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St. Shooshan the Martyr

St. Shooshan the Martyr

The story of St. Shooshan (or Shooshanik) is the oldest surviving work of Georgian literature, and is believed to have taken place in the mid-5th century. St. Shooshanik descended from a distinguished line of Christian saints that traces itself back to St. Sahag. St. Sahag’s daughter, Sahaganoosh, who married Hmazasb Mamigonian, bore a son St. Vartan, whom in turn, had a daughter Shooshanik.

Shooshanik’s marriage to Antipatros (cf. Varsken the Pitiakhsh), a prince and leader of the Georgians, proved to be a tragic one. He had joined the Zoroastrian pagan religion of the magi, partly to seek favor from the Persian king, but also because of his own sinful ways. His unnatural lust for his own daughter brought much suffering and pain to Shooshanik.

She reproached her husband and warned of God’s righteous judgment, which punishes those who break these laws. Because he dismissed these reproaches and denied the True God, Shooshanik refused to share his bed. Enraged, he harassed, beat, and inflicted unspeakable tortures upon her. For six years he tormented the blessed woman. Holding true to her Christian faith, she patiently bore his cruelty.

As death neared, she summoned the chief bishop Samuel and his associate Hohan, who had supported her throughout the long ordeal. They came and gave her their final blessing. Similarly, all the noble lords, princesses, and gentry, as well as the common people, witnessed the blessing and praised her as a valiant defender of the faith and a confessor of Christ. Bishops and generals fought over who should receive the chains that had been on her feet, as a token of blessing.

The blessed princess’ response to all the commotion was a humble one: “I am unworthy of all this, but do as you wish in accordance with your love of God ….Let Christ our God, who is my Lord and hope, accept me and bless all of you and give good gifts according to each one’s labor.” She ordered her remains to be buried at the site from which she was first dragged.

Until her final moments, she praised God for giving her strength to endure the tortures suffered in His name, and she offered her prayer for God’s mercy to be accepted into God’s eternal kingdom. After her final “Amen” to all, her body was cleaned and wrapped in fine linens and escorted with great honor by priests, deacons, and the people to the prepared tomb. With psalms and thanksgiving they praised God through the night. The Passion of St. Shooshanik is commemorated on the Tuesday of the week of the Lent of Holy Cross of Varak. The Orthodox Church celebrates the day on August 28/September 10 each year.

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