ago, when Garabed and Petros were becoming tired of being shepherds, they
decided to become priests. Petros soon realized he had made a grave mistake.
at the altar during High Mass, he could not concentrate at all on the rituals.
He would be thinking of the moonlit summer nights, shepherd’s flute, his
flock of sheep, his pack of dogs and their colorful barking and howling.
remember the spring at the foot of the cliff, with his girl-friend Hasmig
in his arms trembling with love, dreaming of the day when they would be
married and would continue living as shepherds in the beautiful mountains
around Sourp Garabed Monastery, carefree and happy. There would be plenty
of milk and cheese and wild fruits and greens to live on...but God took
her away from him.
since then, the spring had become a mystical spot for him. He would sit
there hour after hour and dream of their enchanting moments together. Many
times he had let her plunge into the crystalline water alone, promising
to keep his eyes shut so as not to see her in the nude. Could it ever be
possible to keep such a promise?
It had always seemed to him there existed a hidden bond between his natural
inclinations and the spirit of this cliff that stood as a rival against
the beautiful marble belfry.
been standing there thousands of centuries, strong and proud, sending its
message through the spring to whomever could understand the language.
only after his visits there with Hasmig that enabled him to decipher it.
He was so inspired by it, he began to think the water wasn’t really water
at all. It was materialized thought; a liquid poem. This cliff, he
thought, had more wisdom in it than the Monastery itself...its foundation
was deeper and unshakeable, and its wrinkles stored more tenacity to the
eternal conflict of forces.
of his unchristian reflections he kept wearing the monk’s robe until
it became unbearable.
church he would stand in a corner, silent, with his head bowed as if he
was praying, but his mind would be roaming over the highlands. Priests
would be stealthily looking at him, shaking their heads tragically for
his everlasting perdition.
see and feel all that, so he decided to leave this atmosphere of tears
and prayer to live in the hollow of this cliff, which commanded an enchanting
expanse of rolling hills.
in the dreamland of the Karke’s ridges he would stroll every day, and dream...dream...dream!!
he would sit at the entrance of his cave looking at the starlit sky, listening
to the sounds of the spring and flying into the ocean of the blinking stars,
looking for Hasmig...
now and then a star would blink at him meaningfully, making him tremble...Could
it possibly be her?...Who knows? The Universe is an enigma!!
was getting a little late, Sempad got up and left with a handshake.
the last day of the Navassartian festivities, a National Holiday and a
Day of Pilgrimage.
Vartabed came to see Petros, accompanied by three shepherds.
on out of your hole, you heathen.!!” hollered Garabed joyfully before
reaching the hilltop.
came out and saw his old friends in holiday attire with the spirit of the
Day shining on their faces, tears of joy shone in his eyes, and they began
embracing one another like little children. They all sat down in the shade
of a wild apple tree, watching the thousands of pilgrims down below, surging
in and out of the Monastery, joyful and happy.
drums, flute, singing and dancing together with the appetizing smell of
shish-kebab and other delicacies had virtually converted the Monastery
into a gay and jolly bazaar.
yet had a good night’s sleep ever since the pilgrims poured in a week before,”
said Garabed Vartabed. “Every night I had to keep watch over the Holy relics
of Saint John, which were encased in a golden hand and laid on a table
covered with a silken scarf at the entrance of the Sanctuary, performing
miracles on cripples, the blind, epileptics, lunatics and other infirmities.
It’s distressing to see these unfortunates convulse, tremble, and shake
with pain, while their mothers or wives cry, imploring pity and the grace
of the golden hand.
dawn, a profound silence reigned inside the Cathedral, when all of a sudden,
a flash of bluish light illuminated the inside, shaking everybody with
miraculous force had finally arrived!!
time, I saw an epileptic looking at me tearfully, crossing his face with
his trembling hand. He got up, walked slowly onto the entrance of
the Sanctuary, where the golden hand lay, and kneeling before it,
kissed it with the most profound faith, began to cry happily, and walked
out with his mother, as normal as you and I.”
was the only unfortunate whose prayers had been answered that night.”
all listened to Garabed’s experience astonished, when one of the shepherds
broke the silence, asking if he had seen any other person being cured like
I have seen a cripple and a lunatic get cured. I was very excited
when I saw it happen. Praised be the Lord! Every time a miracle
happened, I would break the news to the Vartabeds who would gather right
away for a special ceremony with a choral procession, with the bells of
the marble belfry thundering and electrifying the atmosphere. It is very
hard to describe the enthusiasm and the excitement of the people who had
come from far away to attend the religious festivities. There were among
us, pilgrims from foreign countries, enjoying immensely, the spirit of
the Day...The Navassartian Day.”
listened in silence to Garabed Vartabed, watching at the same time the
surge of the people in and out of the Monastery, packing and getting ready
bells began to thunder the farewell to the thousands of pilgrims, who,
in multicolor clothes moved down the slope of about five thousand feet
elevation into the beautiful plain of Moush.
dust was blowing into the sky at sunset, and banks of clouds were floating
in a celestial fire.
what do you think of all these miraculous events that Garabed Vartabed
told us about?” asked one of the shepherds with a slight sarcasm in his
natural happenings,” said Petros. “When human beings become excited by
so-called faith there are forces within their bodies that tend to
control the disturbed parts of their bodies and give them back their health.”
Vartabed, smiling in silence at the materialistic way of explaining the
miracles, said: “I am very sleepy, Petros! I might as well go and
lie down for a while. This week has been a sleepless week for me. I’ll
see you tomorrow.”
up sleepily, followed by the shepherds, leaving Petros alone.
silence reigned over the surroundings when he made up his mind to go down
to the spring to cool off...
a short distance from it he stopped, amazed, behind a clump of bushes.
A nude, voluptuous woman was standing there, motionless, like a statue.
Overwhelmed by his emotions, he came out from behind the bushes and with
tottering steps walked toward the girl.!! “It’s her! It’s Hasmig!”
he got close to her and stretched out his hand and cried...Hasmig, she
suddenly disappeared in a puff of smoke...
exclaimed flabbergasted. Moments later when he came to, he returned to
his hole murmuring on the way: “Was it a hallucination?”
fire of the sunset was out now and the violet rays hung over the horizon.
Soon the sky was already studded with blinking jewels. He reclined in one
corner of his cell thinking: “That wasn’t a mirage, or a hallucination...it
was the real thing...what a beauty!!”
a burning fever. His brain convulsed in chaotic turmoil, when all of a
sudden, his cell was inundated with violet rays, and in the center of the
floor stood the same woman...Hasmig, stark naked!...
at her bewildered.
are you looking at me like that..?” she asked him in a soft velvety voice.
“Don’t you love me any more? Don’t you know who I am?”
cried Petros, in ecstasy.
I am your Hasmig,” she said smilingly.
He exclaimed in indescribable turmoil.
think I am an illusion? Come on and touch me!”
torment me, vision!” babbled Petros, overwhelmed by her beauty.
not a vision! I am your Hasmig!”
motionless, torn with emotions.
Come into my arms.” she said, coaxing him to get up from the stone floor.
My adorable Hasmig!” he exclaimed. As he was struggling to get on his feet,
she retreated toward the exit, calling gaily: “Come here, Petros! Out here
the night is so beautiful! Hold my hand!”
toward her where she was already standing on the rim of the cliff, waiting...
extended his arms to reach her, she receded a few steps and stood motionless
in space over the gaping precipice.
moment, the bells from the belfry began to ring, shaking him out of his