Ուրբաթ, Դեկտեմբեր 2, 2022

Շաբաթաթերթ

Holy Easter 2022

April 17, New (Gregorian) Calendar
April 24, Old (Julian) Calendar

Rev. Zaven Arzoumanian PhD

Two Calendars

          In this 2022 year the Armenian Church will celebrate Holy Easter twice, on April 17, and on April 24, one week apart, and some years as long as five weeks apart. It also happens that both celebrations fall on the same Sunday.

          Question is raised as to why the difference, and why celebrating twice, especially when pilgrims who will travel to Jerusalem for Easter on April 24 will have already celebrated the Feast in the United States a week earlier on April 17. The distance between the two is variable, given the year, and the New and the Old Calendars that observe Easter Sunday accordingly, from one to five weeks distance between them, and once in a while the celebration coincides on the same Sunday, all depending on the calendars’ solar system on which the observance of Easter is established by the first Church Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.

          This sounds confusing, but the simple and not quite adequate answer is the use of either the New (Gregorian) or the Old (Julian) Calendars. The canonical resolution of the date of Easter to be sure comes from the First Council of Nicaea.

What did the Church Fathers establish?

          What did the Church Fathers establish at Nicaea in the first place?  Based on Biblical evidences they resolved that Easter, the most important feast of the Church, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, should be celebrated “On the first Sunday succeeding the full moon, right after the spring solstice.” The decision is equally applied by both calendars, and not that one has honored it and the other not as some think.

          The problem in fact lied in the exact calculation of the days of the year. Note however that the Old Calendar which was proclaimed by Julius Caesar before Christ in 46 BC, and called after him, could have no bearing whatsoever on Christianity let alone on Easter. The Julian Calendar was purely secular calendar while the New Calendar which was prepared by Pope Gregory XIII (1573-1585) in 1582, and called after him, had the express purpose to calculate the days of the year correctly, by revising the Old, and establishing Easter Sunday according to the resolution of Nicaea.

The Problem 

          The problem therefore lies not in the accuracy of the one over the other, but in adjusting the exact days of the year by minutes, and then applying it to establish Easter Sunday correctly. The adjustment completed in the 16th century by scientists under Pope Gregory XIII as said above and the western churches gradually adopted it. Soon the Church of England followed the New Calendar in the 18th century and celebrated Easter with the Latin Church.

            The Orthodox Churches hesitated for political considerations and stayed with the Old Calendar, but the Armenian Church was the first among them to adopt the New Calendar, albeit much later in 1923, by the Encyclical of Catholicos of All Armenians Kevork V Soureniants. With the exception of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the churches under its jurisdiction, for the important reason to keep up with their rights and privileges in the Holy Land, the Armenian churches all over celebrated Easter according to the New Calendar ever since.

          Following the 1917 revolution of the Bolsheviks and after the fall of the Russian Empire, the communist regime adopted the New Calendar with the Russian and Georgian Orthodox Churches agreeing with the decree, but before the end of the year both churches reneged and turned to the Old Calendar. The Armenian Church stayed firm since 1923 ignoring the uncertain move of both churches. This confirmed the independence and the self rule of the Armenian Church from the orthodox churches, disregarding at the same time the political factor, despite being in the same region and under the same regime.

            The Greek Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople being cautious stayed away from the use of the New Calendar for political reasons trying not to jeopardize the Ottoman Empire’s risky relationship with the Russians. As of today the Greeks adhere to the Old Calendar in Jerusalem.

The Calculation

          Ordinarilythe Old Calendar calculated 365 ¼ days for the year which did not represent an accurate and final number, because the complete year calculated accurately 11 ½ minutes less than the above figure, which in 900 year period resulted in a difference of 10 days. To correct the mistake scientists made an unusual jump in 1582, and counted October 5th as October 15th, thus “balancing” by “elimination” the ten days of the year for the sake of absolute accuracy. This was what the New Calendar did, establishing and calculating 365 days for the year, and once every four years adding one day to the month of February and creating the “Leap Year” with February 29.

            Those churches which followed the dates of the Old Calendar refused to accept the “correction” and stood behind by 11 days in the year 1700, 12 days in 1800, and 13 days in 1900. This is why the feasts observed on fixed dates according to the New Calendar, such as the Armenian Christmas on January 6 and the Presentation of the Lord to the Temple on February 14, are 13 days earlier compared with the Old Calendar. Bear in mind also that those fixed dates are counted in the Old Calendar just the same, January 6 and February 14, which in the New Calendar “reads” January 19 and February 27.

The Armenian Church 

          As stated above the Armenian Church started using the New Calendar since 1923 for the churches outside Jerusalem. The case in the Holy Land has been unique in the sense that three denominations the Catholics, the Greeks, and the Armenians have equal rights and privileges in keeping the holy shrines by the power of the decrees granted them from the 7th century. In Jerusalem the Armenians and the Greeks use the same Julian calendar, and sometimes the feasts coincide with unnecessary “confrontations.”

THE FORMATION OF

THE ARMENIAN CHURCH

IN THE FIFTH CENTURY

The Church of Armenia emerged as the genuine Church of the Armenian people only following the invention of the Armenian alphabet in 404-406 AD. The Church founded by the Apostles, and later formally established by St. Gregory the Enlightener, lacked two major and most essential factors, the Armenian letters and the translation of the Bible into Armenian.

Introduction

            This study will cover the gap as well as the ultimate functional formation of the Armenian Church from the end of the 4th century to the end of the 5th. It is an attempt to treat transition of the church from the apostolic era to that of the literary expression of the established church in Armenia. All will fall under political hardship and sometimes under prosperous conditions, and yet the newly established church will survive all odds, given the God-given gift of all times, the letters and literature, through which not only the Holy Bible became «Armenian», but also the church was truly converted into an authentic Church of Armenia.

            Three prominent leaders stood behind this great enlightenment: St. Sahag the Catholicos (387-439), whose long and productive pontificate as the Patriarch of the Armenian Church yielded much fruit in terms of the translation of the Holy Bible into Armenian, St. Mesrob Mashtots (born 362-440), a cleric who invented the Armenian authentic letters, opened the first schools in Armenia, gathering the first Translators to translate the Bible and the earliest liturgical books, and King Vramshapuh of Armenia (389-414), who sponsored the entire literary work involved in the enlightenment of the Armenian nation. All three accomplished the most essential task of literacy, especially when Armenia lost its political stability and was divided between Byzantium and Persia in the year 387.

The Armenian Alphabet

            The Armenians rightfully proclaim the fifth century as the «Golden Age» for their nation, because at the dawn of that century a complete series of 36 Armenian letters were created by a talented priest Mesrob Mashtots in the years 404-406 AD. The task was an indispensable and a huge task that needed skill, knowledge, patience and prayer. Mesrob actually formed those letters after intense investigation of the Syriac and Greek letters. Independently from the above alphabets, he actually invented one letter per each sound in the spoken language of the people, who spoke the Armenian for centuries before but never wrote a single word for the lack of the letters. Mesrob, due to  his deep concern for the literacy of his people, found it most necessary and, as his biographer and the first historian of the Armenian nation Goriun Vartabed relates in his Life of Mashtots, designed each letter to correspond to each sound distinctly and clearly. He was not satisfied with his first designs, but went to Edessa to have the letters reshaped and dignified by a calligrapher.

The translation of the Bible

            Returning to Armenia, Mesrob Mashtots presented his 36 Armenian letters to his superior, the head of the Church Catholicos Sahag, who received him and the divine gifts with gratitude. Being himself a great scholar, now that the letters were available, the Catholicos embarked on the greater task of the translation of the Bible into Armenian from the Greek Septuagint text, brought into Armenia from Constantinople by the first students of Mesrob, who were sent to learn both the Greek and the Syriac languages in Edesa, Alexandria, and Constantinople. It took them some 30 years to accomplish the monumental work, while both Sahag and Mesrob were still living. Sahag died in 439 and Mesrob a year later in 440. Later the Armenian version was acclaimed by foreign scholars as the «queen of the translations» of the Bible, following which historiography bloomed in Armenia, schools were opened, and the immediate liturgical texts for worship, theology, and commentary of the Bible were translated into Armenian, basically from the Greek language.

            Thus, the Armenian Church was genuinely founded and supported, this time by written literature and documentations, rather than political power. The church was invested with spiritual and intellectual wealth which potentially yielded the greatest cultural achievements for posterity in term of literature and arts. Bear in mind, as said above, Armenia had lost its political power, and in 428 AD, right in the middle of the Translators activities, the Arshakuni dynasty fell, and Persia dominated our land by marzpans (governors). Armenia, on the one hand, lost its earthly throne, but became eternally enriched by spiritual and cultural wealth to elevate our nation yet to a much higher and imperishable pedestal, the throne of total revival and survival as the people of God.  

Resistance and Defense

            The newly formed church in Armenia with its authentic alphabet and Bible was forced to meet the challenge of survival by defense of force against the neighboring Persia. The Sassanid dynasty, which came to power in 226 succeeding the Parthian dynasty, worshipped the fire, Zoroastrianism being their religion, and did not tolerate a Christian nation next to them, especially because of Armenia’s Christian ally, the Byzantines, who were real threat to Persia. The same tension had already partitioned Armenia in 387 into two between the two empires, the larger part under Persia in the east, and the smaller portion under the Byzantines in the west. Following the partition of our land, the Armenian kingdom ended in 428, and religious persecutions took their course. Persia threatened Armenia to abandon Christ and adhere to fire worship with total subjection to the Iranian power against Byzantium.

            This happened right in the middle of the fifth century when the biblical, religious, and cultural awakening had just originated in Armenia with great enthusiasm. There was no choice for the Armenians, other than to defend their land, their identity, and equally their Christian religion. In 451 the General of the Armenian army Vartan Mamikonian, along with the ministers and the leaders of the church had to plead and tell Persia not to enforce any such threat to convert them into fire worship, since their conviction was final and firm. The Battle of Avarair was inevitable. On the battlefield the Armenian army, far smaller than the Persian army, headed by General Vartan and Priest Ghevond fought against the enemy, fell and gave their lives as our martyrs and witnesses of Christ, but eventually in 484 were given their right to worship Christ by signing the Treaty of Nevarsak. This was the first war ever in history waged in defense of Christianity.

It is important to learn the following lesson from history. While Armenia was successfully determined to resist and keep her language and religion up to this day, Persia not too long after the Battle of Avarair, abandoned Zoroastrianism and embraced Islam. Iran further changed its language from the Bahlav to the Persian, and abandoned their scripts and adopted the Arabic letters. The Armenians stood victorious to the last.

Religious unrest in Armenia in that same year 451 was strongly felt as a reaction from the West, this time under the continued pressures of the Byzantine Empire, under the pretext of Christological issues, aiming at religious subjugation of the Armenian Church to the Byzantine Church. The former ignored and eventually rejected to consider any such demand, insisting on the final declaration of the Christological issue reached at the Council of Ephesus in 381. It was in 506, under Catholicos Babken I of Othmus, when the rejection of the Council of Chalcedon of 451 AD and its resolutions became final, and no further problems of subjection were seriously considered by the Armenian Church.

Patristic Literature

            Soon after the invention of the Armenian alphabet and the translation of the Bible into Armenian, literary activities bloomed in Armenia as the most urgent need for the formation of Armenian Christianity from its foundations. Patristic works of Greek and Syrian Fathers of the Church included liturgical texts as well as commentaries of the Bible. Armenian translators embarked on this task and began to read and translate the Chronicle of Eusebius of Caesarea (c.260-c.340), his second book after the famous Ecclesiastical History, which was lost but the Armenian version had survived and was found centuries later, at the beginning of the 19th century, which served as the «original» of the Chronicle. It was the last resort for the restoration of that particular text.

Works of Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons (c.130-c.200), which included Against the Heresies, were also translated into Armenian in the fifth century. It proved to be very important since some of Irenaeus» original texts were lost and the Armenian translations were indispensable, such was  The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, which was discovered in an Armenian translation in 1907 by an Armenian cleric scholar in Etchmiadzin, who translated it into German, and later into Latin in 1917, and into other languages. The point we are making is not as much to demonstrate the availability of ancient and rare translation of certain texts, but to ascertain the earliest sources and foundations on which the Armenian Church was established through literary activities by genuine translations.

The above facts demonstrate that the 3rd and 4th centuries marked major spiritual growth of the Church by way of worship which required texts for liturgy and daily services. The emergence of liturgical texts was an integral and permanent part of the worship which the Armenian Translators, the immediate disciples of Sahag and Mesrob, took upon themselves as their primary task. Now eloquent in Greek and Syriac languages, they lost no time in gathering and reading the existing liturgical texts extensively, especially the Liturgies of St. Athanasius, St. Basil of Caesarea, and St. John Chrysostom, for the proper use of the Armenian Church worship.    

During the fifth century, Armenia was also enriched by literature other than purely liturgical and devotional which contributed greatly to the formation of the Armenian Apostolic Church. One of them was the Epic of Yeghishe Vardapet, known as Concerning Vartan and the War of the Armenians, which was an eye-witness account of the 451 Battle of Avarair, written in a pure classical language and poetry. There was also the Refutation of the Sects by Eznik Goghpatsi, a most valuable exposition of philosophical evaluation of God’s existence by way of refuting the existing sects of the time, including Mazdeism of Persia, ancient Greek philosophies, and the sect of Marcion. His central thesis has been to defend the existence of God through the revelation of Christianity.

Eznik’s classic work is unique in the ancient literature of the Armenian people with its most superb classic Armenian, shaped on the language of the Armenian Bible, translated partially by himself as one of the first disciples of Mesrob. His treatise contains numerous biblical citations, having in mind God’s existence as against the false doctrines of his time, such as the Manichaeism, founded by Mani and known at the time as a syncretic mixture of Christianity and Iranian belief, powerful enough to merge the two rival thoughts, Christian and Iranian, into a higher synthesis. Eznik also refuted the ancient Greek Pythagorean, Epicurean, and Stoic philosophies in defense of Christianity by way of reconciling it with the more moderate and God-centered philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. 

Thus, under the shadow of the Armenian Bible sources flourished and further reinforced the formation and built the identity of the Armenian Church. Since we are confined within the fifth century alone, other written sources and historiographies no doubt contributed to the stability of the Armenian Church in the subsequent centuries. There is one ascribed to St. Gregory the Illuminator, known as Hajaghapatum Jark, a collection of theological and religious-ethical sermons, and another is History of the Armenians by Movses Khorenatsi, the most famous fifth century historian, who has combined pre-historic Armenia with the events of his own days as a continuous existence of Armenia and the Armenians. His work has served as the magnum opus for the next historians up to the 18th century. The History of Agathangelos, the History of Bavstos Buzand, the History of Ghazar Barpetsi, and later the History of Bishop Sebeos, have added one way or another to the formation of the Armenian Church.

Even though not finalized during the centuries under consideration, the Armenian Church Sharagans, the Hymns, had their origin in the fifth century, even some of them authored by St. Sahag and St. Mesrob. They contained variety of hymns related to the fundamental theological and national issues, all of them eventually forming an impressive collection of songs with their proper music. They also undoubtedly contributed considerably to the formation of the Armenian Church as an authentic church for the Armenian people exclusively.

Lastly, the Canon Law of the Armenian Church drew the line and controlled the discipline of this church as an established institution, beginning from the fifth century but culminating into a final compilation as a code in the eighth century by a famous Catholicos John of Otsoon (717-728), famed as the «philosopher» pontiff of the Armenian Church. He compiled the laws adopted by previously convened Armenian Church Councils, «classified and finalized them chronologically and installed them permanently in his pontifical office», as stated by the Catholicos. He too convened a Church Council of Manazkert in 726 and established new canons concerning the person of Christ.

During the pontificate of Catholicos Vasken I (1955-1994), the Canon Law as compiled by John of Otsoon was once and for all published in two volumes in Erevan, in 1964 and 1971, by Vazken Hakopian, a specialist in the field of canon law, after minute examinations of the different readings of 47 manuscript texts of the original Canon Law, copied throughout the centuries following the original compilation. Hakopian classified the laws under 57 groups, with a total number of 1332 individual canon laws. For example, the Council of Shahapivan in 444 adopted 20 canons purely under political circumstances, when in 428 the Armenian kingdom of the Arshakuni dynasty fell, and Armenian princes fell in quarrels with each other. It is interesting to note that the laws of Shahapivan were formulated and enforced by a church council to judge political leaders of Armenia in time of crises. Also, the Armenian Church Council of Dvin in 648, presided by Catholicos Nersess III with 17 bishops participating, adopted 12 canons to resist the invasions of the Arabs in defense of the Armenian princes. The Council set rules to resist the Byzantine pressure. 

RETURN OF THE PONTIFICAL

MOTHER SEE FROM SIS TO ETCHMIADZIN

(1292-1441)

The National-Ecclesiastical

Assembly (1945)

            Archbishop Kevork Chorekjian, the locum tenens of the Mother See convened the delayed National-Ecclesiastical Assembly in June 1945, after a long period of vacancy following the tragic death of Catholicos Khoren I Mouradbekian, who was found strangled in 1938 in his patriarchal residence by the chief Armenian Bolsheviks for not handing over the keys to the treasures of the Holy See. The locum tenens of the Holy See had hard time to convene the Assembly for the election of the next Catholicos for seven years due to the harsh regime. Finally the Assembly took place in 1945 presided over by Catholicos of Cilicia Karekin I Hovsepiants and in the attendance of several bishops and lay delegates from Armenia and abroad. They elected Archbishop Kevork Chorekjian as KEVORK VI Catholicos of All Armenians.

            The consecration of the Catholicos took place by His Holiness Catholicos Karekin I of the Great House of Cilicia who traveled from Antelias, Lebanon, accompanied by two archbishops and lay delegates. At the ordination of Kevork VI, the Catholicos of Cilicia was assisted by six archbishops: Kevork Arslanian (Istanbul), Garabed Mazlumian (Greece), Yeprem Dohmuni (Damascus), Ardavast Surmeyian (Aleppo), Mampre Sirounian (Egypt), and Mampre Kalfayan (United States), all of them from abroad, “indicating” there was not a single bishop left in Holy Etchmiadzin. That was extremely alarming. Ten new bishops were ordained by the new Catholicos immediately after the consecration of Catholicos Kevork VI, half of them from abroad.

The Special Agenda

            The lengthy agenda of the Assembly included the 570th anniversary of the Return of the Mother See of the Catholicos of All Armenians from Sis, Cilicia in 1441, where it stayed from 1292. Given the political situations, the Patriarchal See temporarily transferred at first to Dvin, Aghtamar, Ani, Argina, Hromkla and finally to Sis, in total of 950 years. The final return to its original site Holy Etchmiadzin (Vagharshapat) as an important remembrance was discussed and a resolution passed on its June 19th session by the National-Ecclesiastical Assembly to commemorate the event annually, each year on Thursday, on the feast of the Ascension of Christ, declaring the year 1945-1946 as   “The year of Return of the Pontifical See to Holy Etchmiadzin”. The return in 1441 was also on Ascension Thursday.

The First Encyclical

            The newly-elected Catholicos Kevork VI of All Armenians dispatched his First Encyclical dated April 1, 1946, mentioning the various places the Holy See had transferred for centuries, and finally returned to its original site. The Catholicos specified “the year 1292 as the year the Holy See was transferred to Sis, the capital of the Rubenian (Cilician) Kingdom, where it remained for 149 years.” The Catholicos described the last station of the Holy See as “disastrous,” since there was no political stability after the fall of the Cilician Kingdom in 1375. The final return was the only way to safeguard the Pontificate’s existence and spiritual leadership worldwide.

            There was however the problem of the last Catholicos of All Armenians Krikor Musabekian, who was invited to return with the Holy See and preside over the Assembly of 1441 in Vagharshapat. His return would have been the natural transfer of the See, with no reason for a new election, but because he declined, and at the same time did not object the Assembly to convene, the Assembly in Etchmiadzin took place as scheduled. Krikor stayed in Sis to safeguard the local Holy See in Cilicia. Unfortunately the Return of the Patriarchal See experienced division between the two Sees. The Assembly, with some 400 religious and lay delegates, elected a new Catholicos, Kirakos of Khorvirap, who was installed as KIRAKOS I of All Armenians. The relation between the two, however, was divided but cordial, though at times hostile, but after the transfer and the election of his successor, Catholicos Krikor Musabekian recognized the supremacy of Holy Etchmiadzin, and the Mother See in turn recognized the Cilician See as “limited and partial” (masnavor),  exclusively for Cilicia.

The Eastern Vardapets (Doctors)

            Behind the historic return of the Holy See stood a group of educated and dedicated Eastern Vardapets (Doctors of the Armenian Church), who were keeping alive the numerous monasteries and the universities and supervising the teaching and the discipline of those schools. Such were, the Monasteries of Datev, Glatzor and Noravank in Siunik, Haghbat and Sanahin in north Armenia, the monastery of Geghart and Haghardzin, and others, all of them centers of higher education. Highly respectable educators, such as leading clerics Yesai Nchetsi, Nersess Mshetsi, Hovhan Vorotnetsi, Krikor Datevatsi, Kirakos Gandzaketsi, Vartan Areveltsi, just to name a few, were in the lead for the return of the Holy See, despite politically unstable years in Armenia under the Persian Khans.

The Celebrations

            Catholicos Kevork VI had directed all Armenian dioceses and churches to celebrate the historic event with elaborate religious and cultural programs. The first among them was Giuregh II, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem who had attended the 1945 Assembly as the elected and installed Patriarch and had been ordained bishop by the new Catholicos Kevork VI, heading the group of ten candidates. The Catholicos had also bestowed on him the rank of Archbishop. Patriarch Archbishop Giuregh II wrote a lengthy article in the official monthly SION, reflecting on the Encyclical, the history of the Holy See, and finally on its return, which, he said, marked a great milestone in our church history. He found the See’s wandering in different locations forcefully applied, and for the longest time, brought a serious danger on its revival. “The return was once and for all truly providential,” as the Patriarch wrote. Annually, on Ascension Thursday the Armenian Church offers a special service following the Divine Liturgy known as “hayrapetakan maghtank”, a Pontifical Thanksgiving Service, in commemoration of the final return of the Pontifical See of All Armenians to its original site Holy Etchmiadzin.

SEAL OF FAITH” – “KNIK HAVADO”

A 7th Century Theological Collection

Compiled by

Catholicos Komitas I of Armenia

(615-628)

The Manuscript

            In 1911 Bishop Karapet Ter Mkrtchyan of Holy Etchmiadzin, a renowned scholar, studied in Germany and upon his return while teaching at the Seminary and holding the office of primate under the Mother See, discovered this unique collection of the Armenian Manuscript in the Armenian Church of St. Stepanos Nakhavka (Proto-martyr) in Darashamb, northern Iran, in the province of Maku. Darashamb had 280 Armenian populations until 1916. It was a historic discovery, since the collection contained the “Seal of Faith” (Knik Havado) in its entirety compiled by Catholicos Komitas Aghtsetsi (615-628). Independently this document has its twin brother, as important, known as the “Book of Letters” (Girk Tghtots), both of them mentioned by Armenian historians as documents supporting the orthodox doctrine of the Armenian Church. Both were lost for many centuries. Thanks to Bishop Ter Mkrtchyan, who persistently looked for the Seal of Faith and found it in the large manuscript collection kept in the Armenian Church in Iran. The Bishop, after careful study, published the textwith ample annotations and an in-depth Introduction in 1914.

            As for the “Book of Letters,” it is a collection of letters also originally compiled by Komitas Catholicos, but later in the succeeding centuries more letters were added and made in total 98 letters. It contains letters of doctrine based on the first Three Ecumenical Councils, from the 5th to the 13th centuries. The opening of the “Book of Letters” shows a 5th c. letter by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Proglus of Alexandria addressed to the Armenian Catholicos St. Sahak Parthev, condemning Nestorius and his heresy which was penetrating into Armenia. The Armenian Church then, just having invented its national scripts and translated the Bible into Armenian for the first time by St. Sahak and St. Mesrop, had to defend its independence, free from further doctrines added since the days of St. Gregory the Illuminator.

            Another significant work also was accomplished by Bishop Ter Mkrtchyan and his colleague, a well known scholar Yervant Ter Minassian, who together discovered and later published the German translation of St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons’ (130-200) “The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching,” whose Greek original was lost and the classical Armenian translation had survived. A year later both scholars published yet another ancient source, the work of Timothy Aelurus, the monophysite Patriarch of Alexandria (457-477), known as “A Collection of Treatises and Letters Against the Council of Chalcedon,” in both Armenian (“Hakajarrutyunk”) and German versions. 

            Ter Mkrtchyan was ordained celibate priest by the orders of Catholicos Mkrtich Khrimian of All Armenians in 1894, and served briefly as Vicar of the Ararat Diocese (1903-1905) showing brave resistance against the Russians demands and interference to confiscate the Armenian schools in Armenia. Later in 1909 he was ordained bishop   by Catholicos Matthew II Izmirlian, holding successively the office of primate in the dioceses of Astrakhan and Shamakh until 1914.

The Content

            The“Seal of Faith,” as published, contains 10 chapters referring to the various doctrinal issues in each, such as, the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation of Christ, the Immaculate Birth of Jesus, the relation between Christ’s two natures, all supported by some 50 ancient divines. Some are mentioned by name, as Sts. Gregory the Illuminator, Sahak Parthev Catholicos, Mesrop Mashtots the creator of the Armenian letters, Eznik   Koghbatsi bishop of Bagrevand, who was the first erudite apologist of Christianity, along with historians Agathangelos, John Catholicos Mandakuni, as well as Syrian theologian Ephraem, John Chrysostom, and the three Cappadocian Fathers, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus.

            The Seal of Faith reflects the teachings of “The orthodox doctrine professed by our forefathers,” as the publisher specifies, pointing to the anti-Chalcedonian stand of the Armenian Church which never followed nor agreed to the Christological doctrine of the Council of Chalcedon of 451, despite persistent pressures by the Byzantines. Eventually, a few decades after Chalcedon, the Armenian Church officially rejected the doctrine and its endorsement by the “Tome of Pope Leo.” The decision was officially adopted at the Armenian Church Council of Dvin in 506, presided by the Armenian Catholicos Babken I of Othmus, who entered the resolution in the Canon Book once and for all.

