December 22, 2016
PRELATE'S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

In his 2017 Christmas message, Archbishop Oshagan challenges us to think about the legacy of the infinite love our forefathers had for Christ and His commandments that they passed down to us. 

His Eminence advises us:  The Feast of the Holy Nativity and Baptism is on January 6. Are we prepared to hear God’s testimony? Are we worthy of continuing our childhood, or are the problems of the world going to distance us from the grace that became the key to our nation’s salvation and the source of our creative abilities? God’s paternity takes on meaning and purpose when we accept others as our loved ones, and when we love the needy, the weak, and all those who suffer in the face of evil in the world. Let us go to them and say, You are our beloved brothers and sisters, and we come to visit you on the occasion of the Holy Nativity and Baptism because, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)


Click below to read the Prelate’s Christmas message in

English or Armenian 

CHRISTMAS: DECEMBER 25 OR JANUARY 6?

This Sunday is December 25—Christmas for most of the Christian world. Originally all of Christendom celebrated Epiphany on January 6. (Epiphany was a celebration of the birth, the baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, the First Miracle at the Wedding of Cana, and the visit of the Magi). The gradual change to December 25 began in Rome in the 4th century to coincide with a pre-Christian holiday. December 25 was officially adopted at the Council of Chalcedon in 451—a Council the Armenians did not attend and never accepted. To this day the Armenian Church has remained faithful to the original date of January 6. Of course, the actual date of Jesus’ birth is unknown and both traditions are centuries old. What is important is the spirit and meaning of the celebration. 

ORDINATIONS IN WATERTOWN

Last Sunday (December 18), Archbishop Oshagan celebrated the Divine Liturgy and ordained altar servers at St. Stephen’s Church in Watertown, Massachusetts. Following the Liturgy a celebratory banquet in honor of the newly ordained servers took place in the church hall. 

His Eminence ordained  sub-deacons Ara Barsoumian, Jirair Barsoumian, Albert Barsoumian, and Jirair Iskenderian to the rank of deacon; John Daghlian to rank of subdeacon; and David Toramanian stolebearer. 

Archpriest Fr. Antranig Baljian, pastor of St. Stephen’s, was the religious sponsor for the ordinands, and the godparents were Toros Markarian, Yn. Cheryl Arpineh Baljian, Missak Barsoumian, Hovsep Melkeshian, and Houry Daghlian. Sponsors included Alice Setian, Mr. & Mrs. George Kouyoumjian, Mr. & Mrs. Armen Chakmakjian, and an anonymous individual.

Archbishop Oshagan and Archpriest Fr. Antranig Baljian with the altar servers.

The congregation watches the ordination service. Sunday school principal Nayiri Baljian Bell had conducted an educational curriculum with the students explaining the ordination process and meaning of the various orders.

Archbishop Oshagan with the ordinands, left to right, Jiraryr Iskenderian, Jirayr Barsoumian, Ara Barsoumian, the Prelate, Albert Barsoumian, John Daghlian, and David Toramanian.

BIBLE READINGS

Bible readings for Sunday, December 25, Fifth Sunday of Advent are: Isaiah 41:4-14; 2 Hebrews 7:11-25; Luke 19:12-28.

Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood—for the people received the law under this priesthood—what further need would there have been to speak of another priest arising according to the order of Melchizedek, rather than one according to the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. Now the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
  It is ever more obvious when another priest arises, resembling Melchizedek, one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of him, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” There is, on the one hand, the abrogation of an earlier commandment because it was weak and ineffectual (for the law made nothing perfect); there is, on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope, through which we approach God.
  This was confirmed with an oath; for others who became priests took their office without an oath, but this one became a priest with an oath, because of the one who said to him, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, You are a priest forever’”—accordingly Jesus has also become the guarantee of a better covenant.
  Furthermore, the former priests were many in numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:11-25)

***

So he said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back. But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.’ When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.’ He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.’ Then the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ He said to him, “And you, rule over five cities. Then the other came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest,’ He said to the bystanders, ‘Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ (And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!) I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.’” After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. (Luke 19:12-28)

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

DAVID THE PROPHET KING; HOLY APOSTLE JAMES

This Saturday (December 24) the Armenian Church commemorates David the Prophet King and James the Brother of the Lord.

