The Illuminator

Today the church remembers an obscure (to Westerners) Armenian saint with a cool name: Gregory the Illuminator, Bishop of Armenia and Trailblazer.

We don’t know much that is verifiable about St. Gregory’s early years. Lore and legend have crept up around his historical life that he is a giant standing upon the stories others tell of him.

Nevertheless, we know he was born around the mid-3rd Century, and was baptized as a child while in hiding (perhaps his father was the assassin of the Persian King Khrosrov I?), and a married St. Gregory returns to Armenia in the late 3rd Century and converted King Tiridates III to Christianity.

Around the year 300 St. Gregory was consecrated Bishop of Armenia, and under his leadership Armenia was the first country to officially adopt Christianity as the national religion, paving the way (for better or for worse) for Constantine to do the same.

The Armenian Church continues to have a strong Christian presence, and is a companion to the Anglican Communion (though not officially part of it).

St. Gregory is called “The Illuminator” because he sought to bring Gospel light to Armenia. Toward the end of his life he appointed his son Aristages to be chief Bishop in his place, and lived out his remaining years in holy solitude.

St. Gregory the Illuminator is a reminder for me, and can be for the whole church, that a good and righteous life can be eaked out of tragic beginnings. The sins of the parents need not trickle down to the children. Though his father (probably) was a murderer, he went on to shape a whole nation for good.

-historical bits from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations