Lives of all saints commemorated on September 30


Hieromartyr Gregory the Bishop of Greater Armenia, Equal of the Apostles and Enlightener of Armenia

The Hieromartyr Gregory, Enlightener of Great Armenia, was born in the year 257. He was descended from the line of the Parthian Arsakid emperors. The father of St 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 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 St 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 St 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. St 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. St Gregory remained in the pit for fourteen years. During this time the emperor Tiridates executed the holy virgin St 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.

St 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, St 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. St Gregory ordained priests, established schools, founded monasteries, and provided for the good order of the Church.

St 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.


Venerable Gregory the Abbot of Pelsheme and Wonderworker of Vologda

Saint Gregory of Pelsheme, Vologda, was born in the city of Galich, Kostroma governia. He came from the line of the Lopotov nobility. When the youth reached age fifteen, his parents wanted him to marry, but they died, without seeing this come to pass. Young Gregory distributed the inheritance left him to the poor, and entered the monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos on the shore of Lake Galich.

The Igumen of the monastery regarded the new monk with mistrust because of his youth and noble parentage. Therefore, he placed Gregory in obedience to an experienced Elder. With great humility St Gregory served all the brethren. After a certain while he was ordained a priest. Soon St Gregory’s fame as a pastor spread, and many began to arrive for spiritual guidance and counsels.

The Galich prince asked the monk to be godfather for his children. Burdened by fame and the nearness of his relatives, the monk went to Rostov to venerate the relics of St Leontius (May 23), and he settled in the monastery of St Abramius, (October 29). But here also news of the saint’s ascetic feats quickly spread.

The monks of the Savior (Yakovlev) monastery turned to Archbishop Dionysius of Rostov (1418-1425) with a request to assign St Gregory to head their monastery. Out of humility the monk accepted the guidance over the monastery, but after two years he secretly left the monastery and withdrew into the Vologda forest.

In the Sosnovetsk wilderness he became acquainted with St Dionysius of Glushitsa (June 1). When the Lord prompted the holy ascetic to found his own monastery, St Dionysius approved his friend’s intention. With a cross on his shoulders, St Gregory crossed over the River Pelsheme and planted the cross in a thicket by the river bank.

The first monk in the new monastery was the priest Alexis, in monasticism Alexander. In 1426 a church was built at the monastery in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos. Its icons were painted by St Dionysius, and St Gregory himself copied the sacred texts for the monastery. Gradually the number of monks increased, the monastery grew and became more famous.

St Gregory concerned himself with the nurturing of piety at the monastery, and at the same time he shared in the destiny of his country. In the year 1433, he went to Moscow in order to prevail upon the Galich prince Yuri Dimitrievich, who had seized the Moscow principality from Basil the Dark, to return Moscow to Prince Basil. Prince Yuri obeyed the monastic Elder.

But in 1434 the son of Prince Yuri, Demetrius Shemyaka, began to ravage the Vologda lands belonging to the Great Prince. St Gregory, distraught over the discord and violence, went to Demetrius Shemyaka and addressed him with bold words. “Prince Demetrius,” said the monk, “you do things that are not Christian. It would be better if you had gone into a pagan land to a vile people ignorant of God. Widows and orphans cry out against you to God. How many people will perish from hunger and cold because of you, and if you don’t stop the fratricide, the bloodshed and violence soon, then you shall lose both your glory and your princedom.”

After this bold denunciation, Shemyaka gave orders to throw the holy Elder off a bridge. For several hours the monk lay there unmoving. His denunciations produced the desired effect, and Shemyaka soon quit Vologda. The courage of the monk only increased the veneration of him. Before his death, he received the Holy Mysteries, spoke a word of guidance to the brethren, and appointed as igumen of the monastery his fellow ascetic Alexander. St Gregory reposed on September 30, 1442 and was buried in the monastery he founded.


St Michael the first Metropolitan of Kiev

Saint Michael the first Metropolitan of Kiev, according to the Joakimov chronicle, was a Syrian by birth, but according to other chronicles, he was a Bulgarian or Serb. In the year 989, he arrived at Korsun with other clergy for holy Prince Vladimir (July 15), not long after Vladimir’s Baptism (988).

