At the Glorious Tomb of the Lord: A Poem for Holy Week by Khrimian Hayrig

ResurrectionThe following splendid reflection on the Passion of the Lord has been excerpted and translated from the epic poem by Khrimian Hayrig (Catholicos Mkrtich Khrimian, 1820-1907) entitled Հրաւիրակ Երկրին Աւետեաց, roughly translated, Invitation to the Land of the Gospel.

The monumental meditation was composed in 1850 while Khrimian was a young deacon on his first pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The epic consists of seven “songs” that were indeed intended to be sung, as Khrimian relates in the introduction to the book. Sitting in his tiny cell facing the Mount of Olives to the East, he writes— 

One day while I was busy writing and singing a melody—for without singing it, a song has no spirit—suddenly the assiduous, late Patriarch Hovhannes came and stood at the door of my room. “I heard your voice, Deacon Mkrtich. What are you singing and writing?”

I said ,”Srpazan, I’m writing an Invitation to the Land of the Gospel.”

“Whom are you inviting?,” he asked.

“Young people and all Armenians, my spiritual father,” I answered.

“Write! Write! God bless you! Invite them! Call them!,” the Patriarch called out. “Let the fervent Armenian people make an oath to come to Jerusalem…”

The passage below is taken from the Sixth Song, a profound meditation on Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse,” known in Armenian as the “Discourse of the Cross” in John 13-17. Faithful to the ancient manner of Biblical exegesis and preaching, the Catholicos sees the passion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as a single, indivisible reality, which is reflected like a prism in other stories and episodes throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The sorrow of Christ’s passion and death is never isolated from the triumphant joy of his resurrection. 

The Zohrab Center holds two precious copies of Khrimian Hayrig’s epic in its second edition, published in Jerusalem in 1892. The text is also available online. The subtitles are not part of the original text.

—FDF



THE VIGILANT ANGEL
that gave the great news to the shepherds at your birth,
The same one spoke at dawn, shouting to the watchful women—
It was not the young men who first heard it, but the daughters of Eve:
“He has risen! Why do you seek among the dead the One who lives?
Why do you weep bitterly for him, who wiped away mankind’s tears?”
Let the disconsolate anguish of your hearts turn to joyfulness!
The dew-like streams that fell from your eyes at the Cross will be wiped away.

Mary

Mary the bereaved mother, her heart stabbed as if with a sword—
Her piercing wounds were healed by the resurrection of her Son.
He did not allow Mary Magdalene to kiss him. Would he spare his mother’s kiss?
When the scattered flock of sheep was beaten along with the Good Shepherd,
With the Good News to Mary, coming together again as one,
All were filled with joy, their spirits bloated with hope.
She recalled there the Teacher’s earlier discourse—
“Although I have been willingly betrayed into the hands of those odious people,
I will die innocent and they will place me in a tomb.
Yet after three days I will rise, I will stand up alive,
With miraculously renewed youth, I will be newly restored like an eagle.
As the early dawn’s light spreads out, for a moment I will be covered in the lap of the earth.
After three days buried, toward Himself he will gather this shoot.”

Jonah

And again the radiant Sun rose from the tomb.
A new, exuberant dawn broke over of the universe.
Darkness, a world-engulfing shadow was dispelled and chased away,
Like Jonah, that prophet who fled,
The Lord lived in the heart of the Earth and entered the belly of a sea-dragon,
Its cavernous mouth gaping wide to devour the world, teeth shining like spiked swords,
“Ha!” it said. “I caught him! The Son of Man tumbled into my mouth!”
But it could not hold on to him. Its sharp teeth were crushed.
The One he held in his belly was the swallowed spirit of Adam.
Quickly he spat him out of the deep womb of hell
Because he did not find in the New Adam the sins of old Adam,
In whom he had poured the poison of death, and whose entire progeny he had killed.
Like a fisherman, using his ingenious little virgin bait, the Father
Cast his hook into the sea of death and caught there the great monster.
He slashed its deep chin and pulled out its spirit, alive and well.

