The Saints (701-1000 AD)
Nerses Shnorhali (Nerses the Graceful), Catholicos (1102-1173)
St. Nerses was born in 1102, his father being Prince Abirad and his grandfather,
the great church writer, Krikor Makisdros. He studied under Stepanos Vartabed in
Garmir (Red) Monastery and was ordained at 18 years of age by his brother, Catholicos
Krikor III Balavouni in the City of Hromgla. By the age of thirty, he was consecrated
a bishop. He served as the personal aide and right hand man to his brother, the
Catholicos, whom he succeeded in 1166.
Merely to list all St. Nerses' works would be a tedious task. He is most famous
for his 'General Epistle' which was directed to the Armenian people, eloquently
guiding them in their faith, for his many letters, orations, poems, such as "Lament
for Edessa," a moving masterpiece on the destruction of that city, commentaries
and ecclesiastical studies. A great musician as well as writer and poet, St. Nerses
enriched the Book of Hours with many songs and the Book of Sharagans with a wealth
of sacred hymns, adding almost a third to their number. His book, Jesus, Son is
used by devout Armenians and is second only to Nareg. St. Nerses was an ecumenist
as well as an astute theologian and beloved leader. The title 'graceful'
was previously an educational rank but Nerses added a new dimension to that title
and is remembered for his loving nature and paternal care of his flock, the members
of the Armenian Church. Along with St. Gregory of Nareg, he is a pillar of Armenian
literature, especially of the Silver Age. St. Nerses is perhaps the most beloved
of all Armenian saints and is respected not only nationally but also universally.
His final resting-place has been a place of pilgrimage for all Christians without
distinction who referred to him as "Lord Nerses." The following are a
few lines from his most famous church songs.
Aravod Looso--From the Morning Service, a song written with each stanza following
the alphabetical order of the Armenian alphabet and dedicated to the Holy Trinity,
a few stanzas must suffice here:
Thou morn of light,
Sun of Righteousness
Shine unto my soul,
Thou from the Father flowing,
Let flow from my soul
Words, pleasing to Thee.
Keeper of all Things,
Have mercy on me;
Arise, Lord, and help;
Rouse me from slumbering,
With angels to wake.
Thy name, Christ, is Love;
Make soft with Thy love
This my heart of stone;
By Thine own pity,
By Thine own mercy,
Make me live again.
NorasdeghzyaI--This hymn is dedicated to the Resurrection of our Lord. First and
God the Word from naught created. In the beginning the heaven of heavens,
And the heavenly hosts incorporeal of angelic beings rational
The four elements also of sense, each other repelling and attracting
By which forever is glorified the ineffable Holy Trinity.
Ye sons of Zion, haste and rise, tidings of light the Bride to bring,
Saying to her, thy Bridegroom risen hath conquered death with power divine,
And comes with glory thee to crown, meet thou Him in thine adornments.
Sing a new song to Him who rose,
First fruits of life of them that sleep.
Nerses Lampronatzi (1153-1198 AD)
Sempat (this was the Christian name of Nerses Lambronatsi until
his sacerdotal ordination) was born of princely descendants. His father, Oshin Hethumid
was the Lord of Lambron, a castle at the foot of the Taurus mountains, north of
Tarsus in Cilicia. His mother, Shahantoukht, was related to the Pahlavouni family,
in the lineage of St. Gregory the Illuminator.
He was ordained priest in 1169. Nerses remained in the Patriarchate to pursue his
religion training. After a short period, he began a peregrination in the monasteries
of the Black mountain to get acquainted with the monastic life. Nerses was sacred
bishop in 1175, and the diocese of Tarsus was assigned to him. In 1177, Nerses went
to Hromkla to take part in the synod of the Armenian Church which was convened to
discuss the union of the Greek and the Armenian Churches.
Nerses Lambronatsi opened a new perspective in the ecumenical thinking of the Armenian
Church. He thought and lived his own tradition or his own church beginning from
Christ, having the Son of God as the foundation and as the link amongst men who
call themselves Christians. In other terms, Christ is supreme and the particular
churches are not able to reveal Him; the tongues, the expressions, the manifestations
are diverse, but the foundation is the same and unchangeable.
In the twelve century, when the church traditions were so hardened and isolated,
Nerses Lambronatsi sees Christ in all the churches. This ecumenical experience for
him was not limited to a sentimental exclamation. This was not a pacific coexistence,
but rather a positive solidarity, a cooperation in the limits of possibility.
During his short lifetime, Nerses Lambronatsi produced a huge amount of writings,
adaptations and translations. The largest portion is undoubtedly his interpretative
works, mainly biblical, as well as liturgical. One of his most important work was
the Commentary on the Holy Eucharist
Koharinyank (1156 AD)
The non-Christian overlords of Armenia took Prince David of Sebastia and his eldest
son captive. During their captivity, both father and son were forced to convert
to Islam, but Prince David's wife and four younger sons, Koharinos, Radigos,
Dzamitos, and Doukigos, who had remained behind, practiced their faith openly. When
the four young men came of age, they entered military service and soon it was discovered
that they were Christians. They were called before their commander and because their
father was a follower of Islam, they too were expected to be so. Through the mediation
of their older brother, they were spared and returned to their position. Afraid
that they had given the impression of changing their faith because of their freedom
and safe return, they made no effort to hide their Christianity. Radigos entered
the Soorp Nishan monastery. The others worshipped openly in the presence of their
children, hoping it would inspire their conversion. Once again they were arrested.
