The second day of the Forefeast of Theophany falls on January 3. Today’s hymns invite us to go in spirit to the Jordan River where the Creator comes to be baptized. He is the Light which shines in the darkness (John 1:5), and today He begins to overcome that darkness.
The Holy Prophet Malachi lived 400 years before the Birth of Christ, at the time of the return of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity. Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets, therefore the holy Fathers call him “the seal of the prophets.”
Manifesting himself an image of spiritual goodness and piety, he astounded the nation and was called Malachi, i.e., an angel. His prophetic book is included in the Canon of the Old Testament. In it he upbraids the Jews, foretelling the coming of Jesus Christ and His Forerunner, and also the Last Judgment (Mal 3:1-5; 4:1-6).
The Martyr Gordius was born at the end of the third century in the city of Caesarea of Cappadocia into a Christian family. When he came of age, he entered military service. Because of his valor and military skill, he was made a centurion. During the persecution of Christians at the beginning of the fourth century, he left the world and settled in the Sinai desert to prepare himself for the good deed of confessing the Name of Christ the Savior.
In the year 320, Gordius openly appeared before the prefect of a city where pagan games were being held, and identified himself as a Christian. He was arrested, suffered terrible torments, then was beheaded.
Saint Genevieve was born of wealthy parents in Gaul (modern France) in the village of Nanterre, near Paris, around 422. Her father’s name was Severus, and her mother was called Gerontia. According to the custom of the time, she often tended her father’s flocks on Mt. Valerien.
When she was about seven years old, St Germanus of Auxerre (July 31) noticed her as he was passing through Nanterre. The bishop kissed her on the head and told her parents that she would become great in the sight of God, and would lead many to salvation. After Genevieve told him that she wished to dedicate herself to Christ, he gave her a brass medal with the image of the Cross upon it. She promised to wear it around her neck, and to avoid wearing any other ornaments around her neck or on her fingers.
When it was reported that Attila the Hun was approaching Paris, Genevieve and the other nuns prayed and fasted, entreating God to spare the city. Suddenly, the barbarians turned away from Paris and went off in another direction.
Years later, when she was fifteen, Genevieve was taken to Paris to enter the monastic life. Through fasting, vigil and prayer, she progressed in monasticism, and received from God the gifts of clairvoyance and of working miracles. Gradually, the people of Paris and the surrounding area regarded Genevieve as a holy vessel (2 Tim. 2:21).
St Genevieve considered the Saturday night Vigil service to be very important, since it symbolizes how our whole life should be. “We must keep vigil in prayer and fasting so that the Lord will find us ready when He comes,” she said. She was on her way to church with her nuns one stormy Saturday night when the wind blew out her lantern. The nuns could not find their way without a light, since it was dark and stormy, and the road was rough and muddy. St Genevieve made the Sign of the Cross over the lantern, and the candle within was lit with a bright flame. In this manner they were able to make their way to the church for the service.
There is a tradition that the church which St Genevieve suggested that King Clovis build in honor of Sts Peter and Paul became her own resting place when she fell asleep in the Lord around 512 at the age of eighty-nine. Her holy relics were later transferred to the church of St Etienne du Mont in Paris. Most of her relics, and those of other saints, were destroyed during the French Revolution.
In the Middle Ages, St Genevieve was regarded as the patron saint of wine makers.
Saint Ekvtime (Euthymius) Taqaishvili, called the “Man of God,” was born January 3, 1863, in the village of Likhauri, in the Ozurgeti district of Guria, to the noble family of Svimeon Taqaishvili and Gituli Nakashidze. He was orphaned at a young age and raised by his uncle.
From early childhood St. Ekvtime demonstrated a great passion for learning. Having completed his studies at the village grammar school, he enrolled at Kutaisi Classical High School. In 1883 he graduated with a silver medal and moved to St. Petersburg to continue his studies in the department of history-philology at St. Petersburg University. In 1887, having successfully completed his studies and earned a degree in history, St. Ekvtime returned to Georgia and began working in the field of academia. His profound faith and love for God and his motherland determined his every step in this demanding and admirable profession.
In 1895 Ekvtime married Nino Poltoratskaya, daughter of the famous Tbilisi attorney Ivan Poltoratsky, who was himself a brother in-law and close friend of St. Ilia Chavchavadze the Righteous. From the very beginning of his career St. Ekvtime began to collect historical-archaeological and ethnographical materials from all over Georgia. His sphere of scholarly interests was broad, including historiography, archaeology, ethnography, epigraphy, numismatics, philology, folklore, linguistics, and art history. Above all, St. Ekvtime strove to learn more about Georgian history and culture by applying the theories and methodologies of these various disciplines to his work.
