Augustine Sokolovski

On the last day of the octave of Epiphany, the Church celebrates the memory of Saint Nino. The saint brought a new people to Christ, a great gift of God to the Georgian Church. And the great gift to the world from the Georgian Church is the story of the life and preaching of the saint. In gratitude to its enlightener, the Georgian Church calls her “Equal to the Apostles.”

Other revered equal-to-the-apostles women in the history of Christianity were Mary Magdalene, disciple of the Apostle Paul Thecla, martyr Apphia of Colossae, wife of the Apostle Philip Mariamne, St Helen and Princess Olga of Kiev. But none of them, unlike Nina, converted an entire people to Christ.

According to information preserved in life, Nino was a virgin dedicated to God, a preacher, and he possessed prophetic talent and the gift of healing. It is obvious that her word was weighty, and her convictions were supported by knowledge of Scripture.

Like her younger contemporary, Saint Basil of Caesarea (330–379), Nino came from Cappadocia, where she was born in 280. Just like Basil, whose parents and relatives were later recognized as saints by the Church, Nina was raised in a truly Christian family. Nino’s relative was the Great Martyr George, also from Cappadocia, and her uncle was the Bishop of Aelia Capitolina, as Jerusalem was called in 135–325, before the restoration of the name of the city and the see under Emperor Constantine.

There are two main versions of Nina's life. In some ways they are different, in some ways similar, and often complement each other. But the discrepancies should not be surprising. After all, only the biographies of those saints who wrote in detail about themselves (Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Aurelius Augustine), or those about whom information was preserved in the works of others (Cyprian of Antioch, Gregory the Wonderworker and Ambrose of Milan) are subject to complete historical restoration. Some, like St Jerome, carried on extensive correspondence. Their biographies can be reconstructed by year, and sometimes even by month and day.

At the same time, the lives of many ancient missionaries and saints remained undocumented. God's possible plan for them was that each part of the Church would see for itself in their life what was most necessary for herself.

And the frequent discrepancy between the Eastern and Western versions of the lives of the ancient saints shows how little the West and the East even in Christian antiquity knew about each other and had little interest in each other.

Ninо arrived in Iberia at the beginning of the 4th century during the reign of King Mirian III (+345). According to her life, she came to preach the Gospel in Iberia, because there, as she learned, the tunic of the Lord was kept. This is what the Holy Mother of God commanded: “Go to the country of Iberia, preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ there, and you will find favor in His presence.” Having awakened from the vision, Nino saw the holy cross in her hands, taking it, she went to the aisles of Iberia. The cross of St. Nina is woven from a vine - a sign of how mission and preaching grow from the Eucharist.

In turn, Rufinus of Aquileia (345–410) in his “Ecclesiastical History” writes that Saint Nina was a captive. “At the same time, the Iberian people, who live on the banks of the Pontus, came into agreement with the word of God and accepted faith in the Kingdom to Come. The opportunity to obtain this great benefit was provided to them by a certain captive woman who was with them. After all, she led a pure and very abstinent life, and every day and night she offered prayers to God.”

This testimony does not contradict another, according to which Nina, along with Hripsime and other virgins dedicated to God, fled from the persecution of Diocletian. Around 300 they were killed for Christ in Armenia under King Tiridates (250–330). Nino managed to avoid being killed. “Only one Saint Nina was miraculously saved from death: guided by an invisible hand, she disappeared into the bushes of a wild, not yet blossoming rose,” it is written in the Lives of the Saints by Demetrius of Rostov.

Both versions of the life agree on one thing: Georgia was baptized. Eastern tradition says that Nina preached and acted with the boldness and authority of her noble birth. In search of the tunic of the Lord, she seemed to have transported Palestine itself to Ancient Georgia. In the West, they believed that the saint began her journey in Rome, fled from persecution to Iberia and lived there in solitude. For a long time, she preached in silence and performed healings in prayer for the hopelessly sick. Preaching in the Ancient Church was perceived as boldness, and mission as service.

In 361, Nino preached in the East of Georgia. There, in the town of Bodbe, the Lord called her to another world. And it turned out that most of her contemporaries did not know her name. Rufinus did not know it, nor did many ancient manuscripts throughout the centuries. Contemporaries simply called her “Christian,” Christina, Daughter of Christ. Thus, in the example of Nina, it is revealed that the words “do good, but do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3) are spoken about the selfless preaching of the Kingdom, which bears fruit a hundredfold.