September 30th (X - 13)
Icon of St. Ripsimia, St. Gregory of Armenia and St. Gaini
Sainted Michael, First Metropolitan of Kiev (+ 992). PriestMartyr Bishop Gregory, Enlightener of Great Armenia (+ c. 335). Monk Gregory (Grigorii) of Pel'shemsk, Vologda Wonderworker (+ 1442). Holy Martyresses Ripsimia and Gaiania, and martyred with them 35 Virgin-Martyrs and 70 Men (IV). Two Monastic-Martyresses and 1000 Martyrs. Martyr Stratonikes. Martyr Mardonias. Monk Akakios of Latreia.
Sainted Michael, the first Metropolitan of Kiev, according to the Joakimov chronicle was a Syrian by birth, but according to the account of other chronicles -- he was a Bulgarian or Serb. In the year 989 he arrived at Korsun together with other clergy for holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir (Comm. 15 July), not long after Vladimir's acceptance of Baptism (988). To the lot of the first metropolitan of the Russian Church felt a difficult, but graced service. He zealously made the rounds of the newly-enlightened Russian Land, preaching the Holy Gospel, baptising and teaching the newly-illumined people, founding the first churches and religious schools. In Rostov he established the first wooden church in honour of the Uspenie-Dormition of the MostHoly Mother of God and installed there as bishop Theodore the Greek. Saint Michael was a wise and gentle, but also strict hierarch. The Russian Church has preserved the memory of the meritorious deeds of the saint: in the synodikon-lists of the Novgorod and Kiev Sophia cathedrals he is rightfully called the initiator.
Saint Michael died in the year 992 and was buried in the Desyatin-Tithe church of the MostHoly Mother of God in Kiev. In about the year 1103, under the hegumen Saint Theoktist (afterwards Bishop of Chernigov, Comm. 5 August), his relics were transferred to the Antoniev Cave, and on 1 October 1730 into the Pechersk Great Church (Uspenie temple). In connection with this his memory was established under 30 September, and also 15 July -- the day of his repose. Earlier, his memory was noted also under 2 September, together with the Monks Antonii and Theodosii of Pechersk. Evidence for this is contained in the service to him: in the 2nd verse of the "Praises" about Saint Michael it speaks thus: "The first passages of the new year having begun, we do offer unto thee first songs, O blessed one, for having been the first beginning of the hierarchy in the Russian land".
The PriestMartyr Gregory, Enlightener of Great Armenia, was born in the year 257. He was descended from the line of the Parthian Arsakid emperors. The father of Saint Gregory, Anak, in striving after the Armenian throne, had murdered his kinsman, the emperor Kursar, in consequence of which all the line of Anak was marked for destruction. A certain kinsman saved Gregory: he carried off the infant from Armenia to Caesarea Cappadocia and raised him in the Christian faith. At maturity, Gregory married, had two sons, but soon was left a widower. Gregory raised his sons in piety. One of them -- Orthanes, afterwards became a priest, and the other -- Arostanes, accepted monasticism and went off into the wilderness. In order to atone for the sin of his father, who had murdered the father of Tiridates, Gregory entered into the service of the latter and was for him a faithful servant. Tiridates loved Gregory like a friend, but he was intolerant of the Christian confession of faith. After ascending the Armenian throne, he began to demand that Saint Gregory renounce the Christian faith. The steadfastness of the saint embittered Tiridates, and he gave his faithful servant over to cruel tortures: they suspended the sufferer head downwards with a stone about his neck, for several days they choked him with a stinking smoke, they beat and ridiculed him, and forced him to walk in iron sandals inset with nails. During the time of these sufferings Saint Gregory sang psalms. In prison the Lord healed all his wounds. When Gregory again stood before the emperor cheerful and unharmed, that one was astonished and gave orders to repeat the torments. Saint Gregory endured them, not wavering, with all his former determination and bearing. They then poured hot tin over him and threw him into a pit, full of vipers. The Lord however saved His chosen one: the viperous creatures did him no harm. Some pious women fed him with bread, secretly lowering it into the pit. An holy Angel, appearing to the martyr, invigorated his powers and encouraged his spirit. Thus it went on for 14 years. During this time the emperor Tiridates wrought yet another evil deed: he martyred the holy virgin Saint Ripsimia, the aged hegumeness Gaiania and another 35 virgins from one of the Asia Minor monasteries.
Saint Ripsimia had fled to Armenia, together with her hegumeness and fellow sisters, to avoid entering into marriage with the emperor Diocletian (284-305), who was charmed by her beauty. Concerning this, Diocletian sent a report to the Armenian emperor Tiridates suggesting that he either send Ripsimia back, or wed her himself. The servants of the emperor found the fugitives and they began to urge Ripsimia to submit to the will of the emperor. The saint answered, that she, just like all her monastic sisters, was betrothed to the Heavenly Bridegroom and so to enter into marriage was not possible. Then from the heavens resounded a Voice: "Be brave and fear not, for I am with thee". The messengers in fear withdrew. Tiridates gave the maiden over to cruelest torments: they plucked out her tongue, cut open her stomach, blinded and killed her, chopping her body into pieces. After this, inspired by Ripsimia to bravely endure torments for Christ, the hegumeness Saint Gaiania and two other monastic sisters were given over to similar tortures, after which they were beheaded. The remaining 33 sisters were run through with swords and their bodies thrown for devouring by wild beasts. The wrath of God befell emperor Tiridates, and likewise those of his associates and soldiers, who had participated in the tormenting of the saints. Beset by demons, they became like wild boars (as once with Nebuchadnessar, Dan. 4: 30), ranging through the forests, rending their clothes and gnawing at their own bodies. After the passage of a certain while, it was announced in a dream to Tiridates' sister Kusarodukhta: "If Gregory be not taken out of the pit, emperor Tiridates will not be healed". Then those close to the emperor approached the pit and asked: "Gregory, art thou alive?" Gregory answered: "By the grace of my God I am alive". Then they brought out the holy martyr -- unshaven, darkened and very withered, but as before steadfast of spirit.
The saint ordered the remains of the martyred virgins to be gathered up, which they venerably buried, and on the place of burial they built a church. At this church Saint Gregory greeted the demon-possessed emperor and commanded him to pray to the holy martyrs. Tiridates was healed, repenting of his offenses against God, and with his whole household he accepted holy Baptism. Following the example of the emperor, all the whole Armenian people was baptised. Through the efforts of Saint Gregory in the year 301 there was erected the Echmiadzin cathedral in honour of the Descent of the Holy Spirit. In the year 305 Saint Gregory journeyed to Caesarea Cappadocia and there was installed by archbishop Leontios as bishop of Armenia. For his apostolic works he received the title of Enlightener of Armenia. Saint Gregory likewise converted to Christ many people from the surrounding lands of Persia and Assyria. In organising the Armenian Church Saint Gregory summoned to serve as bishop his own son, Arostanes the wilderness-dweller, and he himself retired into the wilderness. Saint Arostanes in the year 325 was a participant in the First OEcumenical Council, which condemned the heresy of Arius. Saint Gregory, having retired to the wilderness, died in the year 335. The right hand and part of his holy relics rest now in a reliquary Echmiadzin cathedral church in Armenia. In the tradition of the Armenian Apostolic Church, preserved up to the present, the Supreme Katholikos-Patriarch of all the Armenians blesses with this right hand the holy myrh at the time of the myrh-boiling.
The Monk Gregory (Grigorii) of Pel'shemsk, Vologda, was born in the city of Galich, Kostroma governance. He was descended from the line of the Lopotov nobility. When the youth reached age 15, his parents wanted him to marry, but they died, not having succeeded in the wished for marriage. Young Gregory distributed to the poor the inheritance left him and entered a monastery of the MostHoly Mother of God, situated on the shore of Lake Galich. The hegumen of the monastery regarded the new monk with mistrust because of his youth and noble parentage. Therefore he put Gregory into obedience under an experienced elder. With great humility the Monk Gregory served all the brethren. After a certain while he was vouchsafed the dignity of priest. Soon afterwards for the Monk Gregory was affirmed his fame as pastor, and many began to arrive for spiritual guidance and counsels. The Galich prince besought the monk to be godfather for his children. Burdened by fame and the nearness of his kinsfolk, the monk departed to Rostov for veneration of the relics of Saint Leontii (Comm. 23 May), and he settled in the monastery of the Monk Avraamii (Abraham, Comm. 29 October). But here also quickly spread reports about the ascetic feats of the saint. The monks of the Saviour (Yakovlev) monastery turned to the Rostov archbishop Dionysii (1418-1425) with a request to assign the Monk Gregory to head their monastery. Out of humility the monk accepted the guidance over the monastery, but after two years he secretly left the monastery and withdrew into the Vologda forest. In the Sosnovetsk wilderness he became acquainted with the Monk Dionysii of Glushitsk (Comm. 1 June). When the Lord prompted the holy ascetic to found his own monastery, the Monk Dionysii gave approval to the intent of his friend. With a cross on his shoulders the Monk Gregory crossed over the River Pel'shema and erected the cross in a forested thicket at the river bank. The first monk in the new monastery was the priest Alexei, in monasticism Alexander. In 1426 was built at the monastery a church in honour of the MostHoly Mother of God. Its icons were written by the Monk Dionysii, and the Monk Gregory himself copied the sacred texts for the monastery. Gradually the number of monks increased, the monastery spread out and became all the more known. The Monk Gregory concerned himself over the nurturing of piety at the monastery, and at the same time he shared in the destiny of his fatherland. In the year 1433 he went to Moscow in order to prevail upon the Galich prince Yurii Dimitrievich, who had seized the Moscow principality from Vasilii Vasilievich the Dark, to return Moscow to prince Vasilii. Prince Yurii obeyed the monastic elder. But in 1434 the son of prince Yurii, Dimitrii Shemyaka, began to ravage the Vologda lands, belonging to Great-prince. The Monk Gregory, distraught over the discord and violence, set out to Dimitrii Shemyaka and turned to him with bold words. "Prince Dimitrii, -- said the monk, ?- thou doest deeds not Christian. Better it were that thou had gone into a pagan land to a vile people not knowing God. Widows and orphans cry out against thee to God. How many people from thee wilt perish from hunger and cold, and if soon thou cease not the fratricide, the bloodshed and violence, then soon thou shalt lose both glory and princedom". After this bold denunciation, Shemyaka gave orders to thrown the holy elder off a bridge. For several hours the monk lay there unmoving. But his denunciations produced the desired effect, and Shemyaka soon quit Vologda. The courage of the monk but heightened the veneration of him. Before his end, he communed the Holy Mysteries, spoke a guidance to the brethren, and appointed as hegumen of the monastery his fellow ascetic Alexander. The Monk Gregory reposed on 30 September 1442 and was buried in the monastery founded by him.
© 2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos