August 20, 2015
Last Sunday Armenian churches around the world celebrated the Feast of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God and the Blessing of the Grapes, an old and beautiful tradition in the Armenian Church that expresses thanks for a bountiful harvest and encourages sharing with the needy.
In Lebanon His Holiness Aram I presided over the Divine Liturgy and the Blessing of Grapes and Madagh at the recently erected open-air Martyrs Altar at the Monastery of the Holy Mother of God (Sourp Asdvadzadzin) in Bikfaya. The Liturgy was celebrated by Bishop Vahan Hovanesian, Primate of France. The complex of buildings that surround the vast area of the Monastery include the beautiful Chapel of Saint Mary, the Martyrs Altar, the Veharan (offices and residence), the Seminary, Guest House, and the distinctive monument erected in 1965 dedicated to the rebirth of the Armenian people. Thousands of pilgrims came to Bikfaya to participate in the services, which were televised worldwide. The Monastery has become a year-round destination for pilgrims and a steady stream of visitors is now the norm rather than an exception.
Prelacy parishes were filled on this adored holiday—one of the five major feast days in the Armenian liturgical calendar. Many of our parishes schedule their annual picnic on this day and conduct the Blessing of the Grapes outdoors, as well as after the Liturgy in church.

Soorp Asdvadzadzin Church in Whitinsville, Massachusetts, held its annual picnic on the church grounds last Sunday, presided by Archbishop Oshagan, who celebrated the Divine Liturgy and delivered the sermon earlier. More than 800 people, including parishioners, townspeople, and friends from near and far, enjoyed the delicious meals and desserts, along with live music provided by the Mugrditchian ensemble.
The parish’s Siroun Dancers, directed by Lusine’ Baghsarian, provided entertainment with dances dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The dancers costumes reflected the colors and Centennial symbol of the Forget-Me-Not flower. Clergymen of the New England parishes participated in the Blessing of the Grapes and Madagh ceremony.
Archbishop Oshagan conducts the Blessing of Grapes ceremony with the assistance of the New England area clergy including Rev. Fr. Mikael Der Kosrofian, Rev. Fr. Stepan Baljian, Archpriest Fr. Aram Stepanian, Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishyan, Archpriest Fr. Antranig Baljian, Archpriest Fr. Gomidas Baghsarian, and Rev. Fr. Kapriel Nazarian.


Archpriest Fr. Zareh Sahakian conducts the Blessing of Grapes at All Saints Church in Glenview, Illinois, assisted by Rev. Fr. Nareg Keutelian, Pastor of St. John the Baptist Armenian Church in Greenfield, Wisconsin.
Rev. Fr. Hovnan Bozoian, pastor of Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey conducts the Blessing of Grapes ceremony with deacons and altar servers. The parish’s annual picnic took place following the church services. In photos below Der Hovnan blesses the food at the picnic that is enjoyed by the many attendees. A second Blessing of Grapes was performed at the picnic grounds and the blessed grapes were distributed to all.
Very Rev. Fr. Zareh Sarkissian and Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian, together with some parishioners of St. Illuminator’s Cathedral, visited the Armenian Home for the Aged in Flushing, New York, yesterday. Hayr Zareh and Der Mesrob conducted the Blessing of the Grapes ceremony for the residents and administrative staff of the Home. Hayr Zareh explained the significance of the centuries-old tradition of the grape blessing prior to the ceremony. Later he greeted and blessed each of the residents individually and presented each a bag of the blessed grapes and a small Armenian cross.
On this occasion Der Mesrob presented to Ms. Aghavni Ellian, Executive Director of the Armenian Home, a gift basket that included a $500 donation, 12 Armenian CDs, and a prayer book on behalf of St. Illuminator’s Cathedral.
Very Rev. Fr. Zareh Sarkissian blesses the grapes with the assistance of Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian at the Armenian Home in Flushing, New York.
After the ceremony with some of the residents and administrative staff of the Home.
Bible readings for Sunday, August 23, First Sunday after the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God, are, Proverbs 11:30-12:4; Zechariah 2:10-13; 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1; Luke 1:39-56.

