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

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”

Jerusalem 1000-1400 Every People Under Heaven. Meet the Curators

img_3470Meet the co-curators of the current landmark exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled, Jerusalem 1000-1400 Every People Under Heaven this Wednesday evening at 7PM in Vartan Hall at the Armenian Diocese in New York.

Drs. Melanie Holcomb and Barbara Drake Boehm, co-curators of the exhibition, will survey the works on display and discuss the importance of this period in the history of Jerusalem and its diverse communities.

The exhibit features several priceless Armenian works, some of which have never before been seen outside the walls of the Holy City.

The continuous presence of Armenian monks, artists, and scholars since as early as the fourth century at least is well known and documented. Their preoccupation with the city, along with that of multiple competitive and complementary religious and cultural traditions gave rise to one of the most creative periods in its history. The Met exhibition is the first to unravel the various cultural traditions and aesthetic strands that enriched and enlivened the medieval city.

2016-11-jerusalemeverypeople-001“Even if the number of Armenian artworks is not many, their quality and beauty are exquisite,” said Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Director of the Zohrab Center. “And in any case, the prominent status of Armenians in Jerusalem at this time is evident throughout the exhibit, from the very first object,” he added.

The conversation with the c0-curators is free and open to the public. A reception will follow. Download a full-color flyer here.

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Senior Curator for The Met Cloisters, is co-curator of the exhibitions Jerusalem in the Middle Ages (2016), The Game of Kings (2011–12),Prague: The Crown of Bohemia (2005), and Enamels of Limoges (1996), and curator ofMedieval Jewish Art in Context (2011–12). She recently contributed to the exhibitions L’Art du Jeu (2012–13) (Musée de Cluny, Paris) and Treasures of Heaven (2010–11) (Cleveland, Baltimore, London). A graduate of Wellesley College, Dr. Boehm directs the Curatorial Studies program, administered with the Institute of Fine Arts, from which she received her PhD.

Melanie Holcomb is a specialist in the luxury arts of the middle ages, from treasure hoards to illuminated manuscripts. She is an alumna of Smith College and earned her PhD from the University of Michigan. Holcomb has a particular interest in travel, trade, and other means of cultural exchange among medieval patrons and artists. Her current research is focused on the art and history of the Holy Land

3 Weeks – 3 Great Zohrab Events

Mark your calendars, friends of the Zohrab Center. The next three weeks will feature a series of three exciting enrichment events.

2016-11-voyagefilm-001THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 3 • 7PM

ZIC Goes to the MoviesLe Voyage en Arménie (Journey to Armenia) directed by Robert Guediguian. French with English subtitles. Writer, translator, journalist and filmmaker Christopher Atamian will introduce this award-winning film about a man who flees to his native Armenia after being diagnosed with a serious illness. His daughter sets out after him as he seeks to recover his cherished homeland in a country that has changed dramatically since he left it.

Starring Ariane Ascaride, Gérard Meylan, Serge Avédikian, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, and Jalil Lespert. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FLYER.

2016-11-jerusalemeverypeople-001WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 9 • 7PM

Meet the co-curators of the current exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art: Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven. Over 200 works of art from Jerusalem illustrate how the Holy City played a key role in shaping the art of the period from 1000-1400. The Armenians’ presence and creative activity in Jerusalem since ancient times are on full display from the very first work in the exhibit, which features several priceless Armenian treasures never before seen outside the walls of the Armenian Quarter.

Drs. Melanie Holcomb and Barbara Drake Boehm, co-curators of the exhibition, will survey the works on display and discuss the importance of this period in the history of Jerusalem and its diverse communities. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FLYER.

2016-11-poetryevening-001THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 17 • 7PM

An Evening of Poetry. American-Armenian poets Dana Walrath, Shahé Mankerian and Lola Koundakjian will read from their works in English and Armenian.

DANA WALRATH was a 2012-2013 Fulbright Scholar in Armenia, where she completed her first book, Like Water on Stone, a verse novel about the Armenian Genocide, loosely based on the story her grandmother. LOLA KOUNDAKJIAN reads regularly at the Zohrab Center. She has read her works internationally and published them in several translations. She is the founder of the Armenian Poetry Project. SHAHÉ MANKERIAN is co-director of the Los Angeles Writing Project and an award-winning educator. He was the first place winner of the 2012 “Black and White” anthology series from Outsider Press. His poems have been published in numerous literary magazines.

