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”

Hidden Meanings of the Armenian Church’s Feasts and Fasts. Fr. Daniel Findikyan will Uncover Them on February 13.

The Armenian Church calendar is filled with mysteries and treasures.
The Armenian Church calendar is filled with mysteries and treasures.

RARE IS THE ARMENIAN who has never heard of Christmas or Easter.

But what about the Church’s less popular festivities? The Presentation of the Lord to the Temple (Տեառնընդառաջ / Dyaruntarach / Trndes), Ascension (Համբարձում / Hampartsoom), The Apparition of the Holy Cross (Երեւումն սրբոյ խաչին / Yerevoomn Srpo Khacheen), the Transfiguration of Christ (Պայծառակերպութիւն / Baydzaragerbootyoon / Vartavar), Lazarus Saturday (Ղազարու յարութիւնն / Ghazaroo Harootyoonun)?

Not to mention a whole series of other more obscure commemorations—The Ark of the Covenant (Տապանակն / Dabanagn), the Dedication of the Holy Cross (Նաւակատիք սրբոյ խաչին / Navagadeek Srpo Khacheen), the Commemoration of the Maccabees, New Sunday (Նոր կիրակի / Nor Geeragee)…

What Do They Mean?

What in the world are these festivities? What motivated the Armenians to set aside these annual holidays? What was their intended function, if any? And most important, do they serve any practical purpose for the betterment of our own lives and humanity today?

Living the Gospel of Christ—Year-by-Year

Fr. Daniel Findikyan is Director of the Zohrab Information Center and Professor of Liturgical Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary.
Fr. Daniel Findikyan is Director of the Zohrab Information Center and Professor of Liturgical Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary.

V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Director of the Zohrab Center and Professor of Liturgical Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary will give an illustrated presentation on Hidden Meanings of the Armenian Church’s Feasts and Fasts at the Zohrab Center in New York on Thursday, February 13 at 7:00PM. The presentation is part of the Eastern Diocese’s “Living the Gospel of Christ” initiative this year.

FDFCalendarFlyer.001“The Armenian Church’s calendar of feasts, fasts and commemorations is among the oldest in Christendom, and also one of the most elaborate,” said Fr. Findikyan. “Like the liturgical year in every Christian tradition, the Armenian Church’s distinctive annual cycle of holy days serves as a perpetual invitation to live and celebrate the Gospel of Christ—day by day and year by year.” He went on, “But to leverage this ancient Christian calendar for spiritual growth requires some guidance.”

Fr. Findikyan will guide his audience in that worthwhile endeavor. The presentation is free and open to the public. A reception will follow.

CLICK HERE to read more about Fr. Findikyan’s education, work and publications.

CLICK HERE to download a flyer. Contact the Zohrab Center for further information: zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.