            Bishop Ter Mkrtchyan has made the following remarks: “This book was essential as written evidence in case it became necessary to refute the wrong teachings of the heretics.” The Armenian Church is forever grateful to Bishop Karapet, the brilliant scholar who published the Seal of Faith in 1914 in Holy Etchmiadzin and which remains as the oldest verifiable source of our theology, by date and by author.

Catholicos Komitas I Aghtsetsi

The Council of Persia in 614

            Bishop Ter Mkrtchyan verifies that this theological document was essentially the report Bishop Komitas of the Mamikonian dynasty, read at the Council of 614 in Ctesiphon, capital of Sassanid Persia, convened and presided over by the Persian King Khosrov II Parvez (590-628). According to the Armenian historians Sebeos (7th c.), and Stepanos Asoghik Taronetsi (10th c.), the king had called the Council at his “royal court” to reach agreement among his Christian subjects who disputed among themselves in matters of faith and ended up in schisms.

            Addressing the attending bishops at the Council, Bishop Komitas said: “Ask for the Christ-loving faith of the Armenians as you have come here at the royal court,” meaning that the bishops had come to learn about the faith of the Armenian Church. The focal question was always on the doctrine of the Person of Christ and his two natures, divine and human. Komitas was defending the doctrine reached and proclaimed during the first Three Ecumenical Councils, especially the third Council of Ephesus in 431, where the dominant theologian was Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, whose formula was final and accepted by all attending church representatives: “One Nature of the Incarnate Word.” 

            Beside Bishop Komitas, who soon became the Catholicos of Armenia, Bishop Matthew Amatouni, and the exiled Patriarch Zechariah of Jerusalem were among the bishops. The first two were representing the Armenian princes and clergy “so that they could receive the proper protection and the confirmation of their faith by the King of Persia.” The signed document at the Persian Council of 614 stated: “Komitas, Bishop of the Mamikonians, who succeeded as Catholicos of Greater Armenia.” Scholars further believe that later two venerable clerics have compiled this work after Komitas, namely Hovhannes Mayragometsi (7th c.), the author of “Havatarmat” (The Root of Faith), and the famous theologian Stepanos Siunetsi (8th c.).

            At the Council called by the king of Persia in 614 Komitas read “a lengthy” paper which our church historian Patriarch Malachia Ormanian considers “complete enough” to warrant the compilation of the “Seal of Faith” by the same Bishop, now Catholicos of  All Armenians. Ormanian had not read the book when completing the first volume of his “Azgapatum,(History of the Nation), since the “Seal of Faith” was not published as yet. To that effect, Bishop Ter Mkrtchyan states in the Introduction that “The basic part of the Seal of Faith stemmed from the lengthy paper he [Komitas] read at the Council on behalf of the faith and doctrine of the Armenian Church.” Ormanian’s additional remark is also important: “Catholicos Komitas began exercising his patriarchal authority even while in Persia, where at the Council he presented his lengthy paper concerning the Armenian faith”.  He believes that the paper was a defense of the doctrine and the rejection of most of the heresies of which 25 are specified by name. Ormanian says that controversial bishops were also attending the Council, nine of them reported by name.

            It is important what our historians say about the final document. It was handed to King Khosrov Parvez, signed by the 11 attending bishops whose names are likewise reported by them. The King soon consulted Patriarch Zechariah of Jerusalem, asking him where the truth lied regarding Christ’s identity, to which the Patriarch answered: “The truth of our faith lies in what we learn at the Council of Nicaea, called then by the blessed Constantine, and later at the Councils of Constantinople and Ephesus, where the Armenians united in the true faith. As for the Council of Chalcedon, its doctrine was not in unison with the previous Councils, as it was explained to Your Majesty.”

            The King reached the following conclusion: “All those Christians who are my subjects shall hold the faith that the Armenians adhere to. He also ordered to seal with his ring the paper of the correct faith and deposit it in the royal archives.” (Cf. Sebeos, History of Heraclius, chapter 46. Ed. Kevork Abgaryan, Yerevan, 1979).

The Legacy of Komitas Catholicos       

            Beside the “Seal of Faith” and “The Book of Letters,” Catholicos Komitas has left two authentic and supreme legacies: The Church of St. Hripsimeh in Etchmiadzin, built by him in 618, which up to this date stands miraculously as the most authentic and unique sample of the Armenian Church architecture, and the Hymn known asAntzink nviryalk sirooyn Krisdosi,” (Souls dedicated to the love of Christ), written by him in 36 stanzas according to the alphabet of the Armenian language, dedicated to the memory of the Roman Virgins Hripsimyank and Gayanyank and their companions, who were the first martyrs to witness Christ after being persecuted by the Roman Emperor, and upon arrival to Armenia were martyred by King Trdat III Arshakuni (298-330), by the orders of the Emperor. The hymn is the oldest verifiable hymn by author and date in the entire Hymnbook of the Armenian Church, a volume which was gradually compiled and completed in the span of 1000 years, from the 5th to the 15th centuries.       

            The Armenian Church and nation is forever grateful to Catholicos Komitas and Bishop Karapet Ter Mkrtchyan for the three-fold legacy beyond any reservation: The Seal of Faith, the Church of St. Hripsimeh, and the Hymn dedicated to their memories. In recent years a musicologist Krikor Pidedgian wrote an important book on the Hymn giving an in-depth and complete analysis of the 36 stanzas historically and from the musical point of view. Pidedgian has made an educated comparison with similar hymns that are composed on the same musical mode, after the style of the Armenian Church music.

SEAL OF FAITH” – “KNIK HAVADO”

A 7th Century Theological Collection

Compiled by

Catholicos Komitas I of Armenia

(615-628)

The Manuscript

            In 1911 Bishop Karapet Ter Mkrtchyan of Holy Etchmiadzin, a renowned scholar, studied in Germany and upon his return while teaching at the Seminary and holding the office of primate under the Mother See, discovered this unique collection of the Armenian Manuscript in the Armenian Church of St. Stepanos Nakhavka (Proto-martyr) in Darashamb, northern Iran, in the province of Maku. Darashamb had 280 Armenian populations until 1916. It was a historic discovery, since the collection contained the “Seal of Faith” (Knik Havado) in its entirety compiled by Catholicos Komitas Aghtsetsi (615-628). Independently this document has its twin brother, as important, known as the “Book of Letters” (Girk Tghtots), both of them mentioned by Armenian historians as documents supporting the orthodox doctrine of the Armenian Church. Both were lost for many centuries. Thanks to Bishop Ter Mkrtchyan, who persistently looked for the Seal of Faith and found it in the large manuscript collection kept in the Armenian Church in Iran. The Bishop, after careful study, published the textwith ample annotations and an in-depth Introduction in 1914.

            As for the “Book of Letters,” it is a collection of letters also originally compiled by Komitas Catholicos, but later in the succeeding centuries more letters were added and made in total 98 letters. It contains letters of doctrine based on the first Three Ecumenical Councils, from the 5th to the 13th centuries. The opening of the “Book of Letters” shows a 5th c. letter by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Proglus of Alexandria addressed to the Armenian Catholicos St. Sahak Parthev, condemning Nestorius and his heresy which was penetrating into Armenia. The Armenian Church then, just having invented its national scripts and translated the Bible into Armenian for the first time by St. Sahak and St. Mesrop, had to defend its independence, free from further doctrines added since the days of St. Gregory the Illuminator.

            Another significant work also was accomplished by Bishop Ter Mkrtchyan and his colleague, a well known scholar Yervant Ter Minassian, who together discovered and later published the German translation of St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons’ (130-200) “The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching,” whose Greek original was lost and the classical Armenian translation had survived. A year later both scholars published yet another ancient source, the work of Timothy Aelurus, the monophysite Patriarch of Alexandria (457-477), known as “A Collection of Treatises and Letters Against the Council of Chalcedon,” in both Armenian (“Hakajarrutyunk”) and German versions. 

            Ter Mkrtchyan was ordained celibate priest by the orders of Catholicos Mkrtich Khrimian of All Armenians in 1894, and served briefly as Vicar of the Ararat Diocese (1903-1905) showing brave resistance against the Russians demands and interference to confiscate the Armenian schools in Armenia. Later in 1909 he was ordained bishop   by Catholicos Matthew II Izmirlian, holding successively the office of primate in the dioceses of Astrakhan and Shamakh until 1914.

The Content

            The“Seal of Faith,” as published, contains 10 chapters referring to the various doctrinal issues in each, such as, the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation of Christ, the Immaculate Birth of Jesus, the relation between Christ’s two natures, all supported by some 50 ancient divines. Some are mentioned by name, as Sts. Gregory the Illuminator, Sahak Parthev Catholicos, Mesrop Mashtots the creator of the Armenian letters, Eznik   Koghbatsi bishop of Bagrevand, who was the first erudite apologist of Christianity, along with historians Agathangelos, John Catholicos Mandakuni, as well as Syrian theologian Ephraem, John Chrysostom, and the three Cappadocian Fathers, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus.

            The Seal of Faith reflects the teachings of “The orthodox doctrine professed by our forefathers,” as the publisher specifies, pointing to the anti-Chalcedonian stand of the Armenian Church which never followed nor agreed to the Christological doctrine of the Council of Chalcedon of 451, despite persistent pressures by the Byzantines. Eventually, a few decades after Chalcedon, the Armenian Church officially rejected the doctrine and its endorsement by the “Tome of Pope Leo.” The decision was officially adopted at the Armenian Church Council of Dvin in 506, presided by the Armenian Catholicos Babken I of Othmus, who entered the resolution in the Canon Book once and for all.

            Bishop Ter Mkrtchyan has made the following remarks: “This book was essential as written evidence in case it became necessary to refute the wrong teachings of the heretics.” The Armenian Church is forever grateful to Bishop Karapet, the brilliant scholar who published the Seal of Faith in 1914 in Holy Etchmiadzin and which remains as the oldest verifiable source of our theology, by date and by author.

Catholicos Komitas I Aghtsetsi

The Council of Persia in 614

            Bishop Ter Mkrtchyan verifies that this theological document was essentially the report Bishop Komitas of the Mamikonian dynasty, read at the Council of 614 in Ctesiphon, capital of Sassanid Persia, convened and presided over by the Persian King Khosrov II Parvez (590-628). According to the Armenian historians Sebeos (7th c.), and Stepanos Asoghik Taronetsi (10th c.), the king had called the Council at his “royal court” to reach agreement among his Christian subjects who disputed among themselves in matters of faith and ended up in schisms.

            Addressing the attending bishops at the Council, Bishop Komitas said: “Ask for the Christ-loving faith of the Armenians as you have come here at the royal court,” meaning that the bishops had come to learn about the faith of the Armenian Church. The focal question was always on the doctrine of the Person of Christ and his two natures, divine and human. Komitas was defending the doctrine reached and proclaimed during the first Three Ecumenical Councils, especially the third Council of Ephesus in 431, where the dominant theologian was Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, whose formula was final and accepted by all attending church representatives: “One Nature of the Incarnate Word.” 

            Beside Bishop Komitas, who soon became the Catholicos of Armenia, Bishop Matthew Amatouni, and the exiled Patriarch Zechariah of Jerusalem were among the bishops. The first two were representing the Armenian princes and clergy “so that they could receive the proper protection and the confirmation of their faith by the King of Persia.” The signed document at the Persian Council of 614 stated: “Komitas, Bishop of the Mamikonians, who succeeded as Catholicos of Greater Armenia.” Scholars further believe that later two venerable clerics have compiled this work after Komitas, namely Hovhannes Mayragometsi (7th c.), the author of “Havatarmat” (The Root of Faith), and the famous theologian Stepanos Siunetsi (8th c.).

            At the Council called by the king of Persia in 614 Komitas read “a lengthy” paper which our church historian Patriarch Malachia Ormanian considers “complete enough” to warrant the compilation of the “Seal of Faith” by the same Bishop, now Catholicos of  All Armenians. Ormanian had not read the book when completing the first volume of his “Azgapatum,(History of the Nation), since the “Seal of Faith” was not published as yet. To that effect, Bishop Ter Mkrtchyan states in the Introduction that “The basic part of the Seal of Faith stemmed from the lengthy paper he [Komitas] read at the Council on behalf of the faith and doctrine of the Armenian Church.” Ormanian’s additional remark is also important: “Catholicos Komitas began exercising his patriarchal authority even while in Persia, where at the Council he presented his lengthy paper concerning the Armenian faith”.  He believes that the paper was a defense of the doctrine and the rejection of most of the heresies of which 25 are specified by name. Ormanian says that controversial bishops were also attending the Council, nine of them reported by name.

            It is important what our historians say about the final document. It was handed to King Khosrov Parvez, signed by the 11 attending bishops whose names are likewise reported by them. The King soon consulted Patriarch Zechariah of Jerusalem, asking him where the truth lied regarding Christ’s identity, to which the Patriarch answered: “The truth of our faith lies in what we learn at the Council of Nicaea, called then by the blessed Constantine, and later at the Councils of Constantinople and Ephesus, where the Armenians united in the true faith. As for the Council of Chalcedon, its doctrine was not in unison with the previous Councils, as it was explained to Your Majesty.”

            The King reached the following conclusion: “All those Christians who are my subjects shall hold the faith that the Armenians adhere to. He also ordered to seal with his ring the paper of the correct faith and deposit it in the royal archives.” (Cf. Sebeos, History of Heraclius, chapter 46. Ed. Kevork Abgaryan, Yerevan, 1979).

The Legacy of Komitas Catholicos       

            Beside the “Seal of Faith” and “The Book of Letters,” Catholicos Komitas has left two authentic and supreme legacies: The Church of St. Hripsimeh in Etchmiadzin, built by him in 618, which up to this date stands miraculously as the most authentic and unique sample of the Armenian Church architecture, and the Hymn known asAntzink nviryalk sirooyn Krisdosi,” (Souls dedicated to the love of Christ), written by him in 36 stanzas according to the alphabet of the Armenian language, dedicated to the memory of the Roman Virgins Hripsimyank and Gayanyank and their companions, who were the first martyrs to witness Christ after being persecuted by the Roman Emperor, and upon arrival to Armenia were martyred by King Trdat III Arshakuni (298-330), by the orders of the Emperor. The hymn is the oldest verifiable hymn by author and date in the entire Hymnbook of the Armenian Church, a volume which was gradually compiled and completed in the span of 1000 years, from the 5th to the 15th centuries.       

            The Armenian Church and nation is forever grateful to Catholicos Komitas and Bishop Karapet Ter Mkrtchyan for the three-fold legacy beyond any reservation: The Seal of Faith, the Church of St. Hripsimeh, and the Hymn dedicated to their memories. In recent years a musicologist Krikor Pidedgian wrote an important book on the Hymn giving an in-depth and complete analysis of the 36 stanzas historically and from the musical point of view. Pidedgian has made an educated comparison with similar hymns that are composed on the same musical mode, after the style of the Armenian Church music.

SEAL OF FAITH” – “KNIK HAVADO”

A 7th Century Theological Collection

Compiled by

Catholicos Komitas I of Armenia

(615-628)

The Manuscript

            In 1911 Bishop Karapet Ter Mkrtchyan of Holy Etchmiadzin, a renowned scholar, studied in Germany and upon his return while teaching at the Seminary and holding the office of primate under the Mother See, discovered this unique collection of the Armenian Manuscript in the Armenian Church of St. Stepanos Nakhavka (Proto-martyr) in Darashamb, northern Iran, in the province of Maku. Darashamb had 280 Armenian populations until 1916. It was a historic discovery, since the collection contained the “Seal of Faith” (Knik Havado) in its entirety compiled by Catholicos Komitas Aghtsetsi (615-628). Independently this document has its twin brother, as important, known as the “Book of Letters” (Girk Tghtots), both of them mentioned by Armenian historians as documents supporting the orthodox doctrine of the Armenian Church. Both were lost for many centuries. Thanks to Bishop Ter Mkrtchyan, who persistently looked for the Seal of Faith and found it in the large manuscript collection kept in the Armenian Church in Iran. The Bishop, after careful study, published the textwith ample annotations and an in-depth Introduction in 1914.

            As for the “Book of Letters,” it is a collection of letters also originally compiled by Komitas Catholicos, but later in the succeeding centuries more letters were added and made in total 98 letters. It contains letters of doctrine based on the first Three Ecumenical Councils, from the 5th to the 13th centuries. The opening of the “Book of Letters” shows a 5th c. letter by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Proglus of Alexandria addressed to the Armenian Catholicos St. Sahak Parthev, condemning Nestorius and his heresy which was penetrating into Armenia. The Armenian Church then, just having invented its national scripts and translated the Bible into Armenian for the first time by St. Sahak and St. Mesrop, had to defend its independence, free from further doctrines added since the days of St. Gregory the Illuminator.

            Another significant work also was accomplished by Bishop Ter Mkrtchyan and his colleague, a well known scholar Yervant Ter Minassian, who together discovered and later published the German translation of St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons’ (130-200) “The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching,” whose Greek original was lost and the classical Armenian translation had survived. A year later both scholars published yet another ancient source, the work of Timothy Aelurus, the monophysite Patriarch of Alexandria (457-477), known as “A Collection of Treatises and Letters Against the Council of Chalcedon,” in both Armenian (“Hakajarrutyunk”) and German versions. 

            Ter Mkrtchyan was ordained celibate priest by the orders of Catholicos Mkrtich Khrimian of All Armenians in 1894, and served briefly as Vicar of the Ararat Diocese (1903-1905) showing brave resistance against the Russians demands and interference to confiscate the Armenian schools in Armenia. Later in 1909 he was ordained bishop   by Catholicos Matthew II Izmirlian, holding successively the office of primate in the dioceses of Astrakhan and Shamakh until 1914.

The Content

            The“Seal of Faith,” as published, contains 10 chapters referring to the various doctrinal issues in each, such as, the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation of Christ, the Immaculate Birth of Jesus, the relation between Christ’s two natures, all supported by some 50 ancient divines. Some are mentioned by name, as Sts. Gregory the Illuminator, Sahak Parthev Catholicos, Mesrop Mashtots the creator of the Armenian letters, Eznik   Koghbatsi bishop of Bagrevand, who was the first erudite apologist of Christianity, along with historians Agathangelos, John Catholicos Mandakuni, as well as Syrian theologian Ephraem, John Chrysostom, and the three Cappadocian Fathers, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus.

            The Seal of Faith reflects the teachings of “The orthodox doctrine professed by our forefathers,” as the publisher specifies, pointing to the anti-Chalcedonian stand of the Armenian Church which never followed nor agreed to the Christological doctrine of the Council of Chalcedon of 451, despite persistent pressures by the Byzantines. Eventually, a few decades after Chalcedon, the Armenian Church officially rejected the doctrine and its endorsement by the “Tome of Pope Leo.” The decision was officially adopted at the Armenian Church Council of Dvin in 506, presided by the Armenian Catholicos Babken I of Othmus, who entered the resolution in the Canon Book once and for all.

            Bishop Ter Mkrtchyan has made the following remarks: “This book was essential as written evidence in case it became necessary to refute the wrong teachings of the heretics.” The Armenian Church is forever grateful to Bishop Karapet, the brilliant scholar who published the Seal of Faith in 1914 in Holy Etchmiadzin and which remains as the oldest verifiable source of our theology, by date and by author.

Catholicos Komitas I Aghtsetsi

The Council of Persia in 614

            Bishop Ter Mkrtchyan verifies that this theological document was essentially the report Bishop Komitas of the Mamikonian dynasty, read at the Council of 614 in Ctesiphon, capital of Sassanid Persia, convened and presided over by the Persian King Khosrov II Parvez (590-628). According to the Armenian historians Sebeos (7th c.), and Stepanos Asoghik Taronetsi (10th c.), the king had called the Council at his “royal court” to reach agreement among his Christian subjects who disputed among themselves in matters of faith and ended up in schisms.

            Addressing the attending bishops at the Council, Bishop Komitas said: “Ask for the Christ-loving faith of the Armenians as you have come here at the royal court,” meaning that the bishops had come to learn about the faith of the Armenian Church. The focal question was always on the doctrine of the Person of Christ and his two natures, divine and human. Komitas was defending the doctrine reached and proclaimed during the first Three Ecumenical Councils, especially the third Council of Ephesus in 431, where the dominant theologian was Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, whose formula was final and accepted by all attending church representatives: “One Nature of the Incarnate Word.” 

            Beside Bishop Komitas, who soon became the Catholicos of Armenia, Bishop Matthew Amatouni, and the exiled Patriarch Zechariah of Jerusalem were among the bishops. The first two were representing the Armenian princes and clergy “so that they could receive the proper protection and the confirmation of their faith by the King of Persia.” The signed document at the Persian Council of 614 stated: “Komitas, Bishop of the Mamikonians, who succeeded as Catholicos of Greater Armenia.” Scholars further believe that later two venerable clerics have compiled this work after Komitas, namely Hovhannes Mayragometsi (7th c.), the author of “Havatarmat” (The Root of Faith), and the famous theologian Stepanos Siunetsi (8th c.).

            At the Council called by the king of Persia in 614 Komitas read “a lengthy” paper which our church historian Patriarch Malachia Ormanian considers “complete enough” to warrant the compilation of the “Seal of Faith” by the same Bishop, now Catholicos of  All Armenians. Ormanian had not read the book when completing the first volume of his “Azgapatum,(History of the Nation), since the “Seal of Faith” was not published as yet. To that effect, Bishop Ter Mkrtchyan states in the Introduction that “The basic part of the Seal of Faith stemmed from the lengthy paper he [Komitas] read at the Council on behalf of the faith and doctrine of the Armenian Church.” Ormanian’s additional remark is also important: “Catholicos Komitas began exercising his patriarchal authority even while in Persia, where at the Council he presented his lengthy paper concerning the Armenian faith”.  He believes that the paper was a defense of the doctrine and the rejection of most of the heresies of which 25 are specified by name. Ormanian says that controversial bishops were also attending the Council, nine of them reported by name.

            It is important what our historians say about the final document. It was handed to King Khosrov Parvez, signed by the 11 attending bishops whose names are likewise reported by them. The King soon consulted Patriarch Zechariah of Jerusalem, asking him where the truth lied regarding Christ’s identity, to which the Patriarch answered: “The truth of our faith lies in what we learn at the Council of Nicaea, called then by the blessed Constantine, and later at the Councils of Constantinople and Ephesus, where the Armenians united in the true faith. As for the Council of Chalcedon, its doctrine was not in unison with the previous Councils, as it was explained to Your Majesty.”

            The King reached the following conclusion: “All those Christians who are my subjects shall hold the faith that the Armenians adhere to. He also ordered to seal with his ring the paper of the correct faith and deposit it in the royal archives.” (Cf. Sebeos, History of Heraclius, chapter 46. Ed. Kevork Abgaryan, Yerevan, 1979).

The Legacy of Komitas Catholicos       

            Beside the “Seal of Faith” and “The Book of Letters,” Catholicos Komitas has left two authentic and supreme legacies: The Church of St. Hripsimeh in Etchmiadzin, built by him in 618, which up to this date stands miraculously as the most authentic and unique sample of the Armenian Church architecture, and the Hymn known asAntzink nviryalk sirooyn Krisdosi,” (Souls dedicated to the love of Christ), written by him in 36 stanzas according to the alphabet of the Armenian language, dedicated to the memory of the Roman Virgins Hripsimyank and Gayanyank and their companions, who were the first martyrs to witness Christ after being persecuted by the Roman Emperor, and upon arrival to Armenia were martyred by King Trdat III Arshakuni (298-330), by the orders of the Emperor. The hymn is the oldest verifiable hymn by author and date in the entire Hymnbook of the Armenian Church, a volume which was gradually compiled and completed in the span of 1000 years, from the 5th to the 15th centuries.       

            The Armenian Church and nation is forever grateful to Catholicos Komitas and Bishop Karapet Ter Mkrtchyan for the three-fold legacy beyond any reservation: The Seal of Faith, the Church of St. Hripsimeh, and the Hymn dedicated to their memories. In recent years a musicologist Krikor Pidedgian wrote an important book on the Hymn giving an in-depth and complete analysis of the 36 stanzas historically and from the musical point of view. Pidedgian has made an educated comparison with similar hymns that are composed on the same musical mode, after the style of the Armenian Church music.

“NAREK”  “BOOK OF LAMENTATION”

In Modern Armenian

Ten Centennial

 (951-1951)

Ten Centennial

            The year 1951 marked the 1000th jubilee year of the birth of the leading Armenian monk St. Gregory of Narek, born in Vaspurakan in 951, the son of Bishop Khosrov Antsevatsi, a great scholar and a famous teacher himself who wrote the first extensive Commentary on the Daily Worship Services of the Armenian Church, published once in Constantinople in 1840. St. Gregory left his great legacy, his famous “Book of Narek,” better known as the “Book of Lamentation,” a book of personal prayers of highest integrity. The 1000th year was solemnly observed in October, 1951 in Lebanon under the auspices of His Holiness Karekin I Hovsepiants of the Great House of Cilicia. I remember the celebration as a student in the Seminary of Antelias and the praiseworthy panegyrics delivered by Archbishop Yeghishe Derderian of Jerusalem, the poet Yeghivart, and His Holiness the Catholicos of Cilicia. The same year, as I recall, the 1500th anniversary of the Battle of Vartanants (451) was also marked worldwide and upon the recommendation of Catholicos Karekin I Hovsepiants a solemn oratorio, “Khorhourt Vartanants” (words by poet Vahan Tekeyan), was composed and conducted by the distinguished composer Hampartsoum Berberian, our teacher.

The Translations of “Narek”

            In 1926, the first authentic translation of St. Gregory of Narek’s unprecedented “Book of Lamentation” (matyan voghbergutyan), was translated from the classical Armenian to the vernacular by Archbishop Torkom Koushagian. Later, the same difficult task was undertaken by Archbishop Karekin Khachadourian, both well known and brilliant graduates of the Seminary of Armash, near Constantinople. The first was published in Cairo, where Koushagian, a senior of his colleague, served as Primate of the Diocese of Egypt, and the second in Buenos Aires in 1948, where Khachadourian served as the Legate of the Catholicos of All Armenians. Prior to 1926, the pioneer of the translation into modern Armenian in Constantinople was Missak Kochounian (Kassim) in 1902.

