The Feast of St Gregory the Illuminator’s deliverance from the pit is also known as Khor Viraben Yelkuh. Gregory is revered as the patron saint of the Armenian Church. He is recognised and memorialided in both eastern and western hierarchical churches. The Armenian liturgical calendar reserves three feast days in his honour: Entrance into the pit; deliverance from the pit and the discovery of the relics. In addition to these three days, there are several feast days to which he is closely connected, namely the feast days for Saints Hripsime and Gayane, Shoghakat, Holy Etchmiadzin and King Tiridates (Trdat). The Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox churches, and Oriental Orthodox churches have special days in their calendars for the veneration of St Gregory, who is considered to be one of the Fathers of the early Christian church.
St Gregory was condemned to the pit in 287 AD by King Tiridates III which preceded the persecution of Christians. After the martyrdom of a group of nuns who came to Armenia from Rome, led by Hripsime and Gayane, Tiridates was stricken with strange maladies. His sister, Khosrovitoukht, had a dream that St Gregory was the only person who could heal her brother. Miraculously, Gregory was still alive after many years in the pit, thanks to the daily visits of an angel. Gregory emerged from the pit and with the intercession of his prayers, the king recovered and was thus baptised as Tiridates III declared Christianity to be the official religion of Armenia in 301AD.
St Gregory became the patron saint of the Armenian Church and Tiridates and his wife, Queen Ashkhen, became ardent supporters in Gregory’s efforts to preach Christianity throughout Armenia and baptise the Armenian nation.
St Gregory was not the first to preach Christianity in Armenia. That distinction belongs to the apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew, who came to Armenia in the first century, and thus gave the Armenian Church its Apostolic designation. Nevertheless, Gregory is revered and is considered by Armenians to be the father of their faith. Hundreds of churches have been built and named in his honour.
“The ancient calendars of the still undivided Church celebrated him [Gregory] on the same day in both the East and the West as a tireless apostle of truth and holiness. The father in faith of the whole Armenian people, St Gregory still intercedes from heaven today, so that all the children of your great nation may at last gather round the one table prepared by Christ, the divine Shepherd of one flock.”
Pope John Paul II in his “Apostolic Letter for the 1700th Anniversary of the Baptism of the Armenian People,” issued February 2, 2001.