The Dormition of Mary is celebrated August 15 (for those that follow the old calendar = Aug 28 in the Gregorian calendar), so today is an opportune time to study a few lines on the Dormition from the Georgian version of Maximus the Confessor‘s Life of the Virgin, which survives only in that language.
The Georgian text was edited (and translated into French) by Michel-Jean van Esbroeck, Maxime le confesseur. Vie de la Vierge, CSCO 478/Scr. Iber. 21 (Louvain, 1986). Here is the text from § 103, pp. 133.25-134.14:
ოდეს იგი იგულებოდა ქრისტესა ღმერთსა ჩუენსა ამიერ სოფლით განყვანებად ყოვლად წმიდისა მის და უბიწოჲსა დედისა თჳსისა, და სასუფეველად ზეცისა მიყვანებად რაჲთა სათნოებათა და ბუნებისა უვაღრესთა მოღუაწებათა მისთა გჳრგჳნი საუკუნაჲ მიიღოს, და ფესუედითა ოქროანითა პირად-პირადად შემკობილი შუენიერად დადგეს მარჯუენით მისა, და დედუფლად იქადაგოს ყოველთა დაბადებულთა, და შევიდეს შინაგან კრეტსაბმელისა და წმიდასა წმიდათასა დაემკჳდროს. წინაჲთვე გამოუცხადა დიდებული იგი მიცვალებაჲ მისი. და მოუვლინა მას კუალად მთავარანგელოსი გაბრიელ მახარებელად დიდებულისა მის მიცვალებისა მისისა, ვითარცა იგი პირველ საკჳრველისა მის მუცლადღებისა. მოვიდა უკუჱ მთავარანგელოსი და მოართუა რტოჲ ფინიკისაჲ რომელი იგი იყო სასწაული ძლევისაჲ, ვითარცა ოდესმე ძესა მისსა მიეგებვოდეს რტოებითა ფინიკისაჲთა მძლესა მას სიკუდილისასა და შემმუსრველსა ჯოჯოხეთისასა, ეგრეთვე წმიდასა მას დედუფალსა მოართუა მთავარანგელოსმან რტოჲ იგი სახე ძლევისა ვნებათაჲსა და სიკუდილისა გან უშიშობისა.
We are fortunate to have an English translation of this text, only recently published (2012), by Stephen Shoemaker, The Life of the Virgin: Maximus the Confessor. Here is his rendering of the passage given above (p. 130):
When Christ our God wanted to bring his all-holy and immaculate mother forth from the world and lead her into the kingdom of heaven so that she would receive the eternal crown of virtues and supernatural labors, and so that he could place her at his right hand beautifully adorned with golden tassels in many colors (cf. Ps 44:10, 14) and proclaim her queen of all creatures, and so that she would pass behind the veil and dwell in the Holy of Holies, he revealed her glorious Dormition to her in advance. And he sent the archangel Gabriel to her again to announce her glorious Dormition, as he had before the wondrous conception. Thus the archangel came and brought her a branch from a date palm, which is a sign of victory: as once they went with branches of date palms to meet her son (cf. John 12:13), the victor over death and vanquisher of Hell, so the archangel brought the branch to the holy queen, a sign of victory over suffering and fearlessness before death.
Turning back to the Georgian text, the structure of this little excerpt falls along these lines. There are four sentences, beginning with, respectively,
- ოდეს იგი იგულებოდა…
- და მოუვლინა მას…
- მოვიდა უკუჱ…
- ვითარცა ოდესმე…
The main clause of sent. 1 comes at its end, წინაჲთვე გამოუცხადა დიდებული იგი მიცვალებაჲ მისი, the temporal setting for which comes at the beginning, ოდეს იგი იგულებოდა ქრისტესა ღმერთსა ჩუენსა…. Precisely what he wishes (იგულებოდა) to do in this temporal setting is given immediately thereafter by means of two verbal nouns in the adverbial case (განყვანებად and მიყვანებად), the object of both being Jesus’ mother, only explicitly said in the first instance, and in the genitive case according to the normal construction with a verbal noun. These two verbal nouns have for their purpose (or result) five clauses following რაჲთა built with a string of aorist conjunctive verbs with either Mary or Jesus as subject.
