This year's celebrations of the feast of the Vartanants Saints, which took place on Thursday, February 23, received special importance. Our Prelate, His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan arranged for regional celebrations in New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions.
Archbishop Oshagan was on hand at Sts. Vartanants Armenian Apostolic Church in Ridgefield, New Jersey, while Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Vicar General, travelled to Watertown where he celebrated the festal Divine Liturgy and delivered the sermon that evening. The clergy of the New England parishes were all in attendance. Additionally, Rev. Fr. Arakel Aljalian, pastor of St. James Armenian Apostolic Church, as well as the pastors of the local Armenian Catholic and Protestant congregations were on hand for the commemoration.
The congregation was full of parishioners of St. Stephen's and other New England parishes, fortified by students of St. Stephen's Saturday, Sunday and Elementary Schools and their families.
During his sermon, Anoushavan Srpazan emphasized the importance of commemorating the Vartanants saints, a legion of 1,036 warriors who led an army of more 60,000 knights into battle against the invading Persian overlords at the Battle of Avarayr in 451 A.D. He acknowledged that despite their physical defeat (although the Armenians would ultimately prevail and preserve their Christian faith and identity), the victory was a moral one, showing the courage and bravery of martyrdom over indifference to spiritual and cultural threats.
He emphasized that, as with any commemoration of saints, it is not only a time to look back to a historical event, but also to take stock of the present-- to see where we are in our spiritual walk with Jesus Christ, and if we are ready to sacrifice our lives and our comfort for his name. Addressing the young specifically, he admonished them to remember the brave example and legacy of the Vartanants Saints, and to fight the present day spiritual battle in order to ensure the preservation of their own faith and identity as well as that of the future generations.
Following the service, the students of the Saturday School presented a program of songs and poems dedicated to the St. Vartan and his companions. The local Knights of Vartan Ararat Lodge #1 prepared and hosted a traditional herissah dinner for all present.