WEDNESDAY OF THE 3RD WEEK
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Charitina the Martyr, Methodia the Righteous of Kimolos, Eudokimos the Unknown of Mount Athos, Peter, Alexis, Jonah, Hermogenes & Tikhon, Metropolitans of Moscow
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS 3:8-21
Brethren, to me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in him. So l ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fulness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
LUKE 6:46-49, 7:1
The Lord said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord, ‘ and not do what I tell you? Every one who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been founded upon the rock. But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” After he had ended all his sayings in the hearing of the people he entered Capernaum.
Martyr Charitίnē of Amisós
Saint Charitίnē was from Amisós in Pontus and lived during the reign of Emperor Diocletian (284-305). Orphaned at a young age, she became the servant of a noble Roman Christian named Claudianus, or Claudius, who brought her up as his own daughter. The young girl was very pretty, sensible, and kind. She imparted her love for Christ to others, and brought many to the path of salvation. Saint Charitίnē was meek, humble, obedient and silent. Although she was not yet baptized, she was a Christian at heart. She studied the Law of God day and night, and vowed to preserve her virginity as a true bride of Christ.
Because Saint Charitίnē brought many others to the Christian Faith, Dometius, one of Emperor Diocletian's governors, came to hear of her and sent a letter to Claudius, ordering him to send Charitίnē to him so that he might question her. Claudius had no doubts about the result of this interrogation. Grieved at the prospect of losing her, he put on sackcloth and wept bitter tears. Charitίnē comforted him, saying: "Do not grieve, my Master, but rejoice, for I am to become an acceptable sacrifice to God, for my sins and for yours."
Claudius replied: "O Servant of God, remember me when you stand before the heavenly King in the ranks of the Holy Martyrs."
The Saint was brought before a judge at the tribunal. He asked her: "Is it true that you are a Christian, and that you delude others by bringing them to your impious faith?"
Charitίnē replied: "It is true that I am a Christian, but it is a lie that I delude others. On the contrary, I lead them from deception to the path of truth, bringing them to my Christ."
Then the judge ordered her hair to be cut off, but by the power of God, her hair grew back even longer than before. Then burning coals were placed on her head, and vinegar was poured over her scorched flesh, increasing her pain. They drove flaming sticks through her breasts, and burnt her sides with candles. Finally, they tied a stone around her neck and threw her into the sea. She cried out: "This is my Baptism." Suddenly, the stone was loosened and sank, and God delivered her from the sea unharmed.
When the judge saw her on the shore, he ordered his men to seize her and strip her naked, and then tie her to a wheel which turned over burning coals, but an Angel of God stopped the wheel and once again Saint Charitίnē remained unharmed. The judge became furious and ordered that the nails of her hands and her feet be torn out, and that all her teeth be broken.
Then the wicked judge sent many dissolute men to rape her. Fearing this dishonor, Saint Charitίnē prayed that God would receive her soul before these vile men could defile her virginal body; and so, as she prayed, she surrendered her pure soul to God.
When the judge saw that she was dead, he had her body placed in a sack weighted with stones, and tossed it into the sea. By Divine Providence, her body was brought to the shore three days later. Her master Claudius found her body and buried her with appropriate honor and reverence.
Fragments of Saint Charitίnē's Holy Relics are found in the Monasteries of Kykkos, Cyprus, and Jerusalem of Boeotia.
Synaxis of the Hierarchs of Moscow
The celebration of a special Feast Day to honor Saints Peter, Alexis, and Jonah, Metropolitans and Wonderworkers of All Russia, was established by Patriarch Job on October 5, 1596. In 1875, Saint Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow, proposed that Saint Philip be included with the others. Saint Ermogénes was added in the year 1913.
Just as the Three Hierarchs Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom have their individual Feast Days, they are also commemorated together on January 30. Similarly, on October 5 the Russian Church honors the First Hierarchs of Moscow, Saints Peter, Alexis, Jonah, Philip, and Ermogénes, who also have their own separate Feast Days as well. In this manner, the Russian Church honors them separately, and collectively today, glorifying them as guardians of the Church, and heavenly intercessors before the Throne of God.
In 2005, the names of Saint Innocent, Saint Makarios, Saint Job, Saint Tikhon, Saint Philaret, Saint Peter (Polyansky), and Saint Makarios (Nevsky) were added to the list of the other Hierarchs who are commemorated on October 5. These seven names, however, have not been added to the Menaion Service by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Information about the lives of these holy Hierarchs is to be found under the dates of their commemoration:
Saint Peter (December 21 and August 24)
Saint Alexis (February 12 and May 20)
Saint Jonah (March 31, May 27, and June 15)
Saint Makarios (December 30)
Saint Philip (January 9 and July 3)
Saint Job (April 5 and June 19)
Saint Ermogénes (February 17 and May 12)
Saint Tikhon (April 7 and October 9)
Saint Philaret (November 19)
Saint Peter (Polyansky) (September 27)
Saint Makarios (Nevsky) (February 16)
Venerable Damian the Healer, Jeremiah, and Matthew, Clairvoyants, of the Kiev Caves
Saints Damian the Presbyter and Healer, Jeremiah and Matthew, Clairvoyants of the Kiev Caves, Near Caves, were described by Saint Nestor the Chronicler (October 27).
Saint Damian (+1071) remembered the Baptism of Rus (in year 988). The zealous imitator of Saint Theodosius (May 3) was gentle, industrious and obedient, to the joy of all the brethren. He spent the entire night at prayer and reading the Divine Scriptures. Saint Damian was strict in fasting, and ate nothing but bread and water. The Lord rewarded him with the gift of treating ailments.
Saint Jeremiah had the gift of the Lord to see into the future, and to see into the moral condition of a person. He died at an old age (+ ca. 1070).
In the Iconographers’ Manual it says, “Matthew has the appearance of a clairvoyant Elder, with a black greyish beard like Vlas, in black klobuk, a monastic robe, hands pressed to the heart.”
The general troparion to these saints is: “Your hearts were enlightened with the light of Christ’s commandments, and you dispelled the dread darkness. Like an abode of the Trinity, from whom we receive grace, O Fathers Damian, Jeremiah and Matthew, you heal the infirm, and you announce the future in the communion with the angels. We pray to you to intercede with Christ God to grant to us the communion of the saints.”
They are also commemorated on September 28 and the second Sunday of Great Lent
Saint Charitina, Princess of Lithuania
Saint Charitina, Princess of Lithuania, nun of Novgorod, pursued asceticism in a Novgorod women’s monastery in honor of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, built on Sinich hill.
Having resolved to dedicate her life to the Lord, she became a nun. For her virtuous life she was made Abbess of the monastery. Until the time of her death, she was a sister to all through her humility, purity and strict temperance. She fell asleep in the Lord in the year 1281 and was buried in the Peter and Paul monastery church.
In the Iconographers’ Manual it says, “The holy and righteous Charitina, Abbess of the Peter and Paul women’s monastery at Novgorod. She was born of Lithuanian royalty, yet appears as a maiden in a single garb without the mantiya.”
Hieromartyr Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria
Saint Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, was the son of wealthy pagan parents. He converted to Christianity at a mature age, and became a pupil of Origen. Later, he was appointed as the head of Alexandria’s Catechetical School, and then became Bishop of Alexandria in the year 247.
Saint Dionysius devoted much effort to defend the Church from heresy, and he encouraged his flock in the firm confession of Orthodoxy during the persecution under the emperors Decius (249-251) and Valerian (253-259).
The holy bishop endured much suffering in his lifetime. When the Decian persecution broke out, Saint Dionysius was forced to flee Alexandria, but returned when the Emperor died. He was later exiled to Libya during the reign of Valerian.
When he was able to resume his duties in Alexandria in 261, Saint Dionysius had to contend with civil war, famine, plague, and other difficulties. The saint called upon his flock to tend sick Christians and pagans alike, and to bury the dead. Concerning the death of his spiritual children he wrote, “In such a manner the best of our brethren have departed this life. This generation of the dead, a deed of great piety and firm faith, is no less of a martyrdom.”
Saint Dionysius illumined his flock through his preaching, and with deeds of love and charity. An illness prevented him from attending the Council of Antioch (264- 265), and he fell asleep in the Lord while it was in session.
