Παρασκευή 31 Δεκεμβρίου 2021

The Nativity Icon – The Womb and the Tomb

The most wise Lord comes to be born,
Receiving hospitality from His own creatures.
Let us also receive Him,
That this divine Child in the cave may make us His guests
In the paradise of delights!

The Birth of Christ has always been celebrated and hymned by Christians in some way or other, as it is central to the Faith. The Word of God in past times may have appeared as an angel of the Lord, or the divine fire of the burning bush, but now, from this time onwards, He has become one of us; and not just as a fully-grown man descended from Heaven, but in humility God is born of a woman, and comes to us as a tiny, speechless, infant. This is what is shown in the Nativity Icon, and around this central historical event other stories surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ are depicted.

The common form of the Nativity Icon, with few variations, dates from around the 15th century, though it draws upon sources much older: the Old Testament Prophecies, the New Testament Gospel accounts, and ancient narratives on the life of the Virgin Mary.

The New Testament in the Nativity Icon

The child-Christ and His mother are shown in a cave, surrounded by impossibly sharp, inhospitable, rocks which reflect the cruel world into which Jesus was born. The Gospels record that Joseph and Mary could not find a room at any inn when they came to take part in the census at Bethlehem, and so Jesus was laid in a manger, an animal’s feeding trough. Common to the time, animals were not sheltered in wooden barns, but in caves and recesses in the hills, and so this “stable” is shown in the Icon.

High in the skies is a star which sends down a single shaft towards the baby Jesus. This star is being followed by the Magi, the wise Persians from the East, who are bearing gifts to the Christ. But they are shown in the distance, still on their journey. They are not there.

Thronged in the skies are a host of angels bringing the glad tidings of the birth of the world’s Saviour. On the right, the shepherds – people not regarded by anyone else – are the first to be given the Good News of Jesus’ birth. But they are also shown outside of the cave, still by their flocks. They too are not at Christ’s side yet.

Besides His mother, the only company Jesus Christ has in the first few hours of His earthly life are a lowly ox and donkey. This is the humility of God’s incarnation on earth.

The Old Testament in the Nativity Icon

A prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled

The humbleness of Christ’s origins should not surprise us, as the manner of His birth was prophesied many hundreds of years prior to the event. The presence of the Ox and the Donkey in the Nativity icon fulfills one of many prophecies in the Old Testament book of Isaiah:

“The ox knows his owner, and the donkey his master’s crib” (Isaiah 1:3) . Here the animals are also shown providing warmth to Jesus by their breath.

Mary gazes toward the Jesse Tree

Also found somewhere in most icons of the Nativity is a “Jesse Tree.” Named after an Old Testament patriarch, the tree’s presence is to remind us of another fulfilled prophecy from Isaiah:

“A shoot shall sprout from the stump (tree) of Jesse and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him” (Isaiah 11:1-2). In the flesh, Jesus can trace his ancestry through both His mother and adoptive father Joseph, all the way back to Jesse. This lineage is also sometimes shown in Icons of the Jesse Tree.

Other Ancient Texts in the Nativity Icon

Another important source for the story of Jesus’ birth is the Protoevangelium of James, a 2nd century text which describes the life of the Virgin Mary. This naturally includes a description of Christ’s Nativity, and the account is more detailed than those found in the Gospels. According to the Evangelium, Joseph brought along two women – a midwife and a woman called Salome – to help with the birth of Jesus. Salome is identified with a woman who later became a disciple of Christ, was the mother of the Apostles James and John, and was one of the women who discovered the empty tomb after Christ’s resurrection.

But where is Joseph? Unlike the well-known Nativity scenes in the West, in Orthodox Icons Joseph is usually found in the bottom of the icon, away from his betrothed and her Son. Sometimes seen listening to an old man, Joseph looks troubled. He is beset with new doubts regarding this birth, and these doubts are delivered to him by satan in the form of an old man, as recorded in the Protoevangelium. The devil suggests that if the infant were truly divine He would not have been born in the human way. These arguments, which ultimately did not cause Joseph to stumble, have constantly returned to trouble the Church, and are the basis of many heresies regarding Who Christ was and is. In the person of Joseph, the icon discloses not only his personal drama, but the drama of all mankind, the difficulty of accepting that which is beyond reason, the Incarnation of God.

