Armenian Apostolic Church

Our Patron Saint James of Nisibis

A beloved and prominent saint not only to the Syriac, Church but also to the Armenians. He was born, raised, worked and died in the city of Nisibis which today is known as Nusbyien a city in Southeastern Turkey. St James of NisibisHe passed his early years studying and with spiritual upbringing. In his young adulthood he withdrew to the desert to live and pray as an ascetic. When the bishop of Nisibis died two candidates emerged from two conflicting groups of the population. However, with the advice of the hermit Maroukeh, everyone focused on James the hermit and summoned him from the desert and ordained him bishop in 320 A.D. in Amida.

The life of St. James is filled with incidents of miracles, which simply witnesses the fact of the broad popularity of this spiritual leader. He had been a disciple of the hermit Maroukeh and he in turn had been a teacher of Ephraem the Syrian Priest, a great patristic writer. He was present in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea where according to tradition he enjoyed great respect from the Emperor Constantine and the attendees of the council. He became one of the great champions of the orthodoxy of the Christian Church against Arius and Arianism, which were condemned at the Council of Nicaea. Two or three times he saved his city from Persian invasion with his prayers. Although subjected to persecutions and tortures prior to becoming a cleric during the persecution of Maximianos, nevertheless he died peacefully at an old age in 338 A.D.

His relics, of which there are many, were taken to Constantinople in 970 A.D. and were the object of great honor in the imperial city. Once Maroukeh (St. James’ teacher and mentor in the monastery where Maroukeh was the abbot) said to St. James that the people had strong doubts about the great flood and the story of Noah’s Ark. Maroukeh said, “The ark rested here on the nearby Cordoyenes Mountains”, known to the Armenians as “Ararat”. St. James was filled with the passion to quash these doubts [that the Ark might not be on Ararat] and hence he went to the mountain of Ararat and rested at the base of the mountain prior to his ascent up the mountain. An angel of God came to him in a dream that he should endure the struggle to ascent to the very top of the mountain, in view of the fact that a piece of the ark was near to where his head rested. James took this piece with great joy and brought it to Maroukeh, who seeing this was filled with joy and taking this put it to his eye and then kissed it. According to the tradition, a cold stream having healing and miraculous qualities appeared in the place where St. James had laid down. In the future a church bearing the saint’s name was built nearby the stream. The piece of the Ark is currently kept in the museum of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.