The chronicles listing the generations of chief shepherds of Georgia reveal that Saint Sarmean was leader of the Georgian Apostolic Church from the year 767 (or 760, according to some sources) until the year 774. These were years of Arab-Muslim rule in Georgia. The Arabs persecuted the Christians, oppressed those who served in the Church, and tried in every way to convert the country to Islam. Despite the frightful abuses that the faithful endured and the transformation of the city into a residence for the emir, many Tbilisi churches continued to function.
Sarmean was a firm defender of Orthodoxy. Once, however, on Cheese-fare Thursday at Shio-MgvimeMonastery, a group of strangers bearing gifts arrived at the monastery. He served Holy Communion to them without ever inquiring into their faith. Later he learned that they were Jacobites (members of one of the Monophysite churches).
His carelessness was revealed to him in a dream that same night.
When he awoke the next morning, Catholicos Sarmean summoned the bishops, confessed his mistake, burned the gifts that the Jacobites had given him before their eyes, and departed for an isolated cave, where he wept over his sin with bitter tears.
But the All-merciful Lord sent a sign to Saint Sarmean to inform him that his transgression had been forgiven. The bishops sent him a message from Mtskheta: “O Great Sovereign Patriarch Sarmean! Rejoice! We, your spiritual children, believers in your holiness, the entire council of bishops, wish to inform you that Saint Shio has appeared and told each of the five of us that the Lord has remitted your sin. Make haste and summon us to the monastery, that we may give thanks together to our Holy Father Shio!”
Holy Catholicos Sarmean, divinely endowed with humility, faith, love, and the fear of God, led his flock wisely to the end of his days and reposed peacefully in the year 774.