August 17, 2017
Last Sunday Armenian churches around the world celebrated the Feast of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God and the Blessing of the Grapes, an old and beautiful tradition in the Armenian Church that expresses thanks for a bountiful harvest and encourages sharing with the needy.
In Lebanon His Holiness Aram I presided over the Divine Liturgy and the Blessing of Grapes and Madagh at the Monastery of the Holy Mother of God (Sourp Asdvadzadzin) in Bikfaya on Saturday. The Liturgy was celebrated by Bishop Meghrig Parikian and sung by the Catholicosate’s “Shenorhali” choir. The complex of buildings that surround the vast area of the Monastery include the beautiful Chapel of Saint Mary, the Martyrs Altar, the Veharan (offices and residence), the Seminary, Guest House, and the distinctive monument erected in 1965 dedicated to the rebirth of the Armenian people. Thousands of pilgrims come to Bikfaya to participate in the services, which are televised worldwide. The Monastery has become a year-round destination for pilgrims and a steady stream of visitors is now the norm rather than an exception.
Prelacy parishes were filled on this adored holiday—one of the five major feast days in the Armenian liturgical calendar. Many of our parishes schedule their annual picnic on this day and conduct the Blessing of the Grapes outdoors, as well as after the Liturgy in church.

Sts. Vartanantz Church, Providence, Rhode Island : Archbishop Oshagan with New England area clergy at Camp Haiastan in Franklin, Massachusetts, for the annual picnic and Blessing of Grapes and Madagh of Sts. Vartanantz Church, Providence, Rhode Island. From left, Rev. Fr. Kapriel Nazarian, pastor of Sts. Vartanantz; Archpriest Fr. Gomidas Baghsarian, pastor emeritus of Sts. Vartanantz; Archbishop Oshagan; Archpriest Fr. Antranig Baljian, pastor of St. Stephen’s Church, Watertown; Rev. Fr. Bedros Shetilian, pastor of St. Gregory Church, Springfield/Indian Orchard; and Rev. Fr. Mikael Der Kosrofian, pastor of St. Asdvadzadzin, Whitinsville.
St. Illuminator Cathedral, New York City : Bishop Anoushavan celebrated the Divine Liturgy and the Blessing of the Grapes ceremony at St. Illuminator’s Cathedral. A luncheon took place following the services. Bishop Anoushavan leads the blessing of grapes ceremony along with Deacons Shant Kazanjian, Krikor Essayan, Ryan Tellalian, and Aram Parnagian.
St. Gregory Church, North Andover, Massachusetts: Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian, pastor of St. Gregory Church, North Andover, Massachusetts, conducts the Blessing of Grapes ceremony along with the altar servers.
St. Gregory the Illuminator Church, Granite City, Illinois: Rev. Fr. Torkom Chorbajian and deacons during the Blessing of Grapes service at St. Gregory Church in Granite City. The parish’s annual picnic followed the services.

Archbishop Oshagan will celebrate the Divine Liturgy and deliver the Sermon at St. Asdvadzadzin Church, Whitinsville, Massachusetts this Sunday, August 20. His Eminence will conduct the Blessing of Grapes ceremony and preside over the parish’s annual picnic following the services.
Bishop Anoushavan will celebrate the Divine Liturgy and deliver the sermon at St. Hagop Church, Niagara Falls, New York, this Sunday, August 20. His Grace will preside over a luncheon following the service.
Bishop Anoushavan and ANC members with Congressman Carolyn Maloney in her district office.
Bishop Anoushavan joined with members of the ANC of New York in a meeting with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney on Monday, August 14. Congresswoman Maloney is a long-time supporter of Armenian issues. She is a supporter of the House resolution on the Armenian genocide and has promised to support the self-determination of the Armenian people in Artsakh. The Armenian delegation thanked the Congresswoman for her ongoing support and also thanked her for her Congressional floor statement on the occasion of the Centennial of St. Illuminator Cathedral. She later on Twitter, expressed thanks to Bishop Anoushavan and the ANC for the visit saying “The Armenian people have my support.”

Bible readings for Sunday, August 20, First Sunday after the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God, are, Proverbs 11:30-12:4; Zechariah 2:10-13; 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1; Luke 1:39-56.