The other sentences are much simpler. Sent. 2’s main clause is მოუვლინა მას კუალად მთავარანგელოსი გაბრიელ, with the archangel being sent as a messenger or announcer (მახარებელად). This clause is correlated with the next one, ვითარცა იგი პირველ საკჳრველისა მის მუცლადღებისა, for which the same participle in the adverbial case is again understood. What I am calling sent. 3 is two compound clauses, მოვიდა უკუჱ მთავარანგელოსი and მოართუა რტოჲ ფინიკისაჲ, this last word being extended by a relative clause to state what the branch (რტოჲ) is a sign (სასწაული) of. The last sentence again has two main clauses, this time correlated by ვითარცა and ეგრეთვე. The first of these clauses has a verb with an unnamed plural agent (მიეგებვოდეს), the indirect object of which, ძესა მისსა, is extended by two appositive noun phrases, მძლესა მას სიკუდილისასა and შემმუსრველსა ჯოჯოხეთისასა, both in the dative case in agreement with the noun they further identify, while the second clause has a singular verb, მოართუა, already seen in this passage, the agent being the archangel Gabriel. In the last clause of the passage, the direct object რტოჲ იგი — in the nominative case as direct object of an aorist verb — is followed by the appositive სახე, itself extended by two genitive noun phrases (ძლევისა ვნებათაჲსა and სიკუდილისა გან უშიშობისა).
(A PDF document including most of the material from this post along with some further grammatical details is available: maxim_conf_dormition.)
A guest post by Ted Erho, Research Fellow in Ethiopian Manuscript Studies at HMML.
One of the lesser known facts in EMML history is that the project microfilmed nearly 500 manuscripts from libraries of the important churches and monasteries of Lake Tana during the 1980s. This is due in part to the fact that copies of these microfilms were never sent to HMML, largely on account of the prevailing geopolitical conditions of that era. However, in 2005, HMML was able to visit the National Archives and Library of Ethiopia and scan a number of the EMML negatives missing from our collections. While technical problems and the increasingly deteriorating state of the films unfortunately prevented the majority of the Lake Tana items from being scanned at that time, a handful are now available at HMML. The available scans vary greatly in quality.
More recently, HMML has obtained a complete set of scans of the microfilming project of Ernst Hammerschmidt at Lake Tana in the late 1960s. Like the EMML scans, Hammerschmidt’s films vary in quality, often on account of poor image sizing, focusing, and lighting. However, in cases where the two overlap, i.e. the same manuscript has been microfilmed twice, it is often possible to create a most legible copy through a combination of the copies.
Below is a list of the available overlapping items:
Kebran Gabriel (x6)
Tana/Kebran 2 = EMML 7603 (mf)
Tana/Kebran 8 = EMML 8594
Tana/Kebran 11 = EMML 8598
Tana/Kebran 16 = EMML 7605 (mf)
Tana/Kebran 37 = EMML 7596 (mf)
Tana/Kebran 48 = EMML 8612
The three microfilms (EMML 7596, 7603, and 7605) are of far superior quality to Hammerschmidt’s copies. HMML also possesses copies of the following mss from Kebran Gabriel which were not microfilmed by Hammerschmidt: EMML 8595, 8596, 8625, 8626, 8627, 8679, and 8683.
A total of 124 mss from the monastery of Kebran Gabriel are recorded as having been microfilmed by the EMML project: EMML 7596, 7603, 7605, 8262-8346, 8594-96, 8598, 8600, 8603, 8606-07, 8612, 8614-15, 8625-27, 8632, 8634-35, 8644, 8646-48, 8651, 8658, 8663, 8668, 8670-71, 8674-79, 8683, 8687, and 8689. These include (as with Dabra Maryam and Daga Estifanos below) further known duplicates, such as Tana/Kebran 4 = EMML 8274, Tana/Kebran 9 = EMML 8292, and Tana/Kebran 21 = EMML 8307.
Dabra Maryam (x5)
Tana 62/Dabra Maryam 4 = EMML 8613
Tana 66/Dabra Maryam 8 = EMML 8623
Tana 72/Dabra Maryam 14 = EMML 8621
Tana 73/Dabra Maryam 15 = EMML 8610
Tana 77/Dabra Maryam 19 = EMML 8597
Six further manuscripts were microfilmed by the EMML project at this monastery: EMML 8631, 8636, 8640, 8645, 8657, and 8659.
EMML 8753, ff. 31v-32r
Daga Estifanos (x6)
Tana 115/Daga Estifanos 4 = EMML 8734
Tana 144/Daga Estifanos 33 = EMML 8754
Tana 151/Daga Estifanos 40 = EMML 8748
Tana 156/Daga Estifanos 45 = EMML 8755
Tana 175/Daga Estifanos 64 = EMML 8753
Tana 177/Daga Estifanos 66 = EMML 8744
Thirty further items from the significant holdings found at Daga Estifanos are found as EMML 8352, 8354, 8364, 8367-70, 8372, 8377-78, 8382, 8384, 8392, 8394, 8397, 8399-8400, 8402, 8404, 8411-14, 8416, 8420, 8425, 8694-95, 8709, and 8719.
