Posts Tagged ‘Armenian Church’


On Easter day, Christians rejoice over the resurrection of our Lord and the altar curtains are now drawn. The forty-day period of fasting now comes to an end. Armenians celebrate the joyous occasion with eggs that are dyed red, with which children and adults alike play tapping contests. The Easter Bunny tradition that began in the 17th century among Protestants in Europe is now popular all over the world, according to which the bunny hatches colored eggs and brings them in baskets to children. The red egg symbolizes the suffering of Christ and His crucifixion as well as the blood spelled by him. The shell of the egg represents the rock-cut tomb of Jesus, and the cracking is the victory of Jesus over death and the resurrection from His grave.

On Resurrection Sunday, Armenian Christians around the world exchange the Easter greeting: Քրիստոս յարեաւ ի մեռելոց. օրհնեալ է յարութիւնն Քրիստոսի (Krisdos haryav ee merelots! Orhnyal eh harootiunun Krisdosee!) Christ is risen from the dead! Blessed is the resurrection of Christ!

Easter Sunday is followed by a period of 40 days, during which time there are no saints’ days or fasting days. This period, dedicated to the glory of Christ’s Resurrection and to the 40 days He spent on earth after His Resurrection, leads up to Ascension Day, commemorating our Lord’s entry into heaven.


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By David Luhrssen

(Milwaukee, Wis.) On Sunday, November 7, St. John the Baptist Armenian Church celebrated its 79th anniversary with Divine Liturgy followed by a banquet and program. The Diocesan Vicar of the Eastern Diocese, Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, was the guest celebrant. Assisting in the services was the parish’s current pastor, Rev. Fr. Guregh Hambardzumyan and his predecessor, Rev. Fr. Nareg Keutelian.

St. John was founded in 1942 in nearby West Allis, Wis., one of several industrial cities in the Midwest where Armenians found work and new lives after the massacres of the 1890s and the Armenian Genocide that followed. In 1970 the parish moved to the Milwaukee suburb of Greenfield and conducted worship and other activities in a newly constructed cultural hall. In 1986 St. John’s sanctuary, designed by architect Harold Baylerian according to Armenian tradition, was consecrated by Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, assisted by the parish’s pastor, Rev. Fr. Tateos Abdalian.

At the November 7 program, Fr. Simeon recalled his long association with St. John, which began with a visit as a teenager in the 1970s. At that time, liturgy was conducted on the stage in the cultural hall by the late Very Rev. Fr. Shnork Kasparian. Fr. Simeon was present at the 1986 consecration and as a seminarian, assisted Fr. Tateos with Holy Week services.

The program’s keynote address by Fr. Guregh stressed the challenges that the founders of St. John had to overcome in “a place that bore no relation or resemblance to the land they came from.” The Armenian immigrants found work for themselves and bright prospects for their children but felt a void “that could only be filled by the construction of a new church.” In the decades since the parish was established, St. John has been “a safe haven and a gathering place” for Armenians, a place for spiritual and emotional regeneration, an extension of the Motherland, “a living breathing structure” where people worshiped, mourned, rejoiced and remembered who they were and from where they came, Fr. Guregh said.

In appreciation for his years of service at St. John as a deacon and later a priest, Fr. Nareg was presented with a clay khatchkar from Armenia. He recalled a conversation at the 1986 consecration with a skeptic who said in 25 years, there would be no Armenian community in the Milwaukee area. Thirty-five years later, St. John’s culture hall was crowded for the anniversary celebration and included many participants who weren’t born when the church was consecrated.

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This Sunday, May 2, 2015, the Armenian Church commemorates the Feast of the Apparition of the Cross (Yerevoumun Sourp Khatchi). The Apparition of the Holy Cross is the first feast dedicated to the Holy Cross in the Armenian liturgical calendar. It is celebrated in remembrance of the appearance of the sign of the cross over the city of Jerusalem in 351 that remained in the sky for several hours. The apparition extended from Golgotha to the Mount of Olives (about two miles), and was brighter than the sun and was seen by everyone in Jerusalem. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cyril, used this occasion to remind Emperor Constantius of Byzantium of his father’s (Constantine the Great) orthodox faith. Cyril said the Apparition was further reason to return to orthodoxy.