David was the youngest of eight brothers and was brought up to be a shepherd where he learned courage, tenderness, and caring. David became the second King of Israel. In the Bible, the name David belongs solely to him, which indicates the unique place he had as an ancestor and forerunner of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the New Testament there are more than 50 references to David, including the title given to Jesus—Son of David. David was a poet and the author of some of the Psalms. 


James  the Apostle, called “Brother of the Lord,” probably because of his close relationship with Jesus, was granted a special appearance of the Lord after the Resurrection. He is believed to have been a first cousin of the Lord, or as some biblical scholars have suggested, a son of Joseph. After the Resurrection and the Ascension, while the other apostles scattered all over the world, James remained in Jerusalem where he served as the Bishop and became a leading spokesman of the early church.
ST. STEPHEN, FIRST DEACON AND FIRST MARTYR

On Monday (December 26) the Armenian Church commemorates St. Stephen, the first deacon and proto-martyr. After Christ’s ascension, the apostles went about spreading the Word. It soon became apparent that more people were needed to serve the growing church community. Seven worthy individuals were called upon to serve the Holy Altar and called “deacons” (sarkavag). The most noteworthy of the seven was Stephen, described as a “man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5). The Feast of St. Stephen is a popular and important commemoration in the Armenian Church; it is a day to honor all deacons of the church. Stephen became the first martyr of the Church and is therefore called the “proto-martyr.” The only information about his life and death is in the Book of Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6:8 and 8:2).

THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL

On Tuesday (December 27), the Armenian Church remembers the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, perhaps the two individuals who had the greatest role in the growth and spread of Christianity. After the Crucifixion and Resurrection, Jesus came to Peter and asked him to tell the other apostles about His appearance and give them His message (Luke 24:34-35). Peter was renowned for his oratory skills, and he used his talent to spread the Word. He preached in Rome and founded the church there. He is considered to be the first Bishop of Rome. According to tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome upside down because he declared himself unworthy to die in the same manner as the Lord. He was buried in Rome and his relics are enshrined under the high altar of the magnificent St. Peter’s Basilica. 

Paul (Saul) was born in Tarsus in Cilicia. He was an oppressor of the early Christians until he converted while on the road to Damascus he saw a vision of a bright light and a voice saying, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me? I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Enter the City and you will be told what to do,” (Acts 9:4-6); 26:12-16). Saul was baptized and renamed Paul and he went on to become the greatest preacher of the new religion, traveling and writing extensively. Many theologians credit him for shaping the future of the Church. His fourteen epistles comprise more than one-third of the New Testament, not including the Book of Acts that although written by Luke, is primarily an account of Paul’s travels and preaching.

BIBLE STUDY: “THE WATERS OF IDENTITY”

The first of a two-part Bible study program took place last Thursday at St. Illuminator’s Cathedral in New York City. The theme of the Bible study is “The Waters of Identity”—focusing on biblical imagery used in the baptismal ritual prayers of the Armenian Apostolic Church. 

The Bible study program is sponsored by the Cathedral and the Eastern Prelacy, and is conducted by Dn. Shant Kazanjian, the Prelacy’s director of Christian education. Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian, pastor of the Cathedral, opened the program with a prayer, welcomed everyone, and introduced the speaker. 

Dn. Shant briefly walked the participants through the service of baptism, and then discussed the imagery used in the first half of the service (baptism proper). A question and answer session followed. The program concluded with a table fellowship. 

The second part of the Bible study will take place tonight at the Cathedral from 7:15 to 8:45 pm. New attendees are welcome. For information contact St. Illuminator’s Cathedral by email (office@stilluminators.org) or by phone (212-689-5880).

Last week’s group with Dn. Shant Kazanjian leading the discussion.

CHRISTMAS HANTES IN DOUGLASTON

Following church services last Sunday,  the Sanctuary of St. Sarkis Church in Douglaston, New York, hosted the parish’s annual Christmas Hantes presented by the Suzanne and Hovsep Hagopian Saturday School students. The Church was filled with parents and other family members as the children performed grade by grade. The youngest grades sang traditional Armenian Christmas songs and the older grades recited poems and performed in choral singing.

Afterwards everyone gathered in the Main Hall where there was much cheering and a surprise for all as "Ghaghant Baba" arrived all the way from Armenia. He sang and posed for photos with the children and handed out gifts to all.

