St. Sahak and St. Mesrop

Saints Sahak and Mesrop are two pillars of the Armenian Church, who conceived the idea of translating the Bible into Armenian and created the Armenian alphabet in order to do so. St. Sahak was born in 354, the great, great grandson and last male descendant of St. Gregory the Illuminator. He was married and had a daughter, who was the mother of St. Vardan Mamikonian.

St. Sahak was one of the longest reigning Catholicoi of Armenian Church. He was a great scholar, fluent in the international languages of the time, who established the Armenian Divine Liturgy and other rites, translated theological works into Armenian and presided over the formative period of the Armenian Church.

St. Mesrop was born in the village of Hatsekats in the Province of Taron (near Mush, west of Lake Van) in 360 or 362, part of the extended family of St. Vardan Mamikonian. He is often referred to by his baptismal name, Mashtots, while Mesrop was the name he took at ordination. Before his ordination St. Mesrop was the chief secretary at the royal court under Kings Khosrov and Vramshabouh (384-394). He was one of the most erudite Armenians of his day.

After his ordination by Catholicos Sahak, St. Mesrop served as a missionary, preaching in the remotest parts of Armenia, where Christianity had not yet reached. He found that the lack of an Armenian language Bible hampered his work. At the time, church services were also conducted in foreign languages, such as Greek or Syriac. He reported to St. Sahak about his missionary work and his desire to formulate an Armenian alphabet. With the blessing and support of St. Sahak and the King, St. Mesrop traveled far and wide in search of ideas for an Armenian alphabet. After tireless research and zealous effort, a vision came to St. Mesrop in 404. In this vision, he saw the long-sought letters written on a wall. St. Sahak, a linguist as well as an artist and musician, made some final adjustments to the Armenian alphabet.

After the invention of the alphabet, a group of disciples were trained under the guidance of St. Sahak and St. Mesrop. They later together launched the translation of the Bible and the important works of the Church fathers. This group of scholars came to be known as the Holy Translators (Arm. Surb Targmanichk). The translation of the Bible sometimes is called the Queen of Translations because of its quality and beauty. They were a talented group, which included the theologian Yeznik of Koghb, the father of Armenian History Moves Khorenatsi, the philosopher David the Invincible, the historian Yeghishé, and St. Mesrop's student and biographer, Koriun. The Armenian Church remembers them and other saints and scholars of the Armenian language from later ages, including Sts. Nerses Shnorhali and Grigor Narekatsi in October during the feast of the Holy Translators.

Sts. Sahak and Mesrop took the Armenian people, language and church to a new level, forever changing the course of Armenian national and religious development. The alphabet was so well suited to the language that it is used to this day, with the addition of two letters, added in the Middle Ages to facilitate the writing of foreign words.

The Armenian Church remembers St. Sahak and St. Mesrop, twice each year, first together in in July and then again on the Feast of the Holy Translators in October.