Plot-Compositional Interrelations in Translated Hagiography of the Genre of Lives

Hagiographic literature is one of the most important fields of religious literature. The hagiographic works of the genres of Martyrdom and Lives, both from Eastern and Western Christian literature, have been translated into Georgian. Active engagement of the Georgians into the processes of global Christian literature led to the presence of a wealth of material.

Both in Georgia and abroad, cultural-educational centers were cultivated that involved extensive processes of translation. Let us recall the theological and literary schools of Tao-Klarjeti, Mount Athos, and the Black Mountain [Khintibidze, 1969:103-107]. Great emphasis was placed on translation of works since it allowed to identify sociocultural needs of local mentality, and made it possible to determine intellectual, moral, aesthetic and creative abilities of certain peoples in a particular period of time. The cultural world of different nations has manifested itself through translated literary monuments [Kekelidze, 1957:5]. Contemporary philology and literary studies assign a special position to the study and research of literatures of different countries through a historical-comparative method [Лихачев, 1963: 61], which in itself allows for the identification of similarities and differences in terms of structure, plot and composition between literatures. In his article The Georgian-Byzantine Literary Parallels, K. Kekelidze discusses certain schemes and patterns developed by the Byzantine literature as far back as in the premetaphrastic period, which later have become essential for the literatures of every nation connected to the Byzantine cultural world [Kekelidze, 1945:99].

            The proposed research aims to explore the translated hagiographic works of the genre of Lives through the prism of the plot and composition and, particularly, to compare them, identify their features and similarities as well as differences, and divide them into groups according to certain schemes. The article examines the Lives of St. Antony the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Ephrem the Syrian and St. Sabbas the Sanctified. Based on the study of the works, the following features have been identified:

1.  In terms of the plot, the hagiographic works are characterized by a rather legitimate practice of indicating the date of composition, the date of death of a saint, and the description of the period on the part of the author.

The period of his life and the time of his death are indicated in the Life of St. Sabbas the Sanctified: “His death occurred on 5 December of the tenth indiction, in the year 6024 since the creation of the world, when time began to be measured by the course of the sun… The chronology of his life in the flesh is as follows. He came to Palestine at the age of eighteen and lived seventeen years in the cenobium and passed fifty-nine years in the desert and at the Great Laura. He died in the ninety-fourth year of his life, in the second year after the consulship of Lampadius and Orestes” [St. Sabbas the Sanctified,1975:115].­

The date of death of St. Ephrem the Syrian is similarly specified. Ephrem “commended his innocent soul to the angels in February, on the first day of the month” [St. Ephrem the Syrian, 1975:232].

As for the identification of the author, the Life of St. Antony the Great reveals that the work had been written by Athanasius of Alexandria.

2. In translated hagiographic works, the hagiographer tries to explain with inherent humility his desire to depict the Saint’s life, asking for forgiveness from readers and for help of God in such an important matter.

In the Life of St. Sabbas the Sanctified, the hagiographer addresses readers with the following words: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has prompted your virtuous perfection to instruct my nothingness to record and send to you the lives pleasing to God of our holy fathers and precursors Euthymius and Sabas, and who through their intercession has in his ineffable mercy instilled into me in my misery a drop of eloquence to open my mouth to fulfill such profitable instructions” [St. Sabbas the Sanctified, 1975:56].

            And in the Life of St. Ephrem the Syrian, the author states: “I shall start with the help of God and by the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and through the help of the Holy Mother of God and through the intervention of the Holy Spirit, since there is the beginning and end of words that are otherwise ineffective [St. Ephrem the Syrian, 1975:211].

As for the hagiographer of the Life of St. Antony the Great, he respectfully notes: “you have also asked me for an account of the life of the blessed Antony: you would like to learn how he came to practice asceticism, what he was previous to this, what his death was like…

You have in mind to model your lives after his life of zeal. I am very happy to accede to our request, for I, too, derive real profit and help from the mere recollection of Antony” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:9].

3. Since a hagiographer preaches the truth, he wishes to refer to a trustworthy source that he relies on while describing a Life of any given saint. Such accounts are usually offered by reverends who had been close to Holy Fathers.

