed through Palestine, Syria and Persia, Babylon, Egypt and Anatolia, everywhere visiting the holy places, conversing with great ascetics, and collecting the holy relics of saints. The saint finished his wanderings at Trnovo in Bulgaria at the home of his kinsman Asan, where with spiritual joy he gave up his soul to the Lord (+ 1237).

At the time of transfer of the holy relics of Saint Sava to Serbia in 1237, there were so many healings that the Bulgarians began to complain about Asan, “because he had given up such a treasure.” In the saint’s own country, his venerable relics were placed in the Church of Mileshevo, bestowing healing on all who approached with faith. The inhabitants of Trnovo continued to receive healing from the remnants of the saint’s coffin, which Asan ordered to be gathered together and placed in a newly built sarcophagus.

The legacy of Saint Sava lives on in the Orthodox Church traditions of the Slavic nations. He is associated with the introduction of the Jerusalem Typikon as the basis for Slavic Monastic Rules. The Serbian Hilandar monastery on Mt. Athos lives by the Typikon of Saint Sava to this day. Editions of The Rudder (a collection of church canons) of Saint Sava, with commentary by Alexis Aristines, are the most widely disseminated in the Russian Church. In 1270 the first copy of The Rudder of Saint Sava was sent from Bulgaria to Metropolitan Cyril of Kiev. From this was copied one of the most ancient of the Russian Rudders, the Ryazan Rudder of 1284. It in turn was the source for a printed Rudder published in 1653, and since that time often reprinted by the Russian Church. Such was the legacy of Saint Sava to the canonical treasury of Orthodoxy.


posted Dec 15, 2017, 8:15 PM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Dec 15, 2017, 8:15 PM ]



December 15th.

    Saint Ise of Tsilkani arrived in Georgia in the 6th century with the other Syrian fathers and companions of St. Ioane of Zedazeni.

    At the recommendation of St. Ioane of Zedazeni, Catholicos Evlavios of Kartli consecrated St. Ise as bishop of Tsilkani. The holy father traveled throughout his diocese preaching the Holy Gospel. Passing from city to city, from valley to mountain and back, the kind shepherd worked wonders, healed the infirm, cleansed lepers, cast out demons and raised those who were confined to their beds.

    Once, with the blessing of his teacher St. Ioane of Zedazeni, St. Ise performed a miracle to strengthen the people in their Faith. He descended to the bank of the Ksani River, followed by Fr. Ioane and a multitude of people. He made the sign of the Cross over the river, touched his staff to the water and commanded: “In the name of our Lord and God Jesus Christ, I command you, river: follow me!” Immediately the river reversed its current and began to flow backwards, following in St. Ise’s footsteps right up to Tsilkani Church.

    Those living near Mtskheta and Tsilkani who witnessed this miracle glorified the Lord Jesus Christ for bestowing upon one of His children the gift of wonder-working.

    When the Lord made known to the saint the day of his repose, he gathered his disciples and church servitors, bade them farewell, blessed them, partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, and reposed in peace. His last words were “Lord, into Thy hands I commit my spirit!”

    St. Ise of Tsilkani is buried in the Tsilkani Church of the Most Holy Theotokos.

    Thou didst shine forth brilliantly as a radiant star and enlighten the hearts of the faithful with thy divine preaching. O Holy Hierarch Ise, pray to Christ God to forgive the sins of those who glorify thy holy memory!

Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze


posted Sep 27, 2017, 11:54 AM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Sep 27, 2017, 11:55 AM ]


September 13/26


Holy Queen Ketevan was the daughter of Ashotan Mukhran-Batoni, a prominent ruler from the Bagrationi royal family. The clever and pious Ketevan was married to Prince Davit, heir to the throne of Kakheti. Davit’s father, King Alexandre II (1574–1605), had two other sons, Giorgi and Constantine, but according to the law the throne belonged to Davit. Constantine was converted to Islam and raised in the court of the Persian shah Abbas I.