As well as declaring the glorious and joyous news of the Birth of Christ, the icon also acknowledges, as do the hymns of the Church, the great mystery of this event.

How is He contained in a womb, whom nothing can contain?
And how can He who is in the bosom of the Father
be held in the arms of His Mother?
This is according to His good pleasure,
as He knows and wishes.
For being without flesh,
of His own will has He been made flesh;
and He Who Is,
for our sakes has become that which He was not.
Without departing from His own nature
He has shared in our substance.
Desiring to fill the world on high with citizens,
Christ has undergone a twofold birth.

The Womb and the Tomb

Left: Christ in the manger; Right: the Empty Tomb

No description of the Nativity Icon would be complete without mention of Jesus’ appearance in the manger.

It should be never forgotten that Jesus came to us in order to die – this was known by Him, at least, from the very beginning. Therefore, in Iconography, the manger in the Nativity Icon deliberately resembles a stone coffin, the swaddling clothes resemble a burial shroud, and the cave itself can even be said to prefigure Christ’s tomb.

With the side-by-side comparison shown above of the Icon of the Nativity with the Icon showing the Myrrh-bearing women discovering Jesus’ empty tomb, no more words are necessary.


Saint Melania the Roman of Africa! (December 31)

Click here please!

Icon from here (see the post)

Σάββατο 25 Δεκεμβρίου 2021

African Orthodox Christmas 2021

 Patriarch of Alexandria & all Africa: "God came down from heaven to earth, and transformed the earth into heaven!..."


The icon from here (Zimbabwe)
Today 25th, December we commemorate the great Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Apolytikion (Fourth Tone)
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shined the light of knowledge upon the world; for thereby they that worshipped the stars were instructed by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory be to Thee.

Biblical Readings.
Matins Gospel Reading: Matthew 1:18-25
Epistle Reading: St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians 4:4-7
Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:1-12
See also
(LIVE) Holy and Divine Liturgy at St Nicholas Cathedral on the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Rev Fr Archmandrite Constantine Mbonabingi leads the service alongside the parish priest, Rev Fr Nicholas Bayego, the assistant parish priest, Rev Fr Stylianos Kasule and Deacon Alexios Mugalu (here).
Live Liturgy on the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ celebrated at Sts. Constantine and Helen Orthodox Church - Ddegeya , Luweero. Service led by Rev. Fr. John Kibuuka (here)
Patriarch of Alexandria: God came down from heaven to earth, and transformed the earth into heaven

Photo: African students of the School “Athanasios the Great”, which is located in the patriarchal monastery of St. Savvas of Alexandria, chanted the Christmas carols to Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa (from here).

Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa expressed a cry of agony to the Mighty of the world for peace to prevail in his Christmas message this year.

“I raise my hands and kneel in the humble manger of the newborn Divine infant and with a cry of agony, I ask God to enlighten the Mighty of the earth, so that the peace of Christ may prevail again and the sun of justice may rise once and for all”, Patriarch Theodore emphasized in his message.

Find below the message of Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa:

My dear and blessed children,

Like every year, this year Christmas comes to assure us that the salvation of the world lies in the rebirth of our soul, the soul of each one of us.

Social life and happiness do not exist in the systems applied by the powerful of the earth, nor is it what justifies the wronged and marginalized man. Because it now proves that it is not logical for a man to serve the system, but the system to serve the man. That’s why Christmas comes to wake us up to see what we did for our poor fellow man, or what we should do, because, according to Schiller, “we were born for something better.”

But when was Christ born? When the time comes, the Scriptures answer us. When did He come? When hatred and evil were the main features of the human heart. When corruption, crime, and fratricide had taken over the world. When people lived far from the light of truth and walked in the darkness of sin. Christ came when the thirst for redemption reached the point of no return. And what did the coming of Christ bring us? He brought us the great gift, peace, and equality of people. Filled our hearts with love and hope!

God came down from heaven to earth, and transformed the earth into heaven! He preached the truth to us. He taught us to apologize. He showed us His infinite love and revealed to us our forgotten homeland, the upper Jerusalem.

And we, what do we do? Then we accepted His message and agreed, but now we disagree. We recognized him then, but we question him now.

The man of our time, intoxicated by his achievements and influenced by various slogans foreign to Orthodoxy, considers the presence of God to be unbearable. Love is exiled and forgiveness is rare. Everyone agrees to stop the hostilities and everyone deals with military equipment.

