[ ] | [THE LIFE OF MASHTOTS] | [ ]

 

 

KORIUN

THE LIFE OF MASHTOTS

 

THE STORY OF THE LIFE AND DEATH OF THE BLESSED MAN ST.MASHTOTS VARDAPET OUR TRANSLATOR [WRITTEN] BY HIS PUPIL KORIUN VARDAPET

 

XVI

And then he caine back to visit the places he had organized and the provinces in Armenia that had been taught, in order to revitalize, renovate, and confirin. And when he had filled every place with the holy gospel of the Lord, admonishing them all to walk in die path of life, he then thought of the other half of the Armenian nation which was under the rule of the king of the Horoms[i].

And he hastened and went with many pupils to the region of the Greeks[1], and owing to the renown for his good works which had reached there long before, from the northern regions[2], he received at the very outset of his journey a very sincere and amicable reception from the bishops and princes and provincials of the land, especially from the commander-in-hief of the area whose name was Anatolis, who transmitted in writing [Mesrops] design to Caesar, whose name was Theodosius[3], son of Arcadius[4], from whom there came an order to accord due honors to the Saint, who was to be called Acoemeti[5].

And he took the group of his pupils 'to.Militene[6] and left them in the care of the saintly Bishop of the city whose name was Akakios, and [he] named as their supervisor one called Leontius, a loyal and pious man. And then the blessed one taking with him the excellent Bishop of Derjan, whose name was Gint, and a few of his pupils there, and boarding a public transport and receiving much courtesy, arrived at tile capital city of Constantinople. The court was immediately informed of him, and he entered into the presence of the exalted throne, the God ordained monarchs and to the Patriarch and saintly Catholicos of the royal city, whose name was Atticus, and was well received. It was ordered that

 [Mesrop] be honored in the capital city for a definite period with the same living accommodations accorded to the Church, the court, and the excellent nobles of the city.

And after the passage of Easter, he explained to Caesar the nature of his needs, and obtained unassailable authorization, along with a sacra rescripta[7] bearing Caesar's seal, to gather youths from their half of the Armenian nation[ii] for the purpose of instruction, concerning the Borboritons[8], evil doing men, and the preservation of the Church, as well as to be honored with valuable gifts. The virtuous one, however, having prevailed upon the court, dec]ining the gifts, left [them]. Thereupon he made obeisance to the empurpled august [personages] and to His Holiness the Catholicos, and having ~een bid god-speed by the Church and the foremost princes of the city, they boarded the litters and carriages provided by the court, and with much pomp and circumstance took the royal road. And they were met at every city, and were treated as high dignitaries un every] city.

And having received many gifts, they finally arrived at the appointed places. At once they visited the sparapet of Armenia, and presented themselves [armed with] Caesar's sacra rescripta. And when he received the sacra rescripta bearing Caesar's seal, he hastened to carry out the cornmand at once. He therefore dispatched messengers to the provinces in the half of the Armenian nation to have many youths gathered and to have provisions made for their maintenance at suitable places, where the blessed one resumed his teaching, educating those who had been gathered. Then he undertook to examine the uncouth and stubborn sect of the Borboritons. And when he found no other way to rectify them, he began to use the misery-inflicting stick, with very severe chastisements, imprisonments, tortures, fetters. And when even then they remained deprived of salvation, scourged, braeeed1 imeared in soot, and subjected to various indignities, they were driven out of the land.

However, the blessed one devoted himself to his educational task, organieed and completed it. And having acquired many a noble book by the church fathers, he further deepened his knowledge of the doctrine and was filled with all goodness.

Then there came and visited them an elderly man, an Albanian[9] named Benjamin. And he [Mesrop] inquired and examined the barbaric diction of the Albanian Ianguage, and then through his usual god-given keenness of mind invented an alphabet, which he, through the grace of Christ, successfully organized and put in order.

