St. James of Nisibis

St. James of Nisibis

St. James, a Syrian monk and first cousin of St. Gregory, was appointed the bishop of the Christian city Nisibis in Mesopotamia in 308 A.D. According to his disciple, St. Ephraem, James founded the basilica and theological School of Nisibis. Additionally, he was recorded as a signatory for the canons produced at the first of three ecumenical councils accepted by the Armenian Church: the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.

St. James played a leading role among the 318 Christian leaders present during the sessions of the Council of Nicaea, and merited the attention of St. Athanasius and other bishops of the Eastern as well as the Western churches.

The most important canon created at the Nicaean Council was the Nicaean Creed, or the official declaration of the principal doctrines of the Armenian Church. We solemnly chant the Creed at every Divine Liturgy as a formal declaration that we are unified by the same understanding of who God is, and who we are relative to Him—a declaration of faith that has united Christians throughout the world for 1,700 years. We affirm that our own faith is rooted and nourished by the “one, catholic and apostolic holy Church” with Jesus Christ as its head (Colossians 1:18).

The other two councils accepted by the Armenian Church are the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. and the Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. A fourth council, the Council of Chalcedon held in 451 A.D., made formulations on the nature of Christ that were rejected by Armenian and other Oriental Orthodox churches, distinguishing them from Roman Catholic and Byzantine Orthodox churches.

St. James is also known for his divine vision on Mount Ararat, where he found the sacred relic of Noah’s Ark and brought it to the Armenian people.

According to tradition, while St. James preached in and around Nisibis, he heard that people doubted the story of Noah’s Ark. He was determined to provide his flock with evidence, so he set out on a journey to the top of Mount Ararat to find the remains of the ark.

Some time into his journey, before reaching his destination, he felt tired and decided to stop and rest before moving forward. After he continued on his journey, he took a second break. However, when he awoke, he found himself in the spot that he originally chose as his resting place. He continued on his journey, yet he encountered the same phenomenon for seven years. Nevertheless, James carried forward, relying on his faith to see him to the end of his journey.

One day, while he slept, an angel appeared to him in a vision and brought him a piece of the wood from Noah’s Ark. The angel told him that he could not see any more of the ark, but that the wooden remnant would be proof enough for the naysayers.

St. James prayed to God to produce an eternal miracle on the spot where he had the vision and immediately afterward a spring gushed forth, which exists to this day. The relic of Noah’s Ark received by St. James is currently in possession of Holy Etchmiadzin.

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