In The Life of St. Sabbas the Sanctified, the hagiographer mentions that “And these few facts I assembled with difficulty, hastening hither and thither and gathering and collecting them, as if rescuing them out of some abyss of distant time and oblivion, lest the edifying stories about him become extinct with time. But now the fitting moment calls me to bring to fulfillment the remainder of your instructions and to record a few facts about our celebrated father Sabas, which with thought and labor I gathered from truthful and pious men who were his disciples and fellow-combatants” [St. Sabbas the Sanctified, 1975:56].

The author of the Life of St. John Chrysostom indicates as follows: “I had not witnessed any of these, rather, I compiled and combined those described by them. And most of the narrated events I have learnt from the book of Palladius the bishop who had written to Theodore the deacon of the Roman church. Some I have learned from Socrates and others as well. And after I read everything, it seemed good to me to collect and combine such virtues” [St. John Chrysostom, 1986:2]. The hagiographer of the Life of St. Antony the Great educates the readers, saying “I myself know – for I have seen him often – and whatever I was able to learn from him who was his companion over a long period and poured water on his hands. Throughout I have been scrupulously considerate of the truth: I wanted no one to refuse credence because what he heard was too much” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:9-10].

4. Translated hagiographic works of the genre of Lives feature a rather widespread pattern demonstrating a saint as a clearly distinct personality among his or her peers due to certain specificities, referring to a charismatic nature of the saint. And those characteristic features manifest themselves in works in the following ways:

a) a national or social origin of saints is an essential component to specify. Some of them belong to aristocracy, while others come from relatively lower strata;

b) the description of the appearance of saints holds an important place in works;

c) they are distinguished due to their exceptional attitude towards learning as well as their deep religious commitment, fear of God and their ability to overcome temptations;

d) either before or after the saint’s birth, being distinguished and blessed by God, once again, is an explicit reference to their exceptionality.

5. Holy Fathers have a desire to seclude themselves from the world. They often reject earthly honor and glory, and distribute their entire wealth among the poor, striving to maintain isolation.

For example, following the death of his parents, St. Antony the Great, like the Apostles, “gave to the townspeople the property he had from his forebears – three hundred arurae, very fertile and beautiful to see… He sold all the rest, the chattels they had, and gave the tidy sum he received to the poor, keeping back only a little for his sister” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:10].

Then, having seen an old man who had lived the ascetic life, St. Antony the Great, “was zealous for that which is good; and he promptly began to stay in the vicinity of the town. Then, if he heard of a zealous soul anywhere, like a wise bee he left to search him out, nor did he return home before he had seen him; and only when he had received from him, as it were, provisions for his journey to virtue, did he go back” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:11].

And St. Sabbas the Sanctified, despising all the things of this life without exception, offered himself to the monastery…” [St. Sabbas the Sanctified, 1975:57].

6. Despite saints’ desire to self-isolate, they are often followed by their spiritual brothers on their journey, and in some cases, they even stay in Saints’ cloisters. For example, when St. Sabbas the Sanctified stayed “In this desert of Roubâ there came to him, and stayed with him, a monk worthy of mention called Anthus” [St. Sabbas the Sanctified, 1975:63].

And when St. Ephrem the Syrian left for “the wilderness to look for those secluded Holy Fathers who dwelt there, he found a deserted cell as well as a cave. And he entered there, and the translation, and stayed there for many days” [St. Ephrem the Syrian, 1975:22].

7. The life of Holy Fathers represents the continuous spiritual labor that manifests itself in the suppression of worldly temptations, and their ceaseless prayer and fasting. Their entire dedication confirms their love of God.

The following words are employed to describe the spiritual endeavours of St. John Chrysostom: since his actions were exemplary for others, St. John Chrysostom, like Paul the Apostle, preached without charge; “he would not accept anything but a daily bread… and did not love dining with others. And even if anyone invited him, he would not go. first of all, because of the reason as he did not drink wine at all. While in the summer, due to summer heat, he would have a little rose drink; and second, due to his stomach pain because of the illness… and third, he would be fasting for most of his days, until the nightfall, absolutely forgetting to eats because of his responsibility toward the church, and fourth, due to continuous practice of reading and perceiving religious books” [St. John Chrysostom, 1986:48-49].

