Archive for the ‘Holy Fathers of the Church’ Category


Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)

Death of St. Sahag Bartev

(September 7, 439)


Sahag Bartev was the tenth Catholicos of the Armenian Church for a period of almost fifty years, with interruptions, but this was not the main reason he was sanctified by the Armenian Church.

He was born on September 29, 348, and was the son of another important Catholicos, Nerses the Great (353-373); his mother belonged to the Mamigonian family. The first Catholicoi were all descendantsSahagBartev of St. Gregory the Illuminator. Some of the Catholicoi had been married and had children before consecrating to religious life; their wives would leave world life afterwards and become nuns.

The future head of the Church was educated in schools in Caesarea, Alexandria, and Constantinople. He knew Greek, Syriac, and Persian. He was elected Catholicos in 387 and worked actively with king Khosrov IV to restore the unity of Greater Armenia, which had divided between the Persian and Byzantine empires in the same year. After the dethronement and exile of Khosrov III (388) by the Persian king, Sahag I was also deprived of the patriarchal throne in 389. The efforts of the next king, Vramshabouh (388-414), who was Khosrov’s brother, made it possible to restore the Catholicos in his position.

Sahag Bartev had a fundamental role, together with Vramshabouh, in supporting the work of St. Mesrob Mashdots that led to the invention of the Armenian alphabet at the beginning of the fifth century, as well as to the creation of a school network to teach the new alphabet and the cultural work that created the Golden Age of Armenian literature in that century.

Historian Ghazar Barpetsi wrote that Mesrob Mashdots and the other translators, whenever needed to make any phonetic comparisons between the Armenian and Greek languages, took their questions to Sahag I, because he had received a classical education and had a comprehensive knowledge of phonetics and rhetorical commentary, and was also well versed in philosophy.

Sahag I worked to arrange and organize the Armenian calendar of religious festivities. He wrote many rules related to the ecclesiastic and secular classes, the officials, marriage, and other issues. He composed various liturgical hymns and prayers, and he played a significant role in the translation of the Bible, which was completed in 435.

The Catholicos wrote polemical letters against various sects, as well as letters to the Byzantine emperor Thedosius II, the Patriarch Proclus of Constantinople, bishops, and a Byzantine governor. In these letters, the Catholicos, together with Mashdots, presented the orthodox position of the Armenian Church after the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431). The letter to Proclus, in particular, was read at the Council of Constantinople (553), after the letter of Cyril of Alexandria, as proof of orthodoxy.

Sahag Bartev passed away on September 7, 439, in the village of Pelrots, in the province of Pagrevant, and was buried in the city of Ashtishat, in the region of Daron. With his death the line of St. Gregory the Illuminator came to an end.

The Armenian Church remembers Sahag Bartev’s memory twice a year. The first on the Saturday eight days before the Great Carnival (Paregentan), between January 24 and February 28, and the second on the Thursday following the fourth Sunday of Pentecost (between June 1 and July 16), when he is remembered along with Mesrob Mashdots as the Holy Translators.


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This Saturday, February 23, the Armenian Church commemorates St. Cyril (315-386) of Jerusalem, a doctor of the church. St. Cyril had a pleasant and conciliatory disposition, but he lived at a time when bishops were embroiled in bitter controversies and were quick to condemn any attempts at compromises, even calling such attempts as treason. Sixteen years of his thirty-five years as a bishop were spent in exile. When a famine hit Jerusalem, he sold some of the possessions of the church to raise money for the poor starving people. He was condemned for selling church property and was banished. His best known work that has survived, “The Catechetical Lectures,” is believed to be one of the earliest systematic accounts of Christian theology. The lectures consist of an introductory lecture, followed by eighteen lectures on the Christian faith that were used during Lent for those preparing to be baptized on Easter, and five lectures on the sacraments to be used after Easter. The lectures have been translated into many languages, including English and Armenian, and are noted for their presentation of the Christian faith in a positive light and maintaining a balance between correct belief and holy action.

       Thousands of pilgrimages came to Jerusalem for Holy Week. Cyril instituted the liturgical forms for that week as they were observed in Jerusalem. A detailed account of Holy

Week observances in Jerusalem in the fourth century is available thanks to a woman named Egeria, believed by some to be a nun, who made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and wrote letters describing the liturgical practices.

