November 2, 2023

Elder Gabriel's "Performance" in a Pub

R.B. Revaz gave the following testimony of an encounter he had with Saint Gabriel (Urgebadze) of Georgia:

In the late 1980s, my family was on the verge of destruction due to my chaotic life. Not a day went by that I didn't drink alcohol. I also became addicted to gambling. I lost my job, my friends... Because of this, all my relatives suffered. Deep down I was aware of my condition, but I was unable to cope with myself. Most likely, I was already getting used to this kind of existence. As they tell me, and I remember myself, I lost my human appearance, everything around me irritated me, and at some point I felt like another person. At that time I was not looking for any spiritual refuge, much less it never occurred to me to go to church, since I did not take clergy seriously at that time.

This would have continued for a long time if one fine evening Elder Gabriel had not walked into that pub where I, finishing another glass of beer, was preparing to commit a reckless act. Yes, dear friends, you definitely read it: Elder Gabriel entered a pub!

And all this happened as follows. In the great noise, I heard the clear, loud, angry voice of a man demanding that I pour beer and vodka into the largest glass for him, otherwise “his heart will break” and he will “pay any sum.” “I have money - the parishioners donated,” this man repeated in a thunderous voice behind me, and people laughed and looked at each other with contempt. I didn’t know the meaning of the word “parishioners” then, and I sat with my back to the one who said them, not particularly interested in who he was. I remember one thing for sure: in my perception, that man was a tall, sharply dressed man, a rebel who, like me, drowns his grief in alcohol. The voice did not stop, the sounds of sips were heard, some screams - and suddenly the “rebel” begins to sing one Georgian song, and so beautifully that I involuntarily turn around and saw in the center of the pub a priest in rags, short, gray-haired, spreading his arms as if drunk, dancing along to the words of the song.

The entire pub fell silent and looked at him. And he looked at me with big extraordinary eyes. At some point, he approached me, looked me in the eyes and said: “Revaz, burn what you have here in your pocket!” He hit me in the chest in a showy way, raised his hands to the heavens and made the sign of the cross over me in a split second.

It happened so quickly that people didn't even notice, and many, including me, thought that the sign of the cross was some kind of dance move. Soon, having finished his dance, the elder left. Everyone saw him off with applause and the phrases: “What a good man... Well done, father! Wow!"

I stood dumbfounded, with tears in my eyes. I cried not because I immediately understood the whole meaning of Elder Gabriel’s actions, but only because his words seemed to shock me, and I wondered how he could know what was in my pocket. For in my pocket was a suicide note written a few hours ago, in which I said goodbye to my family. Yes, I was going to commit a terrible, irreparable act. And Elder Gabriel came by God’s will and staged such a performance for me!

The most amazing thing was that from the next day I didn’t even want to hear about gambling, and I gave up alcohol along with the chaotic lifestyle that I had led for a long time.

I regret that I could not find that priest in Tbilisi. I asked many people, but received the answer that he was crazy, who does not always appear. Soon I turned to God and the Church. And only a few years later, when my family and I went to Mtskheta and went to the Samtavro Monastery, at one grave where people were crowding, I saw in a large photograph the same priest who saved me and sobered me up. I stood rooted to the spot, tears welling up in my eyes. And the priest smiled at me from the photograph, and I also smiled after he winked at me from the photograph... As if he was asking me with humor: “Well, Revaz, you’re here. You’ve come to the ‘rebel’, to Elder Archimandrite Gabriel (Urgebadze)?” To our dear father, who is loved throughout the Orthodox world, who saves many people with his love, and he will continue to save, by God's grace!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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