Noble Lineage: The Mysterious Story of a Book

by V. REV. DANIEL FINDIKYAN

Gdanian
Rev. Fr. Garen Gdanian 1925-2013

Every book tells two stories.

The first is contained within its pages, be it a novel, an atlas, a cookbook or a chemistry textbook. The second is the book’s own story—how that particular volume came to be—from the printing press to the bookstore or dealer—traversing perhaps multiple owners and readers, until it falls into your hands.

Recently the Zohrab Center was the beneficiary of the library of the late and beloved priest Fr. Garen Gdanian, who passed away in 2013. While sorting through cartons of books, I noticed the elegantly embossed leather binding that is the hallmark of a precious old book.

GdanianBOokHandsMy suspicions were confirmed as I plucked it out of the box and carefully turned the book in my hands. Lustrous gilt edging glittered in my eyes while my fingers coursed over the grooves and ridges of the intricately embossed cover. Whoever bound this book spared no expense.

Stamped in gold leaf on the cover was this title: Առ բարձրաշնորհ Տ.Տ. Մաղաքիա Արքեպիսկոպոս Օրմանեան Պատրիարք Հայոց [T0 the Most Gracious Reverend Archbishop Maghakia Ormanian Patriarch of the Armenians].

He, of course, is the great Armenian churchman from the turn of the twentieth century, easily one of the greatest Armenian intellects of modern times, who served as Patriarch of Constantinople from 1896-1908.

Want to read more about the Patriarch Maghakia Ormanian along with an excerpt in English from his famous Gospel commentary, Hamabadoom? Click here for the latest issue of the Armenian Church magazine The Treasury / Գանձարան.

Ormanian
Patriarch Maghakia Ormanian 1841-1918

Yet while Ormanian was a gifted and prolific author, the cover indicates that this book was not written by him, but addressed to him. 

My first thought was that the book contained a letter directed to the Patriarch, who was a controversial figure. He resigned his position as Patriarch under pressure from political extremists, who had attacked him for his stubborn refusal to support any form of violence in the Armenians’ opposition to Abdul Hamid’s regime. Could this book be some anti-Ormanian diatribe?

But no. A gilt inscription on the book’s thin spine reads Կրօնի Ուսում [Course in Religion].

Indeed, turning to the title page, we read the full title of the work:

 Illustrated Course in Religion from the Known to the Unknown, from the Impenetrable to the Believable. A Face-to-Face Course and Graded Study. Intermediate Level. 

TitlePage
Title page of Tavit Khachgonts’ textbook on the Armenian Church. Patriarch Ormanian’s monogram stamp (Մ.Օ) is visible in the center right.

The author is a certain Tavit Khachgonts (1866-1918). It was published by the Balentz Press and Bookstore in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1905.

Traversing the pages of our book we discover a comprehensive survey of the Armenian Church in 188 pages. It includes brief but incisive summaries of the Old and New Testaments, the history of the Armenian Church against the background of the universal church; key persons and saints, feasts and fasts, sacraments and liturgical services, vestments and vessels, church architecture and hierarchical structures, Armenian church pious customs and traditions, and more. A number of tables, charts and glossaries round out the extremely valuable manual, which may well be the finest one-volume survey of the Armenian Church that I have encountered.

The author adds this codicil to the title page:

Objective
To transmit Armenian Christianity to Armenian young people and to present their mother church as something for them to love. 

A noble goal indeed.

So much for the first story.

The gilt inscription on the leather cover addressing the book to Patriarch Ormanian turns out to be a glorified gift tag. This copy was a personal gift. It was specially bound for the Armenian Patriarch, whose monogram, M.O., is stamped on the title page. This book once belonged to the great Maghakia Ormanian.

How did the book travel from the sacred galleries of the Armenian Patriarchate in Constantinople over 100 years ago to Fr. Garen’s personal library in Troy, New York?

The mystery continues. Read on… Continue reading “Noble Lineage: The Mysterious Story of a Book”

Portraits of Survival: The Armenians of Bourj Hammoud. Tuesday, June 9

 

Photographer Ariane Ateshian Delacampagne will present her photographic portrait of the Armenian community of Bourj Hammoud, Beirut, Lebanon.
Photographer Ariane Ateshian Delacampagne will present her photographic portrait of the Armenian community of Bourj Hammoud, Beirut, Lebanon on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at the Zohrab Center in New York.