From the Armenian Church Eastern Prelacy’s Crossroads E-Newsletter

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       This Saturday, June 16, the Armenian Church commemorates Catholicos Nerses the Great and Khat the Bishop. Nerses the Great was the father of Catholicos Sahak I. He succeeded two catholicoi whose reigns were unexceptional, and the people were eager to return to the line of their beloved Gregory the Illuminator. Nerses was a student of St. Basil of Caesarea, one of three great Cappadocian Fathers. Nerses’ pontificate was the beginning of a new era. He brought the church closer in service to the people, rather than to royals and nobles. He convened the Council of Ashdishad that resulted in numerous laws on issues related to marriage, worship, and customs. He built many schools, hospitals, and monasteries. He sent monks to preach the Gospel throughout the country. His bold actions resulted in great displeasure by the royal family and in 373 he was reportedly poisoned by the king. His accomplishments for the spiritual and social well-being of the common people earned him the gratitude of the entire nation and the honorific “Great.” 

       Khat the Bishop worked closely with St. Nerses the Great. Like Nerses he had great passion for social issues, especially helping the poor. Nerses entrusted most of the benevolent work of the church to Khat. He is so closely associated with St. Nerses that the church honors them on the same day.


By the light of unspeakable grace of your divine knowledge you arose on the land of Armenia, merciful heavenly Father; have compassion on us who have sinned. Saint Nerses, pure in soul, from birth you were chosen to inherit the paternal lot of shepherding righteously and lawfully. You adorned the Church with the laws of truth and established good order within it; through his prayers have mercy on us, O Christ.
(Canon to the Holy Patriarch Nerses the Great from the Liturgical Canons of the Armenian Church)

Posted from Eastern Prelacy’s Weekly E-Newsletter

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Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)

St. Nerses Shnorhali, born on June 4, 1102

Every time we sing “Aravod Looso” (Morning of Light) during the morning service at church or “Norahrash bsagavor” (Newly and Marvelously Crowned) at the festivity of Vartanantz, we are singing two of the most inspired sharagans written and musicalized by Nerses Shnorhali. We are also repeating his words when we recite “Havadov Khosdovanim” (In Faith I Confess) during Lent. One of the most beloved saints of the Armenian Church, he was born on June 4, 1102 (some sources say 1098 or 1101). He was a member of the Pahlavuni princely family and the grandson of the noted writer, Grigor Magistros Pahlavuni. Shnorhali (literally “filled with grace”) had been the title of several known members of the Church, but it became synonymous with Nerses after his time.

The fall of the Armenian kingdom of the Pakratunis in 1045 and the destruction of the capital Ani by the Seljukid Turks in 1064 had forced the Holy See of the Armenian Church to move from the capital in 1081. After several changes of place, Grigor III had settled the see in the fortress of Hromgla (Hrom-Gla, “Roman Fortress”), on the banks of the Euphrates River, very close to the border of the Armenian state of Cilicia, in 1149 (it remained there until 1292). His brother Nerses, whom he had ordained at the age of 18 and who was consecrated a bishop at the age of thirty, was also known as Nerses Glayetsi. He was the right hand of Krigor III during his long reign (1113-1166) and succeeded him as Catholicos Nerses IV until his death in 1173.

A prolific writer and theologian, some of Shnorhali’s best known works are his Tught Unthanragan (General Epistle), a message of guidance in the Christian faith for the Armenian people, and his poem Hisus Vorti (Jesus the Son). Both have been translated into English. Many of his songs and hymns were incorporated into the regular service of the Armenian Church. His pioneering spirit of ecumenism and his leadership have been historically recognized.

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       This Saturday, March 10, the Armenian Church celebrates the lives of the following four saints: 

       St. John, Patriarch of Jerusalem, succeeded St. Cyril as Patriarch of Jerusalem (386-417). He grew up with the monks at the monastery of Nitria (Egypt) where he learned about Christianity and the teachings of Origen. He was noted for his keen intellect and is said to have delivered inspiring and eloquent sermons. 

       Hovhan Odznetsi (St. John of Odzoon) was catholicos from 717 to 728, which was a period when Armenia was under Arab rule. He defended Armenians from forced conversion and was successful in securing the right of worship for Armenian Christians. He was also successful in securing tax-exempt status for the church. He was highly admired and respected. 

       Hovhan Vorodnetsi (St. John of Orodni) was born in 1315. Following his ordination he served at the monasteries of Klatzor and Datev. He dedicated most of his efforts toward the preservation of the orthodox faith, and against the attempt to merge the Armenian Church with the Latin Church. He wrote commentaries on the Gospel of John and the epistles of St. Paul. 

       Krikor Datevatsi (St. Gregory of Datev), born in 1346 in the province of Vayots Tsor, is perhaps the best known of the four. He was a student of John of Orodni and a great defender of the character of the Armenian Church. He was a brilliant scholar; he knew Latin fluently and had studied the Greek philosophers extensively. He is regarded to be the greatest teacher of the Armenian Church. His most famous work is the Book of Questions (Kirk Hartsmants), which examines questions of faith. He is also credited with setting a high standard for preaching. He is often referred to as “the second Gregory the Illuminator.” 


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       This Saturday, October 29, the Armenian Church commemorates and remembers St. John Chrysostom (Hovhan Vosgeperan), a notable Christian bishop and preacher in Syria and Constantinople. He is famous for his eloquence—Chrysostom means “golden mouth.” The Orthodox Church honors him as a saint and one of the “three holy hierarchs” (along with Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian). He is also recognized and honored by the Catholic Church and the Church of England.

       John converted to Christianity in 368 when he was barely 21 years old. He renounced a large inheritance and promising legal career and went to live in a mountain cave where he studied the Bible. He was later ordained a priest and soon his sermons were attracting huge audiences. He challenged wealthy Christians, whose generosity was confined to donating precious objects for display in churches. “The gift of a chalice may be extravagant in its generosity,” he said, “but a gift to the poor is an expression of love.”

       His outspoken criticism was not appreciated by the hierarchy and he was sent into exile at various times. He had a profound influence on the doctrines and theology of the Armenian Church because he spent the final years of his exile in Armenia. Some of his important works have survived only in Armenian manuscripts.


Muse of the deep and ineffable Divine Mysteries.
Wise Prefect and Great Doctor of the world,
Like the rock of the Church, you were faithful to the key to heaven.
From the beloved disciple, you received the gospel.
From the Holy Virgin Birthgiver you received your symbol of authority.
O Patriarch John, by the grace of the Holy Spirit you received wisdom.
(An Armenian Church ode dedicated to St. John Chrysostom)

Above article is posted from Eastern Armenian Prelacy’s Crossroads E-Newsletter

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This Saturday, October 8, the Armenian Church commemorates the Feast of the Holy Translators, one of the most beloved feasts. There are, in fact, two such commemorations in our liturgical calendar. One is on the Thursday following the fourth Sunday after Pentecost, which can occur in June or July; the other is on the second Saturday of October.

       The October commemoration focuses on the creation of the Armenian alphabet (406) and on the accomplishments of the Holy Translators. Mesrob Mashdots, the founder of the alphabet, and Catholicos Sahag, together with some of their students, translated the Bible. Schools were opened and the works of world-renowned scholars were translated. Their work gave the Armenian Church a distinct national identity.

       In modern times the entire month of October has been designated as a “Month of Culture.” Armenians throughout the Diaspora and Armenia mark this with cultural events not only in remembrance of the past, but in celebration of modern-day scholars, theologians, writers, and translators.

       Specifically remembered this Saturday along with Mesrob and Sahag, are: Yeghishe, a renowned student of Sahag and Mesrob, who served as secretary to Vartan Mamigonian and who wrote the great history of the Vartanantz wars; Movses of Khoren, another student of Sahag and Mesrob, who is revered as the father of Armenian history; David the Invincible, a student of Movses, received most of his education in Athens, where he was given the title “Invincible” because of his brilliance in philosophy; Gregory of Nareg, who is considered the greatest poet of the Armenian nation and its first and greatest mystic; and Nerses Shnorhali, a great writer, musician, theologian, and ecumenist.