Peoples, countries, societies suffer from the selfishness of modern man, who aims to dominate at the expense of the weak and deprive him of freedom and the bread of the day. One of the most beautiful and blessed regions in the world, but at the same time, the most afflicted by hunger and poverty, Africa, for centuries now is trying to find its direction. But great geopolitical interests plague our African brother and keep him captive to his needs.

Our Patriarchate, with its Missionary work, from end to end in Africa, strives to alleviate the pain of thousands of people in practice and tries tirelessly night and day to see the “face of God” all our fellow human beings tormented by the problems of life. We do not stop, together with the bread and water, to carry to our poor brothers the message of peace.

I raise my hands and kneel in the humble manger of the newborn Divine infant and with a cry of agony, I ask God to enlighten the Mighty of the earth, so that the peace of Christ may prevail again and the sun of justice may rise once and for all”, Patriarch Theodore emphasized in his message.

Merry Christmas my children!

Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa


Orthodox Archdiocese of Zimbabwe


Matthew 25’, 33-46
33‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35’for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36’ I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’. 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘ Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 ‘ When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 ‘ Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? ‘ 40 “ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘ Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ 41 “ Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘ Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 ‘ for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 ‘ I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “ Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘ Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45” Then He will answer them, saying, ‘ Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46” And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
from here (Zimbabwe)

Κυριακή 19 Δεκεμβρίου 2021

Mary: The Blessing of All Generations


Ancient faith / Glory 2 God for all things 

Fr. Stephen Freeman

ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ: Μαρία, η ευλογία των εθνών (φωτο)

In my childhood, it was not unusual to hear someone ask, “Who are your people?” It was a semi-polite, Southernism designed to elicit essential information about a person’s social background. The assumption was that you, at best, could only be an example of your “people.” It ignored the common individualism of the wider culture, preferring the more family or clan-centered existence of an older time. It was possible to be “good people” who had fallen on hard times, just as it was possible to be “bad people” who were flourishing. Good people were always to be preferred.

I am aware of the darker elements of this Southern instinct so foreign to today’s mainstream culture. I am also aware that within it, there is an inescapable part of reality: human beings never enter this world without baggage. The baggage is an inheritance, both cultural and biological that shapes the ground we walk on and the challenges we will inevitably confront. Fr. Alexander Schmemann is reported to have said that the spiritual life consists in “how we deal with what we’ve been dealt.” In some families, it seems that no matter how many times the deck is shuffled, the same hand (or close to it) appears.

The Scriptures are rife with this element of our reality. It is a story of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, tribal destiny and inherited blessings. Two of the gospels give a chapter to rehearse the genealogy of Christ. Modern thought wants to imagine each human being entering the world as a blank slate whose life will be formed and shaped by their desires and choices. This is our imaginative version of freedom and we work to maximize its reality.

Nevertheless, human experience continues to be doggedly familial. Those who do family therapy carefully ask questions about the generations that have gone before. The battles of our lives are not about theory, but the cold hard truth of what has been given to us.

The Scriptures relate the stories of families, including their tragedies and horrific crimes. No Southern novelist ever did more than echo the iconic behaviors of Biblical failure.

This familial treatment is intentional and tracks the truth of our existence. There is never a pain as deep as that inflicted by someone who is supposed to love you.  Such injuries echo through the years and the generations. The face that stares back at us in the mirror is easily a fractal of someone whose actions power our own insanity. We can hate a parent, only to be haunted by their constant presence in us.

This, of course, is only the negative, darker side of things. Blessings echo in us as well. In the delusion of modern individuality we blithely assume that we act alone in all we do. Life is so much more complicated!

What I am certain of, in the midst of all this, is that our struggle against sin and the besetting issues of our lives is never just about ourselves. If we inherit a burden within our life, so our salvation, our struggles with that burden, involve not only ourselves but those who have gone before as well as those who come after. We struggle as the “Whole Adam” (in the phrase of St. Silouan).

There is an Athonite saying: “A monk heals his family for seven generations.” When I first heard this, my thought was, “In which direction?” The answer, I think, is every direction. We are always healing the family tree as we embrace the path of salvation, monk or layman. Our lives are just that connected.

