Asbarez: ‘Odes of Saint Nersess the Graceful: Annotated Translation’ Now Available on Amazon

"Odes of Saint Nersess the Graceful: Annotated Translation" book cover

NEW YORK—Tarkmaneal Press announced the release of “Odes of Saint Nersess the Graceful: Annotated Translation” by Matthew J. Sarkisian and Jesse S. Arlen. The volume is the second in the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center’s series Sources from the Armenian Christian Tradition and is available for purchase on Amazon.

St. Nersess the Graceful (Nersēs Shnorhali, 1102–1173 A.D.), = from 1166 until his death in 1173, was one of the great figures of the medieval Armenian Church. His most popular work is the prayer of twenty-four stanzas commonly known as “With Faith I Confess” (“Havadov Khosdovanim”), which has been translated into more than thirty languages. He was also a prolific author and composer of hymns and other poetic works, many of which remain little known today. This volume presents the Armenian text and an English translation of sixty of St. Nersess’s liturgical odes (tagh), fifty-eight of which have never been previously translated into English. These profound songs of praise were composed to enhance the celebration and reflect on the mystery of the various feasts and commemorations that make up the Christian liturgical year. The translation is accompanied by an introduction and extensive annotation, which brings to light the Biblical, theological, and poetic features of these literary treasures, making them accessible to the general reader in the twenty-first century.

Tarkmaneal Press was founded in 2024 by Matthew J. Sarkisian and Jesse S. Arlen with thegoal of bringing bilingual editions of classical Armenian texts with annotated English translations available to a wide audience. Sarkisianis a self-taught translator of Classical Armenian who lives in the Binghamton, New York area. He previously collaborated with Jesse Arlen on an annotated translation of an Armenian prayer scroll (hmayil), published in 2022 by the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center. Arlenis the director of the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center at the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University. He has published a number of studies on late antique and medieval Christian spirituality and monastic literature.

“St. Nersess Shnorhali, Nersess the Graceful, belongs to the rank of those Church Fathers and Doctors who rightfully can be declared “the lyre of the Holy Spirit.” One of the earliest European Armenologists, the Jesuit Fr. Jacques Villote, admiring the sublime touches of heavenly inspiration emanating from Shnorhali’s verses, called his poetic masterpiece — named in Armenian Յիսուս, Որդի (Jesus, Son) from its incipit — ‘The Divine Elegy.’ Nersess Shnorhali is one of the most exceptional figures in the history of the universal Church for more than one reason, but above all for his passionate search for the unity of the Church, and for his deep understanding, in the wake of St. Gregory of Narek, of the fragility, the conventionality, the inadequacy of human language in speaking of Divine mystery. The Odes in this volume, masterfully translated and commented upon by Matthew J. Sarkisian and Jesse S. Arlen, are among the most vibrant, genuine, and touching expressions of Shnorhali’s spirituality,” said Archbishop Levon Zekiyan, Emeritus Professor of Armenian Studies, Ca’ Foscari, Venice, and the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome.

“St. Nersess Shnorhali’s hymns are known for their literary beauty and spiritual sublimity. Sarkisian and Arlen convey both aspects in their mellifluous translation. The substantial annotation they provide further defines their mastery of the classical text,” said Abraham Terian, Emeritus Professor of Armenian Patristics and Theology, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary.

“Thanks to Jesse Arlen and Matthew Sarkisian for this carefully prepared labor of love and learning. They have curated for us a trove of lesser-known, spiritual gems from the vast storehouse of St. Nersess Shnorhali’s writings,” said Roberta Ervine, Professor of Armenian Christian Studies, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary.