St. Gregory “the Teacher”, a recently canonized saint in Romania, lived a monastic exemplary life and at the same time he was a loving man of culture. Due his activity, the movement of the revival of monasticism (known as the “philokalic” movement, or “neo-patristic”) was spread in the south of Romania, through the translations of patristic works into the local language, which is Romanian. Moreover, he revived the Romanian elements in the Church worship, supporting the printing of the liturgical books in Romanian.
He was born in Bucharest, in 1765. His parents have supported his high education in the classical and spiritual sciences. Gregory showed an extraordinary intelligence, being the best student of the College of Saint Sava, the best Romanian school of his time. There he studied Latin and Greek, Theology, Grammar and other sciences.
During his studies at the College of Saint Sava, he met the monks Gherontie and Dorotheos, two of the disciples of St. Paisie from Neamţ, the Abbot who started the revival of the monasticism in Romania and Russia in the late eighteenth century. At that time, Moldova and Wallachia were two romanian separate states, under the Turkish rule, Gregory being Wallachian.
In 1790, St. Gregory came by himself at Neamţ Monastery, situated in the northern part of Moldova, where he was a direct apprentice of Paisie Velichkovsky, who tonsured him as a monk and taught him the rules of monastic life. In the monastery of Paisie lived at that time several hundred of translators and copyists, who influenced the spiritual life in Moldova, Wallachia and Russia for more than a century. Among them, being well acquainted with Greek, St. Gregory has translated various works of the Church Fathers, encouraged by Paisie.
In 1796, Dositei Filitti, the Metropolitan of Wallachia (Walachia) has specifically requested two translators from Neamt Monastery. The monks Gherontie and Gregory were chosen by their Abbot for this mission and so they began printing in Bucharest, in 1799 the “Useful book for the Soul”, which is popular even today in the Orthodox space, being a kind of catechism. In 1801 the two monks were printed “the Kiriacodromion” of the Greek Scholar Nikiforos Theotokis, which explains the text of the Evangelical readings in the Sundays throughout the whole year.
In the meantime, the Metropolitan of Moldova, Veniamin Costachi urged them to translate “The pious mystery of our orthodox faith”, printed in 1803, and “Interpretation of the Gospels” of St. Theophylact of Bulgaria, published in 1805. In 1806 it was printed the translation of the “Dogmatica” (“Teaching of the true Faith”) of St. John Damascene, an essential book of theology from the 8th century. In addition, the monk Gregory has translated and published some other books in Romanian.
In 1812, St. Gregory and Gherontie went together to the Holy Mountain (Mount Athos), to “worship God in the holy monasteries there and to meet with parents for the benefit of the pious soul”. On their return, near the city of Plovdiv in Bulgaria, they were attacked by robbers, and Gherontie died due the cruel beating. Gregory retired to Căldăruşani, near Bucharest, for five years between 1818 and 1823, until his election as Metropolitan of Wallachia. Here he translated in Romanian some very important books for the candidates for the priesthood, namely: “Treatise on the priesthood” of St. John Chrysostom and “Word for the priesthood” of St. Gregory the Theologian.
In 1822, after 110 years, it was elected a Romanian of Wallachia, namely Grigore Ghica. He supported the election of a new Metropolitan in Bucharest, in a time when there was no bishop in Wallachia and after a difficult war with the Turks.
Elected as metropolitan, Gregory took firm balanced and full of wisdom decisions concerning the revival of the spiritual life of his country. He managed to ban the Greek bishops in the south of the Danube to ordain priests outside their diocese. That practice was quite “normal” in the Middle Ages, so that many priests knew almost nothing about their own faith. After a complaint addressed to the Patriarch in Constantinople, this practice stopped.
At the decision of Metropolitan Gregory, many schools were provided with books and the best teachers were brought in to teach. Gregory knew that cultural and spiritual progress are mutually reinforcing, so he helped many poor students to study and tried to build theological seminaries, for the good preparation of the future priests and teachers. Above all, he tidied up the monastic life, trying to reestablish the rules of the Church Fathers in Romanian monasteries.
After the outbreak of new conflict between Russia and Turkey in 1828, Gregory was forced to flee to Chisinau. In 1831 the Government in Bucharest required his resignation, but Gregory refused, saying: “God gave me a soul and a diocese, then I will leave the diocese when the soul will get out of my body, because these are things that concern the salvation of the souls”. It was only on 22 August 1833 he returned to Bucharest, but he lived only one year more, passing into eternity on June 22, 1834. He was buried sitting in a chair, in a vaulted tomb near the Metropolitan Cathedral in Bucharest. Over seven years, his bones were moved to Căldăruşani Monastery. His will may be found in the preface to the translation of the book “the Wheat-Sharing” of Saint John Chrysostom: “Only so much I desire to live, in order to help the Orthodoxy, my people and my brothers, so that they can easily acquire the eternal goodness through the teachings of the saints”.
Gregory “The Teacher”, venerated already for a long time in Bucharest and around, was officially canonized on May 21, 2006, his feast day being on June 22, the day of his passing away. The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church has approved this decision in the October 2005 work session, at the proposal of the Metropolitan Synod of of Muntenia and Dobrogea (which is the Metropolis of Wallachia).
The relics of St. Gregory are currently in the Căldăruşani Monastery, where he himself spent five years between 1818 and 1823, until he was elected metropolitan.
The Hymn of the saint is the same for the Holy Hierarchs (e.g. St. Nicholas of Myra has the same hymn in the Church Cult):
“In truth you were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith, an image of humility and a teacher of abstinence; your humility exalted you; your poverty enriched you. Hierarch Father Gregory, entreat Christ our God that our souls may be saved!”
Kontakion (Specifical hymn of the Saint)
”The Romanian Church had you as Fearless defender of the right faith and compassionate facilitator for the oppressed people, o, Holy Hierarch Gregory, because you have advised the priests and the faithful people, you’ve taught the youth and protected the orphans and your wise writings and teachings remained priceless treasure of our Orthodox Church!”