St Gregory the Enlightener, Bishop of Armenia (325/335)
He was a nobleman, related to the imperial houses of Persia and Armenia. When these two houses went to war with one another, Gregory withdrew to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he heard the Gospel proclaimed and came to faith in Christ. There he also married and had two sons. After his wife’s death he returned to his homeland and served in the court of Tiridates, king of Armenia. When the king discovered that Gregory was a Christian, he subjected the Saint to many tortures, finally having him cast into a pit full of mire and poisonous reptiles. But Gregory was miraculously kept alive in the pit for fourteen years, during which a widow secretly provided for his needs. King Tiridates, still cruelly persecuting the Christians in his land, eventually went mad and became like a wild animal. In a dream, the king’s sister was told that her brother would only be restored to sanity when Gregory was freed from the pit. This was done, and Gregory healed and baptised his persecutor. At the king’s request, Gregory was made bishop of Armenia. As bishop he brought countless thousands to faith in Christ and is counted as the Enlightener of Armenia. In old age he retired into ascetical life, and reposed in peace.
Venerable Gregory of Pelshma (1441 or 1451)
He was born into a powerful boyar family in the city of Galich. Early in life he was drawn to the ascetical life, and was distressed when his parents arranged for him to be married at the age of only fifteen. By a mysterious providence, both his parents died before the wedding could be held, and St Gregory very soon distributed his considerable wealth to the poor, freed all his serfs, and went to the nearest monastery. Such was his holiness of life that he rose to be abbot of the monastery, but as in his youth he felt burdened by the admiration and attention of men, so he left for the monastery of St Dionysius of Glushitsa, where he strove to live a hidden life. His starets, St Dionysius, discerned Gregory’s spiritual gifts and wanted him to found his own monastery, but the Saint resisted, desiring only to live in humility and obedience, unknown to the world. At the age of 104 Gregory, with his elder’s blessing, went to live as a hermit in a small cell on the banks of the River Pelshma. After a few years other monks came to live the hesychastic life with him and, as his elder had desired, Gregory against his will became the abbot of a new monastery.
Abbot Gregory excelled not only in prayer but in his works of love for the poor, many of whom came to him in times of famine, when he would give them the small reserves of the monastery. More than once he traveled to Moscow to rebuke the Princes for their evil deeds. One of these, Prince Basil II, was so angered by the ‘presumption’ of the Saint that he had him thrown from a bridge into a deep gorge, but he emerged miraculously unharmed.
At the age of 127, St Gregory felt his end approaching and prepared himself. He told his disciples to throw his body into a swamp when he died, but after his repose they disobeyed and gave him honorable burial. A beautiful fragrance filled the church and, for the first time, a miracle of healing was performed through the Saint’s relics, which from that time forward were the source of countless wonders.
Our Father among the Saints Michael, Metropolitan of Kiev (992)
When Prince Vladimir, Equal to the Apostles (July 15), received holy Baptism, he sent an embassy to Constantinople asking that clergy be sent to enlighten the Russian land and to establish Christ’s Church there. Patriarch Nicolas II Chrysoberges (December 16) appointed Michael, a wise and blameless bishop, to be Metropolitan of Russia. Saint Michael traveled to Kiev with six bishops and a large number of clergy to aid him in his daunting work. He began by baptising the Prince’s family and the nobles of Kiev. Prince Vladimir used his authority to have the pagan idols pulled down, and enjoined all the people to accept Baptism. Thus the people of Kiev gathered en masse on the banks of the Dnieper and were baptized by the Metropolitan and his clergy, establishing Kiev as the first Christian city in Russia. Paganism was deeply entrenched everywhere in this wild land, and the proclamation of the Gospel was difficult and dangerous. Nonetheless, the holy Metropolitan in his own lifetime was able to cast down the idols in Novgorod and Rostov and establish the Church there.
Metropolitan Michael reposed in peace in 992, having planted in Russia the seeds of Russian Orthodoxy, which in coming generations would become the very soul of the Russian people. His relics were found to be incorrupt in the twelfth century and were translated to the Monastery of the Kiev Caves.