Monday, June 4, 2012

St. Nerses Shnorhali, born on June 4, 1102

Every time we sing “Aravod Looso” (Morning of Light) during the morning service at church or “Norahrash bsagavor” (Newly and Marvelously Crowned) at the festivity of Vartanantz, we are singing two of the most inspired sharagans written and musicalized by Nerses Shnorhali. We are also repeating his words when we recite “Havadov Khosdovanim” (In Faith I Confess) during Lent. One of the most beloved saints of the Armenian Church, he was born on June 4, 1102 (some sources say 1098 or 1101). He was a member of the Pahlavuni princely family and the grandson of the noted writer, Grigor Magistros Pahlavuni. Shnorhali (literally “filled with grace”) had been the title of several known members of the Church, but it became synonymous with Nerses after his time.

The fall of the Armenian kingdom of the Bagratunis in 1045 and the destruction of the capital Ani by the Seljukid Turks in 1064 had forced the Holy See of the Armenian Church to move from the capital in 1081. After several changes of place, Grigor III had settled the see in the fortress of Hromkla (Hrom-kla, “Roman Fortress”), on the banks of the Euphrates River, very close to the border of the Armenian state of Cilicia, in 1149 (it remained there until 1292). His brother Nerses, whom he had ordained at the age of 18 and who was consecrated a bishop at the age of thirty, was also known as Nerses Klayetsi. He was the right hand of Grigor III during his long reign (1113-1166) and succeeded him as Catholicos Nerses IV until his death in 1173.
 
A prolific writer and theologian, some of Shnorhali’s best known works are his Tught Unthanragan (General Epistle), a message of guidance in the Christian faith for the Armenian people, and his poem Hisus Vorti (Jesus the Son). Both have been translated into English. Many of his songs and hymns were incorporated into the regular service of the Armenian Church. His pioneering spirit of ecumenism and his leadership have been historically recognized.