(Reposed 335 AD); commemorated January 14\27)
* The Conversation of the Iberians
* The Lord's Robe *
* Healing of Queen Nana * The Conversion of King Mirian *
* The Conversion of the Iberians * The Repose of St. Nina *
* Prayer to the Holy, Equal of the Apostles, St. Nina *
* Notes *
According to a pious tradition, Iberia, also called Georgia, is the particular province of the Immaculate Mother of God. Saint Stefan of the Holy Mountain relates that after our Lord's Ascension, as the Apostles and His most Holy Mother remained in Jerusalem awaiting the promised Comforter, they cast lots to determine in which country God desired each of them to preach the Gospel. When, with fear and reverence, they cast for the holy Mother of God, the destiny of the most Pure One fell on the Iberian land. After the day of Pentecost She meant to set out for Iberia at once, but an Angel of God restrained Her, saying that She must remain in Jerusalem, for Her land would be enlightened with the light of Christ at a later time. These words were fulfilled three centuries later when the most Blessed Virgin Mother of God sent, zenith Her blessing and help, the holy virgin Nina to preach in Iberia.
St. Nina was born in Cappadocia and was the only daughter of pious and noble parents the Roman general Zabulon, a relative of the great martyr St. George, and Susanna, sister of the patriarch of Jerusalem. When St. Nina leas twelve years old, she travelled with her parents to the holy city of Jerusalem. Here her father Zabulon obtained the patriarch's blessing and departed into the Jordan wilderness to serve God as a monk. Susanna was established by her brother the patriarch at a church to serve the poor and the sick, and Nina was given to be brought up by a certain pious old woman Nianfora. The holy young girl had such outstanding abilities that in the course of two years, with the help of the grace of God, she had firmly assimilated the rules of faith and piety. Every day she prayerfully read the Holy Scripture, and her heart blazed with love for Christ, Who had endured the suffering of the Cross and death for the salvation of men. When, with tears, she would read the Gospel story of the Crucifixion of our Saviour, her thoughts often rested on the fate of the. Lord's robe. she asked her teacher about its present location, for she felt sure that such a holy object could not have been lost. Nianfora told St. Nina that to the north-east of Jerusalem was the country of Iberia and in it the city Mtskheta and that there, according to tradition, the Lord's robe had been taken by the soldier who had w on it by lot at Christ’s crucifixion. Nianfora added that the inhabitants of that country, the Kartlians, and also their neighbours the Armenians and many mountain tribes still remained enveloped in the darkness of pagan error and godlessness.
The old woman's words went deep into the heart of St. Nina, and many days and nights she spent in ardent prayer to the Most Italy Virgin Mother of God that she might be found worthy to see Iberia; to find and reverence the robe of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to preach the holy name of Christ to those peoples who did not know Him. And the most Blessed Mother of God heard the prayer of Her servant. She appeared to St. Nina in a dream and said:
"Go to Iberia and tell there the Good Tidings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and you will find favour before the Lord; and I will be for you a shield against all visible and invisible enemies. By the strength of this cross, you will erect in that land the saving banner of faith in My beloved Son and Lord." When St. Nina awoke and saw in her hands the miraculous cross, she kissed it with tears of joy. Then, tying it in her hair, she went to see her uncle the patriarch. When the blessed patriarch heard hove the Mother of God had appeared to St. Nina and had commanded her to go to Iberia to preach the Gospel of eternal salvation, he saw in this a clear expression of the will of God and did not hesitate to give the girl his blessing. When the time arrived for her departure. the patriarch led Nina into the church and up to the holy altar, and placing his hand on her head, he prayed in the following words:
"Lord God, our Saviour! As I let this young girl depart to preach Thy Divinity, I commit her into Thy hands: Condescend, O Christ God, to be her Companion and Teacher everywhere that she proclaims Thy Good Tidings, and give her words such force and wisdom that no one will be able to oppose or refute them. pond Thou, most Holy Virgin Mother of God, Helper and Intercessor for all Christians, clothe with Thy strength against all enemies, visible and invisible, this girl whom Thou Thyself hast chosen to preach the Gospel of Thy Son and our God among the pagan nations. Be always for her a shield and an invincible protection, and do not deprive her of Thy favour until she has fulfilled Thy holy will!" St. Nina left Jerusalem with the princess Ripsimia, the princess' teacher Gaiana, and a group of fifty-three virgins who were fleeing the persecutions of the Emperor- Diocletian. Diocletian wanted to marry Ripsimia, even though she had taken a vow of chastity to Christ, so she and her virgins fled to Vagarshapat the capital of Armenia Diocletian soon learned that Ripsimia vats hiding in Armenia and told the Armenian king Tiridat to take her for his own wife, for she was very beautiful. When Ripsimia remained faithful to her Heavenly Bridegroom, the enraged Tiridat, at this time still a pagan, had her and her companions cruelly tortured and put to death.
