GREGORY OF KHANDZTA
THE GEORGIAN NATIONAL
The life of St. Gregory of
Khandzta presents a number of links with that of St. Abo of Tiflis,
the story of whose martyrdom we have related in the last chapter.
Gregory, who was born in A.D. 759, was of almost exactly the same age
as Abo; both of them were proteges' of Duke Nerses of Georgia; both
of them showed a predilection for the ascetic life. Their careers,
however, were very different. St. Abo chose to offer lip his life as
a martyr to the Christian faith; Gregory, on the other hand,
preferred to leave the Arab zone of influence altogether, and help in
Georgia's national revival by mobilizing the spiritual forces of the
nation against the Muslim overlords.
The district of Tao-Klarjeti in southwestern
Georgia where Gregory settled with his followers presented at that
time a picture of desolation and ruin. In reprisal for popular
resistance to Arab rule, the Caliphs had sent expeditions to ravage
the country; a cholera epidemic broke out soon afterwards.
In spite of these adverse conditions the time was
ripe for St. Gregory's ministry. Southwestern Georgia was the center of
patriotic resistance to Saracen rule. The movement was headed by the
energetic Bagratid prince Ashot (780-826), who had quarreled with his
Arab suzerains and placed himself under the ages of the Byzantine
emperor, from whom he received the imperial title of Kuropalates.
Ashot had chosen Artanuj, on a tributary of the Chorokh, as his
residence; he restored the ancient fort there and built a church
dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul. He was joined by thousands of
refugees from the Arab zone of Georgia, who helped him to build up a
new, national state. Ashot fostered the legend that his line, the
Bagratids, traced their descent from King David of Israel.
The patriotic movement had much of the character
of a crusade, and needed a militant religious leader. This role was
ably filled by St. Gregory of Khandzta, who was as much a statesman
as he was a dignitary of the Church. He became Archimandrite of
twelve monasteries in Klarjeti, five of which were built or restored
by him, and the others by his disciples. These formed a real monastic
republic, with Gregory as their redoubtable and often despotic
president. So strong did he become that he was able to interfere
effectively in the private life of the ruling prince Ashot, and win
for the monastic community a dominant position in public
Gregory lived to he a centenarian, dying on
October 6th, 86r. His biography was written some ninety years after
his death, in A.D. 951 by Giorgi Merchuli, in consultation with the
prior of Khandzta, Gregory's chief monastery. The work contains many
realistic details of life in medieval Georgia; its many descriptions
of geographical features moved its first editor, the late N. Y. Marr,
to refer to it as a Georgian Baedeker. It is from Marr's original
edition of I 9 II that the following selected episodes are taken.
Sub-titles have been added by the translator.
The source of every good thing, namely Christ, the
God of all creation, has implanted the root of wisdom in the
character of true sages. Accordingly, you have the right to expect
well-pondered wisdom from sages, while fools may be expected to
listen in silence to the words of the wise. But nowadays, fools are
philosophizing on their own account, and have imposed silence on the
wise. They do not realize that as Solomon remarked, 'Speech is
silver, but silence is golden.' For when the wise are overtaken by
silence, then 'their wisdom crieth in the streets,' because their
tongue does not utter idle words or backbiting, in so far as they are
occupied in seeking out things of value and meditating on all forms
of holiness and uprightness in virtue, and offering up prayers
But since I have not the strength to pray without
ceasing, and am beneath the level of idiots, my defects do not permit
me to be silent. So rather than speak of any other thing, I have
preferred to relate as well as I can for the benefit of my listeners
the worthy life of those God-imbued men, our blessed father Gregory
and his friends and disciples, as truthfully narrated by the saint's
pupils, and the pupils of his disciples.
Gregory was the son of distinguished, noble and
pious parents, and was brought up in the royal household of the great
Duke Nerses by the care of the virtuous queen his wife, who had
adopted him, for he was her nephew. From the womb he was dedicated by
his mother to God's service, like the prophet Samuel. Just like the
Baptist, he grew up in fasting. From infancy, neither wine nor meat
entered his lips, because he had set aside his soul as an abode for
Christ; he put on the guise of monastic life, being free of youthful
mischief and all human agitation. He dwelt by himself in his own
quarters, so that people used to call him the Hermit.
His aptitude for learning was remarkable; he
rapidly mastered the Psalms of David, studied all patristic
literature in Georgian, learnt to read and write in many tongues, and
could recite devotional books by heart. In addition, he made a
thorough study of the wisdom of the philosophers of this world.
Whenever he found there some excellent idea he absorbed it, but the
evil he rejected. His perfect attainments became universally
renowned; but he eschewed the externals of worldly wisdom, according
to the words of the Apostle, 'Has not God made foolish the wisdom of
this world?' In appearance he was tall, slim of figure, of goodly
stature, in every way perfect in body and innocent in spirit.
Then the rulers, who had brought him up, as well
as his estimable
mother and the multitude of the people, wished to consecrate the
blessed Gregory to the priesthood. Owing to his youth, the blessed
one was overcome by misgivings. Then the wise princes said to him,
'The honour of age, as Solomon says, consists not in longevity but in
the intelligence of a man; a life of virtue constitutes mature years.
Christ has given you excellent maturity of mind, so do not now
disobey Him, but listen to Christ's command and as a priest, serve
that Eternal Priest who suffered for us and saved us all.'
So the blessed Gregory gave in to them and was
ordained priest; and the multitude rejoiced as they received from his
revered hands the Body and Blood of Christ.
Then the princes planned to make him a bishop, for
he expounded the truth to all men like an angel of God, as it is
written, 'The priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should
seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of
Chooses the monastic
When the blessed Gregory saw himself exalted in
the flesh, his heart was very sorrowful, and he decided to flee
secretly from his homeland in accordance with a divine summons which
guided him like the patriarch Abraham. But while it was from a land
of pagan tribes that God brought out Abraham, it was from a country
of devout believers that He led Gregory away, in order that a light
unquenchable might shine forth in the deserted wilderness.
To bring his virtuous design to fruition Gregory
sought out good friends - his cousin Saba, who was called Saban, who
restored and became bishop of Ishkhan; Theodore, builder and abbot of
Nedzvi; and Christopher, builder and abbot of Kviriketi. Faith united
these four into a partnership, and godly love strengthened their
Then they set forth joyfully on a road which they
knew not; yet they were not plunged into bewilderment, because the
Lord guided them on their way. And He led them first of all to Opiza.
In Opiza there was a small group of brethren, who had collected there
for the love of Christ, since a small church dedicated to St. John
the Baptist was situated there. Their prior was called Abba George;
he was the third prior of Opiza, Samuel and Andrew having passed
away. Father Gregory and his companions spent two years at Opiza in
arduous feats of monastic austerity, in accordance with the rules of
the monks of that time.
Father Gregory, however, was yearning for a
hermit's life because he had heard of the angelic life of the
anchorites in the solitary wilderness. Father Gregory visited them
all and gained instruction in their excellent feats, from some of
them in praying and fasting, from others in meekness and love, from
others in kindness and freedom from malice, from others
in poverty and
the habit of lying on the ground or sleeping in a sitting position,
from others in vigil and the silent cultivation of handicrafts, and
other similar acts of virtue.
The building of
At that time there lived in Khandzta an ancient
hermit, a virtuous and holy man called Khuedios. This saintly man had
a vision, not in his sleep, but in broad daylight. On that sacred
spot where now is built the holy church of Khandzta, he saw a cloud
of light in the form of a church standing a long time, and from the
cloud there issued a powerful scent. And the saintly man heard a
voice, 'On this place a church will be built by the hands of Gregory
the priest, the man of God, and the perfume of his prayers and those
of his disciples will mount to God like a sweet incense.' When he saw
this vision he was very glad. Being accustomed to visions from God he
started to wait for the holy man who had been announced.
Then our blessed father Gregory, guided by the
Holy Spirit, arrived at Khandzta where the saintly hermit lived. They
were very happy to meet one another, and offered up a prayer. At
dawn, the hermit took St. Gregory to look round all the neighborhood
of Khandzta, and he took a great fancy to it. He said to the hermit,
'I will go to Opiza and soon return with my brethren whom I have left
there, so that they may come with me to receive spiritual benefit
from your prayers. Arriving at Opiza, he told the brothers the glad
news; so they promptly went to Father George, prior of Opiza,
received blessings from him and all the community, and cheerfully
came to Khandzta.