When the Virgin Mary sings her hymn of praise to God, she says, “All generations will call me blessed.” This expresses far more than the sentiment that she will be famous (how shallow). It has echoes of God’s word to Abraham, “In you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). It is in the Offspring of Mary that the word to Abraham is fulfilled. In the Scriptures, God is pleased to be named the “God of Abraham.” That His name is tied to that of a human being brings no offense. Indeed, paradise itself is called the “bosom of Abraham.” It is right and proper that Christians should see the same treatment in the Virgin, the one in whom all these things are fulfilled.

“All generations” is a term that includes everyone – not just those who would come after her. For the salvation of the human race, in all places and at all times, is found only in Jesus, the Offspring of Mary. She is “Theotokos,” the “Birthgiver of God.” Mary is exalted in the bosom of Abraham.

When I look in the mirror these days, I see the unmistakable reflection of my father. No doubt, his reflection is seen elsewhere in my life, both for good and ill. I’m aware that some of my struggles are with “my daddy’s demons.” Of course, my vision is limited to just a few generations. I see my own struggles reflected in the lives of my children (for which I often want to apologize). I do not see the link that runs throughout all generations – throughout all the offspring of Adam – it is too large to grasp. What I do see, however, is the singular moment, the linchpin of all generations that is the Mother of God. In her person we see all generations gathered together. Her “be it unto me according to your word” resounds in the heart of every believer, uniting them to her heart whose flesh unites us to God.

Across the world, the myriad generations of Christians have sung ever since:

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

To which we add:

More honorable than cherubim,
And more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim,
Without corruption you gave birth to God the Word,
True Theotokos, we magnify you!

We are her people. Glory to God!


Sunday before the Nativity of Christ in the Holy Orthodox Church


Icon from here

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Diocese of Los Angeles & the West

On this day, the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ in the Holy Orthodox Church, we have been enjoined by our holy and God-bearing Fathers to make commemoration of all them that from the beginning of time have been well-pleasing unto God, from Adam even unto Joseph the Betrothed of the Most Holy Theotokos, according to genealogy, as Luke the Evangelist hath recounted historically; and likewise for the Prophets and Prophetesses, especially of Daniel the Prophet and the three holy youths.

It is also known as the Sunday of the Holy Genealogy.  We remember the aforementioned names, those in the Old Testament who were related to Christ by blood, and those who spoke of His Birth as a man.  In the Divine Liturgy, we shall read of Jesus Christ’s lineage from the Gospel of Saint Matthew.  In this way, the Church shows us that Christ truly became a man, taking on human nature.  He was not a ghost, an apparition, a myth, a distant imagined god, or the abstract god of philosophers; such a god does not have a family tree.  Our God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He has flesh and blood, human ancestors—many of whom sinned greatly, but like David, also repented greatly.  Yet, all of these righteous ones in every age had been well-pleasing to God because they loved Him.  By taking on human nature, the Son of God became like us in all ways, in flesh and blood, in mind and soul, and in heart and will. He differed from us in only one way: He could not sin.  Since we know that Christ’s human nature remained sinless, He is also fully divine, and He shows us the way in which we can avoid sin, and so improve and transform our human nature.

Orthodox Church in America

Adam and Eve (the first-created), the righteous Abel, son of Adam, the righteous Seth, son of Adam, the righteous Enos,son of Seth, the righteous Kenan, son of Enos, the righteous Mehaliel (Maleleim), son of Kenan, the righteous Jared, son of Mehaliel, the righteous Enoch, son of Jared, the righteous Methuselah, son of Enoch, the righteous Lamech, son of Methuselah, the righteous Noah, son of Lamech, the righteous Shem, son of Noah, the righteous Japheth, son of Noah, the righteous Arphachshad, son of Shem, the righteous Canaan, son of Arphachshad (in some versions of the OT, Canaan is called the son of Ham), the righteous Shelah, son of Canaan (some versions of the OT call Shelah the son of Arphachshad), the righteous Eber (from whom the Hebrews take their name), son of Shelah, the righteous Peleg, son of Eber, the righteous Ragab (Reu), son of Peleg, the righteous Serug, son of Ragab, the righteous Nahor, son of Serug, the righteous Terah, son of Serug.

