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Martyr Abo who suggered at Tibileli (Tbilisi), Georgia

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8/21 January

An Arab by descent, he lived in the eighth century in Bagdad and was a manufacturer of aromatic ointments. At the age of seventeen or eighteen, he found himself in Tbilisi, having followed the ruler of Kartli (eastern Georgia), Nerses. Nerses, having been slandered before the caliph, spent three years in confine-ment; freed by a new caliph, he took Abo with him.

In Tbilisi, Abo learned the Georgian language. By his virtues, he earned the general love and esteem of the people. Abo began to study Sacred Scripture and to visit God's churches more and more often. Abiding in fasting and prayer, he sought a convenient opportunity in order to accept Holy Baptism. At that time, Nerses, the ruler of Kartli, was again calumniated before the caliph and summoned to Bagdad. Nerses, desiring to escape punishment, went to the north, to Khazaria. Abo was also found in his suite of three hundred men. In Khazaria, he accepted Holy Baptism. In a few months, following Nerses, Abo found himself in Abkhazia. There he led a strict, ascetic life, constantly meditated on Sacred Scripture and prayed long at the church services. Saint Abo's pious life became known to the sovereign and to the bishop of Abkhazia. They frequently summoned Saint Abo for spiritual conversation, being amazed at his profound faith and knowledge. But, desiring to escape worldly glory and imitating the ascesis of Venerable Anthony the Great, Saint Abo gave himself over to silence, and only after three months, on the day of Christ's bright Resurrection, did he break his silence, glorifying and preaching the resurrected Saviour.

Soon Nerses decided to return to Tbilisi, and Abo fearlessly followed him, although the ruler of Abkhazia, fearing for his fate, asked him to stay. In Tbilisi, which was then under the authority of the Mohammedans, Saint Abo openly confessed Christ the Saviour and thereby incurred the vindictive wrath of the Persians. The Saint was confined in a dungeon and then brought to trial. By persuasions and promises of all kinds of wealth and honors, they attempted to return him to Mohammedanism. And when they saw that Abo remained unbending, they again cast him into the dungeon. On the ninth day of confinement, an angel of the Lord revealed to Saint Abo his imminent martyric death.

At the third hour on the feast of Theophany, Saint Abo communed of the Holy Mysteries and was soon led out by guards to execution. Hoping to force a renunciation of Christ through fear, they thrice inflicted a blow on Saint Abo with the blunt edge of the sword. The martyr remained unwavering. Through the cutting off of his precious head, he died on that same day, Friday, 6 January 786.

Saint Abo's body was drenched with oil and burned at the edge of a cliff, on the same spot where the Tbilisi Metekha church would later be built. "To this spot, the Lord sent a star that shone like a lamp, which stood in the air until the third hour of the night and longer...and illumined the whole of Tbilisi." Saint Abo's bones were cast into the Kura River under a bridge. On the next day, the 7th of January, they were glorified by an amazing pillar of light emanating from the water, about which John Sabanisidze, Saint Abo's contemporary, who compiled his life, testifies.

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