August 13, 2015
Archbishop Oshagan will travel to Whitinsville, Massachusetts this weekend where on Sunday he will celebrate the Divine Liturgy and deliver the sermon at Sts. Asdvadzadzin Church and preside over the Blessing of the Grapes and the parish’s annual picnic.

Bishop Anoushavan will visit the parish of St. Sarkis in Dearborn, Michigan. His Grace will celebrate the traditional Blessing of Grapes service and preside over the picnic following the Liturgy and the Grape Blessing.

On the occasion of the Feast of the Assumption and Blessing of Grapes there will be a live broadcast via satellite by the Noursat Broadcast network of the Holy Liturgy presided by His Holiness Aram I, on Saturday, August 15. In the New York metropolitan area (and most of the east coast) the broadcast will begin at 1 pm on Saturday. To watch the ceremonies online, save this issue of Crossroads and click on this link which will take you to the live broadcast.

Bishop Anoushavan will deliver the invocation at the opening session of the Armenian Relief Society’s 2015 convention that is taking place in Detroit. The Vicar will also deliver the invocation at the convention’s closing banquet.

Last Sunday Archbishop Oshagan presided over the Blessing of Grapes ceremony and the offering of Madagh by Sts. Vartanantz Church of Providence, Rhode Island, during the parish’s annual picnic at Camp Haiastan in Franklin, Massachusetts.

St. Stephen’s Church, Watertown, Massachusetts conducted the Blessing of Water ceremony with the newly consecrated Holy Oil last Sunday, August 9, as did all of the parishes of the Eastern Prelacy.
Archpriest Fr. Antranig Baljian conducts the Blessing of Water along with deacons, altar servers, and choir members at St. Stephen’s Church in Watertown, last Sunday, August 9.
St. Stephen’s annual picnic took place on Sunday, August 2, at Camp Haiastan during which the Blessing of the Grapes took place. Archpriest Fr. Antranig Baljian and V. Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishyan with deacons and altar servers conduct the ceremony. From left, John Daghlian, Ara Barsoumian, Stephen Megerdichian, Albert Barsoumian, Der Antranig, Hayr Sahag, Archpriest Fr. Gomidas Baghsarian, and Rev. Fr. Mikael Der Kosrofian.
Bible readings for Sunday, August 16, Feast of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God, Song of Songs 4:9-15; 8:14; Isaiah 7:10-16; Galatians 3:29-4:7; Luke 2:1-7. Lections for blessing of grapes: Proverbs 3:9-10; Isaiah 65:8-10; Hebrews 6:16-7:7; John 15:1-8.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” (John 15:1-8)

For a listing of the coming week’s Bible readings click here.
This Saturday, August 15, is the Feast of Shoghakat of Holy Etchmiadzin that is always observed on the Saturday prior to the Feast of the Assumption. Shoghakat refers to the vision of St. Gregory and the rays of light when God chose the site for the Mother Cathedral. The feast is celebrated at the time of Assumption because the Cathedral in Etchmiadzin is named in honor of the Holy Mother, although through the years it became known as Etchmiadzin and Shoghakat refers to the three nearby churches of St. Gayaneh, St. Hripsimeh, and St. Shoghakat.
Interior of Holy Shoghakat Church in Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin), Armenia
A detail of the "Assumption of the Virgin" by Nicholas Poussin
The Blessed Virgin Mary holds a high place in the Armenian Church, next to Christ. We begin our Divine Liturgy with these words, “Through the intercession of the holy Mother of God, O Lord, receive our supplications and save us.” In every Armenian Church the painting on the main altar is of Mary, holding the infant Savior. The Gospels teach us that Mary was blessed and called by God to fulfill God’s divine plan of salvation.  Mary has a primary place of honor because through her and by the Holy Spirit God became incarnate, became human.

This Sunday, August 18, the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption (Verapokoum) of the Holy Mother of God, the fourth of the five major feast days in our Liturgical Calendar, and the Blessing of the Grapes. Verapokoum in classical Armenian means “transport up.” According to tradition, when the Holy Mother died she was buried by the apostles. Bartholomew, who was not present at her funeral, wished to visit her grave. When the gravestone was lifted they were surprised to find that her body had disappeared. It was believed that Christ had come and taken his mother to the Heavenly Kingdom. Based on this event, the Church Fathers established the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is one of the five tabernacle feast days in the Armenian Church’s liturgical calendar. The feast is preceded by a week (five days) of fasting and followed by a memorial day.

