Your Eminence, Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Rev. Baljian, my fellow deacons, members of the Board of Trustees, and fellow parishioners:
With filial love I greet you, Srpazan Hayr. As our newly elected Prelate, I bid you welcome on this your first pastoral visit. Please accept our congratulations on the dual occasions of your election and elevation to the rank of Archbishop.
Dear Srpazan Hayr, today is the 49th anniversary of the consecration of our Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church. You, of course, are familiar with our community. Although small, still we are proud of our achievements. With careful consideration we keep our Sunday School active and vibrant in order to train the new generation in Christian instruction.
Additionally, I would happily add that even upon these far-flung shores, our Armenian ecclesiastical, religious and liturgical traditions are fully kept and are conducted under the meticulous and skillful leadership of our pastor, Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian. In the past, as Vicar General, you always stood by our faithful community; we pray that that relationship would be preserved and strengthened.
“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118)
I am truly honored to welcome our newly elected prelate, Archbishop Anoushavan, to our community today as we celebrate our 49th anniversary. In the event of a joyous occasion we all feel the urge to share the good news. Such was the case when, last September, I and others from our parish received the following text message: “We have a new prelate: Anoushavan Surpazan.” As the news spread there was elation throughout the community. That elation was partly because Anoushavan Surpazan was one of us. We knew him throughout his years of service within the Eastern Prelacy. We knew him as a humble, capable, dedicated servant of God and a worthy successor to the prelates who came before him, including Archbishops Mesrob Ashjian and Oshagan Choloyan.
Thirty-four years ago Archbishop Anoushavan came to the U.S. to further his education, earning two Master's Degrees in theology and philosophy. His academic pursuits were interrupted when he was assigned as full-time pastor of St. Sarkis Church in Douglaston, NY, where he served for 14 years. There he directed his efforts toward tirelessly spreading the Word by preaching, strengthening religious education for the youth, organizing the Saint Gregory of Datev Institute, and providing activities for the seniors. Thereafter, he served as vicar general of the Prelacy, with myriad administrative responsibilities. While doing so he also completed his doctoral work at Columbia University. In all of these roles he has proven himself zinvor Hayotz yev Asdoodzo. That is, a servant of God and the people.
Archbishop Anoushavan has been well known to our community in his role as Vicar General of the Prelacy. He provided invaluable moral support following the death of our beloved pastor, Father Vartan Kassabian. We were a community in shock and mourning. He saw to it that a visiting priest came to Saint Gregory’s every Sunday. With Der Vartan’s passing coming just before the Lenten season leading up to Holy Week, the good shepherd that he is personally officiated and steered us through the rigors of Holy Week and helped us all to heal.
We rejoice and are glad as we celebrate the founding of our church. Today we are 49 years strong. St. Gregory’s is the northeastern-most outpost of all the Prelacy churches. And while we are small in numbers we are true to the mission of keeping our faith alive. This we owe to the dedication and hard work of all the members of our community.
While we are not officially honoring an outstanding member of our church today, there is a particular group that I would like to recognize. We’re living in an age of intense secular competition to Sunday morning worship. I applaud all the parents of our Sunday school students who instill in their children the notion that going to church every Sunday is a good thing. In fact it’s a cool thing, especially when a youngster standing next to a deacon on the altar with a little prodding starts chanting along with us. That is so gratifying. Also, many times I have contacted parents to ask if their son or daughter could help us on Sunday. Invariably they respond positively. And I would like to say thank you for their encouragement and commitment in bringing their children to church regularly.
So it was for Srpazan, whose family, particularly his mother, instilled in him devotion to the church from a very early age. When he reached the age of 12, a young priest visited his school in Beirut. When he asked if any of the boys would like to become a priest, only one boy shyly raised his hand. That boy was our very own Prelate. Ironically, the visiting priest was Fr. Mesrob Ashjian, later Prelate of the Eastern United States.
Dear Srpazan Hayr, today you ordained 3 of our students as acolytes, the first rank in service to the Holy Church. The hope is that they will find the inspiration in you to make an enduring commitment and contribution to our beloved church.
Dear Srpazan Hayr, we wish you long and splendorous years. May our Lord Jesus Christ grant you strength and capability, so that you may continue your fruitful activities as Prelate, for the aid of our people and especially for the radiance of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Dear Srpazan Hayr, congratulations on your recent election and elevation to the rank of Archbishop. May our Lord Jesus Christ grant you strength and wisdom to continue your episcopal ministry and leadership. Thank you.
Deacon Arek Kalaydjian
January 27, 2019
FIRST VISIT OF NEW PRELATE, 49TH ANNIVERSARY OF SAINT GREGORY CHURCH CELEBRATED
His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian travelled to North Andover, Massachusetts, where he presided over the 49th Anniversary of Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley. This was his first visit to North Andover as Prelate. During the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence ordained four young men, Zareh Bulbulian from the choir, Aram Ozoonian, Edward Gaffny and Armen Kourkounian from the Sunday School, as acolytes. Mr. Bulbulian was also invested with a stole (ourar) to wear during liturgical services. A prayer of blessing was also said over choir director Knarik Nerkararyan and a blessed veil was placed over her head.
During his sermon, Srpazan Hayr spoke about service and commended the young men and Ms. Nerkararyan for their continued service to Saint Gregory Church. He relayed how the higher orders of service to the church, beginning with the minor orders on up, show us that everybody has a role to play in serving God and the Armenian Apostolic Church. He emphasized that not only the ranks of the ordained, but also the lay people – each and every one of us – have the responsibility to serve for the betterment of the church community and the glory of Christ’s name.
Following the Divine Liturgy and requiem service for all the deceased pastors, Godfathers, benefactors, Trustees, NRA delegates and members of affiliated bodies and sister organizations, a celebratory banquet took place in the church’s Jaffarian Hall, with Archbishop Anoushavan presiding. Board of Trustees Chairman, Mr. Krikor Afarian offered welcoming remarks and highlighted some of the successes and challenges of the past year.
As the keynote speaker, Deacon Arek Kalayjian eloquently biographized the Prelate and noted the ways in which he had encouraged and supported the Saint Gregory community during his years as Vicar General of the Prelacy. After thinking the various committees, organizations and various volunteers for their service over the past year, Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian, Pastor, spoke highly of the Prelate and reflected upon some of the ways Anoushavan Srpazan had been influential in his life and ministry. Archbishop Anoushavan, in his remarks, encouraged the community to remain strong and continue its dedication to the faith and character of the Armenian Church and Nation. He shared his optimism about the work that will be accomplished together during his new tenure as Prelate and he thanked the parishioners for their support of the Prelacy and for their hospitality.
A special moment during the banquet came when Saint Gregory Sunday School intern Meliné Almasian, who received the Prelacy’s Youth Service Award this past May at the National Representative Assembly, presented Srpazan Hayr with a birthday cake and led the attendees in a rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Following so many praises and eloquent descriptions of Srpazan Hayr’s strengths and capabilities, there was to be perhaps no greater proverbial demonstration of these than when he proceeded to extinguish every single candle – one for every year of his life on this earth – in one breath.
The Religious and Executive Councils announced last weekend that Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian has been appointed Vicar General of the Eastern Prelacy. Hayr Sahag has been serving the Eastern Prelacy since 2013 and currently serves as pastor of Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church of Worcester, Massachusetts. He will continue to serve in Worcester while also serving as Vicar of the Prelacy.
Hayr Sahag began his service to the Eastern Prelacy in August 2013. He was born in Yerevan, Armenia, in 1983. He studied at the Armenian Theological Seminary in Antelias, Lebanon, for nine years and was ordained a celibate priest in 2006. He served the Catholicosate of the Holy See of Cilicia for four years as director of the archives, director of the youth department, and lecturer at the Seminary. He also has served as pastor to the Armenian community in Salonika, Greece. In 2010 he received the rank of Vartabed (Doctor).
Upon his arrival to the United States, Hayr Sourp first served as an outreach priest for the Prelacy until his appointment as pastor of Worcester’s Holy Trinity Church, where he currently continues his service. In 2016 His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, elevated him to the degree of Dzayrakooyn Vartabed (Archimandrite Superior), which consists of the conferral of 10 advanced theological degrees on top of the four given at the time of elevation to the rank of Vartabed . This elevation ceremony took place at St. Stephen’s Church in Watertown, Massachusetts on May 29, 2016, officiated by Archbishop Oshagan. The Divine Liturgy that day was celebrated by Bishop Anoushavan, who at the time was the Vicar of the Prelacy. During this time Hayr Sahag also successfully completed his advanced theological studies at Boston College and received a Master of Arts degree last year.