The influence of Saint Dionysius extended beyond the limits of his diocese, and his writings dealt with practical as well as theological subjects (“On Nature,” “On Temptations,” “On the Promises,” etc.). He was also familiar with Greek philosophy. Only fragments of his writings survive today, most of them preserved in Eusebius, who mentions him in his CHURCH HISTORY ( Book 7) and calls him “Dionysius the Great.”
Two complete letters of Saint Dionysius are extant, one addressed to Novatian, and the other to Basilides.
Martyr Memelchtha of Persia
The Martyr Memelchtha of Persia was, before her conversion to the Christian Faith, a pagan priestess of the goddess Artemis.
The saint’s sister convinced her to accept Baptism. When the pagans saw Memelchtha in her white baptismal robe, they stoned her. The saint suffered in the year 344. Later, a church was dedicated to her on the site of the temple of Artemis.
Saint Gregory of Chandzoe, Georgia
Our Holy Father Gregory of Khandzta was raised in the court of the Kartlian ruler Nerse. His family was part of the Meskhetian aristocracy. He received an education befitting his family’s noble rank and displayed a special aptitude for the sciences and theology.
The youth chosen by God was extraordinarily dedicated to his studies. In a short time he memorized the Psalms and familiarized himself with the doctrines of the Church. He also learned several languages and knew many theological works by heart.
While Gregory was still young, his loved ones expressed a wish to see him enter the priesthood. The wise youth had aspired to the spiritual life from early on, but he considered himself unprepared to bear such an enormous responsibility. “My pride prevents me from fulfilling your desire,” he told them.
Finally he consented to be ordained a priest, but the local princes sought to consecrate him a bishop. Frightened at the prospect, Gregory secretly fled to southwestern Georgia with three like-minded companions: his cousin Saba (a future bishop and the reviver of Ishkhani Monastery), Theodore (the builder of Nedzvi [Akhaldaba] Monastery), and Christopher (the builder of the Dviri Monastery of Saint Cyricus). The four brothers were unified by faith and love of God and bound by a single desire, as though they were one soul existing in four bodies.
The brothers arrived at the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Opiza and presented themselves before the abbot George. With his blessing they labored there for two years. Then Saint Gregory visited the monk Khvedios, the righteous hermit of Khandzta. Prior to Gregory’s arrival, Khvedios had received a sign from God indicating that a monastery would be built in Khandzta by the hands of the priest Gregory. It was revealed to him that Fr. Gregory’s prayers were so holy that their sweet-smelling fragrance rose up before God like incense. The monk showed Saint Gregory the environs, and he was so drawn to this area that he soon returned there with the other brothers and began to build a monastery.
The monks were forced to construct the monastery in difficult conditions, since the earth was rocky and mountainous and they were not equipped with the proper tools. First they built a wooden church, and later four cells and a dining hall.
A certain aristocrat by the name of Gabriel Dapanchuli lived nearby, and Gregory turned to him for help with construction of the monastery. With great joy he donated the stone, labor and food necessary for this worthy project to be realized. In such a way the first monastery church in Khandzta was established.
Gabriel informed Holy King Ashot Kuropalates about the brothers’ activity, and the king invited their leader, Saint Gregory, to the palace.
There he received him with great honor, asked him to bless the royal family, and inquired in detail about the life and labors of the holy monks. Then he presented Gregory with a generous donation to the monastery and, having learned that the land in Khandzta could not be cultivated, bestowed upon the monastery a large plot of fertile land in Shatberdi. King Ashot’s sons, the princes Adarnerse, Bagrat, and Guaram, also donated generously to the monastery.
And so, during the bloody Arab-Muslim period of rule, when the Georgian people had sunk into deep despair, the Klarjeti Wilderness was transformed into a life-giving oasis to which the greatest sons of the nation flocked.
The rules of the monastery were strict. In each monk’s cell was nothing but a short, stiff bed and a small pitcher for water. Neither fires nor candles were lit inside.
Saint Gregory was known throughout all of Georgia. At the request of King Demetre II of Abkhazeti (837-872), Fr. Gregory built a monastery in the village of Ubisi in Imereti and appointed his disciple Ilarion of Jerusalem as abbot. He built this monastery on the border of western and eastern Georgia and in so doing foresaw the unification of the two kingdoms.