Only St. Nina was miraculously saved. ,Led by an unseen hand, she took refuge
among some wild rose bushes which had not yet come into flower. Shaken by fear
at the sight of her friends' fate, the Saint lifted up her hands to heaven in
prayer for them and saw a radiant angel girded with a shining stole. With
sweet-smelling incense in his hands and accompanied by a multitude of heavenly
host, he came down from the celestial heights, and as if to meet him, the souls
of the holy martyrs ascended from the earth, joined the throng of heavenly host,
and together with them, rose into Heaven.
On seeing this, St. Nina exclaimed, "O Lord, Lord! Why dost Thou leave me alone among these vipers and serpents?"
In answer to this the angel said:
"Do not grieve, but wait a little, for you also will be received into the Kingdom of the Lord of glory. This will occur when the prickly, wild rose which now surrounds you is covered with fragrant blossoms like a rose which has been planted and cultivated in a gardens But now, rise and go north where a great harvest is ripening, but where there are no harvesters." In accordance with this command, St. Nina set out on a long journey and finally arrived at the bank of an unfamiliar river near the village of Khertvisi. This river was the Kura, which flows from the west to the south-east to the Caspian Sea and waters all of central Georgia. On the riverbank St. Nina met some shepherds echo gave her food to refresh her after the long and tiring journey. These. people spoke Armenian, but St. Nina had learned this language from her teacher Nianfora. She asked one of the shepherds where the y of Mtskheta was located and if it was very far. He answered, Do you see this river? On its banks a great distance down stands a great city of Mtskheta where our gods hold power and our kings reign."
Continuing on her way, on one occasion the holy pilgrim was overcome with fatigue, sat down on a rock, and began to wonder: where was the Lord leading her? what would be the fruits of her labours? and might not such a long and such a difficult pilgrimage all in vain? As she was considering these things, she fell asleep and had a dream: there appeared to her a man majestic in appearance. His hair fell to his shoulders, and in his hands he held scroll written in Greets He unrolled the scroll and gave it to Nina, commanding her to read it, and himself suddenly became visible. On awakening from sleep and seeing in her hand the miraculous scroll, St. Nina read in it the following Gospel verses:
Verity, I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman path done, be told for a memorial of her (Matt.26:13). There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal.3:28). Then said Jesus unto them (the women), Be not afraid: go tell my brethren...(Matt.28:10). He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me(Matt.10:40). For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist (Luke 21:15). And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what tiling ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: for the Holy Spirit shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say (Luke 12:11-12). And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul... (Matt.10:28). Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Sprint: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Matt.28:19-20).
Strengthened by this divine vision and consolation, St. Nina continued her
journey with renewed fervour. Having overcome difficult labours, hunger, thirst,
and fear of the wild animals, she reached the ancient Kartlian city of Urbnisi
where she remained about a month, living in Jewish homes and studying the
manners, customs, and language of a people new and unfamiliar to her.
On one occasion, when all the men of that city as well as many from the Surrounding areas, were planning to go to the capital city of Mtskheta to worship their false gods, St. Nina decided to go with them. As they were approaching the city, they met the entourage of King Mirian and Queen Nana. Accompanied by a great crowd of people, they were making their way to a mountain top opposite the city where they intended to worship the lifeless idol Armazi.
Till noon the weather remained clear. But this day, the first day of St. Nina's arrival at the city, which was the goal of her mission to save Iberia, was the last day of power for the pagan idol. Borne along by the crowd, St. Nina made her way to the place where the idol's altar was located. She caught sight of the chief idol Armazi. In appearance he resembled a man of unusually great height; cast of gilded copper, he was clad in a gold coat of mail with a gold helmet on his head. one eye was a ruby, the other an emerald, both of uncommon size and brilliance. To the right of Armazi stood another smaller gold idol by the name of Katsi, and to the left, a silver idol called Gaim.
The entire crowd of people together with their king stood in senseless reverence and trembling before their gods while the priests made preparations for the offering of blood sacrifices. And when finally the incense was burned, the sacrificial blood flowed, and trumpets and cymbals resounded, the king and his people prostrated themselves before the lifeless statues; then the heart of the holy young girl burned with the zeal of the prophet Elias. Sighing from the depths of her soul and in tears lifting up her eyes to heaven, she began to pray:
"Almighty God! By Thy great mercy, bring this people to a knowledge of Thyself, the One, True God. Scatter these idols as the wind blows dust and ashes from the face of the earth Look down with mercy upon this people, whom Thou hast created with Thine almighty hand and whom Thou hast honoured with Thy divine Image ! And Thou, O Lord and Master, didst so love Thy creation that Thou didst give even Thine Only-begotten Son for the salvation of fallen mankind, — deliver the souls also of these Thy people from the destructive power of the prince of darkness, who has blinded the eyes of their understanding so that they do not see the true path to salvation. O Lord, grant me to see the final destruction of the idols standing here so proudly. So act that this nation and all the ends of the earth might comprehend the salvation given by Thee, that the North and the South together might rejoice in Thee, and that all nations might worship Thee, the One Eternal God, and Thine Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom belongs glory forever."