Because Bartholomew was very fond of the Holy Mother, the apostle John gave him an image of her (which she had given to John). Bartholomew took this image with him to Armenia to Darbnots Kar in the province of Antsev, Vaspourakan (Western Armenia) where a convent for nuns, Hogyats Vank (Monastery of the Spirits), was built and where the icon was kept. Most depictions of Bartholomew show him holding this icon.

The concept of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is old as evidenced in sacred prose and poetry dedicated to the Holy Mother. However, it did not become a basic doctrine of the church until the ninth century and it was in the twelfth century that the feast was called “The Assumption.”

This Sunday is the name day for those named Mariam, Maro, Mary, Mari, Makrouhi, Mayrenie, Maroush, Serpouhi, Dirouhi, Takouhi, Lousig, Lousnag, Arousiag, Arpine, Markarid, Nazig, Azniv, Seta, Dzaghig, Verjin, Arshalouys.

The Blessing of the Grapes takes place on the Feast of the Assumption, although there is no connection between the two holidays. This ceremony is rooted in the Biblical tradition as commanded by God to the Israelites, through Moses, to donate the “first bearing of all their fruits, on the Tabernacle in order that with this first offering all fruits would receive Your blessing…” The hymn Park Sourp Khatchet (Glory to Your Sacred Cross) is sung; Biblical passages are recited, followed by a prayer composed by Catholicos Nerses Shnorhali specifically for this occasion. After the prayer, the grapes are blessed three times with the words Orhnestsee Bahbanestsee and then the blessed grapes are distributed to the faithful, many of whom have refrained from eating grapes through the year until after this blessing.

Certainly we can say that the Blessing of the Grapes is a celebration of the fruitfulness of the earth. Grapes are one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. Noah planted a vineyard immediately after disembarking from the Ark (Genesis, Chapter 9) in Nakhichevan, Armenia. And, of course, the wine of the Divine Liturgy comes from grapes.

Bless, O Lord, the grape plants and vineyards from which these grapes are taken and presented to the holy church, and make them bountiful and fruitful; let them be like good and fertile land, protect the vineyard from all kinds of misfortune and destruction  which come from above because of our sins, from hail, from cold, from hot winds, and from destructive insects, so that we may enjoy that which You have created in this world for our enjoyment and for Your glory, and grant that we may be worthy to eat and drink with You from the bounty of Your most fruitful vine at the table of Your Father’s Kingdom, according to the just promise which You made, to the honor and glory of Your coexisting Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the most Holy Spirit to whom is due glory, power, and honor, now and forever. Amen.
(From the prayer written by Catholicos Nerses Shnorhali for the Blessing of the Grapes) 
Monday, August 17, is Memorial Day (Merelotz). In accordance with the tradition of the Armenian Church, the day after each of the five tabernacle feasts is designated as a Memorial Day, a day of remembrance of the dead. Traditionally, on Merelotz the Divine Liturgy is celebrated with a requiem service for all souls and for those specifically requested. Following the service the clergy and faithful go to the cemetery where the graves of loved ones are blessed.
It has been an extraordinary year and the momentum continues. St. Mary’s Monastery in Bikfaya, Lebanon, the summer home of the Catholicos and the year-round campus of the Theological Seminary, has received a steady stream of visitors from all around the world.

As we have been reporting the Blessing of the Holy Muron brought thousands of pilgrims to Bikfaya. But even before that, the Monastery warmly received visitors from around the globe throughout this Centennial year of the Armenian Genocide.

Most recently, fifty pilgrims from Uruguay came to the Monastery to visit the newly constructed Genocide Memorial. Afterwards they met with His Holiness who welcomed them and spoke fondly of his first visit to Uruguay. He once again expressed his gratitude to the people of Uruguay for being the first country in 1983 to recognize the Armenian Genocide. The South American pilgrims also visited the Catholicosate in Antelias, as well as the Birds Nest Orphanage and the newly dedicated Armenian Genocide Orphans Museum.

