MAY 28, 2015

Bless, O Lord, this tricolor flag. And just as after the flood you placed your rainbow on Mt. Ararat and established a covenant with mankind, now too after the flowing of so much holy and heroic blood, may this flag with its beautiful colors be sealed as a sign of our covenant with you.

Blessed and sanctified be this tricolor flag of our Fatherland with the sign of this holy cross and this holy Gospel and by the grace of this day in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and always and forever and ever. Amen.

(From “Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Republic of Armenia”)

By order of the Prelate, Archbishop Oshagan, Prelacy parishes will offer prayers of Thanksgiving for the Republic of Armenia and bless the Armenian tricolor flag on the occasion of the 97th anniversary of the first Armenian Republic (May 28, 1918), and the 24th anniversary of the current Republic of Armenia (September 21, 1991), this Sunday, May 31. Requiem services will be offered for the souls of the fallen heroes of Sardarabad, Bashabaran, Gharakilise, and the fallen in the struggle for Artsakh.
On May 24, His Holiness Aram I visited with the more than 250 Armenian youth attending the AYF Junior Seminar at Camp Lutherlyn in Butler, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. After welcoming and introductory remarks, His Holiness engaged in a question and answer session with the seminar participants. Questions concerned the church, identity, community, and nation-building. The Pontiff and his entourage shared a meal with the young participants, who later presented a cultural program prepared especially for the Catholicos.

Accompanying His Holiness on this occasion were Archbishop Oshagan, Prelate; Bishop Anoushavan, Vicar; Very Rev. Fr. Housig Mardirossian, Ecumenical Officer; Very Rev. Fr. Bedros Manuelian, staffbearer; and Jack Mardoian, chairman of the Pontifical Visit committee.

A four-day pastoral visit to St. Sarkis Church in Dearborn, Michigan, began on May 20. His Holiness was welcomed by Rev. Fr. Hrant Kevorkian, pastor, members of the parish’s board of trustees, and Stephen Hagopian, chairman of the Prelacy’s Executive Council.

Prior to the service a bouquet of flowers was offered to the Catholicos, as customary. Archbishop Oshagan, however, explained the special significance of this gesture. The flowers were being offered by a woman in memory of her grandmother who 112 years ago had offered flowers to Catholicos Sahak when he visited Aintab.

In his message to the assembled parishioners and guests, His Holiness focused on a biblical verse, “If any want to become my followers, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” (Luke 9:23). The Catholicos said that the “Church, as the people of God, deepens our faith and shows us how to serve God by living Jesus’s words.” Following the service His Holiness greeted and blessed the faithful and met with representatives of the interfaith community who were in attendance.

On May 22, His Holiness met with leaders of the church and community organizations in the Detroit area. In his remarks, the Catholicos emphasized that our community is built by a number of organizations with the church as the center of our common life. “Each of the organizations has its specific functions and priorities and we must preserve them, and avoid duplication, contradiction, or polarization,” the Catholicos said. His Holiness also advised: “We are one nation. In our reflection and action we must have a holistic approach by maintaining the dynamic interaction between the homeland, diaspora, and the local community. Therefore we must develop pan-Armenian perspectives, reflections and actions.”
His Holiness Aram I, Archbishop Oshagan, Bishop Anoushavan, and Rev. Father Hrant Kevorkian took the opportunity to meet with the HMEM scouts from the Detroit/Dearborn area who participated in the Hrashapar ceremony.
A youngster from the St. Sarkis Church community greets His Holiness with a traditional kiss of his right hand.
On May 26, His Holiness and entourage were welcomed to All Saints Church in Glenview, Illinois, with a Hrashapar service and reception. His Holiness was greeted at the entrance by Archpriest Fr. Zareh Sahakian, members of the board of trustees and community, and the HMEM scouts, where the traditional blessing of bread and salt took place.

His Holiness’s message focused on the biblical verse, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep,” (John 10:14-15). 