The Saint had not yet finished this prayer when storm-clouds suddenly arose from the west and rushed rapidly along over the river Kura. Realizing the danger, the king and his people turned to flight, and Nina hid herself in the cleft of a rock. A stormcloud burst with thunder and lightning over that place where the idol's altar stood. The idols, Which had formerly stood lofty and proud, were beaten into dust, the walls of the temple were also reduced to dust, and then the floods of water plunged them over the precipice, and the river carried them away. Thus there remained not even a trace of the idols and the temple dedicated to them. And St. Nina, protected by God, stood unharmed in the cleft of the rock and quietly watched as the elements raged about her, and then once again the brilliant sun began to shine. All this took place on the day of the Lord's most glorious Transfiguration — when the true Light that shone on Tabor transformed for the first time on the mountains of Iberia the darkness of paganism into the light of Christ.
The next day the king and his people searched in vain for their gods, and when they could not find them, they were filled with dread and said: "The god Armazi is great; but there exists some other God, greater than he, Who has overcome him. Is this not perhaps the Christian God Who disgraced the ancient Armenian gods and caused the lying Tiridat to become a Christian? But in Georgia no one has heard anything about Christ. What then will happen in the future?"
Some time after this, St. Nina entered the city of Mtskheta as a pilgrim. As she was approaching the royal garden, the gardener's wife, Anastasia, rushed out to meet her as if she were a long-awaited friend. She bowed down to the Saint and led her into her home. Having washed her feet and anointed her head with oil, she offered her bread and wine. Anastasia and her husband asked Nina to remain with them in their home as a sister because they were childless and were distressed by their loneliness. Later, at the desire of St. Nina, Anastasia's husband built her a small hut in the corner of the garden, on which spot to this day there stands a chapel in honour of St. Nina within the enclosure of the Samtauri’s Convent. In this hut St. Nina placed the cross given her by the Mother of God and spent days and nights there in prayer and the singing of psalms.
From this hut there spread abroad word of the deeds and miracles performed by
St. Nina to the glory of Christ's Name. The very first converts to Christianity
in Iberia were the upright couple who gave shelter to Christ's servant, St.
Nina. Through St. Nina's prayers Anastasia was released from her childlessness
and later became the mother of a large and happy family just as she also became
the first woman in Iberia to believe in Christ, before any of the men. On one
occasion a certain woman was carrying her dying child about the streets of the
city with loud wailing and appealing to all for help. St. Nina took the sick
child and laid him on her bed of leaves. Having prayed, she placed her cross of
grapevines on the little one and then returned him to his mother alive and well.
From that time on St. Nina began openly to preach the Gospel and to call the
Iberian pagans and Jews to repentance and faith in Christ. Her pious, righteous,
and chaste life was known to all and attracted the eyes, ears, and hearts of the
people. Many, and especially the Jewish women began to come to Nina often to
hear from her lips the new teaching about the Kingdom of God and eternal
salvation, and they began secretly believing in Christ. Such were: Sidonia, the
daughter of Abiathar, the high priest of the Kartlian Jews, and six other women,
also Jews. Soon Abiathar himself believed in Christ after he had heard St.
Nina's explanations of the ancient prophets about Jesus and how they were
fulfilled in Him as the Messiah. Conversing frequently with this Abiathar, St.
Nina heard from him the Following tale about the Lord's Robe:
"I heard from my parents, and they heard from their fathers and grandfathers, that when Herod ruled in Jerusalem, the Jews living in Mtskheta and all Kartli received the news that Persian kings had come to Jerusalem seeking a newly-born male child of the lineage of David, born of a mother, but having no father, and they called him the King of the Jews. They found Him in the city of David called Bethlehem in a humble cave and brought Him gifts of gold, myrrh, and frankincense. Having worshipped Him, they returned to their oven country.
"Thirty years passed, and then my great-grandfather Elioz received from the
high priest in Jerusalem, Annas, a letter which read as follows:
" 'He Whom the Persian kings came to worship and offer their gifts, has reached a mature age and has begun to preach that He the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. Come to Jerusalem see His death, to which He will be delivered according to the law Moses.'
