Commemorated on February 14
Holy Hiero-schema monk Hilarion the Georgian (Ise Qanchaveli in the world) was born in 1776 in the village of
Losiantkhevi, in the Shorapani district of Kutaisi. His parents, Khakhuli and Mariam Qanchaveli, were pious and
to God’s will, Ise’s uncle, the hermit Hierodeacon Stepane, took his
six-year-old nephew into his care. When Stepane reposed, Ise moved to
Tabakini Monastery, but learning that a seminary had opened in Tbilisi,
he set off for it. On his way he visited a certain Bishop Athanasios of
Nikozi to receive his blessing, but the bishop, delighted by the youth’s
fervent prayers, advised him to return home to his family: “My son, you
will learn much more in the wilderness than you ever could in the
classroom. Return home, and the Lord, having instructed you in prayer,
will lead you on a path that will serve your people and the Church.”
returned to the bosom of his family, and his father took him to Kutaisi
to be raised in the court of the Imeretian king. King Solomon II
(1789-1815) soon recognized that the young Ise stood above all the other
courtiers in piety, and he appointed him to be his personal spiritual
adviser and instructor. At the king’s suggestion, Ise married the
Princess Mariam. Soon after his marriage, the humble nobleman was
ordained to the priesthood and appointed confessor of the court church.
Only two years later Princess Mariam reposed, leaving Fr. Ise a widower.
the Russian annexation of Kartli-Kakheti, the imperial court of the
tsar increased diplomatic correspondence with the court of King Solomon
II. The king was urged likewise to unite the Imeretian Kingdom to
Russia. Solomon summoned a council of noblemen, and it was decided that
Imereti would remain independent, while maintaining friendly relations
with Russia until the king’s death. However, it was agreed that since
King Solomon had no heir, after his repose the court of the imperial
tsar would acquire jurisdiction over the region.
But the political
climate in Georgia became increasingly tense, and the ability of the
Imeretian court to govern was severely undermined.
The court was
suddenly besieged with cases of envy and treason, and it became
necessary for the king to flee to Turkey. Protopresbyter Ise Qanchaveli
accompanied King Solomon II to his place of exile and remained with him
to the end of the king’s life.
After the king’s death in 1815,
Fr. Ise received an amnesty from Tsar Alexander I (1801-1825) on behalf
of the king and his court. Ise himself planned to go into reclusion in
the village where he was born, but King Solomon’s widow, Queen Mariam,
summoned him to Moscow where she was being held in “honorable
captivity.” Fr. Ise brought to her a piece of the Life-giving Cross of
our Lord, which had belonged to King Solomon, and the queen preserved
her husband’s treasure in the court church.
But life at the
imperial court was tiresome for the God-fearing Fr. Ise, so he exchanged
his clothing for beggars’ rags and set off for Mt. Athos in the year
Fr. Ise appeared before the holy fathers of Mt. Athos as an
unknown pilgrim, who had come to venerate the holy places. He first
visited Iveron Monastery and from there crossed over the peninsula to
In 1821 Ise was tonsured a monk and given the
name Hilarion. He was presented with new monastic garments for the
tonsure service, but asked permission to remain dressed in his own rags.
Hilarion fulfilled his every obedience with love. He was dispirited
only by his ignorance of the Greek language, which prevented him from
hearing and understanding the Word of God during the divine services.
Finally he received permission from the abbot of Dionysiou to borrow
some of the Georgian books from the large collection of sacred
manuscripts at Iveron Monastery.
Upon arriving at the monastery,
Fr. Hilarion went to venerate the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God.
While praying on his knees before the icon, a Greek archimandrite whom
he knew from Moscow saw and recognized him. He bowed before him, kissed
his hands and cried out: “Fr. Ise! Holy Shepherd! Confessor of the
Soon the news spread through all the monasteries of Mt.
Athos that the spiritual father of the king had concealed himself as a
Everywhere the monks greeted him with great reverence.
But Fr. Hilarion, ashamed of the attention, withdrew to the wilderness
not far from the monastery.
At that time, in retaliation for the
Greek Insurrection of 1821, the Turks were pillaging Greece and
slaughtering the Christians. In 1822 a certain Abdul Robut-Pasha
surrounded the Holy Mountain with an enormous army and commanded the
abbots of all the monasteries to submit to his authority.
Representatives of all the monasteries, including Fr. Hilarion and two
others from Dionysiou were sent to Chromitsa to petition the pasha. Fr.
Hilarion stood boldly before the pasha, burning with a desire to be
martyred at the hands of an unbeliever.
Having learned that Fr.
Hilarion was a Georgian, Robut-Pasha was overjoyed: he himself was also
Georgian by descent but had been kidnapped by the Turks in his early
The pasha proposed that Saint Hilarion leave the
monastery and move to his palace in Thessalonica, promising him every
kind of material wealth. But Fr. Hilarion refused and condemned the
ruler’s unbelief. The furious pasha began to curse the Orthodox
believers and all the Christian saints, among them the Most Holy
Theotokos. The holy father was allowed no opportunity to reply to the
pasha’s blasphemous remarks; instead they released him and took the
other monks captive.
Having returned to the monastery, Fr.
