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Blessed Martyrs and Fathers of the Saint David-Gareji Monastery

Com­mem­o­rat­ed on the Tues­day of the Bright Week

In 1616 the Per­sian shah Abbas I led his enor­mous army in an attack on Geor­gia. Hav­ing quenched his thirst for the blood of the Chris­tians, he arranged a hunt in the val­ley of Gare (Out­er) Kakheti. He encamped with his escorts in the moun­tains of Gare­ji and spent the night in that place.

At mid­night the shah’s atten­tion was drawn to a flam­ing col­umn of lights advanc­ing up the moun­tain. At first he took it to be an appari­tion. He was soon informed, how­ev­er, that a famous monastery was sit­u­at­ed in that place and on that night the monks were cir­cling their church three times with light­ed can­dles in cel­e­bra­tion of Christ’s Holy Res­ur­rec­tion. Imme­di­ate­ly the shah com­mand­ed his army to march to the monastery and destroy all those found celebrating.

That same night an angel of the Lord appeared to Abbot Arse­nius of David-Gare­ji and told him, “Our Lord Jesus Christ is call­ing the broth­ers to His Heav­en­ly King­dom. On this night great suf­fer­ing awaits you—you will be killed by the sword. He who desires to pro­long his earth­ly life, let him flee, but he who thirsts to puri­fy his soul for eter­ni­ty, let him per­ish by the sword, and the Lord God will adorn him with the crown of immor­tal­i­ty. Tell this to all who dwell in the monastery, and let each man choose for himself!”

The abbot informed the monks about his vision, and they began to pre­pare for their immi­nent suf­fer­ings. Only two young monks feared death and fled to a moun­tain not far from the monastery. At the chant­i­ng of the Lord’s Prayer near the end of the Paschal Litur­gy, the monastery was com­plete­ly sur­round­ed by Per­sian war­riors. Abbot Arse­nius stepped out of the church and approached their leader to request that the monks be giv­en a bit more time to fin­ish the ser­vice and for all the broth­ers to receive Holy Communion.

The Per­sians con­sult­ed among them­selves and agreed to hon­or this request. The fathers par­took of the Holy Gifts, encour­aged one anoth­er, and pre­sent­ed them­selves clad in fes­tive gar­ments before the unbe­liev­ers. First the Per­sians behead­ed Abbot Arse­nius; then they mas­sa­cred his broth­ers in Christ with­out mercy.

After the Per­sians fin­ished killing the monks, they were orga­nized into sev­er­al reg­i­ments and made their way towards the oth­er monas­ter­ies of the Gare­ji Wilder­ness. Halfway between the Chichkhi­turi and St. John the Bap­tist Monas­ter­ies the Mus­lims cap­tured the two young monks who had ear­li­er fled and demand­ed that they con­vert to Islam.

The monks refused to aban­don the Chris­t­ian Faith and for this they were killed. A rose bush grew up in the place where they were killed and con­tin­ued to fra­grant­ly blos­som through the 19th cen­tu­ry, despite the dry and rocky soil.

At the end of the 17th cen­tu­ry, King Archil gath­ered the bones of the mar­tyrs with great rev­er­ence and buried them in a large stone reli­quary to the left of the altar in the Trans­fig­u­ra­tion Church of David-Gare­ji Monastery. Their holy relics con­tin­ue to stream myrrh to this day.

The broth­ers of the Monas­ter­ies of St. David of Gare­ji and St. John the Bap­tist received a bless­ing from Catholi­cos Anton I to com­pose a com­mem­o­ra­tive ser­vice for the mar­tyrs and to des­ig­nate their feast day as Bright Tues­day, or the third day of Holy Pascha.

© 2006 St. Her­man of Alas­ka Brotherhood.