January 8, 2015

The Prelate’s annual Christmas reception took place on the evening of January 6 filling the Prelacy’s Vahakn and Hasmig Hovnanian reception hall with many well-wishers from the metropolitan New York area who were greeted by the Prelate, Archbishop Oshagan, and the Vicar, Bishop Anoushavan. The traditional Home Blessing service was offered by Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian, pastor of St. Illuminator’s Cathedral, with the participation of area clergy, Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian, pastor of St. Sarkis Church (Douglaston, NY) and Rev. Fr. Hovnan Bozoian, pastor of Sts. Vartanantz Church (Ridgefield, NJ).

The Armenian tradition of Home Blessing can be done throughout the year, but is especially popular with the faithful during the holy days of Christmas and Easter. During this ceremony, the officiating clergyman blesses bread, water, and salt, all considered to be essential to life. It is customary to burn incense, echoing the words of the psalmist, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you.” (Psalm 41)

O Christ our God, guardian and hope of all our faithful, protect and keep in peace your people under the protection of your holy and venerable cross; and especially this family, their home, the bread, the salt, and the water. Save them O Lord from visible and invisible enemies and make them worthy to glorify you with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always, forever and ever. Amen. (Benediction from the Armenian Blessing of Homes service).
Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian conducts the traditional Home Blessing service at the Prelacy during the Prelate’s Christmas reception at the Prelacy. From left, Dn. Vahan Kouyoumdjian, Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian, Archbishop Oshagan, Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian, Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Rev. Fr. Hovnan Bozoian, and Dn. Bedros Kalaydjian.

Last Sunday, January 4, parishioners of Sts. Vartanantz Church in Ridgefield, New Jersey, witnessed the uplifting ordination service of five young members of the parish to the rank of acolyte (tbir), with Archbishop Oshagan officiating. The minor orders of Doorkeeping (Trnaban), Reader (Untertsogh), and Candle Bearer (Mohmagrogh) were granted to Armand Charkhutian, Shaunt K. Doghramadjian, Antranig Essendir, Arthur Kesenci, and Aram Kouyoumdjian, who were deemed prepared to enter into service to God to perform the responsibilities entrusted to them.

The ordination service took place during the Divine Liturgy, before the Lord’s Prayer. At the conclusion of the Liturgy a reception, hosted by Sarkis and Mary Ohanessian, took place in honor of the newly ordained acolytes.
The five candidates kneel at the altar as Archbishop Oshagan begins the ordination service.
Archbishop Oshagan and Rev. Fr. Hovnan Bozoian with the newly ordained acolytes (top row) with deacons, and choir members.

A Pilgrimage to experience the Blessing of the Holy Oil (Muronorhnek) in Antelias, Lebanon, is being organized with two options: Option A, to Lebanon only (July 12-21); Option B, to Lebanon, Armenia and Artsakh (July 12-28). Space is limited; reservations must be made by February 12. Check details below:

During the coming new year of 2015 Armenians worldwide will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide that many believed to be the death-knell of the Armenian people. The narrative of the resilience of the Armenian people, the strength of the survivors through their faithfulness to their Lord is truly a miraculous story.

Special events are scheduled in Washington, D.C., May 7 to 9, 2015, that include an ecumenical prayer service, a Pontifical Divine Liturgy, memorial concert, and a banquet that will honor organizations and individuals who came to the aid of Armenian survivors. The Catholicoi, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, will be present to preside over the events. Armenians from all over the United States are expected to participate in solidarity and unity.

In New York, commemorative events will take place on April 24, 25, and 26, including the annual Times Square program that is sponsored each year by the Knights and Daughters of Vartan.

Below are details of the events in Washington, D.C.

Armenian Churches throughout the world celebrated Christmas on Tuesday, January 6, remaining faithful to the original date marking the birth and baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Antelias, Lebanon, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator. His Holiness began his sermon by reminding the people that God had expressed his desire to show humanity the way to faith, love, and hope by sending His only begotten son (John 3:16). Jesus assured the sick, the sinners, and the oppressed of God’s love through his teaching, and repeatedly said, “Do not be afraid, just believe” (Mark 5:36). The Evangelists and apostles also stated, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Read the message (in Armenian) here.

