About the Commemoration
Gregory, who was born about 257, is called “the Illuminator” or “the Enlightener” because he brought the light of the gospel to the people of Armenia. Extravagant legend clouds the details of Gregory’s life. He is said to have been the son of a Parthian who assassinated the Persian King Khrosrov I. The infant Gregory was taken for safety to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he was baptized and brought up. He married and had two sons, returned to Armenia about 280, and converted King Tiridates (Tradt) III. Gregory, in about 300, was consecrated a bishop at Caesarea and spent the rest of his life preaching and organizing the church in Armenia. Shortly before his death, Gregory, having appointed his son Aristages to be chief bishop (katholikos) of the Armenian Church in his place, withdrew into solitude.
Armenia was the first country to become officially a Christian nation and thus set a precedent for the adoption of Christianity by the Roman Emperor Constantine.
Gregory is on the calendar in the Book of Common Prayer because the Anglican Communion has enjoyed a warm friendship with the Armenian Church for many years. He is not included in the General Roman Calendar.
Excerpts from New Book of Festivals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints by Philip H. Pfatteicher, copyright, 2008 by Fortress Press, an imprint of Augsburg Fortress.
See also: Gregory the Illuminator
From The Life of St. Gregory the Illuminator by Agathangelos
Throughout the whole land of Armenia, from end to end, Gregory extended the labor of preaching the Gospel.
All the time of his life, summer and winter, day and night, intrepidly and without hesitation in his course of preaching the good word, before the king and princes of all the heathen without let or hindrance he bore the name of Jesus the Savior of all, and he furnished every soul with divine vesture and spiritual arms.
He afforded salvation to many prisoners and captives and people oppressed by tyrants, freeing them by the awesome power of Christ’s glory….And to many in mourning or disheartened, through his consoling teaching he gave the expectation of hope in the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior of all, Jesus Christ. And he turned everyone to the state of true piety….He himself at frequent intervals went out to deserted mountains where he made himself an example. He took various of the pupils from each monastery and went to live in the mountains in solitude; in grottoes and caverns they made herbs their daily food.
Agathangelos, History of the Armenians, chap. 13, trans. R. W. Thomson (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1976), 377-85.
Almighty God whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your sen ant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who calls us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Readings: Psalm 33:6-11 or 98:1-4; Acts 17:22-31; Matthew 5:11-16
Hymn of the Day: “Lord of light, your name outshining” (LBW 405, ELW 688)
Prayers: For the church and people of Armenia; For all who preach the gospel in the face of opposition and hardship; For the light of Christ to shine in the darkness of the world.
Preface: Apostles (BCP)