The Lord performed many miracles through Saint Gregory. Once the church bell-ringer was approaching the abbot’s cell and saw a light issuing forth from inside. He knew that Saint Gregory had lit neither a fire nor his oil lamp, and he became frightened, believing that a fire might have started in the abbot’s cell. As it turned out, others had witnessed similar wonders: when the saint stood praying, he would light up like the sun, and beams of light would emanate from his body in the shape of a cross.
Venerable Gregory stood firmly in defense of morality, and he even confronted King Ashot Kuropalates when his conduct was at odds with the values of the Georgian people. Gregory had united his companions in their love of God, but among the roses there appeared a thorn. A certain Tskir, a protégé of the Tbilisi emir Sahak, schemed to obtain the episocopal see of Anchi.
He forcibly took control of Anchi Cathedral and committed many blasphemies. The clergy, and venerable Gregory in particular, condemned his behavior, but Tskir was consumed by pride and hired a killer to eliminate Saint Gregory. Like a prophet, Saint Gregory foresaw the imminent danger but went out to meet it nevertheless. Approaching his victim, while still at a distance from him, the murderer saw a bright light enveloping the holy father. He froze in fear, and his hand immediately withered. Only the prayers of Saint Gregory could heal him and permit him to return home.
The Church excommunicated Tskir, and he fled to the emir for refuge. With Sahak’s help he returned to the throne of Anchi and sent a military detachment to destroy Khandzta Monastery.
The monks of Khandzta and their abbot met the attackers in meekness and requested time to celebrate the Sunday Liturgy. The whole brotherhood prayed tearfully to the Lord to save the monastery.
The Liturgy had not yet been completed when a messenger arrived from Anchi to report that Tskir had died suddenly.
Near the end of his life Saint Gregory spent most of his time at Shatberdi Monastery, which he himself had built. When he received a sign that his death was approaching, he distributed candles throughout all the monasteries in the Klarjeti Wilderness and requested that they be burned on the day of his death. He asked all to remember him and bade farewell to Khandzta.
On the day of his repose, holy fathers from all over Klarjeti gathered to receive a final blessing from their teacher. Gregory blessed them, admonished them for the last time, and gave up his soul to God. When he breathed his last, a voice was heard from heaven, calling him: “Do not be afraid to come, O Venerable Servant of Christ, for Christ, the King of heaven, has Himself anointed you an earthly angel and a heavenly man. Now come and approach thy Lord with great joy and prepare for exaltation, for you are blessed among the saints and your everlasting glory has been prepared!”
Abounding in blessings and perfect in wisdom, justly ruling the inhabitants of the wilderness, Saint Gregory of Khandzta reposed on October 5, 861, at the age of 102. In accordance with his will, he was buried among his brothers at Khandzta Monastery.
Venerable Eudocimus of Vatopedi, Mount Athos
No information available at this time.
Righteous Methodia of Kimolos
Saint Methodίa was born on the island of Kίmolos on November 10, 1865, to devout parents. Her father's name was Jacob Sardēs, and her mother's name was Maria. They had three sons and five daughters, the second of whom was called Irene.
From childhood the Saint was drawn to divine things and always frequented the church. When she reached a suitable age, she married a sailor, in order to please her parents. Although she was married, her zeal for the Church remained unabated. One day, however, while her husband was out on a voyage, he was shipwrecked and drowned near Asia Minor.
Later Irene was tonsured in the church of Panagia Hodēgḗtria on Kίmolos by Archbishop Methodios of Syros, who renamed her Methodίa. Her joy knew no bounds, and she followed the evangelic commandments of the Lord with all her soul. Her ascetical struggles were severe, and she was a living example for all. Therefore, Christ, Who dwells in pure hearts, also came to dwell in her, and she became a chosen vessel (Acts 9:15). The report of her great virtue spread everywhere and a multitude of women went to stay with her, in order to find a spiritual refuge and a safe harbor from the storms of life. The Saint's inspired words were a source of refreshment and healing for the afflicted souls of these women, and she guided them on the path of repentance. In addition to her other gifts, God gave Saint Methodίa the grace to work miracles.
Venerable Methodίa reposed peacefully on Sunday, October 5, 1908 at the age of 43. She was glorified as a Saint on October 5, 1991.
Venerable Fathers and Mothers of the Klarjeti Wilderness
For centuries the region of Tao-Klarjeti in southwestern Georgia was known for its holiness, unity and spiritual strength. The cultural life and faith of Kartli were nearly extinguished by the Arab-Muslim domination from the 8th to 10th centuries. Tao-Klarjeti, however, which had been emptied by a cholera epidemic and the aftermath of the Islamic invasions, filled with new churches and monasteries, becoming a destination for many Christian ascetics. Saint Ekvtime Taqaishvili wrote that “Every monastery included a school and a seminary where the Christian Faith, philosophy, Greek and other foreign languages, chant, calligraphy, fine arts, jewelry making, and other disciplines were taught. Countless priests, translators, miniaturists, and jewelry makers developed their craft in these schools.”
The prayers of the Tao-Klarjeti monastics multiplied and were lifted up to the heavens like holy incense. Hagiographical works were written, original hymns composed, and theological texts translated.
The literature of this period was thoroughly infused with the spirit of the Georgian people. Tao-Klarjeti reinvigorated the soul of the Georgian people and redirected the lost back to the true path.
Saint Gregory of Khandzta, a priest of great virtue and wisdom, spearheaded this spiritual revival. He was a good shepherd to his flock and the builder of many churches. The Lives of Saint Gregory of Khandzta and the other holy fathers and mothers of Tao-Klarjeti are recounted in Saint George Merchule’s work The Life of Saint Gregory of Khandzta. George Merchule labored in the Khandzta wilderness in the 10th century. His epithet, “Merchule,” means “the theologian” or literally “the knower of the law.”
George Merchule also provided the Church with the Life of Holy Catholicos Nerse III, an Armenian by descent. Nerse confessed the Orthodox Faith and labored in Tao-Klarjeti with the Georgian fathers. (At that time many Orthodox Armenians fled to Tao-Klarjeti after being exiled from their homeland.) In the first half of the 7th century Saint Nerse laid the foundations of Ishkhani Church and labored there in holiness.
Holy Catholicos Hilarion was the founder and abbot of Tsqarostavi Church and a disciple of Gregory of Khandzta. He arrived at Khandzta Monastery with his spiritual father, Saint David, Abbot of Midznadzori Monastery, and Saint Zachariah, the builder of Beretelta Church. Those who witnessed the fathers’ unity and piety abandoned the world to join them in offering their lives to God. In the middle of the 9th century Saint Hilarion was enthroned as Catholicos of Kartli in recognition of his wisdom and holiness. He followed Gabriel II (ca. 830-850) and was succeeded by Arsenius I “the Great” (ca. 860-887) in this most honorable role.
Saint Stephen of Tbeti was the first bishop of Tbeti. He was a major writer and hagiographer in the Church of his time and a brilliant figure of the Tao-Klarjeti literary school. Saint Stephen is credited with authoring the narrative The Martyrdom of Saint Gobron.
From his childhood Saint Zachariah of Anchi was filled with love and fear of God. Strict in his discipline but free from every constraint of this world, he led the life of a shepherd like St.David the Psalmist. As a child, Saint Zachariah would gather his friends and relate with precision the words and scenes he had witnessed in churches and monasteries. Once the bishop of Anchi observed this unusual pastime and reported seeing a pillar of light descend fromthe heavens and alight atop St.Zachariah’s head.
When he reached a mature age, Saint Zachariah became the spiritual leader of his brothers. Through his prayers many miracles were performed: he stopped the stone wall of a collapsing building from crashing to the ground, eliminated the troublesome birds and grasshoppers from the monastery’s vineyard, and killed two venomous snakes that were keeping his frightened brothers from the vineyard. Filled with good faith and virtue, Saint Zachariah was later consecrated bishop of Anchi.
Saint Macarius of Anchi served as bishop of Anchi following the repose of Saint Gregory of Khandzta in 861.
Saint Ezra of Anchi, of the noble Dapanchuli family, labored in holiness during the 10th century.
Saint Savva of Ishkhani was a cousin and one of the closest companions of St.Gregory of Khandzta. Along with two other friends, Christopher and Theodore, the young Savva accompanied Gregory of Khandzta to Klarjeti on a quest for the ascetic life. At first the young monks settled at Opiza Monastery and labored there with great zeal, and afterwards they moved to Khandzta.
Once Saint Savva made a pilgrimage with Saint Gregory to Byzantium, and there he learned the typica of the local monasteries. On the way back to Tao-Klarjeti, God revealed to them His will for Savva to restore Ishkhani Church, which had been destroyed by Arab-Muslim invaders. Saint Savva desired to begin this holy task at once, but he continued on the way with Saint Gregory at the latter’s insistence.
Later, Gregory assigned two monks to help Savva restore the church and sent the three of them to Ishkhani. By God’s grace, the brothers restored the church and monastery and the number of monks who labored there multiplied. Before long their abbot, Saint Savva, was consecrated bishop of Ishkhani.
Saint John the New Martyr for Christ labored at Khandzta Monastery. While he was journeying to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage, the Saracens captured him in Baghdad and attempted to torture him into a denial of the Christian Faith. But by shedding his blood Saint John demonstrated his immutable fidelity to the Faith of our Savior.
Saint Theodore, Founder of Nedzvi Monastery, and Saint Christopher, Founder of the Dviri Monastery of Saint Cyricus, were spiritual sons of Saint Gregory of Khandzta and the first men to join him in his holy labors.
With Saint Gregory they labored first at Opiza and later at Khandzta Monastery. These holy fathers journeyed to Abkhazeti to increase the fullness of the Faith in that region, and on their way, in Samtskhe, an aristocrat named Mirian entrusted them with the care and upbringing of his son, the six-year-old Arsenius (later Holy Catholicos Arsenius the Great).
Eventually Saint Gregory of Khandzta desired the return of Theodore and Christopher, and he traveled to Abkhazeti to find them. Saint Gregory took with him his young disciple Ephraim (later the bishop and wonderworker of Atsquri). When he met the brothers in Abkhazeti, Saint Gregory entrusted them with Ephraim’s upbringing and made them vow not to leave Khandzta Monastery until Ephraim and Arsenius had reached maturity.
When Ephraim and Arsenius reached manhood they were “perfected in wisdom,” and Theodore and Christopher left Khandzta to establish the Nedzvi and Dviri Monasteries. There each father labored until the day of his repose.
Holy Fathers George, Amona, Peter, and Macarius labored in the wilderness of Opiza. Abba George was abbot of Opiza’s Saint John the Baptist Monastery during the two years Saint Gregory of Khandzta and his companions labored there. Fr. George was the third abbot of the monastery (he was succeeded by Saint Andria and Saint Samuel).
Through God’s grace Abba George recognized the pilgrims’ faith and received them, not as pupils, but as honorable and wise elders. Witnessing the ascetic feats of the venerable fathers of Opiza, Saint Gregory increased in virtue and humility, and acquired inner peace. (History has preserved a Holy Gospel from the Opiza Wilderness that has been dated to the year 913, around the time that Abba George was laboring there.)
In the second part of the 9th century Saint Serapion of Zarzma founded Zarzma Monastery in Samtskhe. Saint Serapion’s nephew, Saint Basil, later performed great ascetic feats and worked miracles at that monastery. Saint Basil authored The Life of Serapion of Zarzma and recounted the lives of the other venerable fathers of Zarzma as well.
Saint George, “a brilliant and kindhearted man of great virtue,” succeeded Saint Serapion as abbot of Zarzma Monastery. After Saint George, the Venerable Abbot Michael began building a second church in Zarzma, in fulfillment of Saint Serapion’s prophecy. Saint Paul, who followed Michael as abbot of the monastery, completed construction of this second church.
The holy and righteous Saint Khvedios labored as a hermit in the caves of the Khandzta Wilderness. God revealed to him the news of Saint Gregory’s arrival, and he received Gregory and his brothers with great joy.
He blessed them, while receiving a blessing himself from Saint Gregory of Khandzta. Then, rather than journeying on with Saint Gregory and the other brothers, Saint Khvedios retired to his secluded cave, since he had taken a vow before God to live his whole life in solitude. After the holy father reposed, his dwelling place filled with a sweet fragrance.
