Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Feast Of Gregory The Illuminator

When I attended the General Theological Seminary in New York City, beginning nearly thirty years ago [!], the institution also served as the eastern seminary for the Armenian Orthodox Church in the US. Due to the many similarities between our branches of Christianity [Celtic Christianity is older than the Church of Rome; Armenia was the first nation to convert, before the Roman Empire did], it was a handsome fit. Also, the Armenians, many of whom were enjoying their first stay in the United States, were great friends and classmates as they were gregarious, generous, and full of life.

Two things I learned about them: they have a remarkably low regard for the Turks [see "Armenian Genocide"] and a terrific veneration for St. Gregory the Illuminator. The former is a matter of history, the latter of history and faith:

In the 3rd Century, Armenia served as a buffer state between the empires of Rome and Persia, and was often caught between the empires' competing needs and wants. Gregory was born circa 257. While an infant, his father pro-actively participated in politics by assassinating the King of Persia; family friends carried Gregory away for his protection to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he was baptized and raised as a Christian.

About 280 he returned to Armenia as a missionary and anchorite, where he was originally treated severely. Eventually, by patience and through sound preaching and example, he brought King Tiridates III and his people to the Christian faith.

A generation later, Gregory was consecrated as the first bishop of Armenia. He died about 332.

Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.