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
  (Luke 1:39-56)

For a listing of the coming week’s Bible readings click here.
On Tuesday, August 25, the Armenian Church commemorates Saints Joachim and Anna, parents of Mary, the mother of Christ. Joachim, son of Barpathir, was a descendant of King David, to whom God had revealed that the Savior of the world would be born through his descendants. Anna was a descendant of the tribe of Levi through her father and the tribe of Judah through her mother. Joachim and Anna were childless through years of marriage. Joachim fasted for forty days in the desert and both of them prayed for a child, ultimately placing their trust in God’s will. An angel appeared to each of them telling them that in spite of their old age they would be the parents of a daughter.
On the same day the Church remembers the oil-bearing women (Myrophores). These are the eight women who are identified as the oil- or myrrh-bearers in the four Gospels who had different roles during Christ’s ministry, at the Cross, and the tomb on Easter morning. The eight women are: Mary Magdalene, Mary (Theotokos), Joanna, Salome, Mary (wife of Cleopas), Susanna, Mary of Bethany, and Martha of Bethany.
O God, by wise foreknowledge you established the mystery of the holy church, having laid down the assembly of the righteous as its deep and firm foundation; through their prayers, have mercy on us. The blessing given by you to husband and wife, the pair created by God, buds forth today in Joachim and Anna like a splendid flower; through their prayers, have mercy on us. Today you manifested from Anna the promise given to Abraham, our patriarch according to the Spirit, in the union of staffs both priestly and kingly; through their prayers, have mercy on us. O God, without beginning, unspeakable, boundless might, from the beginning of the ages you have cared for the sons of Adam, today by grace from above, you have designated by her birth the mother of your chosen and only-begotten Son. Through her prayers, have mercy on us.
(Canon to Saints Joachim and Anna from the liturgical canons of the Armenian Church)

Next Thursday, August 27, the Armenian Church remembers Jeremiah, one of the major prophets of the Old Testament. His writings are collected in the Old Testament Book of Jeremiah, in I and II Kings, and the Book of Lamentations. God appointed Jeremiah to confront Judah and Jerusalem for the worship of idols and other violations of the covenant (described in the Book of Deuteronomy). Jeremiah had the task of explaining the reason for the impending disaster—the destruction by the Babylonian army and captivity: “And when your people say, ‘Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?’ you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve foreigners in a land that is not yours.’”

The Trustees of the Pashalian Family Education Fund held their annual meeting on Tuesday, August 11, at the Prelacy offices in New York City.  Attending the meeting were Archbishop Oshagan, president of the Fund, and trustees Dr. George Dermksian, Mr. Michael Derian, Ms. Sossi Essajanian, and Ms. Iris Papazian, ex-officio trustee. The trustees examined the progress and growth of the Fund and decided on the total distribution of grants for 2015, which will be announced in October.
The Pashalian Family Education Fund, which is part of the Prelacy’s Endowment Fund, was created in 1992 by Mr. and Mrs. Levon Pashalian with a generous donation from the Pashalian Family and gifts received in memory of their son John Pashalian by friends and family. The Fund supports Armenian education with grants to Armenian schools in the United States, to programs that advance the teaching of the Armenian language and history, and students in need of financial aid. Donations to the Fund are accepted at any time and can be sent to the Prelacy office, 138 East 39th Street, New York, NY 10016. Checks should be payable to Armenian Apostolic Church of America with “Pashalian Fund” indicated in the memo area.