By the word of the one who saw it, he swore to himself
One day, alive, to touch this lower realm of our earth.
Behold his most powerful right arm extended, the Word from above
Touched and seized the great dragon, the Slanderer.
He crushed his head and threw him over half-dead.
The spirits of the saints rejoiced. They kissed the Savior’s right hand.
They cried out, “Blessed is the Father. Blessed is the Son. Blessed is your saving arm.
You slew our great adversary, who never ceased to blame us.
He antagonized the righteous and wouldn’t let us be with you.”
Now that we are freed from the darkness, take us to the Father’s luminous home.
For you said, “Where I am, there my servants will also be.”
The lion cub triumphed over Judas’ lineage.
An awesome voice roared. The depths of Hell shuttered.
The Lord has woken as if from sleep. He who slept in the heart of the earth is awake.
Having drunk wine at the Cross, he spilled it from himself like a giant.
In his death he shut his eyes for an instant, as if in sleep.
Will he not henceforth do even more when he rises up? Continue reading “At the Glorious Tomb of the Lord: A Poem for Holy Week by Khrimian Hayrig”

NYC Exhibit Includes Precious Medieval Armenian Bindings

KayseriBIndingFriends of the Zohrab Information Center and art lovers who live in the New York area or who may be visiting during the Christmas season will not want to miss an extraordinary exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan.

Magnificent Gems: Medieval Treasure Bindings presents one of the world’s finest collections of lustrous, gem-encrusted medieval bindings for ancient handwritten and early printed books. Also included in the exhibition are all three of the Morgan Library’s 17th-century Armenian silver bindings from Kayseri.

Dr. Sylvie L. Merian, Scholar and Reader Services Librarian at the Morgan, and a frequent lecturer and visitor at the ZIC, is one of the world’s leading experts on medieval book bindings, especially those produced in Armenian workshops.

Visitors will also see one of the Zohrab Center’s two precious copies of the first printed Armenian Bible, produced in Amsterdam in 1666.

The exhibit is on display until January 7, 2018.

ZIC Launches New Online Catalog

ZICPageArrow.001The Zohrab Center is pleased to launch its new online library catalog. The catalog allows anyone to remotely search the precious resources of the ZIC library.

The catalog is accessed at dac.kohalibrary.com or by using the link at the top right of the ZIC website.

The new catalog replaces ZIC’s original library catalog with a state-of-the-art system incoporating powerful research tools. The catalog is powered by Koha, a full-featured open-source integrated library system that is used by hundreds of libraries and research centers around the world, including the Armenian National Library and the Union Catalog of Armenian Libraries (ՀԱՅԱՍՏԱՆԻ ԳՐԱԴԱՐԱՆՆԵՐԻ ՀԱՄԱՀԱՎԱՔ ԳՐԱՑՈՒՑԱԿ)

“Our new Koha system gives anyone with an internet connection access to the treasures housed in the Zohrab Center’s library,” said the Director, Fr. Daniel Findikyan. “The system provides a range of tools to facilitate research in every facet of Armenian Studies,” he added.

World-Class Collection of Rare and Old Books

The Zohrab Center’s library numbers well over 50,000 items with particular emphasis in modern Armenian literature, Armenian history, Armenian art and architecture, Armenian theology and Church culture, and Genocide studies. ZIC also houses a world-class collection of Armenian journals, newspapers and periodicals from throughout the world. Many titles are not found in any other library in the western world and a number of rare and old volumes exist nowhere else.

As a non-circulating research library, the ZIC’s largely irreplaceable holdings generally do not leave the reading room. Every effort is made to provide users with electronic scans or photocopies of materials. Of course readers and researchers are always welcome to visit the Center during normal business hours or preferably by appointment.

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 6.59.39 PMEven though much of the ZIC collection remains to be catalogued, it already offers a wealth of resources and information to users. Researchers can search for materials by author, title, subject, place or date of publication, language and other variables. As they browse the library’s holdings users can collect items into a personal “shopping cart” and create various lists to facilitate research.

