Saluting a “Soldier of the Light” March 24 at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary

1767_001The Zohrab Information Center and St. Nersess Seminary will co-sponsor a day-long symposium dedicated to the life and vision of His Holiness Catholicos Karekin Hovsepian, a true titan among the Armenian people in modern times.

The symposium is titled, Soldier of the Light: The Aspirations of Catholicos Karekin Hovsepian.” It marks the 150th anniversary of Hovsepian’s birth and the centennial of the Battle of Sardarabad (in which he fought). It will take place on Saturday, March 24, at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, 486 Bedford Road, Armonk, NY.

Speakers include Dr. Abraham Terian, Dr. Roberta Ervine, Dr. Christine Maranci, Rev. Fr. Karekin Kasparian, and Mr. Nubar Kupelian. V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Director of the Zohrab Center and Professor at St. Nersess Seminary, will moderate. Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian will preside.

A Man of Staggering Accomplishments Abounding in Grace 

HovsepiantsBefore being elected Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Catholicos Karekin Hovsepian (1867-1952) served as Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America during the turbulent years following the assassination of Archbishop Ghevont Tourian in New York in 1933. Born in Artsakh, Armenia, he earned graduate degrees from the best universities in Europe, encouraged the Armenian troops on the front lines of the Battle of Sardarabad, chaired the Department of Archaeology and Art History at Yerevan State University, led pioneering archaeological expeditions in western Armenia, published learned books on the art of medieval Armenian manuscript illumination, and previously obscure chapters in Armenian history, and inspired countless people through his preaching and teaching. Through it all Hovsepian tirelessly summoned his flock to rise up from pettiness and division, and to embrace the dignity, richness, and eternal values of Christian life as embodied in Armenian art, culture and history and above all, in the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Church.

On this occasion a volume of selected essays and sermons by the Catholicos, translated for the first time into English by Dr. Ervine and Fr. Findikyan, has been published. Those present for the symposium will receive a complimentary copy of Toward Light and Life: Reflections of Catholicos Karekin Hovsepian.

The March 24 conference starts at 10:30 a.m. (10 a.m. check-in) and concludes at 4 p.m., with a light lunch served at midday. The symposium and lunch are free and open to all interested.

Please contact St. Nersess Seminary at (914) 273-0200 to reserve your seat. SPACE IS LIMITED.

The event has is generously underwritten by Mr. and Mrs. Berge and Vera Setrakian.

Purity of the Heart

Երանի այնոցիկ, որ սուրբ են սրտիւք, զի նոքա զԱստուած տեսցեն։
“Blessed are they who are pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
—Matthew 5:8

This sermon was delivered by Catholicos Garegin Hovsepiants, former Primate of the Armenian Diocese of America, who was possessed of a brilliant mind, heroic love for his people and culture, and sweeping Christian conviction. The sermon was originally published in Ararat, the official journal of the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, in 1907 and reprinted in his collection of sermons, Դէպի լոյս եւ կեանք [Toward Light and Life]. The Armenian the word “pure” is սուրբ / soorp, which can also be translated “holy,” “pure,” “clean,” “saint,” or “saintly.”

2015-04 DewdropSunThe heart is mankind’s primal organ. Before anything else it is the heart that takes shape in the mother’s womb and it is the heart that outlives all other organs. When the heart dies, the person dies. The entire body dies.

But the Lord is not speaking about this physical organ but rather the spiritual organ that is as significant for moral life as the heart is for physical life. By “heart” Christ understands our inner world, our identity, our personality in its entirety. He is speaking about our three spiritual faculties: mind, emotion and will; that which is relative, which gives color and shape to our personality.

However as in ancient times, likewise today, the concept of “heart” is also somehow a synonym for emotion. It is not at all coincidental that our Lord gives so much importance to its sanctity, considering its purity to be a condition for blessedness and the ability to see God. None of our spiritual faculties plays such a great role in religious and moral issues as the “heart” or emotions. Reason endows us with principles and distinguishes the good from the bad, but this is still not enough for us to turn its suggestions into work or life.