"When Elioz, along with many others, was about to set out for Jerusalem, his mother, a pious old woman of the lineage of the high priest Elias, said to him:
" 'Answer the king's call, my son, but I beg you, do not ally yourself with the impious against Him, Whom they intend to kill; He is the One foretold by the prophets—a Riddle for the wise. a Secret hidden from the beginning of the ages, Light for the nations and Eternal Life.'
"Elioz, together with the Karenian Longinus, arrived in Jerusalem and was present at Christ's Crucifixion. His mother remained in Mtskheta. On the eve of Passover she suddenly felt in her heart something like the strokes of a hammer driving in nails, and she cried out:
" 'Today the kingdom of Israel has perished, because it has condemned to death its Saviour and Redeemer; from now on this people will be guilty of the blood of its Creator and Lord. It is my misfortune that I have not died before now, for then I would not have heard these terrifying blows ! No more will I see on the earth the glory of Israel !'
"And muttering these words, she died. Elioz, who was present at Christ's Crucifixion, obtained the Robe from the Roman soldier to whose lot it had fallen, and brought it to Mtskheta. Elioz's sister Sidonia, on greeting her brother with his safe return, told him of the wondrous and sudden death of their mother and of the words she had uttered just before she died. Then when Elioz, in confirmation of their mother's foreboding regarding the crucifying of Christ, showed his sister the Lord's Robe, Sidonia took it and began - weep and kiss it; then she pressed it to her breast and instantly fill down dead. And no human strength was able to wrest this holy garment from the arms of the dead girl. Elioz committed his sister's body to the earth and buried her with Christ's Robe, and he did this in secret so that even to this day no one knows Sidonia's burial place. Some surmise that it is located in the centre of the royal garden, where from that time there grew up of its own accord and still stands a shady cedar. Believers flock to it from all directions, considering it to possess great power; and there beneath the cedar's roots, according to tradition, is Sidonia's grave."
Having heard about this tradition, St. Nina began to go at night to pray beneath the cedar tree; but she doubted whether the Lord's robe was actually concealed beneath its roots. however, mysterious visions which she had at that spot convinced her that the place was holy and in the future would be glorified. Thus, on one occasion, on the completion of her midnight prayers, St. Nina saw hoof from all the surrounding lands flocks of black birds flew down into the royal garden, and from there they flew to bathe in the river Aragvi. After a short time they rose into the air, but were as white as snow, and then, alighting on the cedar's branches, they filled the garden with their paradisiacal songs. This was a sign that the neighbouring nations would be enlightened by the waters of Holy Baptism, and on the spot where the cedar stood would be built a church in honour of the True God, and ill this church the Name of the Lord would be praised forever.
Assured by such signs that the Kingdom of God and the salvation of the Georgian nation was near, St. Nina unceasingly preached to the people the word of God. In telling the good news of Christ her disciples laboured with her, especially Sidonia and her father Abiathar. The latter so zealously and insistently argued with his former fellow-believers, the Jews about Jesus Christ, that he suffered persecution from them and was Condemned to be stoned; only King Mirian saved him from death. And the king himself began to ponder the Christian faith in his heart, for he knew not only that this faith was wide-spread in neighbouring Armenia, but also that in the Roman Empire the Emperor Constantine, having Conquered all his enemies by the Name of Christ and by the poster of His Cross, had become a Christian and the protector of Christians. Iberia was under Roman rule, and Mirian's son Bakar was at that time a hostage in Rome; therefore Mirian did not hinder St. Nina's preaching of Christ in his city. Only Mirian's wife, Queen Nana, harboured malice toward the Christians. A cruel woman, she fervently revered the lifeless idols and had placed in Iberia a statue of the goddess Venus. But the grace of God, "which heals all diseases and meets all needs," soon healed the sick soul of this woman also. The queen became extremely ill, and the greater the efforts put forth by her doctors, the worse the illness grew. she was at death's door. The women who were intimate with her, recognizing the great danger, began to entreat her to summon the pilgrim Nina, who by means of prayer to the God she preached, healed all kinds of infirmities and diseases. The queen ordered this pilgrim to be brought to her. As a test of the queen's faith and humility, St. Nina said to the messenger, "If the queen wants to be well, let her come here to me in this hut, and I believe that she will receive healing here by the power of Christ, my God."
The queen complied and ordered that she be carried on a litter to the Saint's hut. A multitude of people followed. St. Nina arranged for the sick queen to be placed on her own bed of leaves, knelt down and fervently prayed to the Lord, the Healer of souls and bodies. Then she took her cross and touched it to the sick woman's head, feet, and shoulders, thus making the sign of the cross on her. As soon as she had done this, the queen immediately arose completely well. Having given thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, there before St. Nina and the people — and afterwards at home before her husband King Mirian—the queen confessed aloud that Christ is the true God. She made St. Nina her intimate friend and constant companion in conversation, nourishing her soul with her holy instruction. Then the queen brought close to herself the wise elder Abiathar and his daughter Sidonia and learned from them much concerning faith and piety.
