mercredi 30 septembre 2015

Saint GRÉGOIRE l'Illuminateur, Apôtre de l'ARMÉNIE, évêque et confesseur


Saint Grégoire l'Illuminateur

Apôtre de l'Arménie ( v. 325)

Confesseur et évêque. 

Il est le véritable fondateur de l'Église arménienne, même si une tradition sérieuse fait remonter les premières communautés chrétiennes à l'époque apostolique. Ce qui s'appuie sur le fait que les soldats romains envahirent le pays et que les marchands furent aussi les "transporteurs de la foi", comme les lettres de saint Paul nous le disent pour ses amis, fabricants de tentes à Corinthe. 

La tradition primitive et constante de cette église reconnaît pour premiers fondateurs les apôtres Saint Thaddée et saint Barthélémy, qu’elle nomme, par antonomase, les Premiers Illuminateurs de l’Arménie.

Saint Grégoire était de la famille royale de Tiridate III. Découvert comme chrétien, il connut d'abord près de quinze ans de cachot, mais à la suite d'une maladie du roi, il revint en grâce auprès du souverain, le convertit et c'est ainsi que l'Arménie fut la première nation à donner la paix à l'Église et même à reconnaître le christianisme comme religion d'État, 75 ans avant l'empire romain. 

Sacré évêque par le métropolite de Cappadoce, il sut instruire les prêtres idolâtres pour les conduire au sacerdoce chrétien. 

Afin d'assurer la vie de l'Église, il consacra évêque son fils Aristakès. 

L'Église Apostolique Arménienne lui a consacré trois fêtes, celle de son supplice et de son entrée dans le cachot, celle de la sortie du cachot profond et celle de la découverte des Reliques de Saint Grégoire l'Illuminateur, le samedi avant le 4e dimanche après la Pentecôte.



30 septembre - martyrologe romain: En Arménie, saint Grégoire, évêque, surnommé l’Illuminateur. Baptisé à Césarée de Cappadoce, ordonné évêque par Léonce de Césarée, il convertit le roi Tiridate à la foi chrétienne et, après de multiples travaux apostoliques, se retira dans une grotte, au nord du confluent des deux branches de l’Euphrate et y mourut en paix, vers 326, reconnu comme l’apôtre de l’Arménie.


Martyrologe romain

Jean-Paul II : lettre apostolique du Saint Père à l'occasion du 1700e anniversaire du baptême du peuple arménien.



Saint Grégoire l’Illuminateur

Apôtre de l’Arménie (+ 325)
Confesseur et évêque. Il est le véritable fondateur de l’Eglise arménienne, même si une tradition sérieuse fait remonter les premières communautés chrétiennes à l’époque apostolique. Ce qui s’appuie sur le fait que les soldats romains envahirent le pays et que les marchands furent aussi les "transporteurs de la foi", comme les lettres de saint Paul nous le disent pour ses amis, fabricants de tentes à Corinthe.

Saint Grégoire était de la famille royale de Tiridate II. Découvert comme chrétien, il connut d’abord près de quinze ans de cachot, mais à la suite d’une maladie du roi, il revint en grâce auprès du souverain, le convertit et c’est ainsi que l’Arménie fut la première nation à donner la paix à l’Eglise et même à reconnaître le christianisme comme religion d’Etat, 75 ans avant l’empire romain.

Sacré évêque par le métropolite de Cappadoce, il sut instruire les prêtres idolâtres pour les conduire au sacerdoce chrétien. Afin d’assurer la vie de l’Eglise, il consacra évêque son fils Aristakès.

Les Eglises arméniennes fêtent saint Grégoire le vendredi de la cinquième semaine de Pâques.

SOURCE : https://viechretienne.catholique.org/saints/1388-saint-gregoire-l-illuminateur



GRÉGOIRE L'ILLUMINATEUR saint (260 env.-env. 328)

Né en Arménie, Grégoire fut élevé chrétiennement à Césarée de Cappadoce, se maria et eut deux enfants. Quand Tiridate remonta sur le trône de ses pères, Grégoire l'accompagna en Arménie. Le roi, qui était païen, voulut restaurer les fêtes de la déesse Anahit. Chrétien, Grégoire refusa d'y participer. Il fut jeté dans une fosse, où il resta enfermé pendant quinze ans, et n'en fut libéré que quand Tiridate malade le fit venir. Grégoire le guérit miraculeusement et fut élu pasteur suprême, catholicos, des Arméniens. Il alla se faire ordonner évêque à Césarée de Cappadoce, d'où il rapporta des reliques de saint Jean-Baptiste et du martyr Athanagène.
Si l'Église d'Arménie existait avant Grégoire, elle avait beaucoup souffert de la persécution ; il en fut vraiment l'organisateur, créa des évêchés et opéra de nombreuses conversions. La principale fête de Grégoire fut fixée au 30 septembre.
La légende a certainement embelli l'histoire de saint Grégoire l'Illuminateur. Il n'en reste pas moins que son action fut importante et que c'est à juste titre qu'il est considéré comme l'apôtre de l'Arménie. L'Église arménienne autonome porte toujours en son honneur le qualificatif de grégorienne.
Jacques DUBOIS

Jacques DUBOIS, « GRÉGOIRE L'ILLUMINATEUR saint (260 env.-env. 328)  », Encyclopædia Universalis [en ligne], consulté le 30 septembre 2015. URL : http://www.universalis.fr/encyclopedie/gregoire-l-illuminateur/

SOURCE : http://www.universalis.fr/encyclopedie/gregoire-l-illuminateur/



Le 30 septembre, mémoire du Saint Hiéromartyr GRÉGOIRE l'Illuminateur, Evêque de la Grande-Arménie

Saint Grégoire naquit vers l'année 240. Il était fils d'Anak le Parthe et apparenté au roi d'Arménie Koussar, qui fut assassiné par Anak, sur l'ordre du roi de Perse Artasuras. En châtiment de ce crime toute la famille d'Anak fut exécutée, à l'exception de Grégoire et de l'un de ses frères, encore enfants, qui furent exilés à Césarée de Cappadoce. C'est à l'occasion de cet exil en territoire romain que Grégoire fut initié aux Saints Dogmes des Chrétiens et baptisé.

Tiridate, l'un des fils du roi assassiné par Anak, fut lui aussi exilé par le roi des Perses à Césarée. Apprenant sa présence, Grégoire se mit à son service, sans toutefois lui révéler son origine. Quelque temps après, Tiridate accéda de nouveau au trône d'Arménie grâce aux Romains, en remerciement d'un grand service qu'il avait rendu à l'empire. Loin d'y reconnaître la main bienveillante du seul Dieu créateur et bienfaiteur de l'univers, Tiridate fit preuve immédiatement d'un zèle farouche pour le culte des idoles. Méprisant toute reconnaissance envers celui qui l'avait servi aux jours difficiles de leur exil, le roi s'emporta avec fureur contre Grégoire, qui refusait de renier le Christ. Il le soumit à des tortures si cruelles et variées que seule l'imagination du démon pouvait lui suggérer. On le suspendit à un chevalet, on le flagella pendant des jours entiers et on lui écrasa les os des jambes en les serrant dans des étaux. On le força à courir après lui avoir planté des clous dans les pieds. On lui fourra la tête dans un sac plein de cendres brûlantes et on lui fit subir encore tant d'autres tourments qu'on se lasserait à les énumérer. Mais revêtu de l'invincible panoplie de la foi, Grégoire restait inébranlable et ne cessait de rendre grâce à Dieu de l'avoir rendu digne de souffrir pour son Nom.

Lorsque Tiridate apprit que Grégoire était le fils du meurtrier de son père, sa rage redoubla. Il fit jeter le Saint dans une fosse profonde pleine de reptiles et de toutes sortes d'animaux venimeux, dans les environs du mont Ararat. Grégoire y resta pendant quinze ans, nourri secrètement par une veuve. Or, Tiridate devint si fou, qu'il en perdit tout apparence humaine et se mit à vivre en compagnie des porcs: marchant à quatre pattes et dévorant sa propre chair. Sa soeur, Koussarodoukta, apprit au cours d'un rêve que le roi ne pourrait être guéri que par l'intercession de Saint Grégoire. On fit donc remonter de sa fosse l'athlète du Christ, qui, à la surprise de tous, apparut plein de vigueur et de santé. Il guérit le roi et le convainquit d'adhérer à la Foi des Chrétiens, pour sauver son âme des châtiments éternels, bien plus redoutables que les souffrances qu'il avait endurées pendant sa folie. Tiridate et sa soeur aidèrent de leurs propres mains à la construction d'une église en l'honneur de Sainte Ripsime et de ses compagnes, qu'il avait lui-même fait exécuter. Grégoire baptisa le roi et ses notables et un grand nombre de ses sujets dans l'Euphrate (vers 290). Les prêtres des idoles détruisirent leurs temples de leurs propres mains et, après avoir reçu le Saint Baptême et l'imposition des mains de Grégoire, devinrent Prêtres du Dieu Très-Haut, si bien qu'en peu de temps toute l'Arménie fut couverte d'églises et résonna des échos des hymnes divines.

Après avoir répandu la paix dans l'Arménie et les contrées voisine, Saint Grégoire se retira avec quelques disciples dans la solitude d'une grotte, ne mangeant qu'une fois tous les quarante jours et s'entretenant continuellement avec Dieu. Comme consolation, il désigna un des deux fils qu'il avait eu dans sa jeunesse, Aristakès, comme Archevêque de la grande Arménie. Celui-ci prit part au Concile de Nicée (325) et poursuivit dignement l'oeuvre de son Père. Grégoire s'endormit dans la paix en 325, pour jouir éternellement de la lumière de la Sainte Trinité, dont il avait répandu les rayons sur son peuple.



SOURCE : http://calendrier.egliseorthodoxe.com/sts/stsseptembre/sept30.html



JEAN-PAUL II

LETTRE APOSTOLIQUE DU SAINT PÈRE


À L'OCCASION DU 1700ème ANNIVERSAIRE

DU BAPTÊME DU PEUPLE ARMÉNIEN


  
1. "Dieu, merveilleux et toujours providentiel, selon ta prescience, tu as marqué le début du salut des Arméniens".


L'antique hymne liturgique, qui chante l'initiative de Dieu dans l'évangélisation de votre noble peuple, très chers frères et soeurs, jaillit de mon coeur comblé de gratitude en cette heureuse circonstance, au cours de laquelle vous célébrez le XVIIème centenaire de la rencontre de vos ancêtres avec le christianisme. Toute l'Eglise catholique se réjouit en se rappelant le bain baptismal providentiel, grâce auquel votre noble et chère nation entra définitivement dans le cercle des peuples qui ont accueilli la vie nouvelle en Christ.



"Vous tous en effet, baptisés dans le Christ, vous avez revêtu le Christ" (Ga 3, 27). Les paroles de l'Apôtre Paul révèlent la nouveauté singulière concernant le chrétien du fait qu'il a reçu le baptême. En effet, dans ce sacrement l'homme est incorporé au Christ, si bien qu'il peut désormais affirmer avec confiance:  "Et ce n'est plus moi qui vis, mais le Christ qui vit en moi" (Ga 2, 20). Cette rencontre personnelle et unique régénère, sanctifie et transforme l'être humain, le rendant un parfait adorateur de Dieu et un temple vivant de l'Esprit Saint. Le Baptême, en greffant le disciple dans la vraie vie qui est le Christ, en fait un sarment capable de produire du fruit. Rendu fils dans le Fils, il devient héritier du bonheur éternel, préparé dès l'origine du monde.



Chaque baptême est donc un événement marqué par la rencontre d'amour entre le Christ Seigneur et la personne humaine, dans le mystère de la liberté et de la vérité. Il s'agit d'un événement auquel ne manque pas une dimension ecclésiale, comme cela se produit pour tout autre Sacrement:  l'incorporation au Christ comporte également l'incorporation à l'Eglise, Epouse du Verbe, Mère immaculée et affectueuse. L'Apôtre Paul affirme à ce propos: "Aussi bien est-ce en un seul Esprit que nous tous avons été baptisés en un seul corps" (1 Co 12, 13).



Cette incorporation à l'Eglise devient particulièrement visible dans l'histoire de certains peuples, pour lesquels la conversion a été un facteur communautaire, lié à des  événements  ou  des  circonstances  particulières. Lorsque cela se produit, on parle de "Baptême d'un peuple".


2. Très chers frères et soeurs du peuple arménien, il y a dix-sept siècles cette conversion commune au Christ s'est accomplie pour vous. Il s'agit d'un événement qui marqua profondément votre identité; non seulement l'identité personnelle, mais également communautaire, si bien que l'on peut parler à juste titre du "Baptême" de votre nation, même si en réalité le christianisme avait pénétré depuis longtemps déjà dans votre terre. La tradition en attribue les débuts à la prédication et à l'oeuvre des saints apôtres Thaddée et Bartholomée eux-mêmes.