Hilarion regretted that he had not properly rebuffed the blasphemous
pasha. His suffering was aggravated when the unbeliever continued to
martyr and massacre other Christians. Finally he asked the abbot for his
blessing and set off for the Turkish court in Thessalonica. There he
stood before the pasha and fearlessly trampled upon his false teachings:
“You sought to deny the virginity of the Most Holy Mother of God,” he
charged. “Even your prophet Muhammad admits that Jesus was born without
seed of a Virgin and that the mystery of the birth of God is necessarily
beyond human comprehension. He is the True God, Who took on flesh for
the salvation of mankind, to rescue fallen man from the curse of sin and
The pasha began to argue, but Saint Hilarion told him,
“You, the son of Christian parents, are on such a brutal rampage that
you have deadened the pangs of conscience calling you back to the true
The pasha laughed and answered that he was glad to have
been delivered from the “ridiculous” Christian Faith. “I am indebted to
the man who kidnapped me from my parents and sold me to the Turks,” he
said, “and I have since rewarded him generously for his deed. If your
Faith is indeed true, why have you fallen into the hands of the
invaders? Why has your beloved God punished you so?”
“You misunderstand everything, Pasha,” answered Saint Hilarion.
not a loving father take up the rod when his beloved son runs wild?
Truly he does this not out of hatred but out of love, desiring to save
the ignorant from grave misfortune. When the father sees that his child
has corrected his behavior, he casts the rod into the fire. The Lord has
permitted these sorrows to befall us because of our sins. You are a
staff in the hands of the Lord: when He sees that we have mended our
ways, He will cast you into the fire as well!”
consecutive days Saint Hilarion confronted the pasha in his palace,
desiring to infuriate him to the point that he would order his
execution. On the fourth day Saint Hilarion arrived at the palace and
began to speak about the falseness of Muhammad and the Islamic faith.
Then the pasha provoked him even further, demanding, “What do you think—where will we go after death?”
amidst believers of divers faiths, Saint Hilarion boldly answered that
only those who truly believe in God, who are found in the bosom of the
Orthodox Faith of Christ, will be saved. The enraged bystanders demanded
that the insolent monk be executed, and Abdul Robut-Pasha finally
ordered his death. Saint Hilarion prepared to meet death with joy, but a
pair of the pasha’s servants, Georgians by descent, requested that the
pasha repeal his death sentence, since it would be shameful for them to
murder their fellow countryman.
They intended to send him in
secret to Mt. Athos, but instead Saint Hilarion began to minister to the
sick prisoners held in Thessalonica, and he selflessly dedicated
himself to their service for six months. Then, according to God’s will,
he set off again for Mt. Athos. Having returned to his monastery, Fr.
Hilarion labored for three years as a hermit and afterwards withdrew to
the tower of New Skete (a dependency of the Monastery of Saint Paul) to
lead a life of strict asceticism.
On Fridays he kept a strict
fast, and on other days he ate only tiny pieces of dried bread. These he
would place in a narrow-mouthed jar and eat only what he was able to
draw out with his hand. He drank just one glass of water a day.
Throughout the period of his reclusion in the tower, demons tempted
Saint Hilarion with terrible visions.
Once a group of faithful
Christians desired to visit the hermit. As the elder received no one,
they were not admitted. The pilgrims therefore decided to form a human
ladder, standing one on top of the other in order to reach the small
window of his cell. Fearing for their lives but not wanting to break his
vow of reclusion, Saint Hilarion temporarily abandoned his cell and
fled to the forest.
After some time, Saint Hilarion became
physically weak from his strict ascetic labors and was forced to leave
behind the solitary life. With the help of his faithful friend Benedict
the Georgian, he gradually regained some of his strength and moved to
the Iveron Monastery.
At the Iveron Monastery he took charge of
the Georgian library, organized a catalog, and compiled twelve volumes
of Lives of the Saints, which he entitled The Flower Garden. He
presented the twelve volumes to the abbot of Zographou Monastery before
the latter departed for Russia. In Russia the abbot published the
twelve volumes in the Georgian language—without mention of the name of
Saint Hilarion reposed at Saint Panteleimon
Monastery, known as the Russikon, in a cell named for Great-martyr
George, on February 14, 1864. Though he was desperately ill, Saint
Hilarion continued to thank the Lord sincerely until his last day.
“Glory to God!” he would say. “I desired martyrdom, but God did not
grant it to me. Instead He sent me an illness which will be equal in
merit to martyrdom if I am able to bear it!”
Prior to his death he
asked his disciple, Fr. Sabbas, to bury his body in secret, but
circumstances later required that his burial place be revealed. In 1867,
during the vigil for the feast of the Ascension of our Lord, a group of
monks opened Saint Hilarion’s burial vault and immediately sensed a
sweet fragrance issuing forth from his body. At that moment one of the
hermits saw a brilliant sphere of light shining like the sun over Fr.
The Holy Synod of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox
Church canonized Hieroschemamonk Hilarion (Qanchaveli) on October 17,
2002, and to differentiate him from Saint Hilarion the Georgian
(commemorated November 19), called him “Hilarion Kartveli, Akhali” or
“Hilarion the Georgian, the New.”
SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2016(with 2015's link here also and further: 2014 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and even 2008!):
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