St. Sabbas the Sanctified “gave himself over entirely to God. … and stripped himself for combat, spending the day in physical labor and passing the night without sleep in giving praise to God, making humility and obedience [the root and foundation of his life]” [St. Sabbas the Sanctified,1975:60].

After becoming a monk, St. Ephrem the Syrian, “until the end of his days ate nothing but barley bread, some broad beans and edible greens, and drank water. Because of intensive fasting and hard work, his skin was withered over his bones, and his clothes were old, badly worn and humble” [St. Ephrem the Syrian,1975:221-222].

It is noteworthy that in the Lives of Saints, the Fathers, similar to the martyrs, proclaim their willingness to pursue martyrdom. A clear evidence to that is what St. Antony the Great declares in the reign of the emperor Maximinus and the persecution of Christians: "Let us also go to take part in the contest if we are called, or to look on the contestants." Now, he had a yearning to suffer martyrdom… to give himself up” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:32].

8. Holy Fathers reject any of the ways to advance their careers and prefer to remain in solitude, since they do not accept worldly honor and glory. For example, in the Life of St. John Chrysostom, the bishop decided to ordain him a priest, “so that to found the church in Athens afterwords… as soon as John learnt about it, he secretly fled and arrived in his city of Antioch” [St. John Chrysostom, 1986:14].

Similarly, St. Sabbas the Sanctified refused to be given a higher rank, as he considered it to be the root of all evil desires.

But sometimes, after multiple requests, Holy Fathers finally agree to proceed to a higher position within a hierarchical structure. Such a case occurs in the Life of St. Ephrem the Syrian: when St. Basil the Great asked Ephrem about the reason why he had refused to be an ordained priest, Ephrem answered: “because I am a sinner, Father. … and St. Basil the Great laid his hand on Ephrem’s head and ordained him a deacon… and St. Basil wished to appoint him a priest, but Ephrem refused and said, ‘I do not deserve to be the one truly worthy of God” [St. Ephrem the Syrian, 1975:224].

9. Since the holy Fathers are chosen by God, they are assigned a certain spiritual mission even in their early years. While setting an example for society, thanks to their spiritual endeavours, they are to strive for the spread and strengthening of Christian faith.

As for St. Antony the Great, “… the Lord was guarding him for our own good and for the good of others, that to many he might be a teacher of the ascetic life which he himself had learned from the Scriptures. In fact, many from merely seeing his conduct were zealous followers of his way of life” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:32].

We shall recall another example that depicts an important episode from the Life of St. John Chrysostom. The Deciples Peter and John appear to the Saint, addressing him with the following words: “Do not hide the Grace of God, given to you and, through your words, illuminate and strengthen all those created by Him… Do not fear, as Lord Jesus Christ is pleased with the way you enlighten many souls, bringing true knowledge to them… you will experience numerous hardships and calamities because of your innocent soul; instead, do grant mercy as a true believer” [St. John Chrysostom, 1986:18-19]. And rightly so, numerous Antiochians have followed Christ because of their love for the Saint.

10. The works of the genre of Lives are characterized by the saints acting under the guidance of God or the Holy Spirit. St. Sabbas the Sanctified “descended the hill… by God’s guidance” [St. Sabbas the Sanctified, 1975:64].

            When St. Ephrem the Syrian was discovered among the followers of Christian faith, his father commanded his expulsion from home. “The Grace of God that was upon him protected and guided him towards the church” [St. Ephrem the Syrian, 1975:212].

11. There is a widespread pattern across hagiographic works, depicting saints acting as instructors of young men. For example, after being expelled from home, the young St. Ephrem the Syrian “came to Holy Father Jacob, the Bishop of Nisibis… He was overjoyed and received him with love, letting him dwell among the listeners of the book” [St. Ephrem the Syrian, 1975:212]. “The patrician Juliana, the grand-daughter of the emperor Valentinian, and Anastasia, the daughter of the patrician” also drank in the teachings of St. Sabbas the Sanctified [St. Sabbas the Sanctified, 1975:92].­

12. Holy Fathers, despite being self-isolated in the desert and caves, still attract and gather spiritually like-minded men, a brotherhood, which gradually expands.

