St. Nersess Seminary announces the release of a new book by Dr. Abraham Terian, Professor of Armenian Patristics at the Seminary. Patriotism and Piety in Armenian Christianity: The Early Panegyrics on Saint Gregory.
The book is a fascinating study of the Armenian Church's unique vision of Christ's Gospel as an inseparable component of the history and ethnic identity of the Armenian people. Terian examines how theological and patriotic themes are invariably connected in the writings of Armenian Church fathers. The author takes as his focus the vast body of Armenian panegyrics--homilies, hymns and odes in honor of--St. Gregory, the Illuminator and patron saint of the Armenian people.
For centuries Armenian theologians were captivated by the story of St. Gregory, who converted the pagan Armenian king Drtad and his court to Christianity in the year 301. Inspired by the saint, and by royal decree, Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity officially, years before the Roman Empire and other eastern nations.
Panegyric: A Song of Praise
St. Gregory became the object of extravagant praise and veneration by generations of Armenian Church fathers. Analyzing their writings, Terian traces a coherent theological vision of how the Gospel of Christ comes to permeate and thoroughly to transform a nation, its history and culture.
Armenian Church Fathers in English
Most of these works appear here for the first time in English translation. Professor Terian opens up a body of Armenian theological literature that was until now virtually unknown either to Armenians or non-Armenians.
"He paves the way for a fresh appraisal of the often misconceived relationship between ethnicity and faith which lies at the heart of the distinctive witness and mission of the Armenian Church today," writes Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Seminary dean and Editor of the AVANT Series, on the jacket of the handsome hard-bound volume.
Renowned Scholar at St. Nersess
Abraham Terian is Professor of Armenian Patristics and Academic Dean at St. Nersess, and editor of the St. Nersess Theological Review. Before coming to St. Nersess in 1997, Terian was Professor of Intertestamental and Early Christian Literatures for some twenty years at Andrews University in Michigan. For several years he was also a recurring Visiting Professor of Armenian Studies at the University of Chicago. He was Chairman of the Hellenistic Judaism Group of the Society of Biblical Literature (1983-1985) and President of the Society's Midwest Region (1990-1992). He was recently granted the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in the Humanities awarded with an appointment at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2006.
The publication of the AVANT series, including the current volume, is a joint-venture of St. Nersess with St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, whose extensive distribution network will assure that theAVANT books will enjoy optimal marketing and sales globally and via the internet.
Patriotism and Piety is available for immediate purchase for $24.95 directly via St. Vladimir's Seminary Press. Those interested may place an order by calling 1-800-204-2665.
What is compelling about early Armenian Christianity is that it did not dwell on defining itself in terms of "orthodoxy" and "heresy," even though the Church adhered to Athanasian orthodoxy at the height of the Arian controversy. Nor did it assert a separate identity among fringe-groups or sects within the early Church, even though the ruling Arsacids from the accession of Tiran in 339 to that of Arshak III in 379 aggressively pursued an Arianizing policy. Notwithstanding the unique historical circumstances that seem to have influenced the shape of the Armenian ethos, the confluence of patriotism and piety in the literature of the fifth century is indicative of a self-understanding similar to the two most prevalent and related self-definitions in primitive Christianity: (1) its continuity with ancient Israel, and (2) its willingness for martyrdom as the persecuted yet faithful remnant of God's people. As for the first self-definition, there was a strong sense of apostolic tradition in Armenian Christianity, seen in the assumption of continuity with the Prophets and the Apostles, in being part of salvation history--thanks to the traditions associated with Sts. Thaddeus and Bartholomew (one derived earlier from Edessa and the other later, possibly from Pontic Caesarea) and, especially, to St. Gregory, the acclaimed "Prophet" and "Apostle" of the Armenians, a Parthian by birth, begotten as "the spiritual child of St. Thaddeus." As for the second self-definition, early Armenian writers had a strong penchant for martyrdom not simply because they were the spiritual successors of the Maccabees but because the reward of those who thus bear witness for Christ, those who do not abandon His "covenant," is all the greater. The early and distinct events in Armenian history, namely, the conversion to Christianity, the invention of the alphabet, and the battle for the faith, had a strong determining impact on the confluence of patriotism and piety in Armenian Christianity. These consequential events, along with their respective heroes, were viewed from a biblical standpoint and were treated by the early writers following the Classical literary-rhetorical requirements mandated in the early Byzantine period. Thus was laid the foundation for a literary tendency and one with considerable longevity, affecting the national ethos for generations thereafter.(Patriotism and Piety in Armenian Christianity, pp. 18-19).
Ode to St. Gregory the Illuminatorby Hovhannes Erznkats'i (ca. 1230-1293)
Brothers, today we are celebrating the release of Gregorius from the pit, the saint who suffered much. The happy virgins who came from the West have given a festal joy to the people of Armenia. At the site of their death, where their sacred blood flowed, heavenly tabernacles were created upon earth. Arches of light joined pillars of fire and cloud, their bases golden and colored red. The dusty earth blossomed in expanses of celestial blue, the tint of heaven; The earth was suddenly dotted with sacred altars, numberless, like the stars of heaven. A spring of water gushed forth amid the tabernacles, coursed like rivers, with waves as of the sea. Flocks of black goats, passing by, were dyed like lambs with sparkling fleece, those who put on Christ. Being crucified with the Son in the water of the holy font, cleansed by the Holy Spirit, through faith in the Father.(Patriotism and Piety in Armenian Christianity, p. 189).