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Hrair Hawk Khatcherian to Present New Magnificent Album on Khatchkars on Thursday, March 30.

IMG_3597Acclaimed photographer Hrair Hawk Khatcherian will present his new, massive album entitled, Khatchkar [Խաչքար] at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, March 30 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

Spanning over 500 pages and including well over 1000 exquisite photographs, Khatcherian’s unprecedented photographic compilation comprises easily the most comprehensive photographic documentation of the signature sacred art form of the Armenian people.

Khatchkars are intricately adorned crosses sculpted into stone, which are ubiquitous in the Armenian homeland. Armenians continued to create khatchkars wherever they migrated. As such, beautiful examples of khatchkars—no two of them alike—can be found all over the world, wherever Armenians live or have lived; and they date from the early centuries of Christianity to the present time. They are true markers of Christian Armenian presence.

Khatcherian has photographed khatchkars in Armenia and throughout the world. Some years ago he visited the Zohrab Center to exhibit photographs he had taken from western and historical Armenia.

The publication of the album was subsidized by Mr. and Mrs. Hagop Didizian of London.

2017-03 HawkKacherian.001CLICK HERE to download a full-color flyer.

Born in Lebanon, Khatcherian lives in Canada. There, in 1988 he participated resolutely in the various activities of the Diaspora linked to the Artsakh Movement. In 1993 he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. In his hospital room where he underwent terrible treatments which alone could kill a man, there was on the wall a cross and photographs of Armenia and Artsakh.

“It was by staring at them fiercely, day by day, with my mortally wounded hawk’s eyes, that I succeeded in tearing myself from the claws of Death, to take flight again, and to rise high again in the sky, in the direction of my true destiny,” he writes. Today, fully and miraculously recovered, with his wife and two teenage children, he “lives only for and by Armenia, the Artsakh, and the fundamental references and benchmarks of the Armenian world.”

The presentation is free and open to the public. All are welcome to attend. A reception will follow the event and copies of Khacherian’s book will be available for sale.

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

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St. Gregory of Narek’s Festal Works. Book Presentation by Dr. Abraham Terian. Monday, March 20.

TerianFestalWorksDr. Abraham Terian, Professor Emeritus of Armenian Patristics and Theology at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary will present his new book at the Zohrab Center on Monday, March 20 at 7PM.

The book is entitled, The Festal Works of St. Gregory of Narek: Annotated Translation of the Odes, Litanies and Encomia. This is the first English translation of these poetic works.

Less known than St. Gregory’s celebrated Book of Prayers (or Book of Lamentations as it is sometimes called), the great tenth-century mystic’s jubilant poems on the life of Christ and the great saints and feasts of the Armenian Church are filled with the joyful exuberance of the Christian message. In penetrating theology, masterful poetry and lavish Biblical imagery, St. Gregory summons the reader into his staggeringly intimate experience of God’s 2017-03 TerianNarek.001goodness and the Church’s holiness.

CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

DR. ABRAHAM TERIAN is Professor Emeritus of Armenian Theology and Patristics at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. A recipient of the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in the Humanities award and Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, he has extensive publications in the fields of Hellenistic, early Christian, and Armenian religious literature.

2012-09 TerianDr. Terian’s book includes English translations of more than fifty substantial compositions spanning hundreds of pages of text. As beautifully engaging as Terian’s renditions of the texts are his profuse and learned annotations, which accompany each work. The scholar provides Biblical references (the volume’s Scripture index spans 11 pages of triple columns); generous cross-references with other works in the collection, as well as patristic references, and echoes in Armenian theological and devotional literature.

The book presentation is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served and books will be available for sale following Dr. Terian’s opening remarks. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

Thursday, March 2: The Joy of the Gospel in Times of Tragedy: A Lesson from St. Nersess Shnorhali.

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St. Nersess “the Gracious One” Shnorhali (1102-1173AD). A true pillar of the Armenian Church.