CHRISTMAS PAGEANT IN NEW JERSEY

The Sunday school of Sts. Vartanantz Church in Ridgefield, New Jersey presented its annual Christmas Pageant last Sunday after the Divine Liturgy. The parish’s large hall was filled with parents, friends, and parishioners as the students presented a celebration of the Nativity.

Sunday school students at Sts. Vartanantz Church with Rev. Fr. Hovnan Bozoian and teachers and staff members acknowledge the appreciation of the audience.

CONCERT AT THE CATHEDRAL

Last Friday the New York Hamazkayin Dzirani Children's Chorus, led by artistic director and conductor Kevork Hadjian, presented a special Christmas carol concert at St. Illuminator's Cathedral. The event featured the participation of the Arminstring Ensemble presented by musical director Diana Vasilyan. The program included 21 hymns, Christmas songs, and musical pieces by the chorus and string ensemble.

Parents, friends, and community supporters packed the church to enjoy the concert. Before welcoming the children to the stage, New York Hamazkayin Chairperson Armine Minassian made introductory remarks, thanking Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian, the St. Illuminator’s Cathedral Board, and New York ARF Armen Garo Gomideh, who provided unconditional support for the chorus. She also made special mention of the St. Sarkis Church for providing the use of their hall for the children to rehearse.

The inspiring evening concluded with a special reception. In his closing remarks, Der Hayr thanked the performers, both directors, and all the parents. He added that, "This concert is the greatest gift to receive during the holiday season, especially because it has taken place in the Cathedral, in the presence of our martyrs."

Rev. Mesrob Lakissian with community leaders and members of "Dzirani" chorus and "Arminsting" ensemble.

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)
Death of Anita Conti (December 25, 1997)

Anita Conti belongs to the category of remarkable people of Armenian origin to be found throughout history. She was known throughout the world as the first French female oceanographer.

Née Anita Caracotchian, she was born on May 17, 1899, in the French town of Ermont (department of Seine-et-Oise) to a wealthy Armenian family. Her father, Levon, was a doctor, originally from Constantinople. She spent her childhood being educated at home by different tutors and traveling with her family, gradually developing a passion for books and the sea.

After moving to Paris, she focused on writing poems and the art of book binding. Her work got the attention of celebrities and she won different awards and prizes for her creativity in London, Paris, New York, and Brussels with the surname “Anita Cara.” Many years later, when asked about her bookbinding talents, she answered: “I inherited the art of book binding from my dear grandfather Oscan. Browse the wonderful Armenian manuscripts; observe their golden and silver-bound covers with precious stones and everything will be clear for you.”

In 1927 she married a diplomat, Marcel Conti, and started traveling around the world, exploring the seas, documenting and reporting what she saw and experimented. “I never feared anything,” she wrote, “since I understood that the road of all pioneers has been always filled with thorns, and you have to bravely fight to achieve your dreams.”

Her journalistic articles made her well-known. In 1935 Anita Conti was hired by the director of the Scientific and Technical Office of Sea Fishing, and contributed to the launching of the first French oceanographic ship, the Président Théodore Tissier. She did research in the Pacific, Indian, and Arctic oceans from 1936-1938.

After a campaign of cod fishing in the Barents and Spitzberg seas in 1939 aboard the Viking, with a crew of fifty men, she embarked on the minesweepers active in the English Channel and the Northern Sea, and took active part in the operations of mine clearing in Dunkirk from November 1939-January 1940.

She gained a deeper understanding of the issues faced by fishermen by spending time on fishing boats for days and even months on certain occasions. In the interwar period, she developed the technique of fishing maps apart from the already used navigational charts. For two years, she observed the French fishermen along the coast of Saharan Africa and discovered fish species unknown in France. She published many scientific reports on the negative effects of industrial fishing and the different problems related to fishing practices.

From 1943-1952, she studied in the Mauritian islands, Senegal, Guinea, and Ivory Coast the nature of the seabed, different fish species and their nutritional values in regards of protein deficiency for the local populations. Gradually, she developed better preservation techniques and fishing methods, and installed artificial dens for further studies. She even founded an experimental fishery for sharks. She became more and more conscientious of the misuse of natural resources by the fishing industry and the major waste that could be prevented.

