Beautiful icon of St Nina arrives at St Nicholas Cathedral in Washington

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Saint Nina, whom the Church venerates as Equal to the Apostles and the Enlightener of Georgia. This fourth century saint, hailing from Cappadochia, converted the Iberian queen Nana and eventually her husband King Mirian III who had initially persecuted the new faith. Her black grapevine cross is an historic symbol of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

This icon was painted in Georgia for St Nicholas Cathedral and donated by a Georgian parishioner. It was blessed on the tomb of St Nina, which is preserved at the Bodbe Monastery in Kakheti, eastern Georgia. It was also blessed by the Patriarch of all Georgia His Holiness Ilia II and presented on April 24, 2012 to His Beatitude Metropolitan +Jonah at the Cathedral. 

“Kyrie Eleison” composed by Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia

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Renowned choralist Nana Peradze chants His Holiness Patriarch Ilia II’s beautiful composition “Kyrie Eleison” (Lord Have Mercy).

The head of the Orthodox Church in Georgia since 1977, His Holiness has composed several hymns, many poems, and has played an active role in the increase in Georgia’s post-communism population following his 2007 announcement that he would personally baptize any new infants born to Georgian families with two or more children.

The Patriarch is widely considered the most morally authoritative and honorable public figure in Georgia. In the wake of deepening popular cynicism toward corrupt politicians and ethical scandals, in 2007 His Holiness expressed his support from the pulpit for the adaption of constitutional monarchy and a restoration of the ancient royal House of Bagrationi. This caught the Saakashvili administration off-guard and they have not dismissed or ridiculed the Patriarch’s comments.

During the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war which saw Russian ground troops invade the country, the Patriarch delivered food and medical supplies to the besieged city of Gori and appealed to Russian Church leaders to intervene with Moscow civil authorities to put an end to the carnage. He attended Russian Patriarch Alexei II’s funeral in December 2008 prior to meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev. Ilia II has since worked extensively to heal relations between Georgia, Russia, and the disputed territory of Abkhazia, which is currently recognized internationally as an autonomous republic within Georgia but which Russia considers independent.

His Holiness Patriarch Ilia II (r. 1977-present) blesses the faithful in an ancient church in Tbilisi.

Shen Khar Venakhi – “Thou Art a Vineyard”

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In this video the renowned Rustavi choir in Georgia sings this beautiful, internationally beloved Theotokion, an Orthodox hymn honouring the Virgin Mary. Sandro Vakhtangov directed this video, Anzor Erkomaishvili the camera work and artistic arrangements, and Vato Kakhidze produced it.

The hymn’s Georgian words translate:
Thou art a vineyard newly blossomed.
Young, beautiful, growing in Eden,
A fragrant poplar sapling in Paradise.
May God adorn thee. No one is more worthy of praise.
Thou thyself are the sun, shining brilliantly.

Prevailing ecclesiastical and historical tradition holds that St. King Demetre (Demetrius) I (r. 1125-1156) composed the hymn during his period of exile at a monastery when his son David briefly usurped the throne. Demetre’s other son ultimately succeeded him as King Giorgi III in 1156, reigning until his death in 1184, when his daughter St. Queen Tamar the Great succeeded him as monarch.

At St. Nicholas Cathedral we have many Georgian parishioners, so the choir has often used the music as a Cherubikon and sometimes even for the “It is truly meet”/Axion Estin to the Theotokos.

Images of the beautiful country of Georgia: