JESUS CHRIST RETURNS AND
APPEARS TO THE WORTHY AND UNWORTHY
“Behold, I am with you to the close of the age.”
St. Gregentius, Bishop of Zafar in Southern Arabia (Yemen)
The wonderful and magnificent Saint Gregentius came from the city of Milan, and flourished after the year 518. Form his earliest age he fully devoted himself to Christ, whom he loved deeply, and always strived to keep all His commandments and to remain faithful in everything. After being ordained to the diaconate, he devoted himself even more to an ascetic life of prayer and fasting with the acquisition all the virtues, especially faith, hope and love.
Gregentius went to visit a certain spiritual elder, who told his disciple that he was coming and what would become of him. He told him that Gregentius who was now a deacon but would become a holy Bishop and bring thousands of Jews to Christ.
Another holy elder, whom Gregentius saw on a fiery pillar in midair, told him what was his future would be. He told him that he would go to Rome and worship at the church of Boniface and Aglais, and then take ship to Alexandria to stay for some time, and then will be called to Southern Arabia to the land of the Homerites, and will become bishop of that city. In the meantime he catechized and baptized multitudes of people. When he arrived among the Homerites, there were thousands of Jews in the area who held firmly to their error and doing everything they were able, to rid the area of Christians.
Gregentius, his whole heart filled with love for God, desired to bring all the Jews out of darkness and error into the light of Christ their Messiah. His sphere of influence spread far and wide, not only in one city but in surrounding areas because of his beautiful soul, peaceful attitude and love of preaching and baptizing people in Christ. Peter, Paul and Mark the Apostle at one time appeared to him, and strengthened him, and demonstrated that Gregentius would be ordained bishop
Gregentius lived and breathed the truths and essence of Orthodoxy. His zeal like fiery flames ignited in other souls from the overflow of his exultation and the joy in his soul. He conducted his ministry with ardent faith, as he energetically instructed, supported and continually prayed for his flock. He never stopped attempting, with all his power, to bring the hardhearted Jews to faith in Christ and to correct thinking, and in these endeavors he was somewhat successful. From among the faithful, he ordained those who were worthy to enter the clergy as he industriously built up the Church. He also composed laws for them to live and act as Christian citizens.
Before the debate began, Ervan had been selected as spokesman by the Jews as the main orator. He was well learned in the Law of Moses and the traditions handed down from elders, the prophets, and from profane learning. As the debate went on, Gregentius dissipated every argument presented by Ervan, using Divine both Holy Scripture and right reason, the following being an example.
Ervan said: “the Christians believe in three gods, Father Son and Holy Spirit. However the Lord gave a commandment: ‘Hear O Israel, The Lord God is one Lord’ (Deut. 6:4). The Christians are breaking this law when they worship, not one God, but three.”
The Saint replied, “We worship one God, the Creator of all, in three hypostases, just as the Lord was mentioned three times in the verse you just cited. Listen to the words of David the Psalmist: By the Logos of the Lord were the heavens established, and all the power of them by the Spirit of His mouth (Psalm 32:6). Observe how David proclaims three hypostases, but a single divinity, coessential, co-beginingless, co-eternal, and of one throne. The Lord is God the Father, His Logos is the Son, and His Spirit is the Holy Spirit.”
Many other arguments were discussed, over many days but Gregentius easily defeated Ervan, such is the power of truth. Although he was quarrelsome with the Saint, Ervan realized that he was facing certain defeat. For Gregentius spoke by the Holy Spirit that was in Him, just as our Lord said: “When you are delivered up, do not be anxious about how or what you should say, for it shall be given to you at that time what you shall say. For you are not the ones who are speaking, but the Spirit of the Father who is speaking within you” (Mat. 10:18-20)
After extended debate, Ervan had a dream which he related to his fellow Jews: “I tell you, brothers, the Archbishop will win this debate. Last night, I beheld our Prophet Moses and Jesus; and I do not mean Moses’ successor, Jesus of Nave, but Jesus whom the Christians hold as the Messiah (Christ). Both the prophet and Jesus were standing together on the roof of some sanctuary and conversing. I observed that Moses, with reverential awe, and his hands crossed over his breast, and was bowing in worship to Jesus, as though He were his Lord and God. I wondered at this and asked the prophet: ‘My Lord, Moses, is it proper to conduct yourself this way before Jesus? But he who delivered the law to us interrupted me and said. I tell you keep silent. I am worshiping the Master whom I recognize as my Creator and Lord. You have no part with me. “For if you had believed me, Moses, you would have believed in Jesus, for I wrote of Him” (John 5:46-47). Stop from harassing the Archbishop and distorting the Scripture. Know that you shall be defeated tomorrow, and you shall adore the Holy Lord Jesus.” The Jews became disappointed and confused.
When they all had entered the assembly to continue the debate, Gregentius simply answered every question that was raised. Then Ervan told the Saint, let us do away with all contentions and do something in action. You show me Jesus alive that I may speak with Him. Then I will become a Christian. This caused a contention to arise among the Jews, but Ervan rebuked them, saying, If Gregentius actually shows me the Christ alive, of whom the Prophets spoke, I would be a fool not to believe. At this time Gregentius said He would show them the Christ, and anyone who would then not believe would be cut in two by a sword.
The Saint faced the East and pouring out tears from his heart, filled with his powerful faith and loved entreated Christ, with these words:
“Master Lord Jesus Christ, Son and Logos of the awesome invisible Father. Who are impassable and without change, being begotten not created before the ages. And who with the Father and Holy Spirit are worshiped and glorified, through whom all of heaven and the earth were formed and the foundations were laid, and who for us and for our salvation, bowed down the heavens and came down and became man . . . do you overshadow them with your power and open their darkened eyes which the Devil has blinded . . . that they may see you themselves on this day, and that they may believe in you the only true God, together with the Father who sent you and your Holy Spirit.”
As Gregentius completed his prayer there was sudden thunderclaps and an earthquake coming from the East, which caused them to fall to the ground in fear and trembling. The heavens then parted and a radiant cloud was spread out before them. They then beheld, sitting on the cloud, the Lord Jesus Christ filled with divine beauty, which terrified them, but delighted the Christians. Christ looked upon them, shining brighter than lightning, with divine blinding rays flashing all around. The Christians present gazed joyfully at the Lord, and delighted with His sweetness, they were in ecstasy. However, the Jews who were filled with terror beat their breasts and in great fear, were looking for a way to escape. The Lord then spoke: “Because of the supplications of my great Archbishop, have I appeared to you whose fathers crucified me.”
All the Jews were left physically and spiritually blinded as Christ arose and disappeared from before them. They found out by asking each other that they had all had lost their sight. They asked the Bishop why Christ had blinded them if He the bestower of benefactions. The Bishop told them that this was due to their many blasphemies and because they looked upon Christ with unworthy eyes. Ervan asked that they may receive their sight, promising that then he could make us all Christians. The Bishop said, first you will be baptized, and then you shall receive your sight. As each one was baptized scales fell from their eyes. The bishop catechized them and baptized the thousands into Christ, where they were counted among the Orthodox Christians. They sincerely repented of their former lawlessness, blasphemies and unbelief, beseeching Christ to forgive them.
This wonderful event, where the Jews saw the glory of God in Christ, is available to anyone that has a simple spark of desire for what is good and beautiful. Many other Jews and pagans from surround areas came to belief and baptism through Saint Gregentius. He offered his service for thirty years in South Arabia, with many miracles, and his radiating countenance, and miracles continued even after his falling asleep.
The holy Gregentius, filled with divine zeal and love was able, by his prayers, to summon Christ the King of all. May we all acquire some of his zeal and love.