HistorySmall Story

Iakob Tsurtaveli – The Passion of Saint Shushanik

And it came about that in the time when the Persians reigned, a certain margrave of the land of Georgia whose name was Vazgen, son of Margrave Ashusha, went to the royal court [of Persia] where he renounced Christianity, submitting himself willingly—not out of necessity or force—to the Persian religion. Vazgen was married to the daughter of Vardan Mamikonean, the commander-in-chief of Armenia—the grandson of Saint Sahak the Parthian, Patriarch of Armenia, [born] of Sahak’s daughter Sahakanush. She had been given the name Vardeni by her parents but was later familiarly called Shushanik, [as she was] pious and fearful of God since her childhood. For her husband’s lewd and dissolute behavior she begged the faithful to pray to God, so that Vazgen might [2] perhaps come to his senses. But when he went to the royal court, she became concerned and suspicious, fearing that he might forsake Christ—which is just what the impious man did. Vazgen renounced the true God to worship fire, forming an alliance with Satan, and requested for himself a Persian wife from the King [of Kings]. The latter consented, and gave to him in marriage the mother of his wife. In return, he [Vazgen] promised to convert his first wife and children to the religion of the Magi.

With such ungodliness and bearing gifts he returned to his land and realm, sending in advance a messenger to announce the good tidings of his arrival. The messenger came before the princess to present her husband’s greetings and the news of his arrival. She inquired: ”Is he indeed spiritually healthy?” And she made the man swear in [the name of] the living God. [3] Shedding tears he uttered: “Your husband renounced Christianity, worshipped at the fire altars and accepted the Persian religion.”

When the pious princess heard this, she collapsed; she wailed bitterly, bemoaning her husband who had forsaken God, and considered her children unfortunate.

After much wailing and lamentation, she went to the church, taking the children with her—for she had three sons and a daughter. She threw herself before the holy altar and said: “Oh Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth and of the creatures therein, by means of the blessed word of your Only Begotten [Son] you set up such a law of liberty [Jas 1:25] that through the seal of the life-bearing font [administered] by ministers who serve you [and] through a new and second birth by means of water and the Spirit [cf. Jn 3:5] we may become children of the light and children of the day, and be cleansed from the corruptible birth of the night [cf. Jn 3:6 and 1 Thes 5:5] which comes into being from the physical contact of a man and a woman. And nourished by the luminous birth in Jesus Christ, we may truly become [4] one flock and one shepherd [Jn 10:16]. Now, I think nothing of these [children], who are physically born of an impious man—mortals born of a mortal. Now, my Lord, if you consider them to be worthy of remaining in [their state of] rebirth in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, keep them true to the right faith and to good works, so that they may live on earth with self-control [Ti 2:12] and worship not the creatures but you, the Creator, who are blessed forever. For the apostate, who is full of impiety, is on his way, coming to ensnare me and my children in the abyss of perdition. And now, O Lord Jesus Christ, I entrust myself and my children to you. For you are Lord and God; I am ready to accept torture and die for your holy name, for you are the true God and unto you is fitting worship and glory for ever and ever.”

In the church the blessed [woman] tearfully offered many other supplications to the Lord of All from morning until evening. When the evening service ended, all the clerics of the church shared her grief. She got up and walked into a small hut that was near the church, and [5] stood at prayer before God, crying and wailing throughout the night, restless because of her grief and eating nothing. And none of those close to her dared to say anything.

And it so happened that Bishop Apots was not in the court of the margrave at that time, and the court chaplain of the princess took the liberty of comforting her with respect to the enormous perils, since she had been without either food or rest for three days and three nights. He told the blessed one: “Remember God and console yourself with the hope of the one who gives patience to the faint-hearted [Is 57:15] and life to those who are brokenhearted [Ps 34:18]. Now, comfort your own self in Christ, fighting the good fight [1 Tm 6:12] with which you live and distinguish yourself; with consolation abandon the temporal and with hope approach God, who is powerful in all matters, even though you have no intimate [6] confidante who could take care of you.” And with many other words he encouraged and consoled the blessed one.

Thereafter, also those who were close to her ventured to beg the blessed one to take food. Hearkening to [their advice] she ate a small amount, and rising, she thanked the Lord. They spent the entire night in prayer, chanting psalms and reading the Divine Scriptures. Thereupon her troubled heart, which was both disturbed and perplexed, was to some degree comforted with the hope of God. And when they [the clerics] finished the morning service, they praised God [Lk 18:43].