This weekend pilgrims from various areas of Lebanon, neighboring countries, and from around the world will come to Bikfaya for the Feast of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God and the Blessing of the Grapes. The mountain setting of Bikfaya with its surrounding fruit trees and vineyards, couldn’t be better for this much-loved Feast dedicated to the Holy Mother. Since last Monday, when a week long fast began leading to the Feast Day, pilgrims have been attending lectures, prayers, and meditations at St. Mary’s Chapel around the theme, “Following the steps of the Mother of God.” The pilgrimage will conclude on Saturday in the evening when his Holiness blesses the grapes and celebrates the Holy Liturgy on the newly built open-air altar dedicated to the Holy Martyrs.

The General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches (NECC), Dr. Michel Jalekh and Dr. Michel Nseir, from the World Council of Churches (WCC) met with His Holiness Aram to discuss matters linked to the two Councils and the region. Concerning the strengthening of cooperation between the two Councils, they discussed the possibility of jointly organizing a conference of the heads of the churches in the Middle East.  His Holiness said the conference should affirm the Christian roots of the Middle East and analyze the core causes of the conflict. The General Secretary and Catholicos also discussed the agenda of the forthcoming Executive Committee meeting of the MECC.
Although it was in the middle of the summer when many families are away, 150 people came to St. Illuminator’s Cathedral in New York City on Saturday, August 8 for a “Bach and Before” concert that featured Lucine Musaelian on the bass viola da gamba and Joyce Chen on the harpsichord. The program included the gems of the Baroque and Renaissance eras that included the works of composers Johann Sebastian Bach, Marin Marais, Georg Philipp Telemann, Francois Couperin, Christopher Simpson, and Tobias Huma.
Lucine Musaelian is a rising senior in Horace Mann School in Riverdale. She began playing the viola da gamba in 2006 with John Mark Rozendaal, and has been studying with Martha McGaughey since 2010. For several years, Lucine has been a part of the Amherst Early Music Festival's Baroque Academy where she took master classes from Sarah Cunningham, Vittorio Ghielmi, Wendy Gillespie and Paolo Pandolfo.  Lucine is also enrolled in the Precollege Division of the Manhattan School of Music where she is a voice student of Karen Beardsley and sings in the Opera Workshop.
Joyce Chan holds a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently a doctoral candidate in Harpsichord Performance and an M.A./PhD student in Music History/Theory at Stony Brook University. She was appointed Assistant Conductor/Opera Accompanist at the 2013 Amherst Early Music Festival, where she participated in the opera production of Purcell's Fairy Queen and studied under conductor GaryWedow (New York City Opera). Joyce has been the principal harpsichordist in San Francisco Bach Festival's highlight productions.

On behalf of a very appreciative audience, Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Vicar General, expressed heartfelt congratulations and thanks to the two artists for their spectacular performance.
Joyce Chan and Lucine Musaelian with Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian and Bishop Anoushavan. At right are parents of Ms. Musaelian.
Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)
Death of St. Nerses Shnorhali
(August 13, 1173)
One of the saints of the Armenian and the universal Church, Nerses Shnorhali, is also one of the most revered names in the Armenian Christian tradition. He was known with the appellative of Shnorhali (“Graceful”) due to his multiple talents: he was theologian, poet, musicologist, composer, and historian, and excelled in all those endeavors

Nerses Klayetsi was born in the castle of Tzovk, in the district of Tluk, in the Armenian Mesopotamia (the area around the city of Edesa or Urfa) in 1102. He belonged to the princely Pahlavuni family. His great-grandfather was Grigor Pahlavuni or Magistros (990-1058), a famous writer, scholar, and public official.

After the early death of his father, Prince Apirat Pahlavuni, Nerses and his older brother Grigor were placed under the guardianship of their maternal great uncle, Catholicos Grigor II Martyrophile (1066-1105), who placed them in the monastery at Fhoughri. Later, Grigor’s successor, Barsegh (1105-1113) sent them to the school of the monastery of Karmir Vank, headed by Bishop Stepanos Manouk, a highly regarded scholar and theologian.

Nerses’ brother Grigor became Catholicos at the age of 21, in 1113. Nerses was ordained a celibate priest in 1119 and consecrated a bishop at the age of 35, in 1137. He was one of the best educated men of his time.

