St. Sidonia Of Georgia
Commemorated on October 1
During the reign of King Aderki of Kartli, the Jewish people in Mtskheta learned that a wondrous Child had been born in Jerusalem. Thirty years later, a man came from Jerusalem to deliver this message: “The youth has grown up. He calls Himself the Son of God and preaches to us the New Covenant. We have sent envoys to every Jewish community to urge the scholars of the religion to come to Jerusalem and judge what measures should be taken in regard to this matter.”
In response to the envoy’s request and at the recommendation of the Jewish Sanhedrin, Elioz of Mtskheta and Longinoz of Karsani were chosen to journey to Jerusalem. Elioz was born to a pious family, and as his mother prepared him for the journey, she tearfully begged him not to take any part in the spilling of the Messiah’s blood.
When the Roman soldiers were nailing our Savior to the Cross on Golgotha, Elioz’s mother miraculously heard each strike of the hammer. She cried out in fear, “Farewell majesty of the Jews! For inasmuch as you have killed your Savior and Redeemer, henceforth you have become your own enemies!” With this she breathed her last.
After the soldiers had cast lots for the Robe of our Lord, it was acquired by Elioz and Longinoz, and with great honor they carried it back with them to Mtskheta. Upon their arrival, Elioz met his sister Sidonia, who took from him the Sacred Robe. With much grief, she listened to the story of our Savior’s Crucifixion, clutched the Robe to her breast, and immediately gave up her spirit.
Many miracles were worked by the Robe, and news of this flashed like lightning throughout Mtskheta. King Aderki had a great desire to possess the Robe but, frightened by the miracles, he did not attempt to free it from Sidonia’s embrace. Elioz was obliged to bury his sister and the Precious Robe together. Later, a cypress tree grew up on Sidonia’s grave. When the disciples of Christ cast lots after Pentecost, the lot for evangelizing Georgia fell to the Most Holy Theotokos. But Christ revealed to His Mother that it was not His will for her to preach there. “You have been entrusted to protect the Georgian nation,” He said, “but the role of evangelizing that land belongs to My disciple Andrew the First-called. Send him with an image of your face ‘Not-Made-By- Hands’ to protect the Georgian people to the end of the ages!”
According to the will of God and the blessing of the Theotokos, St. Andrew set off for Georgia to preach the Christian Faith. He entered Georgia from the southwest and preached in every region of the nation. He established a hierarchy for the Georgian Church and then returned to Jerusalem for Pascha. When he visited Georgia for the second time, the Apostle Andrew was accompanied by the Apostles Matthias and Simon the Canaanite.
Years passed and, under threat from various pagan communities, the memory of Christ faded from the minds of the Georgian people. Then, at the beginning of the fourth century, according to God’s will and the blessing of the Most Holy Theotokos, the holy virgin Nino arrived in Kartli to preach the Christian Faith. She settled in the outskirts of Mtskheta, in the bramble bushes of the king’s garden. St. Nino inquired as to the whereabouts of our Lord’s Robe, but no one could remember where it had been preserved. In her quest for the Precious Robe, she became acquainted with Elioz’s descendants, the Jewish priest Abiatar and his daughter, Sidonia. St. Nino converted them to Christianity.
St. Nino was blessed by God with the gift of healing. She healed the afflicted through the name of the Savior and through the grace of the cross formed from grapevines by the Theotokos and bound with strands of St. Nino’s hair.
At that time, King Mirian ruled Kartli. Following in the footsteps of his ancestors, he worshiped the idol Armazi, but in the depth of his heart he was drawn to the Faith that the holy virgin was preaching. Mirian’s wife, Queen Nana, was the daughter of a famous military leader of Pontus. Thus, the king had received some prior knowledge of the Faith of the Greeks. When Queen Nana fell deeply ill, it was through the prayers of St. Nino that spared her from death. After this miraculous healing, King Mirian became intrigued by the Faith that St. Nino was preaching, and he began asking the newly enlightened Abiatar about the Holy Scriptures.
However, while hunting on Mt. Tkhoti near Mtskheta, King Mirian was gripped by an evil spirit, and he burned with a desire to destroy the Christian people of his land and – above all others – the virgin Nino. But suddenly the sun was eclipsed, and the king was surrounded by darkness. The frightened king prayed to the pagan gods to save him, but his prayers went unanswered. In utter despair, he began to pray to our Savior Jesus Christ, and the darkness scattered and the sun shone as before. Raising his hands to the east, Mirian cried out, “Truly Thou art the God preached by Nino, God of gods and King of kings!”
Having returned to the capital, King Mirian went immediately to the bramble bushes where St. Nino dwelt. He greeted her with great honor and spent several hours seeking her counsel. Upon her recommendation, he sent messengers to Emperor Constantine in Byzantium, requesting that he send priests to baptize the people of Kartli and architects to build churches. On Saturday, June 24, 324, King Mirian began to construct a church so that the priests arriving from Constantinople would have a place to serve. Seven columns to support the church were formed from the wood of a cypress tree that had grown in the king’s garden. Six of the columns were erected without problems, but the seventh could not be moved from the place where it had been carved. St. Nino and her disciples prayed through the night, and at dawn they watched as a youth, encompassed by a brilliant light, descended from the heavens and raised the column. The miraculous column began to shine and stopped in mid-air at a height of twelve cubits. Sweet-smelling myrrh began to flow from under the Holy Pillar’s foundations, and the entire population of Mtskheta flocked to that place to receive its blessing. Approaching the Life-giving Pillar, the sick were healed, the blind received sight, and the paralyzed began to walk.
At the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi Rivers in Mtskheta, the king and queen, the royal court, and all the people of Kartli were baptized into the Christian Faith. King Mirian wanted to keep some of the sacred objects in the capital city, but St. Nino informed him that one of the holiest objects, the Robe of our Savior, was already located in Mtskheta. The king summoned the priest Abiatar and inquired about the Robe, then rejoiced greatly after Abiatar confirmed St. Nino’s words that the Robe of the Lord was held in the embrace of Sidonia, who was buried under the stump of the cypress tree which now served as the pedestal for the Life-giving Pillar.
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)