Surprises Abound

“People will be surprised at the variety of treasures we have,” Fr. Findikyan noted. “Researchers will find standard works in every branch of Armenian Studies. Well-known authors from ancient times to the present are represented as well as obscure writers, who are otherwise unknown. Surprises abound. Works by Armenian authors share shelf space with classic works by Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Victor Hugo, Milton, Aesop, Dante, and others, which were translated into Armenian long ago by our bibliophile ancestors.”

Give the catalog a spin. Type your last name or that of a friend or relative into the search bar and see what comes up! Your great uncle may have been an author! Enter the Armenian village where your grandparents were born and follow the trail of books and materials…

A Growing Repository of Armenian Culture and Thought

Looking ahead, ZIC will catalog its many 19th and early 20th-century manuscripts, many of them eyewitness accounts of the Genocide that await study. The Center’s many old photographs too will eventually be registered into the database allowing users to search for images of ancestors. In addition, electronic versions of many rare materials will be linked to their catalog entry, allowing users to access them directly.

Researchers may search for Armenian materials by using the Library of Congress transliteration system, which is the international standard. Koha supports unicode, so in the future, users will also be able to search for materials in Armenian and other non-Latin alphabets.

As funding becomes available, the Zohrab Center will acquire a professional, high resolution touch-fee scanner, which will allow us to digitize rare and fragile books and documents to make them available to scholars and students. For further information and to contribute toward this and other projects please contact the ZIC at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

 

 

 

 

20th Century Armenian Literature in France. Book Presentation by Christopher Atamian. Tuesday, May 23 7PM.

Beledian50YearsCoverA critically-acclaimed survey of Armenian literature in twentieth-century France will be presented at the Zohrab Center on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 at 7PM by Christopher Atamian, translator of the newly-published English edition.

Fifty Year of Armenian Literature in France, by Krikor Beledian, examines Armenian literature as it emerged in France between 1922 and the beginning of the 1970’s. Its goals are several; first of all, to retrace the literary history of the period starting with Armenian immigration until the passing away of the movement’s main representatives. Then by examining the most significant works, to study the issues raised by a literature of exile, one born after an event that was experienced and interpreted as a “national catastrophe”: the identity crisis (the Same), brought about by a violent confrontation with a new environment (the Other), the emergence of a new identity and the long process to integrate exile and the foreign space.2017-05 AtamianBeledian.001

CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

French-Armenian writer and critic Krikor Beledian was born in Beirut, Lebanon where he attended the renowned Armenian “Jemaran” Preparatory School before moving to Paris in 1967.  He holds PhDs in Philosophy and in Comparative Literature from the University of Paris V.

Entitled Cinquante ans de littérature arménienne en France: Du même à l’autre in its original French edition, the work was published in Paris in 2001 and met with wide critical acclaim.

AtamianChristopher
Christopher Atamian will present his newly-published English edition of Krikor Beledian’s Fifty Years of Armenian Literature in France on May 23 at the Zohrab Center.

Christopher Atamian is a frequent visitor to the Zohrab Center, where he has spoken many times, most recently as coordinator of the popular ZIC Film Series. A native New Yorker, Atamian is an internationally known writer, translator, journalist, critic and filmmaker. He writes for publications such as the New York Times Book Review, The Huffington Post, The Beirut Daily Star, the New Criterion, Dance Magazine and is the former dance critic for The New York Press. He produced the OBIE Award-winning play Trouble in Paradise and was included in the 2009 Venice Biennale for his video Sarafian’s Desire. He has translated five books and written one novel and is currently at work on several book projects, one translation, a book of Bedros Keljik stories as editor, and a second novel, as well as producing and directing television, film and theater and his first anthology of poetry, which follows on his being included in An Anthology of Armenian Poets. Atamian is the recipient of numerous grants, awards and fellowships including the Tololyan Literary Prize, a Fulbright Fellowship, a John Harvard Fellowship, the Bronfman Fellowship in Democratic Enterprise at Columbia University, Gulbenkian and AGBU grants, an AFFMA film making grant, and a 2015 Ellis Island Award. His lectures at the Zohrab Information Center on film are part of his work, “Deconstructing Ararat,” a volume on Armenian Cinema which is forthcoming. He is fluent in ten languages and is an alumnus of Harvard University, Columbia Business School and USC Film School.