The Holy Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, icon from Menologion of Emperor Basil II, phoro from here

The holy Patriarchs: the righteous Patriarch Abraham, son of Terah, the righteous Patriarch Isaac, son of Abraham, the righteous Patriarch Jacob, son of Isaac, the righteous Patriarch Reuben, son of Jacob and Leah, the righteous Patriarch Simeon, son of Jacob and Leah, the righteous Patriarch Levi, son of Jacob and Leah, the righteous Patriarch Judah (Christ was of this tribe), the righteous Patriarch Zebulon, son of Jacob and Leah, the righteous Patriarch Issachar, son of Jacob and Leah, the righteous Patriarch Dan, son of Jacob and Bilhah (Rachel's maid), the righteous Patriarch Gad, son of Jacob and Zilpah (Leah's maid), the righteous Patriarch Asher, son of Jacob and Zilpah, the righteous Patriarch Naphthali, son of Jacob and Bilhah, the righteous Patriarch Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, the righteous Patriarch Benjamin, son of Jacob and Rachel.

The righteous Pharez and Zerah, twin sons of Judah, the righteous Hezron, son of Pharez, the righteous Aram, son of Hezron, the righteous Aminadab, son of Aram, the righteous Nahshon, son of Aminadab, the righteous Salmon, son of Nahshon, the righteous Boaz, son of Salmon, the righteous Obed, son of Boaz and Ruth, the righteous Jesse, son of Obed.

The holy Prophet-King David, son of Jesse, King Solomon, son of David, King Rehoboam, son of Solomon, King Abijah, son of Rehoboam, King Asa, son of Abijah, King Jehosaphat, son of Asa, King Joram (Jehoram, an evil king), son of Jehosaphat, King Ochoziah (Ahaziah), son of Joram, King Jotham, son of Uzziah (Oziah), King Ahaz (a faithless king), son of Jotham, King Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, King Manesseh, son of Hezekiah, King Amos (Ammon), son of Manesseh, King Josiah, son of Amos, King Jechoniah, son of Josiah.

Shealtiel, son of Jechoniah, Zerubbabel (who led captives back to Jerusalem, and laid the foundations of the new Temple), son of Shealtiel, Abiud, son of Zerubbabel, Eliachem, son of Abiud, Azor, son of Eliachem, Zadok, son of Azor, Achim, son of Zadok, Eliud, son of Achim, Eleazar, son of Eliud, Matthan, son of Eleazar, Jacob, son of Matthan, St Joseph the Betrothed, son of Jacob.

The righteous Melchizedek, King of Salem, the righteous Job, the holy Prophet Moses, the priests Hur and Aaron, Joshua, son of Nun.

The holy prophet Samuel, the holy prophet Nathan, the holy prophet Daniel, the three holy youths Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

The righteous Sarah, wife of Abraham, the righteous Rebecca, wife of Isaac, the righteous Leah, first wife of Jacob, the righteous Rachel, second wife of Jacob, the righteous Asineth, wife of Patriarch Joseph the all-comely, the righteous Miriam, sister of Moses, the righteous Deborah, Judge of Israel and prophetess, the righteous Ruth, wife of Boaz, the righteous woman of Zarephath, to whom Elias was sent (3 Kings 17), the righteous woman of Shunem, who was hospitable to Elisha (4 Kings 4), the righteous Judith, slayer of Holofernes, the righteous Esther, who delivered Israel from death, the righteous Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel, the righteous Susanna.

By their holy intercessions, O God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.

See also 

Troparion — Tone 2

Great are the accomplishments of faith, / for the Three Holy Youths rejoiced in the source of the flame, as if by restful waters,1 / and the Prophet Daniel appeared / as a shepherd of lions as of sheep. / By their prayers, O Christ God, save our souls.

Kontakion — Tone 6

(For when the Sunday before the Nativity falls on December 18-19)

You would not worship an image made by hands, O thrice-blessed youths; / but shielded by the ineffable Essence, you were glorified through your ordeal by fire. / In the midst of the unbearable fire you called upon God, crying: / "Hasten, O compassionate One, / and in Your mercy come to our aid, / for if You will, You can do so."2

Kontakion — Tone 1

(For when the Sunday before the Nativity falls on December 20-24)

Be glad, O Bethlehem! Prepare yourself, O Ephratha; / for the Lamb is on her way to give birth to the Great Shepherd she carries in her womb. / The God-bearing Fathers will rejoice, beholding Him, / and with the shepherds, they will praise the Virgin who nurses Him.