            One thousand years had gone by and the most intricate “NAREK,” written in unusually high and literal style, was widely read in Classical Armenian, but only few understood the powerful and lengthy devotional prayers. The book was so close but still “away” from the people, the faithful, and even the scholars. The task was a delayed necessity, since the original vocabulary and the expressions in between long and poetic sentences had to be “re-written” by qualified clergy. Both archbishops have kept the standard high where the “Book of Lamentation” should stand with competence and patience. They occupied the Patriarchal Sees of Jerusalem and Constantinople respectively. Patriarch Torkom Koushagian passed away in Jerusalem in 1939, and Patriarch Karekin Khachadourian passed away in Istanbul in 1961.

            The title of Archbishop Koushagian’s translation was “Prayers of St. Gregory of Narek,” specifying his work as “rendering into modern Armenian,” in a volume of 20 pages in-depth Introduction alone and 367 pages of the text. Archbishop Khachadourian put his talents and efforts together to translate the text in poetic verses, with facing pages in the original and the vernacular. Later Armenian translations were attempted by scholars in Soviet Armenia, and also in foreign languages, such as French and English, following the two basic renditions.

The Content

            “Narek” is a literary unit of high quality exclusively for prayers on one to one basis with the Creator God. It is indeed a miraculous book, for the Armenian Church second to the Holy Bible, full of deep knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, relating it to   the individual on a much higher personal and psychological orders of the believer. It is addressed to God Almighty “From the depth of the heart conversing with God,” a repeated supplication at the opening of each prayer. The prayers are addressed to God by the individual in the first person singular as sinful and fallen, but with the hope of being lifted up by the mercy of God. In total they comprise 95 lengthy prayers, some of them specifically powerful to heal, followed by the texts of the healing miracles performed by the Lord Jesus Christ, quoted from the Four Gospels.

            It is amazing that a short colophon survives written by the hands of the author St. Gregory of Narek himself. The colophon is shown below with additional material and indexes to the publication of 1858, a rare edition. This edition is a valuable volume in my library. Most probably both translations were rendered from this edition.

The Translators

            Both eminent translators into the vernacular admittedly and for sure were masters of the Classical Armenian, especially when penetrating into the style of the author St. Gregory, deeply religious, high in literary and poetic style. They were capable revealing the hidden sentiments eloquently uttered by the Saint, making sure the translators not to distance themselves from the original, while gradually approaching the borders of the vernacular. Both Eminent Archbishops, later Patriarchs of the Armenian Church, have successfully translated the “Narek,” displaying their talent, knowledge and patience to make the book understandable, and not merely simplify it, but mostly displaying the physical and psychological relation of the believer with the Creator.

            St. Gregory had the talent to use masterfully both poetry and prose which made the task of the translators that much intricate. The fact that both translators had already deployed the art of poetry, while otherwise producing lasting literary works in forms of sermons and religious poetry, were the only graceful scholars who could handle the task and promote the translation of “Narek.”

The Old Edition of 1858

            In my library this ancient and rare edition of “Narek,” printed in Constantinople in 1858, is enriched with a number of valuable features. The title reads “Book of lamentation by Gregory the monk of the Monastery of Narek.” It is in its original leather cover, printed during the pontificate of Matthew I, Catholicos of All Armenians, and contains 368 pages. Additional panegyric is included in this edition by Arakel Vardapet in the form of poesy with 36 stanzas, following the Armenian alphabets, from A to K, praising St. Gregory of Narek. This portion unfortunately is left unnoticed by the translators and therefore is unknown to the readers of the book. The text is partitioned clearly, using the finest Armenian fonts of the time. In addition, it follows by the original colophon giving the name of the scribe, St. Gregory himself, and the place the manuscript was written. Also a dictionary explaining over one hundred of difficult words found in the book. The original colophon reads:

“I, Gregory the monastic priest, the last among the writers and the junior among the teachers, with the collaboration of my dear brother Hovhannes, a member of the eminent and glorious monastery of Narek.” (pp. 296-297).

A later colophon reads:

“In memory of saintly and eloquent St. Gregory, who studied to become an ordained cleric in the monastery of Narek, where he was assigned prelate and whence he became the famous Narekatsi.” (pp. 297).

In the second colophon St. Gregory’s other commentaries are clearly mentioned as follows: “Commentary of Solomon’s Song of Songs”, “Sermon on the Cross”, “Eulogy on St. Mary the Mother of God”, “Eulogy on the Apostles”, “Eulogy on James, Bishop of Nisibis”, “Sermons and psalmodies.”

It further continues giving more information on the Monastery and the death of St. Gragory of Narek at age 52:

“These 95 prayers he wrote eloquently upon the request of his fellow monks, and left his legacy from his immense knowledge. He passed away and returned to the Creator at his young age in the year 452 according to the Armenian Calendar (+551)=1003 AD, and was buried in the Monastery of Narek.”

“And when King Senekerim moved his domain to Lesser Armenia, the monks of the Monastery of Narek transferred the honorable body of the Saint into the region of Akn and Tiurik. As of today the site is in ruins and is called Arak, a place of pilgrimage, whence healings are reported for the Glory of God.”

Additional Articles

            At the end of 1858 edition the following five articles appear:

  1. “Eulogy of St. Gregory addressed to St. Mary” (pp. 298-314)
  2. Prayer of Mkhitar Gosh (12the c.) “On the Holy Eucharist” (pp. 314-319)
  3. “Panegyric addressed to St. Naregatsi” by Arakel Vardapet (pp. 319-322)
  4. Miracles from Gospel readings (pp. 323-350)
  5. Dictionary of difficult words (pp. 351-368).

“FOURTEEN GENERATIONS”

The Silver Star on the Spot of the

Manger in Bethlehem

 With Its 14 Points

The Star on the Manger

            Curiosity sometimes proves educational. In this case it was for sure. Recently I learned something important as I was asked by Mr. Harold Mgrublian, a dedicated member of the Los Angeles Armenian community and the Vice-Chairman of the Ararat Home for the Aged for many years, if I knew anything about the Star of the Manger and its 14 points or rays, as to why they were that number and not less or more. My answer was simply this: “I have been in Bethlehem and even performed Holy Mass exactly over the Manger many years ago on Christmas Eve of 1955, on the orders of the Acting Patriarch, Archbishop Yeghishe Derderian, and had seen the wide spread impressive Star, but never thought about counting the points.” Harold, while visiting Bethlehem with his wife Alice, himself a retired engineer of metallurgy, was impressed by the Star and counted the points. They were 14.  He was curious to know why fourteen.

            Asking the question to the local Armenian and Greek priests in Bethlehem if they knew the answer, he was hopeless. They had no idea, nor were they interested in it. Upon his return to the hotel in Jerusalem, Mr. Mgrublian asked about the “number” and was told to see a certain historian who could help him. The answer was the “Fourteen Generation,” repeated three times in the opening chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, marking the descendants from Abraham to King David 14 generations, and from David to the Babylonian Exile 14 generations, and from the Exile to the Birth of Jesus 14 generations.

            Harold, the grandson of an Armenian priest, Der Garabed Kahana Mgrublian of Aintab, is an intelligent, interesting, and interested person with sharp memory at his age of 88. He was always involved in many Armenian activities in southern California. He told me about his grandfather’s ordination into the priesthood in 1905 when he went to Sis, Cilicia with other candidates to be ordained by Catholicos Sahak II Khabayan of Cilicia, and upon his return to serve the Armenian Church  near Aintab. Harold told me he visited Aintab and went to the village his grandfather Der Garabed Kahana served as a parish priest, and reported with exact locations and names. Harold, an American born, is fluent in Turkish which made his inquiries easier.

Biblical Evidence

            Fourteen generations from the Babylonian Exile to the Birth of Jesus. What is the history behind it? Jews were exiled to Babylon three times: in 598 BC, centuries after the Davidic Kingdom, in 587 BC, and finally in 582 BC, with a deportation of a total of some 10,000 people. We read about the exile from Jerusalem to Babylon in Kings II chapters 24 and 25, leaving behind a ruined Temple by the fire, and city’s walls ruined. It was only by the orders of Cyrus II of Assyria that the exiled returned to Jerusalem and restored the Temple in the year 515 BC, marking the end of the exile.

            Among those returned was Zerubabbel, a descendant of King David, who assumed the governorate of Jerusalem. He was the grandson of king Jechonias and the son of Salathiel, as we read in the Gospels of Matthew (1:12) and Luke (3:27). He was assisted by Joshua the high priest. Zerubabbel is known as the ancestor of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Prophets were also instrumental in the establishment of the lineage from King David down to Jesus, who prophesied saying: “A virgin will bear a son whose name shall be called Immanuel, meaning God with us.” Among the prophets are prominent Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah who proclaimed the revelation of God, thus paving the way to the Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

            The closing verse in Matthew’s Gospel says it all. “Thus, from Abraham to David 14 generations, from David to the Babylonian exile 14 generations, and from the exile in Babylon to Christ 14 generations.” The Evangelist adds immediately the announcement of the Birth of Jesus, saying: “And the Birth of Jesus was as follows.”

            Fourteen generations three times are shining through the fourteen rays of the Star of the Manger. Here is a lesson to learn.

15th CENTURY ARMENIAN MANUSCRIPT

In Pasadena

“Book of Sacraments”

The Manuscript

            Harut Der Tavitian of Pasadena, Chairman of Nor Serount cultural Society and a leading intellectual, owns a valuable Armenian manuscript which I had the opportunity to study and present the rare book to the scholars of our people. The title of the manuscript, written on paper, is identified by this writer as Book of Sacraments based on its content, since at the beginning and at the end a few pages are fallen. The book is a manual of the Sacraments of the Armenian Church used by priests only, of at least five consecutive generations.  The Book of Sacrament is essential for every priest to have it handy to perform the seven Sacraments according to the Armenian Church rites. This manuscript has two additional eulogies, titled as “Lamentation on the Burial of the Boy,” and “Lamentation in memory of the deceased.”

            First of all, it was important for me to look for a clue to determine the date and the place where it was written, like many tens of thousands of manuscripts which have survived as of today, and which are known to the scholarship, having been catalogued in various volumes, except for this one manuscript which remained to be searched by an interested scholar. So I tried to find clues for both, date and place, which were almost impossible because of the lack of the first and the last pages. Coincidently as I was reading through the manuscript I saw the above mentioned eulogy on the “burial of the boy” in the form of a poetry dedicated to the young boy who had died at a very tender age.

            In the lengthy eulogy given below in translation, I was surprised to see the following sentence: “In the year eight hundred and seventy, plus eight years later” the boy died. This brief and yet most important date can only be the accurate date of the manuscript. The years recorded are in accordance with the Armenian Calendar, which provide the date 870+8=878. To convert the year into Anno Domini, we must add 551 when the Armenian Calendar began.  Therefore,

The verified date of the writing of this manuscript is definitely 878+551=1429AD.

The Content

            The manuscript contains the services of Matrimony, Burial, Blessing of Water, Washing of the Feet, and the Blessing of the Cross. It is interesting to note that each text is written in its original and native style, quite different from the text printed later for the use of our own generations. This 15th century text is a piece of combination of church and family life, the language being Classical Armenian but sometimes local words are used to make the meaning more sensational. It is surprising however that it does not contain the most important Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. This absence is a true surprise, a case which shows the more casual use of the services, rather than purely the canonical sacraments.

            The physical condition of the manuscript is poor, the binding very loose, pages missing and later written pages inserted, a case which demonstrate the use by so many successive priests, passing from one hand to another for generations. Page size is 15×10 cm.  The manuscript has a value of its own, characteristics for being unique which qualify and even distinguish it from the later publications. It is an ancient document as a source for scholarly research. In terms of artistic illustrations, the book does not qualify, except for some bird-style colored letters here and there for decoration. The creation of the manuscript is local and higher arts of handwriting are not reflected in it, unlike centuries before when the schools in Cilicia produced the highest art of manuscript illustrations on parchment. No information of owners are found, except for a name, and the only name, on the margin as “Baron Khachadour Bagh”(tasarian) added much later, stating the use of the book in Tehran, Iran.

Two Important Eulogies

            As said earlier two “lamentations” are the specifics of this manuscript: the “Lamentation in memory of the deceased,” and “Lamentation for the burial of the boy.” Both of them appear for the first and the only time. No Books of Sacraments of later editions include them, which I will refer for future studies. They are local and private, therefore no one would be interested to include in later publications. I believe my translation from the Armenian original stands the first to be published in this article. Some years ago I had sent both original texts with a lengthy description of this manuscript to the late Patriarch Torkom Manoogian of Jerusalem who published them for the first time in SION, theofficialmonthly of the Armenian Patriarchate. The following are the texts in translation, realizing that any translation cannot reflect the real emotional nature of the original language, especially when it refers to the death of a young boy.

“For the Burial of the Deceased”

Ye all priests and theologian doctors,

And the entire faithful people,

Hear my complaints all in unison,

And plead God for my salvation.

Yesterday I thought I was immortal and sound,

Today the message of death arrived to leave,

Telling I have no part in this changing world,

Come back to your eternal paternal home.

Yesterday I was like fortress with my lavish body,

Today they took me out of my dwelling,

To bury me in the grave where dark rules forever,

Having no remedy to return back home.

“For the Burial of the Boy”   

The Creator of all creatures was angry at us,

The sweet nature of divinity turned bitter to us,

The fiery sword spread down today,

The fire inflamed from the divine abode.

Woe thousand times to what just happened,

The newlywed bride and groom separated,

Since a child sorrowfully turned to dust,

  And since the dead son’s mother grieved deeply.

Sinless boys are stricken by the angel,

Tumbling in front of the parents with compassion,

Fainting pitiable in the bosom of the mother,

And fading away like springtime flower.

The beautiful color faded from his face,

The lights of those oceanic eyes were out,

The handsome and strong arms were tied,

The gold and silver marbles of the bracelet fell,

In the year eight hundred plus eight years,

Bitter grief befell and divine devastation

Made all deeply hurt, weeping to no end.  

            Following the burial of the boy we see two references made among the deceased boy and those who welcomed Jesus at his final entry into Jerusalem with joy and singing, and then with those boys “who were killed in Bethlehem by King Herod in Your place.” The present manuscript makes the comparison sensational, which is also found in the recent texts of “Book of Sacraments.”

Conclusion

            All Armenian manuscripts definitely are valuable for our history and religion. This particular one contains local characteristics and some additional material compared with the current books we use for the Church Sacraments. It is educational if someone someday will read it much closely and discover data which I am sure can be very helpful to our ethnic and religious life from the past six centuries. The classical Armenian is used with care which indicates the quality of the earlier copies wherefrom this book was copied.    

THE ARMENIAN HYMN

“DARADZYAL” of the Crucifixion of our Lord

By

ST. NERSES SHNORHALI THE GRACEFUL

12th Century

The Hymn of Crucifixion

            The 12th century famous Armenian theologian and hymnologist, Catholicos St. Nersess the Graceful, whose pontificate was at the time in Cilicia, outside Greater Armenia, has enriched the Armenian Church Hymnbook superbly, elevating as it were on the Holy Altar the entire life of the Lord Jesus Christ on a panoramic scene. A special hymn known as “Aysor anjarr lousouyn dzagoumn” (Today is the rising of the ineffable Light) which traces the last week of our Lord’s life in its final and tragic details, contains 36 stanzas divided into six equal groups, following the 36 Armenian letters from “a” to “k”. The last six stanzas are dedicated to the actual crucifixion and its spiritual and devotional implications, beginning with the words “Daradzyal tserk unt tserrats,” meaning “Spreading his hands on the cross instead of [other] hands.”

The Cross and the Crucified

            By spreading his hands, and nailing his feet on the cross, Jesus sacrificed himself on behalf or instead of his followers who are called to live with “working hands” and “walking feet,” as St. Nersess specifies in a direct speech. The great poet and theologian is using the comparative expression instead of (unt in Classical Armenian), alternately between his arms and his feet and of those who will follow him. Once and for all working hands and walking feet are vicariously the Lord’s legacy and ordinance coming directly from the cross. His death on the cross is transferred into life, likewise vicariously, life beyond death.

            To sing this inspiring hymn as we do with devotion, and not penetrating into the meaning of the implications made comparatively with Christ, will help little, no more than enjoying the melancholy of the words and music, feeling the way Christ went through his last days to the cross. As said above, the working hands and the walking feet are our own hands and feet in place of Christ’s hands and feet, commissioned to go and spread his mission on earth. Simply, we the followers of Christ are actually his hands and feet when he worked and walked, preached and healed, leaving the continuation to us as a holy legacy, with confidence and determination, commissioning ourselves to be his actions in constant move as long as we live.

“Committed his spirit to the Father”

            St. Nersess Shnorhali goes on singing: On the cross Christ committed his spirit to the Father, so that the souls of the rest of mankind could rest with the Father. Here three-way encounter is realized among the Father, the Son, and those who confessed them as such, creating a lasting unity among them.  “God was crucified for me” follows in the hymn in such a direct manner that it underlines the salvation of mankind as the sole reason for his crucifixion, rendering the tragic event not simply a self endured act in itself without purpose.  “On my behalf” is typical with St. Neress whose vast prayers in our church literature are mostly and emphatically personal in the first person singular. Such are the 24-verse prayer, one for each hour of the day, affectionately known as “Havadov Khosdovanim” (I confess with faith), “Arravod Louso” (Morning of the Light), and “Ashkhar amenain”(Ye all the world).

            Jesus died on the cross for me by “assuming our human nature,” distinguishing Christ’s human birth who descended from heaven as the true Son of God. Here obviously the Incarnation is revealed since through his human nature his crucifixion became possible while uniting his divinity to his body to make salvation possible. Here the great theologian St. Nersess the Graceful is reminiscing the “economy,” which was the “use” of his human nature as a means to an end, propagated by St. Cyril of Alexandria in 431 at the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, with the will and the power of God the Father, making his Son’s sacrifice all the more acceptable and eternally effective. Then he adds: “the Crucified is confessed God” by humanity.

“His Church was founded

Cleansed with Water and his Blood”

            Water and blood flew from the side of the Crucified, and the “double issue” as St. Nersess puts it, established the church through washing by water and by receiving the blood, obviously referring to the basic Sacraments of the Church, the Baptism and the Eucharist. St. Nersess thus realized the foundation of the Church on the Cross, at the earliest moment one can imagine, by the flow of both the water and the blood. It is amazing to see how the basic factors come to intertwine together to declare the “Foundation of the Church.”

            Cross and Church became one as Jesus gave his life on that cross. The Armenian Church makes this harmony meaningful and devotional as we can see from the church calendar where the days following the great feast of the Exaltation of the Cross are alternately devoted to the Cross and to the Church, every other day one by one, concluding in the celebration of the feast of the Holy Cross of Varak, expressly an Armenian remembrance. This implied that church cannot exist without cross, and without the church cross remains a symbol only, realizing of course above all the “Living Church,” the essence of what Christ established as His Holy Body on earth. The physical structure of the church stands merely as the location of the “Living Church,” which is the faithful.

            Both hymns in the Armenian Church “Daradzyal” and “Ourakh ler sourb yegueghetsi” (Be glad holy church), complement each other, as the latter hymn states: “Christ crowned the church with his cross and fortified her walls with it.” Again, “Christ the groom crowned his church as his bride.” Most of our hymns in fact reflect the parallel course of our worship where the cross and the church remain inseparable and mutually effective.

“Preaching is a Great Miracle”

            The last verse is the conclusion recalling Christ’s message to be spread as the lasting miracle, both by preaching the miracles performed, and the preaching itself as a miracle    . Here the performance of the miracles ended with preaching through which the Cross spread the love of God as a challenge in all directions. The Cross was not left bereft and isolated, but it was distributed without consuming. The Crucified did not stay on the Cross, but coming down filled the world with his life-giving gifts of the Holy Resurrection. Both the Cross and the Crucified came to live among us indefinitely, and in response the Son was glorified by the believers with the Father. The only way to achieve this, says St. Nersess the Graceful, is to preach the Word of God.

AT THE THRESHOLD

OF CENTENNIAL 1915

PATRIARCH ZAVEN DER YEGHIAYAN

Of Constantinople (1914-1922)

“My Patriarchal Memoirs”

Cairo, 1947

The Volume

            Thefirst hand memoirs by Patriarch Zaven Der Yeghiayan are for sure indispensible, written some quarter of a century later, at age 70, based on his diary and memory, covering the most tragic years of the Armenian Genocide 1915-1922, while the Patriarch was in office. He was soon to be deported, and the Patriarchate and the National Constitution remain in jeopardy. The book was prepared by the Patriarch, and the year he passed away in Bagdad in 1947, it was published in Cairo by the Bureau of Service of the Intellectuals. Final edition was done by historian, educator Arshak Alboyajian, actually an assistant to the Patriarch. The Patriarch saw his Memoirs and gave his approval before it was printed back then. The book was recently translated into English in the United States in 2002. Two years prior to his demise in 1945, the Patriarch did his last sacred duty and presided over the ordination and consecration of His Holiness Catholicos Karekin I Hovsepiants of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon. Patriarch Zaven Der Yeghiayan was given full patriarchal honor at his funeral in Jerusalem by Patriarch Giuregh II Israelian, and was buried among the Patriarchs in the cemetery of the Patriarchate of St. James in Jerusalem.

The Eyewitness Patriarch

            Patriarch Zaven, one of the first graduates of the Seminary of Armash in 1895, was the youngest among his predecessors to occupy the important Patriarchal Seat in 1914. He was born in Mosul, Iraq in 1868 and baptized Mikayel. He was admitted by the Dean of the Seminary Bishop Malachia Ormanian who upon graduation ordained him a celibate priest with six of his friends giving him his new name Zaven. His patriarchate, he says, “occurred in the most turbulent period of the Armenians in Turkey.”

            The Patriarch was repeatedly asked to write his memoirs, the tragic times he went through, with the help of documents he had written while in office, evidences, correspondences and communiqués. “They thought I was the only person who could write and asked me to accomplish it as my last duty.” His response was to write his memoirs as a “documentary work and not as giving an account, it is a report rather than a scholarly work.” As a responsible high ranking clergy he had to travel to Jerusalem to look through the boxes of correspondences and other materials he had so wisely sent during World War I via Marseilles.They were kept in the Library piled up the way he had shipped.

The Content

            Patriarch Zaven Der Yeghyaian’s book “My Patriarchal Memoirs” contains six chapters, beginning from the first period of his patriarchal term in Constantinople, from 1914 to 1916, interrupted by the tragic events of the deportations of the million and a half of Armenians that ended in the First Genocide of the 20th century by the Ottoman Turks. Those tragic events are described first hand by a devoted Patriarch under 10 subtitles which ended in the cruel elimination both of the Patriarchate, temporarily, and the National Constitution forever. The 4th section among them is about his exile to Bagdad, his birthplace, where the brave Patriarch did not stay idle, but met healing challenges of the orphans and the orphanages until 1919, the year he returned to Constantinople to resume his office, following the evacuation of the Turks from Iraq by the British army.

            The 5th chapter covers the return of Patriarch Zaven back to his Eminent Office in Constantinople for his second term from 1919 to 1922. Under 15 subtitles we read the Patriarch undertook hard work with full responsibility trying to bring pieces together following the disastrous Genocide against his people. He responded to the political challenges as well, following the final departure of the Armenians from Cilicia with their spiritual shepherd Catholicos Sahak II Khabayan of Cilicia. The Patriarch remained in touch with Boghos Noubar Pasha, the President and the National Legate of CatholicosKevork V ofAll Armenians. Residing in Paris Boghos Noubar was constantly in touch with European states. This section ends with the Patriarch’s final resignation when Mustafa Kemal entered Turkey and established the new Republic of Turkey. The Patriarch relates in detail all those successive tragic events with utmost caution and personal witnesses.

            The last chapter of the Memoirs tells about the Patriarch’s helpful work in Bulgaria and Cyprus, after his second and final deportation from Constantinople, in educational and humanitarian ways, seeking the completion of the Garabed and Krikor Melkonian Brothers’ last will to establish an orphanage in Cyprus which was soon turned into the famous Melkonian Educational Institute. No doubt if this book was not written by the Patriarch, first hand data on the first quarter of the last century’s documented history about the Armenians in Turkey would have suffered greatly.

            A case in point is the emotional words of the Patriarch when he was deposed by force in 1916, as his description of the events hour by hour, accurately, reveals the decrees issued by the government, handed to him personally to leave the country within  a few days and depart from Haidar Pasha by train to his native country Iraq. He asked for a few more days so that he could attend church on Sunday, greet his flock, receive Holy Communion and then leave. In tears, he says, he attended church, left his flock and went to his uncertain destiny. No one else could have written the detailed accounts of his departure, the most risky journey, witnessing marches and deaths all over as he approached Euphrates.  Finally he arrived in Bagdad where he found his father, Der Avedis kahana Der Yeghiayan passed away, and his mother ill. A few weeks later she died and the Patriarch quietly headed her funeral in the Armenian Church.

Zaven Patriarch’s Appeals

            In his “Memoirs” one can seethe Patriarch’s diplomacy during those turbulent years. He was cautious and wise in taking steps while still in office as a man of high integrity, dedication, and administration that kept him unshaken even under threats on his life. All correspondences he received from the diocesan bishops left no doubt that the Turkish government had planned to eliminate the Armenians from Turkey, for which the Patriarch pleaded in person to save his flock from further massacres. But what he received was promise only. Despite all these, Patriarch Zaven, as he writes in his book, has sent help to show his support even to the Turkish army while World War I was breaking gradually. He was equally critical to the extremist Armenians who were plotting unwisely and hastily against the leaders of the government. He wrote in no uncertain terms against the chiefs of the Armenian political parties to be utmost cautious and think farther to gain ground. Unfortunately those chiefs, as states the Patriarch, showed no political maturity. Despite his fears for not being heard by his own, Zaven Patriarch often met personally the minister of religion Ibrahim Beyand vesier Said Halim Pasha, and even Foreign Minister Talaat Pasha. All he received, again, was nonsense.