The Tana 177/Daga Estifanos 66/EMML 8744 manuscript serves to illustrate the importance of manuscript microfilming and digitization projects both in the past (such as EMML) and the present in Ethiopia. At the time that Hammerschmidt microfilmed this item in the late 1960s, it contained 112 ff., with the final portion of the text (ff. 97-112) containing the then unique, and nearly complete, gadl of St. Yasay, the orthodox king of Rome. (A second, complete copy of this text is now known from EMML 7602 ff. 74r-82r.) However, when the EMML project encountered it, on 15 May 1987, the manuscript contained only 72 ff., indicating the probable loss of the Daga copy of this rare text in the intervening years.
Today (Aug 19) some churches celebrate the Transfiguration, and there are readings for the feast in published synaxaria in Arabic, Armenian, and Gǝʿǝz. A close reading and comparison of the language of these texts would be worthwhile, but now I’d like only to share part of the Gǝʿǝz reading, namely the three sälam verses that close the commemoration of the Transfiguration. (On the genre of the sälam, see this post.) Most typically, there is only one five-line verse in the Gǝʿǝz synaxarion at the end of the commemoration of a saint or holy event, but for this important feast there are three together, the verses ending, respectively, with the syllabic rhymes -ʿa/ʾa, -wä, -se. As usual, verses like this provide a good learning opportunity for students interested in Gǝʿǝz, both in terms of lexicon and grammar, the latter especially thanks to the freer arrangement of the sentence’s constituents that obtains in this kind of writing.
I give Guidi and Grébaut’s text from PO 9: 513-514, together with a new, rough English translation.
Greetings to Tabor, which is named and called
The fertile mountain and the firm mountain!
There Barak conquered, and the might of Sisera was conquered.
And having ascended [that mountain], when Jesus had become man,
He revealed the hidden mystery of his second coming.
Greetings to your ascent up the slope of Mount Tabor in tranquility!
Having taken the men you had chosen from among many,
Jesus, you who were incarnate from the house of Judah,
The appearance of your face shined like lightning,
And your clothes were as white as snow.
The Father proclaimed you in praise,
And the Spirit of holiness concealed your head.
When you had made an assembly of apostles,
Where Elijah was present and where Moses was,
You, Son, showed the trinity of your divinity.
 The two prepositions in this line behave more like adverbs than prepositions, given that a relative pronoun pointing back to ክናሴ፡ in the previous line is omitted: “assembly at [which] Elijah was present and with [which] Moses was.” Cf. Dillmann, Gr., § 201.
In SMMJ 161, a collection of Syriac mēmrē, the scribe accidentally copied one page upside down:
SMMJ 161, ff. 94v-95r
He penned a note in red for his readers, admitting his fault, and noting its cause:
SMMJ 161, f. 94v
The Garšūnī note reads as follows transliterated into Arabic letters: يا أخي القارئ الآن العجلة تغشى (/تغشّي) البسار (! البصر) ولا تؤاخذني بالغلطة. That is, “O brother, reader, haste covers up [my] sight, so don’t blame me for the error!”
In colophons, scribes often ask their readers to overlook the faults of their work, sometimes giving an excuse or two (e.g. distractions, cold weather, old age), but the scribe here apparently felt so bad about the upside down page, he was compelled to acknowledge the mistake on the spot and ask his reader’s indulgence.
*Thanks to Ephrem Ishac for a brief communication about this note with me.
The manuscript CFMM 144, from the early twentieth century, is almost identical to ZFRN 40, a collection of Syriac mēmrē, especially by later authors, most of whom are not very well known and have been little studied. The CFMM manuscript is distinct, however, in having at the end a mēmrā by Isaiah of Bēt Sbirinā (d. 1425) on Job and his wife. (For a lighthearted review of the biblical tale, see here.) I do not yet know of any other copies of this text. Unfortunately the copy in CFMM 144 is incomplete, but nevertheless I would to share it along with a preliminary English translation. See the document here: isaiah_bet_sbirina_memra_job.
Jn 16:33, Pre-Athonite and Athonite:
მე მიძლევიეს სოფელსა.
ἐγὼ νενίκηκα τὸν κόσμον.
The Adishi version, instead of the perfect (a-me-victum-est = vici), has the aorist ვსძლე.
ხოლო იგინი ჭამდეს და სუმიდეს და განსცხრებოდეს
They were eating, drinking, and amusing themselves.
Cave of Treasures 54.5. See Ciala Kourcikidzé, La caverne des trésors, version géorgienne, CSCO 526, Scriptores iberici 23 (Louvain, 1993), with FT by J.-P. Mahé in the accompanying CSCO 527, Scr. iber. 24.