The court priest approached the princess and inquired: “What have you decided and what can you do about this war waged against you by the apostate margrave—what about the many wicked deeds that he will do?” The princess replied: “These matters, as well as doubts and concerns about my children, trouble me, for I know [the extent of] the man’s impiety. And for that reason I am stretching out my grief and pining away with tears. Who will give water to [7] my head and fountains of tears to my eyes and a lodging in the wilderness [Jer 9:1-2], so that overwhelmed by the circumstances—carried away from godliness to ungodliness, from light to darkness—I may weep over the perdition of my most impious husband who renounced the true God, and out of anxiety for my children? Who will not cry over the news of such perdition? By the same token, whose ears will bear the news of perdition, if she has no hope for consolation? Whose eyes will tolerate the sight of an impious husband who has forsaken God? Who has words to describe the misery and ill resulting from such calamities? What report of death will in this way destroy both soul and body in Gehanna [Hell] [Mt 10:28]? Which dead person will not leave behind some consolation to his relatives on earth? With which of these shall I drive away my grief so that I might calm down a little? Oh, the perils are many, one on top of the other! Is there a wise and prudent person who could find a solution to these happenings? Speak out, O people! Why, O Lord, do you stand afar [Ps 10:1] and neglect, at a time of stress, [8] trouble and peril, your handmaid, for whom consolation comes from no quarter—neither from overseers, nor relatives, nor loved ones, nor servants, nor maids, nor family members, nor outsiders, nor immigrants, nor those who are at a distance, nor those who are close by, nor from any mortal—but only from God? My faith and entire trust in people and in the world have vanished. I shall turn to the Almighty God, who will save me and give me a dove’s wings, so that with them and the grace of the Holy Spirit I might fly off afar and lodge in the wilderness [Ps 55:7]. May He grant that I receive power from the celestial Providence and find a little relief from this troubled state, which He knows through His wisdom. I am ready to undergo imprisonment, fetters and any manner of torment which the impious apostate may impose on me. For I will abide by God and will die in His name and not forsake the tradition of my holy forefathers, the enlighteners of Armenia. Nor will I be solicited by my opponents who are taking arms against me and the traditions of the truth—namely the profession, worship and [9] praise of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—so that I will remain firm, steadfast and resolute through the power and grace of the Lord, and neither unite with the apostate nor be defiled [by him], but with great patience apply myself to a saintly and righteous life for the glory of God who wants all humans to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth [1 Ti 2:4].”

And with many other words she piteously lamented the fruits of her womb and the barbarity of her impious husband who was coming to declare war against the truth and lay snares, so that by means of apostasy and the abomination of the Persian religion he may entrap his sons and daughter in the chasm of perdition of sin. She [Shushanik] consoled herself with the hope of God, recollecting what is said in the Psalms: My soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and rejoiced [Ps 77:2-3]. And immediately she turned her sadness to joy. In this manner she exhorted herself, entrusting everything to God.

Then the apostate margrave returned to the land of Georgia and to his residence. He summoned his bishops and priests and spoke to them with supplications, promising [to give them] gifts and to treat them better than before. ”Do not loathe my rule,” he said, “and do not be apprehensive of it.” He also sent messages to the princess to let go of her caprice and submit to his will in order to relish the splendor of the world more than before.
When they [the messengers] arrived—and with them also was the margrave’s brother, whose name was Jojik—they were all in tears, reluctant to convey the apostate’s messages. After much wailing and groaning, the bishop and Jojik [11] somehow began to tell what the margrave had said to them.

The princess spoke to the bishop in a harsh tone: “And you are commanding that I unite with an impious man who has forsaken God? Are you suggesting such things like a deceiver [Ti 1:10]? Woe to my wretchedness, for I have no one to console me. Recognize the craftiness of the impious one who is luring me to the chasm of perdition through you. Do not hearken to his words, for through you he pursues the perdition of souls, as [he has done to] himself. I, however, am not deceived, since wisdom has led me to righteousness. I have listened to the Apostolic instruction which recalls the prophet’s word by stating: Go out from their midst and separate yourselves, says the Lord, and do not touch the unclean [Is 61:11], for he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body, and he who unites himself with the Lord is one with Him in spirit [1 Cor 6:16-17]. And where the spirit is, there is freedom [2 Cor 3:17]. And I, the Apostle says, will receive you, and I will be your God and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty [2 Cor 6:17-18]. [12] Since we have these good tidings, my beloved overseers, set me apart from him and I shall unite with Christ, who will save me from a[ny] connection with the apostate, who has been ensnared by Satan of his own free will. And let me worship the living God with all sanctity and righteousness and accept all the torments and ills which the apostate, the enemy of righteousness who has forsaken God, will bring upon me.”

The bishop replied: “What you said is good, but you should consider that he might perchance be provoked to a greater anger and hatred and stir up evil upon evil for the overseers and the people. But if you come, his anger might perhaps subside a little.” The brother of the margrave also begged her in a like manner. As all of them insisted and begged her greatly, she gave in to their wishes and said: “I shall carry out your wish. I know that he is going to inflict pain upon me. Each one of you will go to your place and leave me alone. But I am not alone, for my Lord is with me; in Him I have hoped, for the Lord is my helper and I shall not be afraid of [13] what man can do to me [cf. Ps 56:11, Heb 13:6].”

She went with them, but upon her arrival at the palace she refused to go to her room. Instead, she secluded herself in a hut where she stood at prayer before the Lord God and said: “O Lord, my God, I trust in you [Ps 7:1], have mercy on me, have mercy, you who are the helper of the helpless, the assurance for those who are in doubt, the hope of those in despair, the consolation of those in grief, the joy of those who are troubled, the comfort of those in distress, the arbitrator of those who are deprived. [You provide] health to the sick, happiness to those who are sad, asylum to the persecuted, recovery to those who are fractured, tranquility to those who are in danger, fortune to the poor, offerings to the afflicted, repose to those who are tired, strength to those who suffer, haven to those who are sailing. [You are] the father of orphans, the family of those who are of humble birth, the refuge and great hope of those who turn to you. Give me, O Lord, strength, patience and constancy, so that when the apostate, instigated by the evil one, is indignantly angry with [14] me, I might keep myself immaculate and undefiled [2 Me 7:40], with the true faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. You know, my Lord, that since childhood I have hated and despised sin and loved your commandments. Remember, O benevolent Lord, your servants—namely my forefathers, whose scion I remain—who loved you as the true God. Through their intercession help me in this war which lies before me, for I have no one to help me, neither father, nor brother, nor anyone of my relatives who would either intimately or willingly care for me. You are my God and Lord, my father and pilot [Jas 3:4]. Do not deprive your handmaid of your attendance and mercy. But give me strength to complete the course of my tribulation in the likeness of my ancestors, so that I may become an heir of their share of [eternal] rest. Now, I put my trust in you, who saved Saint Hripsime from the fury of the king, and put to shame the powerful giant. Save my unworthy self from the fury of the apostate, for yours is victory and through you I shall be victorious. Glory to you forever. Amen.”

[15] Having finished her prayer, she remained in the hut for three days without food or drink. She was satisfied with spiritual nourishment, and sang psalms ceaseless day and night.

On the third day, when they went in to have supper, the [margrave] sent his brother Jojik and Jojik’s wife to summon the princess to join them. She refused, but after much solicitation and persuasion, she went, crying with sadness. She possessed a small gospel book belonging to her ancestor Saint Sahak, which she carried with her, and with it she prayed to God in private. She neither ate nor drank anything at that diabolical supper, but was silently in tears, consoled with the memory of the good things promised by God and of the spiritual delights in Jesus Christ. [Thereafter] she returned to her own place.

Greatly irritated [by this], the margrave was provoked to anger. When the banquet ended, [16] each one departed to his own place. [The margrave] sent for her again and summoned her. But she refused to come. Thereupon he himself went, furious like a beast, and dragged her back with the [help of his] servants. And she screamed out: “Lord Jesus, help me!”

He beat her very severely with clubs, and no one could mitigate the man’s anger. The margrave’s brother was quickly notified and he came, but was unable to mollify Vazgen’s fury. Contemptuously sending the brother off to his place, the margrave intensified the merciless blows [on Shushanik] so that no part of her [body] remained untouched by the beating. And she was like a dead person. As the blessed one did not utter a sound, she was assumed to be dead. Enraged to a greater degree, the margrave insulted God and the forefathers of the saintly princess. Overwhelmed and exhausted, he gave orders to drag the blessed one from that place and take her to her hut, for he assumed that she was dead.

