This Saturday, June 17, the Armenian Church commemorates Catholicos Nerses the Great and Khat the Bishop. Nerses the Great was the father of Catholicos Sahak I. He succeeded two catholicoi whose reigns were unexceptional, and the people were eager to return to the line of their beloved Gregory the Illuminator. Nerses was a student of St. Basil of Caesarea, one of three great Cappadocian Fathers. Nerses’ pontificate was the beginning of a new era. He brought the church closer to the people, rather than to royals and nobles. He convened the Council of Ashtishat that resulted in numerous laws on issues related to marriage, worship, and customs. He built many schools, hospitals, and monasteries. He sent monks to preach the Gospel throughout the country. His bold actions resulted in great displeasure by the royal family and in 373 he was reportedly poisoned by the king. His accomplishments for the spiritual and social wellbeing of the common people earned him the gratitude of the entire nation and the honorific “Great.”
The office of the Prelacy’s charity in Yerevan is named St. Nerses the Great Charitable and Social Organization in honor of the saint.
Khat the Bishop worked closely with St. Nerses the Great. Like Nerses he had a great passion for social issues, especially helping the poor. Nerses entrusted most of the benevolent work of the church to Khat. He is so closely associated with St. Nerses that the church honors them on the same day.
You shined the ineffable light of the grace of your divine knowledge on the land of Armenia. Merciful heavenly Father, have mercy upon us sinners. You chose St. Nerses, purified by the Spirit, from the womb, to inherit the paternal position to shepherd in righteousness and in justice. He adorned the Church with the law of truth and rightly set in order. O Christ, spare us through his prayers. Along with the blessed chosen holy fathers of the Council, he was honored with great glory by confessing the Spirit as true God with the Father and the Son. You revealed to St. Nerses the hidden mystery of things to come. O Christ, spare us through his prayers. On account of the commandments of the heavenly King, he received the cup of death from the king and entered heaven, into the luminous bridal chamber.
(Canon to the Holy Patriarch Nerses the Great from the Liturgical Canons of the Armenian Church)