Saint Epiphanius was a wonderworker and a spiritual son of Saint Gregory of Khandzta. This venerable father was truly clad in the armor of righteousness, and he was an inspiration to many. According to Saint Gregory’s instructions, he became an example of obedience for the other brothers of the monastery. Saint Epiphanius’s prayers healed many who were afflicted by terminal illnesses.
Saint Matthew labored in the Khandzta Wilderness. After the abbess of Mere Monastery reposed, he took upon himself leadership of the women’s monastery and for forty years set an example of life lived in the fullness of the Faith. He was so strict in his asceticism that, for those forty years, he never once shared a meal with the mothers, nor did he receive a single object from any of their hands. When Saint Matthew reached an advanced age, he became diseased in the flesh, but he declined the nuns’ offers to care for him. Instead he asked his relative, also a monk, to attend to him in his time of need.
Saint Zenon was born in Samtskhe to a family of aristocrats. He was raised in the fear of God, and he desired from his youth to enter the monastic life. Before this desire was fulfilled, however, his sister was kidnapped by a certain godless man. Zenon set off to pursue the abductor on horseback, but while he was riding the devil began to assault him with anxieties. “I am a respectable man,” he thought, “but the one whom I am following is dishonorable. If I catch and kill him, I will destroy my soul, but if I turn back, shame will come upon me.”
And so, at that very moment, Saint Zenon turned back to fulfill his lifelong desire. He was tonsured a monk and later became a disciple of Saint Gregory of Khandzta.
Saint Zenon, the “Treasure of Virtue, Holy Model of Asceticism and Gate of the Klarjeti Wilderness,” reposed at an advanced age.
Saint John, Abbot of Khandzta, is celebrated for having completed construction of the new church at Khandzta that was begun by his predecessor, Saint Arsenius. Both holy fathers reposed in the Khandzta Wilderness.
Saint Theodore the Abbot and his brother Saint John both labored at Khandzta Monastery. Saint George Merchule recognizes the brothers as co-authors, with him, of the work The Life of Saint Gregory of Khandzta; historians, however, believe that they were contributors, rather than coauthors, of this work.
The monk Saint Gabriel ministered to the infirm and elderly monks of Khandzta Monastery. Saint Gabriel verbally recounted the Lives of the great Church Fathers and admonished his brothers to follow the same strict disciplines as the fathers who had gone before them.
Saint Demetrius was raised by the blessed Saint Febronia and later became one of Saint Gregory of Khandzta’s first disciples. He is commemorated among the holy fathers for having attaining the heights of the monastic struggle and for working wonders, both in this life and after he had been received into the bosom of Abraham.
SS. Arsenius and Macarius, “good monks full of wisdom and the gift of wonderworking,” were relatives of Saint Ephraim of Atsquri. They labored together at Saint Savva Monastery in Jerusalem and corresponded regularly with the monks of Khandzta. Saints Arsenius and Macarius possessed a profound love for Christ and a longing to serve their motherland and mother Church.
Saint Shio the Wonderworker “shone upon the land of Kartli like the North Star in the morning sky.” According to Basil of Zarzma, Saint Shio was the spiritual father of Saint Michael of Parekhi.
SS. Basil and Markelus, “abounding and brilliant in virtue,” were disciples of Saint Michael of Parekhi. Saint Basil was buried in Parekhi next to his spiritual father. Both fathers worked miracles from their graves and healed the infirmities of the faithful who came to seek their blessings.
Venerable Father David, “an image of the angels” and builder of many monasteries, labored as abbot of Midznadzori Monastery. He was the spiritual father of the holy catholicos Hilarion.
Endowed with many gifts of grace, Saint Jacob was a prominent figure in the tenth-century Georgian Church. He labored first in Shatberdi, and later near Midznadzori Gorge, where he shone forth as the brightest of stars.
Venerable Sophronius the Great was the restorer of the Shatberdi Church and a famous writer, but his literary works have not been preserved.
Saint George Merchule numbers him among the wise and holy fathers whose stories are worthy to be told. Saint Gregory of Shatberdi labored at the same monastery. Several of the tenth-century manuscripts copied by him at Shatberdi Monastery have been preserved, including the Notebooks of the Shatberdi Wilderness and the Gospels of Hadishi, Jruchi, and Parekhi.
