The Venerable Damiane: the Prayers and Music Endure

The Venerable Damiane: the Prayers and Music Endure May 25, 2020

Do not despair, lose hope, say a prayer, fight for freedom, write a hymn, save the nation. 

Georgia, the nation, not the state should never be far from our minds. 

The little nation, a target for Russians, Turks, and Persians, has refused to vanish, lose her beautiful language, or be absorbed by bigger cultures. Here is hoping she can survive the moral and cultural colonialism of the decadent European Union and bribery from non-government organizations to change.

I would bet on Georgia, because of figures like the Venerable Damiane.

This holy man served as King of Georgia during two different periods (died 1157).  Georgia had managed to shake off Turkish rule during the reign of the fabulous Davit the Restorer. His father had found Georgia overwhelmed, restored the nation, encouraged education and the arts. His son, Damiane ( or Demetre I as a ruler) generally continued his success. By the standards of the times, the Christian Georgians were religiously tolerant, despite being surrounded by enemies. The Georgians faced massive organized Islamic attack and during this period defeated their foes, but refused to engage in normal reprisals. The rulers were more interested in advancing language, music, Christian living, than in holy wars.

Winning and sustaining often is harder than simply winning and the brilliant Damiane had a hard, though largely successful reign. He found Georgia free and left her so, an accomplishment given her geography. His greatest problem was his own nobles and family!  The throne of Georgia was now an important prize and members of his own family conspired against him. As a pious man, King Demetre was willing to become the monk Damiane rather than face continuous family turmoil or civil war with his own son. While in the monastery, he produced a brilliant hymn. When his nation needed him, again, he returned from the monastery as a co-ruler and kept the peace.

For those who buy Gibbon’s lies that the Eastern Romans (called Byzantines) were a long history of failure and decline, this little outpost of the Eastern Roman commonwealth shows how unenlightened the boorish Gibbon was. The twelfth century was glorious for the Georgians. Keeping a wholly unique language alive, despite all temptations, producing national literature, art, and music was, Gibbon not with standing, civilized.

Victories come and go, but a culture based on Christianity will love music, education, culture and those things endure. Why? They attach themselves to the good, truth, and beauty. Even wreckers, looters, and atheists (mostly) will not deface all the icons, forget all the songs, or debase a beautiful language.

As a monarch, the Saint was not too proud to fight, most successfully. He also was not willing to fight wars where only the enemies of Georgia could win. He would not continue fruitless civil wars. The Venerable Damiane kept Georgia free in his lifetime, but this did not endure forever. The song he wrote was so beautiful that it survived the atheist Soviets! Evidently the fact that Theotokos is not mentioned by name allowed the song to pass the censors. They did an atheist juke on the song (maybe this is just about a beautiful woman?), but Georgians knew the truth and would not live by lies.

Here Venerable Damiane sings of the Mother of God:

You are a vineyard newly blossomed.
Young, beautiful, growing in Eden,
(A fragrant poplar sapling in Paradise.)
(May God adorn you. No one is more worthy of praise.)
You yourself are the sun, shining brilliantly.

Our 2018 pilgrimage to Georgia. . .

Georgia endured hard times and dangers that few of us can imagine. The prayers were heard, the music endured, and so the people and language lasted. We can learn from this truth. Fight the good fight for justice and liberty, yet pray and make music. Create beauty in the language of the people. Invest in education.

Borders will change over the centuries, but nothing can defeat such people. Let’s, all of us, be like the Georgians: fight with honor, create, be tolerant, and pray. The eternal things endure.

Venerable Damiane pray for us.

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