The Kansas Air National Guard, in cooperation with the United Armenian Fund (UAF), airlifted $1.4 million of medicines to Armenia on August 14. The National Guard provided the free air transport as part of its Humanitarian Assistance Airlift on board a KC-135 aircraft. Kansas is a partner state with the Republic of Armenia.
This is the second year in a row that the UAF and the Kansas Air National Guard cooperate to airlift large quantities of life-saving medicines to the people of Armenia. Last year they delivered $4.1 million of vital medicines to Armenia. In the past 26 years, the UAF has delivered to Armenia and Artsakh a total of $712 million worth of relief supplies on board 159 airlifts and 2,252 sea containers.
The UAF is the collective effort of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, Armenian Missionary Association of America, Armenian Relief Society, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, and Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America.
The Kansas Air National Guard, in cooperation with the United Armenian Fund (UAF), airlifted medicines with a total value of $1.4 million to Armenia this month.
Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)
Battle of Manazkert (August 26, 1071)
The battle of Manazkert (Մանազկերտ, usually spelled Manzikert in Western literature) was a decisive moment in the history of the Byzantine Empire. The defeat of its army at the hands of the Seljuk Turks undermined Byzantine authority in Armenia and marked the beginning of imperial decadence that would lead to the disappearance of Byzantium in 1453.
The Byzantine policy in the first half of the eleventh century had taken advantage of the division of Armenia into various feudal kingdoms, and exerted political pressure to acquire territories without violence. In 1021 King Hovhannes Senekerim of Vaspurakan exchanged his kingdom for territories in Cappadocia, where he moved with dozens of thousands of his subjects. In 1045 Gagik II Bagratuni was retained in Constantinople and forced to give up the kingdom of Ani to the empire. This misguided policy delivered Armenia in the hands of Byzantium, but at the same time opened the door for the invasions of the Seljuk Turks, who plundered the country and occupied and ravaged Ani in 1064. A year later, King Gaguik I of Kars, unable to confront the Turkish invasions, gave his kingdom to Byzantium in exchange of territories. The military incompetence of emperors Constantine IX (1042-1055) and Constantine X (1059-1067) could not be offset by the brief reign of Isaac I (1057-1059) and the Byzantine army was left in disarray. The occupation of Ani by the Seljuks, led by Alp Arslan, was followed by the rest of Armenia in 1067, and the invaders followed with the conquest of Caesarea.
Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes took power in 1068, and despite his military setback, Alp Arslan sought and signed a peace treaty with Byzantium in 1069 to focus on the Fatimid kingdom in Egypt as its main enemy. In February 1071 the Seljuk leader agreed to renew the treaty. However, this had been a distraction, as Romanos led a large army into Armenia to recover lost territories.
The Byzantine army, totaling from 40,000 to 70,000 men, reached Theodosiopolis (Karin, Erzerum) in June 1071 and continued the march towards Lake Van. The emperor expected to retake Manazkert and the nearby fortress of Khlat. Unknown to him, Alp Arslan had returned from the siege of Aleppo and was following the movements of the Byzantine army with an army of 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers.
Romanos split his forces in half, ordering his general Joseph Tarchaniotes to occupy Khlat, while the emperor marched to Manazkert. Khlat was not taken, and it is unknown what happened to the army sent off. The emperor easily captured Manazkert on August 23, but the Seljuk army was in the surroundings of the city, and the Byzantine cavalry and left wing were defeated or forced to retreat in engagements on August 23-24.