       The holy translators, like stewards, were interpreters of the divine Scriptures by inventing letters by means of which are preserved on earth as living words for the shepherd flock of the New Israel, praise God with a sweet sounding hymn.

       They looked on the greatness of earthly glory as on darkness and having put their hope in the immortal bridegroom they were made worthy of the kingdom of heaven; praise God with a sweet-sounding song.

       By the power of the Father’s wisdom the uncreated existing One by means of their translation they made firm the throne of Saint Gregory, praise God with a sweet-sounding song.

       Saint Sahag having dressed in the new word, the holy scriptures, adorned the Armenian churches, praise God with a sweet-sounding song.
Canon to the Holy Translators, from the Liturgical Canons of the Armenian Church

Posted from the Armenian Prelacy’s (Eastern) Crossroads E-Newsletter

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        This Sunday, September 17, the Armenian Church commemorates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Khachverats), which is one of the five Tabernacle Feasts observed by the Armenian Church.

       This holiday is a general celebration of the Holy Cross and is commemorated by most Christian churches on September 14. The Armenian Church celebrates it on the Sunday closest to the 14th.

       The cross, once a means of death for criminals, gradually became the dominant symbol of the Christian world, an object of reverence and worship, and symbol of triumph over death. There are four feasts devoted to the Cross in the Armenian liturgical calendar, with the Exaltation being the most important. The other three are: Apparition of the Holy Cross, Holy Cross of Varak, and Discovery of the Cross.

       The ceremony for the exaltation begins with the decoration of the Cross with sweet basil (rehan), a sign of royalty, and also symbolizing the living cross. After the Bible readings, the officiating priest lifts the Cross and makes the sign of the Cross, and blesses the four corners of the world (Antastan service), and asks the Almighty to grant peace and prosperity to the people of the world.

       The Khachverats ceremony was prepared by Catholicos Sahag Tsoraporetsi (677-703). He also composed the hymn that is sung on this occasion. As with other Tabernacle Feasts, the Exaltation is preceded with a period of fasting (Monday to Friday), and followed by a memorial day (Merelots).

       Name day commemorations this Sunday include: Khatchadour, Khatchig, Khatcherets, Rehan, Khatchkhatoun, Khatchouhi, Khatchperouhi, Khosrov, Khosrovanoush, Khosrovitoukhd.

From Eastern Prelacy’s Crossroad E-Newsletter

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   This Saturday, July 16, the Armenian Church remembers King Drtad (Tiridates), Queen Ashkhen, and Princess Khosrovitoukht. After torturing and condemning St. Gregory to the pit and because of the cruel and fatal treatment of the Hripsimiants nuns, King Drtad became inflicted with strange and debilitating maladies. Queen Ashkhen, and the king’s sister, Princess Khosrovitoukht (who had secretly become a Christian) convinced the King that only Gregory could cure him. Thus, Gregory was released from the deep pit. With the King’s subsequent recovery, all three helped Gregory spread Christianity throughout Armenia. In their later years the Queen and Princess lived in the fortress of Karni, and the King retired to St. Gregory’s retreat on Mt. Sebouh.

Posted from the Crossroads, E-Newsletter of the Eastern Armenian Prelacy

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       This Saturday, July 9, the Armenian Church commemorates one of the three feast days dedicated to St. Gregory the Illuminator: The discovery of his relics. St. Gregory is considered to be the “Apostle of Armenia.” After years of evangelizing, St. Gregory sought solitude and an ascetic life. He chose a cave on Mount Sebouh as his dwelling place. It was here that Gregory died alone. Shepherds found his body and without realizing who he was buried him under a pile of stones. Later a hermit, Karnig of Basen, who had been a disciple of St. Gregory saw a vision and went to Mount Sepouh where he found the site of Gregory’s burial. He took the remains to the village of Dortan for burial, where King Drtad was buried. Relics from the right hand of St. Gregory are at the Holy Mother See of Etchmiadzin and the Holy See of Cilicia. The Catholicoi mix the new muron  (chrism) with the old muron with the golden right hand that contains the relics.

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