Isaac the Great

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St. Isaac the Great, more commonly known by the translation of his name into Armenian, Sahag, is one of the great catholicoses and saints of the Armenian Orthodox Church. St. Isaac is commemorated on February 10.


St. Isaac was a son of St. Nerses the Great, who also served as Catholicos of All the Armenians, and a descendant of St. Gregory the Illuminator, the first Catholicos of Holy Echmiadzin. As a young man the Saint married and studied in Constantinople. After the death of his wife St. Isaac became a monk, in 387 becoming Catholicos of All the Armenians. After his enthronement St. Isaac gained the recognition of the self-government of the Church of Armenia from Constantinople and enacted a number of reforms to strengthen the life of the Armenian Orthodox Church, among them the ending the practice of a married episcopate and encouraging the spread of monasticism in Armenia.

St. Isaac is best remembered for his development together with St. Mesrob of the Armenian alphabet, which allowed for the translation of the Holy Bible and many patristic works from Greek and Syriac into the classical Armenian used in the Armenian Orthodox Church to this day. To encourage the work of translation St. Isaac established a school at Holy Echmiadzin.

In 428, the Sassanians deposed St. Isaac and forced him into exile, but he returned to Echmiadzin several years later only to repose in 439. He was the last Catholicos of Echmiadzin to be directly descended from St. Gregory the Illuminator.

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