Zohrab/Fordham Postdoc and Director Dr. Jesse S. Arlen’s Fall Public Lecture series at Saint Nersess Armenian Seminary is now available to stream on YouTube. The six sessions cover the major medieval Armenian historians and histories composed between the fifth and tenth centuries. Part II of the series will take place in the beginning of the Spring 2022 semester.
Series Description: The Armenian historical tradition is rich and well developed, with texts written in this genre produced continuously from the first century after the invention of the alphabet up until the modern period. Of all the Armenian literary genres, it is the histories that have received the most attention from modern scholars, thanks to their importance for our knowledge of the Near East and Mediterranean. Nevertheless, the Armenians who wrote their histories did not conceive of history in the same way we do today, nor did they approach their topics with the same preoccupations and concerns of modern historians. In this six-week course, we will seek to approach the Armenian histories on their own terms, attempting to understand the context in which they were produced, the religious and imaginative world of the authors who composed them, and the goals and purposes that motivated both the patrons who sponsored them and the authors who wrote them. Proceeding chronologically, this semester our goal is to cover twelve major Armenian histories from the fifth to tenth centuries (about two per session). At the same time, we will introduce participants to books and online resources where they may acquire the primary texts and gain access to important secondary materials to facilitate deeper study on their own.
A new book by Krikor Pidedjian entitled, Հայ Եկեղեցւոյ Երաժշտութիւնը / The Music of the Armenian Church: An Historical Survey, will be presented at the Zohrab Center this Thursday, April 7 at 7:00PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.
Mr. Pidedjian, an accomplished composer, choral conductor and musicologist specializing in the history, theory and repertoire of Armenian sacred and secular music, has received awards and commendations internationally for his artistic and scholarly contributions. Most recently, he was recognized by the faculty of the Komitas Conservatory in Yerevan, Armenia, where he has lectured frequently. In 2008 His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II awarded him the St. Nersess the Graceful medal for outstanding service to the Armenian Church.
The new book, written primarily in Armenian includes an extensive summary in English and is profusely illustrated with musical examples. The book has been published by the Diocese of the Armenian Church (Eastern).
Presenting the book will be Deacon Rubik Mailian, Director of of Sacred Music and Pastoral Assistant at St. John’s Armenian Church (Southfield, Michigan). Deacon Mailian will speak in English before Mr. Pidedjian makes remarks in Armenian.
Krikor Pidedjian was born into a musical family in Alexandria, Egypt. He studied in the Seminary of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, where, concurrent with studies at the Beirut Conservatory, he directed the St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral Choir. He received a B.S. from the Mannes School of Music and M.A. from Hunter College, both in New York.He is the founder of numerous choirs and ensembles which, under his direction, have performed Armenian sacred and popular music on stages throughout the world. He has lectured internationally on Armenian music and published extensively. He has received numerous awards and commendations for his musical and scholarly work, most recently by the Komitas Conservatory in Yerevan.
The book presentation is free and open to the public. Copies of Mr. Pidedjian’s book will be available for purchase. A reception will follow. For further information contact the Zohrab Information Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 686-0710.
Professor Michael B. Papazian’s Light from Light: An Introduction to the History and Theology of the Armenian Church is a succinct yet meticulous introduction to the Armenian Church. This is not a conventional history book. It is not “a continuous chronology that recounts in general the [Church’s] origin…and…history of its development and organization.” Instead, Dr. Papazian “often pauses in the course of the narrative to investigate the topics and to detail the circumstances of their origin and their consequences” (Foreword, 9). For example, he devotes one third of Chapter Two discussing the details of Judaism’s essential tenets of faith in order to transition into the theological and social issues involved in evangelizing the pagan Armenians. Thus we have here a true primer on the Armenian Church, historically organized but replete with insights into her theology, rituals and practice, saints, and world view. The author’s intent is that “all readers [Armenians and non-Armenians, Christian and non-Christian] will find this book to be a helpful source of knowledge about the Armenian Church” (Introduction, 11).
Papazian relies and quotes a variety of sources in his presentation: the Bible; Armenian texts, liturgical hymns (sharagans), prayers, encyclicals; early histories such as Movses Khorenatsi’s History of the Armenians; non-Christian sources such as the Jewish theologian Maimonides; and present-day scholars such as Stanley Harakas, Nina Garsoïan, and His Holiness Catholicos Karekin I. Very few scholarly stones are left unturned; all the information Papazian needs to construct for the reader a thoroughly detailed, explicative chronicle is utilized.
