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Purity of the Heart

Երանի այնոցիկ, որ սուրբ են սրտիւք, զի նոքա զԱստուած տեսցեն։
“Blessed are they who are pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
—Matthew 5:8

This sermon was delivered by Catholicos Garegin Hovsepiants, former Primate of the Armenian Diocese of America, who was possessed of a brilliant mind, heroic love for his people and culture, and sweeping Christian conviction. The sermon was originally published in Ararat, the official journal of the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, in 1907 and reprinted in his collection of sermons, Դէպի լոյս եւ կեանք [Toward Light and Life]. The Armenian the word “pure” is սուրբ / soorp, which can also be translated “holy,” “pure,” “clean,” “saint,” or “saintly.”

2015-04 DewdropSunThe heart is mankind’s primal organ. Before anything else it is the heart that takes shape in the mother’s womb and it is the heart that outlives all other organs. When the heart dies, the person dies. The entire body dies.

But the Lord is not speaking about this physical organ but rather the spiritual organ that is as significant for moral life as the heart is for physical life. By “heart” Christ understands our inner world, our identity, our personality in its entirety. He is speaking about our three spiritual faculties: mind, emotion and will; that which is relative, which gives color and shape to our personality.

However as in ancient times, likewise today, the concept of “heart” is also somehow a synonym for emotion. It is not at all coincidental that our Lord gives so much importance to its sanctity, considering its purity to be a condition for blessedness and the ability to see God. None of our spiritual faculties plays such a great role in religious and moral issues as the “heart” or emotions. Reason endows us with principles and distinguishes the good from the bad, but this is still not enough for us to turn its suggestions into work or life.

Untainted Love

Similarly, the exercise of the will is a support for us but it becomes powerful and effective only when it receives content and impetus from our inner feelings and passion. It is emotion that compels a person toward self-sacrifice and moral heroism, not cold reason. During war the hero is the soldier who sacrifices himself, driven by love for the liberation of his homeland, ignoring the objections of mind and reason. All of the  astounding achievements in history and life that are worthy of admiration can be explained as having been motivated by untainted love and emotion. Any and every virtue that we consider—bravery, patriotism, love for one’s parents, philanthropy—all of them share one and the same source: a pure heart or emotion.

Consider the Source

But emotion can also make a person tumble into the abyss if its source is murky or self-absorbed. Greed, selfishness, hatred, conceit and every sort of repulsive obsession share the same source as the virtues. It is a characteristic of the human spirit that evil and good, noble and base, the shameful sentiments and crude egotism all have a place in our hearts alongside self-sacrifice and honorable inclinations. Sometimes one dominates in our life, sometimes the other.

Like a true and compassionate physician, Jesus wishes to eradicate evil by pointing out the real cause of moral infirmities. Our entire way of life, our speech, our inclinations, and our actions are all merely the expression or instrument of our inner ways. If our inner ways or emotions are pure, then their corresponding actions will inevitably be pure. If the source is pure, the water flowing from it will be pure. Read more…

The Martyred Armenian Writers 1915-1922. A Book Presentation by Herand M. Markarian

2015-04 ArmenianWriters1915Dr. Herand M. Markarian will present his new book, The Martyred Armenian Writers 1915-1922: An Anthology at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, April 16 at 7PM.

A particularly fitting tribute during this centenary year of the Armenian Genocide, Markarian’s book surveys the lives and writings of 13 authors who perished during that cataclysm–several of them precisely on the night of April 24, 1915, when they and other community leaders, intellectuals and clergy were rounded up from Constantinople and deported, never to be seen again.

Organized in three parts, the book includes general introductions to 19th-century western Armenian literature and to the Genocide. The weight of the book is in the third part, which contains short biographies of some of the most beloved Armenian writers of the era, along with a bibliography of their writings. Dr. Markarian has also provided a sample of excerpts from each author, all translated into English.

2015-04 MarkarianHerand

Dr. Herand M. Markarian must be considered one of the most accomplished Armenian literary figures of our day. He will present his latest book, a survey of Armenian authors who perished during the Armenian Genocide.

“The development of Armenian literature is a unique phenomenon in the history of world literature,” writes Markarian. “In contrast to others, it developed in countries where the official language was not Armenian.”

Herand Markarian is a scientist, professor, playwright, poet, director, actor, literary and theater critic, and translator. He was born in Basrah, Iraq. He has authored 26 plays and 13 books. As a director he has 53 plays to his credit, while he has acted in 50 others.

The book presentation will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd Avenue, New York at 7PM. It is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the presentation, during which books will be available for sale.

2015-04 MarkarianWriters.001CLICK HERE to download a color flyer.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at or (212) 686-0710.


The Good News of the Resurrection

The angel at Jesus' tomb proclaims to the holy women "He is not here. He has risen." Armenian miniature from Isfahan, Iran, dated 1610.

The angel at Jesus’ tomb proclaims to the holy women “He is not here. He has risen.” Armenian miniature from Isfahan, Iran, dated 1610.

