John of Jerusalem, John of Otzoon, John of Orotni and Gregory of Datev

St. John of Orotni (Vorodn) was born in the village of Vaghantan in 1315, a period of time when the Unitors were trying strenuously to Latinize the Armenian Church and thereby undermine her national and theological identity. St. John of Orotni worked to assure the public had a proper theological education in order to safeguard the Armenian Church. He was a member of the monastery of Kailitzor, where he served as an instructor. Later, he moved to the monastery of Datev.

While in Datev, he was offered the leadership role at the Archepiscopal See of the Siunik Province but refused in order to continue his scholarly work, which included commentaries on the Gospel of John and the Pauline letters.

St. John of Otzoon served as Catholicos Hovhan between 717 and 728 A.D. Born in the province of Dashratz in the village of Otzoon, he studied with celebrated theologians. During the Arab rule of Armenia, he endeared himself to Arab leaders and ushered in a period of tolerance and cooperation. Through his farsightedness, statesmanship, and piety, he secured some basic and important rights for Armenian Christians, such as religious freedom, exemption from taxes for churches, and the right to worship freely. He also stopped forced conversion of Christians to Islam.

As a writer, he contributed to the Book of Sharagans, and wrote many epistles and essays. Respected for his personality, for being righteous, pious, brave, and humble, in addition to being a great statesman and writer, St. John lived his later years as a monk in a mountain monastery.

St. John of Jerusalem was named Bishop of Jerusalem in either 388 or 390 A.D., succeeding Bishop Cyrill. St. John was well known for his holiness and his close friendships with many early church leaders, such as St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and St. Oregen. A bastion of orthodoxy, St. John was a strong defender of the faith against heretics.

St. Gregory of Datev (also called Krikor Datevatzi) was born in 1346 in the province of Vaiotz Tzor. He was one of the famous students of Hovhannes Vorodnetzi and received the Holy Orders while on a pilgrimage with his mentor to Jerusalem in 1373. Well versed in Latin, he studied all the great philosophers of the time, which led him to write the famous “Kirk Hartzmantz” (“The Book of Questions”), a work of practical theology. He also authored two collections of sermons, the style and depth of which set a new standard for Armenian preaching.

Though spending most of his time in the Monastery of Datev, St. Gregory did travel through the country to teach, bringing more people into a monastic study. For his tireless efforts to promote the Armenian Christian faith, he is often called the “Second Gregory the Illuminator.”

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