Traditionally, the Armenian translation of Cyril’s message is read on this feast day during the Antasdan prior to the Gospel lection. This event is celebrated by the Armenian and Greek churches. The Greeks observe it on the fixed date of May 7, while the Armenian date is moveable depending on the date of Easter. It is celebrated on the fifth Sunday of Easter, which is the fourth Sunday after Easter.

Cyril is a revered Doctor of the Church and he is remembered in the Armenian Church’s liturgical calendar. This year he was honored on Saturday, March 3.

 Here is a short excerpt from Cyril’s letter about the apparition:

 “In those holy days of the Easter season, on 7 May at about the third hour, a huge cross made of light appeared in the sky above holy Golgotha extending as far as the holy Mount of Olives. It was not revealed to one or two people alone, but it appeared unmistakably to everyone in the city. It was not as if one might conclude that one had suffered a momentary optical illusion; it was visible to the human eye above the earth for several hours. The flashes it emitted outshone the rays of the sun, which would have outshone and obscured it themselves if it had not presented the watchers with a more powerful illumination than the sun. It prompted the whole populace at once to run together into the holy church, overcome both with fear and joy at the divine vision. Young and old, men and women of every age, even young girls confined to their rooms at home, natives and foreigners, Christians and pagans visiting from abroad, all together as if with a single voice raised a hymn of praise to God’s Only-Begotten Son the wonder-worker. They had the evidence of their own senses that the holy faith of Christians is not based on the persuasive arguments of philosophy but on the revelation of the Spirit and power; it is not proclaimed by mere human beings but testified from heaven by God Himself.”

Posted from Armenian Eastern Prelacy weekly E-Newsletter

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      This timely book has been published through the generous contribution of the Calouste Gulbenimagekian Foundation. The book prepares the ground for the forthcoming pastoral visit of His Holiness Aram I to the United States of America. The concerns the Catholicos highlights apply both to Armenia and the Diaspora. In his introduction His Holiness Aram I writes, "I chose this title because the Church is the people."
The book consists of three parts. In the first part, Catholicos Aram I describes the nature of the church, its mission and its institutional expressions, including the parish, the dioceses and the wider Armenian community in Armenia and the diaspora. While describing the organization of each, he proposes ways in which they should be renewed.

       In the second part the Catholicos identifies the core issues that the Armenian Church is currently facing. He starts with the Bible as the foundation of Christian faith and its interpretation; he then discusses the family, the school and Christian education. At the end of this section, His Holiness Aram I explains the meaning of the term ’people of God’ and explains why Armenian women, youth and children, who have been marginalized in the Church and all community organizations, should participate in building their communities.
In the final part of the book, the Catholicos includes certain pastoral letters and messages that he has previously addressed to youth in order to prompt a meaningful dialogue with them.

      The book is a basic reader for all Armenians who want to learn about the Armenian Church and its faith, mission and organization. It is an invitation to the people in Armenia and the Diaspora to equip themselves with the legacy of the past and build Armenian communities responsive to the challenges of globalization. Finally, it is a guide to Being the Church as the people of God both in Armenia and Diaspora.

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        This Sunday, September 17, the Armenian Church commemorates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Khachverats), which is one of the five Tabernacle Feasts observed by the Armenian Church.

       This holiday is a general celebration of the Holy Cross and is commemorated by most Christian churches on September 14. The Armenian Church celebrates it on the Sunday closest to the 14th.

       The cross, once a means of death for criminals, gradually became the dominant symbol of the Christian world, an object of reverence and worship, and symbol of triumph over death. There are four feasts devoted to the Cross in the Armenian liturgical calendar, with the Exaltation being the most important. The other three are: Apparition of the Holy Cross, Holy Cross of Varak, and Discovery of the Cross.