Copies of the poets’ recent books will be available for sale. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FLYER.

All events take place at the Diocese of the Armenian Church, 630 2nd Avenue, New York and begin at 7PM. All are welcome. Admission to the Evening of Poetry is $5. Students with ID are free. All other events are free and open to all. A reception and conversation follows each event.

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

 

The Young Turk Revolution of 1908: Space, Symbolism and Language. Lecture by Dr. Bedross Der Matossian. May 5

2016-4 MatossianYoungTurks.001Dr. Bedross Der Matossian, Associate Professor of Modern Middle East History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will present a lecture at the Zohrab Information Center entitled, The Political Culture of the Young Turk Revolution of 1908: Space Symbolism, and Language on Thursday, May 5, 2106 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

The Young Turk Revolution of July 24, 1908 brought jubilation to Istanbul and other cities across the Ottoman Empire. Turks and other ethnic groups shared in the festivities that heralded the demise of the old regime and the inauguration of what was to have been a new and hopeful era. To build consensus among the various ethnic groups, the Young Turks introduced new social and political definitions, new symbols, and new rituals.

Professor Der Matossian will analyze the revolutionary rituals of these festivities from the perspective of space, symbolism and language as he explores the Young Turks’ attempts to create a new civil religion that would provide solidarity and emphasize oneness rather than distinction.

Bedross Der MatossianBorn and raised in Jerusalem, Dr. Der Matossian is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he began his graduate studies. He completed his PhD in Middle East History at Columbia University in 2008. His areas of interest include ethnic politics in the Middle East, inter-ethnic violence in the Ottoman Empire, Palestinian history, and the history of the Armenian Genocide.

He has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago. The recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, he is the author of dozens of published articles and digital projects. His book, Shattered Dreams of Revolution: From Liberty to Violence in the Late Ottoman Empirewas published by Stanford University Press in 2014.

The lecture is free and open to the public. A reception will follow. For further information contact the Zohrab Information Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

 

Students from St. Peter’s University Visit ZIC

Theology students from St. Peter's University, Jersey City, NJ with Prof. Susan Graham, Associate Professor of Theology on "pilgrimage" at the Zohrab Center.
Theology students from St. Peter’s University, Jersey City, NJ with Prof. Susan Graham, Associate Professor of Theology on “pilgrimage” at the Zohrab Center.

Six students from St. Peter’s University in Jersey City, NJ visited the Zohrab Center yesterday as part of the requirements for a theology course.

The students were accompanied by their teacher, Dr. Susan Graham, Associate Professor of Theology at St. Peter’s. Dr. Graham’s course, entitled Pilgrimage in the City, explores the phenomenon of pilgrimage—travel undertaken to a meaningful destination for religious or sacred purposes—in Christian history, theology and spirituality. The students’ visit to the Zohrab Center and St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral qualified as a pilgrimage destination in its own right, but also afforded the “pilgrims” the opportunity to deepen their appreciation for the unique role of pilgrimage in the history and spirituality of the Armenian Church.

ZIC Director Fr. Daniel Findikyan gave a brief survey of the centrality of Jerusalem and the Holy Land as a cherished destination for Armenian pilgrims since at least the fourth century. He also spoke about the revival of pilgrimage, especially among young people, to sacred shrines within the Republic of Armenia today.

Treasures from the ZIC: Childhood Marks of Future Renown

Occasional posts spotlighting extraordinary items from the Zohrab Information Center’s holdings and collections.

Պատմութիւն Երուսաղէմի History of Jerusalem by Dikran Savalaniants, published in Jerusalem in 1931.
Պատմութիւն Երուսաղէմի History of Jerusalem by Dikran Savalaniants, published in Jerusalem in 1931.

There are always plenty of books, journals, newspapers and other materials waiting to be sorted through and catalogued in the Zohrab Information Center. The work can be tedious but we stumble upon treasures every day.

While rummaging through a back room recently, I happened upon a hefty, beautifully leather-bound book that caught my eye. Entitled Պատմութիւն Երուսաղէմի [History of Jerusalem], it was written in Classical Armenian by a certain Dikran Savalaniants, translated into Modern Armenian by Bishop Mesrob Nshanian, and published by the Saints James Press of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1931.

Paging through the nearly 1400-page work, I discovered a very serious study of the ancient Armenian presence in Jerusalem, packed with detailed documentation concerning Armenian property holdings, and Armenian relations with the changing overlords of Jerusalem across the ages. The book even includes a register of Armenian inscriptions found all over Jerusalem and the Holy Land, dating back to the first millennium.

So gathering dust on a low-lying shelf was a world-class historical study in a language unknown to historians, authored by an obscure intellectual, translated by a forgotten Armenian bishop in a dusty third-world monastery. A precious inheritance in search of its rightful heirs.

Tork3
Avedis Manoogian’s
Jerusalem
Seminary

Thumbing back to the title page I found a message handwritten by a past owner of the book. Scrawled in a young child’s clumsy script in bright red ink in the upper right corner I read: Աւետիս Մանուկեան [Avedis Manoogian]. On the very next page, as if to remove anyone’s doubt as to the owner of the precious book, the boy had inscribed again: Աւետիս Մանուկեանի. Երուսաղէմ. Ժառ. վարժ. [Avedis Manoogian’s. Jerusalem. Seminary.]

Who was this precocious, young seminarian? None other than the future Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, whose baptismal name was Avedis. Born in 1919, Manoogian would have been barely 12 years old when Savalaniants’ landmark book was published just footsteps from the Seminary classroom where the future Archbishop would have recently arrived. Just 8 years later, at the tender age of 20, Manoogian would be ordained a priest and abegha [monk] of the Armenian Patriarchate, being renamed Torkom after his teacher, the great Patriarch Torkom Koushagian.

The tender seeds of greatness are all around us.

Archbishop Manoogian passed away in late 2012 following a long and distinguished ministry as pastor and later Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, and capped by his tenure as Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem. A memorial service and celebratory tribute for the Patriarch will be held at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in New York on Sunday, February 9, 2013. All are warmly invited to attend. For further information and promotional materials visit the website of the Eastern Diocese.

–Fr. Daniel Findikyan

Scholar Uncovers Letters of Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan in Zohrab Collection

Professor Roberta Ervine peruses the archives of Ms. Srpouhie Essefian in the Zohrab Center.
Professor Roberta Ervine peruses the archives of Ms. Srpouhie Essefian in the Zohrab Center.

One of the many innocuous, white boxes in a back room of the Zohrab Center holds dozens of personal letters from the 1950’s and 1960’s, correspondence between the late Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan and Srpouhie-Anna Essefian. The letters were recently uncovered by Dr. Roberta Ervine, Professor of Armenian Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, who published a volume containing texts and English translations of Nersoyan’s letters that the former Jerusalem Patriarch-elect and Primate of the Eastern Diocese bequeathed to the Seminary upon his death in 1991.

2013-03 TANLetterMs. Essefian, who worked for twenty-two years in the United States Information Agency in Washington, DC, was active not only in St. Mary Armenian Church there, but also in the New York area. She served for a number of years in the Armenian Educational League in Brooklyn and was active in the mid-twentieth century Armenian life of New York City. In later years she took a degree in history at Georgetown University, writing a dissertation, entitled, Medieval Monarchies of Armenia. Her archives, containing several dozen letters, photographs, personal memorabilia, newspaper clippings, research notes and a diary, are housed in the Zohrab Center. The documents include a personal letter from His Holiness Vazken I, the late Catholicos of All Armenians; and a personal telegram from President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The correspondence between Ms. Essefian and Nersoyan, whom she had first met in the 30’s, span a period when the Archbishop was residing in Jerusalem and later in New York City. The congenial letters concern the affairs of the Armenian community in Washington DC and specific issues connected with Ms. Essefian’s ongoing armenological studies and research. Most interesting are allusions in the Archbishop’s letters to the situation of the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem, which gravely concerned him.

Dr. Ervine is continuing her study of these and other letters of the late Archbishop, which she plans to publish in a second volume of his writings.

Dozens of other archival collections in the Zohrab Center await exploration and scholarly study.