In 1947 Conti met legendary oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who later became her good friend and colleague. “Anita is a phenomenon in the history of world oceanography,” he wrote. “This woman with beautiful Armenian traits, endowed with ‘male reasoning,’ is so attractive and sentimental at the same time. . . . The seamen simply worship her for her kind, blithe, and brave nature, and delicately call her ‘La Dame de la Mer’ (The Lady of the Sea).”

She was the only woman among the sixty men of the ship “Bois Rose,” which spent six months on the ocean in 1952. It came back with 1,100 tons of cured fish, as well as 5,000 precious photographs by Anita Conti and the manuscripts of her first book, Racleurs d’océans (Scrapers of Oceans, 1953). The book won the Prix des Vikings in 1954 and was the basis for a documentary film by the author. Encouraged by the literary success of her book, she gathered her notes on Africa and published her second volume, Géants des mers chaudes (Giants of Hot Seas), in 1957. In 1958 she participated in a historic event: the trial in the Mediterranean Sea of the first bathyscaphe at 600 meters of depth.

In 1971 Anita Conti published L’Ocean, Les Bêtes et L’Homme (The Ocean, the Animals, and the Man), to denounce the disaster that men create and its effects on the oceans. Through many conferences and forums and for the rest of her life, she advocated for the improvement of the marine world. She continued her indefatigable traveling and studying well passed her eightieth anniversary.

She died in Douarnenez on December 25, 1997. According to her will, her ashes were spread in the Sea of Ireland in 1998. Two lyceums in France are named after her.

 Previous entries in “This Week in Armenian History” are on the Prelacy’s web page (www.armenianprelacy.org).

A Reflection about Sundays
Sunday and Sundays
By Dn. Shant Kazanjian, Director of Christian Education, Armenian Prelacy

Sunday is our weekly feast, the foundational celebration of the Christian church year. 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. It is “the day of the Lord” ( deroonee / deroonagan ). The word geeragee (Sunday) comes from the Greek Kyriakee , meaning dominical , royal. For us, it is the day of assembly, not a lazy day or a rest day, a day of gathering for the celebration of Soorp Badarak , a day of meeting for corporate worship. But what is this Sunday worship all about? What are we celebrating? And what about all these special Sundays, like, Easter, Pentecost, Transfiguration, and other dominical festivals? How is one Sunday, any Sunday, related to other Sundays in our Church year? A brief reflection.

One of the few places in the Bible where the “Lord’s day” is mentioned in conjunction with worship is in the Book of Revelation. At the very beginning of the book we read—“I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, ‘Write in a book what you see…’” (Revelation 1:10-11). Then, still in the same vision, in chapters 4 and 5, John paints a majestic picture of worship taking place in heaven. I want to draw your attention to a few verses:

“And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, ‘You are worthy , our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. ’”  (Revelation 4:9-11)

In chapter five, worship is offered to the “Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered”:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth. ” (Revelation 5:9-10)

And, in Revelation 5:12, we read myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands of angels sing:
Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

Without getting into details, in Revelation 4 and 5, John is depicting worship that is going on now, in heaven, in God’s domain, not something that is going to take place at the end of times. The other thing we should note is that worship—from Old English means to acknowledge the worth of someone—has to do with honoring and praising someone who is worthy. And the worth of someone (or a group, an institution, or a nation) is measured by who that person is and what that person does or has done. Hence, in honoring or praising someone, we highlight that person’s virtues and accomplishments. This is what we read in Revelation 4 and 5 (see my highlights in the text). In Chapter 4, God is worshipped because he is the creator God, he is the sovereign God. And in chapter 5, Jesus is worshiped, because he is the Messiah, the King, who through his sacrificial death has redeemed us. Christian worship entails celebrating and praising who God is and what he has done for us in and through his Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, and it is something that is happening in God’s domain, and every creature is invited to join in this worship celebration (Revelation 5:13).

How do we do that? Well, we do that by telling the story of God through hymns and prayers, long and short, reciting and praising God’s marvelous and mighty deeds, in a thousand different ways. This is what we do every Sunday during the Divine Liturgy ( Soorp Badarak ), which is the central act of worship of the Armenian Church.

Although those hymns and prayers are derived from the Bible, however, to do justice to Christian celebratory worship, we recount God’s saving acts directly from the Bible itself, the only book that tells the official story of God. So on a given Sunday worship, we read two or three passages—one from the Old Testament, another from the epistles, and the final and the climactic reading is always from one of the gospels.