       The ceremony for the exaltation begins with the decoration of the Cross with sweet basil (rehan), a sign of royalty, and also symbolizing the living cross. After the Bible readings, the officiating priest lifts the Cross and makes the sign of the Cross, and blesses the four corners of the world (Antastan service), and asks the Almighty to grant peace and prosperity to the people of the world.

       The Khachverats ceremony was prepared by Catholicos Sahag Tsoraporetsi (677-703). He also composed the hymn that is sung on this occasion. As with other Tabernacle Feasts, the Exaltation is preceded with a period of fasting (Monday to Friday), and followed by a memorial day (Merelots).

       Name day commemorations this Sunday include: Khatchadour, Khatchig, Khatcherets, Rehan, Khatchkhatoun, Khatchouhi, Khatchperouhi, Khosrov, Khosrovanoush, Khosrovitoukhd.

From Eastern Prelacy’s Crossroad E-Newsletter

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This Sunday, July 31, the Armenian Church celebrates one of her five Tabernacle Feasts—Transfiguration (Aylagerbutiyoun / Vartavar). The Feast of Transfiguration (also known as Baydzaragerbutyoun) is celebrated fourteen weeks after Easter, and therefore can fall between June 28 and August 1. It commemorates an episode in the New Testament recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Peter. (See the Bible reading above for the text from the Gospel according to St. Matthew).

       The Transfiguration took place on the “holy mountain” (believed to be Mt. Tabor) where Jesus had gone with Peter, James, and John to pray. As He was praying, “His face shone like the sun and His garments became white as light.” The Patriarch Moses and Prophet Elijah appeared at His side. It was at this moment that His appearance was “transfigured” revealing himself as God to His disciples as a voice from above said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

       As frequently done, a pagan festival was joined with this new Christian holiday. Vartavar (Festival of Roses) when Armenians would decorate the temple of the goddess Asdghig (goddess of love, beauty, fertility, and water) with roses, release doves, and engage in water games, was combined with the Feast of Transfiguration by St. Gregory the Illuminator.

       The fifth century historian Yeghishe wrote the prayer that is read in the church on this feast day: “O Lord, bless the harvest of this year and defend from all the perils, and may Your right hand, O Lord, protect us for the whole year.”

       Vartavar became a traditional day of pilgrimage to churches named in honor of St. John the Baptist. The most popular destination was the Monastery of Sourp Garabed of Mush, founded by Gregory the Illuminator in the province of Daron near Mush. (Garabed means Forerunner, referring to John the Baptist). The Monastery was large and expansive and built like a fortress in the mountains of the area, and more than 1,000 pilgrims could be accommodated. The Monastery was a stronghold of the Mamigonians, and in the latter part of the 19th century the monastery published Khrimian Hayrig’s newspaper, “Eagle of Daron.” In 1893, H.F.B. Lynch visited the monastery and later wrote an account of it in his book, Armenia: Travels and Studies, first published in 1901. The two-volume work was reprinted by the Prelacy in 1990.

       After the extermination and deportation of the Armenians in 1915 the complex ceased to exist. The monastery was blown up by the Turkish army, and the ravages of time, weather and scavengers completed its destruction. In 1998 a group of Armenian pilgrims went to this site for the first time in years (the area was off limits for a long time). Since then other pilgrims have made the trip to this once large and thriving Armenian monastery that now consists of amorphous ruins.

       This Sunday is the name day for those named Vartkes, Vartavar, Vart, Vartouhi, Alvart, Zevart, Nevart, Lousvart, Baidzar, Vartanoush, Vartiter, Varvar.

The Sourp Garabed Monastery in Mush before its destruction.

The remnants of the ruins in 1998. Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian, encircled by a group of Armenian pilgrims, offers a solemn requiem service as the local inhabitants watch on the sidelines.


Posted from Eastern Prelacy’s Crossroads E-Newsletter

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  Today, July 14, the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Translators, Sts. Sahag Bartev and Mesrob Mashdots. The feasts dedicated to the Holy Translators are among the most beloved celebrations for Armenians. Sahag and Mesrob are honored two times during the liturgical year: on the Thursday following the fourth Sunday after Pentecost (which is today), and on the second Saturday of October.

