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The Patron Saint of Armenia.
HERE is Armenia," it is frequently asked, " and why should these, the most ancient of all people, suffer more than others for the Catholic Faith?" The last cannot be answered, but their's is a glorious martyrdom, and throughout eternity they will surely be "a royal diadem in the hand of their God." In reply to the first question, we may say that there is now no such place as Armenia; but the author of The Cradle of Mankind (1914) says, "The plateau of Van is at present the home of the Armenian race, but is never called Armenia officially, yet it is where the Armenians dwell." In early days Armenia was the table land extending from the Caspian Sea almost to the Mediterranean. Towards the North Eastern part stands Agra-Dagh, or Mt. Ararat, which the Persians call Kuh-i-nuh, the mountains of Noah. Greater Ararat is 17,000 feet high, and Lesser is 13,000. We read in the Bible that the Ark rested on the mountains of Ararat, or Uratu, which includes the whole of the Hakkiari range. All tribes of that part of the world, save the Armenians, claim that Judi Dagh, one of the first ranges above the plain was the historical site, and once a year Christians, Mussulmans, Jews, and others offer sacrifice there in honor of Noah. The Armenians, however, believe Agra Dagh to have been the place where the Ark rested. Whichever site be the correct one, it must have been at the base of this range that Noah and his sons offered sacrifice, resuming their earth-life, and thus making Armenia the second cradle of the race.
The Armenians are descended from Haig, son of Togarmah, grandson of Japhet (Gen. 10th, 3rd). They are referred to more than once in the Bible. "The sons of Sennacherib slew their father, and escaped into the land of Armenia." (II Kings 19th, 37th.) Jeremiah prophesies their attack upon Babylon, "Prepare the nations against her, call together the kingdoms of Ararat, Mimi, and Ashchenaz." Ezekiel says in the twentyseventh chapter, "They of the kingdom of Togarmah, traded in thy fairs, with horses, and horsemen, and mules." When
Joshua conquered Canaan many of the refugees fled to Armenia. Legend tells us that one of their kings fought at Troy, on the side of Priam, and was killed in combat with Achilles. In the Anabasis, Xenephon refers to them, speaking of the coldness of their climate, and of their earthen houses.
Thus we see that they are a very ancient people, able to trace directly their descent from Noah, and that they had their own kings, and at one time were a nation of great importance. Vahey, the last of their own monarchs, an ally of Darius, was killed in battle B. C. 323. One nation after another ruled over them, but at times, as under Constantine, they had home-rule. After many vicissitudes they fell into the hands of "the unspeakable Turk," and their sufferings have been past belief. More of them, in the last persecutions, have suffered martyrdom, than in the history of the primitive Church.
The early, secular history of this people is replete with fable and legend, "Yet, we cannot wonder," says the author of Armenia and the Armenians, "that a halo of romance, in the absence of the clear light of history, should crown the brows of its hoary mountains, and spread itself over its plains and lakes, its cities and palaces.
Although Christianity had been introduced in Armenia in Apostolic times, yet it was at a low ebb when Tiradates came to the throne. His father, Chosroes, had been stabbed by Prince Anak, 257 A. D., and as he was dying he ordered the family of the murderer to be killed. At this time Anak's youngest son was born, and his Christian nurse fled with him to Caesarea, placing him under the protection of a noble convert. This child became Krikor, or St. Gregory, the Illuminator, the reviver of the Faith in Armenia. Having been educated at both Rome and Athens, he returned to Caesarea, where he married a Christian; but three years after the birth of their second son, they parted by mutual consent; she entering a convent, while Gregory, relieved from earthly ties, went back to his native Armenia, eager to spread the Gospel. Tiradates, the king, was favorable to him, not knowing whose son he was, or that he was a Christian. The day of testing came, when Gregory refused to place garlands upon the idol, Anahit, declaring himself a
Christian, and saying, "I will keep the vows I made, when even a child, to worship God, and to serve Him." Enraged beyond all bounds, the king subjected him to a series of twelve most terrible tortures, and finally cast him into a pit, where he remained for years. It was while there that the noted virgins, S. Rhipsime, and S. Gaiane suffered martyrdom under Tiradates; and they are commemorated in the Eastern Church, with Gregory, on September 30th.
At last, by the pleading of the king's sister, Gregory was released, and having healed Tiradates of a serious malady, he converted him. After days of fasting and instruction, the king and his royal household, with thousands of others, clad in white, came to the river Euphrates, to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. In this same river, scores of helpless women and children have been drowned this past winter, receiving the crown of martyrdom.