After this he separated from the bishops, the princes of the land, and all the churches. He appointed two of his pupils, the first one of whom was called, Yenovk, and the second Danan, as overseers for the faithful, clerics, effective men in. the evangelical service, whom he corn-mended to God and placed them there. And along with many pupils he came to the regions of Greater Armenia, and arriving at Nor Kaghak presented himself to the saintly bishop, Sahak, and to the Armenian King whose name was Artashes[10], and to the nobles, and related to them the things wrought by the Grace of God in those regions, and remained there a few days to distributc spiritual consolation. (288)

 

XVII

            And then he bid farewell to then' in order to go to the region of the Albanians and arrived in their country, and upon reaching the royal regions, he saw the saintly Bishop of the Albanians whose name was Jeremiah, and their King, whose name was Arsvagh, who along with the nobility received [him] in the name of Christ with utter compliance. And then they inquired and he explained the reason for his coming. And they, the two associates, the King and the Bishop, expressed their readiness to adopt the letters and ordered that a large number of youths be gathered from provinces and places in the realm and to open schools in suitable places to make provisions for their livelihood.

            And when this order was actually fulfilled and bore results, Bishop Jeremiah soon began the translation of the divine books, whereby at once in one instant, the barbaric, slothful, and brutal men become well acquainted with the prophets and the apostles, becoming heirs to the gospel, and in no way ignorant of the divine traditions. Moreover, the God-fearing King of the Albanians promptly commanded the satanic and devil worshipping nation to withdraw and to free itself from the old superstitions and to submit to the sweet yoke of Christ.

And when they had accomplished it and had done all that was needed and that which he wanted, he was aided in his sacred task of indoctrination, in the region of Baghas, by the saintly Bishop whose name was Moushegh. He then took leave of the Albanian King, the Bishop, and the Church.

            And he named a few of his pupils as overseers over them along with one of the royal priests whose name was Jonathan, who had shown much eagerness for his instruction. And committing them and himself in God's providential mercy, he resumed his journey from the regions of Albania to the land of Georgia.

 

XVIII

He arrived opposite to the Gardmanian valley. He was met by the ruler of the Gardmank whose name was Khours, who with god-loving piety welcomed him and placed himself along with his office at the service of the Vardapet. After enjoying the richness and essence of his doctrine, he helped the blessed one to get on his way while he set out towards his destination.

At that time [one] by the name of Ardzugh became King of Georgia and caused learning to progress and ftounsh, and he visited all the pupils and exhorted them to remain in righteousness.

At that time the ruler of Dashir[11], an excellent god-loving man, whose name was Ashusha, placed himself along with his entire province under his disposal, and the dissenunation of his doctrine was no less successful than in other provinces.

And leaving them in the care of the saintly Bishop Samuel, mentioned above, he returned to the regions of Armenia Major. Coming to the usual places he warmly greeted Saint Sahak and all those whom he saw, and related to them also of those new endeavors. Upon hearmg him they praised God for [His] bounties.

 

XIX

            Then the blessed ones turned their attention to the improvement and refinement of the literature of their nation. (290) Sahak the Great, as before, began to write and to translate.

And it so happened that they dispatched two brothers from among their pupils to the city of Edessa in the region of the [Syrians] the first one Hovsep, as mentioned above, and the second, Eznik[12] by name, from the village of Goghb in the province of Airarat, for the purpose of translating and writing down the traditions of the church fathers from Syriac to Armenian.

            The translators, therefore, upon arriving at their destination, carried out their orders and sent [the translations] to the excellent fathers. Then they went to the region of the Greeks where they studied and became proficient translators from the Greek language. After a while a few brethren came to the region of the Greeks, the name of the first one of which was Ghevondes, and the second, was I, Koriun. And as they drew near Constantinople they joined Eznik, and as most intimate companions, together they performed their spiritual tasks[iii]. Then they came to the land of Armenia, having brought authentic copies of the God-given book and many subsequent traditions of the worthy church fathers, along with the canons of Nicaea and Ephesus, and placed before the fathers the testaments of the Holy Church which they had brought with them.