Several years after Davit and Ketevan were married, King Alexandre stepped down from the throne and was tonsured a monk at Alaverdi. But after four months, in the year 1602, the young king Davit died suddenly. He was survived by his wife, Ketevan, and two children — a son, Teimuraz, and a daughter, Elene — and his father ascended the throne once more.

Upon hearing of Davit’s death and Alexandre’s return to the royal throne, Shah Abbas commanded Alexandre’s youngest son, Constantine-Mirza, to travel to Kakheti, murder his father and the middle brother, Giorgi, and seize the throne of Kakheti.

As instructed, Constantine-Mirza beheaded his father and brother, then sent their heads, like a precious gift, to Shah Abbas. Their headless bodies he sent to Alaverdi.[1] The widowed Queen Ketevan was left to bury her father-in-law and brother-in-law.

But Constantine-Mirza was still unsatisfied, and he proposed to take Queen Ketevan as his wife. Outraged at his proposition, the nobles of Kakheti rose up and killed the young man who had committed patricide and profaned his Faith and the throne. Having buried the wicked Constantine-Mirza with the honor befitting his royal ancestry, Ketevan sent generous gifts to Shah Abbas and requested that he proclaim her son,Teimuraz, the rightful heir to the throne. While she was awaiting his reply, Ketevan assumed personal responsibility for the rule of Kakheti.

Concerned that, if he denied this request, Kakheti would forcibly separate from him and unite with Kartli, Shah Abbas hastily sent Prince Teimuraz to Georgia, laden with great wealth.

In 1614 Shah Abbas informed King Teimuraz that his son would be taken hostage, and Teimuraz was forced to send his young son Alexandre and his mother Ketevan to Persia. As a final attempt to divide the royal family of Kakheti, Shah Abbas demanded that the eldest prince, Levan, be brought before him, and he finally summoned King Teimuraz himself.

The shah’s intentions were clear: to hold all of the royal family in Persia and send his own viceroys to rule in Kakheti. He sought to eliminate King Luarsab II of Kartli as well, but Teimuraz and Luarsab agreed to attack the Persian army with joint forces and drive the enemy out of Georgia.

Shah Abbas sent his hostages, Queen Ketevan and her grandsons, deep into Persia, while he himself launched an attack on Kakheti. With fire and the sword the godless ruler plundered all of Georgia.

The royal palace was razed, churches and monasteries were destroyed, and entire villages were abandoned. By order of the shah, more than three hundred thousand Georgians were exiled to Persia, and their homes were occupied by Turkic tribes from Central Asia. Hunger and violence reigned over Georgia.

The defeated Georgian kings Teimuraz and Luarsab sought refuge with King Giorgi III of Imereti.

After they had spent five years exiled in Shiraz (Persia), the princes Alexandre and Levan were separated from Ketevan and castrated in Isfahan. Alexandre could not endure the suffering and died, while Levan went mad.

St. Ketevan, meanwhile, remained a prisoner of the ruler of southeastern Persia, the ethnic Georgian imam Quli-Khan Undiladze, who regarded the widowed Queen of Kakheti with great respect. According to his command, Ketevan was not to discover the fate of her grandsons.

Queen Ketevan spent ten years in prison, praying for her motherland and loved ones with all her might and adhering to a strict ascetic regime. Constant fasting, prayer and a stone bed exhausted her previously pampered body, but in spirit she was courageous and full of vitality. She looked after those assigned to her care and instructed them in the spiritual life.

After some time Abbas resolved to convert Ketevan to Islam, and he announced his intention to marry her. He asked that his proposal be conveyed to her the same day she was informed of the fate of her grandsons. As a condition of their marriage, Abbas insisted that Ketevan renounce the Christian Faith and convert to Islam. In the case of her acquiescence, Imam Quli-Khan was to respect and honor her as a queen, and in the case of her refusal, to subject her to public torture. The alarmed imam begged the queen to submit to the shah’s will and save herself, but the queen firmly refused and began to prepare for her martyrdom.[2]

Queen Ketevan was robed in festive attire and led out to a crowded square. Her persecutors subjected her to indescribable torment: they placed a red-hot copper cauldron on her head, tore at her chest with heated tongs, pierced her body with glowing spears, tore off her fingernails, nailed a board to her spine, and finally split her forehead with a red-hot spade.