“It is our mission and our calling to be with the people, to serve the people. We have before us only one road—the road of service—serving our people, God and the Church. It is great source of happiness for me to see the sons and daughters of our people gather around the church, because the church is our spiritual home and our nation’s home.” A reception took place after the service and the students of the Daniel Varoujan Armenian School presented a program.

The following morning, His Holiness met with a number of church and community leaders, before his departure to Boston.
His Holiness with clergy and altar servers at All Saints Church, Glenview, Illinois.
His Holiness and entourage with HMEM scouts at All Saints Church.
His Holiness and entourage are now in the Boston area where they will engage in a number of functions with the participation of the parishes of New England. Tomorrow evening, Friday, May 29, His Holiness will be welcomed and honored at a gala banquet at the Westin Hotel in Waltham. On Sunday, May 31, His Holiness will celebrate the Divine Liturgy and deliver the sermon at St. Stephen’s Church. For details and special instructions about parking for this occasion please click here.

His Holiness will visit Sts. Vartanantz Church, Providence, Rhode Island, where on Saturday, May 30 he will be welcomed with a Hrashapar Service and reception. Prior to the Hrashapar, His Holiness and entourage will visit the Martyrs Memorial Monument at the North Burial Grounds in Providence.

The Catholicos’s visit to New England will also include meetings with church and community leaders; a dialogue with young adults; visits to St. Stephen’s School and Armenian Heritage Park, and two private receptions.
The 29th annual summer program for youth ages 13-18 is scheduled to be held at the St. Mary of Providence Center in Elverson, Pennsylvania, from June 28—July 5, 2015. Sponsored by the Prelacy’s Armenian Religious Education Council (AREC), the summer program offers a unique weeklong Christian educational program for youth. It aims to instill and nurture the Armenian Christian faith and identity in our youth through a variety of educational activities, coupled with daily church services and communal recreational activities. For information and registration click the above Datev postcard or please visit the Prelacy’s website at or contact the AREC office at 212-689-7810 or 
Bible readings for Sunday, May 31, First Sunday after Pentecost, (Remembrance of the Prophet Elijah) are: 1 Kings 18:29-46; 2 Kings 2:1-15; James 5:16-20; Luke 4:25-30.

But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. (Luke 4:25-30)

For a listing of the coming week’s Bible readings click here.
This Sunday, May 31, the Armenian Church remembers Elijah, the Messianic prophet of the Old Testament recorded in 1 and 2 Kings. Elijah was the greatest prophet in the Old Testament and therefore his feast day falls on a Sunday. He appeared along with Moses at the Transfiguration as the prophet of life and the new covenant; Moses was representative of the old covenant. The Armenian Church (like all the Eastern churches) holds Elijah in the highest esteem. Most importantly, Elijah did not experience death, but was taken to heaven, like the Holy Mother of God. He is mentioned in the Armenian hymn Ee Verin, sung during the Requiem Service.

“Receive us in Jerusalem above, in the dwellings of the angels, in Eden, the paradise where Enoch and Elijah live worthily resplendent in dove-like purity and in old age. O merciful Lord, have mercy upon the souls of ours who have fallen asleep.”
(From the Armenian hymn Ee Verin Yerousaghem (Receive us in Jerusalem above), sung during the Requiem Service.)
This Monday and Tuesday, June 1 and 2, the Armenian Church commemorates the virgin saints Hripsime and Gayane and their companions. Thirty-three nuns, led by Gayane, left Rome and sought refuge in Armenia hoping to escape the Roman Emperor who desired one of the nuns, the beautiful Hripsime. In Armenia, King Dertad became captivated by Hripsime’s beauty and sought to wed her. She refused. Enraged, the king had Hripsime (and the other nuns) imprisoned and tortured to death.

When Gregory was released from his imprisonment in the deep pit (Khor Virab) he built chapels over the relics of the nuns, which Catholicos Sahag Bartev later renovated. During the 7th century, churches were built over both sites. The church dedicated to Saint Hripsime, built by Catholicos Gomidas, is considered to be an architectural masterpiece and influenced the future course of Armenian architecture. Catholicos Gomidas also wrote a sharagan (hymn) in their memory—the well-known Antsink Nviryalk (Dedicated Beings).