The book presentation will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd Avenue, New York at 7PM. Books will be available for sale. All are welcome and a reception will follow.

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

From New Julfa to Constantinople to Manchester to Fowler: The Legacy of a Prolific Author and Priest

img_3550
Volume 1 of the Armenian Church journal entitled, Yegeghetsee Hayasdanyayts, dated April 1900 and published in Manchester, England. The Zohrab Center’s copy of this precious journal bears the stamp of the “Araratian Armenian Library, Central Falls, Rhode Island.”

Rustling through the countless tattered books that await identification and cataloging in the Zohrab Center’s library, I recently came across an old journal entitled Եկեղեցի Հայաստանեայց. Ամսաթերթ Կրօնական եւ Աստուածաբանական / Yegeghetsee Hayasdanyayts: Amsatert Gronagan yev Asdvadzapanagan  [The Church of the Armenians: A Religious and Theological Journal].

The journal was published in Manchester, England by Toros Der Isahagian, a married priest whose byname Jughayetsi marks him as a native of New Julfa, the Armenian quarter of Isfahan in northwestern Iran, an important Armenian commercial and religious center.

The inaugural volume, designated Number 1 April 1900, opens with a congratulatory letter from His Holiness the Catholicos Mgrdich, better known as Khrimian Hayrig. That and subsequent issues contain short essays on the history and doctrines of the Armenian Church, including short articles on saints, holy days, sacraments and other church services, as well as meaty and well-written sermons and commentaries on Bible passages.

The final issue for the year 1900 contains one of the most remarkable writings I have encountered by an Armenian clergyman in modern times. Spanning 34 single-spaced pages, it carries the title: Pastoral Letter to the True Children of the Apostolic Church of the Armenians who are under the Care of this Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Manchester  [Թուղթ Հովուական առ հարազատ որդիս Հայաստանեայց Առաքելական Եկեղեցւոյ որք ընդ հովանեաւ Ս. Հոգի (sic) Եկեղեցւոյս հայոց ի Մանչեսթր].

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An earlier journal of the same name, produced by Toros Der-Isahagian in Constantinople, 1888.

This extraordinary letter is actually a book-length cross between a genuine Armenian Church catechesis, and a call to spiritual arms for diasporan Armenian Christians in England at the turn of the 20th century. With refreshing originality, Fr. Der Isahagian takes up fundamental components of the Armenian Church’s history, theology, and liturgy and applies this age-old Christian tradition to pressing, practical issues facing the people under his care. Here is an Armenian pastor who is fully rooted in the apostolic, Orthodox eastern tradition of his church, while fully aware of the very modern, very western concerns of his flock.

Not surprisingly for those who know anything about the Armenian Church’s theology, the priest from New Julfa’s exposition is thoroughly and unreservedly Biblical, amounting to a marvelous celebration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, told from the faith experience of the Armenian people. This is a treatise that deserves to be translated into English and other western languages and distributed widely.

The very next day, quite by chance, I discovered another bound collection of journals with the same name, but published in 1888 in Constantinople. I only had to leaf through a few pages to discover the very same editor at work, in this instance, publishing a more concise, weekly paper with content similar to what he would later create in Manchester. The weekly version provided detailed commentaries on the Bible readings appointed in the Armenian Lectionary for each Sunday, along with essays on saints and feast days falling during that week along with thoughtful sermons on the most practical aspects of Christian life.

torosjughayetsi1
Toros Der-Isahagian Jughayetsi’s Commentary on the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church was originally published in Jerusalem in 1891. It was reprinted there in 1959.

It turns out that Toros Der Isahagian was a well-known scholar and theologian long before he was ordained a priest in Holy Etchmiadzin around 1896, when he was called to serve the Armenian community in Manchester as their priest. His tenure there was rocky. As the oldest and most affluent Armenian Church community in Europe at the time, Manchester became a magnet for countless Armenian refugees fleeing the growing persecutions in eastern Turkey. At the same time, the Armenian merchants of Manchester, most of them involved in the cotton industry, were constantly called upon to provide financial assistance to the hordes of widows and orphans finding their way to Constantinople on the eve of the Genocide. Fr. Der Isahagian seems to have been the victim of political in-fighting within the community, whose flames were fanned by darkening clouds in the homeland. He resigned his pastorate in 1902.

