Silent Angel by Antonia Arslan presented at Prelacy
Cautiously, the group approaches, “trying not to make a sound, although they needn’t have worried”. The priests are all dead.
The heartbreaking description continues. Old Hovhannes Vartabed was also dead “but he fought with an ax that swung gently in the winds planted in his chest, like a final evil banner of victory. The killer had left it inside him like a trophy. A third old monk, Tateos, was also killed. The frightened group of five visits the ruined atrium, the monks’ cells and the refectory. But all are empty.
“They bury the three monks with their feet pointing east and place a cross – two hastily tied branches – in each of their crossed hands.”
Dr. Arslan describes the discovery of the ancient scroll. “There is something on the floor, a flat, rectangular shape, from which shining colors sweat, like jewels.” Eleni who discovered it wonders if the monk Tateos whose corpse lay before him “may have been trying to distract from something he had hidden in the darkest corner of the room”.
The book “had passed through seven centuries – symbol of a civilization and pledge of devotion, veneration of the words of the ancients and of the images painted in the illuminations, survivor of a culture and a world which was now disappearing in fire and flames of senseless destruction,” the author continues with poetic compassion. There is a reason why it fell into their hands. This means that the angels watching over her decided to give her not to wise priests, but expressly their.
Kohar said, “The book will come with us. We will take turns carrying it. But above all, let’s all swear that we will protect him with our lives, from any insult or profanation (irreverence). They all swear solemnly.
Too heavy for one person to carry, the two Armenians cut the holy book in half and each carries half on her back during their perilous journey filled with sickness, fatigue, starvation through steep mountains and destroyed valleys, to save him from the Turks. One half reaches Etchmiadzin.
During the torturous journey, Kohar dies after wrapping his other half in cloth and burying her in a graveyard in Erzerum. He is eventually found by a Polish officer who was fighting in the Russian army, and eventually brought to the Matenadaran where the two halves were united in the 1920s to rest forever in peace.
In the 19th century, a few pages had been deleted, and are kept in the collection of the Mekhitarist Fathers in Venice and Vienna.
Ignatius Press, which published Silent Angel, commented: “Antonia Arslan tells this story with intense compassion and clarity, taking the reader on a desperate search for truth and salvation.