November 17th (XI - 30)
Icon of St. Gregory the Wonderworker and St. Gennadius
Sainted Gregory Thaumatourgos (Wonderworker), Bishop of Neocaesarea (+ c. 266-270). Monk Nikon, Hegumen of Radonezh, and Disciple of the Monk Sergei (+ 1426). Monk Lazaros the Iconographer (+ c. 857). Martyr Gobrones, in Holy Baptism Michael, and with him 133 Soldiers (+ 914) (Gruz.). Saints Zacharias and John. Monk Longinus. Monk Justin. Saint Gennadios of Batopedeia. Saint John of Olympus. Icon of the Mother of God "Oil-Flowing" (Eleotochiva).
Sainted Gregory Thaumatourgos, Bishop of Neocaesarea, was born in the city of Neocaesarea (northern Asia Minor) into a pagan family. Having received a fine education, from his youth he strived for Truth, but the thinkers of antiquity were not able to quench his thirst for knowledge. Truth was revealed to him only in the Holy Gospel, and the youth became a Christian.
For the continuation of his studies Saint Gregory set off to Alexandria, known then as a centre for pagan and Christian learning. The youth, eager for knowledge, went to the Alexandrian Catechetical School, where the presbyter Origen taught. Origen was a famous teacher, possessing a great strength of mind and profound knowledge. Saint Gregory became a student of the presbyter Origen. Afterwards, the saint wrote thus about his mentor: "This man received from God a sublime gift -- to be an interpreter of the Word of God for people, to apprehend the Word of God, as God Himself did use it, and to explain it to people, insofar as they were able to understand it". Saint Gregory studied for eight years with the presbyter Origen and received Baptism from him.
The ascetic life of Saint Gregory, his continence, purity and lack of covetousness aroused envy among his conceited and sin-loving peers -- pagans that they were, and they decided to slander Saint Gregory. One time, when he was conversing with students on the city-square, a seductress notorious throughout the city came up to him and demanded payment, for alleged sinful services rendered. At first Saint Gregory gently took exception with her, that she was mistaken and assumed that he was someone else. But the profligate woman would not be quieted. He then asked a friend to give her the money. Just as the profligate woman took in hand the unjust recompense, she immediately fell to the ground in a demonic fit, and the fraud became evident. Saint Gregory said a prayer over her, and the devil left her.
Having returned to Neocaesarea, the saint renounced the worldly affairs into which influential townsmen persistently sought to push him. He fled into the wilderness, where by fasting and prayer he attained to high spiritual accomplishment and grace-bearing gifts of perspicacity and prophecy. Saint Gregory loved life in the wilderness and wanted to remain in solitude until the end of his days, but the Lord willed otherwise.
The bishop of the Cappadocian city of Amasea, Thedimos, having learned about the ascetic life of Saint Gregory, decided to have him made bishop of Neocaesarea. But having foreseen in spirit the intent of Vladyka Thedimos, the saint hid himself from the messengers of the bishop who were entrusted to find him. Then Bishop Thedimos ordained the out of sight saint as bishop of Neocaesarea, beseeching the Lord, that He Himself would sanctify the unusual ordination. Sainted Gregory perceived the extraordinary event as a manifestation of the will of God and he did not dare to protest. This episode in the life of Saint Gregory was recorded by Sainted Gregory of Nyssa (Comm. 10 January). He relates, that Saint Gregory of Neocaesarea received the highest priestly dignity only after the performing over him of all the sacerdotal requirements by Bishop Thedimos of Amasea.
Before ordination, when it was necessary for him to pronounce the Confession of the Faith, Saint Gregory prayed fervently and diligently imploring God and the Mother of God to reveal to him the true form of worship of the MostHoly Trinity. At the time of prayer the All-Pure Virgin Mary appeared to him, radiant like unto the sun, and together with Her was the Apostle John the Theologian dressed in archbishopal vestments. At the bidding of the Mother of God, the Apostle John taught the saint how to correctly and properly confess the Mystery of the MostHoly Trinity. Saint Gregory wrote down everything that the Apostle John the Theologian revealed to him. The Mystery of the Symbol-Creed of the Faith, written down by Sainted Gregory of Neocaesarea -- is a great Divine Revelation in the history of the Church. On it is based the teaching about the Holy Trinity in Orthodox Theology. Subsequently it was made use of by the holy Fathers of the Church, -- Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa. The Credal-Symbol of Saint Gregory of Neocaesarea was later examined and affirmed in the year 325 by the First OEcumenical Council, showing his enduring significance for Orthodoxy.