The Twenty Gallows

            The Patriarch’s appeals seemed to alleviate the danger when a major plot was revealed from the Henchak Party which met secretly in Constansa, Romania, and planned to assassinate Talaat Pasha. The plot reached the authorities by a certain treacherous Yassian, an Armenian, as soon as all the Party members returned to Turkey. This was followed by a large scale arrest of 140 members. Hearing the dangerous news, Patriarch Zaven pleaded personally and approached Talaat asking to deport all of them from the country at once, rather than treat them harshly. However, the government secretly took 20 of the leaders to the gallows on Beyazit square in Constantinople and hung them. The Patriarch, as he records in his Memoirs, heard about it soon after the crime, not before, when a priest Der Kaloust Kahana, who was called by the authorities in the middle of the night to offer them the last prayer, walked to the Patriarchate and informed the Patriarch about the heinous crime.

            The tragic event according to the Patriarch was most unwise, given the already endangered safety of the entire Armenians still living in the country. Similar unwise step was taken, as he recalls, by the Dashnak Party, who met in Karin (Erzeroum) and resisted to the policy of the Ittihad Turks on political grounds.

Conclusion

            The “Memoirs” for sure is the first dependable source registering the state decree of Turkey, dated July 28, 1915, annulling the Armenian Patriarchate and the National Constitution. Instead, the Turks terminated also the Catholicossate of Cilicia in Sis forever, and in 1916 they “honorably” exiled Catholicos Sahak II Khabayan of Cilicia to Jerusalem, with an illegal “Turkish constitution” enforced and an equally illegal new title, “Catholicos-Patriarch of Turkey and Jerusalem combined,” labeled to his name, totally against the Armenian Church hierarchic order, by terminating simultaneously Patriarch Zaven’s term forcefully, telling him to leave and asking Sahak Catholicos to assign a Patriarchal Vicar in Constantinople. The events, so hastily, ridiculously, and forcefully carried out, proved all action taken illegal by the Turkish authorities, and of course ephemeral.

            Of importance are the developments in the Patriarchate during the second term of office of Patriarch Zaven Der Yeghiayan, from 1919 to 1922. His efforts were geared toward the orphans and the orphanages which were priorities on the Patriarch’s agenda. In Constantinople alone 16 Armenian orphanages opened under the United National Relief Organization among three Armenian denominations. The group on March 8, 1919 reached the widows and their financial needs, even demanding retribution of the untold damages incurred on the community. Earlier the Patriarch recovered the chancellery of the Patriarchate to keep pace with international relations, headed by Arshak Alboyajian, the editor of the Patriarch’s “Memoirs,” and Garabed Nourian.

            The rest of the book reflects the difficult times and efforts to cope with, as all efforts remained local and short lived. Assistance from the Armenian National Legacy in Europe was far from indicating any source of hope and immediate remedy, as the Legacy itself was left helpless by the withdrawal of the entente (“friendly”) nations. The end result was the resignation of Patriarch Zaven Der Yeghiayan in 1922. His successor Patriarch Mesrob Naroyan’s election was allowed to take place not until 1927.

BOOK OF CANON LAW OF ARMENIA”

Compiled by Catholicos John III of Otsoon

(717-728)

Final Edition by Dr. Vasken Hakobyan

Two Volumes, 1964 and 1971, Yerevan

The Text

            It was not until the 8th century when for the first time the Armenian Catholicos John III of Otsoon collected all the scattered canons of the Armenian Church Councils of the previous centuries, classified them in groups, and established in the Holy See of the Pontificate the first “Kanonakirk Hayots” (Book of Canon Law of Armenia) in one volume, including some of the canons of the Christian Church in general. The classifications by Catholicos John III were as follows:

            Canons of St. Gregory the Illuminator (303-325), of St. Sahak Parthev Catholicos (387-439), of St. Hovhan Mandakuni Catholicos (478-490), and the Armenian Church Councils of Shahapivan (444), Artashat (449), Dvin I (506), Dvin II (554), Dvin III (607), Karin I (633), Dvin IV (645), Karin II (680), Dvin V (720), and Manazkert (726). The last two were convened and presided over by Catholicos John of Otsoon himself. Later additions were made by his successors and laws were made by the actions taken at the respective church councils, such as, the Council of Sis, Cilicia, in 1243, in the monastery of Dzagavan in 1268. The last church council convened in Jerusalem in 1652. The total Armenian Church Councils were 24 as reported by our historians.

            It is understandable that the original Book of Canon Law so formed and established by Otsnetsi could not have reached us intact. Because of its importance, scribes in various monasteries copied from the original version extensively and diversified. Eventually many variants emerged from those duplications, with unwarranted additions and deletions, due to possible inaccurate readings on the part of the scribes. Later editions created additional codes of the church laws that have reached us during subsequent centuries. Presently scholars have identified over 200 survived manuscript texts of the Book with diverse copies written during distant periods from each other. The specialist Vasken Hakobyan painstakingly has accomplished a remarkable task, in two large volumes, by editing each of the 47 selected manuscripts and adding on each page the different readings from those 47 texts, including the important manuscript written in 1098, kept in New Julfa, Iran. His Holiness Catholicos Vasken I asked for the photographed pages of the manuscript which he received in Holy Etchmiadzin. It was indispensable for the study and for the publication by Vasken Hakobyan.

            At the end of the 10th century the Book of Canon Law was further developed with more canon laws. This means that until Catholicos John III, the Book was endowed with 24 codes, and later it was increased by an additional 15 codes. Chronologically the closest addition to Otsnetsi’s compilation was made by Catholicos Sion Bavonetsi (767-775) some 40 years later at the Church Council of Partav in 768.

Catholicos John III of Odzoon (717-728)

            The author of this valuable volume was also known as John III Catholicos Imastaser (the Philosopher), a highly learned and distinguished theologian among the hierarchs of the Armenian Church. He has made the following historical evaluation on the Book of Canon Law:  “The Holy Fathers provided the church with laws, and because those canon laws were scattered and not classified, I deemed it necessary to codify them all in one volume and establish the Book of Canon Law in our Pontifical Seat.”  The author as the Supreme Patriarch of the Armenian Church resided in the Armenian Catholicosate at Dvin, capital of Armenia, not too far from Holy Etchmiadzin, where the Seat of the Catholicos was transferred from 485 to 927, a very long period of time. Catholicos John III died in 728.

The Content

            The Book of Canon Law includes laws pertaining basically to the dogma and worship of the Armenian Church. In addition, laws on marriage, family life, discipline are strict and predominant. Variably, by necessity and being contemporary to compilation, the Book was needed at the time of political and social unrest. During the 7th century the Byzantines and the Arabs were forcing Armenia to submit, thus endangering the autonomy of our church, and destroying the economy of our country. Catholicos John III Otsnetsi was able to personally meet with the Arab Calif Umar II (717-720) in Damascus, just before 720, to rescue the imprisoned Armenian princes, as reported by contemporary Armenian historians.

            Primarily the autonomy of the Armenian Church was at stake, especially when the Byzantine Greek Orthodox Church exercised pressure to submit the Armenians to their faith, demanding the adoption of the Council of Chalcedon of 451, in order to consolidate the Eastern front of the Empire against the Arabs. Byzantium was intolerant, trying to reduce Armenia into one of the eastern provinces of the Empire. The “weakening” of the Armenian Church in an attempt of submitting it to the Imperial Orthodox Patriarchate in matters of doctrine, warranted the Armenians to convene Church Councils as needed and take immediate measures by establishing sets of canon laws in defense for the independence and autonomy of the church.

            Accordong to our church historian Patriarch Malachia Ormanian, Catholicos John Otsnetsi was determined to alleviate religious pressures exerted on the Armenian Church by the Greeks, oddly “relying on the policy of the Arab Caliphate.” The Catholicos “forcefully kept a distance between the Armenian Church and the Greek Church regarding the Chalcedonian doctrine which had found ground during Catholicos Ezr of Parajnakert, one of his predecessors.” Ormanian has based his views on the fact that Catholicos John Otsnetsi is also believed to be the author of another theological writing known as “Saks Jzoghovots” (Concerning Church Councils), where he has adjusted the chrtistological views of his six predecessors, from Catholicos Ezr (630-641) to Catholicos Yeghia (703-717), who were blamed to have consented to the Greek doctrine. Ormanian further observes that “those deviations were simply because of weaknesses due to political pressures.”

            Over all the main trend of the compilation of the Book by the Catholicos was to safeguard the traditional and legitimate law and order, bearing in mind the political stability of Armenia. Those steps could have only been taken through the Armenian Church Councils presided by the Catholicos, with the participation of bisops, clergy, and lay representatives, headed variably by kings and princes wherever applicable, thus forming from the outset democratic and more powerful nature of the councils. The Catholicos and the Church were given power alternately to overtake the governance of the nation when the kingdom and the political power failed.

Two Volumes:  Final Edition (1964, 1971)

By Vasken Hakobyan

             Vasken Hakobyan, the only specialist in recent times to study the Armenian Canon Law in depth, edited and published in two volumes Otsnetsi’s Book of Canon Law of Armenia in Yerevan. He classified tediously and completely all the canon laws of the Armenian Church. Volume I (1964) contains the canons compiled by the author Catholicos John III of Otsoon, and Volume II has additional codes collected by later Pontiffs of the Armenian Church.

            Recently, during the pontificate of Catholicos Vasken I of All Armenians (1955-1994), the Book of Canon Law had its final and scholarly edition by Vasken Hakobyan as said above. Hakobyan classified the Armenian canon laws in 57 groups, with a total of 1332 individual canon laws. For example, the Council of Shahapivan in 444 adopted 20 canons purely under political circumstances, when in 428 the Armenian Arshakuni Kingdom fell, and the Armenian princes quarreled among themselves. It was the first Council to react to the situation by ruling those canons.

Volume I (1964)

            Hakobyan’s Volume I contains 30 canon laws ascribed to St. Gregory the Illuminator  (pp.243-249); 55 canon laws to St. Sahak Barthev Catholicos (363-421); 20 canon laws were adopted by the Council of Shahapivan (422-466); 37 canon laws were established by Catholicos Nersess III Tayetsi and Bishop Nershapuh Mamikonian (475-490; 9 canon laws by Catholicos Hovhan Mandakuni (491-500); 3 canon laws by Bishop Abraham Mamikonian addressed to King Vachakan of Albania (5-1-505); 15 canon laws by Catholicos Sahak Dzoraporetsai (505-513); 32 canon laws by Catholicos John of Otsoon (514-537).

Volume II (1971)   

            Volume II contains 23 canon laws by Catholicos Sion Bavonetsi (pp. 3-18); 21 canon laws by King Vachakan of Albania (91-100); 12 canons by Catholicos Nersess III Tayetsi (Ishkhantsi) (201-215); 10 canons by Bishop Makarius of Jerusalem addressed to the Armenians (216-229); one group of canon law by St. Sahak Catholicos Parthev (230-238); one group by Catholicos Hovhan Mandakuni (239-243); 9 canon laws from the Council of Karin I (244-257); 43 canons by Catholicos St Nersess the Great (258-263); 7 nons by Catholicos Hovhan Mandakuni (264-266); 7 canons by Catholicos Hovhan Mandakuni on Repentance (296-304). Both volumes include a series of canons adopted at the Three Ecumenical Council, Nicaea (325), Constantinople (381), and Ephesus (431), and of some other non-Armenian local churches. In total 16 such codes are included in Vol. I, and 20 codes in Vol. II. At the end of the second volume V. Hakobyan has provided comprehensive lists of all the canons emerged from all the church councils, Armenian and non-Armenian alike (pp.306-395).

            Volume II contains additional canon laws ascribed to the same Armenian Pontiffs found in the first volume. It looks like duplication of names and canons.  A careful reading will conclude that those additional  names are the same, unlike the canon laws which are entirely different canon laws. This also shows that after Catholicos John of Otsoon, new editions of the Book of Caonon Law were obviously made by the orders of the contemporary Pontiffs during the 10th and 11th centuries by scribes and compilers, with some unknown “authorization.” Such examples represent Catholicos Mandakuni who has 15 additional canons, total of 24. St. Sahak Parthev Catholicos has one (1) additional canon law, total of 56. King Vachakan has 21 more, total of 24. Catholicos Nersess III Ishkhantsi has 43 additional canon laws, total of 80. Those unknown “authorization” has enriched the codes.

The Armenian Church Councils

Chronology and Classification

            Between the 4th and 17th centuries a total of 24 Armenian Church Councils convened, almost one in each century on the average. Historians have recorded one Council in the 4th c. two in the 5th, two in the 6th, four in the 7th, three in the 8th, one in the 9th, one in the 10th, three in the 12th, one in the 13th, three in the 14th, one in the 15th, and one in the 17th centuries. Fourteen of those were called by the Supreme Patrairchs of the Armenian Church, one was a General Assembly to elect Catholicos upon the Return of See from Cilicia, and nine were called by secular leaders of Armenia. The following is the concise list:

14 Councils: Councils of Ashtishat in 354 by Catholicos Nersess the Great, of Shahapivan in 444 by “a group of spiritual brothers,” of Artashat in 449 by Catholicos Hovsep Hoghotsmetsi, of Dvin I in 506 by Catholicos Babken I of Othmus, of Dvin II in 554 by Catholicos Nersess II of Bagrevand, of Dvin III in 645 by Catholicos Nersess III Ishkhantsi, of Dvin IV in 720 by Catholicos Hovhannes Otsnetsi, of Manazkert in 726 by Catholicos Hovhannes Otsnetsi, of Partav in 768 by Catholicos Sion Bavonetsi, of Kesoon (Karmir Vank) in 1113 by Catholicos Krikor Pahlavouni, of Hromkla in 1179 by Catholicos Krikor Tgha, of Adana in 1317 by Catholicos Constantine III Kesaratsi, of Sis III in 1343 by Catholicos Mkhitar Krnertsi, of Jerusalem in 1652 by Catholicos Philibos Aghbaketsi.

General Assembly in 1441 in Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin) was called by Hovhannes Vardapet Hermonetsi, an influencial leader of the Armenian Church at the time and the head of the famous university of Datev in Siunik, to transfer the Seat of the Armenian Catholicos from Sis to Etchmiadzin once and for all. The Assembly elected Catholicos Kirakos Vardapet Virapetsi to succeed Catholicos Krikor Musabekian who remained in Sis and started the second and limited branch of the Armenian hierarchy in Cilicia.

Nine Councils: were called by secular leaders of Armenia as follows, Council of Dvin III in 607 by Armenian princes, of Karin I in 633, of Karin II in 680, of Yernchak in 841 by Armenian princes, given the fact that in 607 at Dvin III the election of Catholicos Abraham Aghbatanetsi (607-615) was held, and in 841 at Yernchak the accusation against the ousted Catholicos Hovhannes IV Ovayetsi was resolved. It was in Ani in 969, capital of Bagratuni Kingdom that King Ashot III called a Church Council. Later Church Councils were held in Tarsus in 1197 by King Levon I of Cilicia, of Sis I in 1208 again by King Levon I of Cilicia, of Sis II in 1307 by King Levon III of Cilicia, and then the Council of Sis III in 1343 by King Constantine of Cilicia.

General Agenda of the Church Councils

            Six of the Church Councils dealt with matters of reformation within the Church, four of which established specific canon laws that have entered in the two-volume edition of the Book of Canon Law of Armenia by V. Hakobyan. The other five Councils responded to the official correspond-dences addressed to the Armenian Church. One Council aimed at establishing relationship between the Armenian and the Syrian Orthodox Churches, and another to improve the relationship of the Mother See and the See of Cilicia. One of the Church Councils discussed attempts to unity between the Armenian and the Greek churches, and the remaining three Councils aimed at “unity” with the Catholic Church while the Armenian Kingdom was in Cilicia (Lesser Armenia), in the territories of north-eastern tip of the Mediterranean Sea.

KEVORIAN SEMINARY

Of The Mother See Holy Etchmiazin

(1874-Present)

THE SEMINARY OF ARMASH

 Near Constantinople (1889-1915)

Three Institutions

            The Kevorkian Seminary in the Mother See Holy Etchmiadzin, founded by Catholicos Kevork IV in 1874, and the Seminary of Armash in 1889, under Patriarch Khoren Ashekian of Constantinople, became the twin centers for preparation of the leading clergy of the Armenian Church in the East and the West at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. The Seminary of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem was established earlier in 1843 by Patriarch Zechariah Kopetsi (1833-1846) and played important role in providing high ranking clergy especially during Patriarchs of Jerusalem Yesayi Garabedian (1864-1885)and Harutiun Vehabedian (1889-1910).

            The Jerusalem Seminary closed its doors during the first two decades of the 20th century due to First World War and started its mission successfully after 1921 when Patriarchs Yeghishe Tourian (1921-1930) and Torkom Koushagian (1931-1939) gave the Seminary first priority, both leaders of the Seminary of Armash who revived their famous Seminary in Jerusalem. The Seminary of Armash lived a short time, 25 years only, after offering our church and nation remarkable leaders, and was desecrated by the Turks in 1915. Presently Kevorkian Seminary is granted University status by the state of Armenia and is providing clergy in considerable number.

            When we learn about our eminent clergy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries we think about their religious education, their alma maters, the seminaries where they were trained during the most turbulent times of the Russian Emperors’ oppression, when Mkrtich I Khrimian Hairik was the Catholicos of All Armenians on the one hand, and simultaneously when endless persecutions and massacres by the Ottoman Turks culminated in the Genocide of the Armenian race in 1915, on the other. World Wars I and II, followed by the Soviet anti-religious harsh policy in Armenia made matters worse. Against those calamities all three Seminaries in Etchmiadzin, Armash, and Jerusalem, struggled hard to educate church leaders and save the Armenian Church and religion from total collapse.

Kevorkian Seminary

            The founder of Kevorkian Seminary was Catholicos Kevork IV of All Armenians (1866-1882) in whose name the school opened its doors in 1874. It took a long time for graduates to ordain. The founder did not see the first fruits of his labor, but only during his successors, Catholicos Magar I (1885-1891) and Mkrtich I Khrimian (1892-1907) graduates came to fill important posts in the dioceses in Armenia, such as Houssig Zohrabian, Tirayr Der Hovhannessian, Karekin Hovsepiants (Catholicos), Kevork Chorekjian (Catholicos), Gomidas Vartabed Soghomonian (musicologist), Garabed Der Mkrtchyan, and others. All the above were sent by their superiors to Germany to further their higher education in German Universities. They faithfully completed their studies, wrote their theses on Armenian Church theology and history, and returned to Holy Etchmiadzin as lecturers and later served as diocesan bishops.

            Beside those leading clergy, Kevorkian Seminary offered lay graduates in greater numbers and quality, who studied the Armenian ancient history and literature and re-edited those valuable medieval texts and revived them as historical, linguistic, theological, liturgical, and biblical sources, among them Academiacians Stepan Malkhassian, Hrachia Acharian, Hakob Manandian, Manoog Abeghian, Yervant Der Minassian, Hagop Topjian, just to name a few, who became the pioneers in their respective fields. Their publications, original, complete, and irreplaceable, still are of great use in today’s scholarship. They also edited the Ararat monthly of the Mother See with their religious colleagues and turned it into a unique source of research. Some of the clergy and lay graduates named above became the founders of the State University of Yerevan in 1923. Professor Hakob Manandian was the first Rector of the University.

Seminary of Armash

            Not far from Armenia, near Constantinople and under Abbot Superior Patriarch Khoren Ashekian of Constantinople, the Seminary of Armash was inaugurated in 1889 by a learned cleric Bishop Malachia Ormanian, Dean, who was previously lecturing in Kevorkian Seminary during Catholicos Magar I, who ordained him a bishop, but soon was not permitted to stay in the country by the Russian authorities. The Patriarch has always been ex officio the Abbot of the Seminary, and Ormanian acted as the first Dean who most capably founded the educational system with a set of bylaws and detailed curriculum. Upon his election as Patriarch of Constantinople in 1896, Ormanian was succeeded by Bishop Yeghishe Tourian as Dean of the Seminary. Bishop Ormanian was a convert from the Armenian Catholic faith to the Mother Church of Armenia, who decades earlier in 1879, during the patriarchate of Archbishop Nersess Varjabediian, was admitted with his 75 followers, 45 men and 30 women. The same day the Patriarch had granted him the degree of dzayrakooyn vardapet (Supreme Doctor), and assigned himpreacher in the metropolitan churches. Later, Bishop Ormanian was elected primate of the important Diocese of Erzeroum.

            The Seminary offered the Armenian Church 37 clergy in 25 years, some of them were martyred at the beginning of the Genocide of 1915, while just started their services in the Armenian dioceses of Anatolia. They were summoned for no reason and killed following untold tortures.  Bishops Ormanian and Tourian ordained 14 clergy each over the first two decades. At the end the remaining graduates were ordained by Archbishop Stepanos Hovagimian of Nicomedia, and Bishop Mesrob Naroyan, Dean himself a 1901 graduate and ordained bishop by Catholicos Kevork V Soureniants in 1913. Naroyan was the last Dean of Armash Seminary when the Turks attacked the church and the seminary early 1915 and scattered the seminarians. The students of the last class were expelled with the Dean to Constantinople, where the last two graduates were ordained priest. They soon joined the marches to uncertain destination as part of the Armenian Genocide.

            Bishop Ormanian ordained the first seven in 1895, and the second four while in Armash. He was elected Patriarch of Constantinople in 1896, where he ordained three more of the graduates and assigned them in the metropolitan churches as preachers. His successor Bishop Yeghishe Tourian ordained his pupils, first in 1901 ten candidates at once, and in 1904, while serving as the primate of the diocese of Smyrna, when he visited Armash and ordained four more of his students. The graduates, well prepared, spread all over the dioceses under the Patriarchate of Constantinople and revived the communities as educated leaders bringing new and unified quality of service. Unfortunately, the genocide demolished everything, monasteries, churches, monks and clergy, leaving behind death and destruction.

The Aftermath

            Survival followed. The dark clouds overshadowed by the terrible persecutions on both fronts, as the Soviets invaded and religion in Armenia suffered just as the Western front did by the massacres. Those dedicated members of the Seminaries who survived clung to their sacred mission and established “new” seminaries in Jerusalem and the Cilician See in Antelias, Lebanon. Leaders like Archbishops Yeghishe Tourian, Torkom Koushagian, Babken Guleserian, Shahe Kasparian, and Paren Melkonian, revived those centers of education and new generations of clergy emerged in those two locations, while the Mother See and the Kevorkian Seminary remained totally in the brink of collapse, just for a while.

            After 1945 the new Catholicos Kevork VI Chorekjian (1945-1954) sparked the candle courageously in the midst of a dangerous turmoil, and especially after a decade when Catholicos Vasken I Baljian (1955-1994) ascended to the Throne, the Armenian Church experienced revival in its full sense. Tolerance earned from the authorities through high diplomacy on the part of Kevork VI and Vasken I, led the church to greater heights. The Armenians in the dispersion saw for the first time a Catholicos from Armenia, Vasken I, to visit his flock ten times during his long pontificate of 39 years.

            The State of Armenia returned respect to the Supreme Patriarch, and numerous confiscations were removed, among them, the resuming the Kevorkian Seminary, the publication of the “Etchmiadzin” monthly replacing the old “Ararat” periodical, and above all the return of the Patriarchal Palace (the Veharan) in 1957, after an abuse of 35 years by the Soviet army. Many renovations took place steadily, and consistent achievements were accomplished by Catholicos Vasken I, who ushered in a new era in the Armenian Church at home and abroad. Many benefactors were personally in contact with the Catholicos as he, for the first time, embarked in his numerous Pontifical Visits to the farthest corner of the world and met those noble souls in person.

The Present

            The 20th century experienced tragic upheavals, but wise leaders “transferred” the old institutions into the new:  Etchmiadzin, Jerusalem, Antelias, and bliefly the Holy Cross Seminary in Istanbul by Patriarch Karekin Khachadourian, a 1901 graduate of the Seminary of Armash. Presently the first three are functioning and clergy are forthcoming, especially from Kevorkian Seminary which added in 1992 the Vaskenian Seminary in Sevan, through the efforts of the present incumbent His Holiness Karekin II Nersissian of All Armenians.      

Vaskenian Seminary

            The Vicar of the Ararat Diocese in Yerevan, Archbishop Karekin Nersissian, presently Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians, embarked on this most worthy task, to open a seminary in Sevan in the name of his Superior Catholicos Vasken I, while still living. With his blessings and in his presence the Seminary opened its doors on the shores of Lake Sevan in 1992, naming the Seminary after His Holiness’ name. It began in modest conditions in the existing old premises, but soon, by the steady efforts of the Archbishop of Yerevan, (soon the head of the Armenian Church), built a monumental complex with a chapel, dormitory and classrooms by generous donors from Damascus, Syria, Mr. and Mrs. Karnig and Anahid Yacoubians. In front of the Vaskenian Seminary stands tall the full size statue of Catholicos Vasken I of All Armenians.

            The Seminary is planned as preparatory for the students who after graduation are qualified to enter Kevorkian Seminary for their remaining studies, following which they are ordained deacons. Upon their final graduation, if the Catholicos and the Dean of Kevorkian Seminary see fit, candidates upon their wishes are ordained either celibate or married priests. The former become members of the Brotherhood of the Mother See, and the latter are assigned parish priests under diocesan primates.           

ARMENIAN CHURCH HYMNS

By

ST. NERSESS CATHOLICOS THE GRACEFUL

(1103-1173)

“Armenian Church Hymnbook”

1936, Jerusalem

Catholicos Nersess the Graceful

            The talented Catholicos Nersess IV Klayetsi (of Hromkla) lived during the 12th century (1103-1173) and earned the name “Shnorhali” (Graceful)for his spiritual, theological, devotional, and expressly Biblical hymns, prayers, and encyclicals. The latter comprise large collection of directives on theological, ecumenical, and disciplinary addresses, published as “Endhanrakan Toukhtk” (Universal Letters).

            The Armenian Church Hymnbook is enriched immensely by this divine leader of our church. It includes over 20 lengthy spiritual hymns with their respective original music authored and “signed” by him. On most of the hymns his initials appear, and on others the 36 letters of the Armenian alphabet is used from A to K for each stanza. He has also enriched the Church Breviary, the Book of Daily Worship immensely, with popular prayers and hymns, especially the 24-verse personal prayer “Havadov Khosdovanim” (In faith I confess) for each hour of the day, a prayer very close to the heart of the faithful.