Nine chapters of the book chronicle and detail the timeline of the Church’s history, which Papazian organizes into eight essential epochs. The tenth chapter is devoted to discussing the sacramental life of the Armenian Church, highlighting their unique features compared with other traditions. The book concludes with three appendices, the first of which could easily be considered as an eleventh chapter. It meticulously enumerates the various communions of the entire Christian Church (Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, etc.). Appendix B lists all of the sources consulted, helpful for those who would like to study a topic for deeply. Appendix C is the Lexicon, a list of significant terms mentioned in the book with concise definitions.
An example of the author’s approach may be illustrated in Chapter Six, which chronicles the history of the Armenian Church from the 5th to the 11th centuries. Here Dr. Papazian discusses the Iconoclast movement in the Byzantine Church of the 7th and 8th centuries. Pausing to compare and contrast the Armenian, Greek, and Roman Catholic Churches’ respective positions on icon veneration, the author discovers “a difference of culture rather than theology” (106). Though not questioned by Roman Catholics, icons are not as important to piety as in Eastern Orthodox churches, which often contain an icon-covered screen (iconostasis) before the sanctuary. Although the Armenian Church fathers have never challenged the legitimacy of icon veneration,“art historian Sirarpie Der Nersessian has remarked that the illuminated Gospel book…takes the place that the icon holds in the other Eastern Churches” (Papazian 106). This is why in many Armenian churches one can observe, before and after the Divine Liturgy (Soorp Badarak), a pristine copy of the Gospels placed at the center of the altar as though enthroned.
Regarding the history of the church, particularly the topic of early Christian evangelization, one learns that in order to make Christianity palatable to the pre-Christian high classes, St. Gregory the Enlightener conformed a particular pagan Armenian practice to the faith. “As we have seen, the pagan priesthood in Armenia was hereditary. Gregory adopted the pagan custom perhaps as a temporary measure to gain greater acceptance and respect for the new Christian priesthood among the people” (49-50). Several of the first catholicoi were, in fact, direct descendants of St. Gregory himself: his two sons Aristakes and Vrtanes; St. Nerses the Great, Gregory’s great-great-grandson, whom Papazian refers to as Armenia’s “‘second Illuminator’” (60), the “‘Illuminator of the heart’” (65). Like many Christian traditions, here is an example of a pre-Christian form that was adopted to facilitate the evangelization of the people.
Of particular interest was another facet of the Armenian Church’s worldview which Papazian emphasizes: ecumenism. Papazian cites several historical episodes where the Armenian Church leadership engaged with other churches for the purpose of healing the wounds wrought against the Universal Church over the course of history. For example, Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus approached Catholicos St. Nerses the Graceful (Shnorhali) in the twelfth century about reunification of the Greek and Armenian churches. The defense that St. Nerses wrote on the Armenian Church’s Christological position gained the admiration of the Emperor and the Byzantine patriarch. It was presented at the Armenian Synod of Hromkla, which Nerses’ successor, Gregory IV “The Young (Tgha)” convened in 1179. When Manuel died in 1180, the synod did not bear fruit because his successors had little interest in ecumenical dialogue. Despite its failure, this episode is indicative of the Armenian Church’s ecumenical worldview at a volatile period in Christian history, an rare attitude magnanimity and unity. Such an outlook was adopted by St. Nerses Shnorhali’s great-nephew St. Nerses of Lambron, who said, “I am united by tradition to whoever bears the name of Christ as a crown of glory….For us, there is no Paul or Apollos, Haik or Romulus” (136).
In essence, this book is a miniature library that engages the reader personally and carries the audience on a sojourn through time to discover and unfold the history and ways of the Armenian Church. To the novice and scholar alike, Light from Light is essential reading. Suitable for all readers, it opens a floodgate of enlightenment on the Armenian Church, its history and its contributions to the ministry of Christ on earth.
Michael B. Papazian, Light from Light: An Introduction to the History and Theology of the Armenian Church. New York: New YorkSIS Publications / Armenian Apostolic Church of America, 2006.
Andrew Kayaian is a senior at Fordham University in New York majoring in History and Theology. He has worked as an intern for the Zohrab Center for two years and has contributed previously to the ZIC website.
The Zohrab Center presents a rich and varied program of lectures, book presentations, and other stimulating opportunities for enrichment and edification this Winter and Spring. Armenians and anyone interested in Armenian civilization, arts, letters, and faith will find many options to learn, to grow and to inspire others.
A new study on Armenian music, a guide to the Armenian Church’s Holy Week ceremonies, a photographic album of the old Armenian community of Bourj-Hammoud, a Genocide-era novel, and a new travelogue of historic western Armenia will all be showcased by their authors. In addition, noted scholars will hold forth on various facets of Armenian Studies, including Vartan Matossian, Helen Evans and Roberta Ervine. A movie night and other events are also planned.
