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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Holy Week in the Armenian Church. New Book to be Released on Thursday, March 19

A new book by V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Director of the Zohrab Information Center, will be released at a book presentation and reception on Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York. #AvakShapat

2015-03_AvakShapatCoverThe book is entitled, Աւագ Շաբաթ Avak Shapat: A Guide to the Holy Week Services of the Armenian Church. The book is being published by the Zohrab Information Center. Conceived as a textbook for clergy, seminarians, deacons, choir members and others charged with conducting the Holy Week services, the guide will be of use to anyone interested in the worship of the Armenian Church, from faithful practitioners to students and scholars of other traditions.

The liturgical tradition of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church is one of the oldest and most magnificent in all of Christendom. The center of gravity of the Armenian Church’s liturgical year is undoubtedly Holy Week, the eight days preceding Easter. At no other time of the year is there such a concentration of poignant, ritually lavish, and theologically rich services in such a short period of time.

Yet with that exuberance comes complexity. The instructions for conducting these services are found in two books published centuries ago in Classical Armenian, which describe the services in a highly technical, abbreviated manner. As a result, conducting the Holy Week ceremonies properly, prayerfully and beautifully can be a challenge even for experienced clergy.

2015-03 FDFWith the meticulous eye of a teacher and scholar of Christian liturgy, Fr. Findikyan guides the reader through each Holy Week service, presenting the sequence of prayers, hymns, Scripture readings and rituals, and describing them in detail. The book also contains valuable glossaries of liturgical terms in Armenian and English, as well as separate indexes of liturgical and biblical references. As such, the book serves as a useful reference work on the worship tradition of the Armenian Church as a whole.

The March 19 presentation will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd Avenue, New York. As he presents his book, Fr. Findikyan will lead a worshipper’s tour through the sequence and meaning of Holy Week in the Armenian Church, emphasizing the meaning of Jesus’ final days for us today. At the conclusion of his talk, copies of the new book will be available for sale.

The presentation is free and open to the public. A light Lenten meal will be served beginning at 6:30PM. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

2015-03 AvakShapatFlyer.001CLICK HERE to download a color flyer.

V. Rev. Fr. (Michael) Daniel Findikyan is a priest and vartabed of the Armenian Church. He has served as Director of the ZIC for two years. He is also Professor of Liturgical Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, and Visiting Professor of Liturgical Studies at the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana). He is an internationally renowned authority on the theology and history of the worship tradition of the Armenian Church and of other eastern churches, and has published widely in this area. Read more about Fr. Daniel’s education, teaching, ministry and publications.

For more information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

#AvakShapat

Learn! Grow! Inspire! 2015 Spring Lecture Series

ZZohrab.001The 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 info@zohrabcenter.org 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.

Drawing the World Close on Holy Friday

The following meditation on Jesus’ crucifixion is by Catholicos Khrimian Hayrig. It has been translated from his book Յիսուսի վերջին շաբաթ. Խաչի ճառ [Jesus’ Last Week: The Discourse on the Cross], published in Constantinople in 1894.

Lord, now you have been lifted up. You said, “When I am lifted up I will draw the whole world to myself” [John 12:32].

2014-04 Crucifixion
“When I am lifted up I will draw the whole world to myself.” [John 12:32 Armenian Version]
Lord, I am startled by that inconceivable, impossible miracle. I don’t know how you intend to draw everyone to yourself. Your hands are tied. Your feet are nailed. In a little while you will die and be powerless, and people will carry you to the tomb thinking that you are no different than the dead of this world. Is it really possible for you to draw the world to yourself from the Cross and the Tomb?

Yet I know and I understand, Jesus. What you are saying is clear and profound. Your all-reaching, all-powerful hand is alive and powerful even in death. And you will not draw humanity to yourself by force of the sword like the rulers who reign over this world.

Instead, you will draw them close by your infinite love. By the self-sacrifice of the Cross you will draw them close. By your blameless blood you will draw them close. By your gentle yoke you will draw them close. By your boundless forgiveness you will draw them close. By the liberal proclamation of your Good News you will draw them close.

From this world you will draw living believers close. You will go down to the tomb and from the earth you will draw the dead close. Going farther to the inner prison you will draw the captive spirits close. From the temples of idolatry you will draw the unbelievers close.

And you will deliver them all to the new praetorium, your church, gathering every single person into one flock, bringing them all together under your staff, O Good Shepherd!