15 December 2021

Praying in Advent 2021:
18, Saint Nino of Georgia

Saint Nino, who brought Christianity to Georgia, is celebrated on 15 December

Patrick Comerford

This is a busy day, with project meetings in Rathkeale, and a select vestry meeting this evening. But, before this busy day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

Each morning in my Advent calendar this year, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Reflections on a saint remembered in the calendars of the Church during Advent;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

This morning, my choice of saint is Sant Nino, who is remembered in the calendars of many Orthodox Churches on 15 December as the patron saint of Georgia, but who seems almost unknown in the Churches of the West.

Saint Nino (Greek, Αγία Νίνα, Agía Nína) is called Equal to the Apostles and the Enlightener of Georgia. Saint Nina (ca 296 to ca 338 or 340) She preached Christianity in Caucasian Iberia, in what is now part of Georgia, bringing Christianity to Iberia and the royal house.

Most traditions say she belonged to a Greek-speaking Roman family from Kolastra or Colastri in Cappadocia. Her father was a Roman general Zabulon and her mother was Sosana or Susan. Her father’s family was related to Saint George; on her mother’s side, her uncle was Patriarch Houbnal I of Jerusalem. She is said to have come to ancient Iberia or Georgia from Constantinople.

In her childhood, Nino was brought up by the nun Niofora-Sarah of Bethlehem. With the help of her uncle the patriarch, she went to Rome and there she decided to preach the Gospel in Iberia. On her way, she escaped persecution by the Armenian King Tiridates III of Armenia, but the other members of her community of 35 were tortured and beheaded by Tiridates.

The Iberian Kingdom had been influenced by the neighbouring Persian Empire, then the regional power in the Caucasus, and King Mirian III and his people worshiped the syncretic gods Armazi and Zaden.

Soon after Saint Nino arrived in Mtskheta, an ailing Queen Nana sked to meet her. Saint Nino performed miraculous healings, and Queen Nana’s health was restored. She converted to Christianity and was baptised by Saint Nino herself.

Later, King Mirian III of Iberia was lost in darkness and blinded on a hunting trip. He found his way home only after he prayed to ‘Nino’s God.’ King Mirian declared Christianity the official religion of his kingdom ca in 327, making Iberia the second Christian state after Armenia.

After Georgia adopted Christianity, King Mirian sent an ambassador to Byzantium, asking Emperor Constantine I to have a bishop and priests sent to Iberia. Constantine granted the new church land in Jerusalem and sent a delegation of bishops to the court of the Georgian King. In 334, King Mirian commissioned building the first church in Iberia. It was completed in 379, and the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral now stands on the site in Mtskheta.

Saint Nino continued her missionary activities among Georgians until she died. Her tomb is in the Bodbe Monastery in Kakheti, east Georgia.

All 35 members of her original community, including Saint Nino, have been canonised by the Armenian Apostolic Church. Nino and its variants remain the most popular name for women and girls in the Georgia.

Luke 7: 18b-23 (NRSVA):

18 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. So John summoned two of his disciples 19 and sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ 20 When the men had come to him, they said, ‘John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” ’ 21 Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. 22 And he answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. 23 And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (15 December 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the Church of North India, comprised of 27 dioceses across northern India.

An icon showing Saint Nino and episodes in her life

Yesterday: Saint Lucy of Syracuse

Tomorrow: Saint Eleftherios

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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