According to the Life of St. Sabbas the Sanctified, Sabbas “began to receive all those who came to him. Many of the scattered anchorites and ‘grazers’ came to join him… By divine grace his community grew to seventy persons” [St. Sabbas the Sanctified, 1975:64-65].

Similarly, St. Ephrem the Syrian succeeded in attracting a large congregation of spiritual followers, who “have been given the grace of the teachings of St. Ephrem… and he had various other apprentices as well” [St. Ephrem the Syrian, 1975:22].

And St. Antony the Great “induced many to take up the monastic life. And so now monasteries also sprang up in the mountains and the desert was populated with monks” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:18].

It is also noteworthy that Holy Fathers are focused on the construction of churches and monasteries, however, the churches are not as many as we encounter in the Georgian hagiography. Fathers are rather busy with the construction of cells, which is probably typical to the specificities of the historical period, since living as the so-called isolated anchorites was a prevalent feature of the time. St. Sabbas the Sanctified took “some of the fathers to Castellium, and began to clear the place and to build cells from the material he found there. In clearing the place, they found underneath the debris a large, vaulted, inhabitable room… after digging it out and setting it in order, he made it into a church, and from then on, he aimed at making the place a cenobium, which indeed has taken place” [St. Sabbas the Sanctified, 1975:71-72].

Holy Fathers develop certain rules for their churches and monasteries. Such rules were set by St. Sabbas the Sanctified soon after his monastery was built.

13. Spiritual brothers have obedience towards the saint, their spiritual leader. They fulfil the leader’s commands with forbearance. Here is an episode as an example from the Life of St. Sabbas the Sanctified: when feeling offended by his spiritual brothers, renegades and misbelievers, St. Sabbas visited the Archbishop of Jerusalem, Elias. The Archbishop was joyful, urging him to “return to his own laura. When Sabas asked to be excused and utterly declined, the archbishop became annoyed and said, ‘Believe this: if you do not heed my bidding and advice, you will never again see my face. I cannot bear to see the fruit of your labors directed by others.’ When the archbishop had said this, our father Sabas consented to yield to his command” [St. Sabbas the Sanctified, 1975:78].

Before his exile, St. John Chrysostom as well calls upon his spiritual children to obey the new bishop: “I am urging you to be selfless and follow the rules of your church, and whoever is appointed by laying on of hands, under the overall agreement, do bow your head to him like John, as it is improper to abandon the bishop of the church” [St. John Chrysostom, 1986:115].

Hagiographic works have a specific feature, namely, when meeting each other, before being provided nourishment, the Holy Fathers converse on spiritual themes, read religious books, pray and, afterwards, eat their food.

14. Humility is one of the remarkable virtues of saints. They constantly claim to be weak, powerless and worthless before God. Holy Fathers never take advantage of being chosen by God, rather they continually practice self-blaming and self-shaming.

            St. John Chrysostom “greately appreciated … humbleness, being blessed quietly and simply. And he was admired by everyone, both ordinary men and scholars, due to his humble nature” [St. John Chrysostom, 1986:7].

Likewise, the hagiographer depicts a similar degree of humility of St. Antony the Great, who ”was, moreover, forbearing by disposition and humble of soul. Renowned man that he was, he yet showed the profoundest respect for the Church's ministry and he wanted every cleric to be honored above himself” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:41].

St. Sabbas the Sanctified and St. Ephrem the Syrian are also ­distinguished due to their humility.

15. It is very common for saints to hide their whereabouts as well as pursuits in hagiographic works. However, God loves His children and wants to shed light on their endeavours.

In the Life of St. Antony the Great, “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ glorifies those who glorify Him; and that He not only leads to the Kingdom of Heaven those who serve Him to the end, but even here He makes them, though they hide themselves and strive to live away from the world, known and spoken of everywhere because of their own goodness and because of the help they give to others” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:53].