He assisted Catholicos Grigor III in moving the Catholicosate to Dzovk, on the property of their father, in 1125. This move was brief, as in 1151 the Catholicosate moved its headquarters to the fortress of Hromkla, near the Euphrates River (Nerses’ surname “Klayetsi” was derived from the name of the fortress). In 1165 hostilities broke out between Toros II, Prince of Cilicia, and one of the strongest princes of the country, Oshin of Lambron. Grigor III sent his brother to mediate.

On his way to the mediation, Nerses met Byzantine governor Alexios and discussed the strained relations between the Armenian and Greek churches since the Greek Orthodox Church had declared that the Armenian Church and the Jacobite Church were heretics in 1140. This discussion impressed the Byzantine governor to the point that he urged the Armenian bishop to write an exposition of the Armenian faith. Nerses stressed in his letter that, as both the Armenian and Greek churches accepted the statements of the first Council of Ephesus (431), there was no clear reason for them not to be in agreement, and did not make any polemical statements about the later Council of Chalcedon and its Confession.

On Nerses’ return from his successful mediation effort and the death of his brother shortly thereafter, he was made Catholicos of the Armenian Church. He convened a council with emissaries selected by Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenos to discuss how they might be able to reunite the two churches (1171). The terms the emperor offered were, however, unacceptable to both Nerses and the Armenian Church, and the negotiations collapsed.

Nerses Shnorhali passed away on August 13, 1173 and was buried in the fortress of Hromkla. The Armenian Church celebrates him as a saint on October 13, during the feast of the Holy Translators, while the Catholic Church also celebrates him, but on August 13.

His prolific literary output included long poems like Lament of Edesa (1145-1146), Jesus the Son (1152), and others, such as the cosmological poem About the Sky and Its Ornaments. He refined and completed the Sharaknots (collection of liturgical hymns) and the Divine Liturgy, enriching it with his own songs, whose number amounts to more than a hundred. One of his best sharakans is the well-known Morning of Light (Առաւօտ լուսոյ, Aravod luso). He also composed some 300 riddles, extracted from Armenian folklore. His Universal Epistle, written in 1166 and addressed to the entire Armenian people, was particularly influential in Armenian medieval thought.

Previous entries in “This Week in Armenian History” are on the Prelacy’s web site (
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For the milestone 50th podcast Der Nareg presents a potpourri of “goodies” including:
Special Greetings from Fans; Message from Guz Lloyd of the Catholic Channel on Sirius Radio; Interview with Dr. Lynn Cetin and Mr. Edward Barsamian regarding Armenian American Night in Long Island; Among other things with Veh and Der Nareg; and a lot more….

Click on the image above to link to the Podcast
The History of the Armenian Genocide
By Ronald Grigor Suny

This new book by Ronald Grigor Suny, utilizes eyewitness accounts and archival documents to present a history of the Armenian Genocide that considers international and Ottoman national events and psychological factors forming the backdrop of this tragedy. Suny’s focus sets aside national narratives and denialist rhetoric, choosing to center on the when, how, and why the Armenian Genocide happened.

490 pages, hardcover, $35.00 plus shipping & handling
The Legacy of Lost Things
By Aida Zilelian

This novel by Aida Zilelian traces the lives of an Armenian American family whose teenage daughter goes missing from their home in New York. The story takes place among the backdrop of the extended family affected by their culture and history. Exploring themes of love, family, memories, and hope, Zilelian’s novel spans generations and continents, from Romania to Beirut to the United States.

195 pages, softcover, $14.95 plus shipping and handling.

To order these or other books contact the Prelacy Bookstore by email ( or telephone (212-689-7810).
August 16—Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey, Annual Picnic at the Wild Duck Pond, Ridgewood, New Jersey,following the Badarak.

August 16—Annual Picnic and Blessing of Grapes, Soorp Asdvadzazin Church, 315 Church Street, Whitinsville, Massachusetts, under the auspices of Archbishop Oshagan. Lunch served beginning at noon. Shish kebab, chicken keba, losh kebab, desserts, choreg sale. Live music, Siroonig dancers, rain or shine. For information: or 508-234-3677.

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 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.
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