       St. Sahag is remembered for his strong leadership during some of the most difficult days for the Armenian Church, as well as during some of the most glorious. He is also remembered for his vast body of literary work. After the development of the Armenian alphabet, he was the guiding force for the translation of the Bible as well as in the translation of the works of the Holy Fathers.

       St. Mesrob developed the Armenian alphabet with the aid and support of St. Sahag, after a long period of travel and investigation. According to tradition, during one of his travels Mesrob was meditating in a cave in Palu, and it was there he saw a vision that helped him complete his task of creating an alphabet for the Armenian language.

       The two saints, Sahag and Mesrob, are forever linked in the minds and hearts of the Armenian people. There are many Armenian churches throughout the world named in their dual honor.

“That you may know wisdom and instruction, and understand words of insight…”
(Proverbs 1:2—the first words in the Bible to be translated into Armenian).

“The creation of the Armenian alphabet was a momentous event, a crucial turning point in the history of the nation that ensured the preservation of the Armenian identity in religion, culture, traditions, and literature for centuries to come. It unleashed the spiritual and intellectual potential of an entire people, to the extent that within the very same century a great intellectual revival occurred, giving rise to a literary output that is impressive both in quality and in quantity: the fifth century became the Golden Age of Armenian literature.”
The Heritage of Armenian Literature, Volume 1

Reposted from Crossroads E-Newsletter of the Eastern Prelacy

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       This Tuesday, July 5, the Armenian Church commemorates Constantine the Great and his mother, Helena. Constantine was the first Christian emperor of Rome. In 330 he founded Constantinople as a “second Rome,” and considered himself to be a servant of God. He was buried amid the apostles in the basilica he founded in their honor in Constantinople. Helena followed her son in becoming a Christian and devoted her life to charitable work. She built many churches and monasteries and is believed to have played an important part in the recovery of the true cross in Golgotha. She is also believed to have helped find Christ’s exact place of burial where later the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built.

Posted from the Eastern Prelacy’s Crossroads E-Newsletter

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       This Saturday, July 2, the Armenian Church remembers Catholicos Nerses the Great and Khat the Bishop. Nerses the Great was the father of Catholicos Sahag I. He succeeded two Catholicoi whose reigns were unexceptional, and the people were eager to return to the line of their beloved Gregory the Illuminator. Nerses was a student of St. Basil of Caesarea, one of three great Cappadocian Fathers. Nerses’ pontificate was the beginning of a new era. He brought the church closer in service to the people, rather than to royals and nobles. He convened the Council of Ashdishad that resulted in numerous laws on issues related to marriage, worship, and customs. He built many schools, hospitals, and monasteries. He sent monks to preach the Gospel throughout the country. His bold actions resulted in great displeasure by the royal family, and in 373 he was reportedly poisoned by the king. His accomplishments for the spiritual and social well-being of the common people earned him the gratitude of the entire nation and the honorific “Great.”

       Khat the Bishop worked closely with St. Nerses the Great. He, like Nerses, had great passion for social issues, especially helping the poor. Nerses entrusted most of the benevolent work of the church to Khat. He is so closely associated with St. Nerses that the church decided to commemorate them on the same day.

       By the light of unspeakable grace of your divine knowledge you arose on the land of Armenia, merciful heavenly Father; have compassion on us who have sinned.

       Saint Nerses, pure in soul, from birth you were chosen to inherit the paternal lot of shepherding righteously and lawfully.

       You adorned the Church with the laws of truth and established good order within it; through his prayers have mercy on us, O Christ.

       With great honor Saint Nerses was honored by the blessed chosen holy fathers of the Council where he confessed the Spirit true God with Father and Son.

       You revealed to Saint Nerses the hidden mystery of times yet to come; through his prayers have mercy on us, O Christ.

       At the command of the heavenly King he accepted the cup of death from the king and was translated into heaven into the heavenly nuptial chamber.

Canon to the Holy Patriarch Nerses the Great from the Liturgical Canons of the Armenian Church

Posted from the Eastern Prelacy’s Crossroads E-Newsletter

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