The parishes of the Eastern Prelacy celebrated the birth and baptism with record attendance of the faithful at Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. Everywhere children played a major role in the celebrations.

St. Illuminator’s Cathedral, New York City
Archbishop Oshagan conducts the Blessing of the Water service following the Christmas Divine Liturgy at St. Illuminator’s Cathedral in New York City. The Godfather of the Cross was Ara Indzhigulyan.
Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey
Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian celebrated the Divine Liturgy on Christmas at Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey. The Blessing of the Water service followed the Liturgy with the Godfather of the Cross, Armen Alashaian.
St. Gregory Church, North Andover, Massachusetts
Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian, pastor of St. Gregory Church of Merrimack Valley, in North Andover, Massachusetts during the Blessing of Water ceremony, with Deacons John Saryan (left) and Avedis Garabanian. Godfather of the Cross was Jeffrey Sarkisian.
St. Stephen’s Church, Watertown, Massachusetts
Very Rev. Fr. Zareh Sarkissian conducts the Blessing of the Water service at St. Stephen’s Church in Watertown, Massachusetts. Archpriest Fr. Antranig Baljian was the celebrant of the Liturgy. The Godfather of the Cross was Avedis Antranig Bell, grandson of Der Antranig.
Sts. Vartanantz Church, Providence, Rhode Island
Rev. Fr. Kapriel Nazarian conducts the Blessing of the Water service at Sts. Vartanantz Church, Providence, Rhode Island. Godfather of the Cross was Garo Tarpinian.
St. Stephen’s Church, New Britain, Connecticut
Students of St. Stephen Church in New Britain, Connecticut, present the story of Christmas and the visit of the three kings. Throughout the month of December, Archpriest Fr. Aram Stepanian, pastor, focused on presenting the true meaning of Christmas to the parishioners.
Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey
Young students of Nareg Armenian School, Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey, in a Christmas presentation.
Sunday School students at Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey present the beautiful Christmas story.

Bible readings for Sunday, January 11: 1 Thessalonians 4:12-17; John 11:1-46.

“…so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one. But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:12-17)

For a listing of the coming week’s Bible readings click here.

This Tuesday, January 13, the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of the Naming of our Lord Jesus Christ, in accordance with the Hebrew tradition. The commemoration of this event (Matthew 1:20-23; Luke 1:30-32; Luke 2:21) comes seven days after the Feast of the Nativity (the eighth day of the octave of Nativity). This event of the naming and circumcision of our Lord is the basis for the tradition of baptizing children eight days after birth—a tradition that is rarely followed now. “After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21)


This Thursday, January 15, the Armenian Church commemorates the Feast of the Birth of St. John the Forerunner (also known as St. John the Baptist). John is an important figure in the New Testament and is mentioned prominentl6y in all four Gospels, which indicates that he had an effective ministry baptizing those who repented their sins. He announced the coming of “on greater” than himself who is “to come baptizing not with water but with the Spirit.” (See Matthew 3:11-12; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16-17; John 1:26-27). According to the Gospel of Luke, John was the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Elizabeth was a cousin of Mary. John is considered to be the last of the Old Testament prophets and the precursor of the Messiah. John is one of the two prime intercessors to Jesus Christ, the other being Mary, the mother of our Lord.

“Hasten to our help from on high, Saint John, apostle and prophet and forerunner and baptizer of the Son of God and intercede for us before Christ. You are the priest who offered himself on the cross; beseech him to grant purification from sins to me who composed this hymn and to those who celebrate your memory; Saint John, intercede for us before Christ.”
(Canon for the Nativity of John the Baptist according to the Liturgical Canons of the Armenian Church)
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee(ANEC)
Baku Pogrom (January 13, 1990)

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, which had a large Armenian community since the late nineteenth century, was the theater of anti-Armenian massacres in 1905 and 1918. In January 1990, the local community was persecuted, massacred, and forced to leave the city forever.

