St. Gabriel (Urgebadze)… Everyone who knew Elder Gabriel remembers that he was extraordinarily simple, humble, and loving, and at the same time formidable. When he was angry or rebuked someone, you could feel that the Almighty was speaking through his mouth—such Divine authority and power his words possessed; but when he noticed that someone was repenting, he would embrace him, press him to his chest, and instill hope and love into the heart of his beloved. The “foolish” elder today, in our day, continues to strengthen people in faith, and to infuse love into their hearts invisibly, and sometimes visibly, appearing among believers, regardless of religion, simple people, beginning the thorny path of salvation known as Orthodoxy.
St. Gabriel (Ugrebadze) showed through his life a very elevated example of eldership. He possessed the God-given gift of prophecy. He preached the Lord’s word, sang, danced, wept, laughed, joked, rebuked, forbade, instructed, prayed, again wept, and again laughed… One had to live side-by-side with him for a few months in order to learn how to understand the profundity of his inner world, and not be scandalized by his strange acts of foolishness-for-Christ. In him was a strength before which people bow down even now—the strength of prayer and love.
In the morning, mother and I came along with a friend to the hospital. We went to my father’s room… to be more exact, we ran with horror when we heard the nurse’s shriek: “It can’t be!” We thought, well, it’s the end! My mother fainted.