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LOVING FATHER TO ALL GENERATIONS

by Ruth Bedevian

Catholicos Mgrdich Khrimian was the personification of love. He was a true patriot and believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its profound message of liberation and empowerment. He loved God, his people and the soil of the Armenian homeland. Teacher, writer, poet, priest, Prelate, Patriarch of Istanbul (1869-1873), Catholicos of all Armenians (from 1892-1907), Mgrdich Khrimian held many titles, but the one that has endured throughout the years is the one given to him by the people, Hayrig (Father)!

In all aspects of Khrimian Hayrig’s life, his writings, sermons, and deeds, there is evidence of integrity and strength. He was a genuine leader, a man who toiled endlessly to improve life for his flock, to strengthen family life in his nation, and to educate not only young men, but women as well. This was a visionary concept for that period of history. He strove for enlightenment, and in so doing, enlightened the path for posterity. He was a father-figure to Komitas Vartabed and encouraged him in his pursuit of musical education. He is distinguished as a writer, being one of the earliest to focus on the soil of Western Armenia rather than the Diasporan life. In this regard he forged the path for future writers to reflect the life in the homeland. He encouraged his people to defend themselves against the plunder and the criminal acts committed by the Kurdish tribes who were encouraged by the Turkish authorities. Khrimian fostered his people to resist their aggressors: "Until when are you going to be butchered like sheep by the savage and ignorant Kurds? You are men! You have a pair of hands! Do you think you can have freedom without blood? Freedom will not come to you as a gift."(www.vasbouragan.org/ ) He was a practical man, yet a man of faith and courage.

When Mgrdich Khrimian became the Prelate of Daron, the Turkish government singled out the Armenians and taxed them only. The local authorities ignored Khrimian’s pleas to stop this unfair practice. The Prelate wrote to the Patriarchate in Istanbul, and filed complaints with the governor of Erzrum, to no avail. Finally, in the middle of winter, he traveled to Garin, convinced a few dignitaries to join him, and pled his case to the governor. He succeeded in getting an order to repeal the taxes. When he returned to Moush, huge crowds of Armenians came to greet him. Expressing their deep love for this loving, fatherly Prelate, the people of Moush dubbed him with affection “Hayrig.” This is the story behind this beloved endearment which he carried with great joy for the remainder of his life.

While Khrimian was Catholicos, the Tzarist government of Russia confiscated all church properties. Khrimian dismissed all the clergy and religious councils, which made him totally responsible, and refused to hand over the keys. Although the government did confiscate the churches and the properties by force, shortly after, it returned them to the Armenians.

Toward the end of his life, he told Avetik Isahakian, a famous Armenian writer: ‘Hayrig isn’t feeling well; he won’t last long... I will be in the company of princes, kings, heroes, Khorenatzi, Narekatzi, Victor Hugo..."Khrimian Hayrig died on October 27, 1907. He is buried in the courtyard of the Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin and on his birthday, April 4, Hokihanquist is offered for the repose of his soul in the Mother See.

Some of His writings include:1850 Hravirag Araratian - Invitation to Ararat): 1851 Hravirag Yergreen Avediatz -(Invitation to the Land of Good Tidings in which he sings the praises of Jerusalem; 1855 Ardzvig Vasbouraganee - (Eaglet of Vasbouragan), periodical and later on a newspaper published in Vasbouragan; 1863 Ardzvig Darono - (Eaglet of Daron): periodical published in Daron. Two publications, "Haykooj" and "Vankooj" where he laments the atrocities perpetrated upon the Armenians by the Turks; 1866 Markareed Arkayootyan Yergneetz - (The Pearls of the Heavenly Kingdom) in which Khrimian explains the teachings of the Bible; 1876 Project of Reform and two other volumes: The Elegy of the Cross and The Time and its Mysteries; 1878 Trakhdee Endahneek - (Family of Eden) where he describes the ideal family life; 1879 Seerak and Samuel which are sermons written for the youth; 1894 Babig yev Tornig - (Grandfather and Grandchild where he values man’s love for the soil of his homeland.’

Three treaties thwarted Armenians from aspiring to self-determination during the 1800s. They were the Treaty of Paris (1856), the Treaty of San Stefano (early 1878) and the Treaty of Berlin (later in the same year). France, Great Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia, Sardinia and the Ottoman Empire negotiated the Treaty of Paris following the Crimean War. One of the agreements established the Ottoman Empire as a member of the European concert and its integrity was guaranteed; and in return, the Sultan promised to improve the status of his Christian subject minorities, of which the Armenians represented an imposing number. The Treaty of San Stefano received its name from the village where it was signed (now Yesilkoy), a village west of Istanbul and dealt with agreements between Russia and the Ottoman Empire following the Russo-Turkish Wars. In this treaty, the Ottomans ceded to Russia parts of Armenia. Bulgaria was made an autonomous principality and was immensely enlarged. Because the Treaty of San Stefano modified the Treaty of Paris and greatly increased Russian influence in Southeast Europe, Great Britain, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, Italy and France obtained its revision at an international conference in the same year known as the Berlin Congress. Against this historical background, the Armenian National Assembly and Patriarch Nersess of Constantinople sent Khrimian to Berlin to present the case for the Armenians. Upon his return to Constantinople, he recited the following message at the Cathedral. (Haig Ajemian, Hayotz Hayrig, page 511-3; [translated by Fr. Vazken Movsesian].


The Paper Ladle

Blessed and beloved Armenians: Now, you have all perked up your ears, impatiently and anxiously waiting to hear what sort of news Khirimian Hayrig has brought us from the Berlin Congress, and what will he say about Article 61 which the powerful governments of the world have bestowed upon the Armenian provinces. Listen carefully to what I am about to say. Grasp the profound meaning of my words and then go and contemplate on my message.

As you know, upon the decision of Patriarch Nersess and the National Assembly, we went to Berlin to present the Armenian Case to the great powers of the Congress. We had great hopes that the Congress would bring peace to the world and liberation to the small and oppressed nations, among which we count ourselves.

The Congress convened, the statesmen of the great powers of the world gathered around diplomatic tables covered with green cloth. And we, the small and suppressed nations waited outside the Congress. In the middle of the Congress, upon a table covered with green cloth was placed a large bowl of heriseh (a thick and pasty stew-like meal) from which large and small nations and governments would draw their portion.

Some of the participants pulled to the East, some pulled to the West, and after long debates, in order, one by one, they called the representatives of the small nations [into the meeting]. The Bulgarian entered first, then Serbian and the Gharadaghian. The rattling of the swords hanging from their sides attracted the attention of the assembly.

After speaking for some while, these three, pulled out their swords, as if ladles made of iron, and dipped into the bowl, took their portion of heriseh and proudly and boldly departed.

It was now the turn of the Armenian delegate. I drew near with the paper petition from the National Assembly, presented it and asked that they fill my plate too with heriseh. Then, the officials standing before the bowl asked me, "Where is your iron ladle? It is true that we are serving heriseh here, but he who does not have an iron ladle cannot draw from it. Listen up. In the future, if this heriseh is distributed, do not come without a ladle or you will return empty handed.

Dear Armenian people. Could I have dipped my paper ladle in the heriseh? It would have become wet and stayed there. There, where guns talk and swords make noise, what significance do appeals and petitions have?

And I saw next to the Gharadaghian, the Bulgarian and other delegates, several brave [men], blood dripping from the swords hanging at their sides. I then turned my head, as if I was looking for the brave men from Zeitoon, Sasoon, Shadakh and other mountainous areas. But where were they? People of Armenia, tell me, where were those brave souls?
Should not one or two of them have been next to me, so that showing their bloody swords to the members of Congress I could have exclaimed, "Look, HERE ARE MY IRON LADLES! They are here, ready!" But alas, all I had was a paper petition, which got wet in the heriseh and we returned empty handed. Truly, had they compared me with the delegates of the Congress, I was taller, my facial features were more attractive. But to what avail? In my hand was placed a piece of paper and not a sword. For this reason we were deprived of the heriseh. In spite of all, in view of the future, going to the Congress of Berlin was not useless.

People of Armenia, of course you understand well what the gun could have done and can do. And so, dear and blessed Armenians, when you return to the Fatherland, to your relatives and friends, take weapons, take weapons and again weapons. People, above all, place the hope of your liberation on yourself. Use your brain and your fist! Man must work for himself in order to be saved.

Sources:
- Window Quarterly. Vol. I, No. 2, 1990. By Permission.
- http://www.vasbouragan.org/khrimian/khrimian.htm
- Bardakjian, Kevork B. A Reference Guide to Modern Armenian Literature, 1500-1920. Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 2000

Ruth Bedevian

Acknowledgements:

Provided by: Ruth Bedevian

© by Ruth Bedevian. Published with the permission of the author. No copying or any sort of redistribution allowed without the prior written permission of the author.

See also:

Khrimian Hairig's biography (also in Armenian )
Poems of Khrimian Hairig (translated by Alice Stone Blackwell )

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