Memory 21 July
Saint Ioane was born as the son of a nobleman during the reign of King Davit Kuropalates. He developed a deep love for Christ and decided to abandon his family and worldly life to become a monk. Upon informing the royal court of his choice, he received a blessing from his spiritual father and set out for Greece, where he settled in a monastery on Mount Olympus.
During that time, as a gesture of friendship, the Byzantine emperor returned the Georgian lands he had previously conquered to King Davit Kuropalates. However, as a sign of dedication, the emperor demanded that children of nobility be sent as surety. Among those sent to Byzantium was St. Ioane’s son, Ekvtime. Distraught, St. Ioane pleaded with the Byzantine emperor to release his son. Finally, Ekvtime was set free, and together with his father, he returned to the Monastery of St. Athanasius the Athonite (the Great Lavra).
During his stay at the monastery, the renowned Georgian military commander, Tornike Eristavi, visited St. Ioane and, inspired by his example, became a monk with the name Ioane (and is now commemorated as Ioane-Tornike). The Monastery of St. Athanasius soon became a gathering place for Georgian faithful, leading St. Ioane to withdraw to a more secluded location. There, he constructed a cell and a church in honor of St. John the Theologian, and later, two more churches were built to honor the Most Holy Theotokos and St. John the Baptist. This marked the establishment of the celebrated Iveron Monastery on Mount Athos, with St. Ioane as its first abbot.
After the passing of his dear friend and helper, St. Ioane-Tornike, St. Ioane found it challenging to continue his labor on the Holy Mountain. Although he and some of his disciples initially planned to leave Athos, they remained at the insistence of the Byzantine emperor. Unfortunately, St. Ioane fell ill with gout and spent his last years bedridden. Before his passing, he called his son, Ekvtime, to confess his sins and designated him as the new abbot of the Iveron Monastery. He also expressed his desire for St. Giorgi (later known as “the Builder”) to succeed Ekvtime as abbot. With his son by his side, St. Ioane passed away, surrounded by his fellow monks.
After St. Ioane’s departure, his son, St. Ekvtime, lovingly prepared his holy relics, wrapping them in costly linens. A church in honor of the Archangels was erected over his resting place. Meanwhile, on Mount Athos, there was another remarkable monk named St. Gabriel, who was part of the Iveron Monastery. He led a life of solitude, residing in inaccessible cliffs during the summer and returning to the monastery during winter, observing a strict rule of silence. Clad in a coarse robe and subsisting on roots and herbs, St. Gabriel was truly a heavenly man and an earthly angel.
One evening, the monks of the monastery witnessed a miraculous vision of a pillar of light shining upon the sea, lasting for several days. Gathering together, monks from various monasteries on Mount Athos approached the sea, where they saw a brilliant and floating icon of the Mother of God. Despite their attempts to bring the icon ashore, it kept drifting away. In prayer and supplication, seeking God’s guidance, the Most Holy Theotokos appeared in a divine revelation and revealed that only the monk Gabriel was worthy to retrieve the icon from the sea.
The elders of Mount Athos found the rocky dwelling of St. Gabriel not far from the Iveron Monastery. With hymns and censing, they brought him to the sea. In an incredible display of faith, St. Gabriel stepped onto the water and walked upon the waves as if they were dry land. As he approached the icon, the holy image drew nearer to him. Holding the icon close to his heart, St. Gabriel safely crossed back over the waves and brought the icon to shore. This miraculous event is commemorated on February 12.
St. Gabriel lived a peaceful life on Mount Athos and, like St. Ioane, became a source of divine inspiration and joy to the people. Let us seek their intercession with Christ, praying for His mercy upon our souls.