St. Gregory The Illuminator: Feast Day Sept. 30- A Man For All Seasons
St. Gregory of Armenia is one of the most unusual of all Eastern Bishops. The King was the son of man that St. Gregory’s father had been accused of killing. Gregory was condemned to the pit in 287 AD by King Trdat and the persecution of Christians began. After the martyrdom of a group of nuns who came to Armenia from Rome led by Hripsime and Gayane, Trdat was stricken with strange maladies. His sister, Khosrovidukht, had a dream that Gregory was the only person who could heal her brother. Miraculously, Gregory was still alive after many years in the pit, thanks to the daily visits of an angel. Gregory emerged from the pit; the king was healed and baptized, and he declared Christianity to be the official religion of Armenia.
Pope Leo XIII, ATERNA CARITAS, ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII ON REUNION WITH ROME July 25, 1888
Now for the accomplishment of this conversion it is necessary for you, Venerable Brethren, who rule the Armenian dioceses, and who, We know, will never be wanting in zealous exhortation or persuasive teaching, to give all your efforts. Moreover, We are anxious that they, who do not acknowledge Us, should be called back through you, in Our name and by Our words; for it is no shame - nay, it is praiseworthy in the highest degree - that a father should himself call his wandering and long expected children home - should even go forth with open arms to receive and welcome them. Nor do We think it possible for your words and arguments to fall on barren soil, for the great mercy of God which He has shown to the nations, supported by the humble - mindedness and docility of the Armenian people give Us hope for a favourable result. The testimony of history is full of manifold examples of their readiness to embrace truth once recognized, and their eagerness to retrace their steps if they see that they have fallen away from the right path. Nay, even these very men who fulfil the duties of religion in schism from you, boast that the Armenians were taught the faith of Christ by Gregory, a man of eminent holiness, who earned the surname of "the Enlightener," and they honour him as their father and patron with displays of much reverence and devotion. It is moreover recorded amongst them that this man undertook a journey to the City of Rome, to lay his faith and his obedience at the feet of the Roman Pontiff, St. Sylvester, who, it is said, received him with much affection and conferred upon him several privileges. We know, moreover, that many of those who afterwards ruled the Armenian Churches followed in the footsteps of Gregory - from their letters, their pilgrimages to Rome, and especially from their Synodal Decrees. Particularly memorable are the Decrees of the Armenian Fathers in the Synod of Sizeboli, held in the year 1307, on the duty of obedience to this Apostolic See: "As the body must obey the head, so the Universal Church (which is the body of Christ) should obey him who has been appointed by Christ the Lord, head of the whole Church." and explained more clearly in the Council of Adano in the 16th year of the same century. You are well aware also - to speak of less important embassies - what took place in the Synod of Florence; for when the Legates of the Patriarch Constantine V arrived there, they said that they had come to the head, to the shepherd, to the corner-stone of the Church, entreating Eugene IV, Our predecessor in the Vicariate of the Lord Christ, as head to sympathise with the members, as shepherd to gather together the flock, as corner-stone to strengthen the Church;(2) and bringing forth the symbol of their faith they asked, "If aught is wanting, instruct us." Then the Constitution of the Council, Exultate Deo, was published by the pope, in which he taught them all that he considered to be necessary for the right knowledge of Catholic truth; and upon this, the Legates, in the name of their Patriarch, and of the whole Armenian race, declared that they received the Constitution in entire submission and readiness to obey, "promising in the same name, as true sons of obedience, loyally to obey the behests and commands of the Apostolic See." On this account Azarias, Patriarch of Cilicia, wrote most truly in letters addressed to Our predecessor, Gregory XIII, dated April 10th 1585; "Behold we have found the Decrees of our predecessors on the obedience of Catholics and our Patriarchs to the Roman Pontiff, and on the submission of St. Gregory 'the Enlightener' to Pope St. Sylvester." Hence it has ever been the custom of the Armenian race to receive with honour Legates sent on any mission from the Apostolic See, and to carry out the commands of that See with religious care.
