Sainted Gregory, Bishop of Omiritia (Himyaritia)
Commemorated on December 19
Bishop of Omiritia (Himyaritia), son of Agapius and Theodotia, from his
youth was filled with the grace of God and possessed gifts of healing and
wonderworking. The Providence of God led him to hierarchical service. While
still in the dignity of deacon at Mediolanum (Milan in Italy) he heard the
foretelling of his destiny from an hermit-elder, and then he received
confirmation of these words from another spirit-bearing schemamonk-elder, who
asceticised in the mountains. When Gregory went to the schemamonk for guidance,
a miracle occurred: the elder appeared upon a fiery column, and by night he saw
him praying above the ground. The elder revealed to Saint Gregory that it was
necessary for him, after praying in Rome to Saints Boniface and Aglaida, to
proceed on to Alexandria and there accept the dignity of bishop, and thereafter
encourage the faith in Christ in the city of Negran, in the Ethiopian empire in
Southern Arabia. And so that Gregory should have no doubts as to the veracity
of his words, the elder indicated, that to him was known a secret mystery: in a
vision there had appeared to Saint Gregory the First-Ranked Apostles Peter and
Paul, and they had placed upon him an hierarch's omophorion.
In fulfilling the will of God, having stayed a short while in Carthage (North Africa) serving as a deacon, Saint Gregory arrived in Rome. There once more he was vouchsafed a vision of the holy Apostle Peter while at the tomb of Saints Boniface and Aglaida, who imposed on him an obedience to help the Christians, suffering for the name of the Lord at Negran. And by night he saw in a dream the Apostle Paul carrying to him a cup with oil, foretokening that he should receive the grace accorded an hierarch.
During this time the armies of the Ethiopian emperor Elezboi (Comm. 24 October) vanquished the Himyarite emperor Dunaan, who was of Hebrew lineage, and the Omiritian city of Negran was liberated, and Christianity restored there. But all the Church hierarchy had been cruelly exterminated by Dunaan, and therefore Elezboi dispatched emissaries to the patriarch of Alexandria to send to Negran a bishop and clergy for the churches. After prayers, the holy Disciple Mark appeared in a vision to the patriarch, bidding him to find a deacon Gregory, who was to be ordained to the dignity of presbyter and then to bishop, and then to be sent to Elezboi. And the patriarch did this. During the time of laying-on of hands there appeared over Saint Gregory a special grace of God: his face shone with an unearthly light, and from his garb issued a fragrance of incense.
Arriving in Omiritia, Saint Gregory began to set in order the Christian holy things, and preached truth to both pagans and Jews. Saint Gregory anointed the new emperor Abraham to the throne, who commanded that all his subjects be baptised. Thereupon certain illustrious Jews turned to the emperor with a request, that he should command a debate on faith to be held between then and the Christians, vowing that if in this debate the Christians prove victorious, the Jews would then accept Baptism. After forty days the debate was arranged, so as to last for several days. Saint Gregory refuted all the arguments of the head of the Hebrew elders, rabbi Ervan, using only text references from the Old Testament. In a vision Ervan beheld the holy Prophet Moses, who worshipped the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophet told Ervan, that Ervan was in opposition to the truth and would be defeated. By the grace of God the Christian truth prevailed in the debate, but Ervan in no way wanted to acknowledge himself bested, and he made a last desperate attempt. He boldly said: "If thou desirest that I in my heart should believe in thy Christ, and that I should acknowledge that thy God – be the True God, – then show Him to me, bishop!" The saint replied: "Thy request is a major one. It now be not with man that thou dost contend, but with God. But, in order to affirm His faith within the people, the Lord wilt work a sign". In fear and with daring the Christians waited to see, what further would happen. Saint Gregory, having steadfast faith in God and tenaciously trusting on Him, began to pray aloud. He recollected the mystery of the Incarnation of God the Word, the miracles during His earthly life, the Three-day Resurrection and the Ascension up to Heaven, and he invoked the power of the Life-Creating Cross: "Show Thyself, O Lord, – prayed the saint, – to the Glory of Thine Holy Name!"
When he finished the prayer, the earth quaked, and in the East the heavens were opened up, and in a radiant cloud, amidst flaming and fiery rays of light the Lord Jesus Christ came down on earth, and thus was heard the Voice of the Lord: "On account of the prayers of bishop Gregory be ye healed of My Crucifixion by your fathers".
Like unto Saul before his becoming Paul, who on the Road to Damascus was struck blind by the Heavenly light, the Jews here were struck blind and they implored the holy bishop to heal them. In receiving holy Baptism, all of them were healed. Rabbi Ervan received the Christian name Leo (meaning "lion").
After this most extraordinary miracle, Saint Gregory guided the Omiritia flock for another thirty years. He reposed in the year 552 and was buried in a crypt of the Great church.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.