This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 19 -- Feast of Saint Mesrop Mashtots

 Ճանաչել զիմաստութիւն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ:
Čanačʿel zimastutʿiwn ew zxrat, imanal zbans hančaroy.
To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding.

Book of Proverbs, 1:2.

 The first line of the quotation above were the first words written in the Armenian alphabet, which is now a thirty-nine letter system, though when Mesrop Mashtots created it sometime around AD 405.  Mesrop Mashtots lived in Armenia during one of its many occupations.  At that time, the Roman (Byzantine) Empire had annexed about one-fifth of it and the Persian Empire had taken the other four-fifths.  Mesrop Mashtots served King Khosrov IV (a vassal of the Sassanid Persian Emperor) by transcribing imperial edicts into Greek and messages to the Emperor into Persian.  

When he got The Call, he quit his day job, pulled on a hair shirt, and moved into the wilderness.  There he studied scripture and prayed for a couple of years.  Then he got up, cleaned up, and started to put the Word in the streets.  Well, streets is a little figurative, since Armenia was a pretty rural place in the fourth and fifth centuries, but he started down the cow-paths and goat-trails, spreading the Gospel.  

Thirty-nine letters, celebrating Mesrop Mashtot's creation of an alphabet, erected in 2005.
He found it slow-going.  Neither the Greek nor Persian alphabet lent itself to the sounds of Armenian.  He tried Syriac, but that was also a bust.  And if he couldn't leave scriptures and written instructions behind, he found on his next visit that most of what he taught had been forgotten.  Necessity forced the invention of the Armenian alphabet.  More than anything else, this is responsible for the survival of the Armenian identity; certainly it has been absent from the map of nations more than it has been present.  

I don't want to dwell too long on the life and works of Mesrop Mashtots because I want to leave time for you to watch the embedded video.  In it, some sweet Armenian children demonstrate how to sing the Armenian alphabet.  But I feel the following points need to be made in the interests of full disclosure.  
Mesrob Mashtot Brandy
  • Credit for the alphabet also goes to Patriarch Isaac and King Bahram-Shahpur, brother and successor to Khosrov IV.  They supported the project and assisted with the translation and propagation.  
  • Saint Mesrop Mashtots died on February 17, 440.  Some celebrate his feast on that day.  The Armenian Church has two feasts for him -- one in July and the other in October.  The Greek Orthodox Church celebrates him on February 19, and I went with their day.  
  • Armenian brandy seems to be popular.  The first label to get a gold medal in an American competition was Mesrob Mashtots Brandy.
 Now please enjoy this video.  

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