St. Nerses the Graceful


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ST. NERSES THE GRACEFUL

 

One of the most noble and saintly leaders of the Armenian Church, and a great literary figure in Armenian Ecclesiastical Literature is Nerses, surnamed Shnorhali, "The Graceful," born in 1100 A.D.

 

In the year 1113 Nerses’ elder brother Gregory was elected Catholicos. Nerses was his brother’s principal assistant. He administered most of the affairs of the Church with wisdom and skill, while at the same time, devoting himself to music, poetry and literature. He composed the music and words of hymns and chants which are still used today in the services of the Armenian Church. He was consecrated a bishop when he was thirty-five years old.

 

Upon the death of his brother in 1165, Nerses was elected to the office of Catholicos of All Armenians, (Nerses IV) and remained in office until his death in 1173. One of the most popular of his works is a prayer, consisting of twenty-four verses, beginning with the words, "I confess with faith".

 

He made a permanent contribution to Armenian Church literature by enriching the Book of Hours or breviary (Zhamagirk), with many liturgical songs. Most of his songs are written acrostically, that is, in the order of the Armenian alphabet, consisting of thirty-six verses. Others bear his permanent signature, as the first letter of each verse starts with a letter of his name spelling the word "Nerses".

 

During his pontificate, he worked hard to bring about reconciliation and intercommunion between the Greek and the Armenian Churches, but forces beyond his power prevented the realization of his noble ideals.