Having become a bishop, Saint Gregory set off to Neocaesarea. Along the way from Amasea he expelled devils from a pagan-temple, the priest of which he converted to Christ. The convert was witness to still another miracle of the saint, -- through his word a large heap of stone shifted from its place. The preaching of the saint was direct, lively and fruitful. He taught and worked miracles in the Name of Christ: he healed the sick, he helped the needy, he settled quarrels and complaints. Two brothers in sharing an inheritance were not able to agree over a lake property of their dead father. Each of the brothers gathered round himself like-minded friends. They were ready to come to blows. Saint Gregory persuaded them to delay the finish of their dispute until the following day, and he himself prayed all night long at the shore of the lake causing the quarrel. When dawn broke, everyone saw that the cause of the dispute was no more -- the lake had gone underground. Through the intense prayer of the saint there now flowed but a stream, and the course of its flow defining the boundary line. Another time, during the construction of a church, he gave command in the Name of Christ for an hill to move and make room at the place of the foundation.
When a persecution against Christians began under the emperor Decius (249-251), Saint Gregory led his flock to a faraway mountain. A certain pagan, knowing about the place of the Christians, told this to the persecutors. Soldiers surrounded the mountain. The saint went out into an open place, raised up his hands to heaven and, having given orders to his deacon on what to do, he began to pray. The soldiers searched the whole mountain, and they went several times right past those praying, but not seeing them, they gave up and went. In the city they reported that on the mountain there was nowhere to hide: no one was there, and only two trees stood alongside each other. The informer was struck with amazement, he repented his ways and became a fervent Christian.
Saint Gregory returned to Neocaesarea after the end of the persecution. By his blessing church feastdays were established in honour of the martyrs that had suffered for Christ. During these times there began to spread about the false-teachings of the heretic Paul of Samosata (Samosata was a city in Syria). This heretic confused together the Essence of the UnDivided Trinity with the Essence of One God the Father, confounding the minds of many Christians by his talks and writings. The heretic Paul of Samosata was condemned at the first Antioch Council, assembled in the year 264. Saint Gregory occupied a prominent place at this Council.
By his saintly life, his effective preaching, working of miracles and graced guiding of his flock, the saint steadily increased the number of converts to Christ. Before his death (c. 266-270) there remained in the city only 17 pagans. But when Sainted Gregory Thaumatourgos, Bishop of Neocaesaea, first entered onto the cathedra, there were in the city only 17 Christians.
The Monk Nikon, Hegumen of Radonezh, a close student and successor of the Monk Sergei of Radonezh (+ 1392, Comm. 25 September and 5 July), was born at Yur'ev-Pol'sk. Having heard of the angelic life of the Radonezh Wonderworker, the lad came to the Monk Sergei and requested to take vows into the angelic form. The Monk Sergei discerned the purity and prudence of the lad and gave him a testing -- he sent him to his disciple Athanasii the Eminent (+ post 1401, Comm. 12 September). But the Monk Athanasii would not accept him right away. Only after seeing the persistence of the lad did he vow him into the monastic form. The Monk Nikon in living with him worked at prayer, studied Holy Scripture and persevered in virtue and purity. When he reached the age of maturity, he was ordained to the dignity of priest. After a certain while the Monk Athanasii gave him blessing to go see the Monk Sergei. The Monk Sergei, joyfully catching sight of him, said: "It is fine that thou art come, my child Nikon" and happily received him. He gave orders for the Monk Nikon to serve the brethren. The disciple passed whole days at monastic matters, and nights -- in prayerful talks with God. The Monk Sergei was comforted by his life. Having received a special insight concerning him, the Monk Sergei bid his disciple to dwell with him in his own cell, so that he might share in spiritual attainment. He fondly instructed him and explained much about the essence of spiritual life. The Monk Sergei at first assigned the Monk Nikon to the duty of assisting the monastery head, but six months before his repose, when he had committed himself to silence, he appointed the disciple as his successor.
After the death of the Monk Sergei (+ 25 September 1392), he attentively attended to everything that was directed him by the founder of the monastery. He had the habit to make the rounds of all the monastic services, and never did he forsake common tasks, working on a equal footing with all the brethren. But the burden of monastic head weighed down upon the Monk Nikon. Recalling his quiet life in the Serpukhov Visotsk monastery with the Monk Athanasii, and later with the Monk Sergei, he gave up the governance and retired into his own cell. For six years the monastery was guided by the Monk Savva of Storozhevsk (+ 1407, Comm. 3 December). In the year 1400 the Monk Savva founded his own monastery near Zvenigorod, and the brethren entreated the Monk Nikon to again take over the governance. He consented, but assigned himself a certain time each day for silence, so as to stand alone before God.