But King Mirian still delayed in openly confessing Christ as God and strove, instead, to be a zealous idolater. On one occasion he even conceived the idea of exterminating the Christian confessors, and St. Nina along with them. This happened as follows: A close relative of the Persian king, a scholar and fervent follower of the Zoroastrian teaching, came on a visit to Mirian, and after some time fell prey to the serious malady of demon possession. Fearing the anger of the Persian king, Miriam sent envoys to plead with St. Nina to come and heal the prince. She had the sick man brought to the cedar tree, which grew in the centre of the royal garden, placed him facing the East with his hands raised, and instructed him to repeat three times: "I renounce you, Satan, and commit myself to Christ, the Son of God!"
When the possessed man said this, the demon at once, having shaken him threw
him to the ground as if dead; but not having the power to resist the prayers of
the holy virgin, he came out of the sick man. On his recovery, the prince
believed in Christ and returned to his own country a Christian. This frightened
Mirian even more than if the prince had died, for he feared that the Persian
king, a fire-worshipper, would be extremely angry that his kinsman had been
converted to Christ in the home of Mirian. He threatened to have St. Nina put to
death for this and to annihilate all the Christians in the city.
Agitated in spirit by such hostile thoughts against the Christians, King Mirian set out for the Mukhrani’s forest to divert himself with hunting. While conversing with his companions, he said:
"We have brought upon ourselves the terrible anger of our gods because we
have allowed the sorcerer-Christians to preach their faith in our land. But soon
I will destroy by the sword all those who bow down to the Cross and to Him Who
was crucified on it. The queen, also, I will command to renounce Christ; and if
she does not obey me, I will destroy her along with the rest of the Christians."
With these words, the king reached the summit of the steep mountain - Tkhoti (To this day on the summit of Mt. Tkhoti there stands a church built by King Mirian). And suddenly there arose a storm like the one that had cast down the idol Armazi. The gleam of lightning blinded the eyes of the king, and the thunder dispersed his companions. In despair the king began to appeal to his gods for help, but they were silent and did not hear. Then sensing above him the chastising hand of the Living God, the king cried out, "O God of Nina! dispel the gloom before my eyes, and I will confess and praise Thy Name!"
At once it grew light, and the storm died down. Marvelling at the power of
the Name of Christ alone, the king turned toward the East, lifted his arms to
the heavens, and cried in tears:
"O God, Whom Nina preaches! Thou alone art the true God above all gods. And now I see Thy great mercy towards me, and my heart feels joy, consolation, and Thy nearness to me, O blessed God ! on this spot I shall erect a cross so that the sign which Thou hast shown me today may be remembered for all time!”
The king returned to the capital city and walked along the streets, loudly exclaiming, " Glorify, all my people, Nina's God, Christ, for He is the eternal God, and to Him alone belongs all glory forever!" The king was seeking St. Nina and asking, "Where is that pilgrim, whose God is my Redeemer?"
The Saint was at that time saying her evening prayers in her hut. The king and the queen, who had come to meet him, accompanied by a throng of people, came to the hut and when they saw the Saint, they fell down at her feet, and the king exclaimed, "O. my mother ! teach me and make one worthy to invoke the name of your great God, my Saviour!"
In answer unrestrained tears of joy flowed from the eyes of St. Nina. On
seeing her tears, the king and queen also began to weep, and after them all the
people who had gathered there. A witness who later described this occurrence,
"Whenever I remember those sacred moments, tears of spiritual joy involuntarily flow from my eyes."
King Mirian's conversion to Christ was decisive and firm. Mirian was for Georgia at that time what the Emperor Constantine the Great was for Greece and Rome. The Lord chose Mirian to lead to salvation all the Iberian peoples. Without delay Mirian sent envoys to Emperor Constantine in Rome with a request for bishops and priests to baptize the people, teach them the Christian faith, and plant and firmly establish the Lord’s Holy Church in Iberia. Until the envoys had returned with the priests, St. Nina uninterruptedly taught the people the Gospel of Christ, thus indicating the true path to salvation of the soul and inheritance of the heavenly kingdom. She also taught them prayers to Christ God, in this way preparing them for Holy Baptism.
