ARMENIA OF MY HEART
SAINTS OF MY HEART
Saint Hieromartyr Gregory the Bishop of Greater Armenia,
Equal of the Apostles and Enlightener of Armenia (+325)
The Hieromartyr Gregory, Enlightener of Greater Armenia, was born in the year 257. He was descended from the line of the Parthian Arsakid emperors. The father of Saint Gregory, Anak, in striving after the Armenian throne, had murdered his kinsman, the emperor Kursar, in consequence of which all the line of Anak was marked for destruction.
A certain kinsman saved Gregory: he carried off the infant from Armenia to Caesarea in Cappadocia and raised him in the Christian Faith. At maturity, Gregory married, had two sons, but soon was left a widower. Gregory raised his sons in piety. One of them — Orthanes, afterwards became a priest, and the other — Arostanes, accepted monasticism and went off into the wilderness.
In order to atone for the sin of his father, who had murdered the father of Tiridates, Gregory entered into the service of the latter and was a faithful servant to him. Tiridates loved Gregory like a friend, but he was intolerant of the Christian confession of faith. After ascending the Armenian throne, he began to demand that Saint Gregory renounce the Christian Faith.
The steadfastness of the saint embittered Tiridates, and he gave his faithful servant over to cruel tortures: they suspended the sufferer head downwards with a stone about his neck, for several days they choked him with a stinking smoke, they beat and ridiculed him, and forced him to walk in iron sandals inset with nails.
At the time of these sufferings Saint Gregory sang Psalms. In prison the Lord healed all his wounds. When Gregory again stood before the emperor cheerful and unharmed, he was astonished and gave orders to repeat the torments. Saint Gregory endured them, not wavering, with all his former determination and bearing. They then poured hot tin over him and threw him into a pit filled with vipers. The Lord, however, saved His chosen one: the snakes did him no harm.
Some pious women fed him with bread, secretly lowering it into the pit. A holy angel, appeared to the martyr, strengthening and encouraging him. Saint Gregory remained in the pit for fourteen years. During this time the emperor Tiridates executed the holy virgin Saint Rhipsime, the aged abbess Gaiana and another 35 virgins from one of the monasteries of Asia Minor. As punishment for this horrible deed, the king’s face became disfigured.
Saint Gregory was released from the pit, and buried the relics of the holy virgins with honor. Then he began to preach to the people, urging them to turn away from the darkness of idolatry and toward Christ. The people came to believe in Christ, and wished to build a large church. When it was completed, Saint Gregory had the relics of the holy nuns brought into it. Then he brought King Tiridates there before the bodies of the saints whom he had slain. He repented, and immediately his face was made whole once more.
Soon all of Armenia was converted to Christ. The temples of the idols were destroyed, and churches for the worship of the true God were built. Saint Gregory ordained priests, established schools, founded monasteries, and provided for the good order of the Church.
Saint Gregory went into the wilderness, where he departed to the Lord. His son Aristanes was made a bishop in Cappadocia, and was one of the 318 holy Fathers at the Council of Nicea.
The Holy Well-Prison of Saint Gregory of Armenia