Then St. Gregory began to build Khandzta; and they
consecrated a place apart and set to work to level the ground for
cells, since the crags of Khandzta are the most precipitous of all
the remote fastnesses of Klarjeti. They had great difficulty in
preparing the site, as they had neither hatchets nor pickaxes nor any
other tools. The monks of Opiza provided for all their bodily needs,
since at that time there was no other fully constructed monastery in
those parts besides Opiza. Nor were there any ordinary settlers with
houses in that region; those parts of Klarjeti, Tao and Shavsheti had
only lately been repopulated, so that there were only a few pioneers
scattered in the woods round about.
The blessed father Gregory began by building a
wooden church and then a hermitage for himself. The brethren had a
little cell each, and a big room for a refectory. Every day their
numbers increased: the Lord procured workers of the eleventh hour for
the cultivation of that righteous vineyard.
In the meantime, the blessed hermit Khuedios had
become very old and was nearing the hour of departure from the flesh.
Our Holy Father Gregory and the brothers came to visit the hermit,
and said to him, 'Bless us, Holy Father, since now you are departing
towards the Lord God!' He replied, 'May the God of peace, love and
charity he with you in all things. Pray for me, holy fathers, for
today I am going away to a strange abode before the awful throne of
God.' But they said, 'You are no stranger to the abode of the holy
angels, with whom you constantly rejoice in spirit before Christ.'
And so the blessed hermit found rest. Sweet was his sleep. And Father
Gregory and the brethren bore away the body of him who had triumphed
over the world, and buried it in a grave to the tune of sacred hymns;
and they offered up thanks to Christ who grants victory to those who
do His will.
In those early days of our blessed Father Gregory,
the rules for his disciples were very severe. In their cells were
small bedsteads with a bare minimum of bedding, and just a water-jug
each. They had no other luxury in the way of eating or drinking apart
from what they ate at the communal table-this was all they lived on.
Many of them did not drink any wine at all, while those who did,
partook of it in strict moderation. There were no chimneys in their
cells because no fires were lit. Nor did they light candles at night.
But the nighttime was spent in singing psalms and the day in reading
books and praying.
During Lent, Father Gregory fed on just a little
dried cabbage. His extra diet in ordinary times was a modicum of
bread once a day, and water to the same amount. He never touched wine
from his childhood days. God alone knows the countless merits of him
and his disciples.
Gregory and Ashot the
At that period those regions were governed by the
great and pious Bagratid ruler, Ashot Kuropalates, who permanently
established the reign of his dynasty over the Georgians. Now there
was a certain renowned gentleman in the service of Ashot Kuropalates;
his name was Gabriel Dapanchuli, and his descendants are called
Dapanchuli to this day. This gentleman was adorned with every
perfection, with wealth, ripeness of judgment and a noble presence;
he was renowned for success in all matters of business, as well as
for his piety.
The noble Gabriel informed King Ashot the
Kurapalates about the merits of Father Gregory and his building of a
monastery in the desolate wilderness. When he heard this, the
honorable Prince Ashot immediately wrote a letter with his own hand,
and sent to Father Gregory a picked man from his retile with one of
Gabriel's servants. After he had read the prince's polite letter of
invitation, Father Gregory quickly went to see the ruler.
The Kuropalates said to Father Gregory, 'To the
kings of Israel God sent prophets from time to time to bring them
glory and defend the law. In the same way God has made you eminent in
our time, to bring glory to the Christians and constantly intercede
for us before Christ.'
He replied, 'Monarch, you who are called the son
of the divinely anointed prophet David, may Christ confirm you in the
inheritance of David's kingdom and virtues. Therefore I make this
pronouncement: "May the rule of your children and their seed never be
removed from this land for all time, but may they stand firmer than
immovable rocks and eternal mountains and be glorified for
After this the man who had been sent as messenger
gave an enthusiastic account of Khandzta, declaring, 'This solitary
spot is excellent for the warmth of the sun and the mildness of the
air all around. It has a freeflowing spring, beautifully cool and
pleasant. There are countless groves of trees, and as much in the way
of crops as one can expect to grow in the wilderness, but there are
no fields for harvest or for hay. Nor is it possible for any to exist
there on the sharp and craggy peaks of the Ghado mountains.'
When he heard this, the renowned Kuropalates
granted them fine estates, including that of Shatberd as a farm and
country resort for Khandzta. Each of the prince's three noble sons,
Adarnerse, Bagrat and Guaram, also provided generously for the needs
of the monastery.
During the saint's lifetime, the sovereign Ashot
Kuropalates conquered many lands. He built the castle of Artanuj as a
residence for the queen his consort, and lived with her happily for
many years. But the devil led the monarch astray. He introduced into
the castle a concubine with whom he committed adultery, for the demon
of love had greatly excited him.
When St. Gregory heard of this soul-destroying
conduct he was greatly upset and began personally to rebuke the
sovereign. The ruler promised to put a stop to his sinful ways, but
was not strong enough to keep his word, as he was a slave to his
The blessed Gregory bided his time. One fine day,
when Ashot was in a far country, he set out from Shatberd to Artanuj;
arriving towards evening in front of the castle, he sent a man to see
the woman we have mentioned and ask for foot'. She was very glad, and
gave various provisions for the holy man and his disciples. When
morning came, he again sent the man to her, with a request for a
Even more glad, she promptly came out to see the
saint, accompanied by two maids, in order to receive the holy man's
blessing. But he did not give it to her and ordered her to sit down a
little way off. The disciples withdrew at a glance from their mentor,
as well as the maids, for everyone stood in awe of the saint. Then
the blessed Gregory said to her, 'Wretched creature! Why have you
come between husband and wife ensuring perdition for yourself through
this grievous sin of y ours which enslaves you to the devil, and
frivolously offering yourself as a temptation for the great
sovereign?" She said tearfully, 'Holy man of God, I have no power
over myself, because the prince is deeply in love with me, anti now I
do not know what to do. I am extremely distressed by what you have
said.' The saint continued, 'My child, obey fully my words, which are
those of a pious man, and I pledge myself before Christ that He will
forgive you all your sins.' She answered, 'Holy Father, I am in your
hands. Intercede on behalf of my soul.'
Only then did he grant her his blessing; then he
gave her a lace from his sandals to gird herself with and said to
her, 'My child,
today is the salvation of your soul; I will take you to the blessed
abbess Mother Fevronia.' This cheered her very much. Then Gregory
told the maids to go back home into the castle, and said to the
woman, 'My child, we must be on our way. Go in front of us.' And so
he brought her to the convent of Mere. The blessed abbess' consent
had already been given beforehand, and he confided her to Fevronia's
care with the words, 'Look after her, and take every precaution when
the Kuropalates starts searching for her. You see how chastened is
her spirit.' She said, 'Christ will take good care of His servant,
whom He has found through you, worthy Father!'
Meanwhile the Kuropalates appeared at the castle
and asked after the woman. As he could not find her, he was
indignant, because he had an inkling of what had happened, and
promptly went to Mere. After receiving Mother Feveonia's blessing,
the prince engaged her in conversation: 'Do you know, Mother, why I
have come here now?' 'The Lord knows,' she replied, 'why you have
come.' 'I have come,' he said, 'because Father Gregory, so it seems,
has brought here the woman who is stewardess of our house. All our
property was in her custody, and we have discovered a serious deficit
in our treasury. So kindly command her to attend at the castle; she
can hand over everything according to the account-book, and then she
may return to you or do as she likes.'
Fevronia retorted sharply, 'Beware of exciting my
indignation against sinful people who commit wicked crimes.
When he heard these words, the prince was confused
by the justice of her reproach and stood for a long while in shamed
silence, as if struck dumb. At length the downcast Kuropalates said
in a rueful voice, 'Happy is the man who is no longer alive.' Then he
got up quickly to leave. The blessed Fevronia, who was kindhearted,
tried to persuade him to stay for some refreshment, but he would not
consent. The desire for carnal passion had quitted him, and he had
become conscious of the shamefulness of his conduct. In spirit he
rejoiced because wisdom had conquered pernicious weakness; in a pure
heart he revered the blessed ones who had bestowed on his soul the
crown of eternal salvation.