The presentation of the new book Portraits of Survival: The Armenians of Bourj Hammoud, which was postponed earlier in the year because of snow will take place this Tuesday, June 9 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

Ariane Ateshian Delacampagne, a photographer of Armenian descent born in Beirut, spent years among the remarkable people living and working in the Armenian enclave of Bourj Hammoud in northeast Beirut. The result is a singular portrait of this vibrant Armenian community born from the ashes of the Genocide.

The album is replete with stunning, original photographs that document the spirit and history of this remarkable community.

The evening is being co-sponsored by the Zohrab Information Center and the Department of Armenian Studies of the Diocese, as well as AGBU Ararat. The event is free and open to the public. A wine and cheese reception will follow. CLICK HERE for full details.

2015-06 BourjHammoud-page-001CLICK HERE to download a color brochure.

For further information contact zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org 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.

Continue reading “The Good News of the Resurrection”

Nowhere: A Story of Exile. ZIC Book Presentation November 13, 2014

TurcotteNowhereAnna Astvatsaturian Turcotte lost her childhood to the ethnic cleansing in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1988.

Her life was swept away at the tender age of 10 when Muslim Azeris drove the Armenian community out of the country using terror and violence. Fleeing to Armenia, which was still reeling from the earthquake of 1988, she found herself an outsider; a nationless girl surviving in an unheated basement and facing discrimination again, this time by her own people.

Nowhere: A Story of Exile is a riveting story of organized terror, refugee life, and the desperate search for one’s home told through the diary entries of a young girl. Anna gives voice to a horrific tragedy little reported in the West, to the Armenian community of Azerbaijan and to the child victims of ethnic cleansing everywhere.

TurcottePhotoAnna Astvatsaturian Turcotte will speak of her experiences at the Zohrab Information Center on Thursday, November 13 at 7:00PM. Her presentation will be held in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd Avenue, New York. It is being co-sponsored by the Zohrab Center and the Armenian Network of America Greater NY Chapter.

Ms. Astvatsaturian Turcotte came to the United States as an Armenian refugee in 1992 and became a US citizen in 1997. She holds a law degree and was one of the first Americans to clerk for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands after observing its creation at the United Nations. Anna is currently living in the United States and working in the financial industry. She is married and has two children.

“Anna’s diary, written from the wide-eyed perspective of an 11-year old girl, is nevertheless remarkably incisive and haunting in its portrayal of the cruelties inflicted on the Armenian people of Baku,” said V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Director of the Zohrab Center. He added, “Anna is the Armenian Anne Frank of our times.”

AnnaTurcotteFlyer.001The book presentation is free and open to the public. A reception will follow.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FLYER.

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

#NowhereExile

A Poetry Evening at ZIC. Thursday, October 23

The Zohrab Information Center will host an evening of original poetry on Thursday, October 23 at 7:00PM.

Nancy Agabian
Nancy Agabian

Featured will be three American-Armenian poets: Nancy Agabian, Lola Koundakjian, and Alan Semerdjian. They have chosen to read works that have been inspired by the Zohrab Center’s rich book collection.

Award-winning author Nancy Agabian is a part-time faculty member of the NYU Gallatin School. She was a Fulbright scholar to Armenia in 2006-7.

Alan Semerdjian
Alan Semerdjian

Alan Semerdjian is a poet, teacher, musician and artist, whose acclaimed collection of poems, In the Architecture of Bone, explorees issues of Genocide and survival.

Lola Koundakjian
Lola Koundakjian

Making her second visit to the Zohrab Center to read her work, Lola Koundakjian is an internationally acclaimed and published poet whose work has been translated into Spanish and Ukrainian. She is curator of the online Armenian Poetry Project.

The Evening of Poetry will place at the Zohrab Center of the Armenian Diocese, 630 Second Avenue, New York.

2014-10 PoetryEvening.001CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FLYER.

All are welcome to attend. Suggested donation is $5. Students with ID will be admitted free. A reception and refreshments will follow.

For further information, contact us at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710. #ZICPoetry

 

The Canonization of the Armenian Martyrs of 1915. What is Christian Martyrdom Anyway?

JohnsonImage.001In April 2015, on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, under the auspices of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church will take the momentous step to officially recognize as saints of the church the countless souls who perished during the Genocide in witness of their Christian faith.

The Rev. Dr. Maxwell E. Johnson, Professor of Liturgical Studies at the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN) will present a lecture entitled, The Blood of the Martyrs: Seed of the Church Yesterday and Today on Thursday, October 9 at 7:00PM.

BloodMartyrsJohnson.001CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FLYER.

Surveying traditional interpretations of Christian martyrdom, Professor Johnson will address the relevance of the canonization of the Armenian Martyrs of 1915 for the Armenian Church and people today.   

Maxwell E. Johnson is Professor of Liturgical Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
Maxwell E. Johnson is Professor of Liturgical Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

The illustrated lecture is free and open to the public. It will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese, 630 Second Avenue, New York, NY.

The Rev. Dr. Maxwell E. Johnson is an ordained pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and a leading scholar of early Christian liturgy and worship. He has written extensively on topics related to Baptism, Eucharist, the Liturgical Year, Mary, the Saints, and Ecumenism. He has lectured at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary on Armenian Baptismal Rites and Spirituality.

Professor Johnson’s most recent book, Praying and Believing in Early Christianity: The Interplay between Christian Worship and Doctrine, is concerned with how the worship of the church shapes and is shaped by doctrine. Copies will be available for purchase at the lecture. Guests will have the opportunity to greet Prof. Johnson during a wine and cheese reception that will follow his presentation.

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

#ArmenianMartyrs

ZIC Schedule of Autumn Events

ZZohrab.001The Zohrab Information Center announces a wide-ranging and captivating schedule of educational programs for the Autumn season. Armenian and non-Armenian scholars and artists will present programs on Armenian architecture and liturgy, literature, film, poetry and the anticipated canonization of the martyrs of the Genocide by the Armenian Church.

The first program on Wednesday evening, September 10, will be the screening of the film Garod (Yearning) by the award-winning Armenian filmmaker Frunze Dovlatyan. The movie will be presented in Armenian with English subtitles and will be introduced by writer, translator and filmmaker Christopher Atamian, who will also lead a discussion following the movie.

2014FallScheduleCLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE ZOHRAB CENTER’S SCHEDULE OF EVENTS.

All ZIC events take place at the Armenian Diocese, 630 Second Avenue, New York, and are open to the public. Most presentations will be video-recorded and posted on this website within a day or two of the date of presentation.

Follow us as well on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

ZIC Goes to the Movies on Wednesday, September 10

Garod (Yearning) presents a brave look at issues such as nationalism, patriotism and the effects of the 1915 Genocide.
Garod (Yearning) presents a brave look at issues such as nationalism, patriotism and the effects of the 1915 Genocide.

The Zohrab Information Center launches its Autumn educational series on September 10 with a night at the movies. Featured will be the 1990 film Garod (Yearning) by the legendary Armenian director Frunze Dovlatyan.The film is a brave look at issues such as nationalism, patriotism and the effects of the 1915 Genocide on a village of Armenians on the Turkish-Armenian border.

The film is in Armenian with English subtitles.

The film will be introduced by leading writer, translator, journalist and filmmaker Christopher Atamian, who will also lead an open discussion about the film following its screening.

Award-winning Armenian filmmaker Frunze Dovlatyan
Award-winning Armenian filmmaker Frunze Dovlatyan

Frunze Dovlatyan is best known for his 1966 film Barev Yess Em, which was selected as the Soviet Union’s official submission to the Cannes Film Festival that year. Born in Gavar, Armenia, Dovlatyan was one of Armenia’s best-known directors. He studied at the Sundukyan Theater in Yerevan and headed Armenfilm Studio in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

The 1990 film Garod reveals what happens when the yearning or nostalgia to return to one’s childhood village becomes irresistible. This exciting, informative and sometimes sad film also presents a fascinating look at the dark side of Soviet Armenia.

Noted New York filmmaker Christopher Atamian will introduce the film and lead a discussion.
Noted New York filmmaker Christopher Atamian will introduce the film and lead a discussion.

