Irina Javakhadze                                                                                                                                                                       # 8

 Plot-Compositional Interrelations in Georgian Original and Translated Hagiography of the Genre of Lives

 In the present study Georgian original and translated hagiographic works are considered from the viewpoint of rendering plot-compositional devices. Of original and translated works the following are discussed: The Life of Gregory of Khandzta (Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature: 1963), The Life of Iovane of Zedazeni (Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature: 1963), The Life of Serapion of Zarzma (Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature: 1963), The Life of Iovane and Euthymius the Athonites (Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature: 1967), The Life of Ilarion the Georgian (Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature: 1967), The Life of Shio and Evagre (Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature: 1963) and The Life of David of Gareja (Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature: 1963). On the basis of the consideration of the mentioned works and their comparison from the plot-compositional viewpoint, numerous common typical elements have been discovered, which have been grouped in the study according to relevant patterns.

As has been identified, either at the beginning or at the end of a hagiographic work the author indicates the time of the creation of the work or dates the death of the saint. In some cases, the author mentions his name too. He tries to explain with characteristic modesty his wish to describe the life of the saint. The author refers to the reliable source of the basis of which he is describing the life of one or another saint.

The saint is distinguished in the childhood by the origin, appearance, love for learning, religiousness and chosenness by God. Saints often reject earthly glory and strive for complete solitude, however, in spite of the wish of seclusion, in some cases they are accompanied by spiritual brethren. Holy fathers out of love for God voluntarily endure any kind of ascetic life and spiritual labours. They object to their raising to a high hierarchic level, but sometimes agree to such a promotion as a result of much request. A saint is charged by God with the fulfillment of a spiritual mission. A saint also often travels under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Saints receive juvenile children as their disciples, at the same time they gather spiritual brotherhood, which gradually increases, together with it they build and restore churches and monasteries, establish the church typikon. Disciples are distinguished by obedience to their spiritual director.

At their meal holy fathers often discuss theological questions, offer prayers together and even spend nights in spiritual conversations. Saints are also distinguished by their modesty. They do not wish their location and activity to be revealed, but their labours do not remain hidden in the society and become generally known by the will of God. After the glorification of the saintsí name, clergymen and laymen visit them and ask their blessing.

Episodes of spiritual and not visual friendship between holy fathers is not so frequent in Georgian hagiographic works. A great place is also devoted to the demonstration of the relationship between clerics and laymen, in particular, the high authority of clergymen in the circle of laymen, namely, rulers; as well as the material assistance rendered by laymen and receiving in return the blessing of holy fathers and remembrance in prayers. Disciples bid farewell with tears to their spiritual director when he moves to another location or is near death. Before the saintís repose disciples visit him and receive the blessing from him.

Hagiographers describe the death of holy fathers, the ritual of their funeral and mourning. They are buried in the church built by themselves or in the cave at the place of their seclusion.

 A characteristic feature of hagiographic works is glorifying the saint by the author, his comparison with a Biblical predecessor and other holy fathers. Geographical description occupies a significant place in the works, not with the aesthetic loading, but with the purpose of specification of the location of a site where a saint must seclude himself or a church must be built.

In the thesis a great place is devoted to the description of miracles, the identification of original and typical miracles in them and arrangement according to a pattern. As a result of the observation of the material under study, the following  groups of miracles have been singled out:

I.       Visions and divine appearances, including visions in reality, visions in sleep and visions at the time of dying. In these sub-groups different types of miracles are identified, in which the following are described: beholding the place where a church must be built, the miraculous appearance of saints in the public and their enveloping in a pillar of light; one and the same vision beheld by several clerics simultaneously; the vision of a saint before his repose and beholding in a vision the death of some saint by other clergymen.

II. The effect on human beings, including miraculous punishment of the unbelieving and wicked, healing of the sick, casting evil spirits out of people, facts of prophesying and  performance of miracles by saints in their absence.

III.   The effect on the world of the dead. This groups unites miracles of tombs and holy relics (healing of people by a deceased saint, casting out devils and the odour of sanctity emanating from a deceased saint), the effect of a living saint on the dead, the miraculous punishment of a person by the saint and other clergymen simultaneously, the defeat-destruction of the evil force  as a result of the saintís prayer and resurrection of a person or an animal by the holy father.

IV.   The effect on the material world, which includes the hyperbolization of the saintsí power, controlling-subduing of elements, changing of properties of natural and physical phenomena, changing of the nature of substances and objects, multiplication of food, making a spring to flow as well as relationship of a saint and the animal kingdom.

As regards translated hagiographic works of the genre of Lives, the Lives of Anthony the Great (Lives of Fathers: 1975), Theodosius the Great (Lives of Fathers: 1975), Ephraem of Syria (Lives of Fathers: 1975), Sabbas the Sanctified (Lives of Fathers: 1975) and John Chrysostom (Old Georgian Translation of The Life of John Chrysostom and its Peculiarities: 1986) are discussed. As a result of drawing plot-compositional parallels in the above-mentioned material, it has become clear that in translated hagiographic works too it is almost a rule that the hagiographer dates the creation of his work and the saintís death, and also sometimes mentions his own name. The author, with the modesty characteristic of a hagiographer, informs the reader about his wish to undertake the description of the saintís life. He convinces the reader of the truth of his narration and indicates the sources.

The saint is distinguished from the childhood by the origin, appearance, special attitude to learning, devoutness and consecration by God. He often rejects material luxury and strives for seclusion, but in some cases a spiritual brother accompanies him or takes up his residence in his abode. The saint tempers himself spiritually by overcoming earthly temptations, by ceaseless prayer and fasting. In spite of the saintís negative attitude to any promotion, after much request sometimes he agrees to be raised to a high rank. God entrusts holy fathers with the fulfillment of a certain mission, which is expressed in the labours for the dissemination and strengthening of Christianity. In hagiographic works saints often travel under the guidance of the Lord, and they receive minor children for education.

Holy fathers gather around them spiritually like-minded persons, whose number increases in the course of time, and by whose aid they build cells, churches and establish the typikon for the churches and monasteries built by them. a characteristic feature of disciples is obedience to their spiritual director.

When holy fathers meet, at the time of their meal, they often speak about topics useful for the soul. The saint, proceeding from his modesty, does not wish his labours to become known, but by Godís will, everything is revealed, as a result of which the saint becomes renowned and representatives of laity and clergymen begin to visit him in order to receive his blessing.

In the works the relationship of clergymen and laymen is reflected, it is shown with how great respect clergymen are received at the court of rulers, how the latter render material assistance to holy fathers during the construction of churches, hospitals and shelters for the poor. Another characteristic feature is scenes of parting, full of sorrow and tears, between holy fathers and their spiritual children at the time when the saint changes his location or before his death. At the time of the saintís repose, his spiritual children visit him and receive his blessing.

The picture of the death of holy fathers, their funeral and mourning is similar in the works under discussion. Noteworthy enough, they are buried at the church, at the place of their activity or according to their own will, at a totally strange place.

The hagiographer praises the saint and finds Biblical archetypes for him. In translated hagiographic compositions descriptions of nature occur comparatively rarely, and that not with the aesthetic but the spiritual function.

Miracles, as one of the widespread motifs in hagiographic works, are represented with a wide range in the mentioned translated hagiographic works of the Lives genre. On the basis of their study, they have been classified and arranged according to the following groups:

I.       Visions and divine appearances, which unites visions in reality, visions in sleep and visions at the time of death. The subgroup of visions in reality further includes miracles of the following type: beholding in a vision of the place where a church must be built, miraculous appearance of saints in the public, appearance of the Lord to a saint not in a visible, but in a verbal form, divine miraculous visions, the vision on one and the same question beheld by two different clergymen simultaneously and finally mystical miracles. Among visions in sleep, along with widespread miracles, cases of the appearance of a saint to several persons in order to entrust them with one and the same assignment also occur. Holy fathers have a vision before dying, they also behold a vision at the time of the repose of other holy fathers.

II.    The effect on human beings. This group unites facts of miraculous punishment of the wicked by saints, healing of the sick, casting unclean spirits out of men, facts of prophesying and performance of miracles by saints in their absence.

   III. Miracles sent by the Lord without the participation of a saint, which unites natural calamities happening by the Lordís will as a punishment, the wrath of God befalling wicked people and the support shown to holy fathers.

   IV. The effect on the world of the dead, including miracles of tombs and holy relics (after saintsí death healing of people by touching holy relics, casting devils out of human beings; incorruptibility of the body of a deceased saint and rescuing of people and animals from death by saints), raising of a dead person by the saint and the prophecy of deceased saints about living people.

   V. The effect on the material world, which unites cases of the hyperbolization of the saintsí power, controlling-subduing of elements by saints, changing of the nature of elements, substances and objects, making a spring to flow, multiplication of food and relationship with the animal kingdom.

References:

  1.  Lives of Fathers 1975: Lives of Fathers, text prepared for publication, furnished with a study and glossary by Vakhtang Imnaishvili, Tbilisi, Tbilisi University Press, 1975 (in Georgian)

  2. Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature 1963: Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature, Book I (5th-10th cc.), directed and edited by Ilia Abuladze, Tbilisi, Publishing House of the Georgian Academy of Sciences, 1963 (in Georgian)

  3. Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature 1967: Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature, Book II (XIth ĖXVth cc.), directed and edited by Ilia Abuladze, Tbilisi, Publishing House of the Georgian Academy of Sciences, 1967 (in Georgian)

  4. Old Georgian Translation of The Life of John Chrysostom and its Peculiarities 1986: Old Georgian Translation of The Life of John Chrysostom and its Peculiarities, text prepared for publication, furnished with a study and glossary by R.Gvaramia, Tbilisi, Publishing House ďMetsnierebaĒ, 1986 (in Georgian)

 

 

 

Volume 3, Issue 2
2009

home

Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature
RIGL

Georgian Electronic Journal of Literature