Archive for August, 2012

The Oskanian Bible

August 29th, 2012    |    No Comments »

“We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the world of life…” (1 John 1:1)

Those words have travelled. And not just from one place to another, but also from generation to generation. Since being set down in the 1st century, the words of Scripture have been recited, chanted, listened to—in every language under the sun.

But it wasn’t until the 15th century that they could be read—not merely by the few who had access to handwritten manuscripts, but by common folk who had the blessing of literacy.

Johannes Gutenberg, a knight of Mainz, Germany, invented the movable type printing process in 1440 and published his 42-line Bible 15 years later. Gutenberg’s invention and publication sparked one of the world’s great communications revolutions.

In the 16th century, it inspired some leaders of the Armenian Church.

With printed volumes spreading throughout Western Europe, Hakob Meghapart took it upon himself to establish an Armenian printing press. He set up shop in Venice, Italy, as the world’s first Armenian printer, publishing the first six printed Armenian books between 1509 and 1513.

In 1585, the Armenian Catholicos Azaria of New Julfa (1584-1601) recognized Meghapart’s efforts and wrote to Pope Gregory XIII in Rome, with a proposal to support the printing of a complete Armenian Bible in Venice.

That request was never answered; but the idea captured the imagination of the Armenian community, whose members lined up to contribute to the project. Prosperous Armenians lent their financial support, allowing Armenian clerics to progressively set up printing houses in many cities.

At last, under the pontificate of Catholicos Philippos I Aghbaketsi (1633-55), the first printed Armenian Bible saw publication.

Oskan Erevantsi (1614-74) had started a printing press in Amsterdam with the help of affluent Armenian patrons.  In 1666 he printed the first complete Armenian Bible, which in his honor is known as the Oskanian Bible. It consisted of 1,462 double pages, with 159 engraved illustrations by the Dutch artist Christoffel van Sichem. It’s considered a masterpiece of the arts of printing and book-binding, and a valuable artifact of the Armenian Christian heritage.

The Krikor and Clara Zorhab Information Center of the Eastern Diocese is home to one of the early copies of the Oskanian Bible. This relic of history is bound between covers of hand-worn wood and aged metal. The interior pages feature intricate illustrations surrounding the classic Armenian printing font. With the turn of each delicate page, the classical Armenian dialect, k’rapar, seems to sing out to the reader. The very physicality of this historic Bible—which measures 10.5 by 8.25 by 4 inches, and weighs 7.5 pounds—inspires a kind of spiritual connection with those who have handled it in the past, and with the artisans who created it three and a-half centuries ago.

With such precious items, from generation to generation, the words of Scripture have been recited, chanted, listened to, and read—in every language under the sun, and also in our own special tongue. Today we still encounter it: on the printed page, in the music of its immortal verses—but best of all in church, where we can experience the Bible in the company of our fellow believers; in our eternal, welcoming home.

“I have much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink; instead I hope to see you soon, and we will talk together face to face.” (3 John 1:13-4)

—Summer intern Kiersten Johnston contributed to this blog post

Intern Kiersten Johnston Looks Back on a Summer of Learning and Spiritual Growth

August 16th, 2012    |    No Comments »

The internship at the Diocese has not been ordinary. In the past eight weeks, I have lived in New York City, connected with my Armenian heritage, and become part of a great family. This article has been my most difficult write.

Last summer, my mom introduced me to an entirely different culture in Armenia. We worked with the Fuller Center for Housing on a house in Dasht village in the Armavir region. Volunteering in Armenia sparked an interest for another summer dedicated to my Armenian heritage.

In late March, my mom sent me an e-mail. She recommended that I apply to the Diocesan internship program as soon as possible. When I placed my application in the mailbox, I opened a small door to an enormous opportunity.

On the first day of work, Nancy Basmajian introduced my fellow intern Maral Wozniak and me to a number of unfamiliar faces. Although we only quietly smiled and waved hello, every introduction felt warm and welcoming. The workplace atmosphere was open, friendly, and kind.