Անցեալ շաբաթավերջին, Կրօնական Ժողովը եւ Ազգային Վարչութիւնը յայտարարեցին, թէ Գերպ. Տ. Սահակ Ծ. վրդ. Եմիշեան Արեւելեան թեմի առաջնորդական փոխանորդ նշանակուած է։ Հ. Սահակը թեմիս միացած է Օգոստոս 2013էն ի վեր եւ ներկայիս կը ծառայէ իբրեւ Ուստրի Ս. Երրորդութիւն եկեղեցւոյ հոգեւոր հովիւ։ Ան պիտի շարունակէ իր ծառայութիւնը Ուստրի մէջ՝ առաջնորդական փոխանորդի իր պաշտօնին զուգընթաց։
Հայր Սահակը ծնած է Երեւան, 1983ին։ Ինը տարի ուսում ստանալէ ետք Մեծի Տանն Կիլիկիոյ Կաթողիկոսութեան դպրեվանքին մէջ (Պիքֆայա), կուսակրօն քահանայ ձեռնադրուած է 2006ին։ Ան Կաթողիկոսարանին մէջ աշխատած է չորս տարի իբրեւ արխիւներու տնօրէն եւ դպրեվանքի դասատու։ Եղած է նաեւ Սելանիկի (Յունաստան) համայնքի հոգեւոր հովիւ։ 2010ին ստացած է վարդապետութեան աստիճանը։
Միացեալ Նահանգներ ժամանելէ ետք, Հայր Սուրբը սկզբնապէս ծառայած է թեմիս մէջ իբրեւ արտահաս հովիւ, մինչեւ իր նշանակումը իբրեւ՝ Ս. Երրորդութիւն եկեղեցւոյ հովիւ Ուստրի մէջ։ 2016ին Ն.Ս.Օ.Տ.Տ. Արամ Ա. Կաթողիկոսէն Հ. Սահակ վարդապետ ստացած է ծայրագոյն վարդապետի աստիճանը։ Աստիճանի ստացումը՝ ձեռամբ նախկին առաջնորդ Օշական արք. Չօլոլոյեանի, տեղի ունեցած է Ուոթըրթաունի Ս. Ստեփանոս եկեղեցւոյ մէջ, 29 Մայիս 2016ին, յընթացս Ս. Պատարագի, զոր կը մատուցէր Անուշաւան եպս. Դանիէլեան, որ այդ ժամանակ առաջնորդական փոխանորդն էր։ Տ. Սահակ Ծ. վրդ. Եմիշեան նաեւ ամբողջացուցած է իր աստուածաբանական ուսումը Պոստըն գոլէճին մէջ, 2018ին ստանալով մագիստրոսի տիտղոսը։
Photos courtesy of Violet Dagdigian, Kelly Janian & Greg Afarian
On Saturday and Sunday, January 5 & 6, Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley celebrated with great joy and ceremony the Feast of the Holy Nativity and Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ, presided over by our Pastor, Rev. Father Stephan Baljian.
On Saturday evening, following the Jashoo and Vesper prayer services, our Sunday School students read the Old Testament scripture readings for the Jrakalooyts or Vigil service. They also participated in the Vigil Divine Liturgy.
Following the services, the entire congregation, led by Der Stephan and the altar servers processed downstairs to Jaffarian Hall, where a beautiful table had been set for the traditional Christmas home blessing service. Because Saint Gregory Church is our spiritual home, this beautiful ceremony invokes God's blessings over our church and over our church family throughout the new year. After this, a special blessing was said over the new set of vestments given by our community as a gift for Der Hayr's 10 year ordination anniversary.
On Sunday morning, Der Hayr premiered these new vestments to the awe and satisfaction of all. The church was full and the church choir robust in sound as the solemn Divine Liturgy was offered on behalf of all the faithful. In his special Christmas message, Der Hayr (using a story about his recent experience at a musical event) reminded everyone that the birth and revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ were not just happenstance, or even a touching story, but rather they were part of God's pre-ordained plan for the salvation of mankind. The very act of God's humbling himself in order to be born as a human being was an act of compassion and voluntary suffering for the sake of all human beings and therefore has the power to comfort us in our own sorrows and set us free from captivity to sin and death.
Following the Divine Liturgy, the Blessing of Water (or churorhnek) service took place commemorating the Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. This year's Godfather of the Holy Cross was Richie Shahtanian, son of Mr. & Mrs. P. Richard Shahtanian, Esq. Our sincerest congratulations go to the Shahtanian and Annaian families.
At the conclusion of the services, our Sunday/Armenian School students presented their annual Christmas pageant, under the capable leadership of school principal Mrs. Sossy Jeknavorian.
A festive spread of delicious foods and holiday treats awaited in Jaffarian Hall, where amidst a warm and celebratory atmosphere, we had our annual Christmas party, complete with a visit from Gaghant Baba (St. Nicholas) and presents for all the children.
Dear Parishioners and Friends,
A little less than a year ago, by the grace of God we celebrated together the tenth anniversary of my ordination to the Holy Priesthood of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which took place on February 16 & 17, 2008 at St. Stephen's Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, Mass.
Our Prelate at the time, His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan (who consecrated me as a priest), joined us on January 28 of last year to lead the dual celebration of our church's 48th anniversary and the anniversary of my ordination that I mentioned above.
The touching tributes and outpouring of grace on that date were very meaningful to me and my family and they will not soon be forgotten. Furthermore, the generous gift of a beautiful new set of liturgical vestments, which the beloved faithful of this parish had made especially for me, was both surprising and moving. The Board of Trustees, Ladies' Guild, Men's Club and some anonymous donors must be made mention of for providing the funds to create this sacred piece of embroidered artwork.
The main parts of the vestment were made masterfully by our very own talented parishioner Mrs. Seta Ohannessian, the entire set was recently completed with the crown and collar made by Archpriest Fr. Vazken Bekiarian. Now that the entire set has been completed, blessed and worn to celebrate the Holy Divine Liturgy, it is my desire to let you know that I was truly touched to have been the recipient of such kind-heartedness and generosity, in this gracious outpouring of your appreciation for my ten years of service as a priest and five years as the pastor of Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley.
Therefore, I wanted to take this opportunity to express my supreme gratitude not only for this gift, but for the all the ways, both great and small, that you have helped me and my family during my tenure as your pastor. Yeretsgin Alice, Nishan & Hovhaness join me in offering our sincerest thanks to you, our parishioners, for this special occasion and for this special gift. We look forward to continuing our service to God and to our beloved Merrimack Valley Armenian community for many years to come. May the grace of God the Father, the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Fr. Stephan Baljian, Pastor
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear one of my favorite pieces of music, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (Weihnachtsoratorium), BWV 248. This perennial favorite – the equivalent in the German-speaking world of Handel’s Messiah – is a large scale, structurally exquisite, major work for soloists, chorus and orchestra. It consists of six separate cantatas (a liturgical work consisting of hymns, Gospel passages, and reflective poetry in the form of arias for use in the Lutheran Church’s worship setting), each laid out according to the days of the season of Christmas: the first day of the Nativity, second day, third day, New Year’s Day, the Circumcision/Naming of Jesus and finally the Epiphany or Baptism of Jesus. Composed for the Christmas season of 1734, Bach reworked many sections from his previously written (and discarded) cantatas into this tour de force masterpiece of the Baroque era. His skill and his technical mastery were at the height of their power, and it shows throughout the two-and-a-half-hour long excursion into the heart of the Christmas story and message.
I had fallen in love with the Christmas Oratorio when I was a music student in college, on account of its thrilling choral numbers, stirring arias and the readily recognizable Gospel narrative of Jesus’s birth (the wise men, the shepherds, the angels, etc.) that runs throughout its entirety. Among my vast collection of CDs it is a work that gets guaranteed play time at least once a year, if not more… simply when I am in the mood to listen, not because it is the Christmas season, but because of how likeable and inspiring the music is.
For this reason, when I had heard earlier this year that the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus were planning on performing this great work in its entirety, at the start of the Christmas season in early December, I knew I just HAD to take the opportunity to hear it live and enjoy the music I had fallen in love with so many years ago.
I invited my mother to attend with me (as a fellow music lover, she has been my “concert buddy” throughout the years) and she readily accepted the invitation. A few sniffles from an early season cold did not deter me from attending and enjoying this music. However, as we entered Boston Symphony Hall and the ushers were handing out program booklets, they were also handing out a supplemental booklet that had the English translation of the entire German text. She handed one to my mother. I went to reach out my hand to receive a copy as well -- there was an abrupt change in the usher’s demeanor.
“Are you two together?” she asked. “I’m sorry, only one per party. The print run was limited and we don’t have enough for everybody.”
“Uh-oh,” I thought. “Will there be supertitles over the stage?” I asked cautiously, referring to a common practice at orchestral halls where vocal works with foreign language texts are to be performed. But by that time it was too late. We had already been “ushered” in to the hall and she had already begun explaining the situation to the next patrons.
When we took our seats, I quickly glanced above the stage to look for a small projection screen. There was none. Gulp.
In my mind, I quickly reviewed my knowledge of the piece and made an assessment of just how much I would be able to follow, with my limited German language skills, culled mostly from diction classes and studying music scores when I was a music student and from that week-long class trip to the Germanic countries my junior year in high school. Furthermore, I took into consideration the fact that the backbone of the text was formed by the Biblical narrative of Christ’s birth, coupled with the arias (solo numbers) containing relatively short amounts of text repeated frequently and the choral numbers just being so musically magnificent that I wouldn’t care much about the words anyway.
It was all in a split second but at once I became very reassured, self-confident even. My mother handed me the text booklet to use. “We can share it back and forth, if you want,” she offered.
“No need,” was my cavalier reply. “I should be able to follow most of it,” a little grin forming in the back of mind for being able to say that. I reassured her that it was fine and that she could follow the booklet (good thing I did, because she used it the entire time), and I settled in to concentrate on the glorious music that was about touch my ears and my heart.
About a third of the way in, during Part III about the arrival of the Shepherds to the stable, a beautiful number came up, a duet for Soprano and Bass, accompanied by two oboes. As I was listening to the text, I suddenly realized that I could understand what was being sung! Now, prior to this I had been able to understand some of the text due to the factors I mentioned earlier, but that was because of my having had some familiarity with it already. This was the first time during the performance in which I was able to casually understand what was being said.
And here are the words that I understood: Herr dein Mitleid, dein Erbarmen, tröstet uns und macht uns frei… “Lord, thy compassion, thy mercy, comfort us and make us free.” (For those German language scholars who are reading, please forgive me if my translation is not entirely correct; I am simply offering the translation as I understood it that evening.)
Thus, as the text was being sung repeatedly, as a musician I began to relish the thought of what I had accomplished, but as a priest and a believer I now began to contemplate the words that were being sung.