The beginning of the Karabagh conflict, followed by the pogrom of Sumgait in February 1988, was marked with a violent Azerbaijani response to the peaceful Armenian demonstrations and claims. Exchange of population started. However, while Armenians were expelled by force from Kirovabad (currently Ganja, the second city of Azerbaijan) in the fall of 1988, as well as from other locations, Azerbaijanis were able to sell their properties and leave Armenia without being disturbed.

Azerbaijani mass media, and particularly television, were flooded with anti-Armenian propaganda, which paved the way for violence. The Popular Front of Azerbaijan, a nationalist and anti-communist movement, called to expel Armenians from Baku and take up their homes. Killings and robbery became frequent throughout 1989.

On December 1 of that year, the Supreme Councils of the Armenian SS Republic and the Mountainous Karabagh Autonomous Region passed a joint resolution on the formal unification of Armenia and Karabagh. This resolution triggered the anti-Armenian massacre of Baku from January 13-19, 1990 as a direct response.

The violence was preceded by demonstrations of the Popular Front, which called for the defense of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty from Armenian demands. Groups of young Azerbaijanis roamed the streets, terrorizing Armenians and warning them to leave Baku. Azaddin Gyulmamedov, a young Azerbaijani who attended the rally in Baku on January 13 and witnessed the outbreak of anti-Armenian violence, gave the following testimony: “We went to see what was happening. We saw these guys in the streets. I don't know who they were - drug addicts, maybe. They had sticks and clubs, and lists of Armenians and where they lived. They wanted to break down the doors of Armenian apartments and chase them out. The police didn't do anything. They just stood and watched. Same with the soldiers, who had weapons. We asked them to help. There were about a dozen soldiers and ten of us, and there were about twenty in the gang, but the soldiers wouldn't help. They said: 'You can do it yourself, Blackie. We're not getting involved.’”

At nightfall of January 12-13, attacks started; Armenian homes were set on fire and looted, while Armenians were killed or injured. The homes of Armenians had been previously identified and mapped, while law enforcement bodies stood idle, and ambulance people made fake medical certificates, according to which the deaths of Armenians were caused by circulatory injury and not by the violence.
An elderly Armenian woman is one of many evacuees that escaped Baku after the massacres of Armenians by Azeris began in mid-January of 1990.
According to Radio Liberty, on the night of January 14 alone, 25 people were killed in the Armenian district. The Russian daily Izvestia reported on January 18 and 19 that 64 cases of pogrom had been identified, with Armenians as victims, on January 16, and 45 pogroms and arsons of residential houses on January 17. The New York Times wrote on January 19: “Nationalists in Lithuania are struggling to wrest independence from Moscow by nonviolent, political means. Nationalists in Azerbaijan also talk of independence, but their protest includes bloody pogroms against their Armenian neighbors.”

One of the leaders of the National Front of Azerbaijan, Etibar Mamedov, testified about the cruelties and the lack of official intervention: “I myself witnessed the murder of two Armenians near the railway station. A crowd gathered, threw petrol on them and burned them, whereas the regional militia division was only 200 meters away with some 400-500 soldiers of the internal forces. The soldiers passed by the burning bodies at a distance of some 20 meters, and nobody attempted to circle the area and dissolve the crowd.”

Central authorities in Moscow did little to stop the violence until January 20, when Soviet troops entered Baku and declared the state of emergency. As Moscow News wrote on February 4, “the troops entered the town seized with pogroms not to stop them, but to prevent the final seizure of power by the People’s Front of Azerbaijan, which was planned for January 20.” Most Armenians fled Baku. Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov and his family was among the evacuees. Kasparov later testified:  “No one would halt the Armenian pogroms in Baku, although there were eleven thousand soldiers of internal troops in the city. No one would intervene until the ethnic cleansing was carried out. The pogroms were happening not in a random place but in the huge capital city with blocks of flats. In such a megapolis as Baku the crowd simply cannot carry out targeted operations like that. When the pogrom-makers go purposefully from one district to another, from one apartment to another this means that they had been given the addresses and that they had a coordinator.”