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.  (Luke 1:39-56)

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be your father, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1)
For a listing of the coming week’s Bible readings  Click Here.
On Tuesday, August 22, the Armenian Church commemorates Saints Joachim and Anna, parents of Mary, the mother of Christ. Joachim, son of Barpathir, was a descendant of King David, to whom God had revealed that the Savior of the world would be born through his descendants. Anna was a descendant of the tribe of Levi through her father and the tribe of Judah through her mother. Joachim and Anna were childless through years of marriage. Joachim fasted for forty days in the desert and both of them prayed for a child, ultimately placing their trust in God’s will. An angel appeared to each of them telling them that in spite of their old age they would be the parents of a daughter.
On the same day the Church remembers the oil-bearing women ( Myrophores ). These are the eight women who are identified as the oil- or myrrh-bearers in the four Gospels who had different roles during Christ’s ministry, at the Cross, and the tomb on Easter morning. The eight women are: Mary Magdalene, Mary ( Theotokos ), Joanna, Salome, Mary (wife of Cleopas), Susanna, Mary of Bethany, and Martha of Bethany.
Frankincense and Myrrh were the “gifts of kings,” more valuable than gold. Myrrh is mentioned frequently in both the Old and New Testaments. Gold, frankincense and myrrh were the precious offerings of thanks to Mary by the three Wise Men for bringing forth the Son of God. Myrrh is mentioned occasionally throughout the life of Jesus of Nazareth: “And they offered him wine mingled with myrrh,” (Mark 15:23); after his death, “Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight,” which was used to prepare the Body for burial (John 19:39).

O God, by wise foreknowledge you established the mystery of the holy church, having laid down the assembly of the righteous as its deep and firm foundation; through their prayers, have mercy on us. The blessing given by you to husband and wife, the pair created by God, buds forth today in Joachim and Anna like a splendid flower; through their prayers, have mercy on us. Today you manifested from Anna the promise given to Abraham, our patriarch according to the Spirit, in the union of staffs both priestly and kingly; through their prayers, have mercy on us. O God, without beginning, unspeakable, boundless might, from the beginning of the ages you have cared for the sons of Adam, today by grace from above, you have designated by her birth the mother of your chosen and only-begotten Son. Through her prayers, have mercy on us.

(Canon to Saints Joachim and Anna from the liturgical canons of the Armenian Church)
Next Thursday, August 24, the Armenian Church remembers Jeremiah, one of the major prophets of the Old Testament. His writings are collected in the Old Testament Book of Jeremiah, in I and II Kings, and the Book of Lamentations. God appointed Jeremiah to confront Judah and Jerusalem for the worship of idols and other violations of the covenant (described in the Book of Deuteronomy). Jeremiah had the task of explaining the reason for the impending disaster—the destruction by the Babylonian army and captivity: “And when your people say, ‘Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?’ you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve foreigners in a land that is not yours.’”

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Birth of Hagop Vartovian (August 18, 1830)

The foundation of Turkish theater is linked to a controversial name: Hagop Vartovian.

He was born as Hagop Gulluyan on August 18, 1830, in Constantinople. We know little about his first years, except that he went to school from 1846-1848. He debuted as an actor in May 1862, playing with the Oriental Theater in the last performance of their first season. He later moved to Smyrna, where he translated his last name into Armenian and turned it from Gulluyan into Vartovian (Turkish gülli /Armenian vartov “with rose(s)”). In 1862-1863 he acted and directed the Vaspurakan group, which played in Armenian, French, Turkish, and Greek. In 1867 he was back in Constantinople as director of the Asiatic Society group, and played Macbeth in William Shakespeare’s homonymous play, which marked the first time that the Bard entered the Western Armenian stage (after a performance in 1865 in the Mekhitarist school system without female characters). In 1869 the group was renamed Ottoman Theater, and it would cement Vartovian’s fame. In the same year, he premiered Vart and Shoushan, one of the plays of eighteen-year-old poet Bedros Tourian (1851-1872), who became one of his authors.

The great fire of Pera (nowadays Beyoglu) in May 1870 engulfed the entire district. Actress Azniv Hrachia, one of its witnesses, wrote in her memoirs: “The fire of Pera came suddenly; I cannot describe that terrible catastrophe, that horrible day as it was. I will just say that the entire neighborhood of Pera was in flames; the wealthy became poor, the mothers were left without children, and the children without mothers. There was not a single family with one or two members missing. Many families were found asphyxiated in the stone houses as a group. The fire did not only devour an infinite wealth, but also thousands of lives. Pera was in flames from fourteen sides, as if the fire was coming from the sky. Many people were burned in the streets.”

