Gregory the Illuminator
Apostle to Armenia
23 March 332
From the Satucket Lectionary
The ancient kingdom of Armenia was the first country to become Christian, and it recognizes Gregory as its apostle. Armenia was a buffer state between the powerful empires of Rome and Parthia (Persia), and both of them sought to control it. Gregory was born about 257. When he was still an infant, his father assassinated the King of Parthia, and friends of the family carried Gregory away for protection to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he was reared as a Christian. About 280 he returned to Armenia, where he was at first treated severely, but eventually by his preaching and example brought both King Tiridates and a majority of his people to the Christian faith. About 300, Gregory was consecrated the first bishop of Armenia. He died about 332. Armenian Christians to this day remember him with honor and gratitude.
Armenians were the first people to adopt Christianity as the state religion. Tertullian and Eusebius of Caesaria suggest that Christianity was practiced in Armenia as early as the 2nd century. Eusebius also mentions an exchange of letters between Jesus Christ and the Armenian king of Edessa Abkar V (the Black) (9-46 A.D). Legend claims for Armenian the graves of four apostles: Bartholomew, Simon, Thaddaeus, and Jude. It was sometime between 288 and 301 that St. Gregory the Illuminator (Grigor Loussavorich : ca. 240-332), who had been subjected to cruel tortures and incarcerated in a deep well (Khor Virab) for 13 years for refusing to participate in pagan rites, converted King Tiridates (238-314). In 302, St. Gregory was ordained bishop, and in 303 he founded the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin, near Mount Ararat, which, to this day, is the seat of the supreme patriarch or catholicos, the head of the Armenian Church. St. Gregory went on to evangelize several other Caucasian nations and baptized the kings of Iberia (Georgia), Lazes and Albania. Sometime before his death he retired to a solitary life in the wilderness. The patron saint of Armenia, he is now venerated in both the Eastern and Latin Church.