To the Ends of the Earth

Orthodox Christian Missions

St. Nina of Georgia, Equal to the Apostles

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Commemorated January 14

The following in an excerpt from a life of St. Nina from the St. Nina Quarterly. The rest can be found here.

Strengthened by this divine vision and consolation, St. Nina continued her journey with renewed fervour. Having overcome difficult labors, hunger, thirst, and fear of the wild animals, she reached the ancient Kartlian city of Urbnisi where she remained about a month, living in Jewish homes and studying the manners, customs, and language of a people new and unfamiliar to her.

On one occasion, when all the men of that city as well as many from the Surrounding areas, were planning to go to the capital city of Mtskheta to worship their false gods, St. Nina decided to go with them. As they were approaching the city, they met the entourage of King Mirian and Queen Nana. Accompanied by a great crowd of people, they were making their way to a mountain top opposite the city where they intended to worship the lifeless idol Armazi.

Till noon the weather remained clear. But this day, the first day of St. Nina’s arrival at the city, which was the goal of her mission to save Iberia, was the last day of power for the pagan idol. Borne along by the crowd, St. Nina made her way to the place where the idol’s altar was located. She caught sight of the chief idol Armazi. In appearance he resembled a man of unusually great height; cast of gilded copper, he was clad in a gold coat of mail with a gold helmet on his head. One eye was a ruby, the other an emerald, both of uncommon size and brilliance. To the right of Armazi stood another smaller gold idol by the name of Katsi, and to the left, a silver idol called Gaim.

The entire crowd of people together with their king stood in senseless reverence and trembling before their gods while the priests made preparations for the offering of blood sacrifices. And when finally the incense was burned, the sacrificial blood flowed, and trumpets and cymbals resounded, the king and his people prostrated themselves before the lifeless statues; then the heart of the holy young girl burned with the zeal of the prophet Elias. Sighing from the depths of her soul and in tears lifting up her eyes to heaven, she began to pray:

Almighty God! By Your great mercy, bring this people to a knowledge of Yourself, the One, True God. Scatter these idols as the wind blows dust and ashes from the face of the earth Look down with mercy upon this people, whom You have created with Your almighty hand and whom You have honored with Your divine Image! And You, O Lord and Master, did so love Your creation that You did give even Your Only-begotten Son for the salvation of fallen humankind, , deliver the souls also of these Your people from the destructive power of the prince of darkness, who has blinded the eyes of their understanding so that they do not see the true path to salvation. O Lord, grant me to see the final destruction of the idols standing here so proudly. So act that this nation and all the ends of the earth might comprehend the salvation given by You, that the North and the South together might rejoice in You, and that all nations might worship You, the One Eternal God, and Your Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom belongs glory forever.

The Saint had not yet finished this prayer when storm-clouds suddenly arose from the west and rushed rapidly along over the river Kura. Realizing the danger, the king and his people turned to flight, and Nina hid herself in the cleft of a rock. A stormcloud burst with thunder and lightning over that place where the idol’s altar stood. The idols, which had formerly stood lofty and proud, were beaten into dust, the walls of the temple were also reduced to dust, and then the floods of water plunged them over the precipice, and the river carried them away. Thus there remained not even a trace of the idols and the temple dedicated to them. And St. Nina, protected by God, stood unharmed in the cleft of the rock and quietly watched as the elements raged about her, and then once again the brilliant sun began to shine. All this took place on the day of the Lord’s most glorious Transfiguration, when the true Light that shone on Tabor transformed for the first time on the mountains of Iberia the darkness of paganism into the light of Christ.

The next day the king and his people searched in vain for their gods, and when they could not find them, they were filled with dread and said:

The god Armazi is great; but there exists some other God, greater than he Who has overcome him. Is this not perhaps the Christian God Who disgraced the ancient Armenian gods and caused the lying Tiridat to become a Christian? But in Georgia no one has heard anything about Christ. What then will happen in the future?

Some time after this, St. Nina entered the city of Mtskheta as a pilgrim. As she was approaching the royal garden, the gardener’s wife, Anastasia, rushed out to meet her as if she were a longawaited friend. She bowed down to the Saint and led her into her home. Having washed her feet and anointed her head with oil, she offered her bread and wine. Anastasia and her husband asked Nina to remain with them in their home as a sister because they were childless and were distressed by their loneliness. Later, at the desire of St. Nina, Anastasia’s husband built her a small hut in the corner of the garden, on which spot to this day there stands a chapel in honor of St. Nina within the enclosure of the Samtauri’s Convent. In this hut St. Nina placed the cross given her by the Mother of God and spent days and nights there in prayer and the singing of psalms.

From this hut there spread abroad word of the deeds and miracles performed by St. Nina to the glory of Christ’s Name. The very first converts to Christianity in Iberia were the upright couple who gave shelter to Christ’s servant, St. Nina. Through St. Nina’s prayers Anastasia was released from her childlessness and later became the mother of a large and happy family just as she also became the first woman in Iberia to believe in Christ, before any of the men. On one occasion a certain woman was carrying her dying child about the streets of the city with loud wailing and appealing to all for help. St. Nina took the sick child and laid him on her bed of leaves. Having prayed, she placed her cross of grapevines on the little one and then returned him to his mother alive and well. From that time on St. Nina began openly to preach the Gospel and to call the Iberian pagans and Jews to repentance and faith in Christ. Her pious, righteous, and chaste life was known to all and attracted the eyes, ears, and hearts of the people. Many, and especially the Jewish women began to come to Nina often to hear from her lips the new teaching about the Kingdom of God and eternal salvation, and they began secretly believing in Christ. Such were: Sidonia, the daughter of Abiathar, the high priest of the Kartlian Jews, and six other women, also Jews. Soon Abiathar himself believed in Christ after he had heard St. Nina’s explanations of the ancient prophets about Jesus and how they were fulfilled in Him as the Messiah.

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Written by Stephen

January 14, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Posted in European Saints, Saints

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