As first metropolitan of the Russian Church his service was difficult, but grace-filled. He zealously made the rounds of the newly-enlightened Russian Land, preaching the Holy Gospel, baptizing and teaching the newly-illumined people, founding the first churches and religious schools.

In Rostov he established the first wooden church in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos and installed Theodore the Greek there as bishop. St Michael was a wise and gentle, but also strict hierarch. The Russian Church has preserved the memory of the saint’s praiseworthy deeds. In the Synodikon of the Novgorod and Kiev Sophia cathedrals he is rightfully called the initiator.

St Michael died in the year 992 and was buried in the Desyatin-Tithe church of the Most Holy Theotokos in Kiev. In about the year 1103, under the Igumen St Theoctistus (afterwards Bishop of Chernigov, August 5), his relics were transferred to the Antoniev Cave, and on October 1, 1730 into the Great Church of the Caves. Thus his memory was celebrated on September 30, and also July 15, the day of his repose.

Formerly, his memory was celebrated on September 2, along with Sts Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves. There is a trace of this earlier celebration in the service to St Michael. In the second verse of the “Praises” we sing: “Having begun the new year, we offer you our first songs, O blessed one, for you were the beginning of the hierarchy in the Russian land.”


Martyr Rhipsime of Armenia

Saint Rhipsime had fled to Armenia, together with her abbess and fellow nuns, to avoid entering into marriage with the emperor Diocletian (284-305), who was charmed by her beauty. Diocletian sent a letter to the Armenian emperor Tiridates asking that he either send Rhipsime back, or wed her himself.

The servants of the emperor found the fugitives and they urged Rhipsime to submit to the will of the emperor. The saint declared that she and the other nuns were betrothed to the Heavenly Bridegroom, and could marry no earthly suitor. Then a Voice was heard from the heavens: “Be brave and fear not, for I am with you.” The messengers withdrew in fear. Tiridates gave the maiden over to cruelest torments: they plucked out her tongue, cut open her stomach, blinded and killed her, chopping her body into pieces.

Inspired by Rhipsime’s example to endure torments for Christ, the abbess St Gaiana and two other nuns endured similar tortures, after which they were beheaded. The other nuns were run through with swords and their bodies thrown to be devoured by wild beasts.

The wrath of God befell emperor Tiridates, and also his associates and soldiers who had participated in the torture of the saints. Beset by demons, they became like wild boars (as once with Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. 4: 30), ranging through the forests, rending their clothes and gnawing at their own bodies.


Martyr Gaiana of Armenia

Saint Gaiana was the abbess of a women’s monastery in Asia Minor. When the emperor Diocletian (284-305) saw a portrait of St Rhipsime, he fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. She refused, saying that she was a bride of Christ. Fearing that the emperor’s agents would seize Rhipsime, the abbess and the nuns fled to Armenia. Diocletian sent word to King Tiridates of Armenia, asking him to capture Rhipsime and send her to him, or to marry her himself.

Armed soldiers took Rhipsime away from her place of refuge. When nothing would induce the holy virgin to marry the king, he sent for St Gaiana, hoping she might persuade her. The abbess, however, told her that death would be preferable to life with the king. After many cruel torments, St Rhipsime surrendered her pure soul to God.

Inspired by Rhipsime’s example to endure torments for Christ, the abbess St Gaiana and two other nuns endured similar tortures, after which they were beheaded. The other nuns were run through with swords and their bodies thrown to be devoured by wild beasts.

The wrath of God befell emperor Tiridates, and also his associates and soldiers who had participated in the torture of the saints. Beset by demons, they became like wild boars (as once with Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. 4: 30), ranging through the forests, rending their clothes and gnawing at their own bodies.


35 Martyrs with Gaiana and Rhipsime of Armenia

These nuns suffered with Sts Rhipsime and Gaiana in the fourth century. They were run through with swords, and their bodies thrown to be devoured by wild beasts.