“Lord, your compassion and your mercy comfort us and set us free…”
“Compassion and Mercy”
To begin to understand the meaning of this sentence in a Theological context, we must first examine the German word “mitleid.” It is a meaningful word that fuses the words “mit” meaning “with” and “leid” meaning “sorrow.” Thus, an accurate translation would be “to feel sorrow with,” or “to suffer along with.” This corresponds with the English word of Latin origin “compassion,” which could readily be translated to mean the same thing.
I would like to emphasize here that the compassion or co-suffering of our Lord is not an abstract emotion or merely a sense of empathy (although that, I believe, is present as well), but rather a true physical suffering. Just as we human beings go through the rigors and difficulties of life and suffer in our flesh because of sickness, disease and persecution, our Lord Jesus Christ as a human being suffered through all those difficulties we do – and in his case, even more so, since in his earthly life he met such a brutal and tortuous end. When speaking about Jesus’s perfection in the role of “High Priest” of God’s Temple, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews refers precisely to this concept, when he writes, “Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God… Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” (Hebrews 2:17-18)
So, Jesus’s compassion is not theoretical, like anyone of us may reach out to a suffering brother or sister and say, “I feel sorry for you,” or even take compassionate actions to try to alleviate his or her suffering. His is the actual kind of compassion, because he personally experiences the same suffering we do.
The next word we need to take a look at is “Erbarmen,” which is the German language correspondent of the Greek word elyon, or voghormootyoon in Armenian. This is the word that describes the kind of “loving kindness” that God shows to his people. In times past, it was translated as “mercy,” but it could be argued that the meaning of that word has changed significantly since the time when the Bible was first translated into English. In our day, the term “mercy” conjures up an image of a petulant, inconvenienced bully deciding at his or her whim the fate of an unfortunate inferior.
The “mercy” of God as described in the Bible is quite different, however. It is understood to be the very goodness and Fatherly love that God contains in his nature, and that has been shown lovingly toward mankind since time immemorial… the same loving kindness Jesus himself embodied and emulated throughout his earthly life, which of course culminated in his ultimate sacrifice on the cross. This loving kindness was evident in all of his personal interactions that we read about in the Gospel.
The entreaty “Der voghormya” (or Lord, be kind to us) epitomizes this perpetual quest for God’s goodness in our lives. It is used profusely throughout the Old and New Testaments, as well as in the liturgical prayers and hymns of our Church. By saying “Der voghormya” or “Lord, have mercy,” we are not begging or groveling, rather we are humbly admitting, “Lord, show us your loving kindness… Be good to us, because we sure need it!”
It may not be evident at first, but there is a connection between the two – compassion and loving kindness. Compassion must be present in order for loving “elyon” to take place. Recall that when the crowds were following Jesus, the Gospels record that he had compassion on them and then started healing them and performing miracles In the Gospel of Matthew 14:13-21, we see a prime example of this, wherein upon seeing the crowds – even though he himself was still suffering from the devastating news that John the Baptist had been beheaded – he had compassion on them and began healing them from their illnesses; then he fed a crowd of more than 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish! Compassion and loving kindness in action.
Here, we would be wise to ask the first of two question: what do these two concepts, compassion and loving kindness have to do with Christmas, or more specifically the birth of Christ? Of course, with a broad perspective, we understand the compassion and loving kindness of Jesus to be evident in the life that he lived and the works he did. Taken as whole, one could say that entire course of his life, as charted in the Gospels, he was dedicated to this two-fold work of compassion and showing the loving kindness of God the Father.
Jesus Christ did not come into the world simply to “find his way,” or anything else. Compelled by his compassion toward mankind, the Son was sent from the Father in order to save the world and show his loving kindness. He came with a certain mission, and in order to fulfill that mission, he accomplished a certain set of acts that we recognize as necessary elements of this saving mission. In Theological terms, we refer to the entirety of these acts as the “economy” of salvation. Traditionally understood, these encompass primarily his betrayal, his passion, his crucifixion, his resurrection, his ascension and his second coming.
How then, you ask, do we understand the incarnation and the birth of Christ in terms of his suffering? After all, from the Gospel narrative it doesn’t seem like there was anything perilous occurring. Furthermore, why would we be contemplating suffering and compassion during the joyful season of Christmas anyway? Aren’t those things supposed to be for Holy Week and the Easter Season? Shouldn’t we be singing about “glad tidings” and “peace on earth” and so forth?
But we must also remember that part of this saving economy was also his incarnation, his birth, his baptism, his presentation to the Temple and his earthly ministry of preaching, teaching, healing and performing miracles. Therefore, while it doesn’t seem obvious at first, these elements of Christ’s economy of salvation that encompass the beginning of his human life are an integral part of its entirety.
Our Church Fathers pointed out in many ways that Jesus’s incarnation itself was an act of great compassion. That the all-powerful, all-knowing God of all Creation, whose glory is uncontainable, would undertake to be confined in the womb, be born as a tiny child in the most modest of circumstances was, in their eyes the ultimate act of compassion and loving kindness toward the human race. The incarnation and birth – as much as the passion and crucifixion – of our Lord were seen as acts of suffering and temptation inasmuch as the unconfined God would be gracious enough to be placed within the confines of human flesh, if it meant saving his people from their sins (which is what the word “Jesus” means in its Hebrew definition). In this act also there was seen an infinite measure of God’s love for and care toward humankind. In this very humbling and sacrificial act one could sufficiently see the love and compassion of God in heaven being poured out amongst the peoples of the earth, a beautiful reminder that all of the trials and passions of Jesus’s earthly life were not in vain, neither did he lose his life in vain (we are reminded of this every Easter Sunday), and that there is true power in God’s being moved to suffer for us and show his goodness to us.
Now, that Jesus Christ suffered in his flesh is no matter of speculation or philosophical contemplation – it is historical fact and a necessary reality if we are to accept him as “perfect God and perfect Man.” If he truly was perfect in his humanity, as we Orthodox claim, then he would have experienced the whole gamut of passions and sufferings that life as a human being promises. (That he experienced them without sinning in their wake is another subject for a different message.)
So now we must ask the second and final question: How do the compassion and loving kindness of Christ, shown in his incarnation, birth and suffering in general, comfort us and set us free?
I believe that these two – comfort and liberation – are the natural outcome of having a God who suffers with us and shows us infinite amounts of kindness and love.
As far as comfort, in the face of disaster and personal tragedy, we are comforted to know that God is with us in that he himself suffered and knew much tragedy and adversity. The word “comfort,” or mûkhitarootyoon in Armenian, appears numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments. It is part of who God is and what he does. He comforts those in affliction, he speaks comfort to his people, he sends “the Comforter, the Holy Spirit,” to teach us and remind us of his Word. (John 14:25)
As Armenian Christians, throughout many centuries of persecution and Genocide in our homeland, the consolation of God, which received through our Armenian Apostolic Holy Church, kept the Armenian spirit alive and allowed us to continue on as a people. This was all because our ancestors knew that whatever cross they had to bear, whatever height of Golgotha they had to traverse in pain and agony, our Lord Jesus Christ had done it with them and therefore was a source of great comfort to them in their most difficult hours.
Lastly, to say that God’s compassion and loving kindness “set us free” is first and foremost to acknowledge that we are in captivity. This may seem far-fetched, yet we see around us every day countless examples of men and women being enslaved to such treacherous sins as worship of self, addictions, disregard for authority, disrespect for family members, sexual sins, slander, dishonesty, idolatry, worship of material wealth and perhaps the most grievous of sins: self-delusion. Delusion that we are own creator, delusion that we are our own redeemer, delusion that we can do anything we want without being harmed – delusion that we are God. If we are not careful, this very same self-delusion can lead to a delusional and erroneous understanding of that freedom that has been given to us through Jesus’s compassion and loving kindness.
We often have a hard time coming to grips with the fact that we are in captivity, especially as we mature spiritually and our enslavement to sin and our own sinfulness begins to become more evident. (Read Romans 6:16-19 for Saint Paul’s take on this). Often, it seems as though when we finally do turn to our Lord to set us free, we become even more restricted than when we were “slaves to sin!” We have to go to Divine Liturgy, read the Bible, pray every day, confess our sins, live in righteousness, care about others, obey the law and try to be good in God’s sight at all times (which is virtually impossible).
Yet in Christ we come to understand that true freedom is in what he offers us – salvation, holiness and eternal life – and not in anything else we can conjure up by working on our own. Through his compassion and loving kindness he has placed us in his good graces (“under grace” to use the biblical terminology). What we must realize is that those things mentioned above are what we do to stay in the good graces of the one who set us free in the first place, because we acknowledge that is is the best possible place to be!
When my youngest son gets frustrated because he didn’t get his way, sometimes he slumps his shoulders, puts his face down and says in a fit of frustration, “I’m going to go and do whatever I want! Humph.” To him, this is what freedom looks like. In his mind, he thinks he will finally be freed from the oppressive overreach of authority and be at liberty go wherever he pleases and do whatever he pleases.
What he doesn’t realize (especially at that tender age) is that he would also be fleeing the care and kindness of a loving father, who in ways that he cannot yet begin to fathom, has sacrificed for him and suffered along with him, and without whose care for even a day he would have great difficulty surviving in this world.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Shrugging our proverbial shoulders at our heavenly Father, we ask things like, “Why do I have to apologize first?” “Why am I responsible for doing this or that thing for church?,” “why do I have to give up that sinful habit if I enjoy doing it?” and so on.
Much like the example of my son, what we must realize is that our freedom – or more specifically, our intelligent perception of it – should not be used to flee from our responsibilities and actions as newly freed believers, but to come into and remain in the presence of the one who set us free, and not to flee from him altogether. The latter would not be called freedom; this is called being “lost.”
There is a big difference between being “free” and being “lost,” although there may be a thin line separating the two with a lot of gray area surrounding it. Sadly, many people in this world mistake being “lost” for being “free.” A sheep may stray from its shepherd and believe it is free, but that sheep can only stray so far before it finds itself in great peril of being lost forever! So too, we must be careful that as Armenian Apostolic Christians our attitudes toward our freedom in Christ wouldn’t result in our being lost altogether and falling out of his good graces.