            Yet blessed Sahak, who had rendered from the Greek language into Armenian all the ecclesiastical books and the wisdom of the church fathers, once more undertook, with Eznik, the comparison of the former random, hurriedly done translations from then available copies with the authentic copies, and they translated many commentaries of the Bible.

And thus the fathers passed their time, day and night, with the reading of books, and thus served as good examples to their studious assistants, especially in keeping with the commandments from God's messengers, the first of whom has commended: "On His laws shalt thou meditate day and night," and the second which similarly cornmands: "And give attendance to reading, exhort'ation, and to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in them..... Meditate - upon the things, giving thyself wholly to them... for doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee."

 

XX

Then the blessed Mashtots with his excellent erudition began to prepare diverse, easily understood and gracious sermons, full of the light and essence of the prophetic books and illustrations of tfue evangelical faith. He then (created) and organized many examples and allusions from ephemeral things of the world related to after-life, resurrection, and hope, so as to make them intelligible even to fools and to those distracted by secular things, to revive, to awaken; and to convince them of the iewards that have been promised.

 

XXI

And thus all over Armenia, Georgia, and Albania, throughout his lifetime, in summer and winter, night and day, fearless and without hesitation, he bore, with his evangelical and upright life, the name of Jesus the Saviour of all, before kings, princes, and all the pagans, and with no c6ntradiction from opponents. And he adorned every (292) man spiritually with the vestments of Christ, and he saved many who had been imprisoned and in chains, by wresting them away from the hands of tyrants by the mighty power of Christ, and he tore up many inequitable contracts and through the doctrine of consolation gave to many who were in mourning and in despair, expectation and hope in the appearance of the glory of Almighty God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, and in general he changed them all by bringing them under God's law.

 

XXII

And again he estabjished many and countiess groups of monks in inhabited as well as in uninhabited places, count-less groups in lowlands, in mountains, in caves, and in cloisters. From time to time he showed himself as an example to them. From all the monasteries he took with him a few pupils to retire into the mountains and to Jive in caves. They secluded themselves in caverns and ended the day by receiving their daily nourishment frorn herbs. And thus they subjected themselves to painful weakness, having especially in view the consolation of the apostolic word: "When I am weak for Christ, I am strong," as well as, "It is better that I glory in my infirmities so that the power of Christ may rest in me." There they did not become drunk with wine, but were filled with the spirit and their hearts were ever ready to praise with hymns the glory of God.

There they received training by reading spiritually instructive books. There the master instructed and exhorted the chosen to go forward to attain the crown offered by Christ. There they were fired with God-worshipping service. There they prayed tearfully and pleaded to God, the lover of (293) mankind, for the reconciliation of the life of all [men].

And thus he performed his spiritual art for many days in desolate places until he received word from the priests of the region to come to their assistance for any worthy purpose in the grace of Christ. And he without hesitation hurried with his assistants whatever happened to the the problem, and through the power of God solved it, and with ceaseless speech, he caused the streams of the doctrine to flow abundantly in the hearts of his hearers.

And he did this throughout his lifetime for himself and for the world. For all true teachers earnestly strive to render their virtues as examples for their 'pupils, especially stressing that of the Lord, the only wise God. "For Jesus began to work and to teach." He often took His disciples aside, and made His all powerful person and example to imperfect men, when on Mount Tabor He pronounced the Beatitudes and offered on the same mountain the canonical prayer, while His disciples sailed on the Sea of Tiberias. And, again, during the feast of the unleavened bread, having secluded himself on the Mount of Olives, He offered His prayer of the night. Thus it is evident without the need of scrutiny that the Lord of All strove not for Himself, but to teach the world, as an example for all who obey, and for that reason said, "watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation."

