June 11, 2015

Delegates to the 2015 National Representative Assembly hosted by
St. Stephen’s Church, Watertown, Massachusetts.
Based on reporting by Tom Vartabedian
Photos by Tom Vartabedian

Superlatives are in order as the National Representative Assembly (NRA) of the Eastern Prelacy ended its annual meeting on a historic note, June 4 to 6 in Watertown, Massachusetts. For the first time ever, in this Assembly’s history, a gathering of more than 100 clergy and lay delegates heard in person the message of their Catholicos. His Holiness Aram I rounded out a month-long visit with a rousing message focused upon unity, the power of the youth, resourcefulness and greater involvement within the church structure. In previous years, the delegation heard the Vehapar’s message via Skype or through a recorded or televised message.

His Holiness expressed his great satisfaction at meeting the many members of the church and community organizations and the faithful in all the major cities within the jurisdiction of the Eastern Prelacy. He said that the youth had inspired him with their questions and their concerns, and asked that the parishes revitalize themselves by reorganizing and adopting new approaches to service; that the Dioceses belonging to the Holy Sees of Etchmiadzin and Cilicia strengthen their cooperation, and that the communities assess their religious education and Armenian studies programs with an eye to making them more responsive to the needs of the new generation.

NRA proceedings
Elected to serve as co-chairmen of the Assembly were Jack Mardoian and Artin Dermenjian who kept the meetings orderly and timely. A motion to make the NRA biennial was defeated. NRA panels included the following: AREC / ANEC; Small Parish Experience; By-Laws; The Pontifical Visit and Beyond; and Audit and Budget.

Concurrent with the NRA, the National Association of Ladies Guilds (NALG) convened their annual conference. Besides the annual report presented by the NALG executive, the attendees heard an informative presentation by Maro Matosian, the director of the Women’s Support Center in Yerevan.

Awards; Elections
His Holiness presented a Pectoral Cross to Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian, pastor of St. Illuminator’s Cathedral, and secretary of the Religious Council, in honor of his ten years of service to the Eastern Prelacy.
His Holiness, Archbishop Oshagan, and Bishop Anoushavan with Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian. His Holiness presented Der Mesrob a Pectoral Cross in honor of his ten years of service.
Archbishop Oshagan presented Heather (Apigian) Krafian a Certificate of Merit in appreciation of her service to the church and community. Youth Leadership Awards were presented to:  Nairi Krafian, Anahis Kechejian, Antranig Kechejian, and Ani Belorian.
Archbishop Oshagan with Archpriest Fr. Antranig Baljian, pastor of St. Stephen’s Church, and Raffi Manjikian, chairman of the Board of Trustees, with the honorees. From left, Raffi Manjikian, Ani Belorian, Nairi Krafian, Anahis Kechejian, Archbishop Oshagan, Antranig Kechejian, Heather Krafian, and Archpriest Fr. Antranig.
Presentations were also made to outgoing Council members, Archpriest Fr. Aram Stepanian, and John Daghlian. Elected to serve on the Executive Council were Noubar Megerian (reelected), Susan Erickson, Daniel Gulbenkian, and Karen Jehanian. Elected to serve on the Religious Council were Archpriest Fr. Nerses Manoogian, and Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian (reelected).

Keynote Address
Archbishop Oshagan in his Keynote Address to the Assembly focused on two major events during 2015, the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, and the 100th anniversary of St. Illuminator’s Cathedral.

Speaking about the canonization of the martyrs, His Eminence said, “In the life of our church, our Martyrs received their just reward and graced us with the responsibility of being the grandchildren of saints. This blessed grace given to us also gave us the responsibility to be worthy Armenians, firmly cling to our Christian and spiritual roots, as well as our traditions, culture and heritage.”

Archbishop Oshagan spoke about the lawsuit filed by the Great House of Cilicia for the return of the Catholicosate of Sis that was seized during the genocide. “It is our expectation that the lawsuit for the Catholicosate of Sis will open the road for reparation for our rights, and become the beginning for Turkey to face its history and to adopt just decisions,” the Prelate said.

Speaking about the 100th anniversary of St. Illuminator’s Cathedral, His Eminence recalled the rich history of the Cathedral, going back more than one hundred years. “In 1915, on the one hand our people in their homeland experienced genocide, massacre, and exile, and on the other hand, the same year the exiled Armenians in the United States secured their spiritual home in New York believing that this home, named for our great Patriarch, Saint Gregory the Illuminator, would become Noah’s Ark, the anchor of salvation, and a place of prayer and consolation for their souls, which because of the martyrdom of their loved ones, was decimated…. So much faith, faithfulness, sacrifice, and dedication fills our Mother Cathedral!”

