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Bibliothèque de l'Église apostolique arménienne - Paris
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( 1100 - 1173 )


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One of the most noble and saintly leaders of the Armenian Church, and a great literary figure in Armenian Ecclesiastical Literature is Nerses, surnamed Shnorhali, "The Graceful," born in 1100 A.D.
In the year 1113 Nerses’ elder brother Gregory was elected Catholicos. Nerses was his brother’s principal assistant. He administered most of the affairs of the Church with wisdom and skill, while at the same time, devoting himself to music, poetry and literature. He composed the music and words of hymns and chants which are still used today in the services of the Armenian Church. He was consecrated a bishop when he was thirty-five years old.
Upon the death of his brother in 1165, Nerses was elected to the office of Catholicos of All Armenians, (Nerses IV) and remained in office until his death in 1173. One of the most popular of his works is a prayer, consisting of twenty-four verses, beginning with the words, "I confess with faith".
He made a permanent contribution to Armenian Church literature by enriching the Book of Hours or breviary (Zhamagirk), with many liturgical songs. Most of his songs are written acrostically, that is, in the order of the Armenian alphabet, consisting of thirty-six verses. Others bear his permanent signature, as the first letter of each verse starts with a letter of his name spelling the word "Nerses".
During his pontificate, he worked hard to bring about reconciliation and intercommunion between the Greek and the Armenian Churches, but forces beyond his power prevented the realization of his noble ideals.

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 General Epistle
Titre : General Epistle / auteur(s) : ST NERSES SHNORHALI - Translation and Introduction by Fr. Arakel Aljalian
Editeur : St Nerses Armenian Seminary
Année : 1996
Imprimeur/Fabricant : USA
Description : 15 x 23 cm, 86 pages, couverture illustrée en couleurs
Collection :
Notes :
Autres auteurs :
Sujets : St Nerses Encyclical letter
Lecture On-line : non disponible

Commentaire :


St. Nerses Klayetsi is better known by the epithet, Shnorhali. The literal translation of Shnorhali is "graceful". Such epithets often capture the essence of a person. Surely this epithet means more than its workday rendition. A first step toward understanding this most salient trait of one of the Armenian Church's most salient saints is to defrost this metaphor. Graceful means "full of or filled with grace". Unpacking the metaphor brings us closer to the sense people must have had in mind when they called St. Nerses, the one filled with grace. Grace was not a static trait of his personality. Grace flowed. It was something that filled him. It flowed through him to his people as a cup running over. It had a source, and a destination. And what was this grace that filled this man? The modern use of grace as a kind of charm or public bearing may provide a clue. St. Nerses had that attractive poise so often praised when exhibited under pressure. In dealings with emperors, popes, peasants, princes, clergy and kings, he appears to have been an engaging, persuasive person. He attracted others, drawing them into the orbit in which he was travelling. He had charisma.
Charisma is Greek for favor or gift. Charts is the usual term in the New Testament for divine, saving grace: grace which is gratis, whose source is God. The Armenian Church recognized that among its flock, St. Nerses was favored. Like Mary, he was a vessel, "full of grace". His soul was magnified that he might lead his people through difficult times, then and now. His magnanimity not only filled him, it flowed through him to his people, in the form of convictions, hope, and words, torrents of words.
St. Nerses was a teacher and a wordsmith. His first work was a poem about the history of Armenia, over a thousand lines long, each line ending in the same syllable -yal. He composed this rhymed epic to help his students remember the obscure names and events of the millennia of Armenia's past. First works often set a writer's trajectory. St. Nerses sought to teach, to favor others as generously as he had been so generously favored. Among his works, perhaps none show better the charisma of this Armenian saint than the work presented here in English for the first time, his General Epistle.
The General Epistle is the work of one who well understood the need for saving grace. Heir to a church and people in exile, he knew that restoration from this fallen state was beyond his power alone. Thus, he wrote a letter to his people, telling them of God's plan for them as he was given to understand and express it.
His was a church wanting grace. It was a church of self-important bishops, wealthy princes, greedy priests, and faithless people. Robes, pomp, and ceremony could not bring salvation. Great church estates could not bring salvation. Not even great learning or great acts of charity could bring salvation. Salvation was not like putting a nickel in the gumball machine and waiting for one's reward. No, salvation, said the one filled with grace, was only possible for the soul prepared by faith to be moved by grace freely given by God. But for grace, there could be no escape from this fallen state. Using the Gospel as his rule, St. Nerses warned that true charisma is often lost in the midst of its worldly counterfeits: smooth-talking elitism, legal-sounding apologism, or passion-raising mobbism. Concepts, canons, and slogans were not his medium. His was a pastoral letter, guiding Armenian Christendom by charity and righteousness as expressed in the Gospel and Epistles.
Readers of his letter will understand better how St. Nerses got his nickname. He had that grace that filled and flowed to fill others. With the grace of God, he believed that the denizens of Armenian Christendom might one day reach the promised land of reconciliation with one another and their Creator. Thus nearly a thousand years ago the charismatic St. Nerses charted a course to a destination we still strive to reach.

