Genocide Icon Consecrated at St. John
By David Luhrssen
(Greenfield, Wis.) The faces staring from the painting look familiar. They could be family members. They represent the victims of the Armenian Genocide, and this is no ordinary painting. The multitude of faces crowd the center of the Icon of the Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide. The original hangs at Etchmidzin, consecrated by Catholicos Karekin II this April to commemorate the centenary of the Genocide and the canonization of those victims who died for their faith. Replicas on canvas, distributed to Armenian parishes across the world, were consecrated in November in conjunction with All Saints Day.
At St. John the Baptist Armenian Church, the icon was consecrated after Sunday Badarak by Rev. Fr. Nareg Keutelian in a ceremony usually conducted by bishops. His Holiness Karekin II granted special permission to parish priests to consecrate the icons, facilitating their introduction into Armenian churches worldwide. The ceremony involved washing the icon with water and wine and anointing it with holy muron. The entire congregation participated in the rite by reciting litanies.
Painted by Tigran Barkhanajyan, the Genocide Icon depicts the entire community of the Martyrs—men and women, the elderly and the children, lay and clerical, musicians and mothers—gathered in mute witness to one of the 20 century’s great crimes. They stand on a field of broken khachkars, representing the sacrilege of the Ottoman campaign to destroy the Armenian people and their civilization. A woman holds a dove, a hopeful symbol of peace; a girl holds a pomegranate, suggesting that the seeds of life will continue to flourish in the face of murder. As with all icons, the purpose of the painting is not to realistically document an event; this is not photojournalism, but an attempt to show the larger spiritual meaning of the events of 1915.