Avec le "Baptême" de la communauté arménienne, à commencer par ses autorité civiles et militaires, naît une identité nouvelle du peuple, qui deviendra une partie constitutive et inséparable du fait d'être arménien. Il ne sera plus possible de penser à partir de ce moment que, parmi les composantes de cette identité, ne figure pas la foi dans le Christ, en tant qu'élément constitutif essentiel. La culture arménienne recevra également de l'annonce de l'Evangile une impulsion d'une vigueur extraordinaire:  "l'"arménité" donnera un caractère profondément caractéristique à cette annonce et, dans le même temps, cette annonce sera une force motrice pour un développement sans précédent de la culture nationale. L'invention de l'alphabet arménien, fait déterminant pour la stabilité et le caractère définitif de l'identité culturelle du peuple, sera étroitement liée au "Baptême" de l'Arménie et sera voulue et conçue, avant même d'être un instrument de communication de concepts et d'informations, comme un véritable véhicule d'évangélisation. Oeuvre de saint Mesrop-Masthoc', en collaboration avec le saint Catholicos Sahak, le nouvel alphabet permettra aux Arméniens de recevoir les meilleures orientations concernant la spiritualité, la théologie et la culture des Syriens et des Grecs, et de fondre tout cela de façon originale avec l'apport de la spécificité de leur génie propre.


3. La conversion de l'Arménie, qui a eu lieu au début du IV siècle et qui est traditionnellement située en l'an 301, donna à vos ancêtres la conscience d'être le premier peuple officiellement chrétien, bien avant que le christianisme ne soit reconnu comme religion de l'empire romain. 
C'est en particulier l'historien Agatangelo qui, dans un récit riche de symbolisme, s'arrête pour raconter en détail les faits que la tradition place à l'origine de cette conversion de masse de votre peuple. Le récit commence par la rencontre providentielle et dramatique des deux héros qui sont à la base des événements:  Grégoire, fils du parthe Anak, élevé à Césarée de Cappadoce, et le roi arménien Tiridate III. Au début il s'agit en réalité d'un affrontement:  Grégoire, à qui le roi avait demandé de sacrifier à la déesse Anahit, s'oppose à celui-ci par un net refus, expliquant au souverain qu'il n'y a qu'un seul créateur du ciel et de la terre, le Père du Seigneur Jésus-Christ. Soumis à de cruels tourments pour cette raison, Grégoire, assisté par la puissance de Dieu, ne céda pas. Ayant constaté cette irréductible constance dans la confession chrétienne, le roi le fit jeter dans un puits profond, un lieu étroit et obscur infesté de serpents, d'où personne n'était sorti vivant. Mais Grégoire, nourri par la Providence, à travers la main charitable d'une veuve, resta pendant de longues années dans ce puits sans succomber.


Le récit se poursuit en rapportant les tentatives mises en oeuvre entre temps par l'empereur romain Dioclétien pour séduire la vierge sainte Hrip'sime, qui, pour échapper au danger, s'enfuit de Rome avec un groupe de compagnes, cherchant refuge en Arménie. La beauté de la jeune fille attira l'attention du roi Tiridate qui tomba amoureux d'elle et voulut qu'elle lui appartienne. Face au refus obstiné de Hrip'sime, le roi devint furieux et la fit périr avec ses compagnes dans de cruels supplices. Selon la tradition, comme peine pour l'horrible délit, Tiridate fut changé en sanglier sauvage et ne put reprendre son apparence humaine que lorsque, obéissant à une injonction du ciel, il libéra Grégoire du puits dans lequel il était resté pendant treize longues années. Une fois accompli le prodige qui lui fit reprendre son apparence humaine grâce aux prières du saint, Tiridate comprit que le Dieu de Grégoire était le Dieu véritable et il décida de se convertir, avec sa famille et l'armée, et d'oeuvrer pour l'évangélisation de tout le pays. C'est ainsi que les Arméniens furent baptisés et que le christianisme s'imposa comme religion officielle de la nation. Grégoire, qui entre temps avait reçu à Césarée l'ordination épiscopale, et Tiridate parcoururent le pays, détruisant  les  lieux  de  culte  des  idoles et construisant des temples chrétiens.



A la suite d'une vision de l'Unique Fils de Dieu incarné, une église fut ensuite construite à Vagharshapat, qui en raison du prodigieux événement prit le nom d'Etchemiadzin, c'est-à-dire le lieu où "le Fils unique descendit". Les prêtres païens furent instruits dans la nouvelle religion et devinrent les ministres du nouveau culte, alors que leurs fils constituèrent le coeur du clergé et du monachisme successif.



Grégoire se retira bientôt dans le désert pour vivre en ermite, et le plus jeune fils Aristakes fut ordonné Evêque et constitué chef de l'Eglise arménienne. C'est revêtu de cette dignité qu'il participa au Concile de Nicée. L'historien arménien connu sous le nom de Mosé de Corene définit Grégoire "notre ancêtre et père selon l'Evangile" (1) et, pour montrer la continuité entre l'évangélisation apostolique et celle de l'Illuminateur, il rapporte la tradition selon laquelle Grégoire aurait eu le privilège d'être conçu à côté de la sainte mémoire de l'apôtre Thaddée.



Les antiques calendriers de l'Eglise encore indivise le célèbrent le même jour, en Orient et en Occident, en tant qu'apôtre inlassable de vérité et de sainteté. Père dans la foi du peuple arménien tout entier, saint Grégoire intercède également aujourd'hui du ciel, afin que tous les enfants de votre grande nation puissent finalement se retrouver autour de l'unique Table dressée par le Christ, divin Pasteur de l'unique troupeau.


4. Ce récit traditionnel contient en lui, aux côtés d'aspects légendaires, des éléments d'une grande signification spirituelle et morale. La prédication de la Bonne Nouvelle et la conversion de l'Arménie sont tout d'abord fondées sur le sang des témoins de la foi. Les souffrances de Grégoire et le martyre de Hrip'sime et de ses compagnes montrent que le premier Baptême de l'Arménie est précisément celui du sang.


Le martyre constitue un élément constant de l'histoire de votre peuple. Sa foi demeure indissociablement liée au témoignage du sang versé pour le Christ et pour l'Evangile. Toute la culture et la spiritualité des Arméniens sont imprégnées par la fierté pour le signe suprême du don de la vie dans le martyre. On y perçoit les échos des gémissements de la souffrance subie en communion avec l'Agneau immolé pour le salut du monde. L'emblème en est le sacrifice de Vardan Mamikonian et de ses compagnons qui, lors de la bataille d'Avarayr (en 451) contre le sassanide Iazdegerd II qui voulait imposer au peuple la religion mazdéenne, donnèrent leur vie pour rester fidèles au Christ et défendre la foi de la nation. A la veille de l'affrontement, comme le rapporte l'historien Elisée, les soldats furent exhortés à défendre leur foi par ces paroles:  "Ceux qui croyaient que le christianisme était comme un habit pour nous, sauront à présent qu'il ne pourront pas nous l'ôter de même que l'on ne peut pas nous ôter la couleur de la peau" (2). Il s'agit d'un témoignage éloquent du courage qui animait ces croyants:  mourir pour le Christ signifiait pour eux participer à sa passion, en affirmant les droits de la conscience. Il ne fallait pas permettre que soit reniée la foi chrétienne, ressentie par le peuple comme le bien suprême.



Depuis cette époque des événements analogues se sont répétés de nombreuses fois, jusqu'aux massacres subis par les Arméniens au cours des années à cheval sur le XIXème siècle et le XXème siècle, et qui culminèrent lors des événements tragiques de 1915, lorsque le peuple arménien dut subir des violences inouïes, dont les conséquences douloureuses sont encore visibles dans la diaspora à laquelle un grand nombre de ses fils ont été forcés. Il s'agit d'un souvenir que l'on ne peut pas oublier. Plusieurs fois, au cours du siècle qui vient de se conclure,  mes  prédécesseurs  ont  voulu  rendre  hommage aux chrétiens d'Arménie qui ont perdu la vie de façon violente (3). J'ai moi-même voulu rappeler les souffrances subies par votre peuple:  ce sont les souffrances des membres du Corps mystique du Christ (4).



Les événements sanglants ont non seulement profondément marqué l'âme de votre peuple, mais ils en ont plusieurs fois modifié la géographie humaine, l'obligeant à des migrations continuelles dans le monde entier. Il faut remarquer que, partout où les Arméniens sont allés, ils ont apporté la richesse de leurs valeurs morales et de leurs organisations culturelles, indissolublement liées aux organisations ecclésiastiques. Guidés par la conscience confiante du soutien divin, les chrétiens arméniens ont sut garder sur leurs lèvres la prière de saint Grégoire de Narek:  "Si je fixe les yeux en observant le spectacle du double risque le jour de la misère, puissé-je voir ton salut ô Espérance providentielle! Si je tourne le regard vers le haut vers le sentier terrifiant qui atteint tout, que vienne à ma rencontre avec douceur ton ange de paix!" (5). En effet, la foi chrétienne, même lors des moments les plus tragiques de l'histoire arménienne, a été le moteur qui a marqué le début de la renaissance de ce peuple éprouvé.



Ainsi l'Eglise, en suivant ses enfants en pèlerinage dans le monde à la recherche de la paix et de la sérénité, a constitué pour eux la véritable force morale, en devenant, dans de nombreux cas, l'unique instance à laquelle ils ont pu faire référence, l'unique centre autorisé qui en a soutenu les efforts et inspiré la pensée.


5. Un second élément de grande valeur dans votre histoire tourmentée, chers frères et soeurs arméniens, est constitué par le rapport entre évangélisation et culture. Le terme d'"Iluminateur", par lequel saint Grégoire est désigné, met en évidence sa double fonction dans l'histoire de la conversion de votre peuple. En effet, "illumination" est le terme traditionnel dans le langage chrétien pour indiquer que, à travers le Baptême, le disciple, appelé par Dieu des ténèbres à son admirable lumière (cf. 1 P 2, 9), est inondé par la splendeur du Christ "lumière du monde" (Jn 8, 12). En Lui, le chrétien trouve la signification intime de sa vocation et de sa mission dans le monde.


Mais le terme "illumination", dans l'acception arménienne, s'enrichit d'une signification ultérieure, car il indique également la diffusion de la culture à travers l'enseignement, confié en particulier aux moines-maîtres, qui poursuivirent la prédication évangélique de saint Grégoire. Comme le remarque l'historien Koriun, l'évangélisation de l'Arménie a apporté avec elle la victoire sur l'ignorance (6). Avec la diffusion de l'alphabétisation et de la connaissance des normes et des préceptes de l'Ecriture Sainte, il est finalement permis au peuple de construire une société juste de façon sage et prudente. Agatangelo ne manque pas de faire remarquer lui aussi comment la conversion de l'Arménie a comporté la libération des cultes païens, qui non seulement cachaient la vérité de la foi au peuple, mais le conservaient également dans une condition d'ignorance (7).



C'est pour cette raison que l'Eglise arménienne a toujours considéré comme partie intégrante de son mandat la promotion de la culture et de la conscience nationale et qu'elle s'est toujours prodiguée pour que cette synthèse demeure vive et féconde.


6. Le récit traditionnel des faits liés à la conversion des Arméniens permet d'effectuer une autre réflexion. Chez saint Grégoire l'Illuminateur et chez les Vierges saintes resplendit la force puissante de la foi, qui incite à ne pas plier devant les tentations du pouvoir et du monde, et qui rend capables de résister aux souffrances les plus atroces ainsi qu'aux flatteries les plus attrayantes. Chez le roi Tiridate on peut apercevoir les conséquences provoquées par l'éloignement de Dieu; l'homme perd sa propre dignité en devenant une brute, si bien qu'il demeure prisonnier de ses désirs. Une vérité importante ressort de tout le récit:  il n'existe pas une sacralité absolue du pouvoir, et il n'est pas dit que celui-ci soit toujours justifié dans tout ce qu'il accomplit. On doit en revanche reconnaître la responsabilité personnelle de ses propres choix:  s'ils sont erronés, ils demeurent tels, même si c'est un roi qui les effectue. L'humanité se reconstitue dans sa totalité lorsque la foi démasque le péché, l'injuste se convertit et retrouve Dieu et sa justice.


Dans les édifices chrétiens, construits sur le lieu où l'on vénérait les idoles, apparaît la véritable identité du christianisme:  celui-ci rassemble ce qu'il y a de naturellement valable dans le sens religieux de l'humanité et il sait, dans le même temps, proposer la nouveauté d'une foi qui n'admet pas de compromis. Ainsi, en édifiant le peuple saint de Dieu, il contribue également à la naissance d'une nouvelle civilisation dans laquelle sont sublimées les valeurs les plus authentiques de l'homme.


7. Alors que se déroulent les célébrations du XVIIème centenaire de la conversion de l'Arménie, ma pensée s'élève vers le Seigneur du ciel et de la terre, à qui j'entends exprimer la gratitude de toute l'Eglise pour avoir suscité chez le peuple arménien une foi si solide et si courageuse et pour en avoir toujours soutenu le témoignage.


Je m'unis de bon gré à cette heureuse commémoration, pour contempler avec vous, très chers frères et soeurs, l'innombrable groupe de saints qui a pris origine dans cette terre bénie et qui resplendit à présent dans la gloire du Père. Il s'agit de figures qui constituent un riche trésor pour l'Eglise:  ce sont des martyrs, des confesseurs de la foi, des moines et des moniales, des fils et des filles renés de la fécondité de la Parole de Dieu. Parmi les figures illlustres, je désire rappeler ici saint Grégoire de Narek, qui a sondé les profondeurs ténébreuses du désespoir humain et qui a entrevu la lumière fulgurante de la grâce qui en celui-ci resplendit également pour le croyant, et saint Nerses Shnorhali, le Catholicos qui allia un amour extraordinaire pour son peuple et pour sa tradition, à une ouverture clairvoyante aux autres Eglises, dans un effort exemplaire de recherche de la communion dans la pleine unité.



Je désire tout d'abord exprimer au peuple arménien mon remerciement pour son histoire de fidélité au Christ, une fidélité qui a connu la persécution et le martyre. Les fils de l'Arménie chrétienne ont versé leur sang pour le Seigneur, mais toute l'Eglise a grandi et s'est renforcée en vertu de leur sacrifice. Si, aujourd'hui, l'Occident peut librement professer sa foi, cela est également dû à ceux qui s'immolèrent, en faisant  de  leur  corps  une  ligne  de défense pour le monde chrétien, à ses limites extrêmes. Leur mort fut le prix de notre sécurité:  à présent ils resplendissent  enveloppés  de  robes  blanches et ils  élèvent  à  l'Agneau  l'hymne  de louange dans la béatitude du Ciel (cf. AP 7, 9-12).



Le patrimoine de foi et de culture du peuple arménien a enrichi l'humanité de trésors d'art et de création, qui sont à présent dispersés dans le monde entier. Mille sept cents ans d'évangélisation font de cette terre l'un des berceaux de la civilisation chrétienne, vers lequel se tourne avec un regard plein d'admiration la vénération de tous les disciples du divin Maître.



Ambassadeurs de paix et d'amour du travail, les Arméniens ont parcouru le monde et, grâce au dur travail de leurs mains, ils ont offert une précieuse contribution pour le transformer et le rendre plus proche du projet d'amour du Père. Le peuple chrétien est heureux de leur présence généreuse et fidèle et il souhaite qu'ils puissent toujours trouver la sympathie et la compréhension dans toutes les parties du monde.


8. J'entends ensuite adresser une pensée particulière à ceux qui oeuvrent afin que l'Arménie se relève de la souffrance de tant d'années de régime totalitaire. Le peuple attend des signes concrets d'espérance et de solidarité, et je suis certain que le souvenir reconnaissant de ses origines chrétiennes est pour chaque arménien un motif de réconfort et d'encouragement. Je suis certain que la mémoire vivante des miracles accomplis par Dieu parmi vous, très chers fidèles arméniens, vous aidera à redécouvrir en plénitude la dignité de l'homme, de chaque homme, de toute condition, et qu'elle vous incitera à faire reposer sur des bases spirituelles et morales la reconstruction du pays. 
Je forme des voeux fervents afin que les fidèles poursuivent avec courage leur engagement et leurs efforts déjà notables, de sorte que l'Arménie de demain refleurisse dans les valeurs humaines et chrétiennes de la justice, de la solidarité, de l'égalité, du respect, de l'honnêteté, de l'hospitalité, qui sont à la base de la coexistence humaine. Si cela se produit, le Jubilé du peuple arménien aura pleinement porté ses fruits.


Je suis certain que l'événement dix-sept fois centenaire du Baptême de votre nation bien-aimée constituera un moment significatif et singulier pour poursuivre avec vigueur le chemin du dialogue oecuménique. Les relations déjà cordiales entre l'Eglise apostolique arménienne et l'Eglise catholique ont reçu, au cours des dernières décennies, une impulsion décisive également à travers les rencontres des plus hautes autorités de cette Eglise avec le Pape. Comment oublier, dans ce contexte, les mémorables visites à l'Evêque et à la communauté chrétienne de Rome de sa Sainteté Vazken I en 1970, de l'inoubliable Karékine I en 1996 et en 1999, et celle récente de Karékine II? La remise des reliques du Père de l'Arménie chrétienne à Sa Sainteté Karékine II, en présence du Patriarche arménien catholique, que j'ai moi-même eu la joie d'accomplir récemment pour la nouvelle cathédrale d'Yerevan, constitue une confirmation ultérieure du lien profond qui unit l'Eglise de Rome à tous les fils de saint Grégoire l'Illuminateur.



C'est un chemin qui doit se poursuivre avec confiance et courage, afin que nous puissions tous être toujours plus fidèles au commandement du Christ:  ut unum sint! Dans cette perspective, l'Eglise arménienne-catholique doit offrir sa contribution décisive à travers "la  prière  d'abord,  par  l'exemple  de  leur  vie,  par une religieuse fidélité aux anciennes traditions orientales, par une meilleure connaissance mutuelle, par la collaboration et l'estime fraternelle des choses et des hommes" (8).



Avec les Arméniens et pour les Arméniens, je présiderai dans quelques jours une solennelle Eucharistie de louange pour rendre grâce à Dieu du don de la foi qu'ils ont reçue, en priant afin que le Seigneur "fasse retrouver l'unité à tous les peuples dans sa sainte Eglise, bâtie sur le fondement des Apôtres et des Prophètes, et qu'il la conserve immaculée jusqu'au jour de son retour" (9). A cette célébration seront présents à l'unique Table du Seigneur du Pain de vie, les frères et les soeurs qui vivent déjà la pleine communion avec le Siège de Pierre et qui enrichissent ainsi l'Eglise catholique par leur contribution irremplaçable. Mais je souhaite vivement que cette sainte Action de grâce embrasse par l'esprit tous les Arméniens, où qu'ils se trouvent, pour exprimer avec une unique voix la reconnaissance de chacun à Dieu pour le don de la foi, dans le saint baiser de la paix.


9. Ma pensée s'adresse à la "Mère de la Lumière, Marie, la Vierge sainte qui a engendré selon la chair la Lumière qui procède du Père, et qui est devenue l'aurore du Soleil de justice" (10). Vénérée avec une profonde affection sous le titre d'Astvazazin (Mère de Dieu), elle est présente à tous les moments de l'histoire tourmentée de ce peuple. Ce sont surtout les textes liturgiques et homilétiques qui révèlent les trésors de la dévotion mariale qui, au cours des siècles, a rythmé l'attachement filial des Arméniens envers la Servante du grand mystère du salut. La prière de l'Eglise, outre qu'elle la commémore quotidiennement dans la Divine Liturgie et à toutes les heures de l'Office divin, prévoit des fêtes au cours de toute l'année qui en rappellent la vie et les mystères les plus importants. Les fidèles s'adressent à Elle avec confiance, pour lui demander d'intercéder auprès du Fils:  "Temple de la Lumière privée d'ombre, couche nuptiale ineffable du Verbe, toi, qui détruisit la triste malédiction de notre mère Eve, implore ton Fils unique, qui nous a réconciliés avec le Père, afin qu'il ôte tout trouble en nous et qu'il accorde la paix à nos âmes" (11). Vierge du Secours, Marie est vénérée comme la Reine de l'Arménie.


Grégoire de Narek, le grand Vardapet (Docteur) marial de l'Eglise arménienne, que j'ai moi aussi voulu rappeler dans l'Encyclique Redemptoris Mater (12) est sans aucun doute l'étoile lumineuse du groupe des saints arméniens qui chantent la Mère de Dieu. Il salue la sainte Vierge comme "Siège élu de la volonté de la divinité incréée" (13). A travers ses paroles que s'élève la prière de l'Eglise en fête, afin que ce Jubilé du baptême de l'Arménie soit un motif de renaissance et de joie: 



"Accueille le chant de bénédiction de nos lèvres 
et daigne accorder à cette Eglise 
les dons et les grâces de Sion et de Bethléem, 
afin que nous puissions être dignes de participer au salut 
le jour de la grande manifestation 
de la gloire indestructible 
du Sauveur immortel, ton Fils unique" (14).



Sur tout le peuple arménien et sur ses prochaines célébrations, j'invoque la plénitude des Bénédictions divines, en faisant mienne l'expression de l'historien Agatangelo:  "Que ceux-ci, en adressant ces paroles au Créateur disent:  "Seigneur tu es notre Dieu", et qu'Il leur dise:  "Mon peuple c'est vous"" (15), pour la gloire de la Très Sainte Trinité, du Père, du Fils et de l'Esprit Saint. Amen.



Du Vatican, 2 février 2001



NOTES

1) Histoire de l'Arménie, Venise 1841, p. 265. 

2) Histoire de Vartan et de la guerre des Arméniens contre les Persans, chap. V, Venise 1840, p. 121. 

3) Cf. Benoît XV, Discours pour le Saint Consistoire (6 décembre 1915):  AAS VII (1915), 510; Lettre aux Dirigeants des peuples belligérants (1 août 1917):  AAS IX (1917), 419; Pie XI, Discours au Consistoire pour la béatification des vénérables Jean Bosco et Cosma da Carboniano (21 avril 1929):  Discours II, 64; Lettre enc. Quinquagesimo ante (23 décembre 1929):  AAS XXI (1929), 712; Pie XII, Discours aux fidèles arméniens (13 mars 1946):  Discours et messages VIII, 5-6. 

4) Homélie au cours de la Divine liturgie en rite arménien (21 novembre 1987), 3:  Insegnamenti X/3 (1987), 1177; Discours pour l'ouverture de l'exposition Rome-Arménie (25 mars 1999), 2:  ORLF n. 15 du 15 avril 1999; Discours à l'occasion de la visite de Sa Sainteté Karékine II (9 novembre 2000):  ORLF n. 46 du 14 novembre 2000. 

5) Le livre des lamentations, Parole II, b, ed. Studium, 1999, p. 164-65. 

6) Cf. Histoire de la vie de saint Mesrob et du début de la littérature arménienne, Venise 1894, pp. 19-24. 

7) Cf. Agatangelo, Histoire, 2, Venise 1843, pp. 196-98. 

8) Concile oecum. Vat. II, Décr. sur les Eglises orientales Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 24. 

9) Antique "Cantique pour toutes les fêtes de la Sainte Vierge Marie" in Laudes et hymni ad SS. Mariae Virginis honorem ex Armeniorum Breviario excerpta, Venise 1877, XVII, 118. 

10) Catholicos Isaac III, Hymne pour la fête de la sainte Croix, in Laudes et hymni ad SS. Mariae Virginis honorem ex Armeniorum Breviario excerpta, Venise 1877, XIIII, 88-89. 

11) S. Nerses Shnorhali, Hymne en l'honneur de la Très Sainte Vierge Marie, En temps de Carême in Laudes et hymni ad SS. Mariae Virginis honorem ex Armeniorum Breviario excerpta, Venise 1877, IX, 81. 

12) Cf. n. 31:  AAS 79 (1987), 404. 

13) Discours panégéryque à la Bienheureuse Vierge Marie, Venise 1904, p. 16; 24. 

14) Ibid. 

15) Histoire, 2, Venise 1843, p. 200.

    
Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana

SOURCE : http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/fr/apost_letters/2001/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_20010217_battesimo-armenia.html




Arméniens : une cour du Vatican dédiée à saint Grégoire l’Illuminateur

En présence de S.B. Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni

22 février 2008 |

ROME, Vendredi 22 février 2008 (ZENIT.org) - Une cour du Vatican a été dédiée à saint Grégoire l'Illuminateur, le père de l'Arménie chrétienne, il y a 17 siècles : Benoît XVI a inauguré la plaque commémorative en présence de S.B. Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, patriarche de Cilicie des Arméniens catholiques.

Une statue du grand saint arménien trône déjà dans une niche de cette cour nord (côté droit lorsqu'on regarde la façade de Saint-Pierre) : les pèlerins du monde entier y passent en allant se recueillir sur la tombe des papes ou en allant à la coupole de Saint-Pierre. Elle avait été voulue là par Jean-Paul II, il y a trois ans, quelques semaines avant sa mort, comme Benoît XVI l'a rappelé dans son discours sur l'héritage de saint Grégoire.

Benoît XVI a formulé le vœu pour le peuple arménien : « En inaugurant la 'Cour saint Grégoire l'Illuminateur', nous prions afin que le peuple arménien, par l'intercession de son illustre et admirable fils, continue à avancer sur les chemins de la foi, en se laissant guider, comme il l'a fait au cours des siècles, par le Christ et par l'Evangile, qui a marqué sa culture de façon indélébile ».

« Saint Grégoire, a t-il dit, est appelé justement l'Illuminateur parce qu'en lui se réflétait de façon extraordinaire le visage du Sauveur. Le mot 'illumination' revêt une autre signification aussi dans l'acception arménienne : il indique la lumière qui découle de la diffusion de la culture par l'enseignement ».

Rappelons que les 1700 ans du baptême de l'Arménie ont laissé un signe au Vatican : une statue de saint Grégoire l'illuminateur a été placée dans une niche extérieure de la basilique Saint-Pierre, du côté de l'accès à la crypte et à la coupole, à droite du narthex.