The two churches, as well as a third (Shoghakat) are in the city of Etchmiadzin (Vagharshapat), not far from the complex of buildings that comprise the Holy Mother See of Etchmiadzin, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School dedicated the week of April 13 to the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. An extensive age-appropriate program was developed involving students in various activities from Kindergarten to Fifth Grade.

In addition, parents were invited to attend a Talent Show presented by grades 1-5 students. The intent was to show that, 100 years after the genocide the new generation is excelling and thriving. Students performed on the piano, violin, cello, or guitar, or displayed their artistic talents through poetry and voice.

Grades 3, 4, and 5 attended an Interactive Presentation about the Armenian genocide directed by Stepan Piligian. Students were asked to line up behind signs of cities from where their ancestors had been deported. Then stickers with the name of those cities were placed on a big map. This was followed by a visit to the school by Gomidas Vartabed, Zabel Yessayan, and Catholicos Sahag II, thanks to a time machine.

During the week the school hosted Canadian author Marsha Skrypuch, whose 19 books include Aram’s Choice and Call Me Aram that have been part of the school’s genocide curriculum for Grades 4 and 5.

On April 24, Grades 4 and 5 students participated in the commemoration events at the Massachusetts State House, as well as at Armenian Heritage Park in Boston.
Students of St. Stephen’s Elementary School at the Massachusetts State House on April 24.
Students participate in an interactive presentation about the Armenian Genocide.
Anna Tufankjian, a parishioner at St. Stephen’s Church of Hartford and New Britain, made a quilt in commemoration of the Armenian genocide. The quilt, called “Never Forgotten,” will be on display at the quilt show of the Greater Hartford Quilt Guild on August 1 and 2, at the Toyota Oakdale Theater. It will also be submitted for entry in the Studio Art Quilters Association’s juried Art Exhibit, “Diaspora,” at the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. in October 2015.

The images on the quilt include Mt. Ararat, the Armenian flag, Kecharis Monastery, and a map. It is also adorned with grapevines, the forget-me-not flower, and a line from the poem “We Are Few” by Barouyr Sevag in Armenian and English.
Anna Tufankjian with the quilt she created, “Never Forgotten.”
Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)
Declaration of United Armenia (May 28, 1919)
At the time of the independence of the first Republic of Armenia (May 1918), its population also included a mass of refugees from Western Armenia who had survived the genocide.

The first congress of Western Armenians, held in the spring of 1917, tried to establish a semblance of organization for the mass of refugees. Some of them had temporarily resettled back in their homes in 1916-1917, when part of Western Armenia had been occupied by Russia. However, the breakdown of the Caucasian front after the Russian Revolution and the advance of the Turkish Ottoman forces had displaced them once again to the east. These events had crippled the organization established in 1917.

In view of the political changes, an interparty council of Western Armenians named a special commission in December 1918 to arrange for a second general conference. The Second Conference of Western Armenians met in Yerevan from February 6-13, 1919.

The conference adopted a resolution on February 12, 1919 that read in part:
“The Second Congress of Western Armenians, having studied the current situation of the Armenian people:

1. Sincerely hails and extols the independence of Free and United Armenia; (. . .)

3. Proclaims its firm determination and will to have one political and governmental entity through the confluence of the lands and people of all Armenia;(. . .)

5. Directs the elected ‘Executive Body’ to work actively, at the same time, with the cabinet and the legislature of the Araratian [Yerevan] Republic to declare the independence of United, Free Armenia and, in order to effect the all-national union, to participate in the administrative and legislative institutions. (…).”

The nine-person Executive Body was instructed to implement the decision of the Congress and to function until the creation of a combined government of united Armenia. Its petition was approved by the coalition government of the Republic, formed by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the Populist Party, on February 25, 1919.

The cabinet of ministers adopted the text of the declaration on Armenia’s unification on May 26, 1919, and a day later, another cabinet resolution authorized the Executive Body of the Western Armenians to select twelve deputies to enter the Parliament of united Armenia.