[17] Towards morning he [the margrave] went to see the blessed one. When he saw that she was alive, he assigned guards, ordering them not to let any of the women or men visit her—so that she would die in the same [state of] agony. He instructed them to give her barley bread and water for sustenance. Though injured, the blessed one thanked God for becoming worthy of bearing torments in His name, and for being spared any connection with the apostate, as she herself had wished and expected such an outcome of events, which was carried out for the glory of God. As for the margrave, he went about the affairs of his land.

Shortly thereafter, the court priest came and begged the guards to see the blessed princess. After much supplication, he visited her, but she was unable to stand up because of the severe swelling of her body and the blood that had coagulated around her. Upon seeing this, the priest wept bitterly. The blessed princess said: [18] “Do not weep over me, for without the proof of torture and insult, no human can become righteous before God, and as for those who hope in Him, the grace of the Savior does not forsake anyone without mercy. Through these torments I have been cleansed of the filthy bed of an impious husband. I am glad for the tortures that I suffered, for through this I shall attain the noble patrimony of my forefathers in Jesus Christ. And for all of this I have thanked and shall always thank Him.”

The priest begged the blessed one to partake of food, but though she wanted to, she could not because of the severe beating. At last she ate a small amount, and after a few days she recovered a little, all the while—day and night—at prayer at the place where she was incarcerated. In this way she partook a little of the barley bread and the water.

At about that time there arose [an unexpected] threat from some quarter and her children were carried across the Kura River [and] taken to a certain fortress. And one of the children drowned in the river, causing great grief to the [19] margrave and his realm. But when the princess heard [the news], she thanked the Lord saying: “Even though he died physically, he was saved in spirit from the snare of his apostate father, and now glory to God for everything.”

Then the [provincial] governor and the lords of Georgia came to the margrave to console him for [the loss of] his child and to relieve his grief. He sent for the princess so that she might leave the prison and stay in a house under guard until the governor and each one of the lords returned to his place. She gladly carried out the command of the impious man. Upon her arrival there, she displayed herself in a monk’s apparel and according to [monastic] regulation—with an even greater willingness for fasting, prayer, vigilance and tears. She distinguished herself in all the splendid rules, so that all were amazed at the conduct of the saint. For she was so assiduous in her love of God that nothing relaxed her from her labor. For the blessed one was personally decked with all kinds of good works—she was saintly, clean, chaste, immaculate, a despiser of sin, righteous, [20] truthful, correct, a lover of holiness, benevolent, humble, meek, submissive, attentive, obedient, modest, calm, merciful, charitable, hospitable, observant of the fasts, vigilant, well-wishing, tearful, studious, diligent, productive, well-read, ready to listen. She was without malice, or envy or arrogance, never quick to anger, nor greedy, avaricious or vain. But she was a lover of God: ingenious, wise, prudent, a peacemaker, full of devotion to God, who having removed herself from all wicked things, conducted her thoughts in a manner worthy of the calling from heaven, and led her life in a manner worthy of Christ’s Gospel, living immaculately on earth.

And when the magnates returned to their places, the margrave sent for the blessed princess to persuade her to turn away from such caprices and give in to his wishes. He promised [to give] her gifts, and greater majesty and honor than she had enjoyed before. But she would not accept living with an impious man who had forsaken God. Instead, she returned her ornaments and valuable garments to the [21] margrave with the following answer: “What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever, and what fellowship is there between light and darkness, and wliat agreement is there between a temple of God and a prostitute [2 Cor 6:14-16]? Now, through these tortures I have been cleansed of sharing a residence with you, and of my former union with you. I have offered myself to Christ. Neither glory, nor honor, nor majesty, nor anything else of human dimension—[such as] delights and joys—could separate me from the love of Christ. But I shall depart this life with tortures, and shall be near the great King, and shall be imbued with the light that is there, a small promise of which I have received here through the grace of Jesus Christ. For now, I shall carefully abide in this manner with righteous thoughts. Do as you wish. I am ready to die with holiness in the name of Christ, rather than violate the tradition of my holy forefathers.”