The king desired to build a church of God before the arrival of the priests, and he chose a place in his garden indicated by St. Nina, namely, where stood the aforementioned great cedar. The cedar was cut down, and from six of its branches were hewn six pillars which were easily set firm in designated positions. But when the carpenters attempted to lift the seventh pillar, which was hewn out of the very trunk of the cedar, in order to place it as the foundation of the church, all were astonished, for by no exercise of strength was it possible to move it from its place. As evening came on, the saddened king went home pondering what this might mean. The people dispersed as well. Only St. Nina remained at the building site, praying and watering with her tears the stump of the felled tree. Early in the morning there appeared to her a marvellous youth, girded with a fiery belt, and spoke into her ear three mysterious words; on hearing them, St. Nina fell to the ground and bowed down to him. Then the youth approached the pillar, clasped it in his arms, and lifted it with him as he rose high in the air. The pillar gleamed like lightning 50 that it illumined the whole city. The king and the people assembled at the spot. As with fear and joy they watched the miraculous vision, they were all amazed at the way the heavy pillar, supported by no one, would first rise up about thirty feet from the ground and then descend and touch the stump on which it grew; finally it came to rest and was motionless in its place. From beneath the base of the pillar there began to flow Sweet-smelling, medicinal myrrh, and when the people had anointed themselves with this myrrh in faith, all who were suffering from various diseases and wounds were healed. Thus, a certain Jew, who had been blind from birth, merely touched the light-bearing pillar and at once received his sight; he immediately believed in Christ and glorified God. A mother brought her little boy who had lain gravely ill for seven years to the life-bearing pillar and implored St. Nina to heal him, confessing that the Christ St. Nina preached was truly the Son of God. When St. Nina touched the pillar and laid her hand on the sick boy, he recovered at once. The unusually great crowd of people coming to the life-bearing pillar roused the king to instruct the builders to surround it with a fence. From that time on the spot was revered not only by Christians, but also by pagans. Soon after, the construction of the first church building in Iberia was completed.
The envoys sent by Mirian to the Emperor Constantine were received with great honour and joy and returned to Iberia with many gifts from the emperor. With them the emperor sent Archbishop Eustathius of Antioch, two priests, and three deacons and all that was necessary to perform the divine services. Then king Mirian issued an order to all provincial governors, army commanders, and courtiers to appear before him without fail in the capital city. When they had all assembled, King Mirian, the queen, and all their children received Baptism. The place of baptism was arranged near a bridge on the river Kura where formerly had been the house of the Jew Elioz, and later a temple of the pagan priests; there the bishop baptized the army commanders and the royal lords, and thus this place was named "Mtavarta sanatlavi," i.e., 'the font of the lords." A little downstream from this spot the two priests baptized the people. The people came to be baptized with great eagerness and joy, for they remembered the words of St. Nina that if one were not reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, he would not behold life and light eternal, but his soul would perish in the darkness of Hell. The priests visited all the surrounding towns and villages, baptizing the people. In this manner, soon all of Kartli had been baptized, except the Caucasian mountaineers who remained for a long time in the darkness of paganism. The Mtskhetian Jews also did not receive baptism, except for their high priest Abiathar, who was baptized with his whole household, and fifty Jewish families who were, it is said, descendants of the robber Barabbas.
Thus, with the help of God and the Lord's affirmation of the good news of the Gospel, Archbishop Eustathius, together with St. Nina, in a few years enlightened all of Iberia. When he had established the order for Divine Service in Greek, had consecrated in the name of the twelve Apostles the first church in Mtskheta, which was modelled on the church in Constantinople, and had enjoined peace on the young Church of Christ, Archbishop Eustathius returned to Antioch. As bishop of Iberia he had consecrated for the young Church the priest John, who was dependent on the see of Antioch.
After several years the pious King Mirian sent a new legation to the Emperor Constantine, begging him to send to Iberia as many priests as possible so that no one in the kingdom would be deprived of the opportunity to hear the word of salvation, and so that entrance into the blessed, eternal Kingdom of Christ would be open for all. He also requested that expert architects be sent to Georgia for the construction of stone churches. With holy love and joy Constantine the Great fulfilled Mirian's request. In addition to great quantities of gold and silver, he entrusted Mirian's envoys with a part (the foot-piece) of the life-giving Cross of the Lord, which at that time had recently been discovered (in 326) by St. Helen, Constantine's mother. He also gave them one of the nails with which the most pure hands of the Lord had been nailed to the cross. They were given crosses, icons of Christ the Saviour and the Most Holy Virgin Mother of God, and, for the founding of churches relics of the holy martyrs. At the same time Mirian’s son and heir, Bakar, who had been living in Rome as a hostage, was freed to return to his father.