The Prelate concluded his remarks echoing the theme that was adopted for the 2015 Pontifical Visit—“Your Church. Your Nation. Engage,” which he said must become “the ‘unsilenceable belfry’ that resonates in all our souls, for the sake of our Homeland, our Church, and for the strengthening and advancement of our people.”

Read the Prelate’s entire message in Armenian here or in English here.

Read Tom Vartabedian’s entire article here.
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, please visit the Prelacy’s website at armenianprelacy.org/arec/datev or contact the AREC office at 212-689-7810 or arec@armenianprelacy.org
Bible readings for Sunday, June 14, Third Sunday after Pentecost, Eve of the Fast of our Holy Father St. Gregory the Illuminator, are: Isaiah 1:2-15; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 12:1-8.

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”  (Matthew 12:1-8)

For a listing of the coming week’s Bible readings click here.
This Saturday, June 13, the Armenian Church commemorates Catholicos Nerses the Great and Khat the Bishop. Nerses the Great was the father of Catholicos Sahak I. He succeeded two catholicoi whose reigns were unexceptional, and the people were eager to return to the line of their beloved Gregory the Illuminator. Nerses was a student of St. Basil of Caesarea, one of three great Cappadocian Fathers. Nerses’ pontificate was the beginning of a new era. He brought the church closer to the people, rather than to royals and nobles. He convened the Council of Ashtishat that resulted in numerous laws on issues related to marriage, worship, and customs. He built many schools, hospitals, and monasteries. He sent monks to preach the Gospel throughout the country. His bold actions resulted in great displeasure by the royal family and in 373 he was reportedly poisoned by the king. His accomplishments for the spiritual and social well-being of the common people earned him the gratitude of the entire nation and the honorific “Great.”

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

By the light of unspeakable grace of your divine knowledge you arose on the land of Armenia, merciful heavenly Father; have compassion on us who have sinned. Saint Nerses, pure in soul, from birth you were chosen to inherit the paternal lot of shepherding righteously and lawfully. You adorned the Church with the laws of truth and established good order within it; through his prayers have mercy on us, O Christ.
(Canon to the Holy Patriarch Nerses the Great from the Liturgical Canons of the Armenian Church)

This Tuesday, June 16, the Armenian Church remembers Constantine the Great and his mother, Helena. Constantine was the first Christian emperor of Rome. In 330 he founded Constantinople as a “second Rome,” and considered himself to be a servant of God. He was buried amid the apostles in the basilica he founded in their honor in Constantinople. Helena followed her son in becoming a Christian and devoted her life to charitable work. She built many churches and monasteries and is believed to have played an important role in the recovery of the true cross in Golgotha. She is also believed to have helped find Christ’s exact place of burial where later the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built.

Last Sunday was commencement day for the Sunday School of Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey. Staff members, from left, front row, Anne Trozzo, Hoori Samuelian, Denise Borekjian, Sita Asadurian, Aida Gharibian, Rev. Fr. Hovnan Bozoian, Yn. Ani Bozoian, Maggie Kouyoumdjian, Arous Isakhanian, Hilda Tavitian. Back row, from left, Liza Takvorian, Sonia Tekeyan, Anni Agopian, Celina Bozoian, Alice Kassardjian.
2015 graduating class with staff, from left, Maggie Kouyoumdjian, Sona Borekjian, Anoosh Kouyoumdjian, Sevan Asadurian, Rev. Fr. Hovnan Bozoian, Yn. Ani Bozoian, Denise Borekjian, Roubina Bozoian, Aleen Takvorian, Megerdich Khederlarian, Arous Isakhanian.
Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian leads the Flag Blessing and Independence Day Ceremony at St. Gregory Church of Merrimack Valley, North Andover, Massachusetts.
Rev. Fr. Hovnan Bozoian and deacons during the Blessing of the Flag ceremony at Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey.
Nareg Armenian School students at Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey, participate in May 28th celebration in honor of the 97th anniversary of the first independent Armenian Republic of 1918.
Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)
Birth of Axel Bakunts
(June 13, 1899)
Axel Bakunts was the most important prose writer in the first generation of Soviet Armenian literature. As many other intellectuals, he would also become a victim of totalitarianism.

