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].

2014-04 Crucifixion
“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.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FLYER.

#ZICbookdetective #ZohrabCenter

"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.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FLYER.

#ZICbookdetective #ZohrabCenter

Precious Paper Trail Leads from ZIC to Constantinople to Holland and Beyond…

Armenian art historian Dr. Sylvie Merian examines woodcut prints in an 18th century Armenian hymnal from the Zohrab Center's collection of rare books.
Armenian art historian Dr. Sylvie Merian examines woodcut prints in an 18th century Armenian hymnal (Sharagnots) from the Zohrab Center’s collection of rare books.

The Zohrab Center has seen a good deal of noted Armenian art historian Dr. Sylvie Merian in recent weeks. In preparation for an academic conference paper, the scholar has been paging through some of the Zohrab Center’s most precious rare books.

She tenderly turns the pages searching for woodcut illustrations printed in Armenian religious books, most of them printed in Constantinople. “There’s another one!” she calls out, pointing to an intricate, full-page illustration featuring biblical images and saints with remarkably detailed facial expressions.

The woodcuts that were produced by Armenian artists in Constantinople are exceptional because many of the compositions for these illustrations were actually closely modeled after western European prints, especially Dutch. The ever-cosmopolitan Armenian artisans became familiar with the designs through the many books printed in Latin, various European languages, and Armenian, which contained them as illustrations. Many such printed books found their way to Armenian communities in Ottoman Turkey and Safavid Iran in the 17th to 18th centuries.

SylvieMerian2Dr. Merian has discovered dozens of Dutch-inspired Armenian woodcut illustrations in the ZIC’s rare book collection. Often she can even identify the Dutch artist whose work lies in the background of the Armenian print.

But the illustrations inspired more than just woodcut artists. Armenian silversmiths from Kayseri adapted the European designs as imagery for silver plaques used on religious books. Similar images in Armenian manuscript illuminations—which continued to be produced up to the early 19th century in the Near East—and even wall paintings in churches of New Julfa (an Armenian suburb of Isfahan, Iran) are abiding proof of the Armenians’ fascination with the European styles and their openness to adopt and adapt them. In this way, new Christian iconography and decorative motifs were disseminated in various media throughout the region—

—as the Zohrab Center’s remarkable early book collection demonstrates.

Sylvie Merian is Reader Services Librarian at at The Morgan Library and Museum in New York City. She received her PhD in Armenian Studies from Columbia University’s Department of Middle East Languages and Cultures, writing her dissertation on Armenian bookbinding. She has published and lectured internationally on Armenian codicology, bookbinding, and manuscript illumination, as well as on the history of the book.

Dr. Merian will present an illustrated lecture on her woodcut research at the Zohrab Information Center on Wednesday, April 9 at 7:00PM.

Treasures from the ZIC: Childhood Marks of Future Renown

Occasional posts spotlighting extraordinary items from the Zohrab Information Center’s holdings and collections.

Պատմութիւն Երուսաղէմի History of Jerusalem by Dikran Savalaniants, published in Jerusalem in 1931.
Պատմութիւն Երուսաղէմի History of Jerusalem by Dikran Savalaniants, published in Jerusalem in 1931.

There are always plenty of books, journals, newspapers and other materials waiting to be sorted through and catalogued in the Zohrab Information Center. The work can be tedious but we stumble upon treasures every day.

While rummaging through a back room recently, I happened upon a hefty, beautifully leather-bound book that caught my eye. Entitled Պատմութիւն Երուսաղէմի [History of Jerusalem], it was written in Classical Armenian by a certain Dikran Savalaniants, translated into Modern Armenian by Bishop Mesrob Nshanian, and published by the Saints James Press of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1931.

Paging through the nearly 1400-page work, I discovered a very serious study of the ancient Armenian presence in Jerusalem, packed with detailed documentation concerning Armenian property holdings, and Armenian relations with the changing overlords of Jerusalem across the ages. The book even includes a register of Armenian inscriptions found all over Jerusalem and the Holy Land, dating back to the first millennium.

So gathering dust on a low-lying shelf was a world-class historical study in a language unknown to historians, authored by an obscure intellectual, translated by a forgotten Armenian bishop in a dusty third-world monastery. A precious inheritance in search of its rightful heirs.

Tork3
Avedis Manoogian’s
Jerusalem
Seminary

Thumbing back to the title page I found a message handwritten by a past owner of the book. Scrawled in a young child’s clumsy script in bright red ink in the upper right corner I read: Աւետիս Մանուկեան [Avedis Manoogian]. On the very next page, as if to remove anyone’s doubt as to the owner of the precious book, the boy had inscribed again: Աւետիս Մանուկեանի. Երուսաղէմ. Ժառ. վարժ. [Avedis Manoogian’s. Jerusalem. Seminary.]

Who was this precocious, young seminarian? None other than the future Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, whose baptismal name was Avedis. Born in 1919, Manoogian would have been barely 12 years old when Savalaniants’ landmark book was published just footsteps from the Seminary classroom where the future Archbishop would have recently arrived. Just 8 years later, at the tender age of 20, Manoogian would be ordained a priest and abegha [monk] of the Armenian Patriarchate, being renamed Torkom after his teacher, the great Patriarch Torkom Koushagian.

The tender seeds of greatness are all around us.

Archbishop Manoogian passed away in late 2012 following a long and distinguished ministry as pastor and later Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, and capped by his tenure as Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem. A memorial service and celebratory tribute for the Patriarch will be held at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in New York on Sunday, February 9, 2013. All are warmly invited to attend. For further information and promotional materials visit the website of the Eastern Diocese.

–Fr. Daniel Findikyan