Untainted Love

Similarly, the exercise of the will is a support for us but it becomes powerful and effective only when it receives content and impetus from our inner feelings and passion. It is emotion that compels a person toward self-sacrifice and moral heroism, not cold reason. During war the hero is the soldier who sacrifices himself, driven by love for the liberation of his homeland, ignoring the objections of mind and reason. All of the  astounding achievements in history and life that are worthy of admiration can be explained as having been motivated by untainted love and emotion. Any and every virtue that we consider—bravery, patriotism, love for one’s parents, philanthropy—all of them share one and the same source: a pure heart or emotion.

Consider the Source

But emotion can also make a person tumble into the abyss if its source is murky or self-absorbed. Greed, selfishness, hatred, conceit and every sort of repulsive obsession share the same source as the virtues. It is a characteristic of the human spirit that evil and good, noble and base, the shameful sentiments and crude egotism all have a place in our hearts alongside self-sacrifice and honorable inclinations. Sometimes one dominates in our life, sometimes the other.

Like a true and compassionate physician, Jesus wishes to eradicate evil by pointing out the real cause of moral infirmities. Our entire way of life, our speech, our inclinations, and our actions are all merely the expression or instrument of our inner ways. If our inner ways or emotions are pure, then their corresponding actions will inevitably be pure. If the source is pure, the water flowing from it will be pure. Continue reading “Purity of the Heart”

The Good News of the Resurrection

The angel at Jesus' tomb proclaims to the holy women "He is not here. He has risen." Armenian miniature from Isfahan, Iran, dated 1610.
The angel at Jesus’ tomb proclaims to the holy women “He is not here. He has risen.” Armenian miniature from Isfahan, Iran, dated 1610.

The following Easter sermon was delivered and published in New York in 1938 by then Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America and later Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, Garegin Hovespiants. A scholar, soldier, and man of intense Christian commitment, he escaped the rubble of the Genocide to become one of the great Armenian Church leaders of recent centuries. In this sermon, the Archbishop reveals the relevance of Christ’s Resurrection for the modern, scientific age.

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He has risen! (Luke 23:5)

Who will roll away the huge stone, the boulder that was placed in front of the tomb? This was the discussion among the women. Taking with them sweet incense and oil, they had come to pay their last respects to the earthly remains of the great Teacher. Just yesterday he was alive, today he was but a breathless corpse, and tomorrow he would forever disappear from their view as a bit of decay and destruction. This final noble deed should have been done with heart and soul. Yet the women were frail and weak. So who was going to help them to roll away the huge stone that sealed off the tomb so that they could have access to the cave?

Do Not Weep for Me

But look—the door is open! The stone has been rolled away and they hear a voice: “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here. He has risen.” Amazing. Wasn’t it just three days ago that they had seen him carrying his cross on his shoulders on the road to Golgotha, exhausted, falling to his knees under the weight of his cross? With pain in their hearts, tears in their eyes, sobbing, groaning, they watched the disdainful procession. The last time they had seen the peerless Teacher’s kind eyes looking at them they had heard his heart-rending words, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me. Weep rather for your children” [Luke 23:38]. They had seen from afar his death on the cross, his burial in the cave; his antagonists’ derisive laughter and taunting as they returned from Golgotha now liberated of the rabble-rouser from Nazareth. Even his disciples had scattered. The shepherd had been struck like his sheep. If only he were still alive…

Poor, naïve but holy women. They did not yet know that that very day in history a miracle was taking place by God’s will. New paths to salvation were opening before them to destroy death by means of death, yes, to cripple it. Their eyes would open, their earthly eyes, to see and to understand that it is not possible to destroy the truth by means of falsehood and deception. Jesus’ message about the redemptive and great power of faith would become clear. In the face of that faith mountains moved, boulders were rolled away, rough roads were made smooth, dead bodies were coming to life. It was necessary die, to “die daily” [1Corinthians 15:31] in the name of God, for one’s brother, for one’s homeland in order to receive and to protect eternal values. And there was the key to open the otherwise locked gates to life.

The Power to Subdue the World

The primitive force of Christianity lay there. The early Christians believed that Christ rose, he was alive in the midst of those gathered in his name. He was in their lives and in their hearts. Great moral strength was to be found in the idea of resurrection and in their faith in it. The power to subdue the world consisted in external weakness, poverty, distress. “Henceforth it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me” [Galatians 2:20].

But the good news announced by the angels is also for us, who thrive in the theoretical and practical science and in the aesthetics of the twentieth century.

Continue reading “The Good News of the Resurrection”