When Mirian's envoys returned to Iberia with many priests and architects, they laid the foundation of the first church in the village of Erusheti on the boundary of Kartli, saving for that church the nail from the Lord’s Cross ( In the mid-thirteenth century this flail was incorporated in the crown of an episcopal mitre. In 1681 this mitre was taken to Moscow where it is now (1904) kept in the Cathedral of the Dormition). They founded a second church in the village of Manglisi forty versts south of Tbilisi, and here they left the aforementioned piece of the life-giving Cross (This holy relic is believed lost; it is thought to have been broken into many small pieces). In Mtskheta they established a stone Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord. By the wish of the king and the instructions of St. Nina, the foundation was laid in the royal garden near St. Nina's hut. She did not see the completion of this magnificent Structure, for desiring to escape the glory and honours which the king and his people rendered her, and burning with a desire to serve for the even greater glorification of Christ's Name, she went out of the populous city into the mountains to the arid heights of Aragvi, and there, by prayer and fasting, she began to prepare herself for new evangelistic labours in those regions adjacent to Kartli. She found a Small cave screened by the branches of trees and began to live there. Here, through tearful prayer, she drew forth for herself water from a rock. From this spring to this day flow drops of water, like tears, which is why the people call it the "spring of tears"; they also call it the "spring of milk" for it brings milk to mothers' shrivelled breasts.
At that time the inhabitants of Mtskheta beheld a miraculous vision: for several nights a brilliant cross with a wreath of stars shone in the sky above the newly-built church. With the arrival of dawn the four brightest stars detached themselves from the cross and departed—one to the East, one to the \Nest; the third illumined the church, the bishop's house, and the whole city; and the fourth, having illuminated the refuge of St. Nina, rose to the summit of a crag on which grew a solitary and majestic tree. Neither Bishop John nor the king could comprehend the meaning of this vision. But St. Nina ordered that the tree be cut down and four crosses made from it. one was to be placed on the crag, another to the west of Mtskheta on Mt. Tkhoti where King Mirian had first been blinded and then regained his sight and turned to the true God; she ordered that the third cross be given to the king's daughter-in-law, Salomia, that she might erect it in her town of Udzarma; the fourth was destined for the settlement of Bodbi, the domain of the Kakhetian queen Sudzhi (Sophia), for which place St. Nina herself soon set out to convert it to the Christian faith.
Taking with her the priest James and one deacon, St. Nina set out for the mountainous lands to the north of Mtskheta, the upper regions of the Aragvi and Iori rivers, and proclaimed the Gospel in the mountain villages of the Caucasus. Overcome by the divine power of the word of the Gospel and The miraculous signs accomplished by the prayers of Christ's holy preacher, the wild mountaineers accepted the Good Tidings about Christ's kingdom, destroyed their idols, and were baptized by the priest James. When she had traversed Kokabeti and converted its inhabitants to the Christian faith the holy preacher made her way to the south of Kakheti, and reaching the village of Bodbi, the limit of her holy feats and earthly pilgrimage, she settled there. Having built herself a hut on a mountainside and spending day and night in prayer before the holy cross, St. Nina soon attracted the attention of the surrounding inhabitants. They began regularly to gather at her hut to listen to her moving instructions about the Christian faith and the way to eternal life. There lived at that time in Bodbi the queen of Kakheti, Sophia; she also came with the others to hear the wondrous preacher. On one occasion, having listened with delight, she no longer wanted to leave the Saint; she was filled with sincere faith in the saving preaching of St. Nina. Soon after, Sophia, together with her courtiers and a great number of her people, received Holy Baptism from the priest James.
When she had thus accomplished in Kakheti the last work of her apostolic service in Iberia, St. Nina received a revelation from God of her approaching death. Informing King Mirian of this in a letter, the Saint invoked on him and his kingdom the eternal blessing of God and of His Most Pure Virgin Mother and their protection by the invincible power of the Lord's Cross, and further, she wrote:
"And I, as, a pilgrim and a stranger, now leave this world and go the way of my fathers. And I request that you send me Bishop John to prepare me for the eternal journey, for the day of my death is already near."
The letter was sent via Queen Sophia herself. lichen he had read it, King Mirian, all his courtiers, and the entire clergy with the bishop at their head hurriedly departed and found St. Nina still alive. A numerous crowd of people surrounded the death bed of the Saint and wet it with their tears. By touching it, many of the sick were healed. Before her death, at the insistent request of her disciples who were weeping at her bedside, St. Nina told them of her origin and the events of her life. Salomia of Udzarma wrote it all down and what is briefly set forth here is based on her narrative. St. Nina said:
"Let my poor, indolent life be described so that it may be known to your children just as are your faith and the love which you bestowed on me. Let even your distant descendants know of those signs of God which you were deemed worthy to see with your own eyes and of which you are witnesses."
Then she gave them several instructions about eternal life, reverently received from the bishop's hands the saving Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ, ordered that her body be buried in the wretched hut where she now lay so that the newly-founded Kakhetian church would not be orphaned, and in peace committed her spirit into the hands of the Lord.