A person who is truly free in the knowledge of Christ remains in the service of Christ, knowing that he or she has the best chance of being nurtured, guided and safely led to the best place for that person to be in his/her life. Freedom is not in doing whatever we want (as my son sometimes concludes), but in our being made wise enough to know our boundaries, understand our limitations and the endless amount of support and power we have in God’s loving kindness, in the faith which he laid out for us in the families, communities and roles he places us in.
I pray that during this holy season of our Lord’s Nativity and Theophany you would more and more come to the knowledge that his compassion for mankind and the infinite loving-kindness that he showed through his incarnation, death and resurrection can give you great comfort from the sorrow of your sins and set you free from captivity to evil and death.
Քրիստոս ծնաւ եւ յայտնեցաւ: Օրհնեալ է յայտնութիւնն Քրիստոսի:
Christ is born and revealed! Blessed is the revelation of Christ.
Fr. Stephan Baljian, Pastor
Holy Nativity & Theophany 2019
Transcription of Video Message:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On Behalf of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Giligia, Religious and Executive Councils and the Eastern Prelacy family, I would like to congratulate you all and say, “Shnorhavor Nor Dari; Tsez yev Mez Medz Avedis; Krisdos dzunav yev haydnetsav.” [Happy New Year; glad tidings to you and to us; Christ is born and revealed.] I am sure that you all enjoyed -- on December 25, with our brothers and sisters – the Western Christmas. You sang carols, you exchanged gifts; well, let me ask you a personal question: among all the gifts, what kind of gift did you present to the birthday boy, Jesus Christ?
You might be perplexed, saying, “Wow! God doesn’t need any gift… how can I present a gift?” Don’t worry… believe me, God needs a gift as much as we do.
Let me give you an example: Your parents. No matter how much they own, the greatest gifts you can present to them are your smile, your love, your respect. In the same way, God expects us all to present a personal gift to him. In that regard, I assure you that, when this Sunday you go to church, come forward to Jesus Christ and say – as you would embrace a baby and say, “I love you, my baby, my child" – in the same way, say, “Jesus, I love you with all my heart.” I assure you that God will come and dwell in our hearts.
Because, after all, we read again in the Old Testament, and again in the New Testament with the same understanding, that God loves meek and humble hearts the most. And he says, “Where should I dwell, if not in the hearts of the humble?”
Therefore, with this understanding, let us make a very simple commitment. We don’t need to rush to gift shops. I know that your credit cards are already overburdened. Just make a commitment: when we go to church this Sunday, and when we greet anyone saying, Tsez yev mez Medz Avedis; Krisdos dzunav yev haydnetsav, let Jesus come in our hearts and change us—our hearts, our minds, our outlook, our perspective.
I assure you that you will enjoy a celestial chorus singing for us – with us – “Rejoice, rejoice!” because you have granted your heart to God.
May God’s peace and joy dwell in your personal life, your family life, in your business, in your neighborhood, wherever you go. Let that joy shine, and everybody will know that you are a son or daughter of Jesus Christ. Amen.
On Saturday, December 1, a large group of ladies from our community gathered at Joseph's Trattoria restaurant in Bradford for our Ladies' Guild's annual Christmas gathering. The ladies enjoyed a delicious lunch, along with fellowship and some good laughs. There was also a Yankee Swap that turned out to be a great time for all. It was a way to celebrate all that the Guild has achieved this past year and to encourage its members to look forward to another great year of service and dedication to Saint Gregory Church.
On Sunday, December 2, during Divine Liturgy at St. Illuminator's Armenian Apostolic Cathedral, by encyclical of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia, our Prelate, Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian was officially granted the title "Archbishop," a mark of prestige and seniority, granted for years of faithful service to our Lord and the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Archbishop Anoushavan at the cathedral, during which Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian, pastor of Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church of Worcester and Secretary of the Prelacy's religious council, read the Caholicosal encyclical for all the faithful to hear.
Following the service at the Cathedral, a celebratory banquet was held at Terrace-on-the-Park banquet facility in Queens, organized by the Prelacy's executive council in honor of Archbishop Anoushavan's election in September. A capacity crowd was in attendance to honor the new Prelate, who spoke to the crowd
NEW BOARD SEATED
The Board of Trustees and the entire Saint Gregory Church community have had a busy and eventful time over the last eight months. Following our General Membership Meeting, the Board received Executive Council approval of all our minutes and reports. Subsequently, we held elections for tivan (executive) and ultimately kept the same capable executive from the previous year: Greg Afarian, Chair, Robert Kochakian, Vice-chair, Kelly Janian, Corresponding Secretary, Armen Kourkounian, Recording Secretary & Susan Parigian, Treasurer.
Following this, planning went into full swing for the upcoming Easter Season and Armenian Martyrs’ Day commemoration in April. For this year’s commemoration, we invited Mr. George Aghjayan from Worcester as a guest speaker. Mr. Aghjayan has become an expert authority on Armenian genealogy and the history and geography of pre-Genocide era historical Armenia. His fascinating lecture outlined the new and varied (thanks to technology) resources available for Diasporan Armenians wishing to research their family history, and he emphasized that now is a better time than ever for conducting such research.
HOSTING OF NATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLY
In May, things became even busier as our modest parish suddenly became a bustling center of the entire Eastern Prelacy community, welcoming delegates, clergy, observers and guests numbering more than a hundred at the annual National Representative Assembly (May 9-12). Constituting the national level (Eastern United States), this annual convention takes place every year and is the equivalent of the General Membership Meeting that takes place on the parish level. Each parish of the Eastern Prelacy is represented by elected lay delegates. The Assembly also contains a certain percentage of clergy delegates. Our parish was proudly represented this year by delegates Rita Sarkisian, Sossy Jeknavorian and Sharké Der Apkarian.
And speaking of proudly, did we ever have an achievement to be proud of! We heard nothing but praise and compliments from all our guests! Our Prelate, Archbishop Oshagan gave his highest praises for efforts. From the hotel to the meals to the meeting venues to the transportation and everything in between, all were executed flawlessly by our N.R.A. Steering Committee, headed masterfully by Christine Kourkounian. We would like to thank Der Hayr for his vision and guidance and also the Steering Committee, Trustees and ALL those who volunteered (and there were a LOT of you!) to help out in many capacities throughout the week. Der Hayr and the Board are truly proud of you and what our community was able to achieve during that week in May!
Our congratulations also go to this year’s banquet honorees. There are so many who are deeply dedicated to our parish and who work hard to serve their church, but these individuals have stood out and we were overjoyed to see them recognized not only by our community members, but by our Prelate, clergy and National Representatives at the banquet held on May 11th. Anna Shahtanian & Meliné Almasian (Youth Service Award), Jim & Ann Apovian, Sharké Der Apkarian, Armen Kourkounian and Christine Kourkounian were all more than deserving of the awards received for service to their church and nation at the local and national levels.
Things died down a bit during the summer, although our Ladies’ Guild hosted its annual Spring Food Fair and our Men’s Club held another successful Annual Cigar Night in memory of Der Vartan Kassabian. On the Sunday after May 28, by order of Archbishop Oshagan, we offered the Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Republic of Armenia, along with the blessing of the flags of Armenia, Artsakh and the United States. Once again, members of the Armenian-American Veterans of Lowell Sam Manoyan Post #1 were on hand to bear the flags during the ceremony. We would like to thank the distinguished veterans of this fine organization for once again providing this service, and also for their years spent protecting this country and the freedoms we all hold dearly.
The summer feast days of Pentecost, Transfiguration (Vartavar), Assumption (Blessing of Grapes) and Exaltation of the Cross helped many people to continue the good habit of attending Divine Liturgy during the summer months. Indeed, we were happy that the number of attendees did not dwindle as much as in past summers. This year, thanks to Der Hayr and the altar staff, we also saw the attendance of Sunday School students increase during the summer, as many accepted the invitation to serve on the altar, sing in the choir and read the Epistles on a rotating basis. Although not formal, this program was a success and we would like to commend the parents of these students for bringing their children to church so as to not get out of the habit for too long.
NEW SIGN FOR HALL
As many of you may have noticed, the sign over Jaffarian Hall had weathered and deteriorated quite a bit in condition over the years. This summer saw the completion of the sign’s replacement, with a brand new look that we hope to match with a new sign outside the church in the very near future. This was completed just in time to welcome hundreds of guests to our annual picnic.
Our summer wrapped up with another successful annual picnic, which was held on September 9th of this year. We would like to thank this year’s picnic committee as well all other parishioners and friends who helped make this a spectacular event! Many compliments were about the quality of the food, music and company. Der Hayr, the altar servers and members of the Board and Sunday School conducted the Great Procession of the Holy Cross on the grounds during the picnic. This was well received by the crowd.
ELECTION OF NEW PRELATE
The previous day, September 8, however, was a most remarkable day. Der Hayr and our three National Representatives travelled to New York City for a special session of the National Representative Assembly at St. Illuminator’s Cathedral in Manhattan. The sole purpose of the special assembly was to elect a new Prelate for a four year term. This had been a delayed business item from the N.R.A. held at our church in the spring. Der Stephan announced on the day of the picnic that His Grace Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian had been elected as Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America by a margin of almost 2-to-1. Bishop Anoushavan is no stranger to the Prelacy nor to our community. He had served the past twenty years as Vicar General, as an assistant and right-hand-man to Archbishop Oshagan. He visited Saint Gregory Church on many occasions and showed personal, fatherly care and compassion to us when we went through the ordeal of tragically losing our parish priest, Der Vartan, nearly ten years ago.
