The ways of the world have drifted far from the ways of God. In the world, power and riches and prominent positions are important. But Holy Scripture reminds us that God’s way is the opposite. We are told that even great and powerful people must be “born again” and become like little children. The rich who have made idols of their worldly possessions are to “give all they have to the poor” and follow him. In the Magnificat, we sing of how God will “put down the mighty from their seat and exalt the humble and meek.”
The most important sign God gave us of his ways was to send his beloved Son to us in the form of a tiny, helpless infant. God also uses his saints to show us the way of humility. St. Nina of Georgia is one who, through humility and despite her lowly position, brought the Christian faith to an entire nation.
Raised as a Christian in her native land, Nina was captured as a young girl and forced into slavery in the country of Georgia. Without bitterness for this alteration of her life, Nina went about her duties of cleaning and caring for her captors with self-effacing kindness.
The Georgian people were pagans who worshiped as their primary god, Amazi, a sword-wielding vengeful spirit, whose copper image could bring death to anyone who touched it, but Nina unselfconsciously continued to pray to our Lord Jesus Christ as she had done all her life. When those she worked with or for asked her about her God, she did not hesitate to tell them of the wonderful works of God.
One day, a distraught mother, whose child was ill and could not be cured by the doctors, came to the household where Nina worked and asked for help from anyone who could give it. Explaining that she had no medical skills or knowledge, Nina said that all she had to offer was prayer to God for the healing of the child. The mother, in her desperation, agreed to let the foreign slave appeal to her foreign God. Our heavenly Father chose this moment to show the Georgian people his mercy and kindness. The child miraculously recovered from his sickness and his mother gratefully promised to worship the God of the slave girl who had brought about this miracle.
Nina satisfied the curiosity of other villagers about God and many of them, too, came to believe in the saving grace of Christ. Others with infirmities were brought to Nina for prayers for healing. Eventually even the queen came to this slave girl for help because of a painful disability she had suffered for many years. When Nina’s prayers resulted in the Queen’s complete recovery, that great lady asked for instruction in the Christian faith and she, too, became a follower of Christ.
Although overjoyed at his wife’s restored health, King Miriam was not pleased with the idea of abandoning the traditional Georgian gods. He feared their retribution and became so angry at the queen’s urging that he decided to ban this religion from the land.
Our all-powerful God used another miracle to change the king’s mind. When he went hunting one day and rode to the top of the highest hill, where there was usually a magnificent view of the countryside, the entire area was suddenly covered with a thick fog – so thick that the king could not even see his companions. Out of fear of some strange calamity, King Miriam remembered the miracle of his wife’s cure and the foreign God who had brought it about. He decided to pray to this God and immediately the air cleared and the view of the hills and the valley below became as it had always been. The king knew that this was a heavenly sign that the Christian God was the true God, and he vowed to worship him and to build a church on this hill to his honor.
King Miriam and many others in his court began to receive instruction in the faith from the humble slave girl, Nina, in preparation for baptism. But there were more lessons for the king to learn. When the Emperor Constantine sent bishops and priests and relics to the Georgian people, the king was insulted that he was not the first to receive them. Nina had to instruct him in the virtue of humility. When some Georgian tribesmen refused to accept Christianity, King Miriam wanted to force them at the point of the sword, so Nina had to instruct him in the way of peace and the virtue of patience. When the king wanted to reward the slave girl by giving her freedom and wealth and position, she refused all these earthly pleasures to further demonstrate Christian humility.
St. Nina, beloved by all the Georgians who had come to know her and to accept the faith she had taught them, fell asleep in the Lord in the year 338 and was buried in the village where she had been brought as a slave. A church was built here and it became a place of pilgrimage for Christians to honor the one who had showed them the way to Heaven.
May we also learn from St. Nina how to show others the Christian faith through humility and kindness. Holy Nina, pray for us.