St. Ketevan’s soul departed from her body, and the executioners cast her mutilated body to the beasts. But the Lord God sent a miracle: her holy relics were illumined with a radiant light.

A group of French Augustinian missionary fathers, who had witnessed the inhuman tortures, wrapped Queen Ketevan’s body in linens scented with myrrh and incense and buried it in a Catholic monastery.

Some time later the holy relics of Great-martyr Ketevan were delivered to her son, Teimuraz, King of Kakheti.

Teimuraz wept bitterly for his mother and sons and buried the relics with great honor in the Alaverdi Cathedral of St. George.

Athirst with holy desire thou didst suffer many wounds, endure countless tortures, and renounce earthly majesty to draw nearer to the Heavenly Kingdom. O thrice-blessed Ketevan, entreat Christ God to have mercy on our souls!

Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze


posted Sep 16, 2017, 8:05 AM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Sep 16, 2017, 8:07 AM ]


17  September

    Saint Svimeon was raised at Davit-Gareji Monastery. He labored as a simple monk until he reached an advanced age, and was chosen to be abbot. Outstanding in virtue and humility, St. Svimeon was endowed by the Lord with the ability to work miracles.


 Once St. Svimeon became deathly ill and lay lifeless for more than an hour. Then, by Divine Providence, he arose and distributed all of his possessions to the fathers of the monastery to keep him in remembrance.

When St. Serapion heard about this miracle, he hastened to Abbot Svimeon, his spiritual father, and, enlightened with prophetic grace, comforted him: “O honorable Father, give me your holy hands that I may kiss them. How I desire for these hands to bury the dust of my worthless body—but nowyou are departing this world ahead of me. You will go, Father, but without you I will not remain long on this earth; soon I will follow after you!”

So the fathers bade him farewell for the last time. St. Svimeon settled his affairs at the monastery, and in 1773 he reposed in peace, exactly one week after he had recovered from his deathly illness.

Thou didst dwell in the wilderness as an angel in the flesh and a wonderworker, O God-bearing Father Svimeon. Thou didst receive from heaven the virtues of fasting, watchfulness and prayer and didst heal the infirm in soul and body who hastened to thee. Glory to Him Who granted thee strength, glory to Him Who hath crowned thee, glory to Him Who worketh miracles through thee!

Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze

Entrance to Georgia Of The Holy Equal-To-The-Apostles Nino

posted Jun 2, 2017, 6:33 AM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Jun 2, 2017, 6:35 AM ]

Entrance to Georgia Of The Holy Equal-To-The-Apostles Nino

Memory 19 May (1 June new style)

Holy Apostles Andrew the First-called and Simon the Canaanite first preached the Christian Faith in Georgia in the 1st century, but at the beginning of the 4th century most of the country was still pagan.

Altar and cross erected at Lake Paravani, where St. Nino began to preach the Gospel in Georgia.

After the Theotokos revealed God’s will for her future, the Equal-to-the-Apostles Nino set off for Georgia to enlighten the Iberian people. She arrived in Armenia with the holy martyrs and virgins Rhipsimia, Gaiana and their fifty companions. The holy virgins were martyred in Armenia and, according to God’s will, St. Nino journeyed on alone to Lake Paravani, entering Georgia from the Javakheti Mountains. She arrived in the spring, but the weather was unseasonably cold.


The Apostolic Church of Georgia has honoured the Entrance of the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Nino as a major feast day. The Church also commemorates her on January 14, the day of her repose.


Rejoice, thou who didst bring joy to our people. Rejoice, thou by whom we were freed from sin. Rejoice, thou who didst guide those who were lost. Rejoice, thou comforter of Christian women. Rejoice, thou who didst enlighten the Georgian people with heavenly wisdom. Rejoice, thou who wast sanctified by the Divine Spirit, O Holy Bride!


Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze

The Life of our Holy Mother Mary of Egypt (+522)

posted Apr 15, 2016, 5:37 PM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Apr 15, 2016, 5:38 PM ]

The Life of our Holy Mother Mary of Egypt 


St Zosimas (April 4) was a monk at a certain Palestinian monastery on the outskirts of Caesarea. Having dwelt at the monastery since his childhood, he lived there in asceticism until he reached the age of fifty-three. Then he was disturbed by the thought that he had attained perfection, and needed no one to instruct him. “Is there a monk anywhere who can show me some form of asceticism that I have not attained? Is there anyone who has surpassed me in spiritual sobriety and deeds?”

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Zosimas, you have struggled valiantly, as far as this is in the power of man. However, there is no one who is righteous (Rom 3:10). So that you may know how many other ways lead to salvation, leave your native land, like Abraham from the house of his father (Gen 12:1), and go to the monastery by the Jordan.”

Abba Zosimas immediately left the monastery, and following the angel, he went to the Jordan monastery and settled in it.

Here he met Elders who were adept in contemplation, and also in their struggles. Never did anyone utter an idle word. Instead, they sang constantly, and prayed all night long. Abba Zosimas began to imitate the spiritual activity of the holy monks.

Thus much time passed, and the holy Forty Day Fast approached. There was a certain custom at the monastery, which was why God had led St Zosimas there. On the First Sunday of Great Lent the igumen served the Divine Liturgy, everyone received the All-Pure Body and Blood of Christ. Afterwards, they went to the trapeza for a small repast, and then assembled once more in church.

The monks prayed and made prostrations, asking forgiveness one of another. Then they made a prostration before the igumen and asked his blessing for the struggle that lay before them. During the Psalm “The Lord is my Light and my Savior, whom shall I fear? The Lord is defender of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps 26/27:1), they opened the monastery gate and went off into the wilderness.

Each took with him as much food as he needed, and went into the desert. When their food ran out, they ate roots and desert plants. The monks crossed the Jordan and scattered in various directions, so that no one might see how another fasted or how they spent their time.

The monks returned to the monastery on Palm Sunday, each having his own conscience as a witness of his ascetic struggles. It was a rule of the monastery that no one asked how anyone else had toiled in the desert.

Abba Zosimas, according to the custom of the monastery, went deep into the desert hoping to find someone living there who could benefit him.

He walked into the wilderness for twenty days and then, when he sang the Psalms of the Sixth Hour and made the usual prayers. Suddenly, to the right of the hill where he stood, he saw a human form. He was afraid, thinking that it might be a demonic apparition. Then he guarded himself with the Sign of the Cross, which removed his fear. He turned to the right and saw a form walking southward. The body was black from the blazing sunlight, and the faded short hair was white like a sheep’s fleece. Abba Zosimas rejoiced, since he had not seen any living thing for many days.

The desert-dweller saw Zosimas approaching, and attempted to flee from him. Abba Zosimas, forgetting his age and fatigue, quickened his pace. When he was close enough to be heard, he called out, “Why do you flee from me, a sinful old man? Wait for me, for the love of God.”

The stranger said to him, “Forgive me, Abba Zosimas, but I cannot turn and show my face to you. I am a woman, and as you see, I am naked. If you would grant the request of a sinful woman, throw me your cloak so I might cover my body, and then I can ask for your blessing.”

Then Abba Zosimas was terrified, realizing that she could not have called him by name unless she possessed spiritual insight.

Covered by the cloak, the ascetic turned to Zosimas: “Why do you want to speak with me, a sinful woman? What did you wish to learn from me, you who have not shrunk from such great labors?”

