Fr. George (Mkheidze) was born in the village of Skhvava in the Racha region around 1877. He received a military education—a highly esteemed commodity among the Georgian aristocracy—but instead of pursuing a military career in defense of the Russian empire, he dedicated himself to Georgia’s national liberation movement. At one point the pious and learned George worked for Saint Ilia the Righteous as his personal secretary. He often met Saint Ilia’s spiritual father, the holy hierarch Alexandre (Okropiridze), and the holy hieromartyr Nazar (Lezhava), and he was acquainted with other important spiritual leaders of the time as well.
Desiring to sacrifice his life to God, George was tonsured into monasticism by the holy hieromartyr Nazar. His rare character combined a nobleman’s deportment with a monk’s humble asceticism. Fr. George was ordained a priest and soon after elevated to the rank of archimandrite.
Filled with divine love and patriotic sentiment, the holy father willingly endured the heavy burdens and spiritual tribulations afflicting his country at that time.
In 1924, while Fr. George was laboring at Khirsa Monastery in Kakheti in eastern Georgia, an armed Chekist mob broke into the monastery. The perpetrators beat him, cut off his hair, shaved his beard, and threatened to take his life. He sought refuge with his family, but to no avail—his brothers, who were atheists, shaved off his beard while he was sleeping. (One of Fr. George’s brothers later committed suicide, and the other, together with his wife, was shot to death by the Chekists.) In the same year, Fr. George visited Betania Monastery and was introduced to Fr. John (Maisuradze), with whom he would labor for the remainder of his life.
Fr. George’s health was poor, and he was able to perform only the lightest of tasks around the monastery. He tended the vegetable garden and took responsibility for raising the bees. He was extremely generous. At times he would give all the monastery’s food to the needy, assuring Fr. John that God Himself would provide their daily bread.
Tall, thin, and with an upright posture, Fr. George was strict in both appearance and demeanor. He spoke very little with other people, and children did not play with him as they did with Fr. John. Knowing his character, they tried to please him by reciting prayers and behaving themselves. Fr. George did not like to leave the monastery, but it was often necessary for him to travel to Tbilisi to visit his spiritual children— among whom were many secret Christians who worked for the government.
Fr. George was endowed with the gifts of prophecy and healing, but he was careful to hide them. When constrained to reveal them, he would pass them off as though they were nothing extraordinary. Once a certain pilgrim arrived at the monastery and was surprised to discover that Fr. George knew him by name. Sensing his great amazement, Fr. George told the pilgrim that he had attended his baptism some thirty years earlier, thus concealing his God-given gift. Fr. George knew in advance when his nephew was bringing his sisters, whom he had not seen in forty-eight years, to visit him at the monastery during Great Lent.
Enlightened with this foreknowledge, Fr. George prepared fish and a festal meal in honor of the occasion.
The prayers of Fr. George and Fr. John healed the former’s nephew, who was afflicted by a deadly strain of meningitis. They restored hearing to a deaf child and healed many others of their bodily infirmities.
In 1957, when Fr. John reposed in the Lord, Fr. George was tonsured into the great schema. He was given the name John in honor of his newly departed spiritual brother. Fr. George-John now bore full responsibility for the affairs of the monastery. His health deteriorated further under the weight of this heavy yoke. His spiritual children began to come from the city to care for him.
Once a twenty-year-old girl arrived at the monastery, complaining of incessant headaches. She had been told that the water from Betania Monastery would heal her. She remained there for one week and was miraculously healed. When she left to return home, Fr. George-John walked five miles to see her off, in spite of his physical frailty.
The Theotokos appeared to Fr. George-John in a vision and relieved his terrible physical pain. The protomartyr Thekla also appeared to him, presenting him with a bunch of grapes. Several days before his repose, the holy father was in the city when an angel appeared to him and announced his imminent repose. The angel told him to return to the monastery to prepare for his departure from this world.
Saint George-John (Mkheidze) reposed in 1960. He was buried at Betania Monastery, next to Fr. John (Maisuradze). These venerable fathers were canonized on September 18, 2003, at a council of the Holy Synod under the spiritual leadership of His Holiness Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia. Frs. John and George-John have been lovingly deemed “one soul in two bodies.”