August 15, 2019
Today the saints have gathered together, the blessed apostles and the holy virgins in bright garments with their lighted lamps and in unison they sang: Blessed are you, all-praised among women.
Today having placed the holy Virgin at the door of the tomb, they awaited the coming of the Lord himself. And behold, they saw on the heights the Creator coming with a multitude of angels; and in unison they began to sing in praise: Blessed are you, all praised among women.
Today they saw the holy Virgin floating through the air and on the fiery chariot ascending into heaven with the wise virgins entering into the heavenly tabernacles; and in unison they sang in song: Blessed are you, all praised among women.
Today, accompanied by the many-eyed cherubim and the six-winged seraphim you entered into the radiant tabernacles and saw the various thrones prepared for you, O Lady; with them we also sing: Blessed are you all praised among women.

From Canon for the Assumption of the Mother of God, according to the Liturgical Canons of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Archbishop Anoushavan will travel to Whitinsville, MA this weekend. On Sunday, His Eminence will preside over the Divine Liturgy and perform the blessing of the grapes ceremony at St. Asdvadzadzin Armenian Apostolic Church during the Feast of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God. Following the Divine Liturgy, the parish will host its annual picnic on the church grou nds. Pastors of the Prelacy churches in the  New England area will be present.

On the occasion of the Feast of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of the God, a pilgrimage march will take place tomorrow, Friday, August 16. The pilgrimage will begin at 6:00 pm from the Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator, in Antelias to the Saint Mary Monastery in Bikfaya where the Feast will be commemorated and concluded with the traditional blessing of the grapes and the agape meal prepared from the offerings of the pilgrims.

Last Sunday, August 11, on the occasion of the Paregentan of the Assumption Fast, St. Stephen's Armenian Apostolic Church of Greater Boston celebrated with its annual picnic held at Camp Haiastan in Franklin, Massachusetts. In addition to all of the delicious food and wonderful fellowship, the highlight of the day was the traditional Blessing of the Fields ( Antasdan ) Service followed by the Blessing of the Grapes and Madagh. The services were conducted by the Prelate His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan, assisted by the church's pastor, Rev. Fr. Archpriest Antranig Baljian: Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian of St. Gregory in North Andover, Massachusetts; Rev. Fr. Kapriel Nazarian of Sts. Vartanantz of Providence, Rhode Island; and Rev. Fr. Mikael Der Khosrofian of St. Asdvadzadzin in Whitinsville, Massachusetts.
His Eminence stressed the importance of keeping our traditions alive so that we can remain vibrant Armenian Christians and truly enjoy the presence of God's power in our lives. He urged that we hold fast to our faith and our Armenian Christian heritage in order to understand our own mission and identity as human beings in this world. He wished the picnic goers a happy and blessed day and imparted his blessings to all in attendance.

Also last Sunday, Archbishop Anoushavan was at Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Worcester, Massachusetts where he presided over the Holy Liturgy, delivered the sermon, and then presided over the blessing of the Grapes service, held during the annual picnic of the Church, with the participation of the following clergy from the New England area, Der Stephan Baljian, Der Torkom Chorbajian, Der Mikael Der-Khosrofian, and Der Kapriel Nazarian. 

The Summer Youth Academy organized by the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, that began last week is now in its second week. The participants are students and young professionals from the Eastern, Western, and Canadian Prelacies. The program includes participation in the Feast of St. Mary’s Assumption, intimate encounters with His Holiness Catholicos Aram, Q&A Roundtables, and sightseeing.

Participants from the Eastern Prelacy include: Shant Eghian, Taleen Donoyan, Anahid Donoyan, Lorie Simonian, Michele Colangelo, Anoush Krafian, Ani Chobanian, Isabel Hagobian, Juliet Hagobian, Mari Bijimenian, Vrej Dawli, Knar Topouzian, and Violette Dekirmenjian.
Bible readings for Sunday, August 18, Feast of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God, are: 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.

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)


“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. 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 17, 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 the rays of light seen by St. Gregory 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. The name of St. Shoghakat was given to the church, according to tradition, because it was built where "the divine light had shed" ( shogh gatadz er ) on the Hripsimiants virgins.
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 ( Verapokhoum ) of the Holy Mother of God, the fourth of the five major feast days in our Liturgical Calendar, and the Blessing of the Grapes. Verapokhoum in classical Armenian means “transport up.” According to tradition, when the Holy Mother died she was buried by the apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane. 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. They considered the empty tomb confirmation that the Holy Mother had not died, but had fallen asleep (Dormition) and our Lord assumed His mother into heaven. 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 of remembrance.

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 events. 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 until after this blessing.

Certainly we can say that the Blessing of the Grapes is a symbolic 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 19, 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. 