[22] They brought the garments and the ornaments [to Vazgen] and told him what the blessed one had said. The impious margrave, becoming more angry, threatened to inflict wicked anguish on the blessed maid of Christ. Because of his rage he could not pardon her. But he went in person, taking with him some of his servants, and found her as she stood at prayer in the church. Relentlessly he went in and beat her severely with a club; finally grabbing her by the hair, he dragged her from the church. And no one dared to lay hold of him in order to deliver the lamb of Christ from the wolf. One of the priests, however, said: “Why are you mercilessly beating her to such a degree?” Vazgen poured his wrath on the priest and struck him very severely, so that all those who were gathered—men and women alike—raised a cry and wept. Like a wicked and untamed beast, he lashed out at all of them.

He dragged the blessed one on the ground, [23] through thorns and stumbling blocks, stones and bushes, and ordered her to be taken to the palace. Her entire body was torn to pieces—for the terrain was rough—and the blood flowed from, her; to the onlookers it appeared as if the ground had been saturated with blood.

Upon his arrival at the palace, the impious one resumed the flogging, worse than before. Yet the saintly maid of Christ uttered not a sound, but gave herself to God and patience; she stood with great fortitude, regarding her torments and the flogging with clubs as if these were nothing. Moreover, the wretched coat that had covered her body and head had been pulled off of her in the course of being dragged; with her head bare, she covered herself with her torn dress and thanked God for whatever happened. And the impious man was neither ashamed nor pitied her, but at the instigation of the wicked [24] one he told her: “Let Christ, the church and the prayers of you and your father, in which you have laid your hope, help you.” He ordered the feet and the hands of the blessed one bound with iron fetters, and had her led to prison, and had chains cast around her neck. He also ordered that iron rods be secured into the wall, and that the chains to be attached to these; then he had the chains and fetters sealed. He set up guards to watch over Shushanik with great alertness and attention and left orders that no one should approach her, and that barley bread and water should be her sole sustenance. He said: “Now rejoice. You have earned the torments and the bitter fetters with which I shall torture you to death.”

The blessed one responded: “I am glad for these torments which you have inflicted on me. For the love of Christ, with these fetters I shall complete the deficiencies of my afflictions and so become worthy of the patrimony of my holy forefathers, whom and [whose] God you insult—you who are estranged from God and are the enemy of righteousness. For the more [25] you intensify my tortures, the more you enhance my joy, which shall not fade, since through these momentary troubles you are preparing for me a much greater glory [cf. 2 Cor 4:17], which will never be shaken [Ps 125:1]. And you shall suffer vengeance from God, the righteous judge, on the day of His coming.”

The impious margrave gave no answer, but was amazed at the temperance and patience of the blessed woman, and leaving her in the same fetters, he left the country.

Three days later, the court priest came [to Shushanik’s cell]; paying off the guards, he called on the blessed one, whom he saw in fetters [but] full of joy and bliss, ceaselessly chanting psalms. He yearned for her bliss, as she tolerated so much in the name of God, suffering torments and bondage. He said: “Blessed are yon among women [Lk 1:42]; you have indeed shown [26] yourself to be a good sprout from noble roots. Henceforth all the faithful shall rightly call you blessed [Lk 1:48], for with the hope of God you vanquished the impious one and inherited a [good] name and courage [2 Me 7:5] in the likeness of Saint Hripsime, with whom you also shall be crowned by the Lord of all and our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

The blessed one answered: “I am unworthy of that saint’s crowns and bliss, for she did not approach an impious man but lived in sanctity, and championing the cause of sanctity she vanquished the evil one, becoming more holy by [shedding] her holy blood together with her comrades. I, on the other hand, lived with an impious man, bore children [to be condemned] to perdition and corruption by a wicked man, though they were reborn by means of the grace of the baptismal font, and I nourished [them] with righteousness, hoping to bring them close to God with the Lord’s instruction and teaching. But [even] they turned out to be unworthy, for they are seeds of wickedness. But there is one consolation: through tortures and iron fetters I [27] have been cleansed of close ties with the apostate. And it became known to all that it was in my hands to be delivered from the tortures, fetters, prison and other tribulations to which I was exposed. And now I shall not be without hope in matters in which I am confident [cf. Jb 11:18], since I gave my back to scourges and my cheeks to blows, and my hands and neck to iron fetters, and I did not turn my face away from shame [Is 50:6], for the Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid of what man can do to me [Ps 56:11, Heb 13:6]. Accordingly in this manner I shall safely depart from this life in a perfect discipline of faith for as long as there is breath in my body, so that I might perchance come into communion with the regiments of saints and enter their resplendent quarters.”

Greatly overjoyed by the princess’ patience, he [the court priest] returned to his residence and on a daily basis secretly inquired about her bondage.

[In the meantime] the margrave had gone to the region of Chor. When the second [series of] tortures and the fetters were applied to Saint [28] Shushanik, the margrave’s brother [Jojik] was not within the boundaries [of Georgia]; but when he heard [of these matters], he was greatly saddened, and he went to beg [the margrave] to undo the fetters. Many days passed before he could barely persuade the man who hated God to remove the chains from her neck alone. But as for the [fetters on] her feet, he had vowed not to unfasten them until the day of his death.

And thus she spent six years in prison in the same fetters, with affliction, starvation, thirst and distress, and for six years she did not waver from that rigorous discipline in which she excelled, through fasting, prayer, vigilance and tears, ceaseless psalmody day and night, with a battered body and horrible fetters, satisfied with a [loaf of] barley bread and water. During the weeks of fasting of Holy Easter [Lent], she ate nothing, save for a paltry amount of vegetables, which she consumed on Saturdays and Sundays.

At the report of her virtue, many men and women—religious as well as laymen—came to see her and to listen to her [talk about] chaste and righteous living. She urged many to let go of the world and whatever there is in the world, and to seek eternal life. Through her prayers the Lord visited many who were faint-hearted: He gave children to those who were barren, release to those who were possessed, good health to those who were afflicted with all manner of sickness, consolation to all those in grief. Through her immaculate prayers, the blessed one gave each person respectively excellent gifts from God’s protection. And whoever visited her returned full of joy. Wherever reports about the saint were heard, the name of the Lord was glorified through her. For that reason, a Persian woman renowned among the Magi (2), whom the Persian physicians had failed to cure of her leprosy, came at the report of the saint, and falling before her asked for healing. Thereupon, the [30] blessed one said: “If you believe in the true God and forsake the religion of the Persians, I shall ask the Lord with prayers and you shall receive healing from God and know the great power of our God.” The Persian woman said: “I believe in the God of the Christians.” She [Shushanik] instructed that the woman be baptized, and she was immediately cured of her leprosy. She praised and blessed God and professed the Holy Trinity, and resigned from the Persian religion to familiarize herself with God, from whom she had received healing. This miracle was narrated throughout the land. The woman herself recounted to the Magi and the chief-magus and the Persian magnates all the wonderful things that God had wrought at the hand of the blessed princess.

. When the margrave heard all these [reports], he was enraged. After four years he returned from his faraway sojourn, and coming [to the place] [31] where the princess was, he subjected the guards to severe tortures and blows, saying: “Did I not give you strict orders to be on guard, [and] not let anyone near her?” He had them beaten to death, and magnified the afflictions of the fettered blessed one in her prison.

And after all of this, the impious margrave, failing to attain what he thought he could, sought other means [to persuade Shushanik]. He located a sorceress, through whom he could try to tear [Shushanik] away from the wonderful faith. The woman accepted [the challenge]. For a year the margrave fought against [Shushanik] by this diabolical means; but to no avail. [On the contrary,] he witnessed her display an even greater [dedication] to God’s will. In this matter, too, he was put to shame, and became the laughingstock of the faithful. Though he never ceased from [entertaining] vain thoughts, he [32] was [continuously] rejected by the blessed one, the way a strong rampart deflects a tool. Moreover, he also had his children convert and submit [to the Persian religion] at the hand of the chief-magus, and made adulations to the king of the Persians in order to receive greater honors from him. And through individuals loyal to him he informed the king about the tortures and the incarceration of the princess, saying: “She is the daughter of Vardan, who stood against the King of Kings, and I shall harass and torture her until death for the reason that she, like her father who devastated the country, did not consent to worship the king’s gods.”

But is there any other need to remember the wicked deeds of this man who sinned in every matter, but who in no way was able to vanquish the spirit of the virtuous and magnanimous [woman], though in the likeness of sea tides [33] surging around a rock he afflicted the saint for six years with different tribulations and ills—blows, imprisonment, starvation, thirst, sorcery? Despite these, the virtuous [woman] remained unharmed, laboring to a greater degree in the name of the Lord God. The clothing on her bare [body] consisted of haircloth with an Antiochene tunic on top; at the head [of her bed there was] a small pillow of leather; [on the ground] a prayer rug; also her feet were bare, and for food [she had] barley bread and water to drink. Also on many occasions it so happened that she went without food; and perfect in every way with those who were perfect in the wonderful traditions of her holy forefathers, she scorned all the perils that threatened her. On many occasions she communed with the heavenly Providence, and He encouraged her to be strong in battle.

And at the beginning of the seventh year of her tribulation, bondage and incarceration, the blessed one was taken ill from the excessive torture and the severe labors, which the holy maid of Christ had [formerly] tolerated.
Jojik, the margrave’s brother, came and prostrated himself before the Holy Sign [= Cross] in front of the princess, and together with his wife they fell before the saintly maid of Christ so that she would bless them. He also confessed his sins and asked for absolution. She instructed [them] to love righteousness and hate iniquity. “You shall carry out all the good works which are against sin and are acceptable to God and are the fruits of repentance, and you shall receive the blessings of God and of the leaders [35] of the church. After doing good works, sin no more, so that no other evil will come to you.” Instructing him with many other stimulating words and blessing [him], she sent him off to his own place.

Also Samuel, the chief of the bishops, and Bishop Hovhan came with priests and deacons—they had [long] supported the blessed one and sympathized with her in her grief—so that they would escort the saint from her great labors to Christ’s haven. In like manner, the lords, gentry, princesses and other cadets [of noble families] of the land of Georgia [came] in order to take part in the invocation of the last rites for the blessed one.

They all sought to have the iron fetters as relics in memory of the saint. She said: “I am not worthy of that, but for your love of God have your way as you wish.” She blessed them [36] all according to each one’s station. And the blessed one said: “May Christ, who is the most perfect one, fill you with all the spiritual blessings and delights.”

She also thanked the court bishop for his concern [for her] as a father and mentor, and asked to be laid away at the site from where she was first dragged, adding: “Do this, if I am worthy.” And thus, taking leave of all and blessing all in Christ, she, together with all those who were gathered, offered victorious thanks to the Holy Trinity in the highest so that she could reach the Heavenly [Father], whom the blessed [woman] sought in order to rise from this world with affliction. God’s saint stood at prayer, and spreading out her arms said: “I thank you, O Lord God, for making my unworthy self worthy of completing my [life’s] course through affliction. Now, you, who are the receiver of [37] souls and the creator of all the creatures and the savior and deliverer, accept my soul. Make me, with those whom you love, worthy of attaining rest in the eternal vaults [of heaven], which you have made ready for those who are dear to you, [and] where sorrow, affliction and woe as well as all the worldly effects are banished. Since I suffered minor afflictions—both fetters and incarceration—in your name in order to please you, accept me also [and] make me worthy of the reward [awaiting] my holy forefathers, your beloved who—each one in his respective rank—worshipped you as the true God and died for your praised and holy name. And now, what other accounting of my afflictions shall I present? But hopeful in the grace of your love for mankind, I deliver my soul into your hands.” And so saying, the saint delivered her soul into the hands of God Almighty. They [the observers] were all in tears, weeping with a great apprehension and blessing the Lord our God.

The bishop and all those who were gathered claimed the body of the blessed [one], which was washed by virtuous women, and supplying the necessities in the way of sweet ointments and incense and shrouding [the body] with clean linen, they laid it in the designated place as the holy maid of Christ had instructed them—with psalms, canticles, spiritual songs, chants of thanksgiving and with lit candles. Throughout the night they offered blessings and praise to the Lord God until the noon hour [Terce].

Then the Divine Liturgy was celebrated and a solemn feast was observed on the day of Saint Shushanik’s repose, [which was] on the seventeenth day of the month of Kaghots. They also [39] arranged for the memory of the saint to be annually observed amidst a large multitude of people for the glory and praise of the Holy Trinity. Through the intercession of the saint the Lord healed not a few of the faithful.

This is the testimonial of Saint Shushanik’s martyrdom. This is how she offered herself to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; how she came close to Christ; how by becoming the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, she was martyred for the glory of the Holy Trinity and was with all the saints crowned with unfading glory in Jesus Christ, our Lord, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is befitting glory, dominion and honor, now and always and unto the ages of ages. Amen.


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