Legend has it that a Jewish Rabbi named Elias was in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified. Following the crucifixion, he found the soldier who had won Jesus’ robe through the casting of dice and bought it from him. He then returned to his own country in Georgia, taking the robe with him. Later, the robe would find its home in the crypt at the Orthodox Cathedral in Mtskheta. Every year it is brought out on October 1st and celebrated as the Robe of Christ.
Around the year 300, a young girl, Nino, was born in Cappadocia, Turkey. When she was twelve, her family moved to Jerusalem where Nino would eventually become an orphan. She was taken in by an older Christian woman who told her the stories of Christ, including the history of the Robe. Hearing this, Nino desired to be found worthy to travel to Georgia to venerate the relic, so she began to pray to the Theotokos, the Mother of God.
Her prayer was answered and the Virgin Mary spoke to her, “Go to the country that was assigned to me by lot and preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will send down His grace upon you and I will be your protector.”
Nino did not believe she could carry out such a task. “How can I, a fragile woman, perform such a momentous task, and how can I believe that this vision is real?” In her vision, she was given a cross made out of grape vine and the Theotokos said to her, “Receive this cross as a shield against visible and invisible enemies!” When she woke up, the cross was in her hands. She relayed the words of Mary to the Patriarch of the church, her uncle, who prayed. “O Lord, God of Eternity, I beseech Thee on behalf of my orphaned niece: Grant that, according to Thy will, she may go to preach and proclaim Thy Holy Resurrection. O Christ God, be Thou to her a guide, a refuge, and a spiritual father. And as Thou didst enlighten the Apostles and all those who feared Thy name, do Thou also enlighten her with the wisdom to proclaim Thy glad tidings.” (Source)
A series of events eventually led Nino to the people of Georgia where she was able to convert the Queen and eventually the King, solidifying the Christian faith in that country.
The Church that was originally established by the preaching of the Apostle Andrew and later built up Nino is still in existence today and Nino is still revered by the people of the Russian Orthodox Church and others.
Is there a connection to St. Nino and St. Matthew’s? As a matter of fact there is. St. Nino’s Russian Orthodox Church still meets once a month in our St. Julian’s Chapel. As a gift for them during this Christmas season and in celebration of their Patron Saint, I ordered this icon of the Theotokos for them. I thought that today we would bless if for them before presenting it.
O Lord our God, Who created us after Your own Image and Likeness; Who redeems us from our former corruption of the ancient curse through Your manbefriending Christ, Who took upon Himself the form of a servant and became man; Who having taken upon Himself our likeness remade Your Saints of the first dispensation, and through Whom also we are refashioned in the Image of Your pure blessedness; Your Saints we venerate as being in Your Image and Likeness, and we adore and glorify You as our Creator; Wherefore we pray You, send forth Your blessing upon this Icon, and with the sprinkling of hallowed water, Bless and make holy this Icon unto Your glory, in honor and remembrance of the Theotokos; And grant that this sanctification will be to all who venerate this Icon of the Theotokos, and send up their prayer unto You standing before it; Through the grace and bounties and love of Your Only-Begotten Son, with Whom You are blessed together with Your All-Holy, Good and Life-creating Spirit; both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.