Father Gregory said to himself, 'Since the
brethren in my monastery are superior in virtue to the monks of this
age, a set of ecclesiastical rules ought to be instituted for my
church, so that it may not be exposed to criticism from expert
theologians.' For this purpose he made plans to go to the treasury of
Christ, the second Jerusalem, which is Constantinople, to visit all
the remarkable holy places of Greece and pray there.
Just then, he found that one of his friends was
making a trip to Jerusalem, so he asked him to write down the
monastic rules of St. Savva and send them to him.
Then he appointed deputies to look after the
brethren and took leave of them, promising to return soon. He took
with him his cousin Saba and another disciple of his and set off for
Greece. Arriving at Constantinople, he made obeisance to the Wood of
Life and all the other holy relics, and joyfully went round to pray
at all the sacred shrines ; for he knew many languages and was versed
in godly knowledge. Some of the things he saw served him as a model
of excellent; while others provided a warning against evil. In this
way his heart was filled with the ineffable riches of the New
Testament. Cheered by spiritual grace, they set off on their homeward
When they reached Tao they heard from the local
folk that Ashot Kuropalates had been assassinated, and that his sons
were reigning in his stead. Then they were overcome with grief at the
fate of the god-fearing monarch, and tearfully offered up prayers for
their dead king. After this they prayed for his sons, the noble
princes, that the Lord might preserve them and prolong their days in
glory and pious works.
And so they arrived at Khandzta, their own
monastery, bringing with them relics of the saints, holy icons and
many other sacred objects. They found all the brothers well and in
good spirits, and were glad now that the grace of our Savior had once
more reunited His servants. After a few days Gregory sent Saba to
Ishkhan and gave him two of his disciples. He himself directed the
spiritual life of Khandzta in accordance with God's will.
Afterwards, the man who had been to Jerusalem
returned, and handed over a document containing the monastic rules of
St. Savva. The blessed Gregory then laid down regulations for his own
church and monastery, as selected and compiled from those in force at
all the holy places.
Church and State
By the will of God, and with the consent of his
brothers and by command of the Greek Emperor, the Kuropalates Bagrat
succeeded his father, the Kuropalates Ashot, for he was divinely
appointed to exercise authority; and both his brothers, the noble
prince Adarnerse, the elder and Guaram, the younger, submitted to him
in divine brotherly love. The realm of these three princely brothers
grew through Christ's virtue and grace, so that they conquered many
lands by the sword and drove out the children of the Saracens.
At this time, Gregory's heart moved him to
remember Saba of lshkhan, and he informed the pious Kuropalates of
all his earlier career. When Bagrat heard about this he was glad and
quickly wrote a letter and sent worthy envoys to extend him an
honorable invitation, But these envoys returned and returned to the
Kuropalates, 'The man of God declines to come here.' Then the prince
said to Gregory, 'It was stupid of me not to entrust the writing of
that letter to you. Now please write to him in suitable terms.' The
blessed Saba obeyed the prince's second summons, the more especially
through respect for Father Gregory's letter. The prince came out to
meet him and greeted him with respect, and Saba blessed him.
When they had sat down the prince said to Saba,
'Obedience is due to the sovereign. Why did not you come at my first
summons, Holy Father ?'
He replied, 'Noble King, you are lord of the
earth, but Christ is lord of the heavens, the earth, and the
underworld ; you are lord of this nation, but Christ is Lord of all
man that are born; you are king of this transitory time, but Christ
is King eternal. He remains perfect and unchangeable, timeless,
without beginning or end, King of angels and of men, and His words
are to be heeded more than yours. Christ declared: No man can serve
two masters. But now I have come before you in obedience to the word
of our brother and pastor Gregory.'
The prince answered: 'Your words are just, holy
man. But it is better to illumine many souls by setting oneself up
like a lighted candle on a candlestick. Christ said to His disciples:
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good
works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.'
