On How St. Gabriel Ate Kebabs on Friday

All God’s saints are different. St. Gabriel (Urgebadze), a “fool-for-Christ”, was far from the typical image of a saint. Many were scandalized by his behavior—he could say a swear word or pretend that he was going to eat meat during a fast. But it was only for appearance; by their behavior “fools-for-Christ” often denounced the sins of people who came to them.


God’s Saints are absolutely free from the glory of this world. They are only concerned with the Glory of God, so they behave this way in order to bring human souls to salvation. They don't care what people think or say about them. Saints are straightforward and honest. Perhaps they are not immediately revealed to us, as are their gifts of clairvoyance and miracles. Then you can only say: “Woe to me! My spiritual eyes are closed; therefore I do not see a saint in a person and do not see the image of God! It is in everyone, and if a person is a saint, how terrible it is to make a mistake thinking that he is a sinner!”

And we should try to imitate those like St. Gabriel (Urgebadze) and to have such purity of heart as to see the image of God in everyone.

He who learns to love will be happy. But don’t think that love is an innate talent. Love can be learned, and we must learn it,” St. Gabriel (Urgebadze) used to say.

The saint reposed in the Lord on November 2, 1995, and on February 22, 2014, his holy relics were uncovered. His straightforwardness, clairvoyance and great love attracted many people to him during his lifetime, and he did not abandon us after his death: he answers our prayers and appears to some people in visions.

Kebabs on Friday

It was in the early 1980s. Fr. Gabriel lived in a tiny wooden shack of Samtavro convent. Some nuns judged him. One day he disappeared from the convent.

Samtavro Convent. Source: v-georgia.com Samtavro Convent. Source: v-georgia.com     

Two or three weeks later news came from Tbilisi that Fr. Gabriel was seriously ill. The nuns who had condemned him were filled with remorse. “We condemned him and what we didn’t say about him, but it turns out that he needs support and help!” It was decided to go to Tbilisi and visit Fr. Gabriel.

For two days they prepared diligently, especially one nun who had earlier judged him the most energetically. And when several huge bags were filled with all kinds of food and other things necessary for the sick elder, they left for Tbilisi. They took me with them as a student.

On the way they lamented regarding Fr. Gabriel’s illness. I was surprised by their transformation. Finally we reached Fr. Gabriel's house. He gladly received us, but looked somewhat embarrassed. The nuns asked him about his health. From time to time they lamented that they had condemned him for no reason. Fr. Gabriel just smiled in reply.

Suddenly, amid the tears of repentance, Fr. Gabriel’s voice was heard—he called some woman over to him. A neighbor responded to the call—almost dancing, she entered with a satisfied air carrying kebabs on skewers.

“Look, Gabriel, what splendid kebabs came out—just as you instructed!” And, singing a melody from urban folklore, she walked towards us.

Fr. Gabriel made signs to her to go away, but she did not understand anything and said disappointedly.

“You yourself told me to make kebabs and bring them in on a signal!” And she retired displeased.

It is not difficult to imagine the nuns’ reaction.

“We believed he was sick and in need of consolation, but he is indulging in kebabs on a fast day, on Friday!” And the nuns who had recently lamented so sympathetically began to condemn him again and, indignant, withdrew.

I wanted to stay, but had to follow them. Noticing my hesitation, Fr. Gabriel whispered to me at parting:

“I’ve played a good joke on them, haven’t I, Archil?”

This episode reminds me of a story from the Egyptian Patericon:

“A famous ascetic monk struggled at a monastery far from Alexandria. During Lent, the ruler of Alexandria decided to pay a visit to this elder. The venerable father, who was endowed with the gift of foresight, had a received sign about that guest. He told his novice to bring him some cheese and bread. Meanwhile he sat down at the city gate and began to wait for the distinguished guest.

“When the dignitary appeared, the elder took the cheese and bread from the novice and began to eat it. The dignitary approached the monk, examined him from top to bottom and then said to the accompanying courtiers: ‘Is it he who is so praised? I fast more strictly than he does—he eats cheese during Lent!’ And condemning the elder, he turned around and left.

“The novice asked the elder without understanding anything:

“‘Father, why have you done this? You have turned away a man who came to the desert for spiritual food!’

“‘My dear,’ the elder said, ‘if that were truly so, cheese and bread would have not become an obstacle for him. By coming here he wanted to show how modest he was—the ruler of a city has condescended to visit some monk in the desert! And by this act of foolishness for Christ he was caught in his feigned virtue.’”

From the book, The Last Among the First. The Venerable Confessor Gabriel (Moscow: Sretensky Monastery Publishing House, 2021).

Translation by Dmitry Lapa

Sretensky Monastery


Peter Kwilenza3/6/2023 7:10 am
Hello praise to my school project and make support for buy land of building classroom
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