Bishop Anoushavan has been visiting all of the parishes of the Eastern Prelacy and is scheduled to preside over our parish’s 49th Anniversary celebration on January 27th of next year. We look forward to welcoming our new Prelate to our community in a few short months. In the meantime, we wish Srpazan Hayr the best as he begins this new leg of his journey of spiritual mission to the flock of the Armenian Church. At the time of this writing, the Prelacy’s Executive Council is making preparations for a “Welcoming” Banquet to take place in New York City on December 2. On this occasion, we have donated $500 to the commemorative program booklet that is being prepared.
FIRE/GAS EXPLOSION DISASTER
Just as we thought we would be getting back to our ordinary routine in the fall, a most extraordinary thing happened in the Merrimack Valley area. On September 13, our small town of North Andover and neighboring communities of Andover and Lawrence made international headlines when over seventy fires, explosions and emergency calls occurred in the area on that Thursday afternoon. This was due to a fault with the low pressure gas line that runs through the area – the same line that our church is connected to.
After confirming that all of our members were safe during this tragedy, in which one person was killed, dozens injured and many families were left without homes, we immediately began participating in the relief efforts for affected families in the area. Thanks to the generosity of our parishioners and of many from out of town, we were able to quickly raise $1,200 in monetary aid, as well as a whole van full of food, clothing, household items, laundry detergent, toys and water, which was delivered to the Lawrence Senior Center by Der Hayr and BOT Chair Greg Afarian. The monetary aid was distributed to the Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund and the Lazarus House Ministries shelter and charitable organization. Bishop Anoushavan also ordered that a special collection be taken in all Prelacy churches on Sunday, September 23rd. Once this money is received from the Prelacy, it will be distributed through the proper channels.
Along with the relief efforts, work began immediately on restoring gas service to the damaged system, replacing dozens of miles underground pipes and gas run appliances to thousands of homes and business. Our church was not spared the rigor and scrutiny of making sure gas service could be safely restored. After an interruption of approximately two months, gas service was finally restored to the building on November 10. The following work had to be completed in order to make this happen.
While it was truly an ordeal, we are thankful to God that nobody from our community was hurt and that none of our parishioners had any sustained damage to their homes because of the disaster. We are grateful to all our parishioners who donated money and relief items and who volunteered to help during the days when the church was bustling with the activity of work crews and service men.
A particular debt of gratitude must go to our BOT Chairman Greg Afarian for his untiring efforts in coordinating with the claims department, adjustors, inspectors, work and installation crews. He truly stepped above and beyond his role as chairman and became a foreman (truly like a full time job!) in overseeing the progress of the work being done in our church. Thank you, Greg!
We are also thankful that due to the seasonable weather until the second week of November, we were spared any further loss of income or morale by having to cancel any Sunday or regularly scheduled services. While it was a little chilly in the sanctuary in the weeks leading up, our resilient parishioners grabbed their coats and gloves and remained faithful to the worship and service of our Lord.
TRIP TO NEW YORK CITY
On Sunday, November 11, Der Hayr and the Board saw a unique opportunity to plan a trip to New York City in order to visit the Metropolitan Museum’s acclaimed “Armenia!” exhibit, which is on display until January 13, 2019.
Planned partially as a way to vacate our church during the cold spell (ironically, the heat was restored the day before the trip), the trip afforded the 46 parishioners and friends the opportunity to socialize and enjoy a day long getaway to the city in order to view the treasured artifacts of Armenian history, literature and faith that the Met Museum had gathered from many scholarly collections throughout the world. In the morning, the participants attended the Divine Liturgy at the Saint Illuminator’s Armenian Apostolic Cathedral in Manhattan, where they were greeted warmly by the pastor, Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian.
The trip was an overwhelming success and many of those who came along expressed their satisfaction for having done so and asked to have more excursions planned for the future. Special thanks to BOT members Rob Kochakian, Susan Parigian, Armen Kourkounian and Sylvia Mahlebjian, who along with Der Hayr acted as coordinators and “shepherds” for the day.
CARE PACKAGES FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
In the midst of all this activity, we didn’t forget our young people studying at colleges and universities locally and throughout the country. As in past years, we continued the tradition of sending a “care package” on behalf of our church to all our college students, in order to help keep a connection between us while they are away and to let them know we have not forgotten them. Special thanks to Rob Kochakian from the Board and Melanie Tokatlian for coordinating this effort and sending the packages out.
In closing, we look back with a sense of awe and amazement for the work that our Lord Jesus Christ has done through us over these past months. We look forward to seeing and greeting all our parishioners during the upcoming holiday season and continuing, by God’s grace and your help, the work that the Board of Trustees has been entrusted with.
On Sunday, November 11, with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate, around 45 parishioners from Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church in North Andover, Mass., traveled to New York City. Led by pastor, Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian, they attended Divine Liturgy at Saint Illuminator's, where they were warmly welcomed by Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian and the entire Cathedral community.
A luncheon followed in Pashalian Hall. Both Der Hayrs had an opportunity to address those present. Der Mesrob welcomed the pilgrims from North Andover on behalf of the Prelate, the Board of Trustees and the entire community. He also remarked that the 2018 National Representative Assembly that took place in North Andover earlier this year was one of the best he had attended in all his years as a priest.
In his remarks, Der Stephan warmly greeted the Prelate, Der Mesrob, the Board of Trustees and all community organizations, and introduced several members of Saint Gregory's Board of Trustees that were present. On behalf of all, he thanked Der Mesrob and the community for opening their doors to them and for their warm hospitality. He reflected on Der Mesrob's role as an elder spiritual brother in his life, and that since the two fall next to each other in seniority, they can often be seen standing next to each other or walking side by side at official events. He expressed hope that they would also remain close spiritually in years to come as they serve the Lord together as fellow priests of the Armenian Church.
Following this, both the North Andover group and a small group from the Cathedral traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the acclaimed "Armenia!" exhibit. The travelers then returned home to Massachusetts, enriched and satisfied by the experience.
Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian, Pastor, and the Board of Trustees, in a letter dated October 6, 2018, officially congratulated our newly elected Prelate, His Grace Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, who was elected to the episcopal throne of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America on September 8 of this year.
Writing in both Armenian and English, Der Stephan conveyed the congratulations, best wishes and full support of the Board of Trustees, the General Membership of the church and of the leadership of community organizations.
We have reprinted the congratulatory letter below along with His Grace's kind-hearted response, dated October 25th.
Translation of Bishop Anoushavan's letter:
[The Rev. Stephan Baljian
Pastor of Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church
Dear Der Hayr,
With this letter, I would like to convey my deepest thanks for the congratulatory letter and best wishes sent by you and the Board of Trustees, on the occasion of my election as Prelate of the Eastern United States.
I firmly believe that the words of our Seminary Anthem, which we both learned at the desks of our beloved [Antelias] Seminary, "Heart to heart and hand in hand, the elevated cross our burden avowed, let us move forward, Brothers...," not only shaped our young spirits, but also as a constantly renewable, compelling force in our arena of sacred service, they enjoin us and strengthen us to bear our burden in sweetness, in honor of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Holy See of the Great House of Cilicia, and for the glory of God.
May the Almighty God bedeck us with his wisdom, to lead and to cultivate the flock with which we have been entrusted.
With warmest greetings of fatherly love,
+Bishop Anoushavan, Prelate
Eastern United States]
NATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLY DELEGATES ELECT BISHOP ANOUSHAVAN TANIELIAN PRELATE OF EASTERN PRELACY
NEW YORK, NY—His Grace Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian was elected to serve as the new prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America on Saturday, September 8, at a special session of the Prelacy’s National Representative Assembly that convened at St. Illuminator’s Cathedral in New York City with 62 duly elected delegates in attendance. The only agenda item was the election of a new prelate to succeed Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan who is retiring after 20 years of distinguished service as Prelate.
Bishop Anoushavan was elected on the first ballot from a slate of three candidates submitted by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of the Great House of Cilicia. Bishop Anoushavan received 39 votes; Bishop Shahe Panossian received 20 votes; Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian received 2 votes.
Archbishop Oshagan addressed the delegates after the vote. He congratulated Bishop Anoushavan and officially introduced him. The newly elected prelate humbly addressed the delegates expressing his thanks and asking for prayers.
The results of the election were immediately communicated to His Holiness Aram I, and a letter dated September 11, 2018 was received from His Holiness ratifying the election.
Photos courtesy of Armenian Prelacy
The Conference of the National Association of Ladies Guilds takes place each year concurrent with the National Assembly. Two guest speakers were featured during the two-day conference. Ms. Rhona Kitabjian spoke about her book about faith, love and service in the church and community. Mr. Manoog Kaprielian spoke about the strength of the Armenian Woman and her role in history and today. Mr. Kaprielian was recently elected to serve on the Board of Directors of the Armenian International Women’s Association. He has been in interviews and documentaries on NPR and BBC and has received many international honors for his humanitarian work.
The conference participants had the opportunity of meeting with Archbishop Oshagan and share ideas and concerns with him. Elections took place for the new NALG executive with the following results: Marion Boudakian, chairlady; Yn. Nectar Manoogian, vice-chairlady; Madonna Kizirian, treasurer; Maggie Kouyoumdjian, corresponding secretary; Rosemary Khachadoorian, recording secretary; Joyce Bagdasarian, advisor.
Mrs. Araxie Kitabjian & Ms. Gail Baderian represented Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church at the conference.
The Conference of Yeretzgeens (wives of parish priests) was conceived several years ago, and has since convened in other years. This year the theme of the conference was “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” All delegates received a “Peace on Earth” bag—a small gift from the Yeretzgeens. Inside the bag was a note asking everyone to join in prayer for peace on earth on May 20, Pentecost Sunday.
During the two-day conference the following speakers were heard:
Nayiri Baljian Bell, of St. Stephen’s Church in Watertown, introduced the theme by preparing the heart for prayer. She described how she turned to God when her child—barely a month old—was faced with a life-threatening disease. She and her husband were told to “prepare for the worst.” But instead of preparing for the worst, they prayed for the best. Her daughter Dalita celebrated her 2 nd birthday in April. Nayiri shared how faith, hope, love, and personal devotion time with God turned her darkest hour into the noon day.
Dr. Arpi Boynerian, wife of Rev. Dr. Avedis Boynerian of the Armenian Memorial Church in Belmont, Massachusets, spoke on the sanctity of the marriage vows and how to maintain peace, harmony, and strength through prayer for the family. She reminded the audience of the promise made during marriage vows and how God-centered couples can raise children with godly wisdom, to be strong in their convictions and to courageously act upon those convictions.
Yn. LuAnn Sabounjian, wife of Rev. Fr. Krikor Sabounjian of the Armenian Church of the Holy Translators in Framingham, Massachusetts, spoke on intercessory prayer and changing the world around us from a healthcare perspective. She inspired the audience to reach out to people from all walks of life with a visit, volunteer work, a random act of kindness to a total stranger, thus fulfilling the great commission of Jesus when He said prior to His Ascension: “Peace to you. Go into the world and preach the Good News to every creature.”
Yeretzgeen Alice Baljian, wife of Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian, spoke about “The Healing Oils of the Bible.” She showed with Biblical references how God provided essential oils derived from plants for healing and maintaining good health. Her presentation was both educational and fascinating.
The 2018 National Representative Assembly was opened by Jack Mardoian, Chairman of the Executive Council and opening prayer offered by the Prelate, His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan, on Thursday, May 10. The Assembly was hosted by St. Gregory Church of Merrimack Valley in North Andover, Massachusetts. Elected as co-chairmen were Noubar Megerian (St. Gregory, Philadelphia) and Aram Sarafian (Soorp Khatch, Bethesda). Elected to serve as English secretary was Janet Haroian (St. Gregory, Granite City) and Armenian secretary (Rev. Fr. Torkom Chorbajian (St. Gregory, Granite City).
Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian, pastor of the host parish, welcomed the delegates on behalf of the Steering Committee and the Board of Trustees of St. Gregory Church. Der Stephan spoke about the history of the communities comprising the Merrimack Valley and expressed appreciation to the Board and Pastor of St. Michael’s Parish—St. Gregory’s next door neighbor—for opening their facilities to the NRA. Also offering opening remarks were Greg Afarian, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the host parish; Haig Oshagan on behalf of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation; and Sandra Vartanian on behalf of the Armenian Relief Society.
The message of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I to the NRA was read by Archpriest Fr. Nerses Manoogian. Chairman of the Religious Council. This was followed by the Keynote Address offered by His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan (The Prelate’s address is available on the Prelacy website in Armenian and English). Der Nerses then presented the report on the World Assembly with a PowerPoint summation. Jack Mardoian presented highlights of the Prelacy’s Executive Councils (Religious and Lay) reports that had been sent to delegates earlier for review.
Rev. Fr. Vart Gyozalyan, pastor of the Armenian Church at Hye Point, Bradford, Massachusetts representing the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, conveyed the greetings of the newly elected Primate, Very Reverend Father Daniel Findikyan.
Panel discussions included the following topics: Parish Development; Sunday School; Youth Ministry; Prelacy Action Plan; By-Laws; Budget and Fundraising. A summary of the discussions on each of the topics was presented to the full delegation with opportunity for questions regarding the findings and recommendations of the various panels.
Four incumbents were eligible for re-election to the Executive Council. All four were re-elected, namely,
Veh Bezdikian, Susan Erickson, Jack Mardoian, Mark Philips.
Rev. Fr. Mikael Der Kosrofian invited the National Representative Assembly to convene next year in Whitinsville, Massachusetts, hosted for the first time by Saint Asdvadzadzin Church.
The 2018 Assembly came to an end with closing remarks and benediction by the Prelate. Archbishop Oshagan thanked the steering committee, Der Stephan, the Board of Trustees, for a well-organized Assembly and special events. He noted that we are all called to serve our church and nation. “As Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Go to the nations,’ so too are the NRA delegates called upon to be the missionaries to our parishes and share with them the work of the Prelacy.”
The Feast of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ was celebrated during the NRA on Thursday evening, May 10, with the Divine Liturgy at St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church in North Andover. The Liturgy was celebrated by Rev. Fr. Hrant Kevorkian, pastor of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church, Dearborn, Michigan, and was presided over by His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate. The many clergymen attending the NRA participated in the Liturgy filling various roles as altar servers and choir members. Delegates and parishioners attending were struck with the beauty and majesty of the Armenian Liturgy. The Liturgy was followed by a traditional "Hampartsoum" dinner in the parish’s hall with many local parishioners attending. The evening was abundant with fellowship, entertainment, and delicious food. The reading of Asension Vijag (drawing lots) was the highlight of the evening.
Parishioners & Youth Honored by Prelate
Photos courtesy of the Armenian Prelacy.
The National Representative Assembly’s Banquet and conferring of awards took place on Friday, May 11, at the charming and picturesque Harris’ Pelham Inn in Pelham, New Hampshire, under the auspices of the Prelate, His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan. The National Anthems were sung by Knarik Nerkararyan and the opening prayer was offered by the Prelate. Jack Mardoian, chairman of the Executive Council offered opening remarks prior to the serving of dinner which was a delicious and traditional “Thanksgiving Dinner,” with all the trimmings.
Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian, pastor of the host parish, St. Gregory Church in North Andover, Massachusetts, welcomed everyone noting, “It has been our honor to be your hosts; we are grateful for the opportunity to gather us all together in fellowship this week.” After dinner, Der Stephan guided the program forward with the presentation of various awards.
The first honorees were the winners of the Prelacy Youth Award. This year's recipients were Anna Shahtanian, daughter of Richard and Karen Shahtanian, and Meline Almasian, daughter of Joe and Kim Almasian. These two well-deserving young ladies have been active in all aspects of community life from a young age and have been passionate about serving their church and community.
Next, Der Stephan introduced James and Ann Apovian, referring to them tongue-in-cheek as the "power couple" (to use a relatively new phrase) of Saint Gregory Church. Der Hayr highlighted some of the ways that this power couple has served Saint Gregory Church since its inception: Ladies' Guild, Men's Club, Board of Trustees, working the kitchen at events, cooking and baking for bazaars and a host of others, always working together for the betterment of their church and community. The family also generously donated the new baptismal font during the renovations of the church sanctuary in 2012.
The next honoree was none other than Ms. Sharke' Der Apkarian, who has served our church on the local and national levels in many capacities. She has served as a member of the Board of Trustees, a National Representative (at present) and as an executive member of the Ladies' Guild. She also served several terms on the Executive of the Prelacy's National Association of Ladies' Guilds. Her dedication to those in our community who are in need -- particularly the elderly -- is unsurpassed, and she has been invaluable in helping Der Hayr identify those who are in need of visitation or other pastoral care. Her dedication to the Armenian Church and local community is evident to all who come in contact with her.
The last honoree announced was Mr. Armen Kourkounian. Armen has been an immense resource to Saint Gregory Church since his arrival in our community some 20 years ago. His faith, his generosity, his innovative ideas and rational approach to tackling challenges have all proven very valuable in his involvement with the Board of Trustees, the Men's Club and other endeavors. He has even served a term on the Prelacy's Executive Council, employing his unique skill set for the betterment of that body.
Yet, there was a surprise... at least to the recipient of the next award! The members of the committee felt that along with recognizing Armen Kourkounian, they simply could not neglect to recognize his dear wife, Christine Kourkounian, for all her years of service as well. With just as much devotion and vigor, she has served her beloved Saint Gregory Church, her church since childhood. For many years, Christine served faithfully and skillfully as chair lady of our Board of Trustees. She also agreed to chair our 2018 National Representative Assembly steering committee, a task that she executed masterfully. We are all thankful for her leadership and her role in making the 2018 N.R.A. in North Andover a resounding success.
And with one final surprise, Archbishop Oshagan called to his side three of our dedicated Prelacy clergymen: Rev. Fr. Torkom Chorbajian, Rev. Fr. Mikael Der Khosrovian and Rev. Fr. Kapriel Nazarian. Since it was to be his last NRA banquet as Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy, he decided it would be a good time to bestow upon these three the honor of wearing the pectoral cross, which is customarily given by decree of the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia after five years of service as a priest. Der Torkom, Der Mikael and Der Kapriel all expressed their gratitude to Archbishop Oshagan. The program ended with a benediction and the singing of "Giligia."
At the conclusion of the festivities, this year's Prelacy Raffle committee, under the leadership of Mr. Antranig Boudakian of New York, took to the floor for the big drawing of the 2018 Prelacy Raffle. We would like to congratulate the winners listed below, including two from our own community (second year in a row with two winners from Saint Gregory Church!):
Mr. Khachig Achigian, Virginia First Prize, $5,000
Ladies Guild of Holy Cross Church, Troy, NY Second Prize, $2,000
John & Violet Dagdigian, Westford, MA Third Prize, $1,000
John & Susan Kulungian, Haverhill, MA Fourth Prize, $1,000
Silva Zadourian, New Jersey Fifth Prize, $1,000
Der Stephan introduced Sharke Der Apkarian as one of the first parishioners he met when he assumed pastorship of St. Gregory Church. Archbishop Oshagan presented her with a Certificate of Merit in recognition of her varied services to the church as a member of the Board, a delegate to the NRA, executive on the National Association of Ladies Guilds, and Outreach Committee.
