David of Gareji was Syrian by birth. The future ascetic became a
disciple of St. John of Zedazeni and journeyed with him to Georgia. St.
David and his spiritual son Lucian settled on a mountain above Tbilisi,
the capital of Kartli.
At that time Kartli was constantly under threat of the Persian
fire-worshippers. St. David would spend entire days in prayer,
beseeching the Lord for forgiveness of the sins of those who dwelt in
the city. When he was finished praying for the day, he would stand on
the mountain and bless the whole city. Once a week Sts. David and Lucian
would go down into the city to preach. A church dedicated to St. David
was later built on the mountain where he labored.
St. David’s authority and popularity alarmed the fire-worshippers, and
they accused him of adultery, in an attempt to discredit him in the eyes
of the people. As a “witness” they summoned a certain expectant
prostitute, who accused him of being the child’s father. Hoping in God,
the holy father touched his staff to the prostitute’s womb and ordered
the unborn child to declare the truth. From out of the womb the infant
uttered the name of his true father.
Outraged at this slander, the bystanders savagely stoned the woman to
death. St. David pleaded with them to stop, but he was unable to placate
the furious crowd. Deeply disturbed by these events, St. David departed
the region with his disciple Lucian.
The holy fathers settled in a small cave in the wilderness and began to
spend all their time in prayer. They ate nothing but herbs and the bark
of trees. When the herbs withered from the summer heat, the Lord sent
them deer. Lucian milked them and brought the milk to St. David, and
when the elder made the sign of the Cross over the milk it was
miraculously transformed into cheese.
Shaken by the holy father’s miracle, Lucian told him, “Even if my body
rots and wastes away from hunger and thirst, I will not permit myself to
fret over the things of this temporal life.”
The fathers kept a strict fast on Wednesdays and Fridays—they ate
nothing, and even the deer did not come to them on those days.
A frightful serpent inhabited a cave not far from where they lived and
attacked all the animals around it. But at St. David’s command the
serpent deserted that place.
Once local hunters were tracking the fathers’ deer, and they caught
sight of Lucian milking them as they stood there quietly, as though they
were sheep. The hunters paid great respect to St. David and, having
returned to their homes, reported what they had seen.
Soon the Gareji wilderness filled with people who longed to draw nearer
to Christ. A monastery was founded there, and for centuries it stood
fast as a center and cornerstone of faith and learning in Georgia.
After some time St. David set off on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He
entrusted Lucian to fulfill his responsibilities at the monastery and
took some of the other brothers with him. When the pilgrims were
approaching the place called the “Ridge of Grace,” from which the holy
city of Jerusalem becomes visible, St. David fell to his knees and
glorified God with tears. Judging himself unworthy to follow in the
footsteps of Jesus Christ, he was satisfied to gaze upon the city from
Then he stood at the city gates and prayed fervently while his
companions entered the Holy City and venerated the holy places.
Returning, St. David took with him three stones from the “Ridge of
Grace.” That night an angel appeared to the patriarch of Jerusalem and
informed him that a certain pious man named David, who was visiting from
afar, had taken with him all the holiness of Jerusalem.
The angel proceeded to tell him that the venerable one had marched
through the city of Nablus, clothed in tatters and bearing on his
shoulders an old sack in which he carried the three holy stones. The
patriarch sent messengers after the stranger with a request that he
return two of the stones and take only one for himself. St. David
returned the two stones, but he declined the patriarch’s invitation to
visit him. He took the third stone back with him to the monastery, and
to this day it has been full of the grace of miraculous healing.
After St. David brought the miraculous stone from Jerusalem, the number
of brothers at the monastery doubled. The venerable father ministered to
all of them and encouraged them. He also visited the cells of the elder
hermits to offer his solace. In accordance with his will, a monastery
in the name of St. John the Baptist was founded in the place called
“Mravalmta” (the Rolling Mountains).
The Lord God informed St. David of his imminent departure to the Kingdom
of Heaven. Then he gathered the fathers of the wilderness and
instructed them for the last time not to fall into confusion, but to be
firm and ceaselessly entreat the Lord for the salvation of their souls.
He received Holy Communion, lifted up his hands to the Lord, and gave up his spirit.
St. David’s holy relics have worked many miracles: approaching them,
those blind from birth have received their sight. To this day, believers
have been healed of every spiritual and bodily affliction at his grave.