            St. Nersess was so talented that his hymns carried the Gospel accounts in a unique style and poetry “on the stage” as it were. The entire creation of the world, the last week of Jesus’ tragic days in their minute details, his Resurrection and their implications are expressed by way of poetry and music. I have classified the hymns in five groups according to their contents, as follows:

  1. The Creation of the world and the Resurrection of Christ spread over the seven days of the week.
  2. The Last Days of Jesus’ life on earth, his entry into Jerusalem, the washing of the disciples’ feet, the Last Supper, the betrayal, and the crucifixion.
  3. The Sunrise Service and the Services of Peace and Rest.
  4. The Battle of the Vartanants in 451 AD. Armenia the first nation to defend Christianity as a state.
  5. Hymns for those who have fallen asleep. Prayers for the rest of their souls.

I

The Creation

Seven Days of the Week

            For Sunday St. Nersess wrote a hymn beginning with his six initials for each six stanzas. It starts with “Norasdeghdzyal,” meaning, “From the beginning the Word created anew from nothing the heaven and the earth.” The first two stanzas are for the Creation of the World, and the rest for the Resurrection of Christ. For Monday, six verses after the first six letters of the alphabet, are dedicated to the second day of the creation when God separated the waters from the land and created the Seraphim and the Cherubim, the Archangels and the Heavenly Hosts through which our supplications and prayers are addressed to God.  

            Tuesday’s six stanzas are dedicated to the third day of the Creation and to John the Baptist. They sing praises for the plantation and for Noah who saved men and animals from the flood. They also praise “the greatest among women,” Mary the Mother of God. Further, “Christ, the Ineffable Light and the Holy Spirit” are invoked together as unified deity to whom men address their prayers and blessings. St. John the Baptist, invoked once again, who “even from his mother’s womb worshiped God and became the Forerunner (Garabed) and cleansed us from our sins.”

               The six stanzas for Wednesday is addressed to the fourth day of the creation and dedicated to the Annunciation of St. Mary, at which time “the hidden mystery wasrevealed” by the Birth of Jesus. St. Nersess calls St. Mary “the bride offered from earth to heaven,” whose intercession is beseeched to her Son Jesus Christ. St. Mary is given a special place and called “the most holy,” who through our supplications shall “extinguish the fire in the furnace, and shall erase our sins by her tears.” This part of the hymn is closed with the Gospel episode and the Saint’s prayer that “Christ may save us from the sea of sins with Peter who was pulled out of the water” and saved him from the waves of the Lake Galilee.

            The hymn for Thursday is dedicated to the fifth day of the creation and addressed to the Apostles of Christ. The same day, as said in the Book of Genesis, God created the animals in the waters and in the air, and later saved the Old Israel from the calamities of the sea and clouds and was “baptized.” Likewise the Apostles were “called” from the Sea of Galilee where they were catching fish. They were also “baptized” and soon founded churches on behalf of the Son and the Word of God, meaning on God’s creative “Word,” turning them into “New Zion.”  

              The six succeeding stanzas for Friday are dedicated to the sixth day of the creation and to the crucifixionof Christ. The sixth day God created man, Adam, in His image as the completion of His good creations, giving him his wife Eve, his helper, so that they may enjoy life in paradise. But Eve was misled by the treacherous serpent and in turn deceived Adam, and both were expelled from paradise and the earth was cursed. Nevertheless, says St. Nersess the Graceful, the Father of Glories expunged the sins of men by sending His Son, the Lamb of God, who went to the cross for the sake of mankind. As he puts it: “He elevated us into heaven by the Cross and on the Cross he killed the sin and expunged the verdict of death.”

            Saturday’s stanzas are dedicated to the seventh day of the creation when God rested calling it “the day of rest.” Following God’s example, says St. Nersess, the grace of the Sabbath made us “to rest with God.” Remembering the dead in Christ, he further beseeches Christ to judge them with mercy, and us the living with justice.      

II

The Last Days of Jesus’ Life

            St. Nersess has written this remarkable 36-verse hymn, “Aysor anjarr lousooyn dzgumn” (Today is the rising of the ineffable light), dedicated to the last week of Our Lord’s life on earth. It begins with the first and ends with the last letters of the 36 alphabet, from A to K, divided into six parts, six stanzas each. The hymn depicts the sad moments of Jesus’ last days, step by step, after entering Jerusalem for the last time, cleansing the Temple from the merchants, washing his disciples’ feet, eating the Last Supper, and heading to his cross after being betrayed. The Gospel narratives are faithfully introduced and put on “a sacred stage” with melancholic music familiar to the faithful. It is sung during midnight service on Holy Thursday.

            The Armenian Church has placed the six groups of those hymns in between the lengthy corresponding readings of the Gospels alternately where related events are recorded. It has been 900 years since St. Nersess the Graceful has offered his talented hymns, including this one, to strengthen the faith of his flock which in turn have made them vehicle of worship in their daily life. As we sing the hymn, we clearly get in touch with the Lord’s sufferings, trial, and crucifixion. It is important to bear in mind that Armenian hymns can only be sung in the classical language they are written. To sing them in the vernacular or in any other language means not sing at all. The language and the music are intertwined and measured reciprocally.

“Norokogh Tiezerats”

(He who renewed the universe)

            This hymn comprises 15 stanzas with the author’s initials: “Nersessi eh Bans Ays”(Nersess has written this). It is written exclusively for Good Friday where Jesus’ “voluntary crucifixion” is repeatedly emphasized.  His betrayal and arrest, the sufferings and the crucifixion are included with a different tone, words and feelings.

III

Saints Vartanank “Norahrash Psakavor”

“Nersessi Erg” (Song by Nersess)

            Saints Vartanank, headed by General Vartan Mamikonian defended Armenian Christianity as a state in 451 AD, the first among any state to do so. St. Nersess Shnorhali wrote his outstanding religious-national hymn, “Norahrash Psakavor” (Marvelously Crowned), and addressed to General Vartan Mamikonian and individually to his warriors. It is composed of 10 stanzas according to his in initials, dedicated to the 1036 warriors who fell during the Battle of Avarair against Persia which enforced Zoroastrianism, the fire worship, in place of Christianity which had its roots in Armenia since 301 AD. In each stanza the author recalls and praises the Generals of the troops by name invoking their virtuous dedication to Armenia and Christianity with most sensitive words, expressions, and poetry as follows. He also gave the music to this most popular hymn.

Norahrash is the first stanza dedicated to Vartan the Brave Martyr, the hero of the battle.

Yergnavor, the second, to Khoren the Councellor.

Renakan, the third, to Artak the Brave.

Srpapayl, the fourth, to Hmayak dedicated to God the Father.

Eiakan, the fifth, to Tajat the Unbelievable.

Estatsyal, the sixth, to Vahan the Elegant.

Ee hod anoush, the seventh, to Arsen the Desirable.

Yerkokoumk harazatok, the eighth, to Karekin the Frontrunner.

Ramkakan, the ninth, to 1036 martyrs.

Gohoutyamp, the tenth, to The Armenian Church.

            As shown above the hymn begins with General Vartan Mamikonian and ends with the Mother Church of Armenia. St. Nersess relates together the Nation and the Church strongly for which Vartanank fought the battle and never accepted the fire worship. Among the names of the generals Nerseh Kachberouni is missing.        

Hymn of Sts. Ghevondyank

“Vor Harrachagouyn  (Who from the beginning)

            This hymn with six stanzas is dedicated to the Ghevondian Priests, seven of them, headed by Catholicos Hovsep Hoghotsmetsi and Ghevond the Priest,who took part in the battle of Avarair of 451, but three years later in 454, surviving the war they were called to Ctesiphon, capital of Persia by force and were all martyred there. They were Priest Moushegh, Priest Arshen, Priest Samuel, Deacon Kachach and Deacon Abraham. In the second stanza among the martyred clergy are named Catholicos Hovsep and Priest Ghevond who “enlightened the brave and valiant soldiers.”

“Anjarreli Bant Asdevadz”

(Ineffable Word of God)

            Ten alphabetical stanzas, intertwined with all 36 letters, St. Nersess dedicated this hymn to the group of seven martyred Priests. St. Ghevond the Priest is singled out as “the enlightener of all St. Ghevond vardapet,” who persuaded with his wisdom the volunteers who “were martyred voluntarily.” St. Nersess’ favorite metaphor is “the fire of love” he uses often elsewhere. It is revealed here once again as “the fire enflamed in the saints,” through which “the martyred priests encouraged each other and voluntarily went ahead to offer their lives even to death.” In the hymn Catholicos Hovsep Hoghotsmetsi is distinguished who “the first went to meet his death ahead of the chosen disciples as the good martyred shepherd.”

IV

The Sunrise, Peace and Rest Service

“Arevekal Worship Service”

            St. Nersess Shnorhali wrote and sang the Sunrise Service entirely dedicating it to the LIGHT.  It is a journey “to find the way,” and while walking the Holy Trinity is called and the Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are invoked. “On the way” intercession of Saints, Martyrs, Volunteers, and Ascetics is asked in prayers and songs that are addressed to the celestial elements, from the east to the west, from north to the south, originally geared to the sun and ultimately to the Son of God. The Sunrise Service shows the WAY to reach the TRUTH through the LIGHT.

            As the head of the Armenian Church, St. Nersess was concerned about members of his flock which deviated from the orthodox faith and worshipped the sun, calling themselves “sons of the sun” (Arevortik). It is quite genius that the Great Saint chose to write this service to talk with them in their own words: east and west, north and south, sun and sunlight. The worship service enticed those who were misled to gradually return to the true Light of the true Son. The Armenian Church sings the Arevakal Service during Lent in the early mornings to welcome the Light of the Son of God.

            The key word is “imanali looys” (the rational light), the inner and spiritual light as against the physical light. Similar to the physical light which leads us safe in the dark, the rational light, Christ, is needed for our spiritual journey safely toward Him the “Light of the World.” The central hymn begins with the light, a word repeated 32 times, 17 times only in the opening song “Light, creator of light, First Light.” At first, the sunrise is emphasized as the creation of God. Then the physical and the natural light of the sun is acknowledged which shines equally on the righteous and the sinner, whereby our good and evil deeds are equally revealed.

            The structure of this worship service has four integral parts enriched with songs, biddings, and prayers. Biblical readings are all from the Book of Psalms only. No other citations are quoted, a choice which assures the personal nature of the service. These are the four sections:

  1. The first part has a universal nature, inviting “All nations from the East to the West, from the North to the South,” to bless the Creatorof the world.
  2. The second part is intercessional recalling the hermits, the martyrs, and the witnesses to intercede before God through the Son of God and the Holy Spirit.
  3. In the third part the Light reappears as the true expression of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. The attributes of the Light is also specified as justice, wisdom, mercy, and peace.
  4. The last section of the Sunrise Service represents its conclusion with the proclamation of the Way which is Christ, who is also identified as the Truth and the Life.

Peace Service  

“Nersessi Erg” (Song by Nersess)

            Ten stanzas after the numbers of his initials as spelled above comprise this first popular hymn known as “Nayats Sirov” (Watch us with Love), the center of which isagain the Life of Jesus as the LIGHT OF THE WORLD as seen in the Gospels. The Light is dominant as “as the rational radiant” and the” fire of love,” that will cleanse the thoughts of our hearts, and instead will shine them with the light of knowledge. The next hymn is “Ee Ken Haytsemk”(We Beseech Thee) addressed in the first three stanzas to the Three Persons of the Trinity. The Father of Comfort who comforts us through the intercession of St. Mary when we are down with our sins. The Son of God to alleviate the burden of our sins with repentance, and to strengthen us to carry voluntarily the sweet burden as our CROSS. In the third verse where the man-loving Holy Spirit St. Nersess wishes to be renewed, asking mercy on those departed souls to be illumined in heaven.

The Rest Service

“Havadov Khosdovanim” (In faith I confess)

            This 24-stanza prayer each for one hour of the day St. Nersess wrote for personal use. It is written in the first person singular. First, he recalls the Holy Trinity to bestow upon us their respective divine gifts. The next six stanzas are specified for the remission of our sins, for the examination of our secrets, and for asking the provident Lord’s fear. The believer’s eyes, ears, mouth, heart, hands and feet are asked to perform the truth, to hear and speak, to work and walk according to God’s commandments. Each verse ends with the same supplication: “Have mercy on Thy creatures and upon me a manifold sinner.”  

            The last three verses are addressed to the Just Judge, to the all-merciful Lord, andto the Glorified Lord. In the 24th verse as a conclusion the intercession of the Saints is asked, headed by St. Mary the Mother of God and followed by St. John the Baptist, St. Gregory the Illuminator, the Apostles, the Prophets and the Patriarchs. The entire prayer a precious unit in itself is translated into many languages.

V

Hymns for the Departed

“Asdvadz Anegh” (Uncreated God)

            This hymn is identified as “Erg Nnchetselots” (Hymn for the Departed). It has 36 stanzas dedicated to those who rest in Christ. The first stanza begins with “Uncreated God,” and ends with the invitation of “Priests and People” to sing together for the deceased. The Holy Trinity dominates in this song, God the Father as “merciful and patient,” the Son of God as “Lord and Savior,” and the Holy Spirit as “spring of goodness.” The Three Persons are called repeatedly beseeching “mercy for the souls of the departed who are resting with Christ in hope.”

            The hymn is composed of four groups from the 36 stanzas as a chain, each four being sung according to the two church music tunes, eight traditionally established tunes in all, from the first tune to the eighth. St. Nersess the Graceful calls the departed in Christ as “servants resigned from this world, whose loved ones “supplicate that Christ accompany them and make them rest in the Father’s dwellings.” Referring to Lazarus of Bethany’s resurrection from the grave, it is said, “You called Lazarus to come out, giving hope to the departed, since giving life to the man dead for four days, those departed since Adam came to life again.”

            The last stanza is very popular and the church sings it during the Requiem Service each Sunday: “Kahanayk yev Zoghovourtk” (Priests and People), who together “beseech the merciful Lord that he may accept us also with those who have fallen asleep in faith, and lead us to the Upper Jerusalem where the just are gathered.” St. Nersess concludes this most sensitive hymn with the “Upper Jerusalem” (Ee Verin Yerusaghem) adorned with its equally sensitive music which he himself has composed.  

1600th ANNIVERSARY

INVENTION OF THE ARMENIAN ALPHABET

By St. Mesrob Mashtots

(406-2006)

“New and Miraculous Offspring”

Koriun Vardapet, historian (5th c.)

The Jubilee

            The year 2006 marked the National Jubilee of the invention of the 36 Armenian letters by St. Mesrob Mashtots, a priest, in 506 AD.  The present Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II issued an Encyclical in 2005 announcing the Jubilee Celebrations nationwide, underlining the preservation and the promotion of the Armenian LETTER and the Armenian BOOK. As stated by Koriun Vardapet, the biographer of his teacher St. Mesrob Mashtots, the Armenian letters became “New and miraculous offspring,” which are still living “miraculously” and offering nurture to our religious, national, and cultural life for 1600 years.

Three Factors

            The Armenian word for letter is “keer” (·Çñ) with its three dimensions, first as word, then as book, and ultimately as literature. One can imagine how grateful task St. Mesrob has accomplished at the dawn of the 5th century, offering the Armenian nation and church all three which by extension comprised the Armenian religion and culture, all of them the offspring of his talent and concern at a time when the state of Armenia was on the verge of collapse. In fact when Catholicos Sahak Parthev, Mesrob Mashtots and their disciples were intensely translating the Holy Bible from the Greek Septuagint to the classical Armenian, the Armenian Arshakuni Kingdom fell in 428 AD. The 5th century Golden Age Armenia was blessed with the replacement of the political state with spiritual and cultural revival which resisted and endured calamities more than any political power.

            Prior to the Golden Age, Armenians possessed their speaking language for centuries. They spoke but never wrote or read any word in Armenian. The miracle was performed when the “new and miraculous offspring” became available for the express reason of the translation of the Holy Bible into Armenian which the Catholicos Sahak called “The Breath of God” (Asdvadzashounch). Following the Armenian Bible, historiography emerged, and based on that Holy Textbook par excellence, ancient and contemporary history of the Armenian people bloomed, arts of architecture and sculpture, manuscripts and miniatures came into life, and our nation and church were validly identified as of this day. As a 1600 years old and 1600 years rich grateful people we stand today tall in the midst of nations of the past, some of which are extinct for a long time.

“Queen of Translations”

(Taguhie Tarkmanutyants)

            The 5th c. original translation of the Armenian Bible was hailed in the 19th century by non-Armenian biblical scholars who knew the Classical Armenian and the Greek, as the “Queen of the Translations,” for its accuracy and faithfulness to the original text. The Bible followed immediately by historians who learned the Classical Armenian from the Holy Bible and subsequently wrote in each century giving their contemporary accounts and rendering the Armenian history valid and reliable. Some of our historians attracted the attention of the international scholarship as they provided data missing or lost in other contemporary sources in Greek or Syriac. The leading 5th c. historian Movses Khorenatsi with his “History of Armenia” was frequently quoted by foreign historians for some of the information he had collected by way of tradition and by actual events as an eyewitness. The same was true with 7th c. historian Bishop Sebeos, whose work known as “History of Emperor Heraclius,” contained evidences not found in contemporary sources relating to Byzantium, Persia, and the Arab invasions.

Historiography

            Fifth century Armenian historians were actually the translators of the Holy Bible who were sent by their superiors to Edessa, Alexandria or Constantinople, to learn the languages and return with the necessary knowledge. They were Eznik, Yeghishe, Lazar Parbetsi, Hovhan Yegueghetsatsi and Koriun, who became the first scholars of the 5th c. under their teacher St. Mesrob, the inventor of the alphabet. Subsequent centuries followed suit and enriched significantly the Armenian ancient literature. They soon translated liturgical and biblical commentaries from the Greek and the early Church Fathers. What we have today as the basic text of the Holy Eucharist is from those early translations. Obviously the Armenian Church did not have any source of its own for the daily worship until later when commentaries were written and original theological works were surfaced.        

Preserve the Legacy

            The Armenian civilization stemmed from literacy. All we have today as original literature, religion, architecture, the arts of sculpture and manuscripts still survive, and in the last one hundred years despite cruel calamities they speak for themselves. They are genuine witnesses of our past, not simply displayed in well equipped libraries and monasteries, but also studied by scholars who have introduced them to the outside world. Now is the time in the present materialistic world to preserve the foundations of our past by promoting the language which seems to recede quickly, but the Mother Church remains to stand as our fortress, if we keep the language and the structure firm. Armenian writers and readership are gradually lessening, and the Armenian cultural interest in general, judging from the Armenian schools and their low enrollment, are promising regress than progress.

What Gift has Armenia to Offer?

            The 1600th anniversary is time to evaluate the structure of our mother language primarily. Western and Eastern Armenian dialects have lived side by side for a long time, happily and with precious literature. However, during and following the Soviet rule in Armenia and as of today, despite our independent Republic of Armenia, the Eastern dialect was deteriorated alarmingly in terms of vocabulary and orthography when compared with the same language prior to the system. Leaders then published their valuable books in clean and clear Eastern Armenian free from foreign words and absolutely faithful to the grammar and orthography of the Holy Bible, translated by the first translators and their teachers St. Sahak Catholicos and St, Mesrob Mashtots Vardapet. In the west the Armenian dialect remained faithful and produced superior literature at the end of the 19th and through the 20th centuries. I asked: What gift has Armenia to offer? It is the wish of the Diaspora leaders and readers of Armenian literature to return back to the classical dictation inherited from the Golden Age Armenia and carried through the centuries. This is what the Republic of Armenia, as difficult as it is after so many decades of deviations, should offer to the Armenian people.

HOLY EASTER 2013

March 31, New (Gregorian) Calendar

May 5, Old (Julian) Calendar

Two Calendars

            In this 2013 year the Armenian Church celebrated Holy Easter twice, on March 31, and on May 5, with a distance of 5 weeks. Question is raised as to why the difference, and why celebrating twice, especially when pilgrims who went to Jerusalem this year celebrated Easter in the United States earlier on March 31st, and again on May 5th in Jerusalem. The distance between the two is variable, given the year, and accordingly the New and the Old Calendars observe Easter Sunday from one to five weeks period between them, and once in a while the celebration coincides on the same Sunday, all depending on the calendars’ solar system on which the observance of Easter is established by the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. It sounds confusing, but the simple and not quite adequate answer is the use of either the New (Gregorian) or the Old (Julian) Calendars. The canonical resolution of the date of Easter to be sure comes from the First Council of Nicaea.

            What did the Church Fathers establish at Nicaea in the first place?  Based on Biblical evidences they resolved that Easter, the most important feast of the Church, should be celebrated “On the first Sunday succeeding the full moon, right after the spring solstice.” The decision is applied by both calendars, and not that one has honored it and the other not as some think. The problem in fact lied in the exact calculation of the days of the year. Note however that the Old Calendar which was decreed by Julius Caesar was before Christ in 46 BC, and called after him. It could have no bearing whatsoever on Christianity let alone on Easter. The Julian Calendar was purely secular calendar while the New Calendar which was prepared by Pope Gregory XIII (1573-1585) in 1582, and called after him, had the express purpose to calculate the days of the year correctly, by revising the Old, and establishing Easter Sunday according to the resolution of Nicaea.

The Problem 

            The problem therefore lies not in the accuracy of the one over the other, but in adjusting the exact days of the year by minutes, and then applying it to establish Easter Sunday correctly. The adjustment completed in the 16th century by scientists under Pope Gregory XIII as said above and the western churches gradually adopted it. Soon the Church of England followed the New Calendar in the 18th century and celebrated Easter with the Latin Church.

            The Orthodox Churches hesitated for political considerations and stayed with the Old Calendar, but the Armenian Church adopted the New Calendar quite late in 1923 by the Encyclical of Catholicos of All Armenians Kevork V Soureniants. With the exception of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the churches under its jurisdiction, for the important reason to keep their rights and privileges in the Holy Land, the Armenian churches all over celebrated Easter according to the New Calendar ever since. Following the 1917 revolution of the Bolsheviks and after the fall of the Russian Empire, the communist regime adopted the New Calendar with the Russian and Georgian Orthodox Churches agreeing with the decree, but before the end of the year both churches reneged and turned to the Old Calendar. The Armenian Church stayed firm ignoring the uncertain move of both churches. This indicated the independence and the self rule of the Armenian Church from the orthodox churches, disregarding at the same time the political factor, despite being in the same region and under the same regime.

            The Greek Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople being cautious stayed away from the use of the New Calendar for political reasons trying not to jeopardize the Ottoman Empire’s risky relationship with the Russians. As of today the Greeks adhere to the Old Calendar in Jerusalem.

The Calculation

            The Old Calendar calculated 365 ¼ days for the year which did not represent an accurate and final number, because the complete year calculated accurately 11 ½ minutes less than the above figure, which in 900 year period resulted in a difference of 10 days. To correct the mistake scientists made an unusual jump in 1582, and counted October 5th as October 15th, thus “balancing” by “elimination” the ten days of the year for the sake of absolute accuracy. This was what the New Calendar did, establishing and calculating 365 days for the year, and once every four years adding one day to the month of February and creating the “Leap Year” with February 29.

            Those churches which followed the dates of the Old Calendar refused to accept the “correction” and stood behind by 11 days in the year 1700, 12 days in 1800, and 13 days in 1900. This is why the feasts observed on fixed dates according to the New Calendar, such as the Armenian Christmas on January 6 and the Presentation of the Lord to the Temple on February 14, are 13 days earlier compared with the Old Calendar. Bear in mind also that those fixed dates are counted in the Old Calendar just the same, January 6 and February 14, which in the New Calendar fall on January 19 and February 27.

The Armenian Church 

            As stated above the Armenian Church started using the New Calendar since 1923 for the churches outside Jerusalem. The case in the Holy Land has been unique in the sense that three denominations the Catholics, the Greeks, and the Armenians have equal rights and privileges in keeping the holy shrines by the power of the decrees granted them as early as the 7th century. The Armenians and the Greeks use the same Julian Calendar and the feasts coincide with an unnecessary “competition.”

500TH ANNIVERSARY OF

ARMENIAN PRINTED BOOK

(1512-2012)

 By

 Hagop Meghabard, the Pioneer

The Jubilee

            The year 2012 marked the 500th anniversary of the printing of the first six Armenian books by Hagop Meghabard in 1512 in Venice. We know nothing about him, but most probably he was a cleric judging from the first books he had selected to print from the ancient manuscripts. Late in 1890 one of the six books, a “Missal,” was found in Jerusalem by Bishop Sahak Khabayan, Grand Sacristan of the Patriarchate. The tiny book is the same with the book the priest uses today on the Altar during the Holy Eucharist. Up to that time almost everything was unknown about the first printed books.  Bishop Khabayan, who later in 1902 was elected Catholicos Sahak II of the Great House of Cilicia, discovered a brief colophon at the end of the “Missal” which revealed for the first time the name of the printer, the place and the date it was printed. In my opinion last century’s 400th Jubilee in 1912 announced by Catholicos Kevork V Soureniants was in fact the first Jubilee celebrated due to the lack of earlier information on the event. The colophon reads:

“This holy book was printed in the Armenian Year 962 and in the Lord’s year 1513 in the providential city of Venice by Hagop Meghabard.”

From Manuscripts to Print

            The renaissance of the 16th century is indebted to the invention of the printing of books in Germany by Johan Guttenberg in 1450. The jump from the old to the new, from the parchment to print, was bold and remarkable as it was the case in the Armenian literary culture which began in the 5th century and survived through the tens of thousands hand written manuscripts. Hagop Meghabard courageously followed the steps of Guttenberg and transferred the culture of the Armenian manuscript into printing of books some 62 years after him. The place was Venice where 250 printing presses were already operating when Hagop, the pioneer, who humbly nicknamed himself “Meghabard,(Hagop the Sinful) opened his own printing shop, independent from the others as it can be seen by some identifying features of style and patterns borrowed from ancient Armenian manuscripts.

            The strange case as one could see, such an important initiative was neither sponsored by the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, nor was Hagop commissioned by the Catholicos or a philanthropist to embark on the printing project. We do not know how he managed to finance his invention from casting the letters to the forming of the paginations to finally put them under press and bind the first printed books as we have them today. There is the possibility as surmised by scholars that Hagop was in touch with the merchants of Venice who helped him. Unfortunately the shop was short lived, only two years, presumably for the same financial reasons.

