Armenian Jerusalem
“whenever two Armenians meet . . .”
This project has been supported by the Gulbenkian philanthropic Foundation, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and members of the worldwide Armenian community. Reproductions of the genealogical documents [domar’s] are courtesy Photo Garo, Jerusalem. Copyright © 2007 Arthur Hagopian
            Krikor   Naregatsi   (Gegory   of   Nareg),   who   spent   his   entire life   in   the   monastery,   died   at   the   relatively   young   age   of   50, but   what   he   has   left   behind   has   outlived   his   time   and   age:   as long      as      one     Armenian      heart      beats anywhere   in   this   world,   his   inspired   odes and   lamentations   will   continue   to   find   an echo there.             His   writings,   described   by   critics   as "literary   masterpieces   in   both   lyrical   verse and   narrative,"   have   only   been   known   in their     original     golden     Grapar     (Classical Armenian)   to   a   select   cadre   of   Armenian scholars,   an   oversight   now   boldly   atoned for    by    the    eminent    expert    on    Medieval Armenian literature, Dr Abraham Terian.             His   "groundbreaking"   and   "magnificent" new      book,   "The   Festal   Works   of   St   Gregory of    Narek"    (461    pp,    the    Liturgical    Press, Minnesota,    2016)    is    the    first    translation (embellished   with   54   pages   of   introduction and   an   array   of   explanatory   notes)   in   any language,        of    the    surviving    corpus    of Naregatsi's   festal   works.   Terian's   mellifluous   English   and   his mastery   of   Grapar,   have   made   this   onerous   task   a   joy   and   a celebration.          Like   all   other   Jerusalem Armenians,   Terian's   first   encounter with   Naregatsi   occurred   at   a   tender   age,   when   at   the   graduation   ceremony   of   primary students   at   the   Armenian   parish   school   he,   like   all   his   classmates,   was   handed   a   copy   of   a Naregatsi   prayer   book,   the   "Aghotamadyan"   as   a   parting   gift,   to   be   his   guide   and   inspiration for the days ahead.             The   tradition   continues   to   this   day.   I've   kept   my   own   copy   for   half   a   century,   and remember   a   line   from   one   of   Naregatsi's   most   poignant   odes,   his   magnificat   of   God:   "The darkness    of    the    night    cannot    eclipse    the    glory    and    grandeur    of    your    dominion"    (my translation).             With   his   new   book   Terian,   who   has   won   plaudits   from   various   parts   of   the   world,   the latest   his   acceptance   as   a   fellow   academician   (as   an   "orientalist")   by   the Ambrosian Academy of Milan, escorts us into a new dimension of spirituality.             His   skill   in   penetrating   what   Harvard   professor   James   Russsell   calls   the   "extremely sophisticated content and difficult language" of Nareg is particularly remarkable.             "His   work   is   more   than   a   monument   of   meticulous   scholarship,"   Russell   says.   "The   work   is of such a high standard that it is unlikely to be equaled, much less superseded."             Naregatsi,   a   10th   Century   Armenian   poet,   mystical   philosopher,   theologian   and   saint   of the   Armenian   church,   was   born   into   a   family   of   writers.   He   is   considered      "Armenia's   first great   poet".   In   token   of   his   unique   achievements,      Pope   Francis   declared   him   a   Doctor   of   the Universal Church in February last year.             "Saint   Gregory   knew   how   to   express   the   sentiments   of   your   people   more   than   anyone,"   he said in a statement addressed to the Armenian church.             "He   gave   voice   to   the   cry,   which   became   a   prayer   of   a   sinful   and   sorrowful   humanity, oppressed   by   the   anguish   of   its   powerlessness,   but   illuminated   by   the   splendor   of   God's   love and   open   to   the   hope   of   his   salvific   intervention,   which   is   capable   of   transforming   all things," the statement added.             (Commenting   on   the   Pope's   momentous   ecumenical   move,   Terian   recalls   that   "while Armenians   were   about   to   canonize   their   martyred   saints   of   a   hundred   years   ago,   the   Papal declaration   reminded   them   of   one   of   their   saints   who   died   a   thousand   years   ago.This   should imply   that   identity   and   perpetuity   for Armenians   lies   not   only   in   the   collective   remembrance of their recent past, however tragic, but also in their centuries-old Christian heritage.")                The   significance   of   Terian's   latest   oeuvre,   a   timely   token   of   that   heritage,   cannot   be understated.    Were    it    not    for    his    polished    and    inspired    translation,    the    anthology    of Naregatsi's unparalleled liturgical masterpieces would have otherwise been lost to us.            As   UCLA   professor   of Armenian   studies   S.   Peter   Cowe   notes,   Dr Terian   "has   placed   us   in   his debt   again   by   transmitting   these   pearls   of   mediaeval Armenian   poetry   from   the   preserve   of   a small   group   of   experts   into   the   public   domain   through   his   accurate   idiomatic   translation   and helpful notes."             Theo   Maarten   van   Lint,   Calouste   Gulbenkian   professor   of   Armenian   studies   at   Oxford University,   for   whom Terian's   book   is   "magnificent,   groundbreaking"   goes   so   far   as   to   describe Naregatsi's work as "an act of Divine grace."     "I go up to Jerusalem     "To that city built by God             "To   that   beautifully   built   temple   .   .   ."   cries   out   Naregatsi   in   one   of   the   odes   translated   by Terian, giving tongue to a universal yearning for the ethereal.             More   than   any   other   geographical   or   metaphorical   entity,   Jerusalem   remains   forever   the symbol of that longing.             For Terian,   and   all   the Armenians   who   grew   up   in   the   Old   City,   trod   its   cobblestoned   alleys and drank its waters, Jerusalem is more than a place in the heart.             It   is   where   life   begins,   where   humanity   is   born   and   rejuvenated,      physically   and spiritually.

A thousand years ago, a monk in a distant monastery in the western

Armenian province of Reshdunik, picked up a reed pen and began etching

out what would later become known as the first great Armenian mystic and

liturgical poetry.