Saints

ST. GREGORY’S COMMITMENT TO THE PIT

During Great Lent, saints are commemorated only on Saturdays. During the remainder of the year saints can be honored on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Saturdays (except during Eastertide where there is not any commemoration of saints).

This Saturday, April 2, the Armenian Church celebrates one of the three days in its liturgical calendar devoted to St. Gregory the Illuminator, the patron saint of the Armenian Church. The three days are: Descent into the Pit, Emergence from the Pit, and Discovery of his remains. This Saturday is the commemoration of his commitment to the Deep Pit (Khor Virab).

Gregory maintained his faith and refused to renounce Christ. As a result, he endured many tortures and his final punishment was banishment into a deep pit where he remained for a period of about thirteen years. Miraculously he survived, thanks to his faith and, according to tradition, an angelic woman (identity unknown) who lowered food and water into the pit.

The Monastery of Khor Virab is a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims who visit Armenia. The monastery was built on the exact location where St. Gregory was imprisoned. The pit is accessible, and it is possible for visitors to climb down the ladder (27 steep steps) into the pit. The church, named Sourp Asdvadzadzin, dates to the 17th century. The area is one of the most beautiful in Armenia and provides stunning views of Ararat. The area surrounding Khor Virab is the site of the ancient Armenian capital, Artashat, founded by King Artashes I about 180 BC.

Come, let us exalt on this day the spreader of the spiritual light to us who sat in darkness, the holy patriarch Gregory. Come, let us exalt on this day the distributor to the sons of Torkom of the undefiled gifts of the Holy Spirit who gave us a new birth as sons of the light. Come, let us exalt on this day the proclaimer of the divine word in the land of Armenia. On this day the Church and her children sing with the angels, on this day of memory of the enlightener ascribing glory to God in the highest.

(Canon to St. Gregory the Illuminator, Commitment to the Pit, from the Liturgical Canons of the Armenian Church)