For the Question of the Relation between the Texts of Jacob’s compline and “The Martyrdom of Saint Abo”

In our country the spread of Christianity is connected with the names of Andria and Svimeon Kananeli. The result of their work is the establishment of the ancient Hierosolymitan Christian divine service in our country. According to Korneli Kekelidze's words, Saint Jacob's compline determines the rules of chirotony and chirothesia quite similarly to Apostles' decretals. This fact indicates to the ancientness of the main layer of the redaction, which is presented in the text. Korneli Kekelidze believed, that the monument of Hierosolymitan divine service had been translated into the Georgian language at earlier times [Древне-Грузинский ... 1912: 8].

Hierosolymitan church had used Jacob's liturgy till the 12th century. The same can be said about Georgia, where the liturgies of Constantinopolitan redaction appeared in the 10th century. For the purpose of their mastery over Apostle Jacob's liturgy, the latter was characterized as unreliable and useless for the divine service (which is apparently seen from Patriarch Mark's question to Canonist Teodore Balsamon and from the answer of the latter [1]). This fact explains Teodore Sabatsmindeli's question to the well-known representative of the Georgian church Eptvime Mtatsmindeli, who was in the center of the Christian life of the Orthodox East. After the analysis of Ekvtime Mtatsmindeli's and Teodore Sabatsmindeli's converse, K. Kekelidze concluded, that Saint Apostle Jacob's compline had been used in the Georgian and Greek Churches till the 11th century. In the 10th century Constantinopolitan redactions of Ioane Okropiri's and Basili Didi's liturgies came into use and reduced the influence of Jacob's compline.

K. Kekelidze mentioned, that in Jacob's liturgy the list of Byzantine emperors ended with Justinian the Great, while the last saints were Patriarch Modesti (+634) and Patriarch Sopron (+644). Moreover, there were no songs about "the only-begotten son", which appeared in 536. Therefore, we can suppose, that Jacob's compline had been translated before the 4th-5th centuries, because the Georgian Christian church had obviously needed a text-book of liturgy. The same supposition can be made according to the texts of "Conversion of Kartli" and "The Martyrdom of Saint Shushanik". Obviously, the liturgy of the 4th and 5th centuries differed from the rules of divine service of the 1st and 2nd centuries. Their elements are met in the texts of Nicetas the Paphlagonian's "Saint Apostle Andria's homily" and in the episode of "Conversion of Kartli", which depicts Georgians' conversion by Saint Apostle Andria and Svimeon Kananeli. The liturgy of the practice of divine service of the 2nd -3rd centuries is depicted in the text of "The Martyrdom of Saint Kolael adolescents", especially, in the episode of adolescents' christening and in the confessor's improvised choir service - a characteristic feature of the practice of divine service of the 2nd - 3rd centuries. A special attention must be paid to the architectonics of the church of that period of time - there was not a narthex/ a special place for the adolescents, who were not baptized. Therefore, they were not allowed to attend the divine service in the church.

The study of Iovane Sabanisdze's "The Martyrdom of Saint Abo" reveals, that a hagiographer knew Jacob's compline. The comparison of the given texts shows, that the rhythm of Iovane Sabanisdze's telling is connected with the rhythm of compline. Moreover, some prayers of the latter influence the vocabulary of "Martyrdom".

When Iovane Sabanisdze speaks about Saracens' strength and compatriots' fear: "The believers, who live according to the customs of their native country, will never part with only-begotten son of God" [The monuments... 1963:50]. We think, that a hagiographer's point of view originates from the text of Jacob's compline. A priest entreats God to make believers the lifeful listeners of the praise and "to enable them to perform kind deeds via their belief, to step kindly and to live chastely" [Древне-Грузинский ... 1912: 17].

According to the text of Jacob's compline, a priest entreats the god to lead his nation, to bless its sanctum and to execute its will: "We will always utter your words and live according to your Decalogue" [Древне-Грузинский ... 1912: 17].  For Iovane Sabanisdze living according to the Decalogue is similar to "living via customs of the native country".

Iovane Sabanisdze mentions, that "the words of life" are uttered in the church. "The belief of Trinity revives there, teaching about benefaction, fathers' greatness, prophesiers' glory, apostles' preaches, martyrs' works, Christ's sacrifice and  martyrdom" [ The monuments..., 1963: 51]. The same order is given in the texts of Jacob's compline. The church is a symbol of divine Jerusalem, where angels, cherubs, seraphs and holy men's, prophesiers', apostles' and martyrs' spirits glorify God.    

The priest is saying a prayer: "We praise you, chant for you, adore you and thank you for being the father of every creature - visible or invisible, the treasury of immortality, the source of life, God of everybody. The heaven, the stars, the country, the sea and everything presented in it - Jerusalem, the church, the spirits of holy men, prophesiers, apostles, martyrs, angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, principalities, rulers, powers and cherubs with a lot of eyes -        chant for you" [Древне-Грузинский ... 1912: 33].   

The lection commemorating martyrs is created for the celebration of God's name. According to the author's point of view, Saint Abo's martyrdom makes him similar to angels, fathers, apostles, martyrs and holy men. In the fourth chapter of "The Martyrdom of Saint Abo", the author praises the saint martyr:

"Be glad God's desirable martyr!

Because similarly to Christ's apostles you reached the blissfulness via confession!

Because the father of heavens crowned you and filled you with the benevolence of the Holy Spirit!

The son tolerated you and the Holy Spirit glorified you!

The Holy Spirit fell in love with you and together with the Father and the Son honored you!

Your behavior surprised angels, because you died for god as a fleshless one.  

The fathers are glad for you, because blissful Abraham tolerated you in the bosom of Christ, who had sheltered him and had made him the father of many nations.  

You have become the fruit of martyrs and a disciple of apostles!

You were given the name of a chronicler of the lord of the heavens! You were crowned as one of the saints!

You became Christ's confessor! You are glorified together with the holy men!" [The monuments... 1963: 49].

Iovane Sabanisdze could mention a prophet during the martyr's praising, but he named apostles and destroyed a hierarchical order of frescos. Hence, it must be taken into consideration, that when "The Martyrdom of Saint Abo" was being written, the principles of the hierarchical order of frescos were being established. Iovane Sabanisdze could know such literature. Possibly, the text of Jacob's compline was one of the sources for him. It must be mentioned, that in Otkhta Eklesia/the Church of Otkhta the images of bishops and prophets were presented in one row [Amiranashvili, 1961: 203]. Therefore, the theoretical basis of canons of painting was gradually prepared.

In the first volume of the hagiographic lection (after making the definitions of symbols) Iovane Sabanisdze appeals to the parish: "Dear you, who love God, I did not define it myself. I defined it according to apostles' preaches presented in the prophetical books, messages of the gospel and the religion determined by fathers and priests" [The monuments... 1963: 55].

According to Iovane Konkozisdze's chant: "Abo is Christ's preacher, a sharer of Christ's passions, blissful, brave, a savior, praised, worthy, a martyr of Christ's passions, similar to the father (in coming from the country of Kaldevels), a true son of Abraham, wearing an unfading crown, crowned by Christ, a decorator of God's image by the purification of the soul, sacrificed for the crucified. Like Paul he appeared in court and "a strong unbeliever met a desired death".  Abo drank a life-giving drink and after his death mentally joined a heavenly life of saints [Sulava, 1999: 34].

In "The Martyrdom of Saint Abo" as well as in Iovane Konkozisdze's chant, the authors emphasize Abo's similarity with Abraham (both of them came from foreign countries) and Saint Apostle Paul (both of them are martyrs).  

It's worth mentioning, that in the introduction of "Saint Konstanti Kartveli's life and martyrdom" the author names the books of Bible, which were intended for reading in the church. Moreover, the author speaks about the importance of these books for believers: "My dears, it's obvious, that nobody was able to describe holy books without the benevolence of the Holy Spirit. Moses was the first, who had not seen the creation of the sky and the world, but described this fact according to the notification of the Holy Spirit. Afterwards, Moses described other books and notified about coming out of the sons of Israel.

Afterwards, the statements of prophets were described. They preached for Jesus Christ's coming and his fleshy life. After Jesus Christ's birth the four gospels were also described. They annunciated future nations about Christ, who was born of the Holy Virgin. Afterwards, "Acts of the Apostles" was written. It depicted Apostles visits to different villages. A lot of persons believed them and accepted Christianity in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Hence, "never-dying" enemies and enviers arose and disposed kings against truth. They compelled the believers to worship the idols. Whose, who tried to contradict, were killed with sword and fire [The monuments... 1963: 164-165]. According to the author's words, believers began describing saints' lives. Therefore, "the life and martyrdom of saint and blissful Konstanti" was described.

Possibly, the nomination of those books of Bible, which are used as lections of the divine service in the church, indicates to the fact, that the practice of church painting (a hierarchical succession of frescos) was based on a deep content of the divine service.  

A comparative analysis of the text of Jacob's compline and "The Martyrdom of Saint Abo" shows, that some of the themes, which are presented in "the martyrdom" reflect the elements of the divine service and at the same time, precede the following stage of the development of the church paining (the 9th -10th centuries).

The editors of the later texts of Saint Jacob's compline name St. Giorgi, St. Teodore, St. Evstati, St. Kvirike, St. Ivlita, St. Barbara, 40 martyrs and St. Abo together with the Divine Virgin, the Precursor, evangelist Mark, evangelist Luke, prophets, holy men and protomartyrs. Catholicos of Kartli Samoel addressed Iovane Sabanisdze with the following words: "We know about your eagerness of the divine service and the knowledge of divine books and diligence in doing kind things" [Chronicles... 1892:73]. We can suppose, that if Iovane Sabanisdze was not the editor of the text of compline, he apparently, was one of those ecclesiastics, who actively used it.