And if earthen man is deficient in the knowledge of the minor arts, how much more lacking may he be considered in the art which enables him to speak with God? Thus blessed Paul states that all are ignorant; therefore, the omniscient spirit comes to their aid and intercedes for them "with groanings that cannot be uttered."

Yet when we hear that "Jesus began to work and to teach," it should be understood that He worked and taught and not as though He made a present [of the knowledge]. (294) And the intercession of the saints and the intercession of the Holy Spirit was for the purpose of teaching us, and is to be understood as intercession for one another, for Godhood is not of varying but of equal [rank].

While the blessed apostles, having received the example from the teacher of truth, first applied it to their imperfect selves, and then transmitted it to their disciples. They greatly exalted the glory of Christ, sometimes in private, and sometimes by gathering the people together. For in reality it is far more useful to retreat from all worldly interests, to withdraw one's self and to engage only in the worship of God, as had done the prophets who in the mountains and deserts and in caverns had devoted themselves to the service of the divine faith.

Similarly, all the church fathers who came after the order of the disciples, endowed as they were with piety, served as examples to us who have followed them. Thus the blessed one had assumed this honored tradition, and similarly admonished all who came near him with the same exhortation. And it was thus that they lived a long time, richly filled by the grace of divine gifts, risin'g early in the morning for the same purpose, daily, with perseveranee.

 

XXIII

            At that time there was brought to the land of Armenia the false books and inane traditions of a man named Theodore[13]. Synodical fathers of the church had informed Sahak and Mesrop, the faithful glorifiers [of God], concerning it in writing; and the latter, in the interest of truth, destroyed and sent them beyond their borders, so that no satanic smoke might contaminate the luminous doctrine. (295)

 

XXIV

After that the blessed Sahak, righteous to the end, full I the number of years and gracious with the goodness of God-given bounties, on the first year of Jazdegerd [II], son of Vram, the King of Persia, in the province of Bagrevand[14] and village of Belrotsats, at the end of the month of Navasard[15], even as they had been commemorating ie birthday of the blessed one, at the hour of two, in the course of the administration of extreme unction with rayers pleasing to God, expired in Christ, as spoken y the prophet, "Into thine hand commit I my spirit," rid as the blessed Stephan said, "Lord Jesus receive iy spirit." He, moreover, committed to God those he ft behind.

Hastily making all preparations, his God-loving officers, his own pupils, the chief of whom was called Yeremia, a saintly and devout man, who with the assistance of noble lady named Douster, the wife of Vardan, whom e have mentioned before, as well as a large group of Lintly men, raised him with psalms, doxologies, and ymns, and going day and night for several days, arrived Taron, thc very village of Ashtishat[16]. And there, at ie altar of All the Martyrs, placed him with sweet-smellg incense of all kinds in the'sarcophagus of the saints, id sealed it with the seal of Christ, and after performing the customary rites, everyone returned to this place. very year coming together at that month, they observed his memory.

 

XXV

            But his blessed colleague, by this I mean Mashtots, ared with yearning, was immersed in sad, tearful, and heartfelt lamentations, and deep mourning. For if the (296) holy Apostle upon not finding his co-worker, Timothy[17], says that his soul was restless, how much more sorrow is experienced over those who are forever departed, by those who are left behind? Even though the sorrow caused by loneliness would not permit cheerfulness, yet he continued with the grace of God, faultlessly, his evangelism and administration of the Holy Church and strove even more and exhorted everyone to be undaunted in goodness. And day and night, with fasting and praying and with supplications, and in loud voice admonished everyone, reminding them of the God-ordained commandments, and performed some of the most arduous disciplines [of monastic life]. Above all, owing to his advanced age, thinking of his last days, he would not allow his eyes to be overcome with sleep nor his eyelids with somnolence, until he attained rest in the Lord.

