Fr Mirosław Cichoń, a prefect of the Kraków Archdiocesan Seminary, was the guest of the Research Centre for Armenian Culture in Poland at the seminar it held on 17 December 2021. Fr Cichoń spoke of the homiletic legacy attributed to Saint Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia, which he has studied in Rome and Ejmiatsin and which is the subject of his doctoral thesis.
Specifically, Fr Cichoń is analysing a collection of sermons entitled Yačaxapatum (Hachachapatum). The first manuscript copies come from the seventh century – from the time of Catholicos Komitas. The first part of the collection contains seven theological sermons concerning The Holy Trinity, the creation of humankind and its destiny, and the relationship between the nature of faith and grace. The second consists of sermons on ascetic themes, such as sin, repentance, blessings, the senses, and temptations. The third concerns eschatological matters, such as death, salvation, damnation, the eucharist, and the role of the saints. A summary of the themes of the sermons is offered in the fourth section. There is a special flavour to sermon twenty-three, which is reminiscent of a monastic rule.
Fr Cichoń spoke of the results of his linguistic analyses of the texts and of his hypotheses regarding when and by whom they were written. He has examined the majority of the extant manuscripts, which are kept at the Matenadaran (9), in the collection of the Mekhitarist Monastery in Vienna (4), and also in Jerusalem, Princeton, at The Bodleian Library, and in Paris. Saint Gregory of Narek quotes sermons from this collection; they were probably written of too by Grigor Magistros and Grigor Sarkawag. The collection can be dated by analysing the texts it quotes. Most often, the author cites the first Armenian edition of The Bible, but also authorities of the Syriac Church. Yačaxapatum (Hachachapatum) can also be fixed in time by reference to terminology, phraseology, and theological doctrine. It is likely that it appeared after the formulation of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity in 381 and before the Christological Controversy of 431. The sermons need not all have been composed at the same time; some – in particular sermon twenty-three – give the impression of being later additions. Scholars hold various opinions regarding the sermons’ addressees. Some think they were intended for monastic novitiates, while others note their evangelistic tone, which suggests they may have been used to instruct missionaries. There are also a number of theories regarding the author. While the intimation in the manuscript copies that the sermons were written by Saint Gregory is rejected, it is thought that the author could have been Mesrop Mashtots or another, but anonymous, writer active between the fifth century and seventh century with a supreme knowledge of The Bible and of the works of Syriac theologians. It is possible that the original authorial text was later edited, so that today it is only known in its edited form.
Little is known of its sacral function. A certain rich Armenian is mentioned in the sources as possessing a manuscript of Yačaxapatum (Hachachapatum) that possessed miraculous properties. The collection was edited in 1894 in Ejmiatsin and in the twentieth century by the Mekhitarist monks. The sermons have been translated into German, Russian, and contemporary Armenian; an English version is in preparation.