The following Easter sermon was delivered and published in New York in 1938 by then Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America and later Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, Garegin Hovespiants. A scholar, soldier, and man of intense Christian commitment, he escaped the rubble of the Genocide to become one of the great Armenian Church leaders of recent centuries. In this sermon, the Archbishop reveals the relevance of Christ’s Resurrection for the modern, scientific age.

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He has risen! (Luke 23:5)

Who will roll away the huge stone, the boulder that was placed in front of the tomb? This was the discussion among the women. Taking with them sweet incense and oil, they had come to pay their last respects to the earthly remains of the great Teacher. Just yesterday he was alive, today he was but a breathless corpse, and tomorrow he would forever disappear from their view as a bit of decay and destruction. This final noble deed should have been done with heart and soul. Yet the women were frail and weak. So who was going to help them to roll away the huge stone that sealed off the tomb so that they could have access to the cave?

Do Not Weep for Me

But look—the door is open! The stone has been rolled away and they hear a voice: “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here. He has risen.” Amazing. Wasn’t it just three days ago that they had seen him carrying his cross on his shoulders on the road to Golgotha, exhausted, falling to his knees under the weight of his cross? With pain in their hearts, tears in their eyes, sobbing, groaning, they watched the disdainful procession. The last time they had seen the peerless Teacher’s kind eyes looking at them they had heard his heart-rending words, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me. Weep rather for your children” [Luke 23:38]. They had seen from afar his death on the cross, his burial in the cave; his antagonists’ derisive laughter and taunting as they returned from Golgotha now liberated of the rabble-rouser from Nazareth. Even his disciples had scattered. The shepherd had been struck like his sheep. If only he were still alive…

Poor, naïve but holy women. They did not yet know that that very day in history a miracle was taking place by God’s will. New paths to salvation were opening before them to destroy death by means of death, yes, to cripple it. Their eyes would open, their earthly eyes, to see and to understand that it is not possible to destroy the truth by means of falsehood and deception. Jesus’ message about the redemptive and great power of faith would become clear. In the face of that faith mountains moved, boulders were rolled away, rough roads were made smooth, dead bodies were coming to life. It was necessary die, to “die daily” [1Corinthians 15:31] in the name of God, for one’s brother, for one’s homeland in order to receive and to protect eternal values. And there was the key to open the otherwise locked gates to life.

The Power to Subdue the World

The primitive force of Christianity lay there. The early Christians believed that Christ rose, he was alive in the midst of those gathered in his name. He was in their lives and in their hearts. Great moral strength was to be found in the idea of resurrection and in their faith in it. The power to subdue the world consisted in external weakness, poverty, distress. “Henceforth it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me” [Galatians 2:20].

But the good news announced by the angels is also for us, who thrive in the theoretical and practical science and in the aesthetics of the twentieth century.

Read more…

In the Dust of the Genocide. Lecture by Professor Roberta Ervine. Wednesday, April 8 7PM

You’re a bishop of the Armenian Church. Miraculously you crawl out from the debris of one of history’s most ruinous, catastrophic atrocities. Your people are dead. Your churches lay in ruins. Your monasteries—for centuries the intellectual and creative nerve centers of your church—are deserted. All around you bloodied, stuporous survivors search for their children and families. Tearfully they look to you for direction, for healing, for some scrap of hope.

A bishop with faith, character, intellect and a vision, Garegin Hovsepian battled the Turks at Sardarabad, published books on Armenian manuscript illumination, served as Primate of the Armenian Diocese of America and later as Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia.

A bishop with faith, character, intellect and a vision, Garegin Hovsepian battled the Turks at Sardarabad, published books on Armenian manuscript illumination, served as Primate of the Armenian Diocese of America and later as Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia.

Dr. Roberta Ervine, Professor of Armenian Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary (New Rochelle, NY) will present a lecture at the Zohrab Center on Wednesday, April 8 entitled, Picking Up the Pieces: Three Bishops and Their Vision for the Armenian Church circa 1920.


The years immediately following the Genocide would seem to be an era unlikely to inspire with stories of faith, hope and vision. And yet, the very darkness of those days brought forth especially brilliant lights.

Among the shining stars in Armenia’s deepest night were three great clergymen: Yeghishé Tourian, Papken Guleserian, and Garegin Hovsepian. The character, faith and achievements of these three Armenian bishops would be exceptional in any period, in any church.

Circa 1920 in the dust of the Armenian Genocide these leaders’ vision and contributions simply inspire awe.

2015-04 ErvineDr. Ervine will tell the unbelievable stories of these three clergymen. Where they came from, how they survived, and how, in the dust of the Genocide, they summoned a vision for their people and most of all, what future they imagined for their church. On the eve of the Genocide centennial, she will revisit the lasting impact of these bishops’ dedication, determination and prophetic insight on Armenian life and culture throughout the twentieth century and beyond.