Jean-Paul II avait aussi remis aux Arméniens une relique du grand saint, conservée dans un monastère de Naples, depuis l'époque des invasions barbares.

Saint Grégoire l'Illuminateur (v.240-v.332) est « l'Apôtre de l'Arménie ». Il aurait été formé à la vie chrétienne à Césarée de Cappadoce, en Asie Mineure. De retour en Arménie, il amena le roi Tiridate à la foi chrétienne et tout le Peuple arménien à sa suite. C'est pourquoi le « baptême de l'Arménie » a fait de cette nation la première à avoir accueilli la foi chrétienne en tant que nation.

En l'absence d'évêque, Grégoire se sacra lui-même et fixa son siège épiscopal à Ashitat, qui devint le centre de son apostolat. Il organisa des écoles et des séminaires, et assura ainsi une évangélisation du pays en profondeur. Il est reconnu également comme un grand saint thaumaturge.

Le 20 mai 2000, Jean-Paul II écrivait à S.S. Aram Ier, Catholicos de Cilicie, à l'occasion du 1700ème anniversaire du baptême du peuple arménien. Le 20 mai 301, écrivait le pape, « saint Grégoire l'Illuminateur baptisa le Roi d'Arménie Tiridates III...et peu après, le peuple arménien tout entier embrassa la foi chrétienne et reçut le Baptême ».

Jean-Paul II définissait l'anniversaire du baptême comme « une occasion providentielle pour commémorer et renouveler ce lien fraternel ». Il ajoutait: « J'ai grand plaisir à vous remettre une relique de saint Grégoire l'Illuminateur en signe d'affection dans le Seigneur », rappelant avoir fait de même à l'attention de S.S. Karékine II et de S.B. Nerses Bedros XIX. Il écrivait enfin: « Nous ne divisons pas les reliques, nous travaillons et prions afin que ceux qui les reçoivent soient unis ».

Anita S. Bourdin


SOURCE : http://www.zenit.org/fr/articles/armeniens-une-cour-du-vatican-dediee-a-saint-gregoire-l-illuminateur


Grégoire d’Arménie

Saint Grégoire l’Illuminateur.

(l’éveillé, le rapide)


Grégoire y a vécu au 4ème siècle. Il s’appelait Krikor ou Krikorios 1er Loussarovitch.

Il était issu de la famille royale des Arsacides (dynastie des rois Parthes fondée en 255 Av. JC par Arsace 1er et remplacée en 226 Ap. JC par les Sassanides : Artaxexès 1er))

Il fut le premier apôtre après Saint Barthélemy évangélisateur des arméniens.

Ayant échappé au massacre de sa famille, il fut emmené à Césarée de Cappadoce (Kayseri)

A Césarée, s’était réfugié Tiridate, fils de Chrosoès, roi d’Arménie qui avait été tué par le père de Grégoire : Anach.(qui fut noyé)
Sachant ce qu’avait fait son père, Grégoire se donna comme esclave à Tiridate et rentra avec lui en Arménie lorsque les Romains lui permirent de retrouver le trône. (D’autres disent qu’il fit des études grecques, se maria puis vint à la cour de Tiridate et y fut très estimé)

Tiridate voulut forcer Grégoire à sacrifier aux idoles : Anahit, Diane arménienne. Comme celui-ci refusait, il le supplicia. Il le fit enfermer dans un cachot étroit, avec un bâillon et le fit suspendre à une corde qui serrait très fort sa poitrine. Grégoire demeura ainsi 7 jours. Ensuite, on l’attacha par un pied, la tête en bas, en l’obligeant à respirer du fumier qu’on avait mis sous sa tête. Pendant ce temps, on le frappait avec des bâtons mouillés.

Durant le supplice, Grégoire priait pour le salut des Arméniens.

Tout en admirant son courage, Tiridate augmenta les supplices. Il entoura le pieds de Grégoire de planches et de cordes afin de serrer jusqu’au moment où le sang se mettrait à couler. On lui serra la tête dans un étau après lui avoir donné pas mal de soufflets et rempli les narines de sel et de vinaigre. Le roi s’étonnait qu’il fut resté vivant.

On dit qu’il resta 15 ans dans une fosse parmi les serpents et les scorpions. Une veuve lui apportait du pain chaque jour.

Un serviteur de Tiridate lui révéla que Grégoire était le fils du meurtrier de son père. Tiridate parvint au comble de sa colère. Il le fit transporter à Artaxat, près du Mont Ararat et le fit jeter dans une fente de rocher, pieds et poings liés.
Mais Dieu le délivra et Tiridate, se sentant vaincu, se convertit et se fit baptiser par Grégoire lui-même.

Grégoire se mit à prêcher en Arménie et convertit presque tout le monde en y construisant un grand nombre d’églises.

Puis il fut consacré évêque par Léonce de Césarée. Il prêcha alors jusqu’à la mer Caspienne puis se retira en Haute Arménie. Il mourut au temps où Constantin le grand envahit l’Arménie. Des chrétiens emmenèrent son corps en Italie. Sa tête fut laissée à Naples et un de ses bras à Nardo, en Otrante. Où se trouve donc le reste ?

Quand à Tiridate, on prétend qu’il fut changé en porc ou en sanglier à cause de sa barbarie, mais il redevint homme, se convertit et libéra Grégoire. On dit aussi qu’il fut transformé en pourceau après avoir martyrisé les Saintes Ripsimes et Gaïane. (fêtée au 29 septembre)

Allez savoir !

SOURCE : http://carmina-carmina.com/carmina/Mytholosaints/illuminateur.htm




Gregory the Illuminator

Born 257?; died 337?, surnamed the Illuminator (Lusavorich).

Gregory the Illuminator is the apostle, national saint, and patron of Armenia. He was not the first who introduced Christianity into that country. The Armenians maintain that the faith was preached there by the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddaeus. Thaddaeus especially (the hero of the story of King Abgar of Edessa and the portrait of Christ) has been taken over by the Armenians, with the whole story. Abgar in their version becomes a King of Armenia; thus their land is the first of all to turn Christian. It is certain that there were Christians, even bishops, in Armenia before St. Gregory. The south Edessa and Nisibis especially, which accounts for the Armenian adoption of the Edessene story. A certain Dionysius of Alexandria (248-265) wrote them a letter "about penitence" (Eusebius, Church History VI.46). This earliest Church was then destroyed by the Persians. Ardashir I, the founder of the Sassanid dynasty (226), restored, even extended, the old power of Persia. Armenia, always the exposed frontier state between Rome and Persia, was overrun by Ardashir's army (Khosrov I of Armenia had taken the side of the old Arsacid dynasty); and the principle of uniformity in the Mazdean religion, that the Sassanids made a chief feature of their policy, was also applied to the subject kingdom. A Parthian named Anak murdered Khosrov by Ardashir's orders, who then tried to exterminate the whole Armenian royal family. But a son of Khosrov, Trdat (Tiridates), escaped, was trained in the Roman army, and eventually came back to drive out the Persians and restore the Armenian kingdom.

In this restoration St. Gregory played an important part. He had been brought up as a Christian at Caesarea in Cappadocia. He seems to have belonged to an illustrious Armenian family. He was married and had two sons (called Aristakes and Bardanes in the Greek text of Moses of Khorni; see below). Gregory, after being himself persecuted by King Trdat, who at first defended the old Armenian religion, eventually converted him, and with him spread the Christian faith throughout the country. Trdat became so much a Christian that he made Christianity the national faith; the nobility seem to have followed his example easily, then the people followed — or were induced to follow — too. This happened while Diocletian was emperor (284-305), so that Armenia has a right to her claim of being the first Christian State. The temples were made into churches and the people baptized in thousands. So completely were the remains of the old heathendom effaced that we know practically nothing about the original Armenian religion (as distinct from Mazdeism), except the names of some gods whose temples were destroyed or converted (the chief temple at Ashtishat was dedicated to Vahagn, Anahit and Astlik; Vanatur was worshipped in the North round Mount Ararat, etc.). Meanwhile Gregory had gone back to Caessarea to be ordained. Leontius of Caesarea made him bishop of the Armenians; from this time till the Monophysite schism the Church of Armenia depended on Casearea, and the Armenian primates (called Catholicoi, only much later patriarchs) went there to be ordained. Gregory set up other bishops throughout the land and fixed his residence at Ashtishat (in the province of Taron), where the temple had been made into the church of Christ, "mother of all Armenian churches". He preached in the national language and used it for the liturgy. This, too, helped to give the Armenian Church the markedly national character that it still has, more, perhaps, than any other in Christendom. Towards the end of his life he retired and was succeeded as Catholicos by his son Aristakes. Aristakes was present at the First General Council, in 325. Gregory died and was buried at Thortan. A monastery was built near his grave. His relics were afterwards taken to Constantinople, but apparently brough back again to Armenia. Part of these relics are said to have been taken to Naples during the Iconoclast troubles.

This is what can be said with some certainty about the Apostle of Armenia; but a famous life of him by Aganthangelos (see below) embellishes the narrative with wonderful stories that need not be taken very seriously. According to this life, he was the son of the Parthian Anak who had murdered King Khosrov I. Anak in trying to escape was drowned in the Araxes with all his family except two sons, of whom one went to Persia, the other (the subject of this article) was taken by his Christian nurse to Caesarea and there baptized Gregory, in accordance with what she had been told in vision. Soon after his marriage, Gregory parted from his wife (who became a nun) and came back to Armenia. Here he refused to take part in a great sacrifice to the national gods ordered by King Trdat, and declared himself a Christian. He was then tortured in various horrible ways, all the more when the king discovered that he was the son of his father's murderer. After being subjected to a variety of tortures (they scourged him, and put his head in a bag of ashes, poured molten lead over him, etc.) he was thrown into a pit full of dead bodies, poisonous filth, and serpents. He spent fifteen years in this pit, being fed by bread that a pious widow brought him daily. Meanwhile Trdat goes from bad to worse. A holy virgin named Rhipsime, who resists the king's advances and is martyred, here plays a great part in the story. Eventually, as a punishment for his wickedness, the king is turned into a boar and possessed by a devil. A vision now reveals to the monarch's sisters that nothing can save him but the prayers of Gregory. At first no one will attend to this revelation, since they all think Gregory dead long ago. Eventually they seek and find him in the pit. He comes out, exorcizes the evil spirit and restores the king, and then begins preaching. Here a long discourse is put into the saint's mouth — so long that it takes up more than half his life. It is simply a compendium of what the Armenian Church believed at the time that it was written (fifth century). It begins with an account of Bible history and goes on to dogmatic theology. Arianism, Nestorianism and all the other heresies up to Monophysite times are refuted. The discourse bears the stamp of the latter half of the fifth century so plainly that, even without the fact that earlier writers who quote Agathangelos (Moses of Khorni, etc.) do not know it, no one could doubt that it is the composition of an Armenian theologian of that time, inserted into the life that was already full enough of wonders. Nevertheles this "Confession of Gregory the Illuminator" was accepted as authentic and used as a kind of official creed by the Armenian Church during all the centuries that followed. Even now it is only the more liberal theologians among them who dispute its genuiness.

The life goes on to tell us of Gregory's fast of seventy days that followed his rescue from the pit, of the conversion, and of their journeys throughout the land with the army to put down paganism. The false gods fight against the army like men or devils, but are always defeated by Trdat's arms and Gregory's prayers and are eventually driven into the Caucasus. The story of the saint's ordination and of the establishment of the hierarchy is told with the same adornment. He baptized four million persons in seven days. He ordained and sent out twelve apostolic bishops, and sons of heathen priests. Eventually he ruled a church of four hundred bishops and priests too numerous to count. He and Trdat hear of Constantine's conversion; they set out with an army of 70,000 men to congratulate him. Constantine, who had just been baptized at Rome by Pope Silvester, forms an alliance with Trdat; the pope warmly welcomes Gregory (there are a number of forged letters between Silvester and Gregory, see below) — and so on. It would not be difficult to find the models for all these stories. Gregory in the pit acts like Daniel in the lion's den. Trdat as a boar is Nabuchodonosor; the battles of the king's army against the heathen and their gods have obvious precedents in the Old Testament. Gregory is now Elias, now Isaias, now John the Baptist, till his sending out his twelve apostles suggests a still greater model. The writer of the life calls himself Agathangelos, chamberlain or secretary of King Trdat. It was composed from various sources after the year 456 (see Gutschmid, below) in Armenian, though sources may have been partly Greek or Syriac (cf. Lagarde). The life was soon translated into Greek used by Symeon Metaphrastes, and further rendered into Latin in the tenth century. During the Middle Ages this life was the invariable source for the saint's history. The Armenians (Monophysites and Uniates) keep the feast of their apostle on 30 September, when his relics were deposed at Thortan. They have many other feasts to commemorate his birth (August 5), sufferings (February 4), going into the pit (February 28), coming out of the pit (October 19), etc. (Niles "Kalendarium Manuale", 2nd ed., Innsbruck 1897, II, 577). The Byzantine Church keeps his feast (Gregorios ho phoster) on 30 September, as do also the Syrians (Nilles, I, 290-292). Pope Gregory XVI, in September, 1837, admitted his namesake to the Reman Calendar; and appointed 1 October as his feast (among the festa pro aliquibus locis).