APOSTOLIC LETTER OF JOHN PAUL II FOR THE 1,700th ANNIVERSARY OF THE BAPTISM OF THE ARMENIAN PEOPLE Feb. 2, 2001
Seventeen centuries ago, dear brothers and sisters of the Armenian people, this shared conversion to Christ took place for you. It is an event that has deeply marked your identity, not only personally but as a community, so that we are entitled to speak of the "Baptism" of your nation, even though Christianity actually reached your land much earlier. Tradition attributes its origins to the preaching and work of the holy Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew.
With the "Baptism" of the Armenian community, first received by the civil and military authorities, the people acquired a new identity that was to become a constitutive and inseparable part of Armenian life. It would no longer be possible to think that faith did not figure as an essential element among the components of this identity. For Armenian culture itself would receive an extraordinarily powerful impetus from the proclamation of the Gospel: its Armenian aspect would give a profoundly characteristic note to this proclamation, which would eventually be a driving force for an unprecedented development of the national culture. The invention of the Armenian alphabet, a decisive factor for the stability and definition of the people's cultural identity, would be closely associated with the Baptism of Armenia, and would be desired and conceived as a true and proper vehicle of evangelization, even more than as a way to communicate concepts and information. The new alphabet, the work of St Mesrop-Masthoc", in collaboration with the holy Catholicos Sahak, would enable Armenians to receive the best features of Syrian and Greek spirituality, theology and culture, and blend them all in an original way with the specific contribution of their own genius.
3. The conversion of Armenia, which occurred at the dawn of the fourth century and is traditionally dated to the year 301, made your ancestors realize that they were the first officially Christian people, well before Christianity was recognized as the religion of the Roman Empire.
In particular, it was the historian Agathangelos who, in a tale full of symbolism, recounted in detail the events that tradition says gave rise to this mass conversion of your people. The story begins with the providential and dramatic meeting of the two heroes on whom the story is based: Gregory, the son of the Parthian Anak, raised at Caesarea in Cappadocia, and the Armenian king, Tiridates III. It started, in fact, with a dispute: Gregory, asked by the king to make a sacrifice to the goddess Anahit, adamantly refused, explaining to the sovereign that there is only one Creator of heaven and earth, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. When he was therefore subjected to cruel torments, Gregory, aided by God's power, was unbending. Seeing his steadfast constancy in professing the Christian faith, the king had him thrown into a deep pit, a dark, narrow place infested with snakes, where previously no one had ever survived. But Gregory lived for many years in that pit without succumbing, fed by Providence through the compassionate hand of a widow.
The tale continues, mentioning the attempts made in the meantime by the Roman Emperor Diocletian to seduce the holy virgin Hrip"sime, who, to escape this peril, fled from Rome with a group of companions to seek refuge in Armenia. The young girl's beauty attracted the attention of King Tiridates, who fell in love with her and wanted to make her his own. In the face of Hrip"sime's obstinate refusal, the king was enraged and had her and her companions cruelly tortured and killed. According to tradition, Tiridates was turned into a wild boar as a punishment for his crime and could not return to human form until, in obedience to a message from heaven, he released Gregory from the pit in which he had lived for 13 long years. Having obtained through the saint's prayers the miracle of being restored to human form, Tiridates realized that Gregory's God was the true one and decided to convert, along with his family and army, and to work for the evangelization of the whole country. This is how the Armenians came to be baptized and how Christianity was imposed as the nation's official religion. In the meantime Gregory had received episcopal ordination in Caesarea and traveled all over the land with Tiridates, destroying places of idolatrous worship and building Christian churches.
No matter what you think about St. Gregory, he is the only Eastern Bishop that has his statue in the Vatican. He is one of the few Eastern Bishops who is recognized as a Saint in both the Eastern and Western Churches. He is truly a man for all seasons and more importantly to me, he I am very proud to call him one of my direct line grandfathers. Praise Be To God Always. Amen, Comment below.