Abba Zosimas fell to the ground and asked for her blessing. She also bowed down before him, and for a long time they remained on the ground each asking the other to bless. Finally, the woman ascetic said: “Abba Zosimas, you must bless and pray, since you are honored with the grace of the priesthood. For many years you have stood before the holy altar, offering the Holy Gifts to the Lord.”

These words frightened St Zosimas even more. With tears he said to her, “O Mother! It is clear that you live with God and are dead to this world. You have called me by name and recognized me as a priest, though you have never seen me before. The grace granted you is apparent, therefore bless me, for the Lord’s sake.”

Yielding finally to his entreaties, she said, “Blessed is God, Who cares for the salvation of men.” Abba Zosimas replied, “Amen.” Then they rose to their feet. The woman ascetic again said to the Elder, “Why have you come, Father, to me who am a sinner, bereft of every virtue? Apparently, the grace of the Holy Spirit has brought you to do me a service. But tell me first, Abba, how do the Christians live, how is the Church guided?”

Abba Zosimas answered her, “By your holy prayers God has granted the Church and us all a lasting peace. But fulfill my unworthy request, Mother, and pray for the whole world and for me a sinner, that my wanderings in the desert may not be useless.”

The holy ascetic replied, “You, Abba Zosimas, as a priest, ought to pray for me and for all, for you are called to do this. However, since we must be obedient, I will do as you ask.

The saint turned toward the East, and raising her eyes to heaven and stretching out her hands, she began to pray in a whisper. She prayed so softly that Abba Zosimas could not hear her words. After a long time, the Elder looked up and saw her standing in the air more than a foot above the ground. Seeing this, Zosimas threw himself down on the ground, weeping and repeating, “Lord, have mercy!”

Then he was tempted by a thought. He wondered if she might not be a spirit, and if her prayer could be insincere. At that moment she turned around, lifted him from the ground and said, “Why do your thoughts confuse you, Abba Zosimas? I am not an apparition. I am a sinful and unworthy woman, though I am guarded by holy Baptism.”

Then she made the Sign of the Cross and said, “May God protect us from the Evil One and his schemes, for fierce is his struggle against us.” Seeing and hearing this, the Elder fell at her feet with tears saying, “I beseech you by Christ our God, do not conceal from me who you are and how you came into this desert. Tell me everything, so that the wondrous works of God may be revealed.”

She replied, “It distresses me, Father, to speak to you about my shameless life. When you hear my story, you might flee from me, as if from a poisonous snake. But I shall tell you everything, Father, concealing nothing. However, I exhort you, cease not to pray for me a sinner, that I may find mercy on the Day of Judgment.

“I was born in Egypt and when I was twelve years old, I left my parents and went to Alexandria. There I lost my chastity and gave myself to unrestrained and insatiable sensuality. For more than seventeen years I lived like that and I did it all for free. Do not think that I refused the money because I was rich. I lived in poverty and worked at spinning flax. To me, life consisted in the satisfaction of my fleshly lust.

“One summer I saw a crowd of people from Libya and Egypt heading toward the sea. They were on their way to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. I also wanted to sail with them. Since I had no food or money, I offered my body in payment for my passage. And so I embarked on the ship.

“Now, Father, believe me, I am very amazed, that the sea tolerated my wantonness and fornication, that the earth did not open up its mouth and take me down alive into hell, because I had ensnared so many souls. I think that God was seeking my repentance. He did not desire the death of a sinner, but awaited my conversion.

“So I arrived in Jerusalem and spent all the days before the Feast living the same sort of life, and maybe even worse.

“When the holy Feast of the Exaltation of the Venerable Cross of the Lord arrived, I went about as before, looking for young men. At daybreak I saw that everyone was heading to the church, so I went along with the rest. When the hour of the Holy Elevation drew nigh, I was trying to enter into the church with all the people. With great effort I came almost to the doors, and attempted to squeeze inside. Although I stepped up to the threshold, it was as though some force held me back, preventing me from entering. I was brushed aside by the crowd, and found myself standing alone on the porch. I thought that perhaps this happened because of my womanly weakness. I worked my way into the crowd, and again I attempted to elbow people aside. However hard I tried, I could not enter. Just as my feet touched the church threshold, I was stopped. Others entered the church without difficulty, while I alone was not allowed in. This happened three or four times. Finally my strength was exhausted. I went off and stood in a corner of the church portico.

“Then I realized that it was my sins that prevented me from seeing the Life-Creating Wood. The grace of the Lord then touched my heart. I wept and lamented, and I began to beat my breast. Sighing from the depths of my heart, I saw above me an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. Turning to Her, I prayed: “O Lady Virgin, who gave birth in the flesh to God the Word! I know that I am unworthy to look upon your icon. I rightly inspire hatred and disgust before your purity, but I know also that God became Man in order to call sinners to repentance. Help me, O All-Pure One. Let me enter the church. Allow me to behold the Wood upon which the Lord was crucified in the flesh, shedding His Blood for the redemption of sinners, and also for me. Be my witness before Your Son that I will never defile my body again with the impurity of fornication. As soon as I have seen the Cross of your Son, I will renounce the world, and go wherever you lead me.”

“After I had spoken, I felt confidence in the compassion of the Mother of God, and left the spot where I had been praying. I joined those entering the church, and no one pushed me back or prevented me from entering. I went on in fear and trembling, and entered the holy place.

“Thus I also saw the Mysteries of God, and how God accepts the penitant. I fell to the holy ground and kissed it. Then I hastened again to stand before the icon of the Mother of God, where I had given my vow. Bending my knees before the Virgin Theotokos, I prayed:

“‘O Lady, you have not rejected my prayer as unworthy. Glory be to God, Who accepts the repentance of sinners. It is time for me to fulfill my vow, which you witnessed. Therefore, O Lady, guide me on the path of repentance.’”

“Then I heard a voice from on high: ‘If you cross the Jordan, you will find glorious rest.’

“I immediately believed that this voice was meant for me, and I cried out to the Mother of God: ‘O Lady, do not forsake me!’

“Then I left the church portico and started on my journey. A certain man gave me three coins as I was leaving the church. With them I bought three loaves of bread, and asked the bread merchant the way to the Jordan.

“It was nine o’clock when I saw the Cross. At sunset I reached the church of St John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan. After praying in the church, I went down to the Jordan and washed my face and hands in its water. Then in this same temple of St John the Forerunner I received the Life-Creating Mysteries of Christ. Then I ate half of one of my loaves of bread, drank water from the holy Jordan, and slept there that night on the ground. In the morning I found a small boat and crossed the river to the opposite shore. Again I prayed that the Mother of God would lead me where She wished. Then I found myself in this desert.”

Abba Zosimas asked her, “How many years have passed since you began to live in the desert?”

“‘I think,” she replied, “it is forty-seven years since I came from the Holy City.”

Abba Zosimas again asked, “What food do you find here, Mother?”

And she said, “I had with me two and a half loaves of bread when I crossed the Jordan. Soon they dried out and hardened Eating a little at a time, I finished them after a few years.”

Again Abba Zosimas asked, “Is it possible you have survived for so many years without sickness, and without suffering in any way from such a complete change?”

“Believe me, Abba Zosimas,” the woman said, “I spent seventeen years in this wilderness (after she had spent seventeen years in immorality), fighting wild beasts: mad desires and passions. When I began to eat bread, I thought of the meat and fish which I had in abundance in Egypt. I also missed the wine that I loved so much when I was in the world, while here I did not even have water. I suffered from thirst and hunger. I also had a mad desire for lewd songs. I seemed to hear them, disturbing my heart and my hearing. Weeping and striking myself on the breast, I remembered the vow I had made. At last I beheld a radiant Light shining on me from everywhere. After a violent tempest, a lasting calm ensued.