The number of victims of the Armenian massacres in Baku is not clear yet, with estimates going up to 400. The events were never assessed from a legal point of view and the damages were not repaid.

Previous entries in “This Week in Armenian History” can be read on the Prelacy’s web site (www.armenianprelacy.org).
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The 2015 color poster of the Liturgical Calendar of the Armenian Apostolic Church is now available at the Prelacy. This 27x36 inch poster belongs in every classroom, church hall and home.

The Armenian Apostolic Church uses a liturgical calendar to mark its feasts and fasts and seasons, like all traditional churches but with its own unique features. As one can readily see, the Armenian Church year has eight seasons, depicted on the poster in different colors with the names of the seasons indicated in the outermost ring: 1) Nativity and Epiphany, 2) Lent, 3) Easter, 4) Pentecost, 5) Transfiguration, 6) Assumption of the Holy Mother of God, 7) Exaltation of the Holy Cross, 8) Advent. The innermost ring shows the months.

The weeks of the year are represented by the sectors of the circle, starting with Sunday and moving towards the center, with slots for each day of the week. Sunday is the first day of the week, mi-ya-shapat (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1), the day Jesus rose from the dead. Christians from the earliest times designated Sunday as “the day of the Lord” (deroonee / deroonagan). The word geeragee (Sunday) comes from the Greek Kyriaki, meaning dominical, lordly, royal. Thus, all Sundays are dominical days, commemorating and celebrating the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ (along with other dominical celebrations, such as the ascension, transfiguration, and so forth). Some dominical feasts could also be celebrated during the week, for instance, the Nativity and Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ on January 6.
In addition to dominical (deroonee) feasts, we also have feasts dedicated to saints. On saints’ days the church remembers and celebrates those Christians who have bore an exemplary witness to Jesus Christ and to his gospel—these include the apostles, the martyrs, the confessors, teachers, ascetics, bishops, priests, deacons, kings, queens, princes, and people from all walks of life, male and female, young and old. In our tradition, saints are commemorated and celebrated on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, except during the weekdays of Great Lent and the 50 days of Easter. This coming year, the Armenian Church will canonize the martyrs of 1915 genocide as saints.

The church does not always celebrate. There are also days of fasting, set aside for self-restrain and self-examination; hence festivities are not compatible with the ethos of the days of fasting. In the Armenian tradition, Wednesdays and Fridays are designated as days of fasting, except during the eight days of the Christmas festivities and during the forty days after Easter festivities. We also have ten weeklong fasts preceding major feasts and commemorations, observed from Monday through Friday, except for the fast of the Nativity which is six days. And there is the great fast (medz bahk) of Great Lent, preceding the feast of feasts: the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (Easter).

The liturgical calendar poster indicates all these with names and dates—showing all Sundays and other dominical days, saints’ days, and days of fasting.

As part of the celebration and commemoration of feasts and saints’ days, as well as observing days of fasting, the Armenian Church has assigned Bible readings for all these days. To see the daily Bible readings prescribed in our lectionary, please visit the Prelacy's website at armenianprelacy.org. And for more info about Feast and Fast, please click here.

To order copies of the liturgical calendar poster, please contact the Prelacy at 212-689-7810 or at arec@armenianprelacy.org. The cost of the poster is $5.00 plus shipping and handling.


An article in the December 18 issue of Crossroads about the 60th anniversary of St. Gregory Church in Granite City, Illinois, omitted the name of one of the parishioners who were honored during the anniversary banquet. Henry Ohanian was also honored along with six others. We regret the omission and express congratulations to all seven honorees.


The January 5, 2015 issue of The New Yorker features an article written by Raffi Khatchadourian titled “A Century of Silence.” It is the story of his grandfather who survived the genocide and lived in Diarbakir until the early 1950s. It provides a very compelling contemporary story while providing the history of Diarbakir and its Saint Giragos Armenian Church that was recently restored, and the genocide of 1915.

The timing of the article is reminiscent of 1975, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the genocide, when The New Yorker published in three consecutive issues the full text of Michael J. Arlen’s Passage to Ararat.

