Featured, Saints

STS. VARTANANTZ

Armenians worldwide celebrate the Feast of Vartanantz tomorrow, Thursday, February 24commemorating the war between pagan Persia and Christian Armenia in 451. The king of Persia ordered all Christians under his rule to abandon Christianity and embrace Zoroastrianism. The Armenian clergy and leaders refused to follow this command and took an oath to fight the enemies of truth. Before the two armies met on the battlefield on the morning of May 26, 451, Vartan Mamigonian, the leader of the Armenian forces, addressed his soldiers: “He who supposes that we put on Christianity like a garment, now realizes that as he cannot change the color of his skin, so he will perhaps never be able to accomplish his designs. For the foundations of our faith are set on the unshakeable rock, not on earth but above in heaven, yet by faith we are established in heaven where no one can reach the building of Christ not made by human hands.”

Vartan was the leader of the Armenians in the decisive battle on the plains of Avarayr, and although outnumbered, the Armenians put up a fierce resistance against the mighty Persian Empire. Vartan and many of his soldiers died, but the Persians sustained even greater casualties, and they recognized the strong commitment the Armenians had to their Christian faith. With this battle the Armenians clearly demonstrated that Christianity had become a part of their national identity.

The resistance to Persian rule continued for more than thirty years, led by Vahan Mamigonian, nephew of Vartan. Vahan successfully negotiated the Treaty of Nvarsag in 484, the earliest document granting religious freedom and home rule.

The Armenian Church canonized the heroes of Vartanank as a group in the fifth century. In April 2015 our generation witnessed the historic collective canonization of the 1.5 million martyrs of the Armenian genocide. It was the first canonization by the Armenian Church since the 15 th  century when Krikor Datevatzi was granted sainthood.

“Newly wondrous crown-bearer and leader of the grave, you courageously armed yourself against death with the weapon of the Spirit, O Vartan, courageous warrior, you turned the enemy to flight and have crowned the Church with your rose-colored blood. …

“Surrounded today by the host of these crowned warriors, we sing glory in praise to you, O Holy Trinity, and we thank you for the mercy shown by you to the Armenian churches brightly adorned by the martyrdom of these strugglers.”

(Sharagan  to Saint Vartan and his companions, from the Liturgical Canons of the Armenian Church)