This time, however, they were severely tortured and finally beheaded in 1156 AD
Koharinos' son, Teotoros, the monk, was very upset about his father's and
uncles' martyrdom and made pubic denunciations of the authorities. He was arrested,
tortured, and finally beheaded, joining his father and uncles in martyrdom.
Hovhannes Vorodnetzi (John of Vorodn) (1315-1388 AD)
St. Hovhannes was born in the village of Vaghantan within the county of Vorodn during
that period of Armenian history when the Unitors were trying strenuously to Latinize
the Armenian Church and thereby undermine her national and theological identity.
St. John of Vorodn gathered many clergy and encouraged theological study as well
as a proper education of the masses in order to safeguard the Armenian Church. He
was a member of the monastery of Kailitzor where he served as an instructor and
was very beloved of his students. Later, he moved to the monastery of Datev where
he continued his teaching and educational pursuits. During this period, he was offered
the Archepiscopal See of the Siunik Province but refused in order to continue his
work. Extant among his many works are commentaries on the Gospel of John and the
Pauline letters; he was also one of the leaders of the Armenian Church in defending
her autonomy and the purity of her theology. Most of his life was dedicated to the
battle against the Unitors and the preservation of the orthodox faith. He was loved
and respected by his many students and followers,
Ignatius Maloyan (1869-1915
Ignatius Maloyan (Shoukrallah), son of Melkon and
Farid, was born in 1869, in Mardin, Turkey.
His parish priest, noticed in him signs of a priestly vocation, so he sent him to
the convent of Bzommar-Lebanon; he was fourteen years old.
After finishing his superior studies in 1896, the day dedicated to the Sacred Heart
of Jesus, he was ordained priest in the Church of Bzommar convent, became a member
of the Bzommar Institute and adopted the name of Ignatius in remembrance of the
famous martyr of Antioch. During the years 1897-1910, Father Ignatius was appointed
as parish priest in Alexandria and Cairo, where his good reputation was wide-spread.
His Beatitude Patriarch Boghos Bedros XII appointed him as his assistant in 1904.
Because of a disease that hit his eyes and suffocating difficulty in breathing,
he returned to Egypt and stayed there till 1910.
The Diocese of Mardin was in a state of anarchy, so Patriarch Sabbaghian sent Father
Ignatius Maloyan to restore order.
On October 22, 1911, the Bishops' Synod assembled in Rome elected Father Ignatius
Archbishop of Mardin. He took over his new assignment and planned on renewing the
wrecked Diocese, encouraging especially the devotion to the Sacred Heart.
Unfortunately, at the outbreak of the First World War, the Armenians resident in
Turkey (which was allied with Germany) began to endure unspeakable sufferings. In
fact, 24 April 1915 marked the beginning of a veritable campaign of extermination.
On April 30, 1915, the Turkish soldiers surrounded the Armenian Catholic Bishopric
and church in Mardin on the basis that they were hide-outs for arms.
At the beginning of May, the Bishop gathered his priests and informed them of the
dangerous situation. On June 3, 1915, Turkish soldiers dragged Bishop Maloyan in
chains to court with twenty seven other Armenian Catholic personalities. The next
day, twenty five priests and eight hundred and sixty two believers were held in
chains. During trial, the chief of the police, Mamdooh Bek, asked the Bishop to
convert to Islam. The bishop answered that he would never betray Christ and His
Church. The good shepherd told him that he was ready to suffer all kinds of ill-treatments
and even death and in this will be his happiness.
Mamdooh Bek hit him on the head with the rear of his pistol and ordered to put him
in jail. The soldiers chained his feet and hands, threw him on the ground and hit
him mercilessly. With each blow, the Bishop was heard saying "Oh Lord, have
mercy on me, oh Lord, give me strength", and asked the priests present for
absolution. With that, the soldiers went back to hitting him and they extracted
his toe nails.
On June 9, his mother visited him and cried for his state. But the valiant Bishop
encouraged her. On the next day, the soldiers gathered four hundred and forty seven
Armenians. The soldiers along with the convoys took the desert route.
The bishop encouraged his parishioners to remain firm in their faith. Then all knelt
with him. He prayed to God that they accept martyrdom with patience and courage.
The priests granted the believers absolution. The Bishop took out a piece of bread,
blessed it, recited the words of the Eucharist and gave it to his priests to distribute
among the people.
One of the soldiers, an eye witness, recounted this scene: "That hour, I saw
a cloud covering the prisoners and from all emitted a perfumed scent. There was
a look of joy and serenity on their faces". As they were all going to die out
of love for Jesus. After a two-hour walk, hungry, naked and chained, the soldiers
attacked the prisoners and killed them before the Bishop's eyes. After the massacre
of the two convoys came the turn of Bishop Maloyan.
Mamdooh Bek then asked Maloyan again to convert to Islam. The soldier of Christ
answered: "I've told you I shall live and die for the sake of my faith
and religion. I take pride in the Cross of my God and Lord". Mamdooh got very
angry, he drew his pistol and shot Maloyan. Before he breathed his last breath he
cried out loud: "My God, have mercy on me; into your hands I commend my spirit".