Although we urge you purchase the issue, “A Century of Silence” can be read here.
January 18—“The Near East Relief Historical Society—Remembering the Past, Investing in the Future,” a presentation by Molly Sullivan, Esq., Director & Curator, Near East Relief Historical Society—Near East Foundation, 1 pm at St. Sarkis Church, Douglaston, New York. For more information: anahide@aol.com.

February 7—Armenian Relief Society, NJ Shakeh Chapter presents “The Sound of Music” (in Armenian), performed by the Bedros Atamian Theatrical Group of Hamazkayin Sanahin Chapter, Montreal, Canada. Director and playwright, Lena Khacherian, at Fort Lee High School, 3000 Lemoine Avenue, Fort Lee, New Jersey. Tickets: $50, $35, $25. Contact: Ani Keshishian 201-417-0204; Anik Kechichian 201-394-4408; Lena Tarakjian 201-592-7991.

February 9-11—Ghevontiantz gathering of clergy serving the Eastern Prelacy.

March 1—One Nation, One Culture: A Cultural Evening of Song & Dance dedicated to the Armenian Genocide 100th Anniversary, Felician College, 262 South Main Street, Lodi, New Jersey at 4 pm. Organized by the New Jersey chapter of Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society, with co-sponsorship of AGBU Ararat NY, Homenetmen Regional Executive, Armenian Relief Society of Eastern USA, and Tekeyan Cultural Association of Greater New York.

March 5—Official opening of Exhibit on Armenian textiles, “Stitching to Survive: Handwork of Armenian Women,” 6-8 pm, at the United Nations, New York. Reception to follow. Organized by the Armenian Relief Society, Inc., and the Permanent Mission of Armenia to the UN.

March 6—Conference, “Rebuilding a Nation: The Armenian Woman’s Century of Resistance and Empowerment,” 10 am-4 pm, at Salvation Army Auditorium, 221 East 52nd Street, New York City. Organized by the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of the Armenian Relief Society, Inc.

March 13-15—“Responsibility 2015,” International conference for Armenian Genocide’s centennial at Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York, featuring prominent historians, policymakers, authors, and artists. Organized by the ARF Eastern US Centennial Committee, under the auspices of the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of America, Eastern Region. www.responsibility2015.com for information.

March 20—Musical Armenia, presented by Eastern Prelacy and Prelacy Ladies Guild, Weill Recital Hall, 8 pm, Carnegie Hall, New York City. Featured artists Patil Harboyan, piano and Heather Tuach, cello, will present a program dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide that will include works of Armenian composers Atamian, Babajanian, Gomidas, Khatchaturian, Saradjian, Stepanian, and Talalyan. Tickets are $25 and will be on sale after December 20th at the box office and the Prelacy, 212-689-7810.

March 13-15—International conference, “Responsibility 2015” marking the Armenian Genocide’s centennial, at Marriott Marquis Hotel, New York City. Organized by the ARF Eastern United States Centennial Committee, under the auspices of the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of America, Eastern Region. For information visit the web site (www.responsibility2015.com).

April 25—Connecticut Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day at the Connecticut State Capitol. Keynote speaker: Noted author Chris Bohjalian.

April 26—Centennial commemoration of Genocide. Joint united Divine Liturgy in New York City (site to be announced), presided by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan. To be followed by Times Square gathering “100 Years to Remember.”

May 7, 8, 9—National Armenian Genocide Centennial Commemoration in Washington, DC, organized under the patronage of the Diocese and the Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Presided by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of the Great House of Cilicia. May 7, Ecumenical Service at the National Cathedral, 7 pm; May 8, A Journey Through Armenian Music at the Music Center at Strathmore, 7:30 pm; May 8 & 9, Exhibits, Films, and Events at various venues; May 9, Divine Liturgy at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 10 am; May 9, A Time to Give Thanks, banquet, 6 pm (location to be announced).

May 10 to June 4—Pontifical Visit of His Holiness Aram I to the Eastern Prelacy.

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.
Web pages of the parishes can be accessed through the Prelacy’s web site.

To ensure the timely arrival of Crossroads in your electronic mailbox, add email@armenianprelacy.org to your address book.

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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