 

XXVI

And while he thus revived the religious fervor of those who were near blin, and sent many messages of advice and exhortation to all the pr6vinces, the same year, six months after the death of blessed Sahak[18], the Armenian Army being located, along with the saintly master, in the Nor Kaghak in Airarat, with the same godly life he reached the sainfly end of those who have been summoned by Christ. And after an illness of a few days, on the 13th day of the month of Mehekan, as was about to become separated from his beloved pupils to join Christ's legion, freed from his pains and regaining consciousness, he arose and sat in the midst of those around him, and with hands upraised to heaven, he surrendered to God's grace those who remained, and asked assistance of them. (297)

And the names of the prindipal disciples who had gathered [there] are, first, Hovsep, whom we have menioned at the beginning; second, Tadik, a temperate nan, most heedful to the directions of the master. Among he military, the name of the first one, Vahan, of the Amatouni clan, who was the commander in chief of Arnenia Major, and that of the second, Hmayak[19], of the Mamikonian clan, excellent and pious men, heedful to Lile masters instructions.

And as the hands of the saint were upraised to heaven, Lhere was seen a luminous vision resembling a cross over the mansion where the blessed one was dying. This was seen by everyone with his own eyes, and was not related by acquaintances. And he passed on to the saints love and unity as a legacy, blessed them that were far and near, and went to his rest, offering prayers pleasing to Christ.

Vahan and Hmayak, along with the populace, lifted the deceased, having made all arrangements, with psalms and doxologies and spiritual joy, with burning bandles and flaming torches, sweet-smelling incense, and brilliant candlesticks, preceded by luminous crucifixes, went up to Oshakan[20] and laid him there in the place of the Martyrs and performed the funeral rites. Then the vision disappeared, and they all returned to their places.

However, three years later Vahan Amatouni was able to build, with Christ-loving zeal, a marvelous church with finely hewn, sculptured stones, and inside the church built the Saint's tomb. For the altar of the life-giving body and blood of Christ, he prepared graceful vessels of varied colors, decorated with shining gold, silver, and precious stones. And together with the assembled monks, he transferred the body of Mashtots, the witness for Christ's religion of the cross, to the sarcophagus in the church. And for the glory of God they appointed one of 298 his pupils named Tadik, a temperate and pious man, along with brethren, as servants of the Saint who had attained the state of bliss.

 

XXVII

   The principals, administrators, and vicars had been named by the departed church fathers. The first of these was Hovsep, chief of the council, and the second, another pupil named Hovhan, a truly saintly, truth-loving man. It so happened that, dfter the passing of the Saint, this man victoriously withstood for Christ many and varied torments and sorrows in chains at Ctesiphone[21] in a singlehanded combat against redoubled tyranny, and thereby inherited the designatibn of confessor, and returned to his administrative task in Armenia.

As for the beneficent Vahan, who rendered unexpected assistance to all, through the grace of Christ our God, becoming a true spiritual son of the world-reforming fathers, was worthy of being a close participant in their life.

 

XXVIII

And the fathers went to their reward as we have written. We did not record them by gleaning them from old tales; on the contrary, we witnessed their countenances, as assistants in [their] spiritual endeavors, were hearers of their gracious teaching, and were their co-workers as per the dictum of the Gospel. We have done.this for my father, not by resort to false eloquence, but we wrote [this] concise work by leaving out much and by gathering (299) from all best informed people, [facts] which are known not only to us but to those who have read this book. For we could not record in detail all the things that they each of them had done, but sufficed by this easier apostolic Acts. We set aside a multitude of the acts of the saints, so as to relate in detail the most important events. And we related this not for the glory of the saints of God who already have been honored for their most luminous faith and life, but as an inspiring example to their spiritual sons and to all who, through them, will be taught from generation to generation.

 

XXIX

And thus the blessed one's years of faith[iv] were forty-five years, and the period from the creation of the Armenian alphabet to his death, thirty-five years[22], which is computed as follows: The Persian King Kerman[23] reigned six years and Jazdegcrd, twenty-one years, (and Vram eighteen years), and the Saint died in the first year of Vram's son, Jazdegerd II.