After this the prince went to Ishkhan, accompanied
by the blessed fathers Gregory and Saba; and the prince liked that
place very much. But why prolong our account? By God's will Saba
became bishop of Ishkhan, with authority over the see and the
cathedral church originally built by the blessed Nerses, Catholicos
of Armenia, which had been left in desolate widowhood for many years.
Now it was built again by the blessed Saba with the material aid of
those pious princes, and Ishkhan began to flourish perpetually and
for all time.
Distinguished careers of Gregory's
Let us recall Gregory's worthy pupils Arsen and
Ephraim. It pleased God to make them both bishops, each having his
own spiritual flock. Many years before Arsen, the great Ephraim
became bishop of Adsqur and primate of Samtskhe. Later the great
Arsen became Catholicos-Patriarch in the cathedral church of
Mtskheta, where the Tunic of our Lord is preserved. Having been
brought up together they were very fond of one another.
The great Ephraim became a great benefactor to our
land. Earlier, the Catholicos-Patriarchs of the East used to bring
the holy chrism for their consecration from Jerusalem. But Ephraim
instituted anointment with holy chrism prepared in Georgia, by glad
consent and authorization of the Patriarch of Jerusalem. - Georgia is
reckoned to consist of those spacious lands in which church services
are celebrated and all prayers said in the Georgian tongue. Only the
Kyrie-eleison, which means 'Lord, have mercy,' or 'Lord be merciful to us"
is pronounced in Greek.
The blessed Ephraim was bishop for forty years; he
perceived the secret deeds of men as if they had been public, and by
his word cured deadly diseases in a twinking. By a word also he could
smite the unrighteous with death many such miracles he used to
perform. He passed away at a great age, filled with divine
In Father Gregory's time the worthy bishop
Zacharias accomplished the following marvels: -
Near the monastery of Tbeti a fearsome crag was
trembling on the edge of the cliff, and the monks fled from their
dwellings in terror. Zacharias stayed confidently, and said to them:
'Tomorrow you will see that crag lying in a place quite harmless to
us.' And so it turned out. The fathers did not notice its trembling
any more, and next day it was lying motionless on a spot which they
had not expected, just as the saint had said; and they glorified
This same Zacharias was sitting one autumn day in
Tbeti, under his own ripe grapevines, at which a black-bird was
persistently pecking. So he made the sign of the cross over it, and
it immediately fell dead. Once more he made the sign of the cross,
and the blackbird revived and flew off to its family.
An evil plot
Among this holy wheat there grew a noxious weed in
the shape of a deacon who had been educated in Tiflis by the Amir
Sahak, son of Ismail, and been sent as his representative to Ashot
Kuropalates When he saw that the bishop of Anchi was dead this evil
man, whose name was Tskir, petitioned Ashot through the Amir Sahak
for the episcopal see of Anchi. When as a result of God's forbearance
Tskir had forcibly taken possession of Anchi, he heaped evil upon
evil to an extent which cannot be set down in this book.
He was often reproached for his irregular conduct
by the pioneer hermit fathers of Klarjeti and all the Orthodox
bishops, and most of all by Father Gregory, archimandrite of those
famed retreats. But Tskir secretly summoned a certain layman of
Anchi, a poor lewd fellow, but a powerful marksman, and promised to
give him three bushels of millet and five goats, and sent him
to Khandzta to
kill Father Gregory. On the way, this man found out from someone that
Gregory was at the country estate belonging to Khandzta anti would be
returning home that very day. So he went to lie in ambush in the wood
of Khandzta, carrying his bow already strung.
Meanwhile our blessed Father Gregory was walking
down by himself from the country estate towards Khandzta. Then the
wretched villain saw a great apparition all around the saint: he was
surmounted by a pillar of light shining brilliantly and extending up
to heaven. On his head was a cross giving out radiance all round,
like a rainbow in showery weather. Seeing this marvel, the man was
seized with intense fear; as if the sinews of his arms had been
dissolved, he fell on the ground in terror.
The blessed Gregory said to him, 'Miserable
wretch, carry out the orders of him that sent you. For a trifling
reward you planned to kill a simple monk. Is it not a fact that you
foolishly came to murder roe for three bushels of millet and five
goats I' Then that man broke down and implored him, 'Have pity on
your murderer, O man of God!' The saint mercifully made the sign of
the cross over him, and cured him of die many bodily ailments to
which lie was subject, and sent him home in good spirits.