            It should be clear when we state Venice as the place of the first Armenian singlehanded printing house by Hagop Meghabard we do not refer to the Armenian Mekhitarist Congregation. We refer to the city of Venice only. The Mekhitarist Congregation appeared in Venice 200 years later in 1717 and established on the Island of St. Lazar.

Hagop Meghabard’s Initiative

            A huge step was taken from the manuscripts to printing by Meghabard who kept the style and the legacy of the ancient writing, casting similar letters and designs of the opening pages with the initial ornate letters, keeping even the two colors, black and red, displaying meticulous art as a talented clergyman. His six books were the following: “Ourpatakeerk” (Friday’s Book), a “Missal” (Badarakadedr), “Akhtark”, “Hymn-book” (Dagharan), “Calendar Book” (Barzadomar), and “The Book of Psalms” (Saghmosaran). As said above the only colophon was found at the end of the “Missal.”

            As for Hagop Meghabard’s identity there remains a complete silence, other than the tiny colophon quoted above. Nothing about his provenance, names of his parents, his birthplace or date of birth is known to the Armenian scholarship. The colophon at least provides slim but most essential data on this milestone undertaking. His most humble “identity” as “Hagop the sinful” says it all. Scholars had no choice other than reading Meghabard as his “surname.” The specialist in the first Armenian printings is a well known historian and scholar Raphael Ishkhanian who published his “History of Armenian Book” in Yerevan 1977, where he studied the development of the Armenian printing from 1512 to 1680, introducing Meghabards successors Abgar Tbir of Tokat who was commissioned by the Catholicos of All Armenians Mikael Sebasdatsi some 50 years later.

            Ishkhanian has quoted from the six books that there was financial help given to Hagop by the merchants and that the press he started in Venice belonged to him. He quotes the following terms: “dbaranader” (owner of the press) and “dbarananishner” (copyright) and “mamoulani-sher” (numbers for each chapter) in the Armenian numerical letters and notin Arabic numerals. The latter as usual were used for the pagination. Ishkhanian says this case is a proof of independence and identity from the other local presses.

            “Ourpatakeerk,” which made history being the first Armenian book printed in Armenian, and the “Akhtark” both have similar content. Unlike the other four books they are not religious or of Biblical context. Both have healing and astronomical nature. Whereas the “Calendar Book” stands to confirm the date of those books indicating the first year as 1512, the year Meghabard started printing all six books. R. Ishkhanian and scholars in Armenia have singled out the “Hymnbook” as the best artistically designed in two colors, black and red, stating “it is the best publication of Hagop Meghabard in printing artistry being the last of the six.” It contained medieval authors’ religious songs of St. Gregory of Narek, St. Nersess the Graceful, Hovhannes Tlkourantsi, and Mkrtich Naghash. The other two, the “Book of Psalms” and the “Missal,” are obviously for church worship services.

The Legacy of Hagop Meghabard

            In the 16th century Armenia was torn apart between Turkey and Iran, and as in the past 5th century Golden Age Armenia culture and literacy challenged the fall of the Arshakuni Kingdom in 428 through the miraculous invention of the Armenian letters and the translation of the Bible into Armenian, likewise Hagop Meghabard embarked on the monumental task of the printing this time to keep up with the European Renaissance and introduce the nucleus of the Armenian ancient literature to the West. His ambition was to promote his national and religious identity. He did it with great courage and success.   

            Hagop’s successors came late in time, first Abgar Tbir of Tokat 50 years later with his son Soultanshah who created new fonts and in 1565 they printed five more books in Venice: “Church Calendar,” “Breviary,” “Book of Sacraments” and a “Grammar Book.” Later Abgar moved his printing press to Constantinople leaving his son in Rome where he formed more fonts and printed the “Gregorian Calendar,” known as the New Calendar, decreed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. The Armenian Church adopted the Gregorian Calendar much later in 1923. Abgar gratefully remembers Hagop Meghabard in a colophon whose original printings, he says, served as basic sample for his accomplishments. Abgar Tbir, unlike Hagop, was commissioned by the Encyclical Catholicos Mikael of Sebastia in 1562 who sent him to Rome first, and then to Venice where he stayed a long time. His son Soultanshah continued his father’s work until the end of the 16th century. 

            Counting from the earliest 1512-1586 prints the total publications represented 19 books. Exactly another 50 years later in 1636 Khachadour of Guesaria established printing press in New Julfa, Iran where he printed with his co-workers 4 more books and as the abbot and educator distinguished himself.

Khachadour of Guesaria (1590-1646)

            Khachadour of Guesaria was born in Kaiseri, Turkey and upon arrival in New Julfa became the founder of the famous All Savior Monastery (Amenaprgich). He was educated in Holy Etchmiadzin where he learned theology and philosophy. He studied the texts of Armenian philosopher David the Invincible, Aristotle and Plato. Khachadour was the abbot of the Monastery since 1620 where he established the first printing press in Iran in 1638. He was the pioneer of the following publications. all published for the first time: in 1641 “Harants Vark” (The Life of the Fathers) a large volume with 703 pages; the next year he published the first “Adeni Jamakeerk” (Brieviary) and a “Dagharan” (Book of religious songs), besides establishing a School and a Library. He further published “The Book of Psalms,” “The Missal,” and “The Book of Calendars.”

            Famous students learned under him, including Catholicos of All Armenians Hagop of Julfa and Vosgan Vardapet of Yerevan, both pioneers of the first publication of the Holy Bible in 1666. The Armenian Bible was printed in Amsterdam by Vosgan Vardapet. Khachadour of Guesaria published three Christological texts, one of them by Cyril Patriarch of Alexandria (d.444), “Barbamounk Giurghi Alexandratsvo” (Scholia de Incarnatione Unigenity), an Armenian version translated from the Greek whose English translation from the classical Armenian was published in London (1907) by C.F. Conybeare under the title of The Armenian Version of Revelation and Cyril of Alexandria’s Scholia on the Incarnation.” The latter was the study I presented in 1967 to the University as my theses for the Master’s degree. Patriarch Cyril was present at the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 who formulated the “One nature in the Incarnate Word” regarding the relation of the divine and human natures in the One Person of Jesus Christ.

From Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin

            In 1658 Catholicos Hagop of Julfa and Vosgan of Yerevan embarked on the Armenian printing in Amsterdam where Vosgan founded the St. Sarkis printing house in 1664. He successfully printed in 1666 the first Armenian Bible, the largest volume with 1464 pages, an amazing accomplishment as a monument dedicated to Christianity in Armenia, just as in the 5th century when St. Sahak and St. Mesrob translated the original from the Greek Septuagint. Vosgan used the best manuscript written in Cilicia which he took with him from Etchmiadzin. We remember celebrating nationwide the 300th anniversary of this remarkable achievement in 1966 by the Encyclical issued by Catholicos Vasken I of All Armenians. Matthew Vardapet Dzaretsi succeeded Vosgan Vardapet, while Vosgan went to Marseille to establish another printing house. In Marseille and in Livorno Vosgan printed 17 more books.

            On behalf of Holy Etchmiadzin Vosgan and Matthew embarked on a major task and in 1695 printed in Amsterdam “Hamadaradz Ashkharhatsooyts” (Comprehensive Geographic Map), and for the first time they published the famous“History of the Armenians” by Movsess Khorenatsi (5th c.), “Tourn Eemasdutyan” (Door of Wisdom) school textbook, “Gandz chapots, kshrots, tvats yev dramots bolor ashkharhi” (Treasure of measures, weights, numbers and currency worldwide.” During 1669-1672 Vosgan and Matthew printed   Armenian Church “Sharagnots” (Hymnbook) for the first time, and the “History of Tabriz” while the historian Arakel of Tabriz was alive. Vosgan Yerevantsi passed away in 1674 in Marseille at age 60.

Vosgan Yerevantsi in Marseille

            WhenVosgan arrived in Marseille in 1672 he was already ordained bishop by his classmate Catholicos Hagop of Julfa. Vosgan was born in New Julfa in the Ghlijents family. His both parents were born in Yerevan and their son was called Vosgan of Yerevan. In 1604 his parents had forcefully migrated to Isfahan by Shah Abbas where Vosgan was born and learned in the All Savior’s Seminary under the great educator Khachadour of Guesaria. Later Vosgan went to Etchmiadzin to study theology. The following is an interesting blessing given by our contemporary Catholicos Vasken I of Blessed Memory.

            In 1970 His Holiness Vasken I Catholicos of All Armenians visited Marseille during his pontifical visit abroad where he learned that a “Vemkar” (consecrated marble for liturgical use) belonging to Vosgan Yerevantsi, without his name on it, was treasured in the Chateaux Borelli Catholic museum for 300 years.” His Holiness wanted to see the marble plaque. The following is an eyewitness account by Deacon Stepan Boghosian, author of “History of the Armenian Community of Marseille”:

“In 1970 Gaston de Fere, the famous mayor of the city of Marseille presented the historic marble to Catholicos Vasken I in the City Hall during an official visit of  His Holiness. The Catholicos gave the marble to the Holy Translators Armenian Cathedral of Marseille to be installed on the Altar permanently.” The marble has the following inscription:

“On May 23 in the City of Amsterdam, Holland, this marble in the name of St. Garabed was donated by Zechariah son of David of Julfa, and inscribed by Garabed servant of the Lord”

            In Raphael Ishkhanian’s words “The printing press established by Hagop Meghabard, after gradually developing in foreign countries for two and half centuries, in 1771 arrived in Armenia by the efforts of Catholicos of All Armenians Simeon Yerevantsi  and it was in Etchmiadzin that the first printing house began to operate in our country.” A year later a prayer book called “Zbosaran Hokevor” (Spiritual Manual) was printed. Our church historian Patriarch Malachia Ormanian had said earlier: “The invention of the Armenian printing proved a strong support for Armenian thinking and a resource for the eastern nations where Armenians advanced honorably.”

In Constantinople

Krikor of Marzvan

            Promotion for Armenian printing needed proper environment, and the place was Constantinople where Armenians lived and flourished. The first printing press in the capital city started to operate by Krikor Marzvantsi (1698-1734) in 1699 with Asdvadzadour Tbir as his associate. Together they published some 20 books, among them the first publication of “Narek” (Matyan Voghbergutyan” the famous 10th century prayer book by St. Gregory of Narek and called by the author “Book of Lamentations”. Next, Marzvantsi was successful in printing the large volume of “Haysmavourk” (Menologion) in 1706. The volume contained the lives of the Saints for daily reading giving the book the exact identification “Haysum avour” (This day is the feast of). Important publications followed as first prints: “History of Taron” by Zenob Glak1709, and St. Krikor Datevatsi’s “Book of Questions” in 1720, a highly qualified, large, complete, and standard book of theology of the Armenian Church with questions and answers.

            Marzvantsi’s publications were very essential for the original history of the Armenian Christianity, one by Zenob Glak where we read the mission of St. Gregory the Illuminator who dedicated the first church in Taron-Vaspurakan to John the Baptist. The collection of the daily readings of the lives of the Saints was the next to be printed as the first and largest volume. The book by St. Krikor Datevatsi provided the theological doctrines of the Armenian Church treasured and used in monasteries and universities as textbook in the form of manuscript, until Krikor Marzvnatsi published it for the first time.

Mekhitarist Fathers in Venice

            After Constantinople the island of St. Lazar in Venice became a center of printing religious and historical books by the Congregation of the Mekhitarist Fathers from 1717. The same year Abbot Mekhitar of Sebastia founded the Congregation under the Roman Catholic Church which was named after him. The first publication by Abbot Mekhitar in 1733 was the second edition of the Holy Bible originally printed by Vosgan Yerevantsi in Amsterdam in 1666 as described above. I was informed of the second edition while serving the Armenian Church in Florida. A devout woman had it and asked me if I could treasure it in the newly consecrated St. David Armenian Church. The Bible was dedicated on a Sunday and is now displayed in the church.

            Most important was the publication of the “Dictionary of the Armenian Language,” two large volumes by Abbot Mekhitar of Sebastia, which became the foundation of all future dictionaries. Both volumes spread new light and understanding of the Armenian historiography through the centuries. The vocabulary is comprehensive and complete comprising each and every word found in all Armenian historical texts from the 5th century on. In Venice was also published the Holy Bible on scholarly basis in 1807 known as “Zohrabian Text of the Bible.” Both branches of the Mekhitarist Fathers, in Venice and later in Vienna, published a long series of historic and religious texts known as “Azgayin Madenadaran” (National Library) gradually bringing into light almost all our ancient literature one by one.

Conclusion

            The invention and the progress of the Armenian printing art led our nation to greater cultural achievements. Those achievements greatly contributed to our education, spreading our literature all over the world, and above all saved our cultural treasures from extinct making them the safe property of the Armenian people.     

90 YEARS – December 1921

EVACUATION OF CILICIA

HIS HOLINESS

SAHAK II KHABAYAN CATHOLICOS

OF CILICIA

Last Farewell December, 1921

Farewell

            His Holiness Catholicos Sahak II Khabayan of Cilicia had returned back to Adana, Cilicia in 1920 hoping to re-establish his seat which was in Sis, capital of Cilicia, but now occupied by the Ottoman authorities and the members of the clergy exiled. He remained in Adana one year, from November 1920 to December 1921, when the Catholicos bid farewell to Cilicia forever, caring for his flock and heading it at his advanced age of 72. Catholicos Sahak went to Aleppo, to one of his large dioceses, where Armenians from Cilicia had arrived as refugees. Sis was evacuated, and gradually Adana, Aintab, Marash and Zeytoun, after heroic self defense were evacuated and survivors had reached Aleppo, Syria, and dispersed homeless over Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Greece, left to their fortune trying to settle under hospitable skies.

The Precedence

            The reason for the evacuation of Cilicia was the treacherous political conspiracy by France and England. During the First World War both countries met secretly on May 16, 1916 and signed a treaty in London for the partition of certain territories of the Ottoman Empire. The treaty was sanctioned by the Emperor of Russia. According to the treaty Cilicia was to be turned over to France because of its strategic position in the area. The Armenian Legion, an army of volunteers trained in Cyprus, now encouraged by the protectorate of France, volunteered to join the French expedition against the Turks in Arara, Palestine, later in September 1918, with the understanding that Cilicia will be returned to the Armenians instead. Turks were defeated, and the Armenian Legion gave 23 victims on the field.

            The first signs seemed promising but they were short lived. France permitted the Armenian army with 6000 strong to enter Cilicia via Iskenderoun and Mersin where in 1919 some 120,000 Armenian were living. A year later the number reached 160,000. On the other hand, the French protectorate did not take serious responsibility to permanently defend the Armenians. France allowed certain key posts to be given to Turks, while at the same time Moustafa Kemal was working his way out from Cilicia to Smyrna and the Greek islands determined to invade them. Obviously the Turks would begin from Cilicia with the tacit approval of Europe.

Self Defense in Cilicia

            Armenians wasted no time but went ahead for self defense to only suffer greatly by the Turks who massacred thousands. It was in 1920 that Marash resisted for 20 days and gave 11,000 lives; the rest some 8,000 fled to Syria. Hajin was surrounded for 7 months showing heroic resistance, but on October 15, 1920 surrendered. Only 380 soldiers were able to escape. The question is: where was France? What happened to the treaty between France and the Armenian Legion?

            The Armenians were victims of treacherous politics, of foul and dishonorable shame. Moustafa Kemal entered Aintab the first day in April 1920 and met with heroic resistance; 18,000 Armenians in Aintab were saved and fled to Aleppo. In 1919 a large number, exactly 1058 Zeytuntsis returned Zeytun to meet their brutal death, and this way Armenians in Cilicia became the victims of the international politics being deceived by France and England who needed the Turks more than the native Armenians.   The end result was obvious.  Not only France denied its promise shamefully, but also on October 20, 1921 with the treaty of Ankara offered Cilicia to Turkey for good. 

Last Efforts of Catholicos Sahak II Khabayan

            During the same years Catholicos Sahak II remained in Adana with his flock and ran the diocesan affairs as much as possible with the assistance of Bishops Yeghishe Garoyan and Bedros Sarajian, hoping to establish there his pontifical center. However, the above mentioned treasons, one after another, left little hope, and the aged Catholicos had to leave Cilicia for Europe, arriving in Paris on March 13, 1920, in order to meet with the President and the Prime Minister of France.  With no tangible result at hand he went to Beirut, Lebanon, to consult with the French High Commissioner and returned to Adana on November 1, after 8 months of absence. Bishop Garoyan was in charge while the Catholicos was abroad. With his two bishops he remained in Adana one whole year after his return. Tears in his eyes, seeing the evacuation of Cilicia, the Catholicos also with his flock and followers migrated to Aleppo in December, 1921. That was the final departure of Sahak II Catholicos from Cilicia.  

Sahak II Alert and Determined

           Despite despair and disappointments, treason and injustice, Catholicos Sahak II Khabayan of the Great House of Cilicia carried his cross, went ahead undertaking his arduous task. He was the last incumbent of the historic See of Cilicia in Sis. He lived long and his pontificate didn’t see sunset, despite heavy clouds, on the contrary new dawn ushered, thanks to his healthy and blessed life of 90 years. He witnessed the revival of his Pontifical See in Antelias, Lebanon in 1930, achieved with his own hands and not with distrustful foreign help, even though far away from his original Seat in Sis. He invited a prominent high ranking Archbishop Babken Gulesserian from Jerusalem, one of the first 1895 graduates of the Seminary of Armash, to be his Catholicos coadjutor and successor.

         Archbishop Babken Gulesserian was elected Catholicos Coadjutor of Cilicia, was consecrated by Catholicos Sahak II, and organized the newly established See in Antelias. His immediate attention aimed at the organization of the dioceses, and establishing a Seminary to educate clergy, inviting Shahe Vardapet Kasparian, also a 1904 graduate from Armash, to assume the position of the Dean of the Seminary. Archbishop Shahe Kasparian was soon ordained bishop in Antelias by the newly consecrated Catholicos Babken I, who unfortunately passed away in 1936 following a brief illness, while his superior Catholicos Sahak II Khabayan was still living. 

          Heartbroken but not despaired Catholicos Sahak II laid the foundations of the Cathedral of the Catholicosate but did not see the completion. He passed away in 1939 at age 90, leading the See of Cilicia for 39 years from Sis to Antelias, most of them stormy and ill-fated. He had appointed his Vicar Archbishop Bedros Sarajian, formerly the Primate of Hajin, who successfully followed up with the construction of the Cathedral and the Chapel of the Martyrs. The Cathedral in Antelias was called after St. Gregory the Illuminator and was consecrated by Archbishop Bedros Sarajian. He succeeded the Eminent Catholicos Sahak II Khabayan as Catholicos Bedros I of the House of Cilicia.

           As a grateful 1954 graduate of the Seminary of the Catholicosate of Cilicia, I conclude this study recalling my priestly ordination at St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral 59 years ago by the Dean of the Seminary Bishop Terenig Poladian of blessed memory, and joining the Brotherhood of the Cilician See.     

KEVORK FIFTH SOURENIANTS

Catholicos of All Armenains

And

Soviet Armenia

(1912-1930)

The “Sorrowful” Catholicos

         The first two decades of His Holiness Kevork V Catholicos of All Armenians coincided with political fatal events for all Armenians, in the west and the east. The Genocide of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turks in 1915 on the one hand, and the Russian Revolution with Soviet tyranny from 1917 on the other, covered the skies of our land with darkest clouds. The Catholicos lamented the loss of churches, schools, towns and villages, as well as the newly established Republic of Armenia in 1918 and its sudden fall, and finally the communist regime that dominated Armenia in 1921.

        The Catholicos wrote his Pontifical Encyclical in 1921 and signed it “The sorrowful Pontiff” with fervent prayer that God “may accept our sacrifices in the land of Armenia” and bring our nation together as one people of God “leaving aside all enmity at this time of great turmoil.”

        In 1918 the first Republic of Armenia was blessed and defended wholeheartedly by Catholicos Kevork Soureniants. The Battle of Sartarabad was under immediate Pontifical Protection, and the victory in May, 1918 gave the Catholicos and the nation security and the rise of the Republic of Armenia. However, his new Encyclical under heavy pressures made him obligated to defend Armenia no matter what the circumstances were. The communist regime which occupied the countries to form the Soviet Union, included Armenia, and His Holiness had to exercise wisdom and diplomacy to defend whatever was left, especially both from the hands of the Turks who had perpetrated the Genocide earlier, and from the new invasions from the north. The Catholicos had said: “If we lose what we have, what good is it to have a homeland without people.”

         Ever since, Kevork V Catholicos of All Armenians signed his Encyclicals as “Vshdali Gatoghigos” (Sorroful Catholicos) considering the above political disaster one after another. He was valiant to resist the Soviet atheist system which he “welcomed” in order to save. Earlier in 1918 the Armenian General approached the Catholicos in Holy Etchmiadzin asking him to leave the Holy See temporarily and move to the Monastery of Sevan for safety since the Turks were approaching Etchmiadzin and Yerevan. His answer was: “I will stay here and be the defender of the Mother See even at the cost of my life if necessary.”

The Second Decade

         The year Armenia went under the Soviet rule Catholicos Kevork V had embarked on his second decade of pontificate. The negative trends of the new system shook the traditional and historical foundations of the Armenian Church fatally, as it did for the Russian and Georgian Orthodox Churches. Rapidly communism revealed its destructive nature, and in the extreme case even at the cost of the life of the next Catholicos Khoren I Mouradbekian who was found strangled in his pontifical residence in 1938 for resisting the communist Armenians who demanded keys to the treasury of the Mother See. Catholicos Kevork V, who lived through his second decade, stood strong and unshaken, promoted some important reforms within the Armenian Church and passed away in 1930.

        Among the reforms was of prime importance the formation of the Supreme Spiritual Council which replaced the ruling of the previous Russian Empire’s Synod based on Polozhenia (Constitution). It seemingly marked some “self administration” of the Armenian Church under the Soviet rule in very limited terms with the latter’s obvious and intimidating control on the Armenian Church affairs. The Supreme Spiritual Council members, clergy and lay, were to be elected by the National Ecclesiastical Assembly as the Executive Council presided over by the Catholicos of All Armenians, according to the New 1925 Constitution drafted also by Catholicos Kevork V. The 1925 Constitution remained in force up to this day since it has been the Law for future elections of the Pontiffs and the members of the Supreme Spiritual Council.

        The 1925 Constitution was drafted wisely and conclusively regarding the distribution and the election of delegates per capita from all the dioceses in Armenia and abroad. In addition five more reforms were initiated the following year by the Catholicos, including the use of the New (Gregorian) Calendar in 1923 for Easter Sunday and church feasts, the use of the organ during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, and only the second marriage of priests whose wives had died during the Armenian Genocide or otherwise. This ruling however was not well received by the other Hierarchic Sees.

        All told, the two decades following the death of Catholicos Kevork V (1930) until the death of Stalin (1953) the Armenian Church suffered unbearable oppressions, exiles and persecution of clergy, leaving the church defenseless and isolated, cutting all contacts and communications with the Armenian churches abroad. Morally devoid, religiously bankrupt, the system exploited everything to degrade the church. The cruel assassination of the next Catholicos Khoren I Mouradbekyan in Etchmiadzin in 1938 stands the proof for all times.          

Political and Economic Growth

        In 1922 the First Assembly of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic convened in Moscow with representatives of 15 republics. Six representatives went from Armenia. The Assembly formed a Central Committee for the state infrastructure with five members from Armenia: Miasnikyan, Nazaretyan, Mirzoyan, Hambartsoumyan and Der Gabrielyan.  During Josef Stalin’s presidency the Shirak Dam was built in 1925 which helped significantly to the agriculture. The same year factories for cotton and textile were opened, and the production of leather, wine, and tobacco bloomed. Printing presses soon produced publications in Yerevan in 1926 ten times more compared with 1913, of course all of them promoting the newly adopted communist ideology.

       Between Russia and Armenia an economic treaty was signed in September 1921 which gave boost to house constructions. On cultural level the Lazarian Academy of Moscow was named “The Cultural House of Armenia” and the next year ancient manuscripts belonging to Etchmiadzin, temporarily transferred to Moscow, along with printed books were returned to the Mother See 4660 volumes in total. House construction rapidly moved forward and in 1926, just about 3065 houses were built which in turn helped major cities to blossom next to the capital Yerevan, such as Leninakan, Gharakilisa, New Bayazit, Dilijan, Goris and Etchmiadzin. Soviet economy was based on communist system which meant the economy of the Union could reach higher records at the cost of deprivation of private undertakings, which in turn applied mandatory “brotherhood” of the 15 republics to exchange goods even if Armenia or one of the others were deprived of its own production.

Migration to Armenia

     Duringthe pontificate of Catholicos Kevork V and the following decades a wave of migration moved tens of thousands Armenians from the Middle East and Europe to Soviet Armenia for permanent settlement. There were two objectives in this hasty rush: to increase the population of Armenia to meet the Soviet Union’s census requirement and stability, and to bring economic assets in good faith but only to be confiscated by the communist government. The false calculation cost immensely on those who migrated heeding to the loud and unreal “promises,” gold plated with patriotism.

      Soon enough the migrations to Soviet Armenia from Iraq, Greece, Iran, France and the Middle East proved most untimely, disappointing to say the least under tyranny and poverty. Decades later a great majority left Armenia and returned to Europe and the United States with smile on their faces. More Armenians in Armenia was a necessity for future perspective, but the economy and life standard were much lower than they imagined. Instead, compatriotic suburbs were built by the original names from Turkish Armenia, like New Arapkir, New Malatia, New Aintab, and New Kharbert, and others which stood as good memorials and gave lasting comfort for those who worked at them with passion and dedication.    

