On Sunday, February 19*, by order of our Prelate, Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, the annual message of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia was read during the Divine Liturgy. Aram Vehapar's message declared this year 2017 as the "Year of Renewal."
In his message, Catholicos Aram endeavors to outline for us both the theological meaning of renewal as seen in Holy Scripture and the Tradition of the Holy Apostolic Church and the many practical implications of renewal in both individual, Church and National life.
His perspective is sharp, his observations astute and his sugestions meaningful. We would like to present excerpts from His Holiness' reflections here for our readers to enjoy, as well as links to the full text of the message in either Armenian and English (condensed from the original Armenian).
*This was postponed from February 12. Archbishop Oshagan was supposed to be here for our 47th Anniversary celebration and was planning on honoring us by reading Vehapar Hayr's message himself. Unfortunately, due to the inclement weather, he was not able to be here.
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HIS HOLINESS ARAM I
CATHOLICOS OF THE HOLY SEE OF THE GREAT HOUSE OF CILICIA
To: Prelates of the Prelacies of the Catholicosate of Cilcia, Clergy,
National Representative Assemblies, Executive Councils and Faithful of the Armenian nation
On the threshold of the New Year, from the Holy See of the Catholicosate of Cilicia, we bless the beloved children of our nation with warm love and ardent national feelings. We pray that the Most High God will fill and brighten the lives of all of the children of our nation, our families, institutions and organizations, Church, and Homeland with His heavenly and abundant goodness.
As you know, for the past several years at the beginning of the New Year we have invited our people to focus their thoughts and work upon one of the correlated fundamental values, deep concerns, or serious expectations of our nation and church.
Therefore, in explaining the imperative of renewal in our lives, I proclaim 2017 as THE YEAR OF RENEWAL.
Renewal: The Goal of the Holy Bible
The Bible, by its essence, is a celestial message that leads human beings to spiritual and moral renewal—God’s revelation transferred to humankind. God’s revelation, from the creation of the universe to the creation of humans, from the message of the prophets, to the birth of the Son of God, from the narration of the coming of the Messiah, to the mission of Christ’s disciples—had one distinct purpose, the salvation of humanity and creation, freedom from evil and sin; in other words, a total renewal...
...Renewal in the New Testament is presented as an indispensable necessity. The purpose of Christ’s incarnation and His mission of salvation was the renewal of humankind and the universe. Indeed, the New Testament is the history of the renewal of humanity and creation by divine intervention. The Book of Revelation condenses this with the following words: “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev. 21:5)
Life in its essence was renewed with Christ. Christ is the source and the path to renewal... Christ’s directive for renewal was echoed by the apostles in their epistles and sermons to the newly established churches.
Renewal: The Axle of the Mission of the Church
The message of renewal that came from the Bible became the foundation and central point of the Church’s mission. Throughout history the Church, not only by its servants, epistles, social services, humanitarian work, and spiritual and ethical education, but also through local and ecumenical councils with established canons, have always given renewal a prime place on the agenda...
...Our Church Fathers have also emphasized the importance of renewal by Christ. The Armenian Church’s councils have very often also reflected upon the imperative of renewal, always regarding spirituality as the source and starting point of true renewal.
The Imperative of Renewal Seen Through a Christian Perspective
...According to Christian thinking, human beings are the central point of renewal. The Apostle Paul condenses the purpose of Christ’s mission with the following thoughts: Forget the old person and become a new person (Ephesians 4: 22-24)...
...It is difficult to renew a person in the face of the current corrupting ways of the world that destroy the God-like man in humanity. Many and various concerns are challenges to people belonging to society who often forget themselves. The Armenian people are also susceptible to surrounding realities and their effect. Therefore, it is important to renew the Armenian person first of all by strengthening in him the Christian faith. The renewal of the Armenian person is of primary importance because the Armenian person is the foundation and starting-point of our nation, church, fatherland, communities, and institutions...
The second phase that needs renewal is our community life. Human beings are not self-existing persons. Christianity looks at humans, and values them within the surroundings of their collective life.
...The Armenian Church, as a people’s church and faith community, is in need of renewal. Renewal within this circle should not be interpreted only as administrative or liturgical reform, but rather to greatly deepen the zeal of belonging to the Church, to make the relationship amongst members more cordial, to brighten its inner life, strengthen both internal and external evangelization, give more effort to social services, Christian education that is better organized, together with well-planned and improved work.
The Imperative of Renewal—A National View
In the history of nations there are dates and events that become reminders and challenges for renewal. This is how we perceive the year 2015. Indeed, without doubt, the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the 25th anniversary of the independence of Armenia, the 25th anniversary of the liberation of Karabakh, and the sanctification of the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide became the eloquent witness of our people’s renewal. At the same time, Armenia’s continuing economic difficulties, the continuing emigration, the April war in Karabakh, the turmoil of the Syrian Armenian community, along with the fundamental and many varied concerns facing the Diaspora—from the threat to Armenian identity, to the decline of western Armenian language, from the deterioration of cultural values to the pessimistic consequences of globalization are warnings for serious self-examination and self-evaluation based on the imperative of renewal that cannot be postponed...
Under the light of Christian teachings, as well as our imperative national concerns, our reminders and highlights will surely seriously impel our people to think about the vital importance of renewal. Repeating the same, keeping the same, only looking at the past, only being proud of past achievements will keep our institutions and community in the past, out-of-touch with current realities...
... [O]ur people, clergy and lay leaders, intellectuals and teachers, activists, and political leaders, men and women, have the duty to devote their complete and active participation to those leading the renewal effort. The standard-bearers of this very important task of renewal must be the Armenian youth, because they are intimately knowledgeable of the current conditions, concerns, and challenges of the world. And, therefore, they feel the actual need for renewal and they can also bring important help to the collective effort of renewal with their expertise and new ideas.
We bless the beloved children of our people and pray to All-Mighty God to adorn the life of our people with good health, success, and happiness.
With fatherly warm love,
Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia
January 1, 2017
For the full text of Catholicos Aram I's message on the Year of Renewal:
Click for Armenian
Click for English