St. Nina, Georgia’s Enlightener and Transformer

With the war going on in Georgia between two nations who are united by a common Orthodox faith and history, it is worthy considering how it was that the Georgians embraced Christianity.  The story is told in The Life of St. Nina, Equal to the Apostles, Enlightener of Georgia.   St. Nina has remained a favorite missionary saint of mine.  I have for many years had an interest in mission work, and her story was inspiring to me because she was a slave and a woman – a rather insignificant person in history, and yet she changed the history and direction of an entire nation.  She owned nothing, and was herself owned by others.  Like St. Paul she saw all of her life and trials as being part of being a slave to Christ, not to the world.   In the first life of St. Nina I read I also was impressed by the fact that because of her missionary effort, she was given permission by the bishop to herself baptize the King of Georgia when he embraced Christianity.   That struck me as being especially unique in a church which is so dominated by male clerics.  (Only some accounts of her life report this, many do not.  But the unusualness of such a claim gives it some credence to me).   She is one of a dozen or so people in the world given the title of “Equal to the Apostles” for her work in spreading the Christian faith, and one of maybe 3 women given that title.  The people of Georgia need her heavenly intercession today.  And may all of them because of her remember first their commitment to Christ as they attempt to deal with national politcs and international war.

Why do we “Bless” things?

 I would say that Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s attitude seemed to be this:  every created thing in its original state was made beautiful by God, but sin has obscured that beauty – both affecting our ability to see (our own eyes) and tarnishing the thing itself.   “Blessing things” mostly consists of revealing or trying to reveal that God given beauty hidden beneath the surface of anything which exists.  In blessing something, even if we can’t see this original beauty, we are reminded by the blessing that it is supposed to be there.  It is not that the blessing transforms anything, but it reveals the goodness innate in the things of the universe – so ultimately a blessing causes us to see everything in the world in a new way – a way of potential and anticipation.  We begin to look for God’s Kingdom and the revelation of God in everything that exists, which was no doubt what Paradise would have been.

 It makes the entire world so much more exciting, because beneath the surface of everything – things we value, cherish and love as well as things that are commonplace and mundane – there is something greater waiting to be revealed – the aspect of God which that thing was capable of revealing.  Thus everything in the universe reflects in some way the glory of God, and is capable of revealing something about God to us.  We bless things in order to help us see that same goodness that God saw in each thing He created in the beginning (Genesis 1).