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“The Materiality of Armenian Christianity: Gospel Books as Sacred Objects” — Zoom Lecture by Konrad Siekierski — Wed, Jan 26 at 7:00pm ET

On Wednesday, January 26th, at 7:00pm ET, Konrad Siekierski, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at King’s College London will deliver a lecture entitled “The Materiality of Armenian Christianity: Gospel Books as Sacred Objects.”

This Zoom Webinar is jointly sponsored by the The Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University, The National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, & The Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center.

To register for the Webinar, please visit: https://bit.ly/NAASRSiekierski

The Materiality of Armenian Christianity: Gospel Books as Sacred Objects

Armenian Gospel Books do not only contain the Word of God to be read by priests and the faithful, but some also act as sacred objects endowed with supernatural power and agency. As such, they are venerated during the feasts of the Armenian Apostolic Church and as ‘home saints’ – family relics held in unofficial shrines. Based on several years of ethnographic research in Armenia and recent anthropological literature on religion as a sensual and material phenomenon, I will discuss how Gospel Books (and some other religious texts) make visible the invisible, touchable the untouchable, and – ultimately – reachable the unreachable for Armenian Christians today. Furthermore, I will explore the Armenian veneration of home saints in the context of Soviet and post-Soviet Armenia’s changing socio-political landscape, the decay of traditional village life in the country, and the theft of many privately owned Gospel Books.

Konrad Siekierski is a PhD candidate in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London. Based upon ten years of ethnographic research, his doctoral thesis, A Vow to Go: Religion, Reunion, and Roots in Armenian Pilgrimage, examines the different forms that pilgrimage takes today in the Armenian culture. In 2021, he conducted a research project Gospel Books as Home Saints: Between Vernacular Christianity and Armenian National Heritage, funded by the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research. Currently he is a recipient of The Orthodox Christian Studies NEH Dissertation Completion Fellowship at Fordham University. Konrad edited two collective volumes and authored several articles in academic journals.

Dr. Jesse Arlen a contributor to new Eastern Christianity Reader

Zohrab/Fordham Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Jesse S. Arlen edited and translated the texts for the Armenian section of a new volume that presents English translations of important texts from the Eastern Christian (Oriental Orthodox) traditions, many of which are appearing in English for the first time. This important volume, which also includes introductions to the each of the languages represented, aims to make the Eastern Christian literary traditions more accessible to a wide and scholarly audience. The volume contains Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Arabic, Coptic, and Ethiopic Christian texts from late antiquity to the early modern period.

To purchase the book visit the publisher Eerdman’s website, where it is currently 25% off.

DESCRIPTION

English translations of Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Arabic, Coptic, and Ethiopic Christian texts from late antiquity to the early modern period 

In order to make the writings of Eastern Christianity more widely accessible this volume offers a collection of significant texts from various Eastern Christian traditions, many of which are appearing in English for the first time. The internationally renowned scholars behind these translations begin each section with an informative historical introduction, so that anyone interested in learning more about these understudied groups can more easily traverse their diverse linguistic, cultural, and literary traditions. A boon to scholars, students, and general readers, this ample resource expands the scope of Christian history so that communities beyond Western Christendom can no longer be ignored.

Contributors

Jesse S. Arlen, Aaron M. Butts, Jeff W. Childers, Mary K. Farag, Philip Michael Forness, John C. Lamoreaux, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent, Erin Galgay Walsh, J. Edward Walters, and Jeffrey Wickes.