The representation of Biblical persons according to the special succession presented the heavenly world: "The church painting expressed symbolically the idea of its eternity. The painting united fathers, prophesiers, apostles, fathers of churches, saints, martyrs - everybody who predicted the victory of the church, who fought for it, who participated in its strengthening. These images formed a hierarchical order ended with a half figure of Pantocrator, which is painted on the dome [Лазарев, 1986: 63]. The Pantocrator is depicted in the domes of the Byzantine churches, while the raise of cross is presented in the Georgian ones. Hence, the scheme of hierarchical arrangement of frescos is identical.  

Stepane Mtbevri's "The Martyrdom of Saint Gobron" was written in the beginning of the 10th century. The composition of the lection is created in such a way, that the main character takes after Jesus Christ via his martyrdom. The introduction indicates to the spiritual significance of the danger for the "strengthening" of the belief of a believer. Similarly to fathers Joseph and Job, Saint Gobron averted suitably the danger sent by God. He fought with unbelievers. Moreover, like Saint Apostles Peter and Paul, the Georgian nobleman Michael changed his name during the battle against Arabs near Kvelistsikhe. Firstly, his name was "Michael". Afterwards, he was called "Gobron" - a name of the Jewish origin, which was defined as "strength" - one of God's names. Naming a martyr was a spiritual transfiguration indicating at reaching a new stage. When the king Adarnase saw a martyr with a bloody cross on the forehead "he believed in his martyrdom as well as in Giorgi's and Teodore's torture" [The monuments... 1963: 182]. Saint Gobron is named as a great martyr. His comparison with Biblical persons is depicted in the scheme of the lection, which corresponds to the canonic of the painting of the Christian church, that was intensively established in the 10th century. The scheme of the hierarchical order of the heroes is presented in the following way:

  1. Christ-strength (presented in Saint Gobron's name);
  2. Arch-angels - Michael and Gabriel (their names are met in the etymology of the saint);
  3. Fathers (Joseph, Job, Abraham, Moses);
  4. Prophesiers  (David, Esaias, Jeremiah, Daniel);
  5. Apostles (Peter and Paul);
  6. Great martyrs (Saint Giorgi and Saint Theodore);
  7. Saint Gobron (also the group of saints, 133 martyrs).

It's worth mentioning, that sometimes the author of "Martyrdom" did not indicate to this similarity, but the comparison of the saint with the above mentioned persons was deliberate. At that period of time, the church painting reached higher stage. Therefore, it was enriched with themes. New tendencies appeared in the church lection.

Similarly to the Georgian hagiographic works, the Biblical themes were repeated in "The Martyrdom of Saint Gobron". It's obvious, that their symbolic-allegoric depiction had originate from the content of the prayers uttered during the divine service. The ecclesiastic writing of the Middle Ages presented the following themes: creation of the world, the fall of man, regret for losing the Paradise, prophecy of Christ's birth, his birth, crucifixion, resurrection and expectation of the Second Coming. The lection created by Stepane Mtbevar-Episcope began with the mentioning of God. Afterwards, attention was paid to the examples of averting the danger and the fall of man. Before telling about the martyrdom of Saint Gobron, the hagiographer depicted the picture of Christ's Second Coming. When Christ appeared with a cross, the nature underwent a lot of metamorphoses. The martyrdom made Gobron similar to Jesus. This fact enabled the believers to think about the inevitability of the Second Coming. Moreover, this theme was depicted on the west walls of the churches and reminded about terrible judgment.

Zosime Mtatsmindeli's canticle, which was dedicated to Ilarion Kartveli, depicted Saint's approach to the heavenly group via following the principles of the hierarchy of frescos: "Don't forget me, father Ilarion. You defend us via standing before Christ, the Divine Virgin, all fleshless creatures of the heaven, prophesiers, apostles, priests, fathers and martyrs [The manuscript... 1901: 184].

"The life of Maximus the Confessor" explains to the believers, that they have to consider the words of prophesiers, apostles and evangelists. "In the church God nominated firstly apostles, secondly prophesiers, thirdly priests. In the holy gospel he told to the disciples and all the inhabitants of the world: I will tell everybody what I tell you now: who tolerates you, he/she will            tolerate me and who abuses you, he/she will abuse me. It's obvious, that those, who do not tolerate apostles, prophesiers and priests, whose, who abuse them and their words, will abuse Christ [The Georgian... 1918: 80].

All the above mentioned enables us to conclude, that: 1. Iovane Sabanisdze knew the text of Jacob's compline and under its influence wrote the phrases for "The Martyrdom of Saint Abo". He offered the system of Biblical characters, which corresponded to the principles of the hierarchy of frescos established in the Christian church painting of the 10th century. 2. Saint Abo is presented among the saints of Jacob's compline. His name was obviously added later by the editor of the compline. 3. We suppose, that the principles of the hierarchy of frescos, which is presented not only in "The Martyrdom of Saint Abo", but in other hagiographic works and hymnography, originated from the text of Saint Jacob's compline. 

[1]  see: Migne-Patr.Curs. compl. t.119 col.1033


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