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‘The Blessed Contenders Frustrated the Madness of the Infidels’

In 451, the same year Attila was turned back at Chalons, Armenian rebels led by Saint Vartan Mamigonian fought the Iranians at the Battle of Avarayr (now in far northwest Iran, near the city of Maku). Yesterday, the Thursday before Lent, was the Feast of Saint Vartan and his 1,036 companions, who fell in the first battle fought exclusively for freedom of worship. Unlike other glorious defeats, such as Kosovo Pole or Gettysburg, the Armenians won in the end, after 30 years of guerrilla war, and were permitted to remain Christian under the Zoroastrian Shahs. This is why the optimism in the introit to the day’s liturgy isn’t entirely misplaced:

In the combat of the whole land, yea, in the combat of the whole land, and in the great war the infidels were given battle, and the blessed contenders frustrated the madness of the infidels and proved themselves victorious. For inasmuch as they possessed divine power, war of the flesh could not prevail against them. Therefore, Christ our God, through their intercession spare us and have mercy.

God forbid we get sucked into a war with Iran today, but if it happens, may our own blessed contenders prove themselves victorious.


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