The few histories of the Armenian community in Manchester that have been published have little more to say about the prolific Der Hayr from New Julfa.

der-theodorosDeacon Allan Jendian of Fresno, California has provided additional information about our prolific priest, culling references from a variety of commemorative booklets and other materials. After his departure from Manchester, Der Toros spent several decades in the United States. After a brief stint as Pastor of the Armenians in Boston, he went to California, where he served as Pastor of Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Fresno (1907), and the first priest of St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church of Fowler (1910-1912, 1916-1917). He subsequently served for shorter periods in Los Angeles (1913-1915), San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento. He returned to Isfahan in the 1930’s and died there in 1938. He is buried in the All-Savior’s Armenian Monastery there.

Der Toros is referred to in some publications as Der Teodoros. As editor of the first English translation of the Armenian Badarak (Fresno, 1931) his name appears as Theodoros Isaac.

Der Isahagian was born in Nor Jugha in 1861. He was ordained in October 1895 in Holy Etchmiadzin. He earned his Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Bonn, Germany.

Apart from these scattered references, the literary work he has left behind suggests that he was a true intellectual, a devout servant of God, and a dedicated pastor of the Armenian Church. Several essays and sermons of his are published in the 1896 issues of Ararat, the forerunner of Etchmiadzin, the official organ of the Holy See. He is also the author of a commentary on the Soorp Badarak, the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church, which was published in Jerusalem in 1891 with a second edition in 1959.

Here is an excerpt from Der Isahagian’s Foreword to his Armenian Church Journal published in Constantinople:

If, while cultivating our secular mind, we ignore our spiritual development, gradually the spirit will become numb eventually to become completely desensitized and die. Such a person then becomes becomes incapable of grasping spiritual truths because there is no longer any balance between the mind and the spirit.

[Yegeghetsee Hayasdanyayts , March 6, 1888, No. 1, page 2. Translated by Fr. Daniel Findikyan]

Judging by the extent and superior quality of his writings, much of this priest’s time and energy must have been devoted to writing. One can only admire the tenacity and fervor of Der Toros, who was able to produce all he did while raising a family and caring for a large, diasporan church community at the turn of a troubled century for the Armenian people. When we consider the financial resources required to print and distribute periodical journals, especially at a time when the Armenian community of Manchester, England had other pressing obligations to desperate refugees and victims of violence in the homeland. Fr. Der Isahagian’s literary output and spiritual/educational contribution to the Armenian Church becomes even more exceptional.

Rev. Toros Der Isahagian’s two Armenian Church journals are housed in the Zohrab Information Center, along with countless other literary treasures of the Armenian people, many of them waiting to be explored for their wisdom and their insights into the Armenian mind, world and psyche. Continue reading “From New Julfa to Constantinople to Manchester to Fowler: The Legacy of a Prolific Author and Priest”

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.

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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. 

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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”

Drawing the World Close on Holy Friday

The following meditation on Jesus’ crucifixion is by Catholicos Khrimian Hayrig. It has been translated from his book Յիսուսի վերջին շաբաթ. Խաչի ճառ [Jesus’ Last Week: The Discourse on the Cross], published in Constantinople in 1894.

Lord, now you have been lifted up. You said, “When I am lifted up I will draw the whole world to myself” [John 12:32].

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“When I am lifted up I will draw the whole world to myself.” [John 12:32 Armenian Version]
Lord, I am startled by that inconceivable, impossible miracle. I don’t know how you intend to draw everyone to yourself. Your hands are tied. Your feet are nailed. In a little while you will die and be powerless, and people will carry you to the tomb thinking that you are no different than the dead of this world. Is it really possible for you to draw the world to yourself from the Cross and the Tomb?

Yet I know and I understand, Jesus. What you are saying is clear and profound. Your all-reaching, all-powerful hand is alive and powerful even in death. And you will not draw humanity to yourself by force of the sword like the rulers who reign over this world.