On 28 May 1919, on the first anniversary of the Republic of Armenia, acting Prime Minister Alexander Khatisian read the text of the declaration in a solemn ceremony held at the Parliament:

“To restore the integrity of Armenia and to secure the complete freedom and prosperity of its people, the Government of Armenia, abiding by the solid will and desire of the entire Armenian people, declares that from this day forward the separated parts of Armenia are everlastingly combined as an independent political entity.

(. . .) Now in promulgating this act of unification and independence of the ancestral Armenian lands located in Transcaucasia and the Ottoman Empire, the Government of Armenia declares that the political system of United Armenia is a democratic republic and that it has become the Government of the United Republic of Armenia.

Thus, the people of Armenia are henceforth the supreme lord and master of their consolidated fatherland, and the Parliament and Government of Armenia stand as the supreme legislative and executive authority conjoining the free people of United Armenia. (. . .)”

After the ovation that followed the reading, Khatisian invited the twelve newly designated Western Armenian deputies to take their places within the legislature. On their behalf, Vahagn Krmoyan pledged active Western Armenian participation in the governing bodies of the Republic.

After the messages by Avetik Sahakian, president of the Parliament, and Catholicos Gevorg V, and congratulations by the representatives of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Karabagh, Armenian Americans, and others, Khatisian proceeded to the balcony of the Parliament and read again the declaration to the mass of people gathered on the street.

The declaration, intended to cement the unity of the Armenian people and establish its political will towards the restoration of the country over its historical borders, had the contrary effect. Historian Richard Hovannisian has aptly summarized it: “The proclamation that had been intended as an expression of unity actually aggravated the discord between Russian Armenians and Turkish Armenians and between Dashnakist and anti-Dashnakist leaders. A startling about-face by the Populist Party in the days following the celebration in Erevan administered the coup de grace to the coalition cabinet.”

Although the declaration of United Armenia was never carried on the ground (the Treaty of Sevres, which would become its instrument in August 1920, remained on paper), its symbolic force was an expression and an inspiration for the political dreams of the Armenian people.

Previous entries in “This Week in Armenian History” are on the Prelacy’s web site (
Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)
What Happens When You Misread a Word?
Greeks went up to Oriental Asia to get a very valuable fabric from the Seres, and called it Serikos. The Roman borrowed the name from them and turned it into sericum. As many other Latin words, this one also traveled up to the British Islands and entered Old English, where the sound r turned into l. The resulting name, seoloc/sioloc, later became the well-known silk of today.

The same Oriental source for silk also gave an Armenian word that, interestingly, does not mean “silk,” but “silkworm”: sheram (շերամ). However, it is assumed that the function of middleman was not carried by the Greek language, because Greek does not have the sound sh. It was probably Syriac, which has the word šeraya (š=sh) “silky material.”

The Armenian language, it appears, borrowed the word in the fifth century A.D. and applied it to the insect that produced the “silky material.” However, the Armenian word appears in all manuscripts until the eighteenth century as շերաս or շէրաս (sheras). The same word was also used in some Western Armenian dialects, such as Akn and Kharpert, until 1915. How did it become sheram?

Sometimes, new words (or old words with a different look) are created by human mistake. The first attempt at a complete dictionary of the Armenian language was undertaken by Mekhitar of Sebastia (1676-1749), the founder of the Mekhitarist Congregation, and his disciples. The massive, two-volume Dictionary of Classical Armenian Language (Բառգիրք Հայկազեան լեզուի) was published in 1749 and 1769. The first volume was authored by Mekhitar himself (it went off the press a few days before his death). The erudite monk, who collected much of his materials from unpublished manuscripts, appears to have found the word in a sentence where sheras was followed by the punctuation sign put (բութ)—ՇԵՐԱՍ՝—and misread it as ՇԵՐԱՄ (SHERAM).

Almost a century later, the New Dictionary of Classical Armenian Language (1836-1837), prepared by a new generation of Mekhitarist monks, superseded the work of Mekhitar. The second volume printed the word as sheras. However, for some reason, subsequent authors chose to follow Mekhitar’s dictionary and this is how the Modern Armenian word for “silkworm” was artificially created.