The main battle was held on August 26, 1071. The emperor wanted to settle the eastern question with a decisive military victory. The Byzantine army gathered itself into a proper battle formation and marched on the Turkish positions. The Seljuk archers attacked the Byzantines as they drew closer, but the arrow attacks were held off and Alp Arslan’s camp was captured. However, the Seljuks avoided battle and the emperor was forced to order a withdrawal when night fell. The Seljuks seized the opportunity and attacked. The right and left wings of the army were routed, and the rear, commanded by co-emperor and Romanos IV’s rival Andronikos Doukas, marched back to the camp outside Manazkert instead of covering the emperor’s retreat and later fled. The remnants of the Byzantine center were encircled and taken prisoner by the Seljuks, including the emperor. 
Romanos IV agreed upon concessions: the surrender of Antioch, Edessa, Hierapolis, and Manazkert, a ransom of 1.5 million gold pieces plus an annual sum of 360,000 gold pieces, and a marriage alliance between Arslan’s son and Romanos’ daughter. The emperor was released a week later and sent to Constantinople with an escort of two emirs and one hundred Mamluks. His rule was in serious trouble. In 1072 he was deposed, blinded, and exiled to the island of Proti, where he would soon die.
The balance of power between Byzantium and the Seljuks did not change in the short-term, although the ensuing civil war within the empire did, to the advantage of the Seljuks, who reached Asia Minor and established their capital in Nicea (1077). Byzantium never recovered Armenia, and from that time on, its borders moved continuously towards the west. British historian Steven Runciman noted: “The Battle of Manzikert was the most decisive disaster in Byzantine history. The Byzantines themselves had no illusions about it. Again and again their historians refer to that dreadful day.”
Previous entries in “This Week in Armenian History” are on the Prelacy’s web site (
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Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)
Only Right Guides Admitted
The word arachnort (առաջնորդ) has several meanings in Armenian: “guide,” “leader,” “chief,” “head,” and by extension, “head of an ecclesiastic division.” It is, obviously, a composition of the word arachin (առաջին “first”) and the suffix ord (որդ): arachin + ort = arachnort. Interestingly, one of its English equivalents, primate (“head of an ecclesiastic division”), is a French word that came from Latin primat (“of the first rank”), a derivation from Latin primus (“first”).
It is interesting to compare the roots of both words: primus is related to Latin pre (“before”), which has generated a lot of English words (predict, prescribe, prevention, and so on and so forth), while arachin literally means “towards the right.” It is another compound word: ar (առ) + ach (աջ) + in (ին). The prefix ar is a Classical Armenian term that means “towards” (today we use tebi-դէպի in Modern Armenian) and ach is, of course, the side contrary to the left.
An arachnort, then, was the person who guided, led, or headed correctly (“to the right”), be it a tourist guide, a political leader, an administrative head, or a primate or prelate.
As the reader probably knows, anything related to the left (ձախ-tsakh) had a bad press until recent times: left-handed people were forced to become right-handed, for instance. The verb “to fail” is tsakhoghil (ձախողիլ) in Armenian, whose root is, indeed, tsakh. Left was synonymous with inaccurate and incorrect, anything that was not... right.
This is why the word achaguits (աջակից “assistant, supporter”) is formed by the combination of ach (աջ) and gits (կից “to join, to attach”). The person who assisted or supported someone was supposed to help from the right side. Nobody would have dared to call her tsakhaguits; it would have probably attracted bad luck from the very beginning.
Previous entries in “The Armenian Language Corner” are on the Prelacy’s web site (
A New Book for Children
Eem Anounus Nayiri Eh (My name is Nayiri)
Written and Illustrated by Soce Hedeshian-Berberian

