Saint of the Week

St. Georgia, Sister of Saint Gregory the Theologian


(Commemorated on February 23)


Most of the information about Saint Gorgonia (Γοργονία) comes from her brother, Saint Gregory Nazianzus (January 25) in his Oration VIII, "On his Sister Gorgonia," which was delivered sometime after their brother Saint Caesarius (March 9) went to the Lord in 369, and before the elder Saint Gregory's repose in 374.

She was the daughter of Saint Gregory Nazianzus (January 1) and Saint Nonna (August 5), and was named for her maternal grandmother Gorgonia. Saint Gregory tells us that she derived her existence and her reputation from their parents, because they sowed in her the seeds of piety.

In praising her virtues, Saint Gregory states that her modesty surpassed those of her own time, and those who lived before her. She blended the excellence of the married state with that of the unmarried state, avoiding the disadvantages of each, while combining all that is best in both. Thus, Saint Gorgonia proved that "neither of them absolutely binds us to, or separates us from, God or the world." It is the mind which nobly presides over marriage and virginity, arranging and working on them as "the raw material of virtue."

Saint Gorgonia had consecrated herself to God, and also won her husband Alypios to her side. He was from the city of Iconium, where Faustinus was the bishop. She made Alypios "a good fellow servant, instead of an unreasonable master." This pious couple had five children; two sons who became bishops, and three daughters: Alypianḗ, Eugenia, and Nonna. Moreover, she made her children and their children's children the fruit of her spirit, dedicating to God not only her soul, but also her entire family and household. As long as she lived, she showed herself as an example of all that is good. Her devoted brother even compared her to King Solomon's virtuous woman (Proverbs 31:10-31).

This daughter of a saintly family took both her natural and spiritual parents as her models of virtue, and they were the source of her goodness. She did not wear fine clothes or expensive jewelry, nor did she use pigments to enhance her beauty. The only red coloring dear to her was the blush of modesty; and her only white coloring was the tint of temperance.

She adorned the churches with offerings, and thereby presented herself to God as a living temple. She opened her house to members of her family who were in want, and even to strangers. She was sympathetic to those in trouble, and compassionate toward widows. She "dispersed abroad" and "gave to the poor" (Psalm 111/112:9). The only wealth she left to her children was the excellence of her example.

In her fasting, her chanting of the Psalms, her vigils, her tears, and her prayers, she surpassed not only women, but also the most devout men, thereby demonstrating that the distinction between male and female is one of body, not of soul.

One day, as Saint Gorgonia was riding in her carriage, the mules bolted and the carriage was overturned. She was dragged over the ground and suffered serious injury. Those who were not Christians were scandalized that God would permit such a thing to happen to this righteous woman. Although she was bruised in her bones and limbs, she would not allow a physician to examine her, in order to preserve her modesty. She trusted that God would heal her, and He did. Seeing her unexpected recovery, people concluded that the accident had occurred so that by her patient endurance and her miraculous healing, God would be glorified.

Saint Gorgonia longed for death, preferring to be with Christ rather than remain on earth. She had a vision in which the day of her death was revealed to her so that she might prepare herself. As that time drew near she took to her bed, and spent her last day giving instructions to her husband, her children, and her friends. After discoursing about spiritual matters, she reposed in the year 370 at the age of thirty-eight. Her last words were, “I will both lie down in peace and sleep” (Psalm 4:8).