The king, the bishop, and all the people, were deeply grieved at the death of the great ascetic. They conceived the idea of transporting the precious remains of the Saint to the Mtskheta cathedral and burying them at the foot of the life-giving pillar, but try as they might, they were unable to move the coffin of St. Nina from the place of rest that she herself had chosen. The body of Christ's evangelist was buried on the spot of her wretched hut in the village of Bodbi. At her grave King Mirian laid the foundation, and his son, King Bakar, completed and consecrated a church in the name of St. Nina's relation, the holy Great-martyr St. George.
This church was renovated many times, but it was never destroyed; it has remained undamaged to this day (1904). At this church was established the Bodbi metropolitan see, the oldest see in all Kakheti, from which place the preaching of the Gospel spread to the remote mountain regions of the eastern Caucasus.
The All-good God glorified with incorruption the body of St. Nina, which according to her command had been sealed in the coffin (and after St. Nina it was net the custom in Georgia to open the relics of saints). Numerous and continual signs and miracles took place at her grave. These grace-giving signs, St. Nina's holy, angelic life and apostolic labours, which she undertook and completed with glory, impelled the young Iberian Church, with the blessing of the Church of Antioch, to recognize St. Nina as Equal-of the Apostles and the Enlightener of Iberia, to add her to the company of saints, and to establish in her honour a yearly feast on January 14th, the day of her blessed repose.
The Georgian Orthodox Church justifiably glorifies its founders, St. Nina, as Equal of the Apostles, for she enlightened all of Iberia with Holy Baptism and turned many thousands of souls to Christ. If he who turns one sinner back from the error of his ways and draws out what is precious from what is worthless will be as the mouth of God, then how much more as the mouth of God is she who turned to God from the ruinous pagan illusion so many peoples who formerly did not know the True God ! She joined the company of saints in the Kingdom of Christ our God, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit belongs honour, glory, thanksgiving, and adoration now and ever and to all ages, Amen.
O all-praised and wonderful equal of the Apostles Nina. truly great adornment of the Orthodox Church and great boast of the people of Iberia, thou who didst enlighten the whole land of Georgia with the divine teachings, and with apostolic deeds didst defeat the enemy of our salvation, by labour and prayer thou didst plant there a vineyard of Christ and increase its fruit many-fold Celebrating thy holy memory, we approach thy holy image and with reverence kiss the miracle-working cross, the highly praised gift to thee from the Mother of God, which thou hast encircled with thy clear hair, and tenderly ask thee, as our constant intercessor: protect us from all evil and sorrows, and from the opponent of piety guard thy flock which hath been saved by thee, and beseech our all-good God and Saviour, before Whom thou art now standing, that He may grant us peace and many years, and that the Lord may bring us into His kingdom, where all the saints praise His holy name, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
1. St. Nina's cross of grapevines was kept in the Mtskheta cathedral until 458, and then for several centuries it was moved around in various parts of Armenia and taken into the mountains to escape numerous enemies and persecutors of the Christians. In 1749 Metropolitan Roman secretly took the cross to Moscow where it remained for a short time in the hands of the Georgian princes. In 1801 it was given to Emperor Alexander Pavlovich, who returned it to Georgia where it is kept to this day (1904) in a silver reliquary near the north door to the altar in the Sion cathedral church in Tbilisi (Tiflis).
2. The Georgian chronicles assure us that St. Nina found beneath the cedar
the actual place where the Lord's robe was buried. It is thought that the angel
who appeared to the Saint, speaking secretly to her, commanded her not to remove
the stump of the cedar, and after this St. Nina looked no further for the Lord's
robe. On one occasion she mentioned its presence to King Mirian, and this
presence was manifested by the flow of sweet-smelling medicinal myrrh. But many
doubted, and when one curious woman attempted to dig up the robe, she was
scorched by flames leaping up from the earth around the stump. Only in the 13th
century, by the Lord's holy will, the robe was dug up, and the myrrh ceased
flowing. When the barbarian hordes of Tamerlain were destroying cities and
churches and desecrating holy objects a certain pious man, foreseeing the
destruction of Mtskheta, offered a prayer to the Lord and then unearthed the
robe and entrusted it to the Georgian Catholicos.
However Russian theologians and historians believes that two centuries later, when the Mtskheta cathedral was rebuilt, the robe was returned and concealed in the church cross where it remained until the 17th century In 1625 Iberia was conquered by the Persian shah Abbas, and to insure the favour of the Russian court, he sent the robe to Patriarch Philaret, the father of the reigning Tsar Michael Pheodorovich. Through many miraculous healings, they assured themselves of the authenticity of this precious gift and laid it in a place of honour in the Moscow Cathedral of the Dormition where it remains to this day (1904).
This hypotheses of moving Lord's robe into Russia is a speculation of the facts. It's a full nonsense ( - Besiki Sisauri).
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