In 1889 St. Ekvtime established the Exarchate Museum of Georgia, in which were preserved ancient manuscripts, sacred objects, theological books, and copies of many important frescoes that had been removed from ancient churches. This museum played a major role in rediscovering the history of the Georgian Church.
In 1907 St. Ekvtime founded the Society for Georgian History and Ethnography. Of the many expeditions organized by this society, the journey through Muslim (southwestern) Georgia was one of the most
meaningful. Having witnessed firsthand the aftermath of the forced isolation and Islamization of this region, St. Ekvtime and his fellow pilgrims acquired a greater love for the Faith of their forefathers and
became more firmly established in their national identity. Though they no longer spoke the Georgian language, the residents of this region received the venerable Ekvtime with great respect, having sensed from his greeting and kindness that he had come from their far-off motherland.
There was not a single patriotic, social or cultural movement in Georgia during the first quarter of the 20th century in which St. Ekvtime did not actively take part. Among his other important achievements, he was one of the nine professors who founded Tbilisi University in 1918. St. Ekvtime also vigorously advocated the restoration of the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
On March 11, 1921, the Georgian government went into exile in France. The government archives and the nation’s spiritual and cultural treasures were also flown to France for protection from the Bolshevik danger. St. Ekvtime was personally entrusted to keep the treasures safe, and he and his wife accompanied them on their flight to France. St. Ekvtime bore the hardships of an emigrant’s life and the horrors of World War II with heroism, while boldly resisting the onslaught of European and American scholars and collectors and the claims of other Georgian emigrants to their “family relics.”
In 1931 St. Ekvtime’s wife, Nino, his faithful friend and companion, died of starvation. The elderly widower himself often drew near to the brink of death from hunger, cold, and stress, but he never faltered in his duty before God and his motherland—he faithfully protected his nation’s treasures.
The perils were great for St. Ekvtime and the treasures he protected: British and American museums sought to purchase the Georgian national artifacts; a certain Salome Dadiani, the widow of Count Okholevsky, declared herself the sole heir of the Georgian national treasure; during World War II the Nazis searched St. Ekvtime’s apartment; even the French government claimed ownership of the Georgian
Finally, the Soviet victory over fascist Germany created conditions favorable for the return of the national treasures to Georgia. According to an agreement between Stalin and De Gaulle, the treasures and their faithful protector were loaded onto an American warplane and flown back to their motherland on April 11, 1945. When he finally stepped off the plane and set foot on Georgian soil, St. Ekvtime bowed deeply and kissed the earth where he stood. Georgia greeted its long-lost son with great honor. The people overwhelmed St. Ekvtime with attention and care, restored his university professorship, and recognized him as an active member of the Academy of Sciences. They healed the wounds that had been inflicted
on his heart.
Exhausted by the separation from his motherland and the woes of emigration, St. Ekvtime rejoined society with the last of his strength. But mankind’s enemy became envious of the victory of good over evil and rose up against St. Ekvtime’s unshakable spirit. In 1951 the Chekists arrested his stepdaughter, Lydia Poltoratskaya. St. Ekvtime, who by that time was seriously ill, was now left without his caregiver.
In 1952, without any reasonable explanation, St. Ekvtime was forbidden to lecture at the university he himself had helped to found, and he was secretly placed under house arrest. The people who had reverently greeted him upon his return now trembled in fear of his persecution and imminent death. Many tried to visit and support St. Ekvtime, but they were forbidden. On February 21, 1953, St. Ekvtime died of a heart attack, and three days later a group of approximately forty mourners accompanied the virtuous prince to his eternal resting place.
On February 10, 1963, the centennial of St. Ekvtime’s birth, his body was reburied at the Didube Pantheon in Tbilisi. When his grave was uncovered, it was revealed that not only his body, but even his
clothing and footwear had remained incorrupt. St. Ekvtime’s relics were moved once again, to the Pantheon at the Church of St. Davit of Gareji on Mtatsminda, where they remain today.
The body of Nino Poltoratskaya-Taqaishvili was brought from Leville (France) and buried next to St. Ekvtime on February 22, 1987.
The Holy Synod of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church canonized St. Ekvtime on October 17, 2002, and joyously proclaimed him a “Man of God.”