Monastic fathers Elya Kilagbyan and Gevorg Sargsyan are rising, gathering energy and ingenuity to keep their small community alive. We are talking about these monastic enlightenment editors who defend the great Armenian culture, regardless of whether it is religious or not.
In Yerevan, you can see the center of Mkhitaryan’s, located in the northeast of the city, next to the Botanical Garden.
An order founded in the 18th century
The founder of the Congregation of the Mkhitaryan Fathers, which today has about twenty monks, is Mkhitar Sebastatsi. This Armenian Catholic monk Petros Manuk was born in 1676 in Sebastia of Western Armenia. In 1700, he founded a monastic monastery in his country that bears his name. He is the guardian of the Armenian monastic tradition and sacred texts. “Although he lived in poverty, his life was like an inner temple filled with books,” says Father Elia. In 1701, persecution forced them to leave for Greece. Then, about fifteen years later, he settled permanently in Venice, on the island of St. Ghazar. Currently, 21 monks are the keepers and students of several tens of thousands of works. These are real treasures that follow the gospel and the history of Christianity in the Middle East and in Europe.
Over time, the Congregation grew, and two autonomous branches were formed: one in Venice and one in Austria. Almost three centuries later, around 1995, the Mkhitaryans founded today’s center in Armenia.
A small team with big responsibilities
Today, the two above-mentioned monks run a school and a small seminary in Yerevan. “We also have regular parish activities,” says Lord Eghia. A total of 18 teachers come to teach in this small school recognized by the Armenian state.
Job in a publishing house.
So far, the small Armenian community, together with another priest, is working on two new books – the republication of the Gospels and the Catechism. In Italy, on the island of St. Ghazar, dozens of monks are working on new books. In Venice, on an island the size of five football fields, is the headquarters of a monastic congregation. There are well-preserved treasures inside the Renaissance buildings. “The library is huge,” recalls Ter Gevorg, who stayed there to complete his priesthood studies. Indeed, this library of expensive architectural style carefully stores more than 200,000 books and more than 5,000 manuscripts (some of which date back to the 9th century). On the island, the Mkhitaryan House continues its historical activity and remains the criterion of Armenian literary work. The “Bazmavep” academic newspaper of Armenology has been published since 1843. It is currently the oldest academic publication in Italy and the fourth in the world.
Monks and literary works
Of these works, we note one that is a book around the world – “The history of the Armenian people from the origins to 1874” by Father Mikael Chamchyan (in 3 volumes). He also worked on the publication of the Interpretation of the Psalms (in 10 volumes). The works of Father Gabriel Avetikyan are rare. He worked, in particular, on the grammar of the Armenian language. He also translated the book of the great Saint Augustine “The City of God” into Armenian. We need to devote more time to these monks, who are themselves open history textbooks. Do their small numbers endanger the future of the community?
Projects and needs
For Elia’s father: “Yes, it’s true, we are getting smaller, but there is reason to hope, we won’t disappear overnight, a lot of friends surround us. The Armenian Diaspora is very active. This helps us to preserve our incredible heritage and realize our current plans. Among the programs in need of regular funding in Armenia is the life of a monastery, a school, and a lyceum. Each month the required budget is estimated at about 9,000 euros. For summer and two-month camps, they need 5,000 euros and about 100 young people for support. To head the Horatan youth Center, they must spend about 2,000 euros a month: publication, books, and translation of the New Testament into Armenian”. Having left the Mkhitaryan monastery complex in Yerevan and contacted the announced job, the task seems difficult. The impossible is not part of their vocabulary. The keepers of the Armenian memory and sacred texts continue their service. They will climb new mountains, although with each generation there will be fewer of them. A new generation is being prepared. They study monastic life and the profession of a publisher. This is not an ordinary phenomenon.
To learn more, visit the Facebook page Mekhitarian center of Armenia.