This colorful Armenian book is very inviting and fun to read. The narrator Nayiri tells all about her life in New York with the help of her dog (Sevoog) and her younger brother (Ara). We travel through a whole year of activities and holidays in Nayiri’s Armenian American world.

72 unnumbered pages in full color, softcover, $15.00 plus shipping & handling.

To order contact the Prelacy Bookstore by email ( or by phone (212-689-7810).

(Pastor of St. Sarkis Church, Douglaston, New York)

This week’s podcast features:
•    Messages from listeners
•    Interview with Annie Buzantian
•    Bible reflection and hymn of the day

Click on the image above to link to the Podcast
August 20-21—Youth Retreat (ages 12-18), sponsored by St. Sarkis Church of Douglaston, New York, at The Immaculate Conception, 440 West Neck Road, Huntington, New York. Theme: “Jesus got up…and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Prayer, discussions, camp fire & recreational activities. Registration fee: $125. Limited Availability. For information: church office 718-224-2275 or Mrs. Vicky Hagobian 917-613-6972.
August 23—Annual Picnic of Armenian Compatriotic Union of Ourfa, starting at noon on the grounds of St. Leon Church, Fair Lawn, New Jersey. Rain or shine. Ourfa Eggplant Kebab, Pilav, Dessert. Entertainment and Arts & Crafts for kids.
August 27-30—Hamazkayin ArtLinks 2015, educational workshops for 21 to 30 age group. Speakers and workshop leaders include: Eric Bogosian, Eric Nazarian, Aline Ohanesian, Scout Tufenkjian; program director Khatchig Mouradian. Participation fee of $150 includes all workshops, three nights of lodging, and meals. For information:
August 29—Teachers’ Seminar, organized by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC), 10 am to 3:30 pm, Hovnanian Hall, Prelacy office, 138 E. 39th Street, New York City.
September 11—11th Annual Armenian All Saints Golf Outing, Old Orchard Country Club, 700 W. Rand Road, Mount Prospect, Illinois; 1 pm check in; 2 pm shotgun start. Golf $150 per person; hole sponsor $250. Includes golf with cart, lunch, drinks, dinner, and door prizes.
September 12—Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey, Nareg Saturday School opening and registration.
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. Armenian food and live music.
September 13—Picnic Festival, sponsored by St. Gregory Church of Merrimack Valley, 158 Main Street, North Andover, Massachusetts, Noon to 5 pm. Shish, losh, chicken kebab, vegetarian dinners. Featuring Siroun Dance Group, dancing to music of John Berberian, Leon Janikian, Jason Naroian, and John Arzigian. Family games and activities. For information or 978-685-5038.
September 20—“25 Years in Philadelphia,” a banquet in honor of Archpriest Fr. Nerses Manoogian’s 25 years of service to the Philadelphia Armenian community, 2 pm at Founders Hall, St. Gregory Armenian Church, 8701 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
September 20—Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee of Merrimack Valley presents “Weaving Armenia’s Story through Music,” a centennial music performance by violinist Haigaram Hovsepian, accompanied by his mom Ani Hovsepian, pianist. Keynote speaker, Henry Therriault; 3 pm, North Andover High School, 430 Osgood Street, North Andover, Massachusetts, followed by reception. Mistress of Ceremonies, Janet Jeghelian.
October 5-9—Clergy gathering of Eastern, Western, and Canadian Prelacies.
October 18—Presentation of the Album “Retrospective” by well-known Canadian photographer Kaloust Babian, at Pashalian Hall, St. Illuminator Cathedral, 221 East 27th Street, New York City, at 1 pm. Organized by St. Illuminator’s Cathedral and Hamazkayin of New York.
October 24—Concert dedicated to the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide featuring singers Nune Yesayan and Sibil, with participation of the Hamazkayin NJ Nayiri Dance Ensemble and Arekag Chorus, 7:30 pm at BergenPac, 30 North Van Brunt Street, Englewood, New Jersey. Tickets: $85, $65. $45. For information: Ani Mouradian 973-224-2741.
October 25—Breakfast in the church hall ($10) after the Liturgy, St. Stephen’s Church, New Britain, Connecticut, sponsored by the Ladies Guild.
October 28—Near East Foundation’s Centennial Gala Celebration, 6:30 pm, Cipriani, 25 Broadway, New York. Save the date.
October 31—100th anniversary of Hudson County (NJ) Shakeh Chapter of Armenian Relief Society, under auspices of His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan, Chart House Restaurant, 1700 Harbor Boulevard, Weehawken, New Jersey at 7:30 pm. Sponsored by Dr. Kourkin and Talene Tchorbajian. Featuring Elie Berberian from Canada. Donation $100. For reservations: Knar Kiledjian (201)943-4056; Silva Takvorian (201)779-6744; Marina Yacoubian (201)978-8926.
November 1—Arminstring Ensemble, St. Illuminator Cathedral’s John Pashalian Hall.
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 5—Soorp Asdvadzadzin Church Annual Bazaar, 315 Church Street, Whitinsville, Massachusetts, 10 am to 4:30 pm. Dinners served from 11:30 am. 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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