Featured, Saints

SAHAG AND MESROB: THE HOLY TRANSLATORS

The Armenian Church and the Armenian language have helped Armenians defeat existential threats. The Armenian language as a factor in national survival is second only to the conversion of the Armenians to Christianity and the establishment of a national church. Thus, language has played a dual role for the Armenians: first, as a medium of communication; second and more important, as a cohesive force for national survival.

The invention of the Armenian alphabet in A.D. 406 by St. Mesrob produced a linguistic tool as remarkable as the language for which it was devised. The Armenian alphabet was invented and used for the Armenian language alone. It was designed to be a perfect phonetic representation of the spoken language.

It is even more amazing that a large and noteworthy body of literature grew immediately, using an alphabet that was a completely new invention and not an evolution of an earlier alphabet. If the Armenian alphabet had not been a perfect instrument for writing Armenian, it would have been impossible to use it to translate the Bible and the many other works that marked the early Golden Era of Armenian literature in the fifth century.

Today, June 24, the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of Saints Sahag Bartev and Mesrob Mashdotz, the Holy Translators. The feasts dedicated to the Holy Translators are among the most beloved commemorations for Armenians. Sahag and Mesrob are honored two times during the liturgical year: as the leaders of the cultural movement, on the Thursday following the fourth Sunday after Pentecost, which is today, and on the second Saturday in October along all the translators. The visionary leadership of these two men who recognized the necessity of an Armenian alphabet changed the course of Armenian history. The two saints, Sahag and Mesrob, are forever linked in the minds and hearts of the Armenian people.