On October 13, on the eve of Feast of the Intercession, the Churches that adhere to the Julian liturgical calendar celebrate the memory of Saint Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia (260-331). The saint was a true apostle of his people and the founder of the Armenian Church. His life is rich in details. In the grandeur of the images, it is similar to the stories about the patriarchs of the biblical people.
Gregory came from Armenia but received his Christian upbringing in Caesarea in Cappadocia. There he was ordained a priest, after which, at the age of about 30, he accompanied the future ruler of Armenia, Tiridates III (287–330), to his homeland.
Tiridates enjoyed the patronage of the Roman emperor Diocletian, and therefore had hostility towards Christians, considering them enemies of the state. When the Romans defeated the Persians in 287, Tiridates was preparing to take the Armenian throne.
Having entered his native land, the ruler performed a pagan sacrifice. Gregory refused to take part in it, for which the angry Tiridates subjected him to various tortures, a total of 14, after which he was placed in untimely imprisonment in prison, where Gregory remained for 13 years.
The first period of Tiridates' reign was marked by severe persecution of Christians. During one of the persecutions, on his orders, many Christian virgins, led by Saint Hripsime, were executed. As a result, he destroyed traces of the ancient apostolic preaching and killed all the preachers.
After this, the king fell into a serious psychosomatic illness, which plunged his entire court into confusion. In the image of the biblical patriarch Joseph, who, when he was in prison, was remembered at the court of Pharaoh (Gen. 41:9-14), sister Tiridates, according to what she saw in a vision from God, contributed to the release of Gregory.
The saint led Tiridates to repentance before the tomb of the saints he had killed and healed him of illness. For months he taught him instruction in the Christian faith. Having been baptized, the king was filled with zeal for Christ and stopped idolatry.
Just as he once sought to completely exterminate the Name of Christ in his land, after his conversion he personally opposed paganism. Unlike many Christian lands, where dual faith was practiced for centuries, traces of paganism in Armenia were completely eradicated. In 301 he proclaimed Christianity the official confession of Armenia. Thus, it was this country that became the first Christian state in history.
In 314, Gregory was installed as bishop by Leontius of Caesarea. Before his retirement in 326, the Enlightener of Armenia worked on the formation of a new Christian church. He ordained bishops, created monasteries, and laid the foundations of Christian culture and education. Gregory’s services to the Armenian Church are so great that it is called not only Apostolic, but also Armenian-Gregorian.
It is interesting that one of the thrones of the Protection Cathedral on Red Square was consecrated in honor of Gregory. For us, children of the Russian Church, the celebration in honor of Gregory the Illuminator, set on October 13, on the very eve of the Protection, speaks of the duty of studying the Christian history of fraternal Christian peoples. Let us enlighten ourselves with enlightenment, in the image of the name of St. Gregory. Thank God for His Protection, which may remain with Christians until the end of earthly history.