The story of God, of course, extends from Genesis to Revelation, from creation to new creation. That long biblical story reaches its climax in the person and works of Jesus the Messiah—by his coming into this world, his kingdom of God campaign—his healings and teachings and celebrations, but supremely through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, and by his ascension to heaven, and by the sending of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The story ends when Christ returns to establish the kingdom of God on earth as it is already in heaven.

Because of that, the focus of the church’s worship is Jesus the Messiah, our Lord and our Savior—not as he was 2000 years ago, but as he is now, risen and glorified, seated at the right hand of God, worshiped and praised by myriads of myriads of angels. This worship is taking place eternally in God’s dimension, in heaven, a worship to which we—the church, as members of Christ’s body by virtue of faith and baptism into Christ—are invited and privileged to join in. As indeed we do join in this heavenly liturgy in and through the celebration of the Soorp Badarak . We join the heavenly chorus in singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:3 and Soorp Badarak ). And towards the end of the Badarak we thank Christ for having fed us from his table, distributing his body and blood for the salvation of the world, which is a foretaste of the banquet of the Kingdom of God to come. Those examples can be multiplied.

This is what we are celebrating every Sunday, every Lord’s day, throughout the church year. But at different times during the year, while keeping the big narrative in perspective, in rehearsing the saving deeds of God through Christ, the spotlight moves and shines on this or that aspect of the life and redemptive work of Jesus. For instance at Christmas, we are not celebrating the baby Jesus, although in telling God’s story we commemorate his coming into this world as the incarnate Lord. Likewise, at Easter we are not merely commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is here that the Sunday Bible readings go hand in hand with the church calendar, where the readings, as integral and necessary part of celebratory worship, highlight and emphasize various facets and events of Jesus Christ. So every Sunday, every Lord’s day, we are celebrating and worshiping the crucified but risen Jesus the Messiah, as he is now on his throne, as the Lord and king of the world. 
PLEASE DO NOT FORGET:

SYRIAN ARMENIAN COMMUNITY NEEDS OUR HELP MORE THAN EVER
The crisis in Syria requires our financial assistance.
Please keep this community in your prayers, your hearts, and your pocketbooks.

PLEASE DO NOT FORGET OUR ONGOING RELIEF EFFORTS FOR THE ARMENIAN COMMUNITY IN SYRIA WHERE CONDITIONS ARE BECOMING INCREASINGLY MORE DIFFICULT.

THE NEED IS REAL.

THE NEED IS GREAT.

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TO DONATE NOW CLICK HERE AND SELECT SYRIAN ARMENIAN RELIEF IN THE MENU.
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NEW AT THE BOOKSTORE

A Very Prolific Vowel

Armenian First Names

By Nicholas Awde and Emanuela Losi

This 128-page hardcover book lists more than 500 Armenian names for girls and boys. The names are printed in Armenian and English transliteration, along with the meaning of the names. A valuable resource.

$12.00, plus shipping & handling

Child-size Apron

A white apron for a budding chef. Embroidered on the front of the apron in Armenian letters is Mama-een Pokrig Oknaganeh (Mama’s Little Helper).
$18.00, plus shipping & handling

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

CALENDAR OF EVENTS
SIAMANTO ACADEMY —Meets every second Saturday of the month at the Hovnanian School, 817 River Road, New Milford, New Jersey. For information: anec@armenianprelacy.org or 212-689-7810. NEW TERM BEGINS SEPTEMBER 10.

December 15 & 22—Two-part Bible study led by Dn. Shant Kazanjian, Director of the Armenian Religious Education Council, will explore biblical imagery used in the baptismal ritual prayers of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Sponsored by St. Illuminator Cathedral and the Eastern Prelacy. From 7:15 pm to 8:45 pm at St. Illuminator’s Cathedral, 221 East 27th Street, New York City. Registration is required; RSVP by email (office@stilluminators.org) or telephone (212-689-5880). 

March 31—Eastern Prelacy’s annual Musical Armenia concert at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, New York City.

The Armenian Prelacy 
Tel: 212-689-7810 ♦ Fax: 212-689-7168 ♦ Email: email@armenianprelacy.org