Tirtad, Fanning the Fire

Day 4: In sharing the story of the great Revolution that brought Christianity to Armenia, we have used the metaphor of a fire that burnt away the pain and despair of the pagan world. Hripsimé was the spark, kindled by Gayané and Gregory the Illuminator was the necessary catalyst that made the fire glow. To all of the elements, we add one more, the air, or more concisely, the fanning of the flames, to make the fire grow!

Tirtad was the power in the kingdom of Armenia. As king, he was the sovereign over the land and ruled as absolute law. Royalty was revered and enjoyed respect from the citizens, albeit insincere, nevertheless, enough to keep the players in check. And so, he was feared by the common man.

In a story such as the conversion of Armenia, it is often easy to lose true heroes to their villainous personality. Tirtad, who ordered the conversion of Armenia to Christianity, was the same king who killed Hripsimé, Gayané and their companions. He ordered worship of pagan gods and goddesses and had no patience for disobedience. If we become overwhelmed with all the negative attributes of his person we can forget that this antagonist fanned the fire. The more Tirtad opposed, the stronger Gregory became.

We have heard adages about attitude, to remain positive in the face of adversity. We’ve heard expressions of making lemonade when given lemons, but to see it played out in a story such as this we realize it’s more than having a refreshing drink, but a means of survival, literally. Popular psychology calls this attitude adjustment, we in the Church refer to it as discipline, as having faith in God. Gregory’s sentence was capital punishment; Tirtad threw him into the pit to finish him off. Gregory didn’t fight the King, instead through a system of non-violent resistance, he overcame all the odds. He was disciplined. He used the tools given to him by God, prayer, meditation, fasting, staying focused and seeing God in the face of his adversaries, including Tirtad.

Our takeaway is to view attitude adjustments in terms of the tools given to us, such as prayer, meditation, fasting, staying focused and seeing God in the face of everyone. St. Gregory teaches us this lesson in response to the evil imposed on him by the King.

King Tirtad succumbed to a grave illness because of the horrors he imposed on the innocent sisters of the Gayané and Hripsimé. He was cured by the Illuminator, leading to the conversion of the nation. Plainly, Tirtad, the antagonist, is necessary for the story. He fanned the flames for the Christian Revolution to explode in Armenia. He is crowned a saint in the Armenian Church.

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 King of Armenia who converted the nation to Christianity, St. Tirdat. 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.

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