When reports began to spread about an invasion of the Russian land by khan Edigei (1408), the Monk Nikon zealously prayed to God for the sparing of the monastery. In the nuance of a dream there appeared to him the Moscow Sainted-hierarchs Peter (+ 1326, Comm. 21 December) and Alexei (+ 1378, Comm. 12 February) together with the Monk Sergei and said, that he should not grieve over the destruction of the monastery, since it would not become desolate, but rather grow all the more. The monks left the monastery, taking with them relics and cell-items, and when they returned they saw that their beloved place had been reduced to ashes. But the Monk Nikon did not despair, and the task of the brethren was renewed work. First of all was built a wooden church in the Name of the MostHoly LifeCreating Trinity and it was consecrated in the year 1411 on the day of repose of the Monk Sergei, 25 September. The monastery was restored, and the Monk Nikon undertook construction of a stone church over the grave of his spiritual father, the Monk Sergei. The work-crew digging at the time for the foundations uncovered on 5 July 1422 the undecayed relics of the Monk Sergei. Amidst universal rejoicing they placed the relics in a new reliquary and at the transferred-to new site a wooden church was built (now at this place is the church in honour of the Descent of the Holy Spirit). The Monk Nikon later erected a new stone church in the Name of the glorious God in Trinity, and in memory and praise to his spiritual father, he transferred the holy relics into this newly built church. For the embellishment of the temple the Monk Nikon brought in the finest iconographers, the Monks Saint Andrei (Rublev) and Daniel (Cherny). Then also the Monk Andrei wrote the Icon of the LifeCreating and MostHoly Trinity, embodying in it what was revealed to the Monk Sergei. The Monk Nikon was occupied with the construction of the Trinity church until the end of his life. The place of his future repose together with the Monk Sergei was revealed to him in a vision before his death. He summoned the brethren and gave them directives. Having communed the All-Pure Body of Christ and His Precious Blood, the Monk Nikon gave the brethren a last blessing and said: "Let us go thither, my soul, whence it is prepared for thee to dwell; let us proceed with joy: for Christ doth summon thee". Having made the sign of the cross, the Monk Nikon died on 27 November 1426. He was buried near the reliquary of the Monk Sergei. Under Sainted-hierarch Jona (1448-1461), the priestmonk Pakhomii the Logothete wrote down the service and Life of the Monk Nikon, and in the year 1547 there was established a generally observed celebration to him. In the year 1548 a church in his name was built over the grave of the Monk Nikon, and in 1623 a new one was constructed in its place, in which the relics of the Monk Nikon rest under a crypt. In 1976 at the Trinity-Sergeev Lavra, the 500 year anniversary of the repose of the Monk Nikon was solemnly observed.
The Holy Monk Lazaros the Iconographer lived in Constantinople. He was a priest, led a strict ascetic life and wrote holy icons. Under the Iconoclast emperor Theophilos (829-842), they arrested him and after cruel tortures they threw him in prison. He was saved from an inevitable execution by the intervention of the empress Theodora. The Monk Lazaros died in the year 857 while returning from Rome, where he had been sent in a delegation on church matters to Pope Benedict III (855-858). His remains were taken to Constantinople and buried in the church of Saint Euandros.
The Martyr Gorbones, in Holy Baptism Michael, and with him 133 Soldiers - were Gruzian (Georgian) Martyrs of the X Century. The Martyr Michael, descended from an illustrious princely line, was distinguished from the time of his youth by his bravery and lack of fear, and for this he was called "Gorbones" (which means in the Arab language "valiant, brave").
In the year 914 the Arab military commander Abdul-Kasim, having laid waste to Armenia, occupied Tbilisi and besieged the fortress of Kvelo, defended by Saint Gorbones and his soldiers. After a 28 day siege, while treacherously breaking a sealed truce, the Arabs burst into the fortress and captured its stoic defenders headed by Gorbones.
The Gruzian emperor Adarnas II (881-923) ransomed many of the captives, but the Arabs would not consent to the ransom of Saint Gorbones. The emir tried to persuade him to accept Islam, promising him freedom and riches, but received a firm refusal. Then before the eyes of Saint Gorbones they murdered 133 of his soldiers, those who likewise had refused to renounce their faith in Christ. Saint Gorbones, having dipped his fingers in the blood of the martyrs, traced a cross on his forehead and, having given thanks to the Lord for the martyr's crown, he calmly and composedly accepted death by beheading on 17 November 914. The author of the work, the "Martyrdom of Michael (Gorbon)" (914?918), the Tbetsk bishop Stephen relates, that the body of Saint Gorbones was buried together with the bodies of his 133 warriors together in a common pit. "Almost every night a marvelous light illumined the grave of the holy martyrs; and a multitude of the sick in approaching the grave of the saints did received healing". The Gruzian Church enumerated the Martyr Gorbones and his Soldiers into the rank of the saints and established their memory on the day of their martyrdom -- 17 November.
© 1997 by translator Fr. S. Janos.