Sources

AGATHANGELOS'S Life of St. Gregory was published in Armenian by the MECHITARISTS at Venice, in 1835 (reprinted at Tiflis, in 1882); translated into french and Italian (Venice, 1843). the Greek text was edited by STILTING in the Acta SS., Sept. VIII, 320 sqq; and again by LAGARDE, Agathangelos in Alhandl. der Gottinger Gesellschaft (1889). See also GUTSCHMID, Agathangelos in Zeitschrift der Deutschen, Morgenland. Geselischaft (1877), I. MOSES OF KHORNI (MOYSES CHORENVENNIS) in his History of Aremnia (III books, VII or VIII cent., ed by the MERCHITARISTS, Venice, 1843; in French by LE VAILLANT DE FLORIVAL, Parish, 1847; italian by TOMMASEO, Venice 1850) uses Agathangelos. See GUTSCHMID, Moses von Chorene in his Kleine Schriften, III, 332 sqq.; and CARRIERE, Nouvelles sources de Moïse de Khoren (Vienna, 1893). FAUSTUS OF BYZANTIUM (fifth century) tells the story of the conversion of Armenia (Aremnian tr., Venice, 1832); French by LANGLOIS, Collection des historiens anciens et modernes de l'Arménic (2 vols., Paris, 1867, 1869). I; German by LAUER (Cologne, 1879). GELZER, Die Anfange der armenischen Kirche in Sitzungsberichte der Gottinger Gesellschaft 91895), 109 sqq. THUMAIAN, Agathangelos et la doctrine de l'Église armenienne au V siècle (Lausanne, 1879). The so-called letters between Pope Silvester I and St. Gregory are printed in AZARIAN, Ecclesiae armeniae traditio de romani pontificis primatau (Rome, 1870).

Fortescue, Adrian. "Gregory the Illuminator." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 30 Sept. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07023a.htm>.


SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07023a.htm




St. Gregory, Bishop

[Surnamed the Apostle of Armenia, 1 and the Illuminator.]  THIS apostolic man was a native of Greater Armenia, and by receiving his education at Cæsarea in Cappadocia, was there instructed in the Christian faith and baptized. He opened his heart to the lessons of eternal life with so great ardour as entirely to banish the love of the world and the concupiscence of the flesh. Having spent some years in the study of the science of salvation, and in the heroic exercise of all virtues, he was touched with a vehement desire of procuring the salvation of his countrymen. This important affair he long recommended to God by his most fervent prayers, and at length returned to Armenia, and there preached the faith of our crucified Redeemer. The zeal and heavenly spirit with which he was animated, and with which he proclaimed the great truths of eternal life, gave an irresistible force to his words; nor were miracles wanting to confirm the holy doctrine which he announced. The people flocked to him in great multitudes to receive the holy sacrament of regeneration, and to be directed in the paths of salvation. The anonymous life of our saint in Surius says, that he suffered much in this arduous employment; but that after some time Tiridates, the king of that country, embraced the faith. We are informed by Eusebius, 2 that Maximin Daia, at that time Cæsar in the East, and a violent persecutor of the church, provoked at the wonderful progress which the faith made in Armenia, invaded that country; but was repulsed with confusion. This was the first war on account of religion mentioned in history.

St. Gregory was consecrated bishop by St. Leontius, bishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia, and continued his labours in propagating the faith over all Armenia, and among many very barbarous nations near the Caspian sea, as far as Mount Caucasus. He was called to bliss before Constantine the Great became master of the East, the Greek Menologies say by martyrdom. An anonymous panegyric of this saint, published among the works of St. Chrysostom, 3 mentions several discourses full of heavenly wisdom to have been written by him; also an exposition of faith which he gave to the Armenians. The Abbe de Villefroi informs us, that this exposition of faith and twenty-three homilies of this glorious saint are preserved in an Armenian MS. kept in the king’s library at Paris. See this saint’s life in Surius; the above-mentioned panegyrics; Le Brun sur les Liturgies, t. 3 et 4; Lequien, Oriens Christian, t. 1 et 3; Galanus, Hist. Armen. Narrat. de rebus Armen. by Combefis; and Moses Chorenensis, in his History of Armenia, l. 2, c. 88, p. 224. This history was published at London in 4to. in 1736, by William and by George Whiston, who maintain that the author lived in the fifth age; but they are certainly mistaken, for the work must be more modern. As to the life of St. Gregory the Illuminator, attributed by some to St. Chrysostom, it is apocryphal. See Stilting in vita St. Chrysost. t. 4, Sept. § 83, p. 663.


Note 1. The seeds of the Christian faith were sown in Armenia by the apostles St. Bartholomew and St. Thomas. (See Tillemont, t. 1, and Schroeder, Thes. Linguæ Armenicæ, p. 149.) That a christian church nourished in Armenia in the second century, is manifest from Tertullian. (Adv. Judæos, c. 7.) In the persecution raised by Dioclesian the holy bishop St. Blase and many others received the crown of martyrdom at Sebaste, others at Nicopolis, Melitene, Comana, and other places. (See Lubin Not. in Martyrol. Rom. et Lequien, Oriens Christian, t. 1, p. 425.) St. Gregory propagated the faith throughout both the Greater Armenia, situated on the east of the Euphrates, and the Lesser on the west, and baptized the king Tiridates himself. Being elected bishop, he repaired to Cæsarea in Cappadocia to receive consecration from Leontius, archbishop of that city, as is related in his life in Metaphrastes, by Agathangelus in the History of the Conversion of the Armenians, and others. From this circumstance, it became a custom for the Primate of Armenia to be consecrated by the Archbishop of Cæsarea, according to the remark of the ancient author of the Narrative of the Affairs of Armenia, published by Combefis. (Anctar. Bibl. Patr. Græc. p. 287.) Which custom is clear from St. Basil, (ep. 121, al. 195, ad Theodot. et ep. 122, alias 313, ad Pæminium, &c.) and which continued for several ages. The primates in Armenia afterwards took the title of Catholicos and Patriarch. St. Gregory ordained many other bishops, and left the Church of Armenia in the most flourishing condition.


  The Armenians, after the council of Chalcedon, fell into the Eutychian heresy, which they confirmed in a famous council at Tibena, in 554. Their reconciliations with the Catholic Church never proved of long continuance. On their errors see the council in Trullo, in 692, Can. 56, and Beverege. (not. in loc.) Also the council of Jerusalem against the Armenians, in 1143, (ed. Harduini Conc. t. 6, part 2, p. 1143,) &c. In the fourteenth age, Bartholomew the Little, a Dominican friar, was sent by Pope John XXII. with several colleagues of the same Order, to preach in Armenia. By them and their successors to this day many are maintained in the Catholic unity, and were long distinguished by the name of the United Brethren. Bartholomew being ordained bishop, left a succession of Catholic bishops to this day. The Archbishop of Naxivan, with all his dependencies has, from that time, been always a member of the Catholic faith and communion, though often exposed to persecutions under the Persian Mahometans. On the errors held by the rest of the Armenians, (whom Schroeder, in Thesaurus Linguæ Armenicæ, has in vain attempted in some degree to excuse,) see the Decree of Union made by Eugenius IV. after the council of Florence, Clemens Galanus, (Hist. Armenorum, 3 vol. folio,) Michael Lequien, the learned Dominican, (in Oriens Christian, t. 3, p. 1361,) Le Brun, (sur les Liturgies, t. 3, p. 1,) James Echard, (De Scriptor. Ord. Præd. t. 1, p. 481,) F. Antony Bremond, (in Bullar. Dominican, t. 2, p. 245,) F. Touron, (Hist. des Hom. Illustr. Pr. t. 2, p. 108,) &c. A much greater number of Syrian Eutychians, (called Jacobites, from their ringleader, James, surnamed Zanzal, and Baradat, in the seventh century,) have embraced the Catholic faith, with the Archbishop of Aleppo, and many other bishops, and live in communion with the pope. These reject the name of Jacobites, on account of its heretical author, and are usually called Syrians, or more frequently Surian Christians. [back]


Note 2. Eus. Hist. l. 9, c. 8. [back]

Note 3. S. Chrysost. Op. t. 12, p. 821, ed. Ben. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume IX: September. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.

SOURCE : http://www.bartleby.com/210/9/302.html



AGATHANGELOS

History of St. Gregory and the Conversion of Armenia

Introduction


Though we cannot date Agathangelos' History precisely, we know that it was written earlier than the tenth century, and most likely did not receive its final form before the year 450. There are several versions of the History, and there is also at least one other Armenian account of Saint Gregory's life which differs considerably from Agathangelos' in the facts and details its presents.

The name "Agathangelos" (which in Greek appropriately means "good news") is probably fictional, even though the writer introduces himself in the Prologue as a man from the great city of Rome who is well versed in literary skills and knows several languages. The Prologue also tells us that Agathangelos was an eyewitness to the events he describes. It is unlikely that this is true, especially because some of the words he uses are taken directly from the life of Mesrob Mashdotz written by that great monk's student, Koriun (about which you can read in the first volume of this series).

What, then, is this History? It is a piece of hagiography (a biography of a saint, written usually with affection and admiration rather than impartial judgment) which contains many of the traditional characteristics of that genre. It is customary for a hagiographer to say he witnessed the events he writes about, for example. It is also typical for the writer to describe the saints' tortures at the hands of pagans in great detail, as Agathangelos does here. The long public prayers which Gregory recites as he is being tortured, and his seeming imperviousness to the pain being inflicted on him, are typical of the descriptions in many lives of saints. Another thing that often appears, as it does here, is a "text" of an anti-Christian edict that a pagan king makes when the Christians threaten his price and power.

If so much of the History, including its writer's name, is fictitious, how can we accept it as a piece of history? What does it offer to the modern reader? In fact it offers a very great deal. Agathangelos does give us a history of Gregory's life and times; the people and events he writes about really existed and had a great impact on the life of the Christian Church and the Armenian people.

But we cannot look at this History as merely an impartial recording of events, for it was not written to be that. Agathangelos has produced an account which is meant to describe Christian faith and its powerful effects, and to inspire those who read it to greater faith. We can see this in many of the History's characteristics. First, the biblical references and similes are innumerable. The prologue uses the nautical imagery so popular in Agathangelos' time, and ties it directly to the Bible's story of the search for the pearl of great price. The long prayers of Gregory and of Hripsime are filled with Biblical phrases and references of those who preceded them in suffering and enduring for the Lord.

Even when Agathangelos describes well-known events, he borrows from the Bible. Diocletian's persecution of the Church is talked about completely in Bible images, with no reference to any actual events. Gregory is nourished in the terrible pit as Elijah was; Drtad's bestial transformation recalls that of Nebuchadnezzar. There are also countless references to liturgical and patristic writings, and it is unfortunate that we modern readers miss so many of these. Agathangelos presumed on the part of his readers an intimate familiarity with the Scriptures, Liturgy, and spiritual writings that most of us today simply do not possess.

Agathangelos had a purpose in mind as he wrote about Gregory. That purpose is reflected in some of the differences in emphasis between Agathangelos' work about the saint and the work of others. For example, Movses Khorenatsi gives us much more detail about Gregory's origins, and tries to tie him to the first enlightener, Thaddeus. In general, he gives more detail about all aspects of Gregory's life than Agathangelos does. But Agathangelos is not interested in establishing an apostolic tie for Gregory, or presenting his life in detail. His purpose is mainly to enhance Gregory's role as the first bishop, first church builder, and first establisher of a hierarchy in the Armenian Church. He wants to show the importance of the hierarchical structure of the Church, and emphasize the authority of the patriarch's position, and this he does by tying both to the great saint so highly venerated in the Church.

Central to this effort is Agathangelos' description of Gregory's vision of the burial place of the martyrs. Gregory is shown a golden base where the cathedral at Vagharshapat (later Etchmiadzin) is to be built. Thus Agathangelos establishes a divine foundation for the cathedral and for the church leaders who will reside there ­ so again, he makes a case for the "rightness" of the hierarchs and the hierarchical structure of the Church.

The History is, as we have said, hagiographical. To some people this means that its value is diminished because of it is invented, some facts are embroidered, and the writer is consciously trying to make his subject "look good." In many modern dictionaries of saints' lives, you will see events dismissed impatiently as "merely legendary" or "invented by a pious biographer." But we must remember that historical writing is always interpretive. Nobody can write about things that happened and not assign some meaning to them. And the truth is that the Christian saints and martyrs did stand up against the most powerful rulers the earth had ever known, so powerful that they were traditionally considered to be divine. The truth is that saints changed the world in ways that nobody else has ever done, and that they are known throughout the world despite the absence of "advanced" communications equipment in their time. They were persecuted by hard-headed kings; they did change history; they did bring whole nations to Christ.