Bishops Ordained By Catholicos Kevork V

      During his 18 turbulent years, the courageous Catholicos of All       Armenians made those years fruitful as he ordained 30 bishops, from the Mother See, some from the graduates of the Seminary of Armash, and others from Jerusalem Patriarchate, despite the unfavorable and oppressive system. Following the horrible years of World War I, the Catholicos extended his helping hand to the Hierarchic Sees outside Armenia, particularly to the ousted See of Cilicia and the defenseless incumbent Catholicos Sahag II Khabayan who temporarily settled in his Diocese of Aleppo. Upon Catholicos Kevork’s recommendation and blessings, and the generous actions taken in 1929 by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem through Patriarch Yeghishe Tourian and the Brotherhood, three dioceses in Lebanon (Beirut) and Syria (Damascus and Latakia) were turned over to Catholicos Sahag II. The See of Cilicia thus revived and soon settled in Antelias, Lebanon permanently. Five dioceses were then operating under the Catholicos of Cilicia: Dioceses of Aleppo, Beirut, Damascus, Latakia, and Cyprus. 

    The meritorious names of the ordained bishops are highly honorable. They included Mesrob Naroyan (Patriarch), Nersess Melik-Tangian (Primate), Karekin Hovsepiants (Catholicos), Kevork Chorekjian (Catholicos), Mesrob Neshanian (Patriarch), Grigoris Balakian (Primate), Karekin Khachadourian (Patriarch), and many others, whose credentials confirm both the wisdom of Catholicos Kevork V and the worthy candidates who all, thirty Princes of the Armenian Church, became the champions of the survival and the revival of the Armenian Church through the most trying 20th century.  They returned the honor they received by their ordination to their own people without reservation and with total service, some of them being victims to the sword of the Ottoman Turks in 1915.

FOR THE HISTORY               

NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN

The North American Diocese

And The Prelacy

(1970-1990)

Formation of Committees

      This may sound out of date and futile, yet for the recent history of the North American Armenian Diocese, established by Catholicos of All Armenians Mkrtich Khrimian in 1898, it is educational, thinking that myself was involved in those two decades of negotiations under Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, Primate, as the Secretary of the Diocesan Council for two terms, aiming at uniting the Prelacy back with the North American Diocese under the jurisdiction of the Catholicos of All Armenians in Holy Etchmiadzin. The Prelacy in the United States as a separate administration from the Diocese began to operate in 1957 under the jurisdiction of the Cilician Catholicosate. The formation of the Prelacy was contrary to the canons of the Armenian Church and against the will of Vasken I Catholicos of All Armenians who warned and called the Cilician See to stand back from any encroachment within the jurisdiction of the Mother See.

      On April 28, 1968 His Holiness Vasken I Catholicos of All Armenians visited the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church to consecrate the first Armenian Cathedral in the United States. The Cathedral was built following the laborious efforts of decades by previous Primates and Diocesan Councils and was ready for consecration with philanthropist Haik Kavookjian as Godfather. The Cathedral was ready by the previous Primate Archbishop Sion Manoogian, and the next year the Catholicos was invited by Primate Archbishop Torkom Manoogian for the consecration. The Catholicos, whom I assisted humbly as staff bearer, named the Cathedral St. Vartan, built in New York City, dedicated to the valiant General St. Vartan Mamikonian who defended the Armenian Christianity in 451 against Persia. Persia threatened Armenia to accept the Zoroastrian religion instead, but the Armenians resisted to the end.

     Upon request by Primate Torkom Manoogian and leading members of the Diocese His Holiness agreed it was an opportune time to start negotiations, only on diocesan level, to invite the Prelacy to appoint a commission for the express purpose of uniting the Prelacy with the Armenian Diocese under the jurisdiction of the Mother See Holy Etchmiadzin. Two committees, seven members each, were formed upon the invitation of Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, Primate, in his September 16, 1969 letter addressed to Archbishop Hrant Khachadourian, Prelate, who responded on May 18, 1970 providing the names of the committee, and the negotiations began in good faith and lasted 20 years (1970-1990), ending with an unfortunate and fruitless demise, after spending countless hours and efforts to find ways to bring them back to the unity of the Diocese.

      During the consultations I was cautious and wary, being one of the witnesses of the 1956 events in Antelias where divisive conditions between Holy Etchmiadzin and Antelias initiated. I was one of the youngest priests ordained in 1954 and took part in the consultations as much as I was permitted. His Holiness Catholicos Vasken I was present and made every effort to preside over the election of the next Catholicos of Cilicia. He left Antelias on the 7th day of his arrival disillusioned, seeing antagonism and division in the community. That is why I warned our Diocesan Committee not to waste time on a matter which was out of control, but I was told an effort was worthwhile. “It is an attempt which is worth pursuing,” I was told. The attempt cost 20 years of fruitless efforts.

The Meetings

    Both committees met irregularly with unnecessary postponements and hesitations on the part of the Prelacy since any result should be submitted to the hierarchical centers for preliminary approvals. The first meeting of the committees took place on April 17, 1970 with seven members from each side. They agreed on the following two basic principles which “were not negotiable.” This was a good sign: a) The Diocese of the Armenian Church in America remains under the jurisdiction of the Mother See Holy Etchmaidzin.  b) The Diocese should have one central diocesan headquarter with one Primate who will be subject to the Catholicos of All Armenians.

    On May 22nd meeting, however, the Cilician side refrained from taking further responsible actions considering that the above principles leading the negotiations “should be acceptable by higher authorities.”  Months went by and the Diocese of the Armenian Church reviewed some details and made the negotiations going.  This too didn’t last long until the end of 1972 when both committees agreed to draft a “Guideline” to be presented to both Diocesan Councils for approval.

The “Guidelines”

    On April 12, 1973 the Diocesan Council of the Diocese went through the procedure and made suggestions to its committee to put the “Guidelines” on the agenda of the combined meeting and adopt it. The same was supposed to be done by the Prelacy, which in a letter dated August 20, 1973 with a strange turn of events suggested postponement arguing their new Prelate Archbishop Karekin Satrkissian’s arrival. The committees had reached to a point to continue negotiations on a more solid ground by drafting the “Guidelines,” but what the Diocese received from the Prelacy was a letter dated February 19 with a unilateral novelty, having changed the “Guidelines” in its essence, suggesting “unity with co-operation,” which certainly could not be acceptable by the Diocesan committee, since co-operation is not unity.  

       This point predicted defeating the purpose, because the Prelacy looked for co-operation versus unity, thinking that it was unity as long as both the Diocese and the Prelacy can work together separately. This last word was hidden in the proposed change, since they didn’t want to pursue administrative unity for which the basic principles and the negotiations were established to begin with. Three members of the Diocesan Council, Fr. Zaven Arzoumanian, Fr. Dajad Davidian and Chairman Judge John Najarian signed a letter inviting the Prelacy to return to the original agreement so that the initiatives taken may continue. In July 1974 both committees met to review the “Guideline” one more time. It took long time to re-write revision for a final draft. In 1976 the Diocesan Assembly adopted the “Guidelines” as revised andrecommended by the Diocesan Council with additional comments. The same was adopted by the National Assembly of the Prelacy disagreeing however with the “additional comments”.

Bylaws for the “United” Diocese

     The next crucial step to be taken would have been the editing of a set of Bylaws (Constitution) for the future united Diocese based on the final text of the “Guidelines.” A special committee of seven from the Diocese was assigned to start working on it with their counterpart, including three clergy and four lay members in each. At first the Prelacy rejected the formation of such committee arguing that the co-operation mentioned in the Guidelines was not honored, such as the preparation of a united educational curricula for Sunday and Armenian Language Schools, and the united celebration of the Armenian Martyrs on April 24, ignoring however that those actions should take place as stated in the “Guidelines” only after the adoption of the New Bylaws by the Diocese and the Prelacy.”

     Negotiations resumed from July 1981 to May 1982 and both committees met five times to draft amendments on “Guidelines” to suit the drafting of the Bylaws and submit to both Diocesan Councils. The Diocesan Delegates Assembly in 1982 adopted it, so did the Diocesan Assembly of the Prelacy, always subject to the approval of both the Catholicos of All Armenians and the Catholicos of Cilicia. The revised “Guidelines” had a brief preamble followed by 6 detailed articles for implementation. It stated that the Diocese and the Prelacy will unite administratively as one unit under the Catholicos of All Armenians as it was established initially by Catholicos Mkrtich I Khrimian. The “Guidelines” predicted the legal format for the election of the Primate along with respectful relations with the See of Cilicia. Step by step it geared toward the formation of the unified Bylaws, and even the last Assemblies of each Diocesan Delegates to convene separately, but in the same location, before January 15, 1983, and finally the adoption of the Bylaws yet to be drafted. All these were to be submitted to the Catholicos of All Armenians and the Catholicos of Cilicia for approval. 

    The ground was ready for writing the Bylaws for the intended “united” diocese. The committees sat and drafted step by step to finalize the editing which was completed and presented to the Diocesan authorities. From the Bylaws, written in both Armenian and English versions as the final set of rules, the Prelacy asked some deletions, arguing the voting delegates to be lay members only as they always had, and no diocesan priest be allowed to vote which was totally alien and strange to the Diocese. The Prelacy further introduced the case of the Canadian Churches under its jurisdiction which remained separate having nothing to do with the negotiations. Therefore talks halted until further notice.

     From the Mother See reservations were expressed to the delegation from the Diocese who went to meet with the Catholicos of All Armenians who praising the endless efforts, demanded at the same time not to include questions relating to the Hierarchic Sees of Etchmiadzin and Cilicia since they were not local diocesan problems but questions to deal with on higher level. Catholicos Vasken I regarded some of those points important and asked firmly to remove them from the local negotiations. The points in case were included by the Diocese of the Armenian Church purposely to ease the relationship and offer opportunities to assist the Cilician See financially. The attitude of the Mother See could in no way hinder the final adoption of the Bylaws if the document remained as drafted and not as amended unilaterally. Similar delegation went to Antelias for the same reason and returned with hesitation. Nevertheless the Bylaws as drafted were presented to both Diocesan Assemblies.

    The two objections mentioned above created the question of revising or amending the accepted Bylaws which turned the document altogether useless. Negotiations of 20 years ended with no result. What was left was the good will on both sides and the endless hours devoted to something which was out of hands from the start as far as the Cilician See was concerned. I myself knew this would be the case.

Centennial of the American Diocese

    It was a gratifying opportunity to celebrate the Centennial of the Armenian Diocese in 1998 presided over by His Holiness Karekin I Sarkissian Catholicos of All Armenians who visited New York to preside over the celebrations. The opportunity was unique and yet it was also a good dream to expect the “Unified Diocese” celebrate in St. Vartan Cathedral with the participation of the Catholicos of Cilicia and the Prelacy of America. Karekin I Sarkissian, was a key member of the division of the Armenian Church since 1956, who also assumed the office of the Prelate in New York for a while, was elected Catholicos of Cilicia in 1977, knew too well unity in the American Diocese was not possible, even when ascending to the Throne of the Catholicosate of All Armenians in 1995. All were calculated dreams, and the situation did not change as the churches all over the world remained apart as of today.

“FREE CHURCH” IN ARMENIA

Notorious Aberration

1924-1928

During His Holiness Catholicos Kevork V Soureniants

1911-1930

Destructive Movement

    The movement was a very short lived aberration in the Armenian Church worthless indeed, but still a culpable part of the Armenian history of 1920’s. Totally against the Mother See and the Catholicos of All Armenians, against the canons and the Sacraments of the Orthodox Church, the so called “Free Church” with its insignificant followers was the offshoot of the “Living Church” started in Russia and supported by the Soviet Union. From 1924 to 1928 those rebels followed their counterparts in Moscow and tried to challenge Catholicos Kevork V, and backed by the Soviet Armenian government, were allowed to occupy some churches headed by one bishop and a couple of priests who vehemently worked against the Mother See demanding so called “reformation within the Armenian Church,” by rejecting the fundamental theology, the Eucharist and the Sacraments of the Church.

    Naturally the aberration was the byproduct of the atheist Soviet system, both in Russia against the Russian Orthodox Church which was endangered by the Soviet Union, and in Armenia against Holy Etchmiadzin, weakened by the oppressions of Soviet Armenia. Those rebels came out with “personal revenge” to hurt the Apostolic foundation of the Armenian Church and thus to destroy the hierarchic structure denying also the authority of the Mother See and the historic site and the position of Holy Etchmiadzin.

“Living Church” Mother of Evil

    The parent of the infamous movement in Armenia was the “Living Church” in Russia which began soon after the fall of the Russian Empire in 1917. In 1918 state and religion separated by the decree of Lenin and religious persecution immediately claimed and occupied properties of the Russian Orthodox Church. The pressure was harsh on 117 million Russian Orthodox faithful and 71,000 clergy. Patriarch Tikhon of the Russian Orthodox Church was arrested for his resistance and died under heavy duress in 1925 at age 60. In 1922 schism in the church took place with the “Living Church” and its offshoot in Soviet Armenia as the “Free Church.”

    The schismatic movement in fact was a rebellion against the Russian Orthodox Church trying to take the religious leadership forcefully from the hands of the clergy. In May 1922, the outlaws received state protection and assumed “canonical” power and right to punish, to judge and to redeem by making the “Living Church” the executive body of the Russian Orthodox Church replacing the Patriarchal authority. The state in Moscow forced the Church to submit; it ended with the exile of hundreds of bishops, parishes eliminated, and together with the state the aberration destroyed temporarily the religious power of the Russian Orthodox Church. The same happened in Armenia which lasted very short and ended in 1928.

The Purpose of the Movement

    The purpose of this notorious movement was to destroy the Armenian Church from its foundations trying to bring the laity as the “owners” and the “leaders” Of the church. They were very limited, insignificant and disorganized despite the political umbrella. The Armenian people resisted vehemently with one and united fist as the defenders of the Mother Church and the custodian of the national identity. The Mother Church stood tall and the Catholicos alert, the same Catholicos Kevork the Fifth, who had resisted the Turks earlier in the Battle at Sartarabad, was in front of the Cathedral standing strong and determined. Those treacherous schismatics had no place in the church as adventurers who were after daily interests only and against the centuries old institution.

    They began to create problems in 1925 in Tbilisi where they met the intellectuals of the Armenian people from the 19th century. For “reformation,” as it were, they began to change the orders of the Holy Altar, placing on it the painting of Christ only, like the Protestants, and thinking they would elevate the caliber of the clergy by eliminating celibacy and reading the prayers entirely in the vernacular. They even rejected the use of the clerical garb. They dared to open schools and publish periodicals. The whole movement was nothing more than a commotion and confusion.

The Resolute Decree of Etchmiadzin

    Seeing how close the state of Soviet Armenia was assisting the rebels, His Holiness Kevork V lamented the occupation of St. Gregory Church of Yerevan by the ministry of the interior and handing it over to the self-proclaimed group of “Free Church Brotherhood.” Also the St. Mary Church in the region of Nork, the Holy Cross Church of Daralagyaz, as well as the cemetery of the capital Yerevan were given to “a few defrocked clergy” against the will of the faithful. The Catholicos protested strongly demanding the occupied sanctuaries and canonically expelling the defrocked, always with little respond from the authorities.

    The Catholicos made an appeal to the government of Soviet Georgia in a letter dated June 26, 1927, surfacing the danger.  Hearing no response, he was obliged to make an appeal to Transcaucasus Federal Republic “demanding justice.” The Supreme Spiritual Council tried to order the rebels to come to their senses, headed by Bishop Ashot Shakhian, telling him to stay away from destructive actions against the Mother Church. Hearing no remorse, the Council and the Catholicos went on to defrock them.

The Defrocked

    All advice and warnings ignored, the Catholicos had the support of the entire faithful to stop the movement considering his old age. He wanted the dangerous state of affairs to end before his demise. He took a final action and in his September 5, 1924 Encyclical defrocked Bishop Ashot Shakhian “who was fallen in conspiracy against the Armenian Church and the Mother See.” Those defrocked were Bishop Ashot, Penig vardapet who showed “disrespectful conduct and reprehensible action overall.” Also was defrocked the editor of “Azat Yegeghetsi” (Free Church) periodical priest Mesrob Melian who was rebellious against the spiritual authority.

     “Free Church” movement weakened and went down hill to finally die in 1928, even though the remnants tried to continue the malice after the death of Catholicos Kevork V. They even attempted to stop the forthcoming National-Ecclesiastical Assembly from convening to elect a new Catholicos, but for no avail. The reader of this article may ask “Why give attention to them and write an article knowing well that the movement was totally negative and worthless.” My answer is to write for once at least to be aware of one of our infamous pages of our recent history which has been surfacing lately during the independent Republic of Armenia under foreign named sects against the established Mother Church of Armenia. The Armenian Church is the national and the only Church canonically known as such, and if foreign sects with Armenian followers are trying to gain ground, they are doomed to failure, and the state of Armenia should not neglect the honorable place of their Church in the country for any consideration.

The Outcome: State Violence

    Although doomed to death the so called “free clergy” movement in Armenia and Georgia, with the leaders defrocked, the remnants still were around during the last years of Catholicos Kevork V Soureniants and through the years of Archbishop Khoren Mouradbekian, the locum tenens. Times were still dangerous and the authorities were backing what was left to continue harassing the bishops of the Mother See with arrogance and violence. They tried to revive their condemned actions. The Catholicos now aged and deeply concerned about the persisting evil, wrote a forceful letter of protest to the authorities in Armenia dated June 29, 1928 and addressed to the President S. Ter Gabrielian on behalf of the entire population of Armenia and for the oppression exerted on the country. He had written similar letter to Alexei Rigov in Moscow earlier in 1925 but had heard nothing from him.

    The end of this aberration came soon after, and the schismatics vanished when Archbishop Mouradbekian headed the affairs of the Mother See following the passing of Catholicos Kevork V Soureniants in 1930. He was able to convene the National-Ecclesiastical Assemby in 1932 which elected him Khoren I Catholicos of All Armenians. With their disappearance hate and persecution persisted, and Catholicos Khoren I, the Servant of God, gave his life as terrorists entered his pontifical residence, demanded the keys to the Cathedral treasury, and upon refusal by His Holiness, was  strangled in 1938 at age 65.      

EXPEDITION TOWARD THE SUMMIT

OF MOUNT ARAGADZ

“For Search of the Illuminator’s Lantern”

His Holiness Karekin I Cathilocos Hovsepiants

(1867-1952)

The Great Patriot

       Catholicos Karekin I Hovsepiants of the Great House of Cilicia (1945-1952) passed away peacefully in his pontifical residence in Antelias, Lebanon on June 22, 1952, at age 85, the year I was a senior at the Seminary. We took turns reading from the Gospels while His Holiness was laying in state at the Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator.

    The nationally famed Pontiff had a remarkable life as a great patriot and a distinguished scholar who participated in two consecutive battles against the invading Turks with the blessing of His Holiness Kevork V Soureniants Catholicos of All Armenians who had ordained Karekin a bishop in 1917. In May 1918, Bishop Karekin Hovsepiants was among the army at Sartarabad where Armenians fought valiantly and drew the enemy back from the borders of Armenia. As the outcome of the battle, two days later on May 28, 1918 the Republic of Armenia was proclaimed in Tiflis and soon moved to Yerevan. Unfortunately the Republic was short-lived as the Revolution in Russia toppled the Russian Empire and Lenin proclaimed the Soviet Union. In 1921 the Soviet army invaded Caucasia and the Bolsheviks took control over Armenia and the two neighboring countries.

    In 1920 Bishop Karekin Hovsepiants volunteered to help the Armenian army which was engaged in similar battle to defend Kars, a fortress city on the border of Turkey. He was there with a procession of priests and faithful following a Divine Liturgy he had performed in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Kars. Upon his arrival he found the army trapped and the Armenian General helpless who asked the Bishop to surrender by raising the white flag, so that he could save those Armenians captured in the gorges. He did everything to help risking his own life. He found a way to escape under disguise via Alexandrapol back to Etchmiadzin.

On The Way to Mount Aragadz

    Bishop Karkin Hovsepiants undertook his second expedition to the summit of Aragadz in 1925 at age 58. He was 23 in 1890 when climbing the mountain as a deacon. This time he took the journey as a scholar stopping at each monument on his way from Biurakan, Oshagan, and Ashtarak, after paying a visit to the tomb of the great Saint, Mesrob Mashtots, in the church built in Oshagan by Catholicos Kevork IV. Bishop Karekin made a remark on the construction of the church as “architecturally very poor”. He was accompanied by two physicians, an engineer, and “a happy humorist young man” who was always by his side as his helper.

    The group of five visited St. Kevork Church of Mughni, passed through Ashtarak to visit Hovhanna Vank and Garpi,“all of which famous in our church and cultural history.” In Mughni, as stated by Bishop Karekin, were kept manuscripts written in the 15th century, “enriched with valuable miniature illustrations.” In Garpi “the ruins of a basilica church, as well as sculptured monuments of graves were seen, which had prime importance in our studies of ancient arts of architecture and sculpture.” In his opinion the architecture of Hovhanna Vank “represented the most glorious cathedral of the Vachutian princes.”

    As I write on both Hovhanna Vank and St. Kevork Church of Mughni, I recall my visit in 1976 by the permission of our beloved Catholicos Vasken I of Blessed Memory to those same shrines, especially Hovhanna Vank which Bishop Hovsepiants described in his memoirs as an important center of education from the 13th to the 17th centuries “as the learning institution of the Pontifical House,” where numerous manuscripts were written under Bishop Hamazasp Mamikonian, the Abbot (1279-1311).      

    During my recent studies on the English translation of the 8th century historian Ghevond the Priest who wrote on the Arab Invasions into Armenia, I came across the name of Bishop Hamazasp who had sponsored the earliest available manuscript of the Historian, presently kept in the Yerevan Matenadaran of St. Mesrob Mashtots, bearing the catalogue number 1902. In the colophon of the manuscript I read: “Lord Hamazasp of the House of Mamikoniank with his own expenses had the manuscript copied by the scribe Sarkis, during the years Hamazasp was the Abbot of the Monastery.”

    The pilgrims continued their expedition trip to Talish to visit the oldest Armenian Church of Aruj built in 668. Then the upward adventure toward the summit resumed on horseback and by foot, since the carts could not pass the gorges. Historian Bishop Karekin indicated that they were across “the ancient artificial irrigation canals which required further studies because Mount Aragadz was truly the basin of Central Armenia, the Ararat Valley, Shirak and Aparan, along with numerous springs and brooks.” The group of five rested for a while “under the leafy tall and thick trees,” had their dinner, drank from the water of Dzophanes, a tribute to Ambert River.

    Climbing further uphill they stopped at Ambert, one of the most ancient fortresses of Armenia, “which had survived three periods in our history, the Urartian, the Bagratids, and the Zacharids.” There was the church built by Vahram Pahlavuni in 1026, “which was revealed recently through our (Bishop Karekin) research.” Vahram is also known as the builder of Marmashen Churchin 1029 which as of today stands in its full structure intact. The walls of Ambert are from the Zacharid times with an inscription by Vatche Vatchutian, who has built the Church of Saghmosavank and the Church of Tegher, both standing intact as of today.

    While climbing Mount Aragadz, the 58-year young Bishop Karekin Hovsepiants and his followers were looking at Mount Ararat and Massis from the opposite side. Amazed, the Bishop stated: “Our fatherland should have been truly a country of fine arts and poetry.” The following day some of us had already reached the summit, passing through narrow paths, “upward by the abysses of the open gorges of Ambert,” always on horseback until they arrived to the Black Lake where icy streams accumulated from the snow. There the Bishop amused watching “a pleasant scene for us as the chain of the sheep entered the Lake and crossed the other side all washed and clean.”

    He wrote in his memoirs: “My purpose was to isolate myself and meditate as soon as I reached the peak of the Mountain, lonely within my inner solitude and bring my superb impressions into life.” As we finally arrived at the top of the “Four Summit Aragadz(Karakakat Aragadz), the group was already divided into four, since both Badvakan and Arakel Honhannissians could not continue due to their painful feet. We witnessed with our penetrating eyes the sight of “the three deep valleys and the heights of Ambert, Kasakh and Mantash with their same name rivers.”

    Distinguishing the River Kasakh, Bishop Hovsepiants was noting the sources of the river which sprang from Aparan, the home of princes Gntunik. Aparan was famous with its 5th century very ancient churches and the sculptures on the walls. There was even more ancient monument with its Greek inscription, which also “through our [the Bishop’s] research was known to the scholars.”

    “I was on the highest southern summit of Aragadz,” the great scholar Bishop Karekin wrote in his memoirs, who was watching with his spiritual eyes the “four summits and the Lantern of the Illuminator hanging on them,” stating at once that the memory of thye miracle of the Lantern of the Illuminator had been transferred to us by the Historian Vartan. “Oil is not poured in the Lantern, but only the tears of the Illuminator that gives light as darkness falls on our land of Armenia.” On the way back from Aragadz the group spent the night long the shores of the Lake, under the tents of the shepherds. The next day they returned to Holy Etchmiadzin.

On the Top of the Pyramids

    The reader of this epilogue will say surprisingly what a weird contrast from Mount Aragadz in Armenia to the Pyramids in Egypt. “This is a most strange epilogue” the reader will say rightfully. What do the Pyramids have to do with Aragadz? I can say simply “a stupid heroism,” an adventure whose response fell neither on me nor on my colleague Noubar Kupelian, presently the Chancellor of the Eastern Diocese in New York. It was totally against our will to climb the Pyramids which we did most reluctantly and fearfully climbing the huge rocks following the steps of the Dean of the Seminary Bishop Terenig Poladian. Both Noubar and I were admitted from the Seminary and had traveled by sea in September, 1949. We were back for the 1950 summer vacation to be with our families.

    On vacation was also in August 1950, the Most Eminent Catholicos His Holiness Karekin I Hovsepiants, the same Bishop Karekin who had reached the summit of Aragadz 25 years earlier in August 1925. His Holiness was accompanied by Bishop Terenig Poladian, the Dean, who called both of us, 17-year olds, to pay our respects to the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia at the Mina House Hotel, at the foot of the Pyramids and receive his blessings. We respectfully did as the Catholicos asked questions how we had done at the Seminary. I humbly responded that I had written a paper on his voluminous book “The Khaghbakyank and the Proshyank” as my first elementary attempt required by our teacher of ancient literature Simon Simonian. The Catholicos was happy and curious to know if I remembered anything from the book.