Of course, after two centuries, it is a little late to make changes.

Previous entries in “The Armenian Language Corner” are on the Prelacy’s web site (
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(Pastor of St. Sarkis Church, Douglaston, New York)
Episode 39: AYF Junior Seminar, First Republic of Armenia, and much more.
Click the image above to link.

Tuesday evenings concert, “With You Armenia: A Concert to Commemorate the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide,” at Carnegie Hall in New York featuring acclaimed pianist Evgeny Kissin and the Hover State Chamber Choir from Armenia, received rave reviews from Anthony Tommasini in today’s New York Times. Read it here.
May 10 to June 4—Pontifical Visit of His Holiness Aram I to the Eastern Prelacy.

May 29—Homage to our Martyred Writers, “A Literary Evening Dedicated to Taniel Varuzhan.” MC, Zarmine Boghosian; English Presentation, Aram Arkun; Armenian Presentation, Dr. Vartan Matiossian. Artistic program by: Harout Barsoumian, Arpi Cankar, Serpouhi Vartivarian, Talar Zokian. Tekeyan Center, 560 Sylvan Avenue, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, at 7:30 pm. Free admission; RSVP required. Contact Helen Misk ( or Diana Mkhitarian ( 

May 30—“Your Church. Your Nation. Engage.” A Dialogue with His Holiness Aram I, with young adults (ages 18-35). Speakers will explore the themes of Faithfulness, the Centennial of the Armenian genocide, and the canonization of the Martyrs. Westin Hotel, 70 Third Avenue, Waltham, Massachusetts, 10 am to 2 pm.

June 3-6—National Representative Assembly hosted by St. Stephen’s Church, Watertown, Massachusetts.

June 4-5—National Association of Ladies Guilds 2015 Annual Conference, St. Stephen’s Church, Watertown, Massachusetts. For information: Sharke Der Apkarian,, or 978-808-0598.

June 7—Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey, Sunday School Commencement Day.

June 14—Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey, Nareg Saturday Armenian School Year End Graduation.

June 18—Annual Cigar Night and Dinner, Men’s Club of St. Gregory Church of Merrimack Valley, North Andover, Massachusetts. Drawing of Super Raffle of 2015 Mercedes Benz-CLA 250 will take place. Raffle tickets can be purchased online (

June 21—Sts. Vartanantz Church, 461 Bergen Boulevard, Ridgefield, New Jersey, Sunday School Father’s Day Picnic.

June 21—St. Gregory Church, annual Father’s Day Picnic, noon to 5 pm, on the church grounds, 135 Goodwin Street, Indian Orchard, Massachusetts. Many favorite Armenian dinners including shish kebab and rice pilaf. Baked goods available for purchase. Enjoy Armenian music and dancing, activities for children, raffle drawing. Admission and parking free. For information: (413) 543-4763.

June 28—Annual “Madagh Picnic,” St. Hagop Church, Racine, Wisconsin, Blessing of the Madagh will take place at 11 am by Rev. Fr. Daron Stepanian, and served at noon. All are invited to enjoy the picnic all afternoon up to 7 pm. Enjoy marinated shish kebab and chicken dinners, sarma, penerlee, khurabia, and other Armenian delicacies and pastries. Live Armenian music and children’s entertainment. Raffle drawing at 6 pm.

June 28-July 5—29th annual St. Gregory of Datev Institute Summer Program for youth ages 13-18 at the St. Mary of Providence Center in Elverson, Pennsylvania, sponsored by the Prelacy’s Armenian Religious Education Council (AREC). For information and registration, please visit the Prelacy’s website at or contact the AREC office at 212-689-7810 or
July 18—Blessing of the Holy Muron (Oil) by His Holiness Aram I, at the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon. For details click here.

October 5-9—Clergy gathering of Eastern, Western, and Canadian Prelacies.

November 15—90th Anniversary Banquet, St. Stephen’s Church, 167 Tremont Street, New Britain, Connecticut. Watch for details.
Web pages of the parishes can be accessed through the Prelacy’s web site.
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