Agathangelos wrote as those of his day wrote. It is not the way we write today, and perhaps we can grumble that he did not "stick to the facts." But if we believe that the greatest fact is Christ and His salvation, then the History is a factual work. It does give us the truth, for all the people in it lived through the things it describes. But it gives us that truth in light of the coming of Christ. In all the world, there is no brighter or clearer light than that to illumine the truth.

Prologue


The fervent wish of sailors, as their journey nears its end, is to reach port safely. So amidst surging billows and tempestuous winds they spur on their steeds made of wood and iron and held together by nails. They fly over the mounting waves until, finally escaping the troubled waters, they race to their homelands. They tell their loved ones how they braved the fearful tumult of the sea in order to come back home with the spoils of their perilous sea journey. With their profits they settle debts, free their families from servitude to kings and overlords, and make a name for themselves as being generous and rich.

Such people risk their lives not because they are greedy, but because they really want to make their lives better. Some of them then use their wealth for their country's good. They give the king treasures of every description. They create jobs for the poor; from their sea journeys they bring back new and wonderful things such as herbs that are beneficial to health. And for this they are willing to put themselves at the mercy of the sea, and allow the tumultuous winds to plot their course.

Like them, the one who writes this history now sets sail on the perilous sea of wisdom. Like them, the writer is at the mercy of another power ­ that of the princes who command that an account of past events should be written. It is impossible to oppose royal commands, so here is the history, written to show forth the glory of God's workers, the saints. They shine like the priceless pearls, adorning the crowns of kings and consoling, refreshing, enlightening even the poorest in the kingdoms. They give rest and hope to the work-worn, and enrich the land by their prayers. They are guideposts on the road to God's Kingdom. They were tortured and died for God, and they gained life, leaving the fruits of their triumph for us to enjoy. They fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and opened the gates of Christ's compassion to all of us.

They battled through the sea of sin, and when they reached the heavenly port they offered the King of Light their prayers for us. Through their intercession we receive God's mercy and love. And what can we offer to be worthy of such a gift? Only a heart ready to hear God's word. If we bow our heads we will receive the spiritual crown. If we merely wash ourselves of sin, we will be clothed with an everlasting shining garment that makes us more splendid than the lily. If we just let ourselves be thirsty for His love, a living spring will satisfy us eternally.

From these historical writings, readers may gain some spiritual wisdom. Therefore I have set them down, I, Agathangelos from the great city of Rome and trained in the art of the ancients, proficient in Latin and Greek, a not unskilled literary practitioner.

And so we come to the Arsacid court during the reign of Drtad, who has ordered me to narrate not a false account of his brave deeds, but what really happened in the battles, the plundering of provinces, the capture of towns, the struggles of men for renown or revenge. Here are the deeds of the brave King Khosrov, and the equally valorous exploits of his son Drtad, and the works of God's beloved martyrs who rose like stars to scatter the mist of darkness from this land of Armenia. These martyrs died for God's truth, and He had mercy on the land, showing miracles through one man who endured countless afflictions and then triumphed for Christ, even making the mighty Drtad accept a salvation he had known nothing about.

This history will tell how the teaching of the Gospel came to be honored in Armenia, by the king and then by all his subjects. We shall see how they undertook to destroy the pagan temples and establish the foundations of the Holy Church, and how they appointed a man as shepherd of the land and benefited by his teaching. We shall see how Drtad visited and made a covenant with Emperor Constantine, and returned to glory and honor, dedicating many places to God.

All this we shall relate in detail, with the teaching of St. Gregory who became bishop and inherited the patriarchal title as a champion of virtue ­ who he was, and from what descent and family he came.

Then, when future generations look to their past, they will open this book and come to know what happened. They will read how the Gospel was preached in Armenia, and how a man appointed by divine grace did teach and endure tortures, and how by his love for God the cults were crushed. They will read how the first churches were built, and how the people were pulled from the treacherous sea of sin by his preaching.


Part 1


Artashir, a Sassanian prince from the province of Stahr, put an end to the Parthian kingdom when he murdered the Parthian ruler Artavan. He had united the Persian forces, and now they rejected Parthian sovereignty and chose him as their leader.

Khosrov, king of the Armenians, was greatly distressed by this news and soon took up arms to avenge Artavan's death. He gathered Albanian and Georgian forces, and called on the Huns to invade Persian territory. Khosrov and his armies ravaged the land, destroying towns and cities, trying to overthrow the Persian kingdom and wipe out its civilization. Even though the Parthians refused to help him, having attached themselves to Artashir, Khosrov was able to inflict devastating losses on the Persians.

Then Khosrov returned victoriously to the Armenian city of Vagharshapat to celebrate his conquests and reward his soldiers, whom he showered with gifts and sent home. He also honored his family's ancestral worship sites, with white oxen, white rams, white horses and mules, and he gave a fifth of all his plundered booty to the priests. He similarly honored the temples of the idol-worshipping cults throughout the land.

The following year, still full of his intoxicating victory, Khosrov called his armies together again, and for the next ten years they freely plundered all the far-reaching lands under Persian rule. So completely did they scatter the enemy's forces that finally the Persian king could stand it no longer. He called together all the governors, princes, generals, and nobles of his kingdom, and said to them: "If a man can be found to take vengeance against this bloody Khosrov, I will elevate him to the second rank in the kingdom. Only I will be above him, no matter how humble or honorable his origin. I will bestow gifts and rewards without measure upon him ­ if only he will avenge me!"

Among the king's council was a leading Parthian chieftain named Anak. He stood up, strode forward, and offered to carry out the king's wish. And the king said to him: "If you can manage this, Anak, I shall honor you with a crown." Anak agreed to the plan, asking only that the king look after the rest of his family during his absence.

Then he and his brother, along with their wives and children, made their way to Armenia. Anak presented himself to King Khosrov at the winter quarters in Khalkhal, saying he was emigrating to Armenia in revolt against the Persian king. Khosrov received him gladly, honored him, and passed the long winter days with him in good cheer and happiness.

But when spring came, thoughts of the Persian king's promises stirred in Anak's mind. He began to yearn for his own country of Pahlav. So he made a plan with his brother, and together they got Khosrov alone as if they wanted to speak with him. Then they raised their swords and struck the king dead.

When the Armenian princes realized what had happened, they split into groups to scour the countryside and find the killers. This they did, and cast them from a bridge into the swollen waters of the Araxes River. An then, according to the king's deathbed decree, they slaughtered the murderers' families. But two infant sons were saved by their nurses, one of whom fled with her charge to Persian and the other to Greek territory.

The Persian king rejoiced at his enemy's death. He took the opportunity to invade Armenia, correctly surmising that the stunned and grieving people would not offer much resistance. One of Khosrov's sons, Drtad, survived this terrible raid; his tutors took him to the emperor's court in Greek territory. Meanwhile, the Persian king imposed his own name on Armenia, sending the Greek army in retreat back to its own borders. He drove out the inhabitants of the land he had conquered and made it his own.

Drtad was raised and educated in the house of a count named Licinius. The other exile, Gregory, was raised as a devout Christian in Caesarea, capital of Cappadocia. In an effort to make amends for what his father had done, he offered himself to Drtad as a servant, without ever revealing his parentage. But Drtad had been taught to hate and persecute the Christian Church, and when he heard that Gregory belonged to it he made frightening threats, even imprisoning and tormenting Gregory in order to get him to renounce the worship of Christ, and worship instead the pagan gods of Armenia.

At about the same time, the king of the Goths sent a message to the Greek emperor. It said: "Why should both our countries suffer the devastation of war? Instead, let you and I come forth as the single champions of our armies, and fight. If I win, your Greeks will submit to my rule. And if you win, my people shall become your subjects."

The Greek king, not a physically strong man, was terrified by this proposal. He called all his troops and their commanders in from the fields of battle to meet with him. Among those answering the summons were the count, Licinius, and his soldiers, including Drtad. At a place where they camped overnight there was no forage available for the hungry horses. But there was a vast pile of hay locked in a pen with a wall so high that no one though it could be breached. No one, that is, except Drtad, who climbed over and tossed back heaps of hay until there was plenty for all the horses.

Licinius, amazed by this feat, hastened to meet with the emperor as soon as they reached him the next morning. He told the king what Drtad had done, and together they agreed that his young man from the family of the Armenian king must be the one to meet the challenge of the Goths. Drtad was called into the emperor's presence, and everything was explained to him. Having obtained his consent, the emperor arranged a duel for the very next morning.

So the "false emperor," dressed in royal purple and wearing the royal emblem, went out to meet the king of the Goths. He beat the king handily, and was duly honored by the Emperor. Drtad returned to Armenia with a great army. He beat back the Persians who had subdued his native land, and brought it under his own rule.

During the first year of his reign, Drtad and his courtiers visited a provincial town to sacrifice to the goddess Anahid in her temple there. He ordered Gregory to venerate her statue, and when Gregory refused Drtad asked him: "You have served me well these many years. Why in this one matter do you refuse to do my will?"

Gregory answered: "You speak truly. I have served you as God commands us to serve our earthly lords. But He alone is the creator of angels and men, of heaven and earth. We can worship only Him."

Drtad frowned and said: "By saying this you render all your service to me completely worthless. I shall punish rather than reward you as I had planned. It will be prison and bondage for you unless you honor the goddess Anahid."

Gregory replied: "My service to you is not worthless; God values it as He promised always to value our efforts for Him. It is He I seek to please. And if you punish me, I rejoice, for my lord Christ suffered affliction and death, and I will gladly follow Him into death so that I can be with Him in everlasting life. You speak of Anahit, and perhaps demons did once bedazzle men into building temples for them and worshipping them. But I will not worship lifeless objects of stone. We must worship the One who lives and gives life."

Drtad then asked Gregory to tell him more about this living One. Gregory proceeded to explain that Christ is the Lord of creation and the true light for those in the darkness of idolatry. He exhorted the king to use his intelligence and put away the mulishly stupid devotion to mere images.

Drtad exploded in anger. He shouted: "You have insulted the gods and insulted me by calling me stupid for worshipping them. You had the audacity to speak to me as if you were my equal. You said I was stupid as a mule; now you shall feel the burden of such words."

With that he ordered Gregory to be bound and strung up, with a muzzle over his mouth and a heavy block of salt hung on his back. After a week of this torture Gregory was brought before the kin, who said: "Now like a mule you have carried a load. But worse things can happen to you if you further insult our deities."

Gregory, however, had not been subdued by his suffering. He told the king that he did not mind tortures, and that only those who worship idols need fear the Lord's wrath.

So Drtad tortured him further, hanging him by one foot for seven days. But Gregory passed the time in prayer. He recalled in his prayer how God had prepared mankind for eternal life, a gift which we threw away with our disobedience. Yet God did not abandon us ­ rather He sent the prophets, and finally His own Son, to show us His will. Christ became the image of God so that we, who love to worship images, might finally worship the Truth. He gave us a wooden cross rather than wooden idols. He called us to sacrifice as Christ had sacrificed, and to partake of His body and blood as we had once eaten sacrificial animals.

After recalling these wonderful acts of God, Gregory asked Him for strength and grace to endure torments and to fight for the truth, receiving the crown promised to those who are steadfast. Then Gregory praised God's creation of the light and the darkness, with the sun and moon as their rulers. Finally, he prayed that his tormentors might be shown the truth, and turn from false worship, so that they could live everlastingly in God's Kingdom, along with those whose faith was always true.

Even this terrible torture, which broke his body, did not sway Gregory. After a week of it, he was again brought before Drtad, who asked him once more to pay homage to the idols. Gregory again refused, and Drtad submitted him to many more hideous tortures. But Gregory withstood them all and told the king: "I can endure all this not through my own power but by the Lord's grace. Now you will see that nothing can separate us from His love."

It was about this time that a prince of the court told Drtad that Gregory was the murderer Anak's son. Upon hearing this, Drtad ordered Gregory to be put in a deep pit until he died. As it turned out, Gregory would be there for thirteen years.

Part 2


King Drtad spent much of his reign devastating the Persian kingdom. One of the proverbial sayings of the Armenians was: "Like the haughty Drtad, who in his pride devastated the dikes of rivers and in his arrogance dried up the currents of seas." He was exceedingly brave and daring, and also very proud. While Drtad was thus flourishing, Gregory continued to survive, though still in a pit that had killed all others condemned to it because of the filth, the snakes, and the stench. But Gregory was secretly fed by a widow who had heard God command her in a dream to toss a loaf of bread into the pit each day. So the two men, each in his own way, were moving toward the day when they would meet again.

Drtad, still devoted to idol worship, remained an implacable foe of the Christian faith. He issued two edicts, one commanding his people to pay proper homage to the gods to insure that they would make Armenia prosper. The other edict instructed all citizens to reveal any members of the cult of Christians, because this cult was an insuperable obstacle to the proper worship of the gods. Drtad even threatened those who dared to hide Christians, and reminded his subjects of the severe way he had dealt with Gregory, a member of his own court. With Christians, there could be no leniency.

During these days the Emperor Diocletian was seeking a wife. He sent portrait painters out into the kingdom to find lovely women and bring back portraits of them, so that from these pictures he could choose a beautiful wife for himself.