Instead, you will draw them close by your infinite love. By the self-sacrifice of the Cross you will draw them close. By your blameless blood you will draw them close. By your gentle yoke you will draw them close. By your boundless forgiveness you will draw them close. By the liberal proclamation of your Good News you will draw them close.

From this world you will draw living believers close. You will go down to the tomb and from the earth you will draw the dead close. Going farther to the inner prison you will draw the captive spirits close. From the temples of idolatry you will draw the unbelievers close.

And you will deliver them all to the new praetorium, your church, gathering every single person into one flock, bringing them all together under your staff, O Good Shepherd!

 

A Prayer for Holy Thursday by Catholicos Khrimian Hayrig

On the Thursday before Easter (Աւագ Հինգշաբթի) the Armenian Church commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus, when he established the mystery of his abiding presence among God’s people through Holy Communion of his living Body and Blood in the Divine Liturgy. 

Erevan, Matenadaran, MS 316, Gospel, Arts'akh, XIVth century, Last Supper. Photo: Ara Güler.
Erevan, Matenadaran, MS 316, Gospel, Arts’akh, XIVth century, Last Supper. Photo: Ara Güler.

Jesus, today you sat down with your hungry farmhands gathered around you. With every step you took, you plowed with them the rocky, hardened land of Israel. You were a plowman and a sower of seed and they were your courageous tillers. You sowed fistfuls of the seed of the Word of Life. You, true vine, planted your orchard at the summit of Golgotha.

Behold! Taking into your hands a cup of the fruit of the vine and a loaf of the bread of Good News, you bless. You give thanks. You break. And you say, “Take, eat, believe. That bread appears to be mere bread. But it is really and truly my Body. It is life. It is not the manna from the desert that your fathers ate in their faulty faith and then died. Instead, you, their faithful children, with your resolute faith, eat this Bread of Life and live forever! And drink this cup filled with joy and jubilation. It really is my blood, which I will spill on the Cross, breaking the cup of my body.”

For three years you proclaimed unceasingly, “I am the living bread that has come down from heaven.” Obstinate ones did not want to understand this mystical message of yours. Perplexed, they became indignant and murmured, “How can he give us his body to eat?”

Yet today, behold! You unveil in plain sight the mystery of Communion. Blessing ordinary bread and wine, you sanctify them and with your hands you distribute them, saying, “Here you are! This is my Body and my Blood.”

Lord, we believe that through the example of the Bread, you join your life with our life. You fuse your immortality with our mortality, so that through your life, humanity’s life may be immortalized. That is why you constantly repeated, “Truly, truly, I say to you: If you do not eat the Body of the Son of Man or drink his Blood, you have no life in you.” Yes, Lord, your Body is real food and your Blood is real drink. Blessed are they who eat this meal with faith. 

Catholicos Mkrtich I Khrimian (1820-1907), popularly and lovingly referred to as Khrimian Hayrig, is surely one of the greatest leaders of the Armenian Church in modern times. Passionately concerned for the welfare of the Armenians in the waning days of the crumbling Ottoman Empire, he is best remembered as an outspoken advocate for the right of self-determination for his people. To that end he led the Armenian delegation at the Conference of Berlin in 1878. The blessed Catholicos was also–perhaps even more so–a devout and inspired preacher and a man of resolute Christian faith and fervent prayer. This excerpt is translated from his book Յիսուսի վերջին շաբաթ. Խաչի ճառ [Jesus’ Final Week: Discourse on the Cross], published in Constantinople in 1894. A precious copy of this book is housed in the ZIC collection.

Treasures from ZIC: Zvartnots Literary and Art Review

photo 1The Zohrab Center recently received a dozen early issues of the Armenian periodical Zvartnots. The journal of literature and art was published intermittently in Paris from 1929 to 1964. The precious issues were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Hagop and Sylvia of Boyajian of Wilbraham, Massachusetts.

The Zohrab Center is the only library in the United States to hold these issues.