When the man told Tskir about all this he became
more and more blind with rage. So he assembled the people of Anchi
and sent them to destroy Khandzta, where they arrived at dawn. When
Tskir had sent this mob to Khandzta he himself went off to Korta to
fetch some valuables lie had deposited there.
As they were taking a meal on the way he dozed off
and had a terrible vision in which his wicked deeds were unmasked,
and especially the injuries which he had inflicted on the men of
Khandzta. A certain pious priest of Anchi was then with him, and the
Lord revealed to this man that an evil end awaited Tskir; so the
priest sent a pupil of his to Khandzta to bring advance news of the
death of Tskir.
When the pupil arrived he said, 'Do not venture to
ruin noble Khandzta, for its destroyer is dead.' Then the people were
glad, the fathers entertained them, and they went gaily home
glorifying God. As for Tskir, when he reached Korta, he expired on
the spot, and they buried him there until the Second Coming of our
Death of St.
This blessed man of God, Father Gregory,
repository of Christ's will and worker of famous miracles, lived to
be exceedingly old, and reached the age of one hundred and two. But
the color of his face never changed nor was his eyesight dimmed : he
remained vigorous in body and suffered no infirmity until his death,
for he was fortified by the strength of Christ. He was very fond of
working, not only in praying and fasting, but also at manual labor,
in accordance with Paul's words, 'If any would not work, neither
should he eat.' He enjoyed offering hospitality and looking after the
poor. He had appointed abbots to look after his various monasteries;
if any exceptional problem cropped up, they consulted him about it
for the sake of his God-given wisdom.
In the blessed Gregory's heart there arose the
desire to take leave of the flesh and depart towards God. The Lord
told him that his wish would be fulfilled, as David said, 'He will
fulfil the desire of them that fear Him: He also will hear their cry,
and will save them.' Then he instructed the brothers to prepare
candles for distribution to all the hermitages in the country round,
and told them on what day they were to be lit and prayers offered up
Afterwards be said to the brethren, who lived in
Khandzta, 'My sons, observe the precepts which you first heard from
me for the salvation of your souls, and remember me always. If in the
presence of Christ I find courage to speak, then His generous
blessings will not cease to shower upon you in this world and the
next. When death has parted me from you, remember me always in your
prayers and commemorations, and watch over the scene of my earthly
pilgrimage. Until the day of judgment, my flesh will turn to dust,
hut may God receive my spirit.'
While the blessed Gregory was speaking these words
he appeared as lit up with the ineffable radiance of Christ; and he
rejoiced with supreme happiness, and made the sign of the cross over
his monastery, and uttered an everlasting blessing upon his disciples
'O Christ, our Lord, Thou didst suffer and wast tempted, and art
powerful to help those who are sore beset by the wiles of the devil,
for Thou art the supporter of Christian folk. O Lord, protect with
Thy right hand those who set their hopes upon Thy name, and deliver
them from the evil one, and grant them joy eternal. As for me, Thy
servant, grant me life in Thy kingdom and remember me mercifully in
Thine almighty power.' So he committed his soul to the Lord and was
united with the company of angels.
The death of our blessed Father Gregory occurred
in the 81st year of the Paschal Cycle (A.D. 861). His biography was
written ninety years after his passing, when 6554 years had elapsed
since the Creation; Agathon was Patriarch in Jerusalem, Michael was
Catholicos in Mtskheta, and Ashot Kuropalates, son of King Adarnerse,
was prince of the Georgians. This biography of the blessed Gregory
was written at Khandzta by Giorgi Merchuli, through the joint zeal of
the abbot of Khandzta and his brother John. May Christ write them
down in the book of living souls, and show His mercy in full to all
believers, that they may appreciate the generosity of God in this
world and the next.
In a church one reader is enough, whether there be
few listeners or many. In the same way it is enough for one to bless,
whether one or many are to he blessed; for inexhaustible are Christ's
good gifts to us, and the saints' interceding grace.
The author of this article is David