Former Patriarch Shnork Kaloustian of Constantinople (may his memory be eternal) wrote this about St. Vartan:
From: Saints and Sacraments by S. Kaloustian
Every year on the Thursday preceeding Lent, Armenians throughout the world celebrate the anniversary of an important event in their history. This is the religious war waged between pagan Persia and Christian Armenian in the year 451 A.D.
The hero of this war was St. Vartan the Brave. All those who gave their lives in this war are called collectively the "Vartanians."
The cause of the battle was religious. Armenia, the first country in the world to proclaim Christianity as its state religion (301 A.D.) lived peacefully, first under its own kings, and then under Persian rule. She developed her culture with great zeal during the first half of the fifth century. During this period the Bible was translated into Armenian and Christianity flourished in the country.
Armenians, who formally had almost the same religion as the Persians, showed signs of alienation from the Persians after becoming Christians. In order to force the Armenians to revert back to the Persian religion, the King of Persia decreed that all Christians under his rule should abandon their new religion and accept Mazdeism, the distinctive feature of which was the worship of the Sun and Fire. The Armenians, in a mass meeting of the clergy and the ruling princes, gave a bold answer to this royal decree, insisting that they had not the slightest intention of altering their Christian beliefs. They wrote a letter to the Persian King in which they said:
"Our religion is not like a garment that we might change according to the circumstances; it is part and parcel of our bones and blood and personality... we serve you loyally in your army and pay you taxes faithfully if you leave us alone in the matter of religion. If you try to force your will upon us we are ready to suffer, and to be tortured and even to die. However, you should know in advance that there is no power on earth which can force us to change our religion because our covenant (pledge to be faithful) is not with man but with the Almight God."
That was the conclusion of the letter.
The Persians countered this boldness with a heavy hand. They sent to Armenia a huge army of some 220,000 strong, to crush the resistence and to convert the country to paganism by force.
In 451 A.D. on the field of Avarayr (rhymes with fire), near mount Ararat, a band of 66,000 semi-trained and poorly equiped Armenian fighters, under the leadership of Vartan Mamigonian, their commander in chief, stood waiting for the invading army of Persians.
Vartan Mamigonian was the descendant of a noble Armenian family. From his mother's side he was the grandson of Sahag the Catholicos, the chief translator of the Bible from the Greek into Armenian. Vartan was, at that time the head of the Mamigonian House, a very influential and renowned ruling family in Armenia. Vartan knew full well that the Persians outnumbered his men, that they were well equipped and that they were going to use their hordes of elephants against him, but he put his trust in God and preferred honarable death to servility.
The day before the battle, the Armenian soldiers spent the night in prayer and devotion. The entire army prayed and took Holy Communion. The head of the Church, Catholicos Hovsep, was there together with his clergy. Priest Ghevont (Leontius), the zealous among the clergy, togehter with Vartan Mamigonian, encouraged the soldiers with inspiriing words.
Towards the morning of a Saturday they heard, and dimly saw, the approaching Persian army. The clash of the two armies was fierce, with swords glittering and blood running profusely. The Armenians inflicted great losses on the enemy. In this battle which lasted only one day, and in the subsequent guerilla wars, 1036 Armenians fell, against the Persian loss of 3544 soldiers. The battle of Avarayr came to an end with the fall of Vartan the brave. The Armenians, seeing that they were left without a commander, withdrew to their castles and inaccessible mountains to carry on a guerilla war.
In this battle Vartan and his comrades suffereed a military defeat but in reality the victory was theirs. They lost the battle but in the end they won the war and attained their aim for which they were fighting. The Persians eventually stopped their scheme of converting the country to their religion, when they realized how steadfast the Armenians were in their faith and convictions. Their defeat became a moral victory.
Some thirty years later, a nephew of Vartan, Vahan Mamigonian, brought this religious resistence to a successful end, even from the military standpoint; he dictated his simple terms to the Persians: a) full religious freedom, b) home rule for the country, and c) replacement of corrupt officers with men of dependable character.
The Armenians still hold what the Vartanians were fightting for: their Chrsitian faith and heritage. The Persians lost what they were trying to impose upon Armenians, their own religion, because they were themselves converted later to Islam.
Vartan has become the most outstanding hero of the Armenian nation. He, with his comrades in arms, together with millions of others following their example throughtout Armenian history, laid down their lives so that the coming generations of Armenians might worship their Lord and God freely.
The war of St. Vartan was fought exclusively on the issue of freedom of conscience, and as such, it constitutes a glorious event in the struggle of humanity for freedom of religion. Vartan and his valiant men were the pioneers of freedom of conscinnece in the middle of the fifth century.
As a result of such battels in our history and the fine spirit which the Vartanians displayed, the Christian religion has survived in Armenia throughout centuries and under most trying circumstances. We are proud inheritors of this unconquerable spirit, so conspiciously manifested on the Field of Avarayr. May God make us worthy of this glorious legacy.
From the propers of the Divine Liturgy of the Vartanians:
"Holy martyr, chosen Vartan, ordained captain of the host.
Many fellow-soldiers with thee were proved holy and brave martyrs.
Imbued in their rose-colored blood, they inherited the kingdom.
They saw the heavenly light and were deemed worthy of the crown."
[note. the name Vartan means Rose-giver or producer]
"In the combat of the whole land, yea, in the combat of the whole land, and in the great war the infidels were given battle, and the blessed contenders frustrated the madness of the infidels and proved themselves victorious. For inasmuch as they possessed divine power, war of the flesh could not prevail against them.
Therefore, Christ our God, through their intercession spare us and have mercy."
"O sun of righteousness, shining forth in Armenia, thou hast brightened the holy Church by the shedding of the blood of the saints; through their prayers spare us, O thou giver of good gifts, and have mercy on thy creatures."
"Together with their glorious and holy children the watchful shepherds quenched the flame of the fire-worshipping Persians with the fire of the Spirit; through their prayers spare us, O thou giver of good gifts, and have mercy on thy creatures."
The Parthian seer, Saint Gregory [the Illuminator], foresaw by a prophetic inspiration his children of the faith adorned with the crown; through their prayers spare us, O thou giver of good gifts, and have mercy on thy creatures."http://www.geocities.com/wmwolfe_48044/Vartan.doc