ST. GREGORY, B. SURNAMED THE APOSTLE OF ARMENIA,*
AND THE ILLUMINATOR
THIS apostolic man was a native of Greater
Armenia, and by receiving his education at Cæsarea in
Cappadocia, was there instructed in the Christian faith and baptized.
He opened his heart to the lessons of eternal life with so great
ardor as entirely to banish the love of the world and the
concupiscence of the flesh. Having spent some years in the study of
the science of salvation, and in the heroic exercise of all virtues,
he was touched with a vehement desire of procuring the salvation of
his countrymen. This important affair he long recommended to God by
his most fervent prayers, and at length returned to Armenia, and
there preached the faith of our crucified Redeemer. The zeal and
heavenly spirit with which he was animated, and with which he
proclaimed the great truths of eternal life, gave, an irresistible
force to his words; nor were miracles wanting to confirm the holy
doctrine which he announced. The people flocked to him in great
multitudes to receive the holy sacrament of regeneration, and to be
directed in the paths of salvation. The anonymous life of our saint
in Surius says, that he suffered much in this arduous employment; but
that after some time Tiridates, the king of that country, embraced
the faith. We are informed by Eusebius,1 that Maximin Daia, at that
time Cæsar in the East, and a violent persecutor of the Church,
provoked at the wonderful progress which the faith made in Armenia,
invaded that country; but was repulsed with confusion. This was the
first war on account of religion mentioned in history.
St. Gregory was consecrated bishop by St.
Leontius, bishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia, and continued his
labors in propagating the faith over all Armenia, and among many very
barbarous nations near the Caspian sea, as far as Mount Caucasus. He
was called to bliss before Constantine the Great became master of the
East, the Greek menologies say by martyrdom. An anonymous panegyric
of this saint, published among the works of St. Chrysostom,2 mentions
several discourses full of heavenly wisdom to have been written by
him; also an exposition of faith, which he gave to the Armenians. The
Abbé de Villefroi informs us that this exposition of faith and
twenty-three homilies of this glorious saint are preserved in an
Armenian MS. kept in the king’s library at Paris. See this
saint’s life in Surius; the above mentioned panegyrics; Le Brun
sur les Liturgies, t. 3 et 4; Lequien Oriens Christian. t. 1 et 3;
Galanus, Hist. Armen. Narrat. de rebus Armen. by Combefis; and Moses
Chorenensis, in his history of Armenia,1. 2. c. 88 p. 224. This
history was published at London in 4to. in 1736, by William and by
George Whiston, who maintain that the author lived in the fifth age,
but they are certainly mistaken, for the work must be more modern. As
to the life of St. Gregory the Illuminator, attributed by some to St.
Chrysostom, it is apocryphal. See Stilting in vita S. Chrysost. t. 4.
Sept. § 83, p. 663.