In the Life of St. Ephrem the Syrian, after the people of Urha became overwhelmed with love and kindness towards Ephrem, he decided to leave his dwelling place. While descending into the gorge, an angel appeared to him, asking him, where he was hurrying down. Ephrem replied: “I am fleeing away from turmoil of life. The angel said: watch out that what was written does not happen to you, as ‘Ephrem was fleeing from me like a calf’... he answered, crying: Lord, I am powerless, and do not deserve this. Then the angel answered and said: men are not supposed to light up a candle and hide it under a vessel, but rather put it upon a lampstand so that every man can see its light” [St. Ephrem the Syrian, 1975:219].

Similarly, the Saint’s dedication to work is acknowledged by God in Biblical words in the Life of St. John Chrysostom, as specified in the following quote: John “has become radiant with kindness, since it is impossible to hide a city built upon the mountain, or obscure a bright shining of a candle by the vessel” [St. John Chrysostom, 1986:128].

16. Hagyographic works describe the way the Holy Fathers become famous beyond their realm, and afterwards public figures, incuding statesmen and clergy, seek to be close to them and ask for their blessings.

As for St. John Chrysostom, “his fame spread everywhere around the world, and those from faraway lands who had been instructed about him arrived to listen to his words” [St. John Chrysostom, 1986:20]. Also, “came the king and his principals as well as those accompanying him and his military commanders followed, in order to be blessed by John” [St. John Chrysostom, 1986:42].

As for St. Antony the Great, both Christians and pagans would come to meet him. There are occasions where Holy Fathers themselves visit their spiritual children and brothers. For example, St. Antony the Great, “As he came to the outer cells, all gave him a hearty welcome, regarding him as a father. And he, for his part, as though bringing them provisions from his mountain, entertained them with his stories and gave them of his practical experience“ [St. Antony the Great, 1975:35].

Following God’s order, St. Sabbas the Sanctified himself left in order to meet Archbishop Elias who had been in exile.

17. In translated Hagyographic works, special attention is paid to the description of the relationship between clergy and laity. The depicted episodes demonstrate that the authorities meet the clergy with respect and regard.

When the king was told about the arrival of St. Sabbas the Sanctified, He,“overjoyed, sent the imperial galleys to meet him… [The emperor] running up, he greeted him with reverence, kissing his godly head with tears of joy” [St. Sabbas the Sanctified, 1975:109].

When exploring the relationship between laity and clergy in the Life of St. Antony the Great, there is an excerpt that reminds us of the episode described in The life of St. Gregory of Khandzta, namely, the one where King Bagrat meets Saba Ishkhneli.

Here is a quote from the Life of St. Antony the Great: when the fame of Antony reached to emperor and his sons, “they wrote to him as to a father and begged him to write back. He, however, did not make much of the documents nor did he rejoice over the letters; but he was the same as he was before the emperor wrote to him. When the documents were brought to him, he called the monks and said: ‘You must not be surprised if an emperor writes to us, for he is a man; but you should rather be surprised that God has written the law for mankind and has spoken to us through His own Son.’ Indeed, he did not like to accept the letters” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:47], but after Antony found out that the emperor was Christian, he wrote back, commending them and giving them advice “not to think highly of the things of this world, but rather to bear in mind the judgment to come; and to know that Christ alone is the true and eternal King” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:47].

The state authorities provide clergy with financial and material support during the construction of churches, hospitals and shelters for the poor, while asking for the blessing of the Holy Fathers in return.

Here is a quote illustrating the episode from The Life of St. Sabbas the Sanctified, specifying a dialogue between Sabbas and the king: “The emperor summoned the sanctified Sabas and said to him, ‘I have heard, father, that you have founded many monasteries in the desert. For whichever of them you wish, ask for a revenue for the needs of the inmates and we shall provide it, so that they may pray for the state entrusted to our care...’

All these requests of our father Sabas were fulfilled without delay by our most pious king” [St. Sabbas the Sanctified, 1975:110-111].

While the Life of St. Ephrem the Syrian includes the episode where Ephrem urged the rich to donate their wealth in the time of famine in Mesopotamia, which was successfully accomplished. Further, Ephrem built shelters for the poor and for those diseased.

During the construction of churches, the Holy Fathers are materially supported by other spiritual fathers. For example, in the course of the church construction, when Sabbas and his spiritual brothers lacked food, the angel of God appeared to the community head Marcian asking for help for Sabbas and his spiritual brothers, which Marcian fulfilled.

18. Saints frequently relocate, and often cry when parting with their disciples and spiritual brothers. Shedding tears over saying final goodbyes to each other is also typical to the moments prior to the death of the Saint.

When according to God’s will, St. John Chrysostom had to be ordained as a priest by bishop Flavian and had to leave for Antioch, the heartbroken congregation “cried and their tears poured forth to the ground, saying: “Woe to us! As we will be distressed. Who will heal the wounds of our soul and who will teach us about our deliverance, and who will guide our souls to the life of truth, since we have become deprived of great kindness and are now orphaned, without our father” [St. John Chrysostom, 1986:30]. With similar heartbreak, his spiritual brothers and disciples say farewell to Holy Father, before his banishment from Antioch, and not long before his death.

Also, when St. Antony the Great “spoke to the brethren” that it was time for him to die“, hearing this they wept, embracing and kissing” him.


19. before the death of Holy Fathers, their spiritual brothers and children gather around them, who are blessed by the Saint, urging them to grow stronger in faith.

After St. Antony the Great fell sick, before he died, he called those two men who were with him, saying: “I am going the way of my fathers, as Scripture says, for I see myself called by the Lord. And you—be on your guard and do not bring to naught the asceticism you have practiced for so long… rather, let Christ be your life's breath, and place your confidence in Him” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:51-52].

20. In translated Hagyographic works of the genre of Lives, the passing away of the Saints, the ritual of their burial and grieving is described almost always in an identical manner. The process that describes coming of the host of angels to guide the Holy Father to the kingdom of God, is accompanied by receiving of the Eucharist by saints who, being spiritually calm and purified, further implore God for help. In addition, following the burial of saints and paying them a great honor, the believers take with them the parts of their clothes as eulogia and relics.

When St. Ephrem the Syrian “was informed of the day of his death, he ordered and received the Holy Eucharist of Christ. And after the Eucharist, with hands uplifted, he said: My Lord, Jesus Christ, into Your hands I commit my spirit. As he uttered these words, he committed his pure soul into the hands of the company of angels…

Then every soul in the city and the poor gathered and they buried him with honour and glory, and all of them were sorrowful because of his death. And everyone who could reach him, would take part of his clothes as a certain eulogy” [St. Ephrem the Syrian, 1975:232].

St. Sabbas the Sanctified “once lying in his tower... after continuing for four days without taking any food or conversing with anyone, late on Saturday at the dawning of the next day he requested and received communion. Then, after saying finally, ‘Lord, into thy hands I shall commit my spirit,’ he gave up his soul…

The news of his death circulated through all the surrounding region and brought together an immense crowd of monks and lay people. The most holy archbishop Peter also arrived with the available bishops and the leading men of the holy city. And so his precious remains were laid to rest in the Great Laura between the two Churches, in the spot where he had seen the pillar of fire” [St. Sabbas the Sanctified, 1975:115].

Before his death, after St. Antony the Great had a parting request to distribute and give his clothes, like eulogia, to Bishops, he “having been kissed by them [his followers], he drew up his feet; and with a look as though friends had come to him” he saw angels… “his face had a cheerful look—he passed away and was gathered to his fathers. Then they, following the orders he had given them, prepared and wrapped up the body and buried it there in the earth” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:52].

As for St. John Chrysostom, he died in exile. As death approached him, John, clothed in pure vestments, entered the church; he received the Eucharist, prayed and, finally, offered up his soul to the Lord. Despite passing away in exile, a large crowd of clergy gathered from different regions to attend his burial ceremony.

21. As witnessed in translated hagiographic works, some of the Holy Fathers are buried in places where they had worked all their lives, while others – in other churches, due to dying in exile, and some of them are buried in absolutely unknown locations, according to their will.

„And so his precious remains were laid to rest in the Great Laura between the three churches, in the spot where he had seen the pillar of fire“ [St. Sabbas the Sanctified, 1975:115].