Thus, the years of [service] ir, the holy faith began on the fourth year of King Kerman up to the first year of Vrarn's son Jazdegerd II, and the Armenian alphabet was created on the eighth year of Jazdegerd [I].

And glory to Christ, the lover of mankind.

[ ] | [THE LIFE OF MASHTOTS] | [ ]
2004,



[1] Greeks - The reference here is to the Eastern Roman Empire. (See the preface). In the year 307 Armenia was divided between two powerful neighbors. The eastern half (larger segment) became a suzerainty under the Persian kings, and until 428 continued to be ruled by an Armenian vassal king. The western half was occupied by the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines recognized no Armenian king in their section of the country, but governed it through governors who were also referred to as sparapet (generals).

[2] Northern region. Georgia and eastern Armenia.

[3] Theodosius II - Roman emperor who ruled 408-450.

[4] Arcadius. The first emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire (395-408).

[5] Acoemeti. A Greek word which means, without sleeping. Sometimes an appellation common to Eastern ascetics known by rthe rigor of their vigil, but usually the name of Greek Basilian monks who devoted themselves to prayer and praise without intermission day and night.

[6] Militene - Present Malatia, Turkey, east of the Euphrates River, north of Samosata. During the fourth and fifth centuries it was the center of the Armenian territory under Byzantine rule.

[7] Sacra rescripta - Letter or message from caesar.

[8] Borburitons - According to Ormanian the Borboritons, who are supposed to have originated in Syria, in all likelihood, a remnant from pagan times, considered every law and form of worship superfluous and indulged in all types of disorderliness, impiety, and lasciviousness, believing a simple prayer sufficient to wipe out all sins. (From "Azkapatum")

[9] Albanian - (In Armenian, Aghvan), a native of Caspian Albania, a country which lay north-east of Armenia, extendIng from Kura to Caspian Sea. Aghvans were friendly to the Armenians.

[10] Artashes - Son of Vramshapouh, the last Arsacid king on the throne of Armenia.

[11] Dashir - Present Lori.

[12] Eznik - Eznik Koghbatsi, who colIaborated with Cath-(360) tholicos Sahak in the translation of the Bible from the Greek, and authored the book, 'Concerning False Sects".

[13] Theodore Mopsuestia - The teacher of Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople 428-431, who was deprived of his office, as a heretic, by the Council of Ephesus.

[14] Bagrevand - Present district of Aiashgerd.

[15] Navasard - The first month of the Armenian calendar.

[16] Ashtishat - A village where the celebrated pagan temple which housed the statues of Armenia's gods and goddesses, Vahakn, Anahit, Astghik, were located. After the adoption of Christianity it became the property of Gregory the Illuminator.

[17] Timothy - This reference is supposed to be to Titus and not to Timothy, since it appears to refer to the passage in II Corinthians 2:13: "I had no rest in my spirit because I found not Titus my brother".

[18] The death of Sahak occurred on September 7, 439, and that of Mesrop, on February 7, 440.

[19] Hmayak - Brother of Vardan Mamikonian.

[20] Oshakan - Even though a number of martyrs and confessors already had been buried at Oshakan, it became famous as the final resting place of the creator of the Armenian alphabet.

[21] Cteslphone - The winter capital of the Sassanid Persian kings, 18 kilometers south of Bagdad.

[22] Invention of the Alphabet - As per Koriun Mashtots died 35 years after the invention of the Armenian aiphahet. If the figures have not been distorted, the beginning of the invention of the Armenian alphabet was in 404.

[23] Persian Overlords of Armenia who reigned during the period described by Koriun were: Kerman or Kermansbah who reigned 389-399; Jazdegerd 1, 399-420; Vram V, 420-439, Jazdegerd II, 439-457. These dates coincide with those mentioned by Koriun.



[i] The Byzantine emperor. (286)

[ii] The part of Armenia under Byzantine rule. (287)

[iii] That is, the work of translation. (291)

[iv] Life as a clergyman