Zvartnots contains original poems, short stories, essays, literary criticism and articles on aspects of Armenian arts and music by Armenian authors. As well, the reader will discover Armenian translations of noted non-Armenian authors of the day. Among the contributors were some of the giants of twentieth century Armenian literature and art including Vahan Tekeyan, Arshag Chobanyan, Hagop Oshagan, Yeghishe Charents, Shahan Shanhur, Shavarsh Nartuni, Nvart Kalpakian, Nigoghos Sarafian, Gurgen Mahari,and a host of mysterious pen-names.

Alongside marvelous poems and short literary pieces, the inaugural issue features an Armenian translation of an essay by the Austrian philosopher and novelist Stefan Zweig; an article on pre-Christian Armenian architecture by the great historian of architecture Toros Toromanian; and  a tribute to Franz Schubert on the hundredth anniversary of his death by a very young Ara Bartevian, who would later become a well-known musician, composer and choral conductor.

Indeed, in the preface to the first issue of Zvartnots, the editor, Hrant Paluian, stresses that the new journal would be “the refuge for those young people who have been held captive to the aged caretakers of our literature.” True to the secularism of the moment, he  continues sardonically:

The residents of Zvartnots, with angelic innocence, have been purified of political passions, partisan enmities and ridiculous heresies. They have been purged of religious and moral prejudices. They believe only in Armenian literature and art.

The word Zvartnots derives from the Armenian zvartunk, literally, “vigilant ones,” the angels who serve God joyfully and tirelessly, and who serve as models of the Christian life. The name was given to the famous seventh-century round church in Etchmiadzin, the ruins of which can be seen today.

The Zohrab Center’s new issues of this marvelous testament to Armenian intellectual vitality between the World Wars in Europe have been added to the ZIC online catalogue. Anyone interested in perusing them is welcome to visit the Center or to contact the staff for questions and further assistance.

MDF

 

What Is Dutch Art Doing in Early Armenian Printed Books? Dr. Sylvie Merian to Present the Case at ZIC on April 9

"Tree of Life" Dutch woodcut print dated 1646 by Christoffel van Sichem. Note the monogram "CvS" in the lower left corner.
“Tree of Life” Dutch woodcut print dated 1646 by Christoffel van Sichem. Note the monogram “CvS” in the lower left corner.

Noted art historian Dr. Sylvie Merian of The Morgan Library in New York will speak at the Zohrab Center on Wednesday, April 9 at 7PM on the topic, Dutch Woodcut Art in the Earliest Armenian Printed Books: A Book Detective Unravels the Mysteries.

Dr. Merian has been researching early Armenian books printed in Constantinople in the Zohrab Information Center’s rich rare book collection, especially focusing on woodcut illustrations in religious books produced by Armenian artists. (Click here for a recent exposé of her research on this blog).

Many of the compositions for these illustrations were modeled after western European prints that found their way to Ottoman Turkey and Savafid Iran during the 17-18th centuries in richly-illustrated books printed in Armenian, Latin, and other European languages.

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"Tree of Life" as found in an Armenian Sharagnots-Hymnal published in Constantinople in 1742. Note the monogram ԳՄ of the Armenian artists in the lower right corner.
“Tree of Life” adapted from the original Dutch version, found in an Armenian Sharagnots-Hymnal published in Constantinople in 1742. Note the ԳՐ in the lower left corner, the monogram of the Armenian artist and printer Grigor Marzuanetsi. The Armenian Hymnal is from the Zohrab Center’s Rare Book Collect

Through countless hours of what she calls “book-looking,” Merian has identified many of the exact prints used by Armenian artists as models. Many of these were Dutch woodcuts.

The illustrations provided inspiration not only for Armenian woodcut artists, but also for Armenian silversmiths (who used them as imagery for silver plaques used on religious books), manuscript artists, and even painters of wall paintings in churches of New Julfa, an Armenian suburb of Isfahan, Iran. New Christian iconography and decorative motifs were thereby disseminated in various media throughout the region, and a number of examples have been found in the Zohrab Center’s remarkable early book collection.

Dr. Merian will show numerous examples from the orginal European illustrations, the adapted versions by Armenian artists, and their later adoption for use in non-book media.

The presentation will take place at the Armenian Diocese, 630 Second Avenue, New York, NY. A discussion and reception will follow. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

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