Armodoxy for Today: The Road to the Center of Light – a five-part mini-series of daily messages dedicated to this special week in the life of the Armenian Church. Five days, five inspirations, five sparks that connect to shine the Christ Light.
Day 3: Gregory: Gayané kindled Hripsimé’s spark, but still, a catalyst was necessary to get the Revolution burning. Gregory was that catalyst, bringing the message of Christianity to the pagan world. He was the son of a Parthenian nobleman, and while his biographical details are laced with tragedy, including assassination, rejection and executions, for our purposes, we remember that Gregory, brought up in a Christian family, arrives in Armenia toward the end of the 3rd century, preaching the Gospel. He entered the King’s service and accomplished his tasks conscientiously. However, when asked to make offerings to the pagan gods, he refused, professing his faith in the one God revealed through Jesus Christ.
The King, Dirtad, did not tolerate his insubordination, and viewed Christianity (represented by Gregory) as a threat to the stability of his kingdom. He sentenced Gregory to death in a deep pit at the base of Mt. Ararat along the path of the Arax river. In Armenian this place is call խոր վիրապ (khor-virab), which is a literal translation of the words “deep pit.”
Gregory stood his ground. He did not resist evil, as he was instructed by Christ. He knew that the ways of the world could be sweet, but temporary. He did not give up His commitment to the Truth of Jesus Christ.
In the world we are always given options between the light and dark. While khor-virab is a place, and still attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year, khor-virab is also a metaphor in Armodoxy. It is the deep abyss and its darkness that blinds us to beauty and God’s wonders. In that darkness we follow the illusion of worldly wealth and remain ignorant to the love and compassion of family and friends. Physical death is what Gregory faced. We face spiritual death every day, and deliverance from that pit is available as it was for Gregory.
Gregory stayed firm in his commitment to Christ. He entered the pit as a death sentence only to walk out of it 13 years later, when the King Dirtad, suffering from a grave illness required healing. Gregory was kept alive with his prayers, his pious spiritual practices and the offering of the king’s sister, Khosrovitoukhd, who would bring scraps of food to the dungeon-pit sustain him.
Upon the king’s healing and recovery, Dirtad declared Christianity as the state religion. The year was 301, thus Armenia became the first Christian nation on earth. St. Gregory is revered as the patron saint of the Armenian Church. He is known as the Second Illuminator of Armenia, for bringing the Light into the darkness. The title of First Illuminator belongs to the Holy Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew who brought the Light of Christ to Armenia in the fifth decade of the first century.
Saturday is the feast of St. Gregory the Illuminator’s deliverance from the pit. Let us pray, Christ our God, you crown your saints with triumph and do the will of all who love you, looking after your creatures with love and kindness. Hear us from your holy and heavenly realm by the intercession of the Holy Mother of God and by the prayers of all your saints, especially the great patriarch of the Armenian people, St. Gregory the Illuminator. Hear us Lord and show us your mercy. Forgive, redeem and pardon our sins. Make us worthy thankfully to glorify you with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. Now and always and unto the ages of ages. Amen.