The Zohrab Center is collaborating with several sister organizations and parishes to co-sponsor some events.
All events are open to the public and most are free of charge. Unless otherwise noted, all presentations take place at the Zohrab Center (Armenian Diocese, New York). Check back frequently for updates and additions. For further information contact ZIC at email@example.com or (212) 686-0710.
ZIC Schedule of Events Spring 2015
Thursday, February 5 (7PM) “Code Name Haiko: Discovering the Last Unknown Participant in Talaat Pasha’s Liquidation” Dr. Vartan Matiossian, Armenian National Education Committee
Thursday, February 12 Commemoration of St. Vartan and His Companions. Divine Liturgy and Dinner followed by Lecture. Co-sponsored with St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral “An Anthropologist Considers St. Vartan: Faith, Nation and Memory” Lecture by Christopher Sheklian, University of Chicago
Thursday, February 19 (7PM) St. Leon Armenian Church, Fair Lawn, NJ The Life and Work of 19th-Century Armenian Composer Kristapor Gara-Murza. Book Presentation by Krikor Pidejian with Şahan Arzruni.
Thursday, March 5(7PM) Co-sponsored with Eastern Diocese Department of Armenian Studies Portraits of Survival: The Armenians of Bourj Hammoud. Book Presentation by Ariane Ateshian Delacampagne.
Thursday, March 12 (7PM) A.G.B.U. Center, New York Historic Armenia after 100 Years. Book Presentation by Matthew Karamian
Thursday, March 19 (7PM) “A Guided Tour of Holy Week in the Armenian Church” Lecture and Book Presentation by Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Zohrab Information Center/St. Nersess Armenian Seminary
Wednesday, April 8 (7PM)
“Picking Up the Pieces: Three Bishops and Their Vision for the Armenian Church circa 1920” Lecture by Dr. Roberta Ervine, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary
Thursday, April 16 (7PM) Co-sponsored with the Eastern Diocese Department of Armenian Studies The Martyred Armenian Writers 1915-1922. Book presentation by Herand Markarian
Thursday, April 30 (7PM)
“Armenian Art: Voice of a People” Dr. Helen Evans, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Tuesday, June 2 (7PM) The Survivor. Book Presentation: Rosemary Hartounian Cohen.
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.
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.
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.
Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Director of the Zorhab Center, was one of the featured speakers at a conference at the University of Salzburg, Austria, last week entitled, “Monastic Life in the Armenian Church: Glorious Past, Ecumenical Reconsidering, Challenge for the Future.”
Dr. Jasmine Dum-Tragut, Lecturer in Linguistics and Armenology and Dr. Dietmar Winkler, Professor for Patristics and Church History at the University of Salzburg co-organized the event, which brought together specialists in Armenian and Eastern Church Studies, monasticism, and ecumenism. Representing the Armenian Church, apart from Fr. Findikyan, were Abp. Nareg Alemezian, Ecumenical Coordinator and Dean of the Armenian Seminary of the Great House of Cilicia, Bishop Hovakim Manukyan, Director of Ecumenical Affairs for the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, Fr. Pakrad Berjekian of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and Fr. Ruben Zargaryan of the Holy See of Etchmiadzin. Also participating were monks of the Benedictine Monastery of St. Peter in Salzburg, which was founded in the mid-eighth century and has operated continuously since.
Speakers traced the history of Armenian monasticism from its origins in the fourth century in Armenia and the Holy Land to its decline during Ottoman times, and its decimation as a result of the Armenian Genocide. The massive theological, scientific, artistic and intellectual contributions of Armenian monks throughout Armenian Christian history were displayed. Also surveyed was monastic life as it has reemerged in the twentieth century in the Armenian Church’s hierarchical centers and signs of a renaissance in Armenia today, with young men retreating to ancient, outlying monasteries in pursuit of solitude, prayer, and study.
Also noted were small but growing numbers of young women in Armenia who are coming together to live out the monastic ideal. By arrangement of His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, two young sisters will travel to Salzburg later this Spring to spend time in Salzburg’s eighth-century Benedictine Convent under the supervision of its dynamic and gracious Abbess, Mother Perpetua.
Fr. Findikyan’s paper, entitled, “Penitential Spirituality in Armenian Monasticism at the Turn of the Millennium,” studied a controversial theology of human sinfulness that emerged in some northern and eastern Armenian monasteries from the 11th to the 14th centuries, which resulted in the development of liturgical practices such as the closing of the altar curtain and the withholding of Holy Communion during Great Lent, practices that present a number of theological, liturgical and practical problems in Armenian Church life today.
All of the papers will be edited in a book to be published in English in short order.