Thomas J. Samuelian
Washington, DC

"The Encyclical Letter of St. Nerses the Graceful, written shortly after the election of the author as Catholicos of All Armenians in 1166, is a very valuable document from the perspective of the Armenian and church historian, pastoral theologian, and the ordinary Armenian Christian.
The work was considered an important tool for instructing the faithful and for that purpose it was read every Sunday in the Armenian Churches throughout the world. Fr.Aljalian's translation makes this fascinating document available to those who cannot read the work in Classical Armenian."
Fr. Krikor Maksudian
Director, Zohrab Information Center
Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, New York


Foreword: The Charismatic St. Nerses vii
Introduction 1
Chapter One: To the Entire Armenian Nation 13
Chapter Two: To the Clergy in Monasteries 27
Chapter Three: To the Priors of Holy Monastic Orders 41
Chapter Four: To the Primates of the Church Who Are in the World and Are Called Bishops 45
Chapter Five: To the Ranks of Priests 55
Chapter Six: To the Worldly Princes 69
Chapter Seven: To the Military Ranks 77
Chapter Eight: To the City-Dwellers 79
Chapter Nine: To the Farmers and People in General 81
Chapter Ten: To the Ranks of Women 83
Bibliography 85

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 Jesus, the Son
Titre : Jesus, the Son / auteur(s) : ST NERSES SHNORHALI - Edited and translated by Mischa Kudian
Editeur : Mastots Press, London
Année : 1986
Imprimeur/Fabricant : Printed in Great Britain
Description : 14,5 x 21 cm, 100 pages
Collection :
Notes :
Autres auteurs :
Sujets : Prayers
ISBN : 0903039176
Lecture On-line : non disponible

Commentaire :

JESUS, THE SON is a significant work in the whole of Christian literature. It was written in 1152 and is considered to be Nerses Shnorhali's masterpiece. It is a prayer of 4,000 verses and consists of three books representing the past, the present, and the future of human history. Book One alludes to a series of events in the Old Testament, beginning with Adam; Book Two, to the ministry of our Lord; and Book Three, to the Crucifixion, with an eloquently poetic description of the end of the world and the day of judgment.
Nerses Shnorhali, also known as Nerses the Gracious, is one of the two most illustrious figures in Armenian literature. He was born in 1102 in the fortress of Tzovk in Cilicia and was of the princely House of Pahlavouni. He was ordained priest at nineteen, became a bishop nine years later, and was elected catholicos in 1166 until his death in 1173.
JESUS, THE SON has enjoyed popularity among the Armenian people and, after the Bible and Narek, it has been their most devotional book for centuries. This edition is to commemorate the 800th anniversary of Shnorhali's death.

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