The painters found, in the city, a group of nuns living a monastic life of constant prayer and ascetic fasting. Their abbess was named Gayane, and one of them, Hripsime, was very beautiful. The painters were quite taken with her, and rushed to complete her portrait to show to the king. He was so smitten that he immediately wanted to arrange a grand wedding. His arrogance and vanity led him to persecute the Christian churches in order to show his power over them.

This was all terribly upsetting to the nuns. They were saddened by the persecution of their fellow Christians, and worried by the king's unseemly interest in Hripsime. They prayed fervently to God that he would enable them, like the virgins in the parable, to keep their lamps filled with oil and that worldly cares would not distract them from His service. They asked for His protection against the pagan powers assailing them.

The women decided to flee, and that was how they came to be in Vagharshapat, the residence of the Armenian kings. They lived by selling the glass pearls which one of them made. But in the very same city, King Drtad received an emissary from Diocletian. He brought a royal edict which said: "Let my brother Drtad know of the evils that constantly beset us because of this error-ridden sect, the Christians. For they worship a dead man, adore a cross because he was crucified, and consider their own death on his behalf to be glory and honor. They teach dishonor for kings and hold as nothing the power of the sun and moon and stars. Everywhere among our people they discourage the worship of the gods, and our threats and punishments against hem are to no avail.

"I happened to see among them a lovely young girl, and wanted to have her as my wife. But she and her companions have insulted my majesty by fleeing to the regions of your kingdom.

"So, my brother, find them for me and take vengeance. Send her back to me ­ unless you wish to keep her for yourself. And may you be well by the worship of the gods."

Drtad immediately ordered a search, and the nuns were soon found. For it was ordained by God that their light should not be hidden under a bushel, but shine out over the world. And since word of the emperor's edict had spread across the land, there were soon crowds of people straining to catch a glimpse of Hripsime's now-famous beauty. The nuns, whose only wish was to have a holy and solitary life, offered up constant prayers and lamentations to God.

Drtad, having heard from those who saw her that she was indeed a great beauty, sent a golden litter with attendants and filled with magnificent robes so that Hripsime could adorn herself and come to meet him in the palace. Seeing all this, the abbess Gayane told the younger woman: "Remember, my child, that you have abandoned your father's throne (for Hripsime was of royal lineage) and longed instead for the never-ending life of the Kingdom of Christ. Do not give up your choice now, and rish your holy virtue with these infidels."

Inspired by her abbess' words, Hripsime prayed intently, asking God to protect her as He had protected all the Old Testament people who faced danger. Her sisters prayed with her, and soon they heard a voice like thunder, assuring them of God's love and care. The thunderous sound caused panic among the throngs of people looking on ­ they trampled each other in their confusion. But when King Drtad was told what had happened, he was not at all frightened. He was furious that Hripsime would not come to him, and ordered that she be brought to the palace by force. So she was dragged along, with a great crowd following, and as she went she prayed that like Daniel and Susanna, she would be saved from her tormentors.

Drtad, seeing her at last, was enthralled by her beauty and tried with all his great strength to seduce her. But Hripsime, delicate as she was, struggled against him so hard that he could not overcome her. Exhausted by his efforts, he ordered the abbess Gayane to intercede with the young nun and tell her to accede. But Gayane took the opportunity instead to strengthen Hripsime in her resistance to the king. Drtad's attendants beat and threatened her, but she persisted in encouraging the younger woman to stand firm and trust in God.

Hripsime did so for many hours, and then finally escaped from the palace. She ran through the city to the nuns' dwelling place to tell them what had happened. Then she went out from the city to a high, sandy point near the main road to Artashat. There she thanked God for keeping her safe. She prayed that soon she might be allowed to leave the temptations of the world behind and enter, by His mercy, the heavenly realm. She thanked Him for the certainty that if torments were to come, He would be there with her. Hripsime ended her prayer with these words: "Let the light of the Lord God be over us."

That very night, Drtad's men came and tortured Hripsime to death. Other followers of Christ were also killed, and so were many of those who came to wrap and bury their bodies. But all of them prayed to God and thanked Him for making them worthy of martyrdom. The king's men dragged their bodies out and threw them as food for the prowling dogs.

Drtad was unashamed of what he had done. Indeed his heart was more inflamed against the Christians and especially against Gayane, who had counseled his wonderful Hripsime not to yield to him. He commanded that the abbess should be killed, and so she was taken to the place used for criminals' executions. But like her companions, Gayane was unafraid, and expressed her wish to join her sisters speedily. She died as they had, with a prayer on her lips.

King Drtad was not an introspective man, and after a week of grieving over Hripsime's death, he had to have some strenuous activity. He arranged to go hunting, and when the hounds and nets and traps and beaters were all ready, he climbed into his chariot to leave the city for the plain where he loved to hunt.

Suddenly, Drtad fell from the chariot, as if struck down by a demon. He began to rave and grunt, like an animal. As their king was crazed, so all the people suddenly seemed to be, and there was chaos and ruin throughout the city and from the highest to the lowest of the king's household.

But one person had a solution. The king's sister, Khosrovitookht, had a heavenly vision which told her that only the prisoner in the pit, Gregory, could end the terrible nightmare. At first people said she too was mad; Gregory must be dead after so many years in the awful place. But the vision came to her again and again, and each time it disturbed her more. So it was finally decided to send one of the young princes to Artashat. When he arrived, the prince convinced some people there to lower long ropes into the pit, and he called out: "Gregory, if you are down there, let us know!" They felt a tug on the rope, and pulled it up out of the pit. There was Gregory, his body blackened by dirt to the color of coal. The people helped him get clean, and brought clean clothing for him, and he was taken to Vagharshapat with joy and high hopes that he could remedy the situation there.

A pitiful sight greeted him in the great city ­ the people, raving and foaming at the mouth, rushed toward him like wild dogs. He knelt and prayed, and at once the people regained at least enough of their senses to listen to him. The king knelt before him and begged forgiveness. But Gregory pulled Drtad to his feet and said: "I am just a man like you. The One who has had mercy on you is your creator, the Lord and Creator of all things."

Gregory gathered up the remains of those who had been martyred ­ no dog had touched the bodies, and they were not decomposed ­ and he enshrouded them and took them to the nuns' former dwelling place. He spent that night praying for the salvation and repentance of the Armenian populace.

The next morning, Drtad and a great crowd of people came to see Gregory, and asked him: "Intercede with your God to save us, and not let us perish for all the crimes we have committed against you." For they realized that whenever he left them for a moment, the demons assailed them again.

Gregory answered: "You say 'your God,' but the One you speak of created all things and is your creator. Recognize Him, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and you will have everlasting life with Him. Do not be like those who, even though they are His creatures, fail to recognize Him.

"You see how much He loves those who believe in Him. He kept firm the maiden Hripsime so that she could fulfill her vow of chastity. Even to such an unworthy one as myself He gave the great privilege of suffering for His sake, and He granted me the endurance to survive.

"Now recognize Him, and throw off the yoke of evil. What you did to Hripsime and the others you did in ignorance. Ask them to pray to God for His mercy on you. Know God; put away your idols. He is long-suffering, pardoning, and nourishing in His mercy, and He cares for you all.

"God calls you; that is why He sent the martyrs to shine their light among you. They were witnesses to the majesty of the Trinity, and sealed their faith with martyrs' deaths. Recognize what they were showing you ­ that the Son of God humbled Himself in death so that we might be exalted. You tortured me, but my sufferings did not kill me; they exalted me instead. I endured so that, by His will, I could offer you spiritual healing. Now will you hear the teachings of the Lord?"

All the people fell down, and tore their clothes, and said that they did want to hear God's word so that they might live and be pardoned for the things they had done to Gregory. He began to teach them.

"You have seen the power of God. For who but the One who made all things could change their character as He wishes to? Yet God changed the poisonous snakes in the pit into harmless creatures for your sake ­ so that I, his unworthy servant, would be saved and you would see the power of His miracles. And you saw a young girl defeat a powerful giant of a man, your king. She was martyred so that you might be healed. These are God's mighty works, done for your sake.

And if you will turn to Him, then I shall gladly tell you how He made the world and showed Himself in it. For even though we cannot know Him, being only creatures, still He sent men called prophets to tell of eternal and divine life. They were men of the pious race of Hebrews, the seed of Abraham who is called the father of all races. Among these luminous men who spread God's words was one called Moses. He handed down tru knowledge through the generations. So by the grace of the Spirit will I also try to teach you, trusting that He will place the proper words in my mouth. Let us begin."

Part 3


So Gregory taught the people about God and His desires for our salvation. Then he urged the people to build chapels for the martyrs, as a way of showing reverence for God and in order that the saints' intercessory prayers would enlighten them. He encouraged them to fast, study, and pray to become ready for baptism, and become worthy partakers in God's life and His eternal Kingdom. Having said all this, he sent them home to get a good night's rest before beginning the work of building the martyrs' sanctuaries.

But King Drtad and the nobles would not leave Gregory's side because they were still fearful and tormented. Day and night they fasted and sat on ashes, dressed in hair shirts. Gregory used the time ­ for they were like this for sixty-five days ­ to tell them the whole long history of God's salvation for mankind. Many other people also came to hear Gregory's tales of the saints and his explanations of the word of God. They were a huge crowd, attentive and filled with wonder at what they were hearing.

On the morning of the sixty-sixth day, the king and nobles and the crowd with them approached Gregory and begged him to free them entirely from the torments which had beset them all this time. The king especially was eager for this, because his form was still more like a beast's than a man's. But it was God's will not yet to heal them completely, and to give them only enough understanding to comprehend Gregory's teaching. One way he taught them was by describing a wonderful vision which had come to him, concerning the chapels for the martyrs.

Gregory said: "One night I heard a fearful thunderous sound like roaring sea waves. The firmament of heaven opened, and a man descended in the form of light. He called my name; I looked up and saw him and fell to the ground, struck by terror. But he commanded me to look up and see great wonders.

"I did look up, and saw the firmament opened with the waters above it divided as is the firmament itself. The waters were like valleys and mountaintops, with infinite expanses that went far out of sight. Light flowed down to the earth, and the light was filled with shining two-winged creatures, human in appearance and with wings like fire. Their leader was a tall and fearful man who carried a golden hammer. He flew down near the ground in the middle of the city, and struck the earth. The rumbling sounded even in the depths of hell, and as far as the eye could see the earth was struck as level as a plain.

"I saw him in the middle of the city, near the palace, a circular base of gold as big as a hill, with a column of fire on it. On top of the column was a capital of clouds, and above that a cross of light. There were three other bases at the sites where St. Gayane and St. Hripsime were martyred, and one near the wine press where the nuns lived. These bases were blood-red, and they had columns of clouds and capitals of fire. From the columns, marvelous vaults fitted into one another and above this was a dome-shaped canopy of clouds. Under the canopy were thirty-seven holy martyrs in shining light ­ I cannot even describe them.

"At the summit of all this was a wonderful throne of fire with the Lord's cross above it. Light spread out in every direction from it. And an abundant spring gushed forth, flowing over and filling the plains as far as one could see. They made a vast bluish sea, the color of heaven. There were numerous fiery altars shining like stars, with a column on each altar and a cross on each column.

"There were herds of black goats, which when they passed through the water became sparkling white sheep. They gave birth to more sheep, filling the land. But some of these crossed to the other side of the water and became brown wolves which attacked the flocks. But the flocks grew wings and flew up to join the shining host, and a torrent of fire carried away the wolves.

"I stood amazed at this sight. And the man who had earlier called my name and said: "Why do you stand gaping? Pay attention to what is being revealed to you. The heavens have been opened! Here is what the vision means. The voice like thunder is the beginning of God's mercy raining down upon mankind. The gates of heaven are opened, and also the waters above them. There is nothing to keep us mortals from rising up, for those who were martyred here have made a path for others.

"'The light filling the land is the preaching of the Gospel, and the fearsome man is the providence of God, who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke, as the psalm tells us. This fear of God has flattened and destroyed error on the earth.

"'The golden base is God's true Church, gathering all His people, and the shining cross above it is Christ Himself. The three blood-red bases are the martyrs' torments. But the columns of cloud show how quickly they will rise to heaven at the universal resurrection. The capital is fiery because they will love in the fire of divine light. And the crosses show that they are fellow sufferers with their lord Christ.

"'The vaults joining the columns show the unity of the Church, and the cloud canopy above shows the gathering place of all believers, the celestial city. The throne, above which the whole structure is held together, is almighty God, the head of the Church. The shining light around the throne is the Holy Spirit, who glorifies the Son. The spreading waters are the grace of the Spirit, which will save many through baptism and make earth like heaven (that is why the plains became the color of heaven.) The herds of goats are sinners, washed clean by God's mercy, and worthy of His Kingdom. The flocks of sheep give birth because many generations will hear the preaching of the Word; but the flocks that became wolves are like those who depart from the truth. They lead sheep astray with their falsehoods. But the sheep that endure will rise to Christ's Kingdom, and the wolves will be handed over to eternal fire.'"