Bakunts was born Alexander Tevosian on June 13, 1899, in Goris (Zangezur), in a family with eleven children. As he wrote in his autobiography, “my parents had had land and wealth, but I did not see either that land or that wealth. I recall horrendous poverty and a house filled with children. . .” He studied in the parish school from 1905-1910 and then he was admitted in the Kevorkian Seminary of Etchmiadzin, where he studied until 1915. After his short story, “The Fool Man,” published in the children’s monthly Aghbiur in 1911, a satirical piece appeared in July 1915 in the newspaper Paylak under a pseudonym, that cost him a stint in prison, as it was a criticism of the mayor of Goris and the provincial administration. The Seminary was closed in the school year 1915-1916 due to the flow of refugees from the genocide, and after 34 days, the future writer was freed from prison and invited to teach at the village school of Lor, in Zangezur.
By then, Alexander had been replaced by Axel, as his friends called him after the name of the character he played in a comedy, “The Newly Married,” by Norwegian writer and Nobel laureate Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. He would later adopt the family name Bakunts as his pseudonym.

He graduated in 1917 from the Seminary, and in the fall he became a soldier in the battlefronts of Erzerum and Kars, until his participation in the crucial battle of Sardarabad in late May 1918. He worked in Yerevan as a proofreader and reporter in 1918-1919, and in 1919-1920 he studied at the Polytechnic Institute of Tiflis and taught at the high school of an orphanage. After three years of studies at the Agricultural Institute of Kharkov (Ukraine), in 1923 he returned to Armenia, where he worked as an agronomist. In the same year, the authorities organized the so-called “liquidation” of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in a conference of party members, and 24-year-old Bakunts chaired the conference.

He worked in Goris from 1924-1926 as head of the land section of the executive provincial committee, and moved in 1926 to Yerevan, where he was deputy head in the Land Commission of the republican government until 1931. After a short stint at the Nor Ughi journal, he dedicated himself to literary activities until 1936.

Bakunts started a serious literary career in 1924, and his short stories soon established his reputation as a gifted writer, which was strengthened by his first collection, Mtnadzor (The Dark Valley), published in 1927. Together with Yeghishe Charents, Gurgen Mahari, and other first-rate writers, he was also involved in the literary movements of the time, and fought for the development of Armenian literature in years when the Soviet regime had not yet established its iron fist over culture. Besides several collections of short stories (The White Horse, The Walnut Trees of Brotherhood, etcetera), he published the satirical novel Hovnatan March and also wrote three novels that were lost. He also wrote the screenplays for the films Zangezur and The Son of the Sun.

As Charents wrote in a poem dedicated to his friend Bakunts, “Sadness flows in your Dark Valley / And longing of childhood in the familiar valley, / But work to ensure that in that dark valley / Your bright road will not be lost forever.” There was an insidious campaign against both writers, as well as their friends, especially by fellow writers who tried to follow faithfully the directives of the Communist party. Political accusations started to pile up and Bakunts, together with other names, was victim of a round up on August 9, 1936. He was charged with “anti-revolutionary, anti-Soviet and chauvinist activities.” He was tortured for eleven months in jail. All his attempts at defending himself were useless, and his letters remained unanswered. As many others who were subjected to the terror installed by Stalin in 1936-1938, he was finally given a 25-minute trial and summarily condemned to the firing squad. He was shot on July 18, 1937.

His name disappeared from public recognition until the death of Stalin in 1953. He was later rehabilitated and Bakunts became a classic of Armenian literature in the twentieth century. In 1957 his childhood house became a house-museum.

Previous entries in “This Week in Armenian History” are on the Prelacy’s web site (www.armenianprelacy.org)
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Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)
Please, Bear in Mind
We have spoken in the past about the risks of thinking in English and speaking in Armenian. Sometimes this creates impossible situations. For instance, when you try to use a very plain sentence like, “Please, sit down.”

We have to always remember that English has only ONE pronoun for the second person: you, both for singular and for plural. When we read the sentence “You’re right,” we cannot be sure whether the “you” in question is one person or a dozen, a family member or a complete stranger, and, therefore, how that “you” applies. However, in other languages, like French, Spanish, or Armenian, there is no such problem. They have TWO pronouns for the second person, and then it is very easy to understand to whom one is addressing. In the case of Armenian, we have tun (դուն) in singular and tuk (դուք) in plural, and each has a totally different way of conjugation.

To give only one example, if you want to say “please”:
a) When you address your friend, you say hajis (հաճիս);
b) When you address a stranger or a crowd, you say hajetsek (հաճեցէք).

This also means that you cannot mix the singular to address a friend with the plural to tell him what to do. For example, if you intend to say, “Please, sit down,” you HAVE to say Hajis, nsdeh! (Հաճիս, նստէ՛), you can NEVER say Hajis, nsdetsek, which is a very common mistake among American-born Armenian speakers. (Of course, you can also say Khntrem, nsdeh [Խնդրեմ, նստէ՛]).