    So far so good, the rest was the risky and unwise attempt as we left the hotel and followed Bishop Poladian who told us to climb the Pyramids. Fearfully we climbed rock after rock, each as tall as myself, and finally reached the pick of the Pyramid where we found absolutely nothing inspiring, but only expressing our fear and disappointment as to how we were going to descent safe and one piece and return to our parents. I said “what business did we have to place ourselves somewhere where eagles and ravens landed from the times of the Pharaohs.”

THE ARMENIAN COMMUNITY OF EGYPT

In the 20th Century

A Tribute to

Archbishop Torkom Koushagian, Primate

(1874-1939)

Berdj Terzian’s

Recent Publication

   A prominent leader and intellectual, and a life-long native and resident of Cairo, Berdj Terzian published a comprehensive volume in Cairo in 2010, entitled “Reflections of the Past.” Both of us are natives of Cairo, Egypt, Berdj a distinguished leader in the Armenian Church Diocese, in the AGBU local chapter, in the schools and sports activities, while myself upon graduation from Kaloustian School’s 8th grade, was admitted by the Theological Seminary of Antelias, Lebanon in September 1949, leaving Cairo at age 16. By now Berdj and I have gone through five decades of service keeping alive the legacy we inherited from our elders since the middle of the last century.

    Mr. Terzian has written his “Reflections” in aclear and organized manner, bringing the immediate past into life with contemporary and conclusive events regarding the Armenian community in Egypt which has a record of a glorious past since the 13th century. His accurate and penetrating observations and analyses are first hand, since he kept involved with devotion and high sense of responsibility in all phases of the panoramic life, covering the history of some 50 years of the community in terms of religious, national, cultural, and educational achievements realistically. At times he has been critical for the lack of discipline and cooperation in general, but has always remained positive and optimistic. Before his publication Dr. Souren Bairamian had compiled an important reference book regarding the “Armenian Printing Press” of all times, a documented large volume, the first in its kind, published also in Cairo.

My Reflections: Tribute to

Archbishop Torkom Koushagian, Primate

    On my part the following is another reflection in honor of Archbishop Torkom Koushagian, the prominent Primate of the Diocese of Egypt, whose dedication and hard work during the First World War upheld and enriched immensely the well famed Diocese of Egypt from 1914 to 1931. Under his leadership the Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator was built, the impressive Diocesan building was added; next to the Kaloustian School the Noubarian School in Heliopolis and the Boghossian School in Alexandria were inaugurated; a Chapel in the town of Zagazig was built. Archbishop Koushagian was among the most learned and experienced clerics who graduated from the Seminary of Armash, near Constantinople, who before assuming his post in Egypt was the Primate of the Diocese of Sebastia. He was ordained Bishop by Catholicos Matthew II Izmirlian of All Armenians in 1910.

    I present two pictures of the old Sourp Asdvadzadzin and the new St. Gregory the Illuminator churches. The first was built in the old section of Cairo in 1839 by Bishop Gabriel of Marash, a member of the Jerusalem Patriarchate. The new Cathedral was built in 1928 by Archbishop Torkom Koushagian. The ancient church was in my neighborhood since my childhood where I attended as an acolyte. In the summer of 1954, after my ordination in Antelias, Lebanon, on my visit to my family, I was invited by the Primate Archbishop Mampre Sirounian to perform the Divine Liturgy. That was a most memorable event during my life. The church was soon demolished in 1958 by the authorities due to the construction of a highway.

    The photo representing the ancient church shows on the Altar three priests, Fathers Sahag Shakarian, Vicar of the Diocese, Nersess Papazian, celebrant, and Housig Nishanian. Serving at the Altar include Deacon Onnig Kaloustian, presently in Montreal and the donor of the picture the censor in his hand, and Deacon Simon Jerrahian, presently serving in the Western Diocese in the U.S. The second photo represents St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral of Cairo taken by this writer three years ago while visiting his native country. His memoirs go back when Primate Archbishop Mampre Sirounian led the Diocese in the same Cathedral where students from Kaloustian School attended church ceremonies on festive occasions by the orders of the Archbishop.

The Diocese in Its Glories

    It was during the First World War when on May 3, 1914 Archbishop Torkom Koushagian arrived in Cairo from Constantinople as the designated candidate to be elected soon Primate of the Diocese of Egypt. He was at the same time elected Primate of Diarbekir, but preferred Egypt which became providential; he was saved from the massacres which took some of the youthful lives of his clergy colleagues. Archbishop Koushagian was welcomed at the St. Asdvadzadzin Church in Bein-el-Sourein “escorted by a glorious procession headed by mounted soldiers.” In Cairo the Archbishop first met Boghos Noubar Pasha, a highly respected member of the community who had earlier in 1906 founded the Armenian General Benevolent Union and was the leading member of the Diocese, being at the same time the President of the Armenian National Legacy in Paris on behalf of Catholicos Kevork V Soureniants.

Election of Primate

    At the request of Boghos Noubar Pasha a Diocesan Assembly called to elect the Primate in Alexandria on June 28, 1914. Archbishop Torkom Koushagian was elected and his election was confirmed by Patriarch Zaven Der Yeghiyan of Constantinople and the Patriarchal Executive Council on August 14. At the beginning of the 20th century Egypt was not an independent country; it was under thedomination of the Turkish Ottoman Empire and the Armenian community had adopted the National Constitution of 1863, mandated by the government over the Armenian Patriarchate. But unlike the Turkish oppressions against the native Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, those in Egypt enjoyed tolerance and justice until the armistice of 1918, at which time the Ottoman domination was eliminated once and for all.                                                           

The Primate’s Initial Accomplishments

    Archbishop Torkom Koushagian’s intention was foremost to construct a new Cathedral, following the bequest made earlier by Krikor Yeghiayan, a prominent benefactor who had died in 1911. The Primate was able to activate the will and in 1924 he undertook the great task. Architect Levon Nafilian designed a beautiful cathedral totally in authentic Armenian Church style which was implemented by the funds of the benefactor’s bequest. On one of the main boulevards of the capital of Egypt the foundations were laid in 1924, and as the construction completed four years later, the Primate consecrated the Cathedral in 1928 in the name of St. Krikor Loussavorich, St. Gregory the Illuminator, honoring the benefactor’s name and wishes.

    Eyewitness historian and a great intellectual Arshag Alboyajian had stated: “This great construction which began almost four year ago should definitely be considered the personal accomplishment of Archbishop Torkom Koushagian through his talent and efforts.” Great poet Vahan Tekeyan, at the time the editor of “Arev” daily, wrote: “The church physically was his own construction, wherever you turn your eyes you see him everywhere.”

    The Archbishop built also a chapel in the town of Zagazig, in between Cairo and Alexandria, where Armenians lived. He named the church Soorp Khach (Holy Cross) after the name of the donor and the benefactor Khachadour Kamsarakan. In Alexandria he built an impressive church and named it Soorp Boghos Bedros (St. Paul and Peter) in memory of Boghos Bey Yousoufian, the benefactor. Upon Archbishop Koushagian’s request the Noubarian National School in the suburban Heliopolis was built through the funds of Boghos Noubar Pasha which as of today is the leading school next to Kaloustian School in Cairo. The Primate’s request to Boghos Noubar was specifically “to build the much needed school in memory of his ancestors on the property already acquired by the community but which had a deadline for a charitable use.” The school was built in 1924as Noubarian National School, named after his father a former Prime Minister of Egypt Noubar Pasha.

    Finally, at the end of the Primate Archbishop Torkom Koushagian’s tenure, due to his election as the Patriarch of the Apostolic See of Jerusalem in 1931, he was successful to build the elegant Diocesan Center across from the Cathedral, two storeys high, with offices and a reception hall through the funds bequeathed by Dikran D’abro, and by additional funds donated by Boghos Noubar Pasha.

Educational Accomplishments

    Archbishop Torkom Koushagian, an illustrious and highly revered literary author of the century, pursued education and inaugurated the transfer of the famous Berberian High School of Constantinople, founded by Reteos Berberian, whose son Shahan Berberian was assigned rector of the new branch in Cairo with full support of the Archbishop. The school offered qualified graduates in the 30’s of the 20th century. He also established scholarships to assist students to pursue their higher education in Paris and return to Cairo to assume responsible posts in education. One of them, Dikran Babikian, was the long time rector of Kaloustian School while we were students during our elementary and high school years.

    During Archbishop Torkom Koushagian’s leadership a host of intellectuals from previous generations were still at the helm of the educational system. Names such as Arshak Alboyajian, Vahan Tekeyan, Karekin Dulguerian, Levon Tashjian, Krikor Giragossian, Shahan and Onnig Berberian, and later, Dikran Babikian, Kerovbe Gostantian, Arsham Dadrian, Ghazaros Ghazarossian and Sarkis Sahagian, were authorities and leaders of higher education in the healthy and prosperous Armenian community of Egypt.  

    Hand in hand with the education Archbishop Koushagian realized the publications of important research in history and culture. First, Arshak Alboyajian’s “History of Armenian Colonies” in two volumes were published, along with the “the Frontiers of Historic Armenia” by the same author made those publications irreplaceable as voluminous as they are. Again, he was the author of another valuable volume dedicatd to Archbishop Torkom Koushagian, emtitled “Torkom Patriarch Koushagian”. Later another documentary volume written by Patriarch Zaven Der Yeghiayan was edited by Arshak Alboyajian known as “My Patriarchal Memoirs,” published in 1947.

    Upon the Archbishop’s election to the Patriarchal Throne of Jerusalem in 1931, a fertile land was already cultivated when his successor the Very Reverend Mampre Dz.V. Sirounian, one of the last graduates of the Seminary of Armash, moved to Cairo from Alexandria where he was the acting Vicar. He later in 1933 was ordained bishop in Holy Etchmiadzin and eventually elected Primate of the Diocese of Egypt from 1945 to 1966. In Jerusalem Patriarch Torkom Koushagian succeeded his teacher Patriarch Yeghishe Tourian, and led the Gongregation of St. James Patriarchate remarkably as an administrator, editor of the monthly SION which reached its peak, and as a great educator. Numerous priests were instructed under him and ordained by him despite the short period of his tenure, from 1931 to 1939, when he suddenly succumbed at his early age of 65.

PREDICTIONS OF THE 1915

ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

DREADFUL EVENTS IN 1911

Archbishop Vahram Manguni

Patriarchal Vicar 

Earlier Signs of Events

    On the eve of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide perpetrate by the Ottoman Turks in 1915, it is important to learn details leading to that horrible milestone in our recent history.  In 1911 the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople was vacant due to the resignation of Patriarch Yeghishe Tourian, and Archbishop Vahram Manguni was in charge as Patriarchal Vicar. He was deeply concerned about the endangered and unsafe conditions under which the Armenians were living in the hinterlands of Turkey.

    Reports reaching the Patriarchate confirmed the repeated horrors, kidnappings and forceful conversion into Islam, as well as the unlawful occupation of the lands by the hands of Turk terrorists. Following pensive and anxious examination of the events by the National Council of the Patriarchate, protests were filed by the Armenian members of Parliament Vartkes, Kegham, and Dr. Daghavarian. Kegham in particular reported with   documents on the crimes against the Armenians, the life threats, and the attempts to occupy their lands. All protests went unheard by the authorities and the voice of scanty just people among them was silenced who had tried to stand by the Armenians and defend their human rights, such were the governors of Sebastia Emil Bey and Jemal Bey of Kaiseri.

Appeals of the Patriarchate

    Following the resignation of Patriarch Tourian, Archbishop Mangouni filed protests before the Ministry of the Interior, and all he heard was simple and fake explanations, saying “the problems were due to the inadequacy of police and organized military action,” while on the other hand the governor of Bistlisstated by telegrams the real crimes perpet-rated by the local Turks. From Mush Yeghishe kahana Barsamian wrote      in his letter of May 29, 1911 addressed to Archbishop Mangouni reporting on “the horrible crimes the Armenians went through in the district of Khouyt” who had asked protection by the military, and instead they were insulted and reprimanded. Letters from Van and Sassoun reported on killings and lootings, stating that “two to three hundred desperate peasants had fled to Bitlis and Mush.” From Siirt also repots reached the Patriarchate that local Armenians were being held hostage by the Turks as slaves.

    The Primate of Bitlis was Souren Dz. V. Kalemian, a young graduate of the Armash Seminary. He cabled on May 31, 1911, reporting on the crimes, adding that “the governor took two batallions and hastened to Khouyt for help. We are waiting for the outcome.” Deeply concerned, Vicar Archbishop Vahram Mangouni called an emergency meeting of the General Assembly of the Patriarchate on May 29 to report on the tragic events happening in Anatolia.Vramian, a delegate, made a proposal that “The National Assembly expresses deep pain and anger for the last months’ events of forceful islamisation and tortures the Armenians went through in certain regions in Anatolia.”

    Following the action taken by the Patriarchate, Archbishop Hovhannes Arsharuni, and Vardapets Ghevond Tourian and Grigoris Balakian went as a delegation to meet Nejmeddin, the Deputy Prime Minister, demanding a solution to the grave situation. The man again was dishonest, saying: “Basic changes would take place in the administration within the provinces,” warning the delegation at the same time they better not to appear officially, on the contrary the Patriarchate should have confidence on what the authorities are telling.

    Despite all these, news reaching from Bitlis told that “crimes were repeatedly committed and there was no sign of arrests or punishment.” Further, the Armenian Patriarchate was informed from Karin (Erzroum) about the horrors of the Kurdish attacks, as also from Shadakh, Van and Erzenjan. Kurdish attacks were heard from Dikranakert where Armenians were living under tents. Reports from Charsanjak revealed extortions of lands belonging to the Armenians. In desperation the Primate of Charsanjak Hamazasp Vardapet Hazarabedian was reporting strangely that there was no other choice for the Armenians but to leave the Armenian Church and adopt Russian Orthodoxy.

      The Ottoman Turk authorities totally ignored all appeals and protests “ignoring the atrocities and avoiding the issues,” as stated by the Vicar Archbishop Vahram Mangouniwho kept demanding solutions to the tragic events, especially for the usurpation of the lands and the committed crimes.

Patriarch Hovhannes Arsharuni

    Tragic events concluded fortunately in the election of the new Patriarch of Constantinople, Archbishop Hovhannes Arsharuni who succeeded Yeghishe Patriarch Tourian by the consistent efforts of the Vicar Archbishop Mangouni. The election took place in December 1911 after an entire year’s of vacancy. The new Patriarch brought some hope as he embarked on his demanding duties, albeit for a very short time, as a strong and unwavering leader. He too was forced to resign after two years in office.

    The Patriarch’s foremost task was to releave the former Patriarch Malachia Ormanian from his unjust accusations, an important task the two previous Patriarchs, Matthew Izmirlian and Yeghishe Tourian, the first unwilling and the second unable, left the case unresolved for four years. Patriarch Arsharuni, only weeks after his election, called the National Council of the Patriarchate and by a final verdict announced Ormanian releaved from all faults and accusations under which the former Patriarch was secluded for four years.  The following decree was proposed by Krikor Zohrab, an Attorney and a leading member of the Parliament of the Ottoman Empire:

“Considering the reports of the Committes related to the accusations made against Archbishop Malachia Ormanian, the National Assembly of the Patriarchate decrees to releave the Archbishop from all the accusations made against him.”

PROF. HRACHYA ACHARYAN

(1876-1953)

And His

“Etymological Dictionary of the Armenian Langage”

Yerevan, 1971-1979

The Author

    The brightest scholar in the history of the Armenian language during the 20th century and for all times stands Prof. Hrachya Acharyan, born in Constantinople in 1876 who in 1895 studied at Sorbonne University in Paris specializing in linguistics under Prof. Antoine Meillet. Soon Acharyan’s fame reached Germany where a famous linguist Heinrich Hupschmann invited Acharyan to study under him in the University of Strazbourg.

    Graduating from those two Universities, Hrachya Acharyan was invited by the Kevorkian Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin as a lecturer where in 1909 he published his opus magnum titled Classification des dialectes armeniens. Prof. Acharyan lived 50 years most productive life in Armenia to the end. He died in 1953, serving as the senior Professor of the State University of Yerevan. He was also a visiting professor at the Kevorkian Seminary. His scholarly famous linguistic volumes are known internationally as a leading linguist.

Etymological Dictionary

Of the Armenian Language

    The unprecedented and irreplaceable four volumes comprise Acharyan’s Etymological Dictionary of the Armenian Language next to his Dictionary of Proper names. Acharyan’s next valuable volumes are: History of the Armenian Language, and the Unabridged Grammar of the Armenian Language. Among them the Etymological Dictionary is recognized internationally as one of the best dictionaries of the Indo-European languages.

    The author defines his four volumes and divides them into five sections. First he stresses the importance of the vocabulary which involves the roots of the words, the declensions, the meaning, the evidences, and the variants. Next is the etymology which, as he says is the fundamental and the most important part of the work.  In his plannings Acharyan has excelled his predecessors as he was able to collect all the Armenian words worthy for scientific evaluation based on the rules of their pronounciatons.

    At first Acharyan published his giant work in 1926 in the form of a duplicated handwritten text, given the many foreign words in their own scripts which he needed for reference and comparison. Later from 1971 the State University published the work in four volumes with a total of 5062 words indicating the progress of the dialects of the Armenian language through various geographical locations.

Classification in Groups

    His plan has proven a most organized work, starting from the history of the origin of each word, whether they were original or borrowed, the former being the heritage of the Indo-European origin, and the latter, according to Acharyan, are variety in kinds: “there are borrowed words from the ancient and modern Iranian languages, from the Syriac, Georgian and Latin languages.” The author further groups the Armenian words into four: original sounding words, words created by Armenian way of life, uncertain words, and inconsistent words.  As an important reference he has consulted with each of the ancient historiographies to verify the right of existence of the words before entering into further examination.

    The best example among those historiographies is the 5th century “Refutation of the Sects” by Eznik of Koghb, one of the translators of the Holy Bible from the Greek Septuagint with St. Sahag Catholicos and St. Mesrob Mashtots. Eznik’s vocabulary and the grammar of the classical Armenian is unsurpassed, and his work excells in accuracy, in rich vocabulary, and in commentary. The fourth section represents the variants of the dialects where Acharyan has classified the progress of each root of the words as they “travelled from town to town” and eventually completing the list of the vocabulary of the Armenian dialects. The fifth section refers to the borrowed words which indirectly aimed at some influence of the Armenian language on the neighboring foreign languages. Acharyan indicates on the one hand that while scholars worked on the origins and studied the progress of the Armenian language, on the other hand, however, “no one was interested to claim the influence the Armenian language had on the other languages.” Actually this great linguist having examined the neighboring languages, Kurdish, Hebrew, Arabic, and Syriac, has found that those languages “have been influenced by the Armenian to a certain extent.”                            

    Acharyan’s monumental work is in essence an encyclopedia of all Armenian words and illustrates their root and origin, their history and the effects in general. Edik Aghayan, who studies under him and became a well known linguist himswlf, has written in the preface of Acharyan’s four volumes that “it is impossible to visualize any attempt at the study of the Armenian language without them and without giving full attention to the subjects involved.”

The Classical Mesrobian Orthography

And Hrachya Acharyan

    Both Eastern and Western Armenian dialects lived together happily and with great productivity as long as they remained faithful to the classical orders of the 5th century Classical Armenian, by which the Holy Bible was first translated and in turn remained the most “honorable textbook,” both grammatically and by the spelling of the words and their declensions whose last veteran champion was H. Acharyan himself. The Soviet system under which he lived and composed the Dictionary, there is not one word distorted in the four volumes. He and his work remained above and beyond the system without any consideration or deviation. I make this comment knowing the tragic destiny of the respectful Eastern Armenian was heading to, as we realized and still lament the criplled vocabulary and the fundamental distortion of the orthography.  

    Mildly put to be critical about the distortion has given no result, especially after 20 years of independence. The state language in Armenia was mandated the wrong way during the Soviets, one can understand, but to deny the accuracy of our language from St. Mesrob and St. Sahag who translated the Holy Bible as the first and last linguistic structure is not tolerable by any means. If Acharyan, the greatest linguist stood firm and kept the 5th century Golden Age Armenian intact, then any furter argument remains unfounded and invalid.

    Acharyan demonstrated the historic progress of our language to the Academia of the world confirming the grammar and the spelling of the 5th century Classical Armenian of the Holy Bible, leaving no room for any aberration. Even the colorful Armenian dialects, which are by no means standard expressions, spoken and written in different communities, spelled the words correctly. After the 16th century Renaissance the Armenian language adopted two directions, the Eastern and the Western dialects, the former in Armenia proper and Tbilisi, and the latter in Constantinople and abroad. Both, for sure, stood firm on the classical (Mesrobian) structrure and no deviation at any point was seen until 1921 when the Soviets advanced aberrations in the Eastern Armenian.

    If the rock foundation of the Armenian language was laid by Sts. Sahag and Mesrob, its historic progress was accomplished by Hrachya Acharyan. As much as we owe the fundamentals of the ancient Armenian language to the Holy Translators of the 5th century, from Movses Khorenatsi to Arakel of Tabriz, we are equally indebted to H. Acharyan for placing our language on the right track faithfully in its correct vocabulary and orthography.

SURRENDER OF KARS 1920

In Memory of

CATHOLICOS KAREKIN I HOVSEPIANTS

A Great Scholar and Patriot

(1867-1952)

The Great Patriot

    In his Memoirs Bishop Karekin Hovsepiants, later Catholicos Karekin I of the Great House of Cilicia (1945-1952) writes about his participation in the fighting against the Turks who had advanced on Kars within the borders of Armenia in 1920. He says that with his colleagues they were working on an excavation project near Alexandrapol when news reached them about the invasion of Kars. On September 22 of the same year, the Turks having occupied Sarighamish and Sourmalou were advancing toward Kars and the Armenians were in panic and trying to escape from the enemy in the direction to Alexandrapol (Giumri) finding refuge in the village called Dzor (Valley).

    In those days Bishop Karekin Hovsepiants, 53 years old, hastened to Kars to join the fugitives and help them. The Bishop as a true patriot had honorably done the same two years earlier in 1918 during the Battle of Sartarabad standing beside his people, encouraging and blessing them to defend their land against the incursions of the Turks. He went to Sartarabad with the blessings of Catholicos Kevork V Soureniants, as the Armenians won the Battle and the enemy pushed back to their territory. The first Republic of Armenia was established two days later in May 28, 1918.

Heading to Kars  

    Bishop Hovsepiants stopped at the city of Alexandrapol, called the people to pray at St. Asdvadzadzin Cathedral of the city, heading the procession walked toward the City Hall with the participation of the clergy and the faithful of four local churches, the clergy fully vested with their proper vestments and himself with his Episcopal staff and cross. In front of the City Hall the Antasdan Service (blessing of the four corners of the world) was performed, speedily heading to Kars where resistence was held by General Daniel Piroumian and the Armenian army. Piroumian was hailed two years earlier at Sartarabad as the victorious “Senior General” against the Turks. The General at Sourmalou was Dro (Drasdamat Ganayan), both admirers of Bishop Karekin who was always prepared to stay beside them. Arriving in Kars, the Bishop performed Divine Liturgy at the Holy Apostles Church of the city “in the presence of all military and civic officers.”

    General Piroumian welcomed his compatriot Bishop Karekin, both of them born in Karabagh, asking him to ride the horse and head to Sarighamish to bless and support the soldiers in the front lines where the Bishop encouraged them not to despair but to resist the enemy for an apparent victory. But the case was different. Bishop Karekin witnessed the miserable Armenians who were arrested in the valley. The General asked the Bishop to surrender, saying: “Srpazan, you have to try one thing, get up to the top of the fortress and declare our surrender.” Bishop Karekin followed the order most reluctantly, and taking with him Colonel Vahan Der Arakelian and a pilot officer went to the top of the fortress and flew the white flag, risking his own life. On the spot all three were arrested and taken to the Turk Colonel of the army.

    Bishop Karekin had no choice but to declare that “we are defeated and have come to surrender,” asking at the same time to have mercy on the Armenians in the Valley, poor and defenseless, especially on the “innocent children and orphans.” His request was honored, the shootings stopped, and both General Piroumian and Bishop Hovsepiants went down the valley and rescued the tortured people and took them to Kars.

The Surrender of Kars

    Kars was already in the hands of the Turks and Bishop Karekin had done his best but was totally disillusioned for handing the impregnable fortress to the enemy, saying: “In the history of nations very few such defeats are recorded as this one, a most embarrassing defeat. It would have been more honorable if we were killed by thousands under the fortress and defending our country than fleeing miserably to save our skins.”

    Kars surrendered on October 30, 1920, as the Turks entered Armenian homes freely, captured the owners and forced them to torturous labour on the streets. Many gave their lives, but the Bishop was there to oversee the orphanages and the hospitals. He received special permission to conduct  worship services in the churches of Kars to comfort and support his people as he had done following the victory in Sartarabad two years earlier with the blessings of his superior Catholicos Kevork V Soureniants.

A Manuscript – “ Book of Lections”  

Risky Return to Etchmiadzin

    A leading scholar in Armenian manuscripts and miniatures, Bishop Karekin amazingly did not miss the opportunity to study an Armenian manuscript kept in Kars with a certain physician Dr. Erzngatsian, regardless the unstable and perilous days he was spending in the city. What a remarkable Bishop he must have been to ignore the danger and to go after that large manuscript just to see what it was and where it was originated. The book was a “Lectionary” (in Armenian “Jashots”) which was inherited by the doctor’s wife’s grandfather.The book contained daily readings from the Bible and texts for special services throughout the year of the Armenian Church calendar. Bishop Karekin states: “The Jashots was decorated with colorful capital letters of birds and animals motives with full page illustrations written probably in the 13th century.”

    Bishop Karekin Hovsepiants was held captive in Kars for a while despite his appeals to the Turkish authorities asking to be released and return to Armenia. He was investigated on November 18 and imprisoned with many. Later he was exiled to Sarighamish, and then escaped back to Kars under torture as he describes in his Memoirs, beaten mercilessly and subject to force labor for three weeks, working “on the wagons going to Kars as a porter.” Finally, the ordeal ended with his ingenious escape on February 19, 1921, asking the head of the train station at Sarighamish that he was a photographer and that his cameras were left in Kars, where he was allowed to go. In Kars Bishop Karekin lived with the Armenians in the orphanage until March 21 and then returned to Holy Etchmiadzin disguised with the entire orphanage with him.

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