A three-day summer retreat took place at Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, with the participation of fourteen children. The retreat was organized and led by the pastor Rev. Fr. Torkom Chorbajian with the assistance of parents and teachers. The three days were filled with prayer, bible stories, learning about nature, dance classes, and various art projects.
Death of Hrach Bartikian (August 17, 2011)

It is an interesting fact that some of the leading experts of Armenian history and philology in Soviet times were repatriates, sometimes taking advantage of their knowledge of the main language of the field (Greek, Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, and the like). Their expertise not only made a significant contribution to their particular areas of interest, but also helped in the formation of the next generations of scholars.

One of such experts was Hrach Bartikian. He was born on July 7, 1927, in Athens (Greece), the son of Mikayel Bartikian, a philologist and journalist. He studied at a local Armenian school and then at a Greek high school, from which he graduated in 1945. The next year he moved to Armenia with his family, like many other members of the Greek-Armenian community, during the repatriation movement of 1946-1948.

Bartikian would pursue higher education at Yerevan State University. He graduated with honors from the Faculty of History in 1953 and continued post-graduate studies at the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of Armenia, but in Leningrad (nowadays St. Petersburg), under the guidance of well-known academician Hovsep Orbeli. In 1958 he defended his doctoral dissertation, “Sources for the Study of the History of the Paulician Movement,” at the State University of Leningrad. It was published in Yerevan three years later in Russian. In 1971 he would defend his second doctoral dissertation, “The Byzantine Epic Digenis Akritas and Its Significance for Armenian Studies.”

Meanwhile, from 1957 until 2010 he worked at the Institute of History of the Academy as junior researcher (1957-1961), senior researcher (1961-1980), and head of the medieval history section (1980-2010). He passed away on August 17, 2011, at the age of eighty-four.

For almost half a century, Hrach Bartikian’s name would become synonymous with Armeno-Byzantine studies in Armenia. Besides some 150 scholarly articles, he also published seventeen books, including the Armenian translations, with study and notes, of various noted Byzantine historians (Procopius of Caesarea, Constantine Porphyrogenitus, John Scilitzes, Teophanos the Confessor, and others), the Armenian translation of the Byzantine epic Digenis Akritas, the Modern Armenian version of Armenian medieval historian Mateos Urhayetsi’s Chronicle, and a collection of documents, Greek Archival Documents about Armeno-Greek Relations during the First Republic (1918-1920)

Bartikian started his scholarly career with the study of the Paulician movement, a sectarian manifestation born in Armenia, which had a second life in the Byzantine Empire, and then he devoted himself to the study of Armeno-Byzantine relations during and after the time of the Bagratuni dynasty, making a substantial contribution in the field. He was also a prolific researcher of epigraphic inscriptions and seals.

The historian was also a well-known specialist of the relations of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia and Byzantium. For this reason, he was invited to participate in the 1993 conference on Cilicia organized by the Armenian Prelacy and spearheaded by Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian, Prelate, of blessed memory.

Hrach Bartikian’s extensive and erudite scholarly production would earn him many scientific accolades. He was elected member of the Academy of Athens (1980), the Tiberina Academy of Art, Literature, and Sciences of Rome (1987), and the Academy of Sciences of Armenia (1996). He was decorated with the medal of Mesrop Mashtots of the Academy of Sciences of Armenia, the medal of Aristoteles of the University of Salonica (1981), and the Prize of the President of Armenia (2005), the latter for his three-volume Armenian-Byzantine Studies.
Previous entries in “This Week in Armenian History” are on the Prelacy’s web site ( ). 
The Prelacy’s Orphan Sponsorship program was established in 1993 and continues to be the central mission of the Prelacy’s programs in Armenia and Artsakh. As part of the program, letters are received regularly from sponsored children addressed to their sponsors. We are pleased to share some of these letters through Crossroads . This week’s letter is from 11-year-old Mariam* who lives with her grandparents in the village of Sarigyagh in Tavoush and is sponsored by Levon and Tamar Ohanessian from Philadelphia. They have been supporters of the Prelacy’s orphans program since 1996.

*In order to protect the privacy of the children we use only their first names.
Dear Sponsor,

My name is Mariam. I live with my grandmother and grandfather. I am in 5 th grade in school. Unfortunately, I don’t remember my parents.

I love to draw and to sew, and I like physical activities to grow healthy. I also like to dance, but because in our village we don’t have any art school or after-school programs, I do all my preferred activities at home. I want to thank you and your organization for your charitable work. My grandparents join me in thanking you.


Currently there are children on the waiting list for the Prelacy’s Sponsorship Program. If you would like to sponsor a child please contact the Prelacy by email ( ) or telephone (212-689-7810), ask for Sophie.