Before closing the awards ceremony, His Eminence announced another surprise—actually three surprises—when he called upon Rev. Fr. Mikael Der Kosrofian, pastor of Sourp Asdvatzadzin of Whitinsville, Rev. Fr. Kapriel Nazarian, pastor of Sts. Vartanantz of Providence, and Rev. Fr. Torkom Chorbajian, pastor of St. Gregory of Granite City, to come forward and accept the presentation of the Pectoral Cross ( Lanchakhach ) to wear on official occasions that is an honor bestowed on deserving clergymen.
Գերապատիւ, հոգեշնորհ եւ
արժանապատիւ հոգեւոր հայրեր,
Հոգաբարձութեանց ներկայացուցիչներ եւ
Այս պահուս, երբ Ամերիկայի Միացեալ Նահանգներու Հայաստանեայց Առաքելական Սուրբ Եկեղեցւոյ Արեւելեան Թեմի Երեսփոխանական Ընդհանուր Ժողովը պաշտօնապէս արդէն իսկ յայտարարուած է, քրիստոնէական սիրով եւ հայրական գորովանքով կ՛ողջունեմ ձեզ բոլորդ, ձեր մէջ տեսնելով ծառայական այն ոգին, որ մղիչ ոյժն է ձեր նուիրումին՝ հանդէպ մեր եկեղեցւոյ եւ ժողովուրդին։
Առաջին առիթով, փառք եւ գոհութիւն կը յայտնեմ ամենաբարին Աստուծոյ, որ իր առատ ողորմութեամբ եւ քաղցր սիրով օրհնեց մեզ՝ որպէսզի Աւետարանի քարոզութեամբ եւ մեր եկեղեցւոյ կանոններուն ու աւանդութեանց հաւատարմութեամբ ծառայենք մեր պանծալի ժողովուրդին։
Երախտագիտական զգացումներով եւ որդիական ակնածանքով շնոր-հակալութիւն կը յայտնեմ Մեծի Տանն Կիլիկիոյ Կաթողիկոսութեան արժա-նընտիր Վեհափառ Հայրապետին՝ Նորին Սուրբ Օծութիւն Տ․Տ․ Արամ Ա․ Կաթողիկոսին, որ իր յորդորներով եւ ցուցմունքներով մեծապէս օգտակար դարձաւ՝ մեր Թեմի հոգեւոր եւ վարչական կեանքին բարւոք ընթացքին համար։
Եղբայրական ողջոյնի խօսք ունիմ Ամերիկայի Արեւմտեան Թեմի Առաջնորդին՝ Բարձրաշնորհ Տ․ Մուշեղ Արքեպիսկոպոս Մարտիրոսեանին եւ Քանատայի Թեմի Առաջնորդին՝ Բարձրաշնորհ Տ․ Բաբգէն Արքեպիսկոպոս Չարեանին։ Ինչպէս անցնող տարիներուն, նոյնպէս ալ այժմ, մեր յարաբերութիւնները մեր քոյր թեմերուն հետ եղան եւ պիտի մնան մտերիմ եւ եղբայրական, միշտ ալ գործնապէս աջակցելով իրարու եւ գործակցելով հոգեւոր ու ապագային մեր ծրագիրներուն մէջ։ Երկու Սրբազան Առաջնորդ հայրերուն կը մաղթեմ յաջողութիւն՝ իրենց աստուածահաճոյ առաքելութեան մէջ։
Եղբայրական ողջոյններ Էջմիածնական Թեմի Նորընտիր Առաջնորդին՝ Հոգեշնորհ Տէր Դանիէլ Վարդապետ Ֆնտքեանին։ Ինչպէս անցնող տարիներուն, վստահ եմ որ Հայ Եկեղեցւոյ գերագոյն շահերուն համար, պիտի շարունակենք գործնապէս աջակցիլ իրարու՝ մեր եկեղեցւոյ բարօրութեան եւ յառաջդի-մութեան համար։
Յանուն Ազգային Վարչութեան Կրօնական եւ Վարչական Ժողովներուն, մեր Թեմի եկեղեցական բոլոր համայնքներուն եւ հաւատացեալ ժողովուրդին, յատուկ ողջոյնի խօսք ունիմ Նորթ Անտովըրի Սուրբ Գրիգոր Լուսաւորիչ եկեղեցւոյ Հոգեւոր Հովիւին՝ Արժանապատիւ Տէր Ստեփան Քահանայ Պալ-ճեանին, Հոգաբարձութեան եւ յարակից մարմիններուն, որոնք կը հիւրընկալեն ներկայ Ազգային Երեսփոխանական Ժողովը եւ մեր կեցութիւնը կը դարձնեն հանգիստ եւ հաճելի։ Տասնըհինգ տարի առաջ, երբ Նորթ Անտովըրի Սուրբ Գրիգոր Լուսաւորիչ Եկեղեցին, առաջին անգամ ըլլալով կազմակերպեց մեր Թեմի Երեսփոխանական Ժողովը, յատուկ գնահատանքով քաջալերեցի զիրենք, այն «նկատառելի յանդգնութեան» համար, որ ծխական փոքր գաղութ մը կը կազմակերպէր եւ իր այդ քայլով փորձառութիւն ձեռք կը ձգէր յառաջիկային եւս հանդիսանալու մեր աշխոյժ, գործնապաշտ ու յառաջադէմ համայնքներէն մէկը։ Ահա այս ժողովին այստեղ գումարումը լաւագոյն վկայութիւնն է իրենց անխոնջ աշխատանքին, նուիրումին եւ աստուածահաճոյ առաքելութեան։
Սրտի պարտք կը զգամ շնորհակալութիւն յայտնել Առաջնորդական Փոխանորդին՝ Գերաշնորհ Տ․ Անուշաւան Եպիսկոպոս Դանիէլեանին, իր ան-սակարկ ծառայութեան համար, մեր հոգեւոր հովիւներուն եւ քահանայ հայրերուն, ինչպէս նաեւ Ազգային Վարչութեան Կրօնական եւ Վարչական ժողովներուն անդամներուն, Թեմիս հոգաբարձական կազմերուն, նուիրեալ ազգայիններուն եւ բարերարներուն, Տիկնանց Միութիւններուն թէ դպրաց դասերուն մէջ ծառայող սարկաւագներուն ու դպիր-դպրուհիներուն, որոնք հաւատարմութեամբ եւ ժրաջանութեամբ ծառայեցին մեր ժողովուրդին եւ նպաստեցին ներդաշնակ ու արդիւնալից գործունէութեան եւ անոնց իրագործումներուն։
Սիրելի՛ Ժողովականներ եւ հիւրեր,
Քսան տարի առաջ, Ամերիկայի Արեւելեան Շրջանի եւ Քանատայի Թեմի Երեսփոխանական Ժողովին ընտրութեամբ եւ հրաւէրով, ստանձնեցի Թեմիս առաջնորդական պաշտօնը, եւ հինգ շրջանի համար վերընտրուելէ ետք, այսօր այլ առաջնահերթութիւններ պատճառ կը դառնան, որ Երեսփոխանական այս պատկառելի ժողովին դիմաց հրաժեշտ տամ առաջնորդական հոգեւոր եւ վարչական իմ պաշտօնիս, մաղթելով յարատեւ յաջողութիւն Թեմիս առա-քելութեան եւ ծառայութեան։
Յետադարձ ակնարկով մը, երբ կը վերանայիմ քսան տարիներու իմ ծառայութեան, հոգեկան խաղաղութեամբ ամէն բանէ առաջ փառք կու տամ Ամենակալ Աստուծոյ, որ զիս հոգեպէս, մտապէս եւ ֆիզիքապէս կենսունակ պահեց, որպէսզի, իմ ոյժերուս ներած չափով, գոհացնեմ այն բոլոր կարիքները, որոնք կը միտէին մեր հաւատացեալ ժողովուրդին հոգեւոր աճումին, եւ որպէս Հայ Եկեղեցւոյ եւ Հայ Ժողովուրդի զաւակներ, շարունակեմ պահել դարերէ եկող սուրբ կտակը առաւել պայծառութեամբ եւ ոգեղինութեամբ եւ զայն ծառայեցնել Աստուծոյ փառքին եւ մեր եկեղեցւոյ յառաջդիմութեան։ Առանց Աստուծոյ օգնականութեան, վստահ եմ որ մարդկային մեր միտքն ու մարմինը պիտի չկարենային դիմանալ այս բոլոր մարտահրաւէրներուն։
Աստուծոյ տուած փառաբանութեան կողքին, կ՚ուզեմ սրտանց շնորհա-կալութիւն յայտնել յատկապէս պանծալի մեր ժողովուրդին եւ գործակից ժողովականութեան –Երեսփոխանական Ժողովին, Ազգային Վարչութեան, Հոգաբարձութիւններուն– իրենց ցուցաբերած ներդրումներումներուն եւ ցուցմունքներուն համար։
Չեմ գիտեր թէ ո՛րքան կարողացայ աշխոյժ եւ ազդու պահել այն ժառանգը, որ իմ նախորդս՝ Երջանկայիշատակ Մեսրոպ Արքեպիսկոպոս Աշճեանը ծրագրած եւ իրագործած էր, իր ալ քսան տարիներու ծառայութեան ընթացքին։ Անոր երախտարժան նուիրումին որպէս արդիւնք, Ազգային Առաջնորդարանս իր համայնքներով միասին, համեստ վիճակէ սլացաւ դէպի նորանոր իրագործումներ, ստեղծեց եւ կազմակերպեց Քրիստոնէական Դաստիարակութեան եւ Հայեցի Դաստիարակութեան խորհուրդները, որոնք ձեռնհասօրէն կատարեցին եւ կը շարունակեն կատարել իրենց դիմաց կանգնող պարտաւորութիւններն ու կարիքները, միշտ նկատի ունենալով արհեստավարժական նորանոր ու շինիչ միջոցներ, առաւել եւս օգտակար հանդիսանալու համար հաւատացեալներուն հոգեւոր եւ ազգային սնուցումին։ Զանազան եւ բազմատեսակ ծրագիրներու իրագործումը կը կարօտի նուիրեալ անձերու, որոնք ցայժմ ունինք, բայց անհրաժեշտ է գտնել ու պատրաստել նոր մարդուժ, մասնագիտացած անձեր, որոնք իրենց կարողութիւնները, ձիրքերն ու տաղանդները ի գործ դնեն թարմ եւ օգտակար յաջողութիւններ ձեռք ձգելու համար։