Chrisopher Atamian has written, lectured and taught extensively on film  at NYU, UConn Storrs, BAM and the Huffington Post, where he writes a blog on culture, the arts and current events. He is an alumnus of Harvard University, Columbia Business School and USC Film School. Among his many creative projects, he has begun a book of critical essays on Armenian film entitled Nationalism, Identity and Sexuality Film or: The Nostalgic Impulse. 

Atamian has spoken at the Zohrab Center and visits the ZIC frequently in the course of his creative work.

The event will take place in Guild Hall of the Diocese of the Armenian Church, 630 Second GarodAvenue, New York at 7PM on Wednesday, September 10. The film and discussion are open to the public. Donation is $5. Students with ID will be admitted free. Refreshments will be provided during and after the movie.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FLYER.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. #GarodYearning

A Light Shines in the West

2014 TorchPassedby Alexander Calikyan

The Armenian community in the United States of America has existed for more than a century. The Torch Was Passed: The Centennial History of the Armenian Church of America, a work edited by Christopher Hagop Zakian in celebration of the centennial history of the Armenian Church of America in 1998, tells the history of the Armenians in the land of freedom and opportunity, from humble and often distressing beginnings in 1898 to a hopeful and bright one hundred years later.

Improbable Beginnings

Zakian embarks on a detailed journey that has its roots in the little community of Armenians in Worcester, Massachusetts, who banded together to form the first Armenian Church of America, the Church of Our Savior. From this small and improbable starting point, Mr. Zakian tells of the spread of the faith of the Armenians across the country. For the Armenian community at this time, no one imagined a permanent diocese taking shape in the United States; as far as they were concerned, America was a pit stop for refugees before returning to the motherland again one day.

Trials and Tribulations

The developments of the coming century would change all of that. As Mr. Zakian writes, changing circumstances at home and abroad would forever change the destiny of the Armenians in America and shape their future. With Bishop Hovsep Sarajian chosen by the Armenian flock to serve as the first primate in the United States, the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America was established in 1898. For the next 50 years, the young and fledgling diocese underwent numerous periods of trial, tribulation, and transformation on the path of coming to resemble, more or less, the Diocese that we have today. Notable events included coping with the emotional trauma of the Armenian Genocide, caring for countless refugees from Soviet Armenia, and fracturing from within, culminating in the assassination of Archbishop Ghevont Tourian.

Consolidation and Growth

Following years of relative peace and stability under Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan, the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America began to expand and prosper, forming organizations recognizable today, such as the ACYOA, the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, and the construction of the St. Vartan Cathedral and diocesan headquarters in New York City. Indeed, with the ardent confidence and support exhibited by the newly-elected pontiff of the Armenian Apostolic Church in His Holiness Vasken I, the Armenian Church in America continued to increase in number of parishes, laypeople, and clergymen. Especially under the long primacy of Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America reached its peak of influence for the Armenian-American community. Mr. Zakian concludes his chronicle with a review of the diocese and its various activities and organizations under the tenure of the current primate, His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, and he looks to the future of the Armenian Church in America.

2014-07 Calikyan
Alexander Calikyan is an intern at the Zohrab Information Center.

Mr. Zakian’s work contains helpful appendices provided by contributing authors that supplement his narrative of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America. The first two deal with the formation and history of the Western and Canadian Dioceses, respectively. The third appendix discusses the unique schism within the Armenian Church in America and its slow, painful progress towards reconciliation and hoped-for unity. The book is rounded out by a general chronology of the Armenian Church of America and a list of parishes of the Eastern Diocese. While it is clear that Mr. Zakian went to painstaking lengths to obtain and compile informative lists and histories of the various Armenian churches in America, he also narrates the story of the Armenians in the United States compellingly. Surely, this book not only serves as a history of our people, but reminds us of just how strong and tenacious the Armenian community is.

ALEXANDER CALIKYAN is a senior at the Catholic University of America (Washington, DC) majoring in philosophy. He has been an intern at the Zohrab Center last summer and this summer.

VIDEO. Armenians in a Multicultural World. Dr. Roberta Ervine Delights and Challenges

Did you miss last week’s marvelous presentation at the Zohrab Center by Dr. Roberta Ervine? She read between the lines of the writings of the 12th-century Armenian monk Mkhitar Gosh and uncovered surprising insights for all who wonder whether Armenians have a future in our complex, multicultural world.

Enjoy the video.