Please send your inquiries and comments (English or Armenian) to .

Please remember that the deadline for submitting items for Crossroads is on Wednesdays at noon.

Earlier this year the Prelacy embarked on a long overdue process of digitizing photographs and important documents. From time to time we will be sharing some interesting historical photos found in our archives.
This photograph was taken on May 27, 1923 in Aleppo on the occasion of the Blessing of Muron (Holy Oil) by His Holiness Sahag II Khabayan, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia. Catholicos Sahag served as Catholicos from 1902 to 1939, during some of the most difficult days for the Armenian people. He outlived the Catholicos Coadjutor Papken Guleserian who had been elected to serve with the elderly pontiff.

First row, seated left to right: Rev. Fr. Nerses Takvoukian, Very Rev. Fr. Khat Achabayan, Very Rev. Fr. Khatchadour Der Khazarian, Catholicos Sahag II, Very Rev. Fr. Paren Melkonian, Very Rev. Fr. Souren Kemhajyan, Archpriest Fr. Haroutune Yessayan.

Second row, standing left to right: Rev. Fr. Sarkis Kaloustian, Rev. Fr. Vartan Varteresian, Rev. Fr. Papken Hagopian, Very Rev. Fr. Mampre Siroonian, Rev. Fr. Mgrdich Mouradian, Rev. Fr. Krikor Khatchadourian, Parabahn (usher) Hovhaness Chepjyan.

Third row, standing left to right: Rev. Fr. Mgrdich Mardoian, Rev. Fr. Nerses Babayan, Rev. Fr. Hovhaness Ekmekjian, Rev. Fr. Movses Hovanesian, Rev. Fr. Nishan Markarian.

( Calendar items may be edited to conform to space and style )
August 16, 17, 18 —All Saints Armenian Church, Glenview, Illinois, Armenian Fest 2019. Friday, 6 pm to 10 pm; Saturday, 5 pm to 11 pm; Sunday, 12 noon to 7 pm. Grape blessing ceremony at 4 pm on Sunday. Free admission and parking. Children’s area with Inflatables.

August 18 —St. Asdvadzadzin Armenian Church, Whitinsville, MA, Blessing of Grapes service, and Annual Picnic at 12:00 P.M. under the auspices of His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate, with the participation of the pastors of the New England area churches.

September 7 —The Newark Museum of Art presents a concert-performance of “Gorky’s Dream Garden,” a musical-theater opera of love, courage and modern art, at the Museum, 49 Washington Street, Newark, New Jersey, at 1:00 pm. Based on the life of Arshile Gorky by composer Michelle Ekizian. Admission is included with Newark Museum admission. For information: or 973-596-6550.

September 8 - Saint Gregory Church, North Andover, Annual Picnic, Sunday, 12:00-5:30 P.M; Great Procession of the Holy Cross will take place at 2:30 P.M. under the auspices of His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate.

September 28 —New Jersey chapter of Hamazkayin Armenian Educational & Cultural Society presents Lilit Hovhannisyan with special performance by Nayri Dance Ensemble, 8 pm, Felician University, Breslin Hall, Lodi, New Jersey. Tickets online only:

October 9-12 —On the occasion of the Feast of the Holy Translators a joint clergy conference of the Eastern, Western, and Canadian Prelacies will convene in Montebello, California.

October 12 —Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, NJ continues celebration of 60 th anniversary with Elie Berberian and his band. Information: 201-943-2950.

October 19 —Armenian Friends of America Annual Hye Kef 5 Dance, featuring The Vosbikians, at Double Tree by Hilton, Andover, MA. For information: Sharke’ Der Apkarian at 978-808-0598; John Arzigian at 603-560-3826.

October 19 —Herand Markarian’s Jubilee Celebration: 65 th anniversary of cultural achievements and 80 th birthday. Theatre in the Park, Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York, at 7:05 pm. Watch for details.

November 9 and 10 —Armenian Fest 2019, Sts. Vartanantz Church, Providence, Rhode Island, Annual Food Festival at Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet, 60 Rhodes Place, Cranston. Saturday noon to 9 pm; Sunday noon to 7 pm. Free admission and parking. Valet parking available. For information: 401-831-6399. 

November 17 —SAVE THE DATE for Eastern Prelacy’s first annual Special Thanksgiving Banquet at Terrace on the Park. Details to follow.

May 13-16, 2020 —National Representative Assembly (NRA) of the Eastern Prelacy, hosted by St. Gregory the Illuminator Church of Philadelphia. The Clergy Conference will begin on Wednesday, May 13; the full Assembly will convene on Thursday, May 14 and conclude on Saturday, May 16.
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