“Abba, how shall I tell you of the thoughts that urged me on to fornication? A fire seemed to burn within me, awakening in me the desire for embraces. Then I would throw myself to the ground and water it with my tears. I seemed to see the Most Holy Virgin before me, and She seemed to threaten me for not keeping my vow. I lay face downward day and night upon the ground, and would not get up until that blessed Light encircled me, dispelling the evil thoughts that troubled me.

“Thus I lived in this wilderness for the first seventeen years. Darkness after darkness, misery after misery stood about me, a sinner. But from that time until now the Mother of God helps me in everything.”

Abba Zosimas again inquired, “How is it that you require neither food, nor clothing?”

She answered, “After finishing my bread, I lived on herbs and the things one finds in the desert. The clothes I had when I crossed over the Jordan became torn and fell apart. I suffered both from the summer heat, when the blazing heat fell upon me, and from the winter cold, when I shivered from the frost. Many times I fell down upon the earth, as though dead. I struggled with various afflictions and temptations. But from that time until the present day, the power of God has guarded my sinful soul and humble body. I was fed and clothed by the all-powerful word of God, since man does not live by bread alone, but by every word proceeding from the mouth of God (Dt 8:3, Mt.4:4, Luke 4:4), and those who have put off the old man (Col 3:9) have no refuge, hiding themselves in the clefts of the rocks (Job 24:8, Heb 11:38). When I remember from what evil and from what sins the Lord delivered me, I have imperishible food for salvation.”

When Abba Zosimas heard that the holy ascetic quoted the Holy Scripture from memory, from the Books of Moses and Job and from the Psalms of David, he then asked the woman, “Mother, have you read the Psalms and other books?”

She smiled at hearing this question, and answered, “Believe me, I have seen no human face but yours from the time that I crossed over the Jordan. I never learned from books. I have never heard anyone read or sing from them. Perhaps the Word of God, which is alive and acting, teaches man knowledge by itself (Col 3:16, 1 Thess 2:13). This is the end of my story. As I asked when I began, I beg you for the sake of the Incarnate Word of God, holy Abba, pray for me, a sinner.

“Furthermore, I beg you, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, tell no one what you have heard from me, until God takes me from this earth. Next year, during Great Lent, do not cross the Jordan, as is the custom of your monastery.”

Again Abba Zosimas was amazed, that the practice of his monastery was known to the holy woman ascetic, although he had not said anything to her about this.

“Remain at the monastery,” the woman continued. “Even if you try to leave the monastery, you will not be able to do so. On Great and Holy Thursday, the day of the Lord’s Last Supper, place the Life-Creating Body and Blood of Christ our God in a holy vessel, and bring it to me. Await me on this side of the Jordan, at the edge of the desert, so that I may receive the Holy Mysteries. And say to Abba John, the igumen of your community, ‘Look to yourself and your brothers (1 Tim 4:16), for there is much that needs correction. Do not say this to him now, but when the Lord shall indicate.”

Asking for his prayers, the woman turned and vanished into the depths of the desert.

For a whole year Elder Zosimas remained silent, not daring to reveal to anyone what he had seen, and he prayed that the Lord would grant him to see the holy ascetic once more.

When the first week of Great Lent came again, St Zosimas was obliged to remain at the monastery because of sickness. Then he remembered the woman’s prophetic words that he would not be able to leave the monastery. After several days went by, St Zosimas was healed of his infirmity, but he remained at the monastery until Holy Week.

On Holy Thursday, Abba Zosimas did what he had been ordered to do. He placed some of the Body and Blood of Christ into a chalice, and some food in a small basket. Then he left the monastery and went to the Jordan and waited for the ascetic. The saint seemed tardy, and Abba Zosimas prayed that God would permit him to see the holy woman.

Finally, he saw her standing on the far side of the river. Rejoicing, St Zosimas got up and glorified God. Then he wondered how she could cross the Jordan without a boat. She made the Sign of the Cross over the water, then she walked on the water and crossed the Jordan. Abba Zosimas saw her in the moonlight, walking toward him. When the Elder wanted to make prostration before her, she forbade him, crying out, “What are you doing, Abba? You are a priest and you carry the Holy Mysteries of God.”

Reaching the shore, she said to Abba Zosimas, “Bless me, Father.” He answered her with trembling, astonished at what he had seen. “Truly God did not lie when he promised that those who purify themselves will be like Him. Glory to You, O Christ our God, for showing me through your holy servant, how far I am from perfection.”

The woman asked him to recite both the Creed and the “Our Father.” When the prayers were finished, she partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Then she raised her hands to the heavens and said, “Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen Your salvation.”

The saint turned to the Elder and said, “Please, Abba, fulfill another request. Go now to your monastery, and in a year’s time come to the place where we first time spoke.”

He said, “If only it were possible for me to follow you and always see your holy face!”

She replied, “For the Lord’s sake, pray for me and remember my wrechedness.”

Again she made the Sign of the Cross over the Jordan, and walked over the water as before, and disappeared into the desert. Zosimas returned to the monastery with joy and terror, reproaching himself because he had not asked the saint’s name. He hoped to do so the following year.

A year passed, and Abba Zosimas went into the desert. He reached the place where he first saw the holy woman ascetic. She lay dead, with arms folded on her bosom, and her face was turned to the east. Abba Zosimas washed her feet with his tears and kissed them, not daring to touch anything else. For a long while he wept over her and sang the customary Psalms, and said the funeral prayers. He began to wonder whether the saint would want him to bury her or not. Hardly had he thought this, when he saw something written on the ground near her head: “Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary. Return to dust what is dust. Pray to the Lord for me. I reposed on the first day of April, on the very night of the saving Passion of Christ, after partaking of the Mystical Supper.”

Reading this note, Abba Zosimas was glad to learn her name. He then realized that St Mary, after receiving the Holy Mysteries from his hand, was transported instantaneously to the place where she died, though it had taken him twenty days to travel that distance.

Glorifying God, Abba Zosimas said to himself, “It is time to do what she asks. But how can I dig a grave, with nothing in my hands?” Then he saw a small piece of wood left by some traveler. He picked it up and began to dig. The ground was hard and dry, and he could not dig it. Looking up, Abba Zosimas saw an enormous lion standing by the saint’s body and licking her feet. Fear gripped the Elder, but he guarded himself with the Sign of the Cross, believing that he would remain unharmed through the prayers of the holy woman ascetic. Then the lion came close to the Elder, showing its friendliness with every movement. Abba Zosimas commanded the lion to dig the grave, in order to bury St Mary’s body. At his words, the lion dug a hole deep enough to bury the body. Then each went his own way. The lion went into the desert, and Abba Zosimas returned to the monastery, blessing and praising Christ our God.

Arriving at the monastery, Abba Zosimas related to the monks and the igumen, what he had seen and heard from St Mary. All were astonished, hearing about the miracles of God. They always remembered St Mary with faith and love on the day of her repose.

Abba John, the igumen of the monastery, heeded the words of St Mary, and with the help of God corrected the things that were wrong at the monastery. Abba Zosimas lived a God-pleasing life at the monastery, reaching nearly a hundred years of age. There he finished his temporal life, and passed into life eternal.

The monks passed on the life of St Mary of Egypt by word of mouth without writing it down.

“I however,” says St Sophronius of Jerusalem (March 11), “wrote down the Life of St Mary of Egypt as I heard it from the holy Fathers. I have recorded everything, putting the truth above all else.”

“May God, Who works great miracles and bestows gifts on all who turn to Him in faith, reward those who hear or read this account, and those who copy it. May he grant them a blessed portion together with St Mary of Egypt and with all the saints who have pleased God by their pious thoughts and works. Let us give glory to God, the Eternal King, that we may find mercy on the Day of Judgment through our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is due all glory, honor, majesty and worship together with the Unoriginate Father, and the Most Holy and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”


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