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”

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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.

shnorhali
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.

findikyan2016-1
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.

A Poetry Evening at ZIC. Thursday, October 23

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

Nancy Agabian
Nancy Agabian

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

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

Alan Semerdjian
Alan Semerdjian

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

Lola Koundakjian
Lola Koundakjian

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

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

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

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

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

 

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