Gregory continued: "And when he had told me the vision's meaning, he said to be strong because I had a great task. I was to build a temple to God on the place where the gold base had been shown to me, and the martyrs' chapels in the places where they suffered and died. After he told me all this, there was an earthquake, and I could see him no more.

"God showed me this vision of the future so that I could do His will among you. Let us go now and build the chapels, giving the martyrs rest."

"So all the people took up tools, and gathered materials, and set to work. Gregory himself took the architect's measuring line and laid out the foundations. They built three chapels, and made a casket for each saint's body. After Gregory had sealed the caskets, the king and people brought sweet oils and incense and rich robes. But Gregory said: "I am glad to see you honor these saints. But do not offer gifts to the holy ones until you have been purified by baptism. One day, we shall use all these beautiful things to adorn God's altar. But until true worship is established in this land, let them remain in the royal treasury."

The time had come for the king and all the people to be completely freed from their tormenting demons. Gregory knelt by the saints' caskets and prayed for Drtad and all the rest. Then he turned to the king, and by Christ's grace cured his hands and feet enough so that he was able with his own hands to dig graves and bury the caskets in them. His wife Ashkhen and sister Khosrovitookht helped him to arrange the places. With his prodigious strength Drtad carried stones from Mount Massis to make thresholds for the chapels.

When the chapels were ready, the martyrs were laid to rest in them. Gregory placed a cross in front of each, and told the people that the proper place for worship was in front of that saving sign of Jesus Christ. Then he took them to build a high wall around the place where the golden base had been revealed, for that was to be the site of the Lord's house. There too, a cross was placed so that people could worship God truly.

Gregory could see that the people were willing to heed his words, give up idol worship, and give themselves to study, fasting, and prayer. He gathered them to pray together for healing, and as they all prayed the king was fully restored to his human appearance, and the people were freed from their various afflictions. The news of this wonder spread through the land, inspiring people everywhere to come to Ayrarat and hear about Jesus Christ, and learn how to live as He calls us to do.

Gregory then asked the king for permission to overthrow and detroy the pagan shrines and temples. Drtad readily issued an edict entrusting Gregory with this task, and himself set out from the city to destroy shrines along the highways. Together the men worked feverishly, and they distributed the temple treasures among the poor. In all the cities he visited, Gregory marked sites for Christian churches, but because he did not hold the rank of priest he did not erect any altars. At each place he set a cross, and he also placed crosses along roads and at squares and intersections.

Drtad and his family members were then thoroughly instructed in the faith by Gregory. When they had all been convinced to worship the only true God, Gregory and Drtad began traveling to other parts of the country to instruct the people and to destroy the altars of the false gods. In many of the provincial towns, demons in the form of armed soldiers fought against the evangelist's efforts. They were put to flight each time, and then Gregory would tell the people not to be afraid, but to drive out their own personal demons of false worship, and follow Christ. He performed miracles to show the people how loving and powerful God is. And the king gave testimony about his sinful acts, and the miracles and mercy of healing which God had shown him.

So they traveled through the provinces and everywhere they spread the light of the Gospel and destroyed the dark pagan superstitions which had held the people captive.

After they returned to Vagharshapat, Drtad called together all his courtiers and the leaders from every corner of the land. The king wanted to make Gregory their pastor, so that everyone could be baptized and begin in earnest to live the new life in Christ. Gregory protested his unworthiness, but Drtad had a wonderful vision from God urging him to carry out his plan, and the angelic vision also appeared to Gregory, telling him not to thwart it. So Gregory said: "Let God's will be done."

Drtad then chose some of the leading princes to take Gregory to Caesarea, in Cappadocia, with an edict for the bishop Leontius. The edict gave the whole history of Armenia's pagan worship, the suffering of the nuns, Gregory's witness and work among the people, and the king's own desire to have Gregory be the spiritual leader of Armenia.

The group set off with Gregory in a royal carriage, taking along gifts for each of the churches they would pass. They were welcomed heartily in the land of the Greeks, who rejoiced to hear of God's miracles and the great conversion which had taken place. When the men reached Caesarea, Gregory was duly ordained, and the bishops laid their hands on him and prayed for him. He, too, was now consecrated as a bishop for God's church.

With joyous and loving farewells, the nobles and Gregory set out for home, and as they stopped at various towns, Gregory persuaded some good Christian men to return with him and be ordained to serve the people. In all the towns, crowds of people gathered to see the new bishop pass, and to receive his blessing.

Part 4


Back within the borders of Armenia, Gregory heard that in a certain region there was a large, richly-appointed temple devoted to the cult of Vahagn. It was on a mountain peak near the Euphrates, and contained three altars, one for Vahagn, one for his mother, and one for his spouse Astghig who corresponded to the Greek Aphrodite. People still made sacrifices at these pagan altars.

Gregory had brought from Cappadocia some relics of John the Baptist and the martyr Athenogenes. He intended to take these up to the mountain, destroy the pagan temples, and build chapels for the relics there. But as his carriage neared a small valley, the horses halted and would not go any farther. An angel appeared and said: "It has pleased God that the saints should dwell here." So the entourage set to work and made a chapel for the relics.

While they were doing so, Gregory took some of the men with him to destroy the pagan altars. Pound as they might, they could not batter down the gates. So Gregory took the cross and held it up saying: "Let your angel drive the demons away, Lord." And a wind like a hurricane blew from the cross and leveled the altars so that later not a trace of them could be found. Many people seeing this cam to believe in Jesus Christ, for as Gregory told them: "See, your stumbling blocks have been removed." It was on that spot that Gregory first laid the foundations of a church and erected an altar to the glory of God, and then arranged a baptismal font. He was with the people for twenty days, and more than one hundred and ninety thousand of them were baptized. This was the beginning of Gregory's effort to fill the land with church buildings and priests. And in each place he left a tiny portion of the saints' relics so they could be venerated.

King Drtad, informed that Gregory was back in the country, set out from Vagharshapat to meet him. He had to wait a month, because Gregory was traveling far and wide to provide every region with churches and priests to do services in them, and was also baptizing scores of people.

Finally Gregory did arrive, and the king went out to greet him on the banks of the Euphrates. Everyone was filled with joy, and the nobles who had gone with Gregory presented Drtad with Bishop Leontius' reply to his edict. In it, the bishop praied God's loving mercy in showing the Armenian people His will for them through the efforts of Gregory, whom they at first had despised but who became their spiritual champion. The bishop quoted Scripture: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner" (Matthew 21:42). He asked the new Christians to remember him in their prayers, and wished them well.

When the welcoming festivities were over, Gregory once again settled down to the task of instructing the people, and ever more of them came to learn how to live in a new way. Then he and the men he had recruited began a period of fasting and prayer, vigils and tearful repentance. The royal camp also prayed and fasted for a full month. Gregory built a church and placed in it the last of the relics he had brought to Armenia. When all this was dome the month of preparation was completed, the whole royal camp went down to the Euphrates one morning at dawn, and he baptized them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As this was being done, a bright light appeared over the water, with the cross above it. The people were amazed and blessed God's glory. That evening they went forth, more than one hundred fifty thousand new Christians, with lighted candles and in their white garments, praising god with psalms and prayers. They received Holy Communion in the new church which Gregory had built.

During the next week, Gregory baptized more multitudes of people, and he fixed a date for commemorating the martyrs. This date was the same as that of a former pagan festival ­ New Year's Day. He then continued to travel around the land to give instruction and blessings to all the people, urging them to give up their old worship and pagan feasts, and come instead to know and worship the one true God.

Gregory was especially concerned with leadership and education. He made sure that each church had a priest and each region had a bishop. Then he persuaded the king to gather peasant children from all over the country so that they, too, might learn from him and the men he had chosen. The king was willing also to have some children taught to read and become better acquainted with the Scriptures and other sacred writings. Some learned Syriac and some Greek, but all found new and precious knowledge in the word of God.

So Gregory's work continued. He spread the gospel message everywhere; he helped many in distress and despair, and established monastic orders in the populous plains and the isolated mountain caves. He educated many of the pagan priests' children and when they were ready he made them bishops of the Church.

The first of these, Albianos, was often left in charge of the court so that Gregory could retreat to a lonely place and live austerely with pupils from the monasteries. They would give themselves to prayer and works of humility, proclaiming god's strength by their own weakness. They did the worship services together, studied the Bible, sang spiritual songs, and encouraged each other to live according to God's way rather than the world's. But Gregory was always ready to visit a city to work with the people in churches there, and met often with priests and bishops. He was their best example of how to live and do their work as the Lord would want, and constantly reminded them to teach others as Christ had done.

Armenia's light shone so brightly in the world in this wonderful time that other lands truly admired her and felt she was blessed. Everything was flowering, and the king continued to travel around the land to urge his people to follow Christ. But Gregory no longer went with him; instead he lived in the desert where he could pray and fast.

King Drtad lamented Gregory's absence very much, but at about this time he learned that from a youthful marriage Gregory had two sons, Vertanes and Aristakes. Both had been raised to be priests, but Vertanes was living a secular life. Aristakes, on the other hand, was living a stringently ascetical life of prayer as a monk. Elated by the news, Drtad sent for them both. Aristakes was at first reluctant to leave his desert hermitage, but fellow Christians persuaded him to go and do whatever God called him to.

As soon as they arrived at court, Drtad went out with them to seek their father. They found him on the mountain called the Caves of Mane, in the province of Daranalik. Drtad asked Gregory to make Aristakes a bishop, so he could carry on his father's work. This was done, and Gregory himself visited some of the churches he had established.

Drtad was also a tireless servant of the Lord, both in his witness to others and his personal spiritual life. He kept the feasts and fasts, asked forgiveness for his sins, and strove to do God's will. He used his royal authority to promote the teaching of the Gospel everywhere, and tried to be a living example of it for his people.

While all this was going on in Armenia, Constantine became emperor in Spain and Gaul. He was a Christian and made a covenant with his large and mighty army that they would work together to glorify God.

So with his soldiers, Constantine marched against the heathen kings Diocletian, marcianos, Macimianos, Licinius and Maxentius. He rebuilt the Christian churches they had destroyed during the persecutions, and built chapels for those they had martyred. He destroyed the temples of idols and took the cross as his sign. Constantine greatly fortified his rule over a large part of the known world, honoring all who worshipped the true God and fighting vigorously against all others.

King Drtad was eager to pay his respects to another monarch who believed as he did. He set out with Gregory, the bishops Aristakes and Albianos, and some of the highest-ranking members of his own court. As they traveled from Vagharshapat through Greek territory they were honorably received along the way, and when they arrived in Rome the emperor and the great Patriarch Eusebius greeted them warmly. After the lavish ceremonies, Constantine pressed them to tell about the miracles that had come to pass in Armenia.

So Drtad told his spiritual brother all that had happened, not even keeping back the details of his own bestial transformation. He spoke about the brave sacrifice of the martyrs, and introduced Gregory to the emperor as the man through whom God's will had been done. Constantine was amazed by the story, and humbly asked Gregory's blessing. The emperor was also able to tell Drtad more about the martyrs, whom he had known of while they were still in his land. He spoke of how he himself had come to know God, and made an alliance with his fellow king to keep the love of Christ as a bond between their kingdoms.

When they returned to Armenia, Drtad offered all the gold and silver gifts they had received to the service of the Church, and placed several precious articles in the martyrs' chapels. Gregory and Aristakes continued their travels and teaching across the land. It was Aristakes, too, who journeyed to the city of Nicaea when Constantine convened all the Christian bishops there for an ecumenical council. At that council, doctrines were expounded and canons were formed. Aristakes made these known when he came back to Armenia, further strengthening the Church and insuring good practices among the people.

Gregory continued his teaching and writing to make the faithful think about things of the Kingdom by his stories about things of this world. With fasting and prayers, taking only minimal rest, Gregory spread forth the word of the Lord until the end of his days. He had taught his students well, and they too spent time in reading Scripture and urging each other to follow the words of Saint Paul: "Take care for yourself and your teaching, and persevere in the same. If you do this you will save yourself and those who hear you." (Timothy 4:13-16).

Thus it was that Gregory spent the days of his life in acts like those of the Apostles, following God's commands until he died. And immersed in the love of Christ, he shone forth to all.

Now according to your command, King Drtad, we have written all this down as a chronicle in the literary style of the Greeks. Like the Old Testament prophets and rulers, we have put down these events for future generations everywhere to read and learn from; we have not set them down from old tales but according to what we ourselves saw and heard.

An like the writer Luke, we have put down the main points, not including each small detail but passing over some things and describing only those that are most important and illuminating. We have made our story not to honor those who have already pleased God with their service, but to inspire their children and all those in every land who will receive these words. May they come, one day, to say to Him, "You are our God," and hear His life-giving answer, "You are my people."


© 2005, Библиотека «Вехи»



Voir aussi : http://nor-haratch.com/2015/04/naples-un-monument-dedie-aux-victimes-du-genocide-a-leglise-saint-gregoire-lilluminateur/

http://www.eecho.fr/st-gregoire-illuminateur-de-larmenie/