V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan will present a little-known work by the great 12th-century Armenian Catholicos St. Nersess Shnorhali at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, March 2 at 7PM. His presentation is entitled, The Joy of the Gospel in Times of Tragedy: A Lesson from St. Nersess Shnorhali.

Fr. Findikyan is Director of the Zohrab Information Center and Professor of Liturgical Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary (Armonk, NY).

Jesus famously promises to lift even our heaviest burdens and to bring relief to all who are weary. But how are we to cope with the most harrowing pains and tragic assaults that can afflict human beings? What can we do for those who are suffering? Can anything good—even joyful—come from tragedy?

St. Nersess Shnorhali’s  little-known Letter of Consolation (Թուղթ մխիթարութեան) is an exquisite poem in which the Catholicos displays his tender compassion for someone who has experienced what is perhaps the most harrowing and inexplicable pain that one can suffer in this life, the death of a child. With great sensitivity, the Gracious One touches the wounds of the grieving father, as he weaves a tapestry of hopeful images and allusions from Sacred Scripture to bring the healing of Jesus Christ to bear.

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Fr. Daniel Findikyan lectures at the Gevorgyan Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin, Armenia last September.

Fr. Daniel will present his new English translation of the work, highlighting not only its poetic and lyric beauty, but also how “the Gracious One” teaches and personifies the power of Jesus Christ even in the midst of seemingly hopeless heartbreak. 

Fr. Findikyan is a priest and vartabed of the Armenian Church. He received his doctoral degree from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome and is the author of several books and dozens of scholarly articles on the worship traditions of the Christian East and especially the Armenian Church. He has lectured nationally and internationally, and is President of the Society of Oriental Liturgy. Hayr Daniel is a founding member of the Fellowship of St. Voski [Նոր Ոսկեանք], a non-profit organization dedicated to transmitting the spiritual and theological heritage of the Armenian Church tradition to Christians today. He is on the editorial board of the quarterly magazine The Treasury [Գանձարան].

The presentation will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York. All are welcome to attend the presentation. Join us at 6PM for a cup of Lenten soup.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710. CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

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

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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.

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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. Read more…

Havresc: An Armenian Christian Village in Northern Iraq Standing Down ISIS

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Sunrise over Havresc in ISIS-controlled northern Iraq. The domes of the Armenian Church are seen in the foreground.

The Zohrab Center will screen the New York premiere of a new documentary on a northern Iraq community of Armenian and Assyrian Christians that is fighting back the Islamic State. Entitled Havresc: Stand on Courage, the film will be introduced and shown by David Ritter, who produced it.

The event will take place on Thursday, December 8 at 7PM in the Vartan Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

Standing in the face of hatred, oppression, violence and every adversity, these Armenian and Assyrian Christians are defending themselves from ISIS not only for their survival, but to create a home for all Christians facing persecution.

2016-12-havrescflyer-001Documentarian David Ritter’s work focuses on ethnic groups throughout the world, especially minorities. During the Fall and Winter of 2015 he lived in Iraq, volunteering in support of the Assyrian and Armenian Christian militias and communities. He spent much of his time filming and documenting the experiences of the ancient Christian Armenian and Assyrian communities as they struggle against the violence of the Islamic State. 

Ritter will introduce and then screen the 35-minute documentary. A discussion will follow. The evening will conclude with a reception.

Download a flyer by clicking here.

All are invited to the event. For further information contact the Zohrab Information Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

#Hravresc.

Sometimes Poetry is the Answer

Join us this Thursday evening, November 17 at the Zohrab Center at 7PM for another thoughtful, uplifting and therapeutic Evening of Poetry. 