Ամենէն յատկանշական աշխատանքը որ Ազգային Վարչութիւններու քաջալերանքով կատարեցի՝ հոգեւորականներու պատրաստութեան ծրագիրն էր։ Լուրջ մտահոգութեան եւ կարիքի դիմաց կը գտնուէր մեր հոգեւորա-կանաց դասը։ Անհրաժեշտ էր ունենալ Արեւմտեան արժէքները եւ կարիքները գոհացնելու կարող անձեր, որպէսզի ուսումով եւ պատրաստութեամբ լից-քաւորուէին, կարենալ լեցնելու եւ գոհացնելու մեր եկեղեցւոյ եւ հաւատա-ցեալներուն կարիքները։ Անոնց յաջողութեամբ, մեր հոգեւորականաց դասը կարող ըլլայ դառնալու միջոց՝ մեր թեմի համայնքներու կենսունակութեան եւ յառաջդիմութեան։ Արտաքնապէս դիւրին աշխատանք կը թուի, սակայն պատասխանատու եւ դժուարին նախաձեռնութիւն է։ Այսօրուան աշխարհայ-նացած աշխարհը, պատանի սերունդին ընտրութիւն կատարելու ազատութիւնը եւ իրաւունքը, ընտանեկան եւ ընկերային պարտաւորութիւններ, առողջ դաստիարակութեան եւ կրթութեան դժուարութիւնները՝ դպրոցներէ ներս եւ երբեմն ընտանիքներէ ներս, մեզ դէմ յանդիման կը դնեն լուրջ մտահոգութիւններու եւ դժուարութիւններու։ Երկար ժամանակի վրայ տա-րածուող հեռատես աչքեր պէտք են, գոհացնելու համար ապագային մեր դիմաց ցցուող կարիքները։ Եւ ճանչնալով, տեսնելով պահանջը հոգեւոր ու մտաւոր պատրաստութեամբ զինուած պատանիներու եւ երիտասարդներու, առինք հոգեւորականներու պատրաստութեան յանդուգն քայլը, եւ ուրախ եմ յայտնելու որ մեծ չափով յաջողեցանք։ Գալով պատանի մեր սերունդին, մեր ծխականներու զաւակներու հոգեւոր եւ մտային պաշարին զօրացման, ջանացինք կատարել ճիշդ ախտաճանաչում եւ գտնել բուժիչ լուծում։ Ահա մեր մտահոգութիւնները գոհացնելու համար, կազմեցինք Երիտասարդական Ծառայութեան յանձնախումբը, որուն առաջնահերթ պարտականութիւնն է՝ կարելի չափով մեր պատանի սերունդը ներառնել մեր եկեղեցւոյ կեանքէն ներս, զիրենք զինել հոգեւոր արժէքներով եւ ազգային գիտակցութեամբ, պատրաստել ապագայի սերունդ մը, որպէսզի մեր ժողովուրդի ոսկեղէն շղթան երկարի ու երկարի նոր օղակներով, աւելի գիտակից յանձնառութիւններով։ Որքա՜ն ուրախ եմ այն յաջողութիւններով, որոնք սկիզբ առած են։ Որքա՜ն երախտապարտ պիտի ըլլամ ձեր բոլորին՝ հոգեւոր հայրեր, երեսփոխաններ, հոգաբարձուներ, Կիրակնօրեայ եւ Շաբաթօրեայ վարժարաններու ուսուցիչներ, կազմակերպութիւններու եւ միութիւններու անդամներ, մանաւանդ գիտակից ծնողներ, երբ ձեր ուսերուն դրուած պատասխանատուութիւններն ու պարտաւորութիւնները յաջողապէս կատա-րէք, ո՛չ թէ այսօրուան նեղ ու սահմանափակ ժամանակին համար, այլ մանաւանդ ապագայի փայլուն տեսիլներով եւ ակնկալութիւններով։ Ձեր աշխատանքը դիտեցէք յարաբերականութեան դրական տեսանկիւնէն, ընդու-նելով եւ տեսնելով որ մեզմէ աւելի յաջող գործ ու աշխատանք տանողներ կան, եւ ձգտինք լաւագոյնին ու աւելիին, եւ ոչ թէ գոհանանք ժխտական յարաբերականութեամբ, որ հիւանդը կ՚ունենայ, երբ ինքզինք կը մխիթարէ՝ մտածելով որ իրմէ աւելի տառապող ու ցաւող հիւանդ ալ կայ։ Եթէ անցնող տարիներուն ընթացքին յաջողութիւններ արձանագրուեցան, (գործը ի՛նք թող խօսի), այդ բոլորը կը պարտիմ հաւաքական մեր ճիգին, զոհողութեան, սկզբունքներու հաւատարմութեան, ժողովականութեան եւ պաշտօնէութեան ժրաջան աշխատանքին, մա՛նաւանդ մեր ժողովուրդին նուիրումին եւ հաւա-տարմութեան, իսկ թերացումները՝ անպայմանօրէն ակամայ, վերագրեցէք իմ անձիս եւ հարցերը ճիշդ կամ յստակ տեսնելու կարճատեսութեանս։ Շատ լաւ գիտեմ նաեւ, որ միայն աշխատող մարդն է, որ կը թերանայ կամ կը սխալի։ Մեր հաւաքական յիշողութիւնը պէտք չէ ողբայ, երբ ետ կը նայինք, ընդհակառակը, անիկա պէտք է խթանէ մեր կարողութիւնները՝ նոր յաջողութիւններ նուաճելու համար։
Սիրելի՛ ժողովականներ եւ հիւրեր,
Աստուծոյ դիմաց եւ մեր ժողովուրդին կարիքները գոհացնելու հրամայականին դիմաց, պատասխանատուութեան գիտակցութիւնը մեզ կը մղէ առաւել զսպանակումի եւ աշխատանքի։ Մեր սրբազան եկեղեցւոյ հաւատքի ճշմարտութիւնները, մեր նուիրական ժողովուրդի մշակութային անգին ժառանգութեանց տիրութիւնը եւ տարածումը, մէկ խօսքով, ամբողջական հայու ինքնութիւնը դրոշմելու մեր առաքելութիւնը, ոեւէ ատեն պէտք չէ ստուերի տակ մնայ։ Դարերով, մեր հայրերը իրենց անվերապահ զոհողութիւններով պահեցին մեր ազգին սրբազան աւանդը։ Տխուր եւ ահաւոր պահեր մթագնեցին մեր ժողովուրդին կեանքը՝ մեր հայրենիքին ու ժողովուրդին հանդէպ գործուած ցեղասպանութեամբ՝ վերջնական կորուստի սպառնալիքներով։ Բայց մեր տոկուն հաւատքը, վստահելի յոյսը եւ ցեղային մեր ապառաժեայ նկարագիրը Արարատի կրանիթին նման անբեկանելի, ցցուեցաւ թշնամիին դէմ եւ յարատեւ պայքարով վերապրեցանք, վերստեղծեցինք։ Քանի մը շաբաթէն պիտի տօնախմբենք Մայիսեան փառաւոր յաղթանակին 100-ամեակը։ Անիկա մե՛ր պատմութիւնն է, խիզախումը եւ յաղթանակը։ Ակա՛նջ տուէք նահատակ մեր սուրբերու կանչին, մասնակցեցէք հերոսական մեր ժողովուրդին պայքարին, որպէսզի տօնախմբութիւնները պատգամ ըլլան եւ ոչ թէ յիշատակ։
Յաճախ, ես ալ պատգամ ուղղած եմ մեր բարեպաշտ ժողովուրդին։ Յուզումով ձեզի կու տամ առաջնորդական վերջին պատգամս։ Տասնըինը տարիներ անխափան պատգամներու միջոցաւ ձեզի փոխանցեցի եւ թելադրեցի, որ ուշադրութիւն դարձնէք այն հարցերուն, որոնք ամէն տարի տարբեր հրամայականներով կ՚ունենայինք եւ կը ջանայինք լուսարձակի տակ բերել զանոնք եւ լուծումներ որոնել։ Ձեր ակնկալութիւնները, ցուցմունքները եւ մանաւանդ յարգալից վերաբերմունքը արժեւորեցին կեանքս, մտապէս հարստացուցին զիս եւ, որպէս մարդ անհատ, ունեցայ բազմաթիւ գործըն-կերներ եւ հարազատ բարեկամներ։ Սրտի պարտք կը զգամ անկեղծ շնորհա-կալութիւն յայտնել բոլորին անխտիր, Առաջնորդական Տեղապահին, հոգեւոր հովիւներուն, ժողովական իմ գործակիցներուս, Ազգային Առաջնորդարանի պաշտօնէութեան, բարերարներու, եկեղեցւոյ եւ ազգին նուիրուած բոլոր ազ-գայիններուն եւ կը յորդորեմ բոլորդ որ գործէք «իրարու հետ, իրարու համար»։
Խօսքս կ՚աւարտեմ հետեւելով մեր Աստուծոյն՝ Յիսուս Քրիստոսի հրա-ժեշտի խօսքերուն․-
«Սիրեցէք զիրար»։ Սիրեցէք մեր Եկեղեցին, Հայրենիքն ու ժողովուրդը։
Առաջնորդ Ամերիկայի Արեւելեան Թեմին
10 Մայիս, 2018
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