Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Dean of the Seminary, participated in an international scholarly conference last week in Beirut, Lebanon dedicated to the great tenth-century Armenian mystic, St. Gregory of Narek. The conference was sponsored by the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate and was held in the Pontifical University of the Holy Spirit in Kaslik, Lebanon, about 30 minutes north of Beirut.
Scholars Study the Writings of Narek
Fr. Findikyan, who was the only speaker from the United States, gave a lecture entitled, Another Holy Communion: St. Gregory of Narek's Prayer Book and the Eucharist. The conference was the second international symposium organized in recent years to commemorate the millennium of St. Gregory of Narek. His famous book of 95 prayers, known as the Book of Lamentations, the Matyan Voghpergutyan,or simply the Narek, is considered by Armenian and non-Armenian theologians alike to be a masterpiece of Christian spirituality.
Narek and the Badarak
In his lecture, Fr. Findikyan traced the theological themes and movement of St. Gregory's prayers and showed how they mirror the major themes of the Eucharist: acknowledgment and confession of human sinfulness; surrender to God; transformation/consecration; and doxology.
"For Gregory there is no space between the words of the confessions he pours forth from his soul and the Word, that is the Son of God, with whom he is discoursing in his prayers," Fr. Findikyan said. "Gregory's words and the Word of God are in dialogue, or better, in communion," he said, adding, "This communion is mystical. It is sacramental. And in the truest sense, it is Eucharistic."
Participating alonside Fr. Findikyan were 20 Armenian and non-Armenian theologians from throughout the world. Each one reflected on various aspects of St. Gregory of Narek and the liturgical life of the church.
Narek and the Bible
Fr. Findikyan also read a a lecture prepared by Professor Abraham Terian, Emeritus Professor of Armenian Theology, who was unable to travel to Lebanon for the conference. Dr. Terian's lecture dealt with St. Gregory's interpretation of sacred Scripture.
The Unique Message of the Armenian Church
"It was an honor to be invited to contribute to this conference," said Fr. Findikyan on returning from his quick five-day trip to Lebanon. "It is always a pleasure to meet and to learn from other learned people who devote their lives to uncovering the unique Christian witness of the Armenian Church, as revealed in the theological, spiritual and liturgical writings of our Armenian Church fathers and saints. Among them, St. Gregory of Narek is truly a giant."
Fr. Findikyan is Dean and Professor of Liturgical Studies at St. Nersess. As one of the world's leading experts in the history and theology of the liturgical services of the Armenian Church and other eastern churches, he lectures widely in the United States and abroad. He is a Visiting Professor of Liturgical Studies at the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana). His latest book, Frequently-Asked Questions on the Badarak: The Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church, is due to be released shortly.