Three noted American-Armenian poets will read from their works in English and Armenian.

lola_2012LOLA KOUNDAKJIAN enjoys her poetry diplomacy, touring the world to read at poetry festivals, and, promoting Armenian culture through the Armenian Poetry Project. This fall she is reading in three venues around New York City: in September as part of National Translation Month in the Inkwell series at the KGB Bar, a literary institution in the East Village neighborhood of New York City; in October, in the Americas Poetry Festival; and in November at the ZIC. She is the author of The Accidental Observer (2011 USA) and Advice to a Poet (2014 Peru; 2015 USA).

photo-1SHAHÉ MANKERIAN is the principal of St. Gregory Alfred and Marguerite Hovsepian School in Pasadena and the co-director of the Los Angeles Writing Project. As an educator, he has been honored with the Los Angeles Music Center’s BRAVO Award, which recognizes teachers for innovation and excellence in arts education. His poems have won Honorable Mentions in 2011 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award and Arts & Letters Journal of Contemporary Culture. Shahé was a Semi-Finalist for the Knightville Poetry Contest. He was the first place winner of 2012 “Black and White” anthology series from Outrider Press. His poems have been published in numerous literary magazines.

dana-walrathDANA WALRATH, a writer, artist and anthropologist, spent 2012-2013 as a Fulbright Scholar in Armenia where she completed her first book, Like Water on Stone a verse novel about the Armenian genocide of 1915, loosely based on the story of her grandmother. Her just released graphic memoir, Aliceheimer’s about life with her mother, Alice, before and during dementia, has been featured in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books and the Philadelphia Inquirer

2016-11-poetryevening-001Copies of the poets’ recent books will be available for sale. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FLYER.

The Evening of Poetry will take place at the Diocese of the Armenian Church, 630 2nd Avenue, New York and begin at 7PM. All are welcome. Admission is $5. Students with ID are free.

A reception and conversation will follow.

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

Jerusalem 1000-1400 Every People Under Heaven. Meet the Curators

img_3470Meet the co-curators of the current landmark exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled, Jerusalem 1000-1400 Every People Under Heaven this Wednesday evening at 7PM in Vartan Hall at the Armenian Diocese in New York.

Drs. Melanie Holcomb and Barbara Drake Boehm, co-curators of the exhibition, will survey the works on display and discuss the importance of this period in the history of Jerusalem and its diverse communities.

The exhibit features several priceless Armenian works, some of which have never before been seen outside the walls of the Holy City.

The continuous presence of Armenian monks, artists, and scholars since as early as the fourth century at least is well known and documented. Their preoccupation with the city, along with that of multiple competitive and complementary religious and cultural traditions gave rise to one of the most creative periods in its history. The Met exhibition is the first to unravel the various cultural traditions and aesthetic strands that enriched and enlivened the medieval city.

2016-11-jerusalemeverypeople-001“Even if the number of Armenian artworks is not many, their quality and beauty are exquisite,” said Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Director of the Zohrab Center. “And in any case, the prominent status of Armenians in Jerusalem at this time is evident throughout the exhibit, from the very first object,” he added.

The conversation with the c0-curators is free and open to the public. A reception will follow. Download a full-color flyer here.

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Senior Curator for The Met Cloisters, is co-curator of the exhibitions Jerusalem in the Middle Ages (2016), The Game of Kings (2011–12),Prague: The Crown of Bohemia (2005), and Enamels of Limoges (1996), and curator ofMedieval Jewish Art in Context (2011–12). She recently contributed to the exhibitions L’Art du Jeu (2012–13) (Musée de Cluny, Paris) and Treasures of Heaven (2010–11) (Cleveland, Baltimore, London). A graduate of Wellesley College, Dr. Boehm directs the Curatorial Studies program, administered with the Institute of Fine Arts, from which she received her PhD.

Melanie Holcomb is a specialist in the luxury arts of the middle ages, from treasure hoards to illuminated manuscripts. She is an alumna of Smith College and earned her PhD from the University of Michigan. Holcomb has a particular interest in travel, trade, and other means of cultural exchange among medieval patrons and artists. Her current research is focused on the art and history of the Holy Land