Commemorated on May 7
Monk John Zedazeni
and his Twelve Disciples: Habib, Bishop of Nekress, Anthony of Martkob, David
of Garej, Xeno of Ikalto, Thaddeus of Stepantsmind, Ise Bishop of Tsilkan,
Joseph Bishop of Alaverdi, Isidor of Samtavi, Michael of Ulumbi, Pyrrhos of
Breti, Stephen of Khyri, Shio of Mgvim – were holy Syrian (Cappadocian)
ascetics, the founders of Gruzian-Georgian monasticism, having arrived in
Gruzia from Cappadocia in the mid-VI Century. The holy Thirteen Cappadocian
Fathers were actually Gruzinians, who received their spiritual schooling at the
reknown Laura of Saint Simeon the Pillar-Dweller and at other monasteries of
Syria and Mesopotamia, with the intent to return to their native land and
assist in its Christian enlightenment.
Saint John Zedazeni,
the head of these ascetics, received his spiritual schooling at Antioch.
Accounts have not been preserved about the place of his birth nor about his
kin. In his youthful years he accepted monasticism and devoted himself to a
solitary ascetic life, gaining afterwards an amazing geniality, humility and
gift of wonderworking. The fame of his spiritual exploits attracted to him a
throng of disciples, from which number Saint John Zedazeni chose by lot 12 men,
and in fulfilling the command of the Mother of God, he set off with them to
Gruzia. Along the way they received blessing from Saint Simeon the Younger
Pillar-Dweller (+ 596), and at Mtsketia, the ancient capital of Gruzia,
traversing "with undampened feet" the River Kura, they were joyfully
met by the people, by the emperor Parsman (542-557), and by the
Archbishop-Katholikos Eulabios (552-560). The chronicles relate, that the holy
Cappadocian Fathers spoke in the Gruzian language to those meeting them, and
going into the Svetitskhoveli cathedral church and prostrating themselves
beneathe the Life-Creating Pillar (the hagiographic account about it is located
under 1 October), they glorified and gave thanks to God. With the blessing of
Katholikos Eulabios, Saint John together with his disciples settled on Mount
Zedazeni (from which Saint John gets his name – Zedazeni), where formerly
there had been a pagan-temple and an idol erected. The ascetics lived in
lean-to huts, they ate grasses and roots, and they were constantly at prayer
and spiritual meditation. A multitude of the sick flocked to them, receiving
healing through their prayerful intercession. After the choosing of Saints
Habib and Ise as bishops, the Mother of God appeared to Saint John in a dream
and commanded him to send out his disciples into various parts of Gruzia, for
the preaching of the Word of God and for pastoral edification. Hearkening to
the instructions of Saint John, certain of the disciples set off to Kakhetia
(Xeno, and later Stephen), others to Kartalin (Pyrrhos, Michael, Thaddeus and Isidor).
The accounts about the other saints – Habib, Anthony, David, Ise, Joseph, Shio
– are located respectively under: 29 November, 19 January, 2 December, 15
September, 9 May.
taught the nation, they instructed it in the faith, they abolished the darkness
of superstition and they did away with what remained in the mountain gorges of
pagan temples and idol-worship, in place of which they erected the holy cross
and holy churches, and they established within the nation a civil
Saint Xeno, "a
pillar of sweet obedience", while completing his preaching in the
mountains of Upper Kakhetia, founded a monastery at Ikalto, whereat also after
great efforts he was buried in the cathedral church in honour of the Image of
the Saviour Not‑Wrought-by-Hand.
Saint Thaddeus (in
Gruzinian "Tate") at first remained at Mtsketia, organising at the
bidding of Saint John the monastery at the foot of Mount Zedazeni, for
instructing those that had come. After the death of Saint John, Saint Thaddeus
preached in Kartalin, where he founded many churches, among which was a temple
in honour of the holy First-Martyr Stephen in the city of Urbnisi. Later on he
settled in a cave on Mount Tslevi near the city of Kaspi, at which summit he
likewise founded a church in honour of the holy First-Martyr Stephen. In this
cave at the church which he founded, there were buried the relics of Saint
Thaddeus, "an image of pure truth and faith".
Saint Isidor, "a
vineyard of virtues", after his prolonged apostolic exploits, established
a monastery at Samtavisi in honour of the Image of the Saviour
Not-Wrought-by-Hand, and here also rest his relics.
Saint Michael toiled
much in the furthering of Christianity in the mountains of Upper Kartalin and
Osetia. In the vicinity of Ulumbi he founded a large monastery. In the
cathedral church of this monastery, which in the XIX Century was converted into
a parish church, rest his holy relics.
"a Divine image of tears", founded a monastery on the left bank of
the River Dvanis-Tskhali, near the vicinity of Breti. Within a church of the
monastery were placed his venerable relics.
"wedding knowledge with strength", after prolonged apostolic labours
in Lower Kakhetia, founded a monastery in the vicinity of Khrysa. He was buried
in the cathedral church in honour of the holy First-Martyr Stephen, on the left
side of the altar at the table of oblation.
Having dispersed his
disciples, Saint John Zedazeni kept with him Deacon Elias and absorbed himself
in prayerful exploits.
Saint John had to
withstand the snares of evil spirits, which by the Name of Christ he expelled
from the outskirts of Mtsketa. Through the prayer of Saint John, on Mount Zaden
flowed forth a spring of healing waters. Having received a revelation about his
impending end, the Monk John summoned to him his disciples – the holy Deacon
Elias and Saint Thaddeus of Stepantsmind, whom he commanded to bury him in his
narrow cave on the mountain, at the place of his exploits. Having communed the
Holy Mysteries, the Monk John beheld the heavens opened and the hosts of the
Bodiless Powers of Heaven together with a multitude of the Saints. In spiritual
rapture he gave up his righteous soul to the Lord. The end of Saint John
transpired between the years 557 and 560, during the time of the Katholikos
Makarios (553-569). His disciples, having forgotten his command, in an
assemblage of clergy transported the body of the saint to the monastery at the
foot of Mount Zaden and placed it in a special crypt.
But the earth roundabouts
quaked and the tremours did not cease until the body of Saint John was placed
in the cave atop the mountain, as the monk had commanded. During the X Century
under Katholikos-archbishop Clement (908-923), on the south side of this cave
was built a church in honour of John the Baptist, such that the holy relics of
Saint John Zedazeni were in its chapel in the offertory. They were glorified by
many signs of the mercy of the Lord.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.