1 Psalm 22/23:2
2 Luke 5:12

Saint Gregentios of Ethiopia (December 19)


Our father among the saints Gregentios of Himyaritia,[1][2] also Gregentios of Taphar,[3] Gregentios of Ethiopia,[1] Gregentius of Himyar,[4] Gregentius Tephrensis,[5] Grigentius of Omir,[6] Gregory of Omiritia,[2] or Gregory of Omirits,[7] was the missionary Bishop of Himyaritia (Homer, Omirits, in Sourthern Arabia) for over thirty years in the sixth century, when the area was under Aksumite control, playing an important role in the restoration of Orthodox Christianity there after the persecution of Dunaan (Dhû Nuwâs).[8]

Saint Gregentios was filled with the grace of God and possessed the gifts of healing and wonderworking even in his youth.[7] By the grace of God, he accomplished his mission with much zeal and great fruition, bringing into bosom of the Church a great number of the Jews of that area.[1] He reposed peacefully in the year 552 AD, and his feast day is celebrated annually on December 19.


Early Life

St. Gregentios lived in the sixth century AD and came from Mediolanum (Milan). His parents were called Agapios and Theodotia, and were very devout. From a very early age Gregentios was distinguished for his eloquence and for his great virtues,[1] and the Providence of God led him to hierarchical service.

While still a Deacon at Mediolanum, he heard the foretelling of his destiny from a hermit, and then he received confirmation of these words from another spirit-bearing Elder, who lived an ascetic life in the mountains.[7]

When Gregentios went to this holy Schemamonk for guidance, a miracle occurred. As he approached the mountain, he saw a fiery column in the air. He soon realized that the fiery column was actually the man of God coming toward him. That night he saw the Elder standing in the air above the ground. The Elder revealed to St. Gregentios that he must go to Rome to pray in the church of Saints Boniface and Aglaida (December 19); then he would go to Alexandria to become a Bishop; and finally he would arrive in the city of Negran (Najran) in the land of Himyaritia (Homer, Omer, in Southern Arabia) to proclaim the Gospel.[7]

Sts Boniface & Aglaida, from here

St. Gregentios felt himself unworthy of this, and wished to remain with the ascetic as his disciple. So that Gregentios should have no doubts of the veracity of his words, the Elder revealed that he knew a secret about him. In a vision, Gregentios had seen the First-Ranked Apostles Peter and Paul, and they had placed a Bishop's Omophorion upon him.[7]

St. Gregentios stayed a short time in Carthage (North Africa) serving as a Deacon, and then arrived in Rome. He went to the church of Saints Boniface and Aglaida, then to the tomb of St. Peter. There he was granted a vision of the holy Apostle, who told him to walk the path of virtue and to live according to God's will. That night he saw also the Apostle Paul in a dream bringing to him a cup filled with oil, foretelling that he should receive the grace of the priesthood and the episcopacy.[7]

In Alexandria


Blessed Elesbaan, King of Axum (Ethiopia), and Ascetic (October 24).

After going to Constantinople and becoming known to Emperor Justin I (518-527) and to the Patriarch, he subsequently visited Alexandria.[1]

During this time the armies of the Ethiopian Emperor Elesbaan (October 24)[9][10] vanquished the Himyarite king Dunaan (Dhu Nuwas), who was of Jewish background and had been persecuting the Christians there and cruelly exterminating all the clergy.[note 1] Thus the Himyaritian city of Negran (Najran) was liberated, and Christianity was restored in the land of Himyaritia.

Elesbaan then sent emissaries to the Patriarch of Alexandria asking him to send a Bishop to Negran who was educated and virtuous, as well as clergy for the churches.[7] While the Patriarch of Alexandria was praying about this, the holy Apostle Mark appeared to him, bidding him to find a Deacon named Gregentios, who was to be ordained to the Priesthood, consecrated as a Bishop, and then to be sent to Elesbaan.[7]

The Patriarch did this, electing Gregentios for this mission. During the ordination service a miracle took place. St. Gregentios' face shone with the grace of the Holy Spirit, and from his vestments came a sweet fragrance like myrrh or incense, filling the whole church with the scent.[7]

In Himyaritia


Himyarite (Homerite) Kingdom (red), in ancient Yemen (3rd c. AD).

Arriving in Himyaritia (Homer, Omer), a region with many Jews,[note 2] St. Gregentios began to set the Church in order, preaching to both pagans and Jews, and performing his ecclesiastical duties excellently.

