Feast Days

St. Mesrob Mashtots and the Armenian Alphabet

St. Mesrob was born around 355 or 361 in the village of Hatsekats, in the province of Taron.  His father’s name was Vardan from the Mamikonian dynasty.
According to Koryun, one of Mesrob’s pupils, who wrote about the life and works of his teacher, the founder of the Armenian Alphabet was highly educated and had mastered the Persian, Assyrian and Greek languages and was the royal secretary of the king Khosrov the Third.
After serving in the royal palace for some time, Mesrob retrieved himself from the political life and devoted his life to prayer and study of the holy Bible.  Historian Koryun tells us that Mesrob lived in an ascetic discipline, fasted and subjected himself to cold weather and poverty.  He became a vegetarian, slept on the ground and spent the nights praying and meditating.  The ascetic life he chose led him to the sacred call awaiting him to serve the Armenian Church and nation for a greater cause.
In 387 AD Armenia was divided between the Romans and Persians.  Armenians spoke Armenian but had no letters to write down their literature.  Greek, Assyrian and Persian were the dominating languages in the divided Armenia and all the royal correspondence and the church liturgy and worship were being conducted in foreign languages.  Armenia was both under political and cultural pressure.  Politically Armenia was not capable of regaining its freedom from the mighty Persians on the one hand, and the Romans on the other.  However, the invention of the Armenian letters would give them a cultural and social independence.
The importance of having letters that would free the Armenians from the use of foreign languages became inevitable, when St. Mesrob started preaching Christianity to the pagans in the region of Goghtun (presently around the village of Garni, where a pagan temple stands).  Mashtots rooted up paganism with the help of prince Shambit and, while preaching the Word of God, he realized that only through the Armenian letters and written literature the Armenian believers would connect themselves to their Holy Apostolic Armenian Church.
Therefore, St. Mesrob and the Catholicos of the time, St. Sahak Partev asked king Vramshabooh's help.  The king promised to help them in their endeavor and he sent a man named Vahrij to see the Assyrian bishop Daniel and monk Roupanos.  22 letters were brought to Armenia, which, after putting them into test, did not satisfy the needs of the sounds of the Armenian language.  Hopeful and driven by the Holy Spirit, St. Mesrob traveled to Edessa and Amid with some of his students.  While praying and traveling to various places in search of letters that would fulfill the sacred mission, he had a vision.  The heavenly grace that was bestowed upon him gave him the wisdom and courage and he invented the much-needed 36 letters in 404-406 AD.  The last 2 letters were added in the 12th century. 
When the letters reached Armenia, Catholicos St. Sahak and St. Mesrob along with their students embarked on a new mission.  They translated the holy Bible into Armenian and called the Holy Book, Asdvadzashountch - Astoua/a,ounc meaning the Breath-of-God.  The Armenian name of the Holy Book was the translation of the Greek word Theopnevstos, which is consisted of two words: God and breath.  
The very first words the holy fathers translated was from the Book of Proverbs, "That men may know wisdom and instructions, understand words of insight" (Proverbs 1:2).




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