The king, now called Johannes, sent Gregory to Caesarea to be consecrated, and there was great rejoicing when the faithful learned that Salvation had come to their neighbors. Upon reaching Caesarea, Gregory was consecrated by St. Leontius, 302 A. D. with pomp and splendor, being made Hierarch over all Armenia. Many priests returned with him, and the Catholic religion was proclaimed the State religion, thus making Armenia to be the first Christian nation.
A wonderful vision appeared to Gregory, near the base of Mt. Ararat, in which he seemed to see the Christ surrounded by light, and it was indicated to him where he should build a glorious church. When he related the vision, the king and the people gladly brought the needed materials, and under his direction they erected the great Cathedral, Etchmiadzin, meaning" The Descent of the Only Begotten." Two other churches were built beside it, which were dedicated to Saints Rhipsime, Gaiane, and the thirty-seven other virgins who were martyred with them. This is the Cathedral of all Armenia, and it stands at the base of the Ararat mountains, in the Erioan valley; since 1828 it has belonged to the Russian division of Armenia. The Turks call it Utch-Kilise, or Three Churches. The residence of the chief patriarch is here, his title being "The servant of
Jesus Christ, and by the Grace of God, Catholicos of all the Armenians, and Patriarch of the holy convent of Etchmiadzin.” The present prelate is a stately man, named George V. Surenian, and is the one hundred and twenty-seventh prelate from St. Gregory. Many gorgeous vestments, a world-famed library of 3000 illuminated manuscripts, and some old portraits are kept here. There are also schools, an ecclesiastical college, and tanks of wonderful fish.
After the building of this Cathedral, other churches and convents were founded. Fired with holy zeal, Gregory visited everywhere, being very successful in converting the pagan priests and demolishing their temples. He took special pains in teaching the sons of these priests, one of whom Alpheus became a Bishop, located near the Euphrates. As old age approached Gregory retired into solitude, after having consecrated his son, Arisdages, as his successor; and he it was who represented his father at the council of Nicea, thus keeping Armenia in close touch with the other Christian nations. At length, the Angel of death came to the great Saint, and he died in the hollow tree, which was his cell; and where he had lived, says one of his native biographers, "In unspeakable meditations on heavenly things, enlightened by the revelation of things hidden, and of unsearchable mysteries, refreshed at the sweet springs of God's love."
He had suffered much to attain his end, for it had been with the hope of converting Tiradates that he had joined the royal train, when the latter at last secured the throne, as the best and only atonement that he could make for his own father's crime of killing Chosroes. To accomplish it cost him incredible tortures, and years of imprisonment, but by winning Tiradates, he re-established the Faith on a strong Trinitarian basis. His first and last sermons were upon the Blessed Trinity, and there is no place for Unitarianism in the Armenian belief.
A careful study of all that this saintly man did for Armenia, enables us to understand why they call their branch of the Catholic Church, "Gregorian," and speak of him as " Blessed, holy Father Gregory, the Lusavoritch, or the Illuminator."
Caroline Frances Little.
A Modern Greek Polemical Work
N example of polemical writing by the Orthodox Church at the present time may present some interesting features. Such works are by no means rare, for the entrance of missionaries from the United States and from western Europe with their attempts to convert the Orthodox to a "simpler " and more" scriptural" form of Christianity on the one hand and the claims of Rome on the other have stimulated the production of works defending the native Orthodoxy. We have heard a great deal about the missionaries and others who have entered the East with these new doctrines but perhaps the defenders of the old systems and the arguments which they advance are not so well known.
The Greeks with their strong consciousness both of their national continuity and the past greatness of their Church have not been slow to oppose these intruders and to vindicate their Orthodox Faith. It is one of the books which have been published with this purpose that I propose to discuss in this paper.
The especial object of attack is a sect known as the "Greek Evangelicals," established in Greece by Jonas King of the American Board of Foreign Missions. Consequently the book is rather a criticism of that sect with its Congregational sympathies than a review of Protestantism as a whole, although much of the work is of wider application than might at first seem. The title is "The Errors of the Protestants and the False Accusations of their Propagandists in the East against the Orthodox Church," by Michael I. Galanos, printed in Athens in 1904 and dedicated to Joachim III, Patriarch of Constantinople.
In these days when the founding of Protestantism is being celebrated far and wide, the date selected for commemoration is not perhaps the one of which Galanos would approve. He gives as the spiritual ancestors of the Protestants the Paulicians, who disturbed Greece from the seventh to the twelfth century. This sect denied the priesthood, fasting, honoring