Each week, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., I wrote articles for the Diocesan blog, helped with the Diocesan e-newsletter, and even produced a video. The staff of the Communications Department encouraged me to thoroughly research subjects ranging from saints (such as St. Thaddeus and St. Sandukht) to Armenian programs and trips (including the youth Jerusalem pilgrimage). The job challenged me with producing a video illustrating the Hayr Mer. With every assignment came the value of hard work.

Aside from working in the Communications Department, Maral and I learned Armenian for an hour each day. Once a week, Gilda Kupelian, the coordinator of Armenian Studies, met with us, helping to improve our language skills. We participated in Bible study twice a week with Nancy Basmajian and Elise Antreassian, among others. We were also lucky enough to attend weekly lunches with Diocesan clergy and staff. First day introductions grew to life-long bonds. Lunch conversations were enlightening; we were always learning from one another.

Furthermore, we were blessed to travel with Diocesan clergy and staff on excursions. We visited the Holy Cross Church of Armenia in Washington Heights, N.Y., and the Cloisters museum. We toured the Armenian Embassy and the United Nations. We traveled to St. Vartan Camp with Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, and to St. Nersess Seminary with Michael Guglielmo, the Diocese’s executive director. These experiences spiritually strengthened us and further defined our Armenian identity.

Ultimately, this summer has been much more than the description in my mother’s e-mail. On these last few days, I no longer pass unfamiliar faces. Even after the farewell cake and the final lunch, I know this is not goodbye. This Armenian family will always be here to welcome you home.

Kiersten Johnston works on a video project in the Diocese's Communications Department.

Interning at the Diocese: A Reflection by Maral Firkatian Wozniak

August 15th, 2012    |    No Comments »

I began my internship at the Diocese this summer having just graduated from college. Like many of my fellow graduates, my future was unpredictable and daunting. However, working at the Diocese was perfect for me; I could not have asked for a better introduction to the working world. I gained valuable experience working in an office and developed skills which I will be able to apply to my work in the future.

As a Diocesan intern, I participated in the Armenian General Benevolent Union’s New York Summer Internship Program, which brought me closer to other Armenians from around the world. Together we attended lectures given by Armenians and non-Armenians who have excelled in their respective fields, many of whom started off in NYSIP. We gained mentors who not only helped us gain a better understanding of job options in different fields of study, but also strengthened our ties to the Armenian community.

I was very lucky to have the opportunity to work with Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) as well as with the departments of Communications and Youth and Education at the Diocese. I wrote extensively about FAR’s Young Professionals Trip to Armenia and Eastern Turkey, as well as the ACYOA’s Armenia Service Program. I researched the sites they visited and interviewed the participants to get first-hand accounts of their experiences. In talking to them, I was further motivated to pursue my goal of traveling to Armenia.

Through the research involved in these projects I not only learned more about Armenian history and culture, but also about my future in the Armenian community. I discovered a lot about FAR and the programs it has set up in Armenia. I realized that I like working for a non-profit organization and would like to continue doing so. In the future I hope to work in Armenia with FAR, and this internship has helped me to prepare for that.

For the Department of Youth and Education at the Diocese, I worked on writing adaptations of parables from the Bible for children. This project was an excellent way for me to incorporate our weekly Bible studies into my work. We also had weekly lessons in Armenian language, which helped me improve my Armenian and encouraged me to preserve the language.

On any given day while working at the Diocese, I could hear Armenian being spoken around the office. Even at the beginning, before I really knew anyone, I felt like I was a part of the community. Now, at the close of two months of working here, it is hard to imagine going home where the only Armenian I will hear is at church or in my own house. This internship has helped me realize how important it is for me to continue to work within the Armenian community. I have enjoyed working here at the Diocese, and will miss it greatly.

Maral Firkatian Wozniak works on an article at the Fund for Armenian Relief office.