"French is the language of love, Armenian is the language of prayer"
In the year 387 A.D., Armenia was divided by two rival nations. Persia had control of Eastern Armenia and ruled through the Arshagooni Dynasty, with Persian authorities doing their utmost to enforce upon the Armenian people the Mazteism (fireworship) religion. In addition, Syrian bishops were encouraged by the Persians to infiltrate and control the Armenian Church. This was done in order to weaken the Armenian ApostolicChurch. As a result, these Syrian bishops rose to high rank in our early church and conducted the Armenian schools and church services in the Syrian language which our people did not understand.
On the other hand, Western Armenia was under the dominion of the Byzantine nation. Greek bishops forced the Greek language upon the churches and schools and their intention was to take over the leadership of the Armenian Church. Thus, in both parts of divided Armenia the same danger existed. Because of the use of foreign clergy and languages (Greek and Syrian), the Armenian Christian and national creativity was suppressed and remained impotent.
It is said that "necessity is the mother of all inventions." Mesrob was the name of one who lived in the above mentioned period. In his heart he felt the need of the nation. By trusting and believing the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit, Mesrob accomplished a unique task. Through his efforts the people of Armenia became, in a sense, a free people, a civilized people living in the center of the civilized world. He added something beautiful to Armenian culture and bestowed upon us unlimited treasure–spiritual, cultural, national and humanitarian–in every area of human values and Christianity.
Born in the village of Hatsegats (in 353 A.D.) in the Armenian Province of Taron, Mesrob was the son of a man called Vartan. His early education was taken from the famous clergyman Nersess the Great, and later he furthered his higher education in the Greek schools. Because of his brilliant education and most interesting personality, he was selected as the royal secretary of the Armenian king. Many honors were bestowed upon him for his great service.
While in this pleasant and most promising position, Mesrob, through his personal study of the Bible, heard God's call in his heart. He accepted the call and obeyed it all the way. To the great surprise of his acquaintances he resigned from his royal position and took the humble rank of a monk. After gathering a few disciples around him he began to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the cities and villages of our beloved motherland, Armenia.
He preached in the streets with a Bible in his hand which was written in Syriac or Greek from which he verbally translated the Word of God. It was in this apostolic evangelizing mission that Mesrob saw the greatest need of our nation. This great need was for the Armenian version of the Holy Bible, the highway of salvation. Through it, all the spiritual and national needs of the Armenians would be met. Without the Armenian alphabet, there was no way to have the Armenian Bible. Mesrob was convinced that spiritual darkness of the Armenian Soul would be purged through the living Word of God. He used to repeat so often the Apostle's words (Romans 9:2,3), "That I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race."
Through his own experiences Mesrob found out that without the study of the Holy Bible, our people would never completely separate from the pagan customs and beliefs which they had renounced one hundred years before. At that time Christianity was officially the national religion and two hundred years before that historic date, Thaddeus, Bartholomew, Princess Santoukht, and many others had suffered martyrdom for their faith.
Mesrob did not give up because of raging problems. He tried to use alphabet letters borrowed from a Syrian bishop named Daniel, but those letters were insufficient to form all the syllables of the Armenian language. More investigations were made by Mesrob and his scholarly assistants in order to find a suitable alphabet. They studied and researched at famous learning centers of the world, but to no avail. Mesrob was wholly dependant on God and did not lose hope. In a vision, God gave him the Armenian alphabet. With the help of a Hellenic Scribe named Ropanos, he designed all the newly found letters. Once the alphabet was established, the very first thing Mesrob did was to translate the Holy Bible. The unfathomable joy which he felt was also shared by the whole nation. By God's providence, the Armenian Church was enjoying the leadership of Catholicos Sahag, another well learned and graceful servant of God. With the help of the faithful Armenian king Vromshabouh's financial help, Catholicos Sahag and Mesrob,along with other scholars undertook the translation of the Bible from the original languages. What resulted was a translation so beautiful and accurate that non-Armenian scholars called it "The Queen of all translations." The translation of the Bible ushered into Armenia . . . The Armenian Golden Age of Literature.
So beloved was the Word by the translators and our people, they named the Bible "Asdvadzashounch" which means the "Breath of God." For them the Bible was alive and full of the power of God. Once Armenians began to learn God's Word in their own language, the birth of the most graceful and civilized sons and daughters in our nation's history took place. Vartan the Brave and many others willingly died for this gift.
taken from "CONCERNING THE BREATH OF GOD"
by: Rev. Fr. Krikor Hairabedian
view the Armenian Alphabet