Table of Contents

Introduction
Part One: Syriac
          1. The Doctrina Addai
          2. Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns against Heresies 3 and 53
          3. Martyrdom of Mīles, Abursam, and Sinay
          4. Jacob of Serugh, The Fourth Homily on Cain and Abel
          5. Narsai, On the Canaanite Woman
          6. Simeon of Beth Arsham, Letter on the Ḥimyarite Martyrs
          7. The Syriac Life of Mary of Egypt
          8. Timothy I, Letter 47
          9. Theodore bar Koni, Scholion, Mēmrā 10
Part Two: Armenian
          1. Koriwn, The Life of Mashtotsʿ
          2. Eznik of Koghb, Refutation of the Sects (or, On God)
          3. The Teaching of Saint Grigor
          4. Anania of Narek, On This Transitory World
          5. Grigor of Narek, Book of Lamentation, Discourse 1, Discourse 88
          6. Nersēs Shnorhali, Hymn for the Sunrise Hour, Instructional Preface to a Prayer of Nersēs, Prayer of Nersēs
Part Three: Georgian
          1. Martyrdom of St. Shushanik
          2. John Sabanisże, Martyrdom of Habo, the Perfumer from Baghdad
          3. George the Athonite, The Lives of John the Iberian, Euthymios the Athonite, and George the Minor, The Life of George the Athonite
          4. Mark the Deacon, The Life of Porphyry of Gaza
Part Four: Arabic
          1. Homilies on the Gospel Readings for Holy Week
          2. Theodore Abū Qurrah, That God Is Not Weak
          3. The Disputation of Abraham of Tiberias
          4. Ḥunayn Ibn Isḥāq, How to Discern the True Religion
          5. Miracles of Saint George
          6. Commentary on the Pentateuch
Part Five: Coptic
          1. Life of Pachomius
          2. Shenoute of Atripe, I Have Been Reading the Holy Gospels
          3. Pseudo-Dioscorus of Alexandria, Encomium on Macarius of Tkōou
          4. The Anaphora of Saint Thomas the Apostle
          5. Christophoria, Letter to the Comes Mena
          6. John of Paralos, Homily on the Archangel Michael and the Blasphemous Books of the Heretics
          7. Pseudo-Cyril of Alexandria, Encomium Interpreting Part of the Apocalypse of John the Apostle of Christ Jesus
Part Six: Ethiopic
          1. Select Inscriptions of ˁEzana
          2. Homily on Frumentius
          3. Synaxarion on Yared
          4. Glory of the Kings (Kǝbrä Nägäśt)
          5. Miracles of Mary
          6. Zär’a Yaʿəqob, Book of the Trinity
          7. Prayer Amulet: MS Duke Ethiopic 15

REVIEWS
“Here is a really excellent and most welcome volume: it aims to provide ‘a series of windows’ into the literatures of the various languages of the Christian Middle East. For each language, well-chosen excerpts, ranging from four to nine in number, are introduced and translated, accompanied by helpful bibliographical guidance in each case for readers who wish to explore further. The book provides both the general reader and scholars in related areas with a wonderful gateway into little-known areas of early Christian literature.”
— Sebastian Brock, University of Oxford

“Scholars and students have rarely had easy access to primary sources across the array of continents, languages, and cultures where ancient Christians forged their places. This volume responds to that need. Concise and efficient, it offers a rich assortment of texts from an often-unfamiliar variety of language traditions. Demonstrating fundamental commonalities as well as distinctive traits for each, this volume is a marvelously rich entry into global Christianity over its first millennium and more, far to the east of Europe’s shores.”
— Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Brown University

“Providing short introductions to the various Eastern churches alongside fresh translations of some of their most important texts, this ‘dream team’ of contributors has created the first truly accessible entryway into the diverse traditions associated with Eastern Christianity. Thanks to their efforts, there is no longer any excuse for the history of Christianity to be taught as the history simply of Western Christianity. For anyone interested in understanding Christianity as a global religion—whether professor, graduate student, seminarian, undergraduate, or practitioner—Eastern Christianity is nothing short of required reading.”
— Michael Philip Penn, Stanford University

Sophene Books and the Dawn of a New Era for Classical and Medieval Armenian Literature

A wonderful new publishing initiative by Sophene Books now makes classical and medieval Armenian texts available in dual language editions, with Classical Armenian and English on facing pages. Some of the texts available include Yeghishe’s History of Vardan and the Armenian War, Matthew of Edessa’s Chronicle, Sebeos’ History, and many others.

The Zohrab Information Center’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Director, Dr. Jesse S. Arlen, wrote an article for the Armenian Mirror-Spectator on the importance of this new series for all interested in Classical Armenian and its literary treasure: Sophene Books and the Dawn of a New Era for Classical and Medieval Armenian Literature

Zohrab Center Now Open to Visitors (by Appointment) & Recordings of Vemkar/ZIC Classical Armenian Series

We are pleased to announce that the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center is now open to visitors (by appointment only)!

After nearly a year and a half of the research library being closed, we are eager to welcome back scholars, researchers, and any others interested in making use of the vast collection of materials.

To schedule a time to visit, please contact the director, Dr. Jesse Arlen, at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or call 212-686-0710 (ext. 126).

We are also pleased to announce that recordings for the Vemkar/Zohrab Classical Armenian Series “Christ as Hope” are available to watch on YouTube.

Recent sessions include:

Hymns for the Feast of the Assumption with Fr. Nigoghos Aznavourian

Ephrem the Syrian’s Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron with Julia Hintlian

“On Prayer” by Evagrius of Pontus (or Nilus of Ancyra) with Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan

Sargis Shnorhali’s Exegesis of 1 Peter 3:15 with Ani Shahinian

Canon of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross with Dn. Ezras Tellalian

Classical Armenian with Fr. Ghevond Ajamian

The previous two sessions of the Vemkar/Zohrab Classical Armenian Series “Christ as Hope” are available to stream on YouTube. They were both led by Fr. Ghevond Ajamian of St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Dallas, TX.

The July 21st session featured Gregory of Tatev’s “Sermon on Hope (Գրիգոր Տաթեւացւոյ քարոզ վասն յուսոյ).

The July 28th session looked at funeral prayers from the Book of Rituals (Մաշտոց / Ծիսարան), comparing those said for an adult with those said for a child.

The next session, on August 4th, will be led by Fr. Nigoghos Aznavourian and will focus on a sharakan (hymn) for the Feast of the Assumption.

To register for it on Zoom, and for all future sessions in the series, please visit: https://vemkar.us/modules/christ-as-hope/live-sessions/#classical-armenian

YouTube Recording of the First Session from the Vemkar/Zohrab Classical Armenian Series “Christ as Hope”

The recording for the First Session of the Vemkar/Zohrab Classical Armenian Series “Christ as Hope” is available to stream on the Zohrab Information Center’s YouTube channel. Subscribe to the channel to be notified when future videos in the series are posted.

In the first session, Jesse Arlen, Interim Director of ZIC, presented Gregory of Narek’s “Ode for the Ascension” (Տաղ Համբարձման ի Գրիգոր Նարեկացւոյն).

After the presentation, participants engaged in 20–30 minutes of discussion.

The sessions will continue each Wednesday evening through September 1st at 7:00pm ET. Register in advance for the Zoom sessions here. No knowledge of Classical Armenian is required.

Future sessions will be led by Fr. Ghevond Ajamian, Fr. Nigoghos Aznavourian, Julia Hintlian, Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan, Ani Shahinian, and Dn. Ezras Tellalian.

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”

Imagining a Christian Armenian Nation. Lecture by Prof. Robin Darling Young. Thursday, March 1, 2018.

2018-3 RobinKings.001(NOTE: AN EARLIER VERSION OF THIS POST CONTAINED GAVE THE WRONG DATE FOR THIS LECTURE. THE EVENT WILL TAKE PLACE ON THURSDAY, MARCH 1 2018).

Robin Darling Young, Associate Professor of Theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC will speak at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, March 1 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

[CLICK HERE to download a full schedule of the Zohrab Center’s Spring 2018 enrichment events]

The specialist in early Christian history and thought will present a lecture entitled, A Righteous King for Armenia: The Early Historians and their Political Theology.

When Armenia became Christian, its leaders — and later, its writers — had to rethink their country’s politics.  Professor Darling Young will explore how the earliest Armenian historians adapted biblical interpretation and political ideas to describe and measure their own rulers and imagine the first Christian nation.

young-robin
Dr. Robin Darling Young is a theologian specializing in early Christian thought, including Armenian and Syriac Christiantiies.

An accomplished interpreter and historian of early Christianity, Robin Darling Young has published widely on topics in the history of early Christianity and its thought, including the areas of scriptural interpretation, the history of asceticism and monastic thought, and the Christian cultures of ancient Syria and Armenia.

In 2015 she hosted a symposium at Catholic University entitled, From Victims to Victors: The New Armenian Saints of 1915which brought together Armenian, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox scholars to discuss the significance and ramifications of the canonization of2018-3 RobinKings.001 the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide. She has also lectured at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary.

The lecture is free and open to the public. CLICK HERE for a color brochure. For further information contact the Zohrab Information Center at(212) 686-0710 or zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org.

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.