Otherwise, if you want to address a stranger or a crowd, you HAVE to say Hajetsek nsdil (Հաճեցէք նստիլ), where instead of the imperative nsdeh we use the infinitive nsdil. Why? It is a matter of style. If you were to say Hajetsek nsdetsek (Հաճեցէք նստեցէ՛ք), it would sound utterly ridiculous. (Otherwise, you can say Khntrem, nsedetsek [Խնդրեմ, նստեցէ՛ք], which sounds perfectly normal).

Language is communication, but the better you speak a language, the better it reflects on you.

Previous entries in “The Armenian Language Corner” are on the Prelacy’s web site (www.armenianprelacy.org)
(Pastor of St. Sarkis Church, Douglaston, New York)

Episode 41: Archbishop Oshagan on the Pontifical Visit…and more.
Click on the image above to listen
Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
The Prayer Book by Saint Gregory of Narek
Translated by Thomas J. Samuelian

Long out of print, Tom Samuelian’s translation of “The Narek,” has become even more coveted after Pope Francis declared the Armenian saint a Doctor of the Universal Church. The Prelacy Bookstore recently was able to secure a number of copies of the small version of the larger bilingual volume. This smaller volume contains the Introduction by the translator and the English translation of St. Gregory’s masterpiece of 95 prayers.

The Narek (English), 499 pages
$20.00 plus shipping & handling

To order contact the Prelacy Bookstore by email (books@armenianprelacy.org) or by phone (212-689-7810).
June 14—Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey, Nareg Saturday Armenian School Year-End Graduation.

June 14—St. Stephen Church, New Britain, Connecticut, “Young Adults Gathering,” at Siroonian home in Farmington, Connecticut, at 4 pm. Focus of this group is young adults 20s and 30s. Great way to meet and make friends and connect to Armenian roots. Partners, friends, siblings, cousins, all welcome. If you wish to attend or for more information: ststephensarmenianhurch@yahoo.com.

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 (saintgregory.org/organizations/mens-club).

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—St. Stephen’s Church, New Britain and Hartford, Annual Church Cookout at the church hall and grounds after church services. Come for a day of relaxation, fun, great food, and friendly people! Shish, Losh, and Chicken Kebabs, Pilafs, Salad, Armenian bread, famous baked goods, and more.

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 armenianprelacy.org/arec/datev or contact the AREC office at 212-689-7810 or arec@armenianprelacy.org.

July 11—St. Stephen’s Church Ladies Guild, Hartford-New Britain, Connecticut, “Elizabeth Park Brunch.” Come see the roses and 100 acres of formal gardens, and enjoy offsite brunch and meeting at Pond House in the park. For reservations contact Sue Shabazian or Suzanne Midinian. For information: church office, 860-229-8322.

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.

August 9—“Pizza, Popcorn, and a Movie,” St. Stephen’s Church Hall, New Britain, Connecticut, hosted by Ladies Guild. Lunch and movie, $10.

September 13—St. Stephen’s Church, New Britain and Hartford, Annual Church Picnic at Winding Trails in Farmington. Family and Friends Day; Bring a Friend. New spectacular venue for our picnic this year. Lots of sporting activities for the children and young adults and Holiday Boutique “Trinkets and Treasures.” Pavilion next to hall with lots of room in case of inclement weather.

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

October 25—Breakfast in the church hall ($10) after the Liturgy, St. Stephen’s Church, New Britain, Connecticut, sponsored by the Ladies Guild.

November 15—“Remembering the Past, Embracing the Future, 1925-2015,” St. Stephen’s Church, New Britain, Connecticut, 90th Anniversary celebration. His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan, Prelate, will celebrate the Divine Liturgy and preside over the banquet at Farmington Club, 162 Town Farm Road, Farmington, Connecticut. Details to follow.

December 6—ARS Holiday Dinner, St. Stephen’s Church Hall, New Britain, Connecticut, after church services. Save the date. Details to follow.

December 20—“Soup, Sandwiches, and Bingo,” St. Stephen’s Church Hall, New Britain, Connecticut, following church services, sponsored by Ladies Guild.
Web pages of the parishes can be accessed through the Prelacy’s web site.
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Items in Crossroads can be reproduced without permission. Please credit Crossroads as the source.
Parishes of the Eastern Prelacy are invited to send information about their major events to be included in the calendar. Send to: info@armenianprelacy.org
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