According to the Life of St. John Chrysostom, the body of the Saint who died in exile was buried “in the grave in the above-mentioned church of the Martyr Basilisk” [St. John Chrysostom, 1986:131].

As regards St. Ephrem the Syrian, according to his burial wishes, he was “buried … in an unfamiliar grave, as he had been informed in advance” [St. Ephrem the Syrian, 1975:232]. However, after a while, he was reburied to the burial place of bishops.

As for St. Antony the Great, two of his disciples “following the orders he had given them, prepared and wrapped up the body and buried it there in the earth. And to this day no one knows where he is buried, save those two only” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:52].

22. Hagiographic works are characterized by glorifying and praising of the deeds of Holy Fathers.

The author of the Life of St. Sabbas the Sanctified indicates that „Resplendent were the divine charisms of our inspired father Sabas. His manner of life was glorious, his conduct virtuous, and his faith orthodox. This has already been shown in part by what has been said, but it will be shown more perfectly by what is still to be told, if the Word of God guides my words. This sanctified Sabas, already revealed at Castellium as victor against the spirits of evil, raised a further abode of piety, with the help of the Holy Spirit within him, in his eagerness to make the desert into a city“ [St. Sabbas the Sanctified, 1975:80-81].

The Hagiographer of the Life of St. John Chrysostom glorifies the Saint’s dedication to work the following way:

“There was no one like him and perfect, and kept pace with others; even though his teaching and books as well as his responses were despised, he endured with a strong soul” [St. John Chrysostom, 1986:51].

23. Hagiographers who compare Saints with Biblical figures, i.e. Jesus Christ, Apostles, other Biblical characters and famous Holy Fathers, provide for a widespread pattern in hagiographic works. The authors identify Biblical parallels to Saints’ appearances, traits and actions. Moreover, frequent instances of hagiographers quoting the Biblical text are observable.

As indicated in the Life of St. John Chrysostom, “he cared for the life of people, like Paul the Apostle, when translating and interpreting books” [St. John Chrysostom, 1986:2]. Also, another remark from the hagiographer: “he was preaching baptism of repentance, like John the Baptist, and mercy and peace were with him, like with David the Prophet” [St. John Chrysostom, 1986:2].

This is what the author is suggesting about St. Antony the Great: “Thus Samuel recognized David, for he had eyes that begot gladness and teeth white as milk." So. too, was Antony recognized” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:41-42].

As for St. Sabbas the Sanctified and St. Ephrem the Syrian, the hagiographer compares St. Sabbas with Jesus Christ, due to his modesty, peacefulness and fairness, while St. Ephrem who, even in his mother’s womb was chosen by God, is compared with the prophet Jeremiah.

24. Geographical descriptions do occupy a rather modest place in translated hagiographic works under consideration. It is noteworthy that the descriptions of nature in compositions have no special aesthetic emphasis; since any kind of physical and earthly beauty is shadowed, and spiritual side is preferred, similarly, the description of nature serves the only purpose, such as the identification of the location where a saint has to lead the life of a hermit or a church has to be built. For example, when discussing Gregory of Khandzta, R. Siradze indicates that “the composition contains images of nature seen through the eyes of Gregory of Khandzta. ‘Human and nature’ pattern is relatively rare, as opposed to ‘nature – Khandzta church’ and ‘nature –Shatberdi’ patterns. They (i.e. Khandzta, Shatberdi, and similar churches) give sense to the surrounding nature and transform it into an urban setting” [Siradze, 2005:103]. The scholar believes that such descriptions of nature are the manifestation of the aestheticization of nature of the time. The following excerpt is cited from the Life of St. Antony the Great: Antony “came to a very high mountain. At the base of the mountain there was water, crystal-clear, sweet, and very cold. Spreading out from there was flat land and a few scraggy date-palms. Antony, as though inspired by God, fell in love with the place... and stayed alone on the mountain, with no one to keep him company” [St. Antony the Great, 1975:33-34].

            Thus, the proposed article discusses (to the extent possible) the translated hagiographic works of the genre of Lives, and specifies plot-compositional parallels between hagiographies, attempting to arrange the material by employing appropriate schemes, keeping in mind similar or different compositional patterns.


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