Saint Zachariah built the famous Beretelta Monastery and set an example of wisdom and holiness for the fathers who labored there after him.
Saint George Merchule honors the venerable and God-fearing Saint Hilarion of Parekhi as one of the greatest writers and figures in the Church of his time.
Saint Hilarion, Abbot of Ubisi, labored for many years at the Lavra of Saint Savva in Jerusalem, where the Georgians had their own chapel for many centuries (See Archimandrite Gregory Peradze, “An Account of the Georgian Monks and Monasteries in Palestine,” Georgica, Autumn 1937, nos. 4-5, pp. 181-246.). After he had reached an advanced age, the venerable father moved to Georgia and settled at Khandzta Monastery. Later this clever and learned father began construction of Ubisi Church in Imereti, where he labored until his death.
Saint Febronia labored at Mere Monastery in Samtskhe. She was a close friend of Saint Gregory of Khandzta. He sent to her a certain woman whom King Ashot Kuropalates (later the holy martyr) had taken as his mistress, to instruct her in the Christian Faith. Saint Febronia denied the king’s pleas to return the woman to the royal palace.
Angels often visited Saint Febronia to inform her of God’s holy will. Saint Temestia labored with Saint Febronia at Mere Monastery. For forty years she ministered to Saint Matthew, the spiritual father of the monastery. Saint Temestia herself remarked that her relationship with Father Matthew was so chaste and innocent that the holy father would not even permit himself to receive the holy incense directly from her hands.
Saint Anatole (also called Antonios) labored in seclusion at Mere Monastery. Angels often appeared to the holy mother, who herself led a life equal to that of the bodiless powers. Both venerable Temestia and Anatole were informed by angels of the repose of their abbot, St.Matthew.
Saint Anastasia labored among the holy mothers in remarkable sanctity and humility. She descended from an Abkhaz family and was known as Bevreli in the world. As queen (the wife of King Adarnerse) she was often called upon to protect the interests of Mere Monastery.
King Adarnerse later grew cold towards Bevreli, so she left the world and was tonsured a nun with the name Anastasia. Saint Anastasia bore the most difficult labor at the monastery: she gathered the firewood and carried it from the forest. She wore only rags and prayed constantly.
Once King Adarnerse suddenly fell ill, and he sent messengers to Persati Monastery, where Anastasia was laboring, asking forgiveness on his behalf. Saint Anastasia prayed for the sick king: “May Christ forgive all his sins and heal him in soul and body.” King Adarnerse was soon healed of his infirmity.
Abounding in holiness and humility, Saint Anastasia labored at Persati Monastery to the end of her days on earth. God granted her the gift of wonderworking both during her life on earth and after her repose.
Saint Anastasia’s own sons, Gurgen and Sumbat, were cured of their diseases at her grave, and afterwards many more who came with faith received healing from the holy mother.
The historical region of Tao-Klarjeti has throughout history, and even up to the present day, been inhabited by ethnic Georgians. However, since 1921, when the Communists annulled the independence of the Georgian Republic, Tao-Klarjeti has been a Turkish possession.
God endowed this region with abundant sunshine and clear air, free from cruel heat and bitter frost. The local climate heightens the beauty of this wondrous region.
But Tao-Klarjeti has been transformed into a battlefield countless times throughout history: it has witnessed victory and defeat, destruction and restoration, treason and selfless loyalty. Through all these trials it has remained an inseparable part of the unified Georgian nation. In spite of the fact that, today, Tao-Klarjeti is located within the borders of a foreign government and its Georgian dioceses are often referred to as belonging to the Armenian Church, the historical truth must be upheld.
On October 17, 2002, the Georgian Apostolic Church nominally restored the dioceses of Klarjeti and Lazeti to its own jurisdiction and declared the incumbent bishop of Akhaltsikhe to be their spiritual leader. On the same day, the Georgian Church canonized the holy and venerable fathers and mothers who labored in those regions under the leadership of Saint Gregory of Khandzta. Only a few of the God-fearing laborers, among them Holy Catholicos Nerse II, were Armenian by descent, but they had converted to Orthodoxy and preached the true Faith in the wilderness with the Georgian fathers.