After three years Elesbaan returned to Ethiopia (Kingdom of Aksum), leaving the noble Abramius behind as King of the Himyarite Kingdom,[note 3] whom St. Gregentios crowned and anointed as king. Shortly afterwards Abramius issued a decree that all of his subjects were to be baptized.[7]

Debate with the Jews

Then certain prominent Jews turned to the Emperor saying that it was better for people to believe willingly rather than under compulsion. A particularly astute interlocutor from among them was Rabbi Ervan (Herban, Ervas).

They requested that Abramius should permit a debate on faith to be held between them and the Christians, vowing that if the Christians proved victorious in this debate, the Jews would then accept Baptism. The Jews were given forty days to prepare for the debate, which lasted for several days.[7]

St. Gregentios of Himyaritia.

St. Gregentios however, with his wise arguments and righteousness, and with the divine grace of God, refuted all of the arguments of the Hebrew Elder, Rabbi Ervan, using only texts from the Old Testament.[7]

Then in a vision, Ervan beheld the holy Prophet Moses, who worshipped the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophet Moses told Ervan that Ervan was in opposition to the truth and would be defeated. But Ervan would not acknowledge his defeat. He made a last desperate attempt. He said, "If you want me to believe in your Christ, and to acknowledge that yours is the true God, then show Him to me, Bishop!" The Saint replied: "Your request is impertinent. It is not with man that you contend now, but with God. However, the Lord can do what you have asked in order to convince you."[7]

Everyone waited to see what would happen. St Gregentios, having steadfast faith in God and trusting in Him, began to pray aloud. He recalled the mystery of the Incarnation of God the Word, the miracles of His earthly life, the Three-day Resurrection and the Ascension into Heaven, and he invoked the power of the Life-Creating Cross. "Show Thyself to these people, O Lord," he prayed, "and glorify Thy holy Name!" When he finished the prayer, the earth quaked, and in the east the heavens were opened, and in a radiant cloud of light the Lord Jesus Christ came down on earth, and the Voice of the Lord was heard:

"Through the prayers of Bishop Gregentios, He Whom your fathers put to death will heal you."[7]

Like Saul, who was struck blind by the Heavenly light on the road to Damascus, the Jews were struck blind. Then they believed in Christ and they implored the holy Bishop to heal them.[7] Upon receiving holy Baptism, all of them were healed. Rabbi Ervan (Herban, Ervas) was baptized in the presence of the king, and received the Christian name Leo (meaning "lion"), and was honored with the office of Patrician.[1] Thus by the grace of God, Christian truth prevailed.


After this most extraordinary miracle, St. Gregentios guided the flock of Himyaritia (Homer, Omer) for another thirty years, accomplishing his mission with much zeal and great fruition, and managing to bring into bosom of the Church most of the Jews of that area.[1][7] Legend has it that the number of Jews converted and baptized was 5,500,000.[11]

He reposed peacefully on December 19, 552, and his loss was lamented by many people.[1] He was buried in a crypt in the cathedral of Afar.[7]

Christianity is a minority religion in Yemen today. The World Christian Encyclopedia (Second edition, Volume 1), states that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church are the largest denominations in Yemen.

As Author

A Disputatio cum Herbano Judaeo , which Krumbacher assigns to the time of Justinian, is attributed to Gregentius, Bishop of Taphar in Himyaritic Arabia. When Herban asserts that Solomon controlled all demons, the Bishop replies:

"Σολομων εταπεινωσε δαιμονας; ουκ οιδας τι διαγορευεις. προς καιρον μεν ησφαλισατο τουτους εν τοις αγγειοις και σφραγισας κατεχωσεν." 

The use of the article with αγγειοις marks the detail as well known, and the sentence evidently summarizes the story told in the modern Greek manuscript.[12]

See also


In ouf blog

The holy Apostle Philip (one of the Seven Diacons) & the 1st Ethiopian Christian (October 11)

Moses the Ethiopian, the Black Saint & Teacher (& other Ethiopian saints in the Orthodox Church)

Orthodox Ethiopia 

OODE - ኦርቶዶክሳዊ ትምህርተ ዶግማ መድረክ // Amharic Eastern Orthodox website (ምስሉ ላይ ጠቅ ያድርጉ)

Other Languages

  • (French)
Grégence de Safar. French Wikipedia.
  • (Greek)
Γρηγέντιος Ταφάρ. Greek Wikipedia.
  • (German)
Gregentios. German Wikipedia.


  1. Ethiopian tradition states that Elesbaan eventually abdicated his throne, gave his crown to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, and retired to a monastery.
    (S.C. Munro-Hay. Aksum: An African Civilization of Late Antiquity. (Edinburgh: University Press, 1991), p.88f.)


  1. Robert P. Casey, Silva Lake, and Agnes K. Lake (Eds.). Quantulacumque: Studies presented to KIRSOPP LAKE by Pupils, Colleagues, and Friends. London: Christophers, 1937. p.6.


Ὁ Ὅσιος Γρηγέντιος Ἐπίσκοπος Αἰθιοπίας. 19 Δεκεμβρίου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
  • Gregentius, Bishop, sent as bishop to South Arabia when the area was under Aksumite control. He played an important role in the restoration of Christianity there after the persecution of Dhû Nuwâs. He is believed to have been the author of Legis Homeritanum.

Further Reading

  • In the late 10th century, an anonymous author wrote an account of a religious dialogue between Archbishop Gregentios and the Jewish scribe Herban and included it in a life of Gregentios based on earlier sources, which indicate that he was a missionary in Yemen in pre-Islamic times. Albrecht Berger examines and translates these texts, and he presents a critical edition.
  • (Greek)

, (Latin)

8vo., [8], 204 leaves, printed in Greek with Latin translation on facing pages; contemporary vellum.
  • First edition of the single surviving work of St. Gregentius, the sixth-century archbishop of Taphar (i.e. Dhafar) in South Arabia. It is a debate - in dialogue form - between Gregentius and a learned Jewish rabbi, Herban. The debate took place at Taphar, in the presence of the King, Abramius, many bishops, a number of Jews, and the whole population of the city: it was terminated by the miraculous appearance of Jesus Christ and the infliction of blindness upon the Jews, who were, however, restored to sight on their believing and being baptized. Legend has it that the number of Jews converted and baptized in consequence was 5,500,000. The Greek text is accompanied by a Latin translation by Nicolas Goulu. There are introductory verses by his father-in-law Jean Dorat.
  • According to the contemporary sources, after seizing the throne of the Himyarites, in ca. 518 or 523 Dhū Nuwas attacked the Aksumite (mainly Christian Ethiopians) garrison at Zafar, Yemen, capturing them and burning their churches. He then moved against Najran, a Christian and Aksumite stronghold. After accepting the city's capitulation, he massacred those inhabitants who would not renounce Christianity. Estimates of the death toll from this event range up to 20,000 in some sources. (Dhu Nuwas. Wikipedia.)
  • According to Yemenite Jewish tradition, the Jews of Najran traced their origin to the Ten Tribes. (Najran. Wikipedia.)
  • Great Synaxaristes (Greek)
    Ὁ Ὅσιος Γρηγέντιος Ἐπίσκοπος Αἰθιοπίας. 19 Δεκεμβρίου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
  • Sainted Gregory, Bishop of Omiritia (Himyaritia). HOLY TRINITY RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH (A parish of the Patriarchate of Moscow).
  • Albrecht Berger (Ed.). Life And Works of Saint Gregentios, Archbishop of Taphar. Millennium Studies 7. Walter de Gruyter, Tra edition, October 30, 2006. 915 pp. ISBN 9783110184457
  • Saint Gregentius, Bishop of Himyar. Macedonian Orthodox Church - Archdiocese of Ohrid.
  • Gregentius Tephrensis. Disputatio cum Herbano Judaeo, Graece edita, cum Interpretatione ... N.K. Nic. Gulonij .... 1603.
  • Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic. Saint Gregory (Grigentius), Bishop of Omir. The Prologue from Ohrid. Serbian Orthodox Church Diocese of Western America.
  • St Gregory the Archbishop of Omirits. OCA - Feasts and Saints.
  • Sergew Hable-Selassie. Gregentius, fl. 6th century, Orthodox. Dictionary of African Christian Biography.
  • Blessed Elezboi, Emperor of Ethiopia. HOLY TRINITY RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH (A parish of the Patriarchate of Moscow).
  • Blessed Elesbaan the King of Ethiopia. OCA - Feasts and Saints.
  • Bernard Quaritch Ltd. (Rare Books & Manuscripts).GREGENTIUS, Saint, Archbishop of Taphar. Disputatio cum Herbano Iudaeo. Paris, Fédéric Morel, 1586. £1500.00.