Roberta Ervine has taught Armenian Church History, Armenian Theology and Patristics and Modern and Classical Armenian at St. Nersess Seminary for more than 15 years. Prior to that she lived, studied and taught in the Armenian Patriarchate of Saints James in Jerusalem for more than 20 years. There she was a disciple of the great Abp. Norayr Bogharian. She is the author of numerous books and scholarly articles on aspects of Armenian Church History and Thought. She recently translated St. Gregory of Narek’s Commentary on the Song of Songs.

The lecture is free and open to the public. A wine and cheese reception will follow Dr. Ervine’s presentation. For further information contact ZIC at or (212) 686-0710.


There Was and There Was Not. Book Presentation Thursday, March 26, 2015

2015-03 ThereWasMeline Toumani will read from her new book, There Was and There Was Not: A Journey Through Hate and Possibility in Turkey, Armenia and Beyond at the Armenian Diocese, 630 Second Avenue, New York on Thursday, March 26 at 7PM.

The event is being co-sponsored by the Zohrab Information Center, the Armenian Students’ Association, and the Armenian Network of America.

Dr. Margarit Ordukhanyan, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Classical and Oriental Studies at Hunter College, will moderate the evening’s discussion and presentation.

In her new memoir, a finalist for the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award in autobiography, Ms. Toumani examines the complex role that inherited ideas about “the Turk” have played in her own identity as an Armenian-American and as a writer.

“I read Meline Toumani’s original and audacious book with admiration, first for the grainy pleasures of her narrative—the raw energy of true encounters,” writes Michael J. Arlen, author of the classic Passage to Ararat, adding, “And perhaps even more for her nerve and seriousness in trying, as an Armenian-American woman, to find a path between the often self-defeating absolutism of her own Armenian community and the Orwellian evasions of most contemporary Turks when asked to acknowledge the plain act of long-ago genocide in plain language.”

The public is invited to the presentation, which will take place in the Guild Hall of the Diocese, and is free of charge. A reception will follow, with copies of the book available for purchase.

Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP to

Holy Week in the Armenian Church. New Book to be Released on Thursday, March 19

A new book by V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Director of the Zohrab Information Center, will be released at a book presentation and reception on Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York. #AvakShapat

2015-03_AvakShapatCoverThe book is entitled, Աւագ Շաբաթ Avak Shapat: A Guide to the Holy Week Services of the Armenian Church. The book is being published by the Zohrab Information Center. Conceived as a textbook for clergy, seminarians, deacons, choir members and others charged with conducting the Holy Week services, the guide will be of use to anyone interested in the worship of the Armenian Church, from faithful practitioners to students and scholars of other traditions.

The liturgical tradition of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church is one of the oldest and most magnificent in all of Christendom. The center of gravity of the Armenian Church’s liturgical year is undoubtedly Holy Week, the eight days preceding Easter. At no other time of the year is there such a concentration of poignant, ritually lavish, and theologically rich services in such a short period of time.

Yet with that exuberance comes complexity. The instructions for conducting these services are found in two books published centuries ago in Classical Armenian, which describe the services in a highly technical, abbreviated manner. As a result, conducting the Holy Week ceremonies properly, prayerfully and beautifully can be a challenge even for experienced clergy.

2015-03 FDFWith the meticulous eye of a teacher and scholar of Christian liturgy, Fr. Findikyan guides the reader through each Holy Week service, presenting the sequence of prayers, hymns, Scripture readings and rituals, and describing them in detail. The book also contains valuable glossaries of liturgical terms in Armenian and English, as well as separate indexes of liturgical and biblical references. As such, the book serves as a useful reference work on the worship tradition of the Armenian Church as a whole.

The March 19 presentation will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd Avenue, New York. As he presents his book, Fr. Findikyan will lead a worshipper’s tour through the sequence and meaning of Holy Week in the Armenian Church, emphasizing the meaning of Jesus’ final days for us today. At the conclusion of his talk, copies of the new book will be available for sale.

The presentation is free and open to the public. A light Lenten meal will be served beginning at 6:30PM. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at or (212) 686-0710.

2015-03 AvakShapatFlyer.001CLICK HERE to download a color flyer.

V. Rev. Fr. (Michael) Daniel Findikyan is a priest and vartabed of the Armenian Church. He has served as Director of the ZIC for two years. He is also Professor of Liturgical Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, and Visiting Professor of Liturgical Studies at the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana). He is an internationally renowned authority on the theology and history of the worship tradition of the Armenian Church and of other eastern churches, and has published widely in this area. Read more about Fr. Daniel’s education, teaching, ministry and publications.

For more information contact the Zohrab Center at or (212) 686-0710.



2012-03 BourjHammoudThe presentation of Ariane Ateshian Delacampagne’s book Portraits of Survival: The Armenians of Bourj Hammoud originally scheduled for Thursday, March 5 at the Armenian Diocese has been postponed due to the anticipated snow and ice storm.

The event will be rescheduled and the new date will be announced very soon.

For further information call (212) 686-0710 or


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