Elder Gabriel was physically completely different—unearthly, impressive. His words had power. He contained both an extraordinary simplicity and a kind of aristocracy. It’s impossible to describe all this in words.
After his recovery Archil told me that when he was bedridden and couldn’t move, and had no strength for anything, he saw Elder Gabriel sitting at his bedside without leaving him. “I knew that he would help me. He sat next to me and looked at me with great love,” Archil related.
At some point he drew close to me, looked right into my eyes and said: “Revaz, burn what you have here, in your pocket!” And what I had in my pocket was a suicide note, written a few hours before, in which I said good-bye to my family.
It was not easy to drive through five borders, to endure many trials, to walk on foot between borders at the Three Sisters checkpoint at night… But we felt that Batiushka Gabriel was with us. He helped us and humbled us just as he did while he was yet alive.
And when they opened the trunk, one of the cops with a Caucasian accent said: “Brothers, you’re Monk Gabriel’s boys!” Immediately automatically answering, “Yes,” we blushed and were amazed at the same time. How could this cop know Elder Gabriel?
Today, December 20, we celebrate anniversary of the canonization of St. Gabriel (Urgebadze) of Georgia. The creators of the film, “I Am Waiting for You at Samtavro,” have given OrthoChristian.com the great pleasure of presenting it to our readers in its entirety, along with this written introduction.
I first saw Fr. Gabriel on Rustaveli Avenue in the 1980s. Raising his hands to Heaven, he called out: “Georgians! Wake up and see what is happening in Georgia, what state the grave of St. Shushanik is in! Is the Metekhi Church really a place for a theater?!”
We offer our readers a selection of little known reminiscences and testimonies about St. Gabriel, which will help everybody discover the essence of the elder’s podvigs that are pouring out from his love-filled heart.
“How long do I have to live?” I asked. “Up to three months,” I heard the answer. Some time passed, and I was put on morphine. I suffered from excruciating pain; with every passing day I grew weaker, as if losing the remainder of my strength.
It was Elder Gabriel who made Galina Petrovna laugh in the last minutes of her life on earth, and escorted her soul peacefully, thus answering her prayer by “bringing her petition unto the Lord”—to take her soul if only one day prior to Marina’s repose.
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.