Above: Logo of the Armenian Apostolic Church
SAINT NERSES I THE GREAT (DIED CIRCA 373)
Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church
SAINT MESROP (DIED 441)
Armenian Priest, Scholar, and Linguist
With this post I add two more Armenian saints to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.
St. Nerses I the Great (died circa 373), of royal ancestry, was related to St. Gregory the Illuminator and father of St. Isaac the Great. St. Nerses entered the world at Caesarea, Cappadocia, in 333 or 337. He grew up and married a princess, who predeceased him. Then the saint became a priest. Made Catholicos (archbishop) against his will in 353, St. Nerses founded hospitals and encouraged monasticism.
But not all was well. St. Nerses had condemned Armenian King Arshak II (reigned 350-367) for murdering the Queen. So the monarch banished the Catholicos, who returned after Arshak died. The new king was Pap (reigned 370-374), whom the Catholicos condemned for what sources I have consulted describe vaguely as a wicked lifestyle. Pap was certainly a bad character, for he pretended to repent and to reconcile with St. Nerses, whom he poisoned at a banquet.
St. Mesrop (died 441) was a government official who became a hermit then a disciple of St. Nerses I the Great, who ordained him to the priesthood. St. Mesrop studied Greek, Syraic, and Persian. He also worked with St. Isaac the Great as a missionary and proved instrumental in creating the Armenian alphabet. St. Mesrop also translated the New Testament and Proverbs into Armenian. “But wait,” as Ron Popeil says, “there’s more.” St. Mesrop also organized schools in Armenia and Georgia, created a Georgian alphabet, and preached well into his eighties, until his dying day, February 19, 441. His nickname is “the Teacher.”
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
DECEMBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA
FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE OF MILAN, ARCHBISHOP
we praise you for your servants Saint Nerses I the Great and Saint Mesrop,
through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.
Raise us up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,
whose voices will give strength to your Church and proclaim the reality of your reign,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 3:11-23
–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60
Revised on December 2, 2016