The fire destroyed all the theaters and decorations of Pera, as well as the dwellings of many actors and actresses. Only the group of Hagop Vartovian, which functioned in the neighborhood of Gedikpasha, was able to continue regular performances during the 1870-1871 season. In the same year, Vartovian ensured a ten-year permit from the Sultan, with the support of Prime Minister Ali Pasha, as the only theater allowed to present performances in Turkish. The group played in Scutari (Uskudar) in the summer, and it also had performances in Kadikoy and Pera. It had an eighty-people organization behind it, including actors, singers, and dancers, but also the auxiliary staff. The famous satirist Hagop Baronian wrote in a profile of Vartovian: “To say the truth, thanks to Vartovian’s tireless work our nation today has a theater. Once he organized the group, he hired translators and started to criticize the flaws of the nation with foreign plays, like that man who slaps a stranger and thinks to have stricken the son.”

The Ottoman Theater continued functioning until its dissolution in 1882. Vartovian had to sell everything to make a living and maintain his wife and three children. For a while, he was designated director of the court’s theater group. However, following the wishes of Sultan Abdul Hamid, he converted to Islam and adopted the name of Güllü Agop. He passed away on February 2, 1898, and was buried in the Yahya Efendi cemetery of Beshiktash
Iranian television has produced an interesting documentary (in English) about the Armenian Monastery of St. Thaddeus located in northwest Iran. The annual summer pilgrimage during the Feast Day for St. Thaddeus is the largest gathering of Armenians in Iran. According to tradition, St. Thaddeus evangelized the region of Armenia and Persia. Thaddeus was martyred in Armenia and is celebrated as an apostle of the Armenian Church. A church dedicated to him was first built on the present site in 68 A.D. The Monastery was rebuilt after an earthquake damaged it in 1319. Some of the parts surrounding the altar date from the 10 th century. Much of the Monastery’s present structure dates from 1811. The western extension duplicates the design of Etchmiadzin Cathedral. In July 2008, the St. Thaddeus Monastery was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, along with two Armenian monuments in the same province—the Monastery of St. Stepanos and the Chapel of Dzordzor.

The documentary is about 15 minutes and can be seen here .


August 14-20 —Shushanig Summer Camp, Sts. Vartanantz Church, 461 Bergen Boulevard, Ridgefield, New Jersey. For information: 201-943-2950.

August 20 —Annual Church Picnic and Blessing of Grapes, Soorp Asdvadzadzin Church, 315 Church Street, Whitinsville, Massachusetts, under the auspices of His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan, with the participation of pastors of the New England area churches. Full menu of shish kebab, chicken kebab, losh kebab, kheyma, desserts, and Choreg sale, all beginning at 12 noon. Dance to the live music of The Mgrditchian Ensemble, rain or shine. For information: 508-234-3677.

September 9 —Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey, opening of Nareg Armenian School.

September 10 —St. Sarkis Church Annual Picnic, 38-65 234 th Street, Douglaston, New York. Armenian BBQ and desserts; Live Music; Kids Zone and Family Fun. Starts at 1 pm until evening. Information: 718-224-2275.

September 10 —Church Picnic, St. Stephen’s Church of Hartford-New Britain, 167 Tremont Street, New Britain, Connecticut, in church hall and outside lawn. Enjoy good food, music and fellowship. Music by DJ Ara Stepanian . Roast Chicken, Lu-Le Kebab, Hot Dogs, Pilaf, Salad, Dessert Table .

September 14 —Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey, 15th Annual Golf Classic.

September 17 —Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey, opening of Sunday School.

October 2-6 —Clergy Conference for Eastern, Western, and Canadian Prelacies will take place in Montreal, hosted by the Prelacy of Canada.

October 7 —Sts. Vartanantz Church, Ridgefield, New Jersey presents “The Battle of the Bands.” Dance all night with two bands featuring Onnig Dinkjian and Kevork Artinian. Mezza and Dessert tables. For information and reservations contact: Bea Movsesian 201-445-6867; Lynn Mahlebjian 201-739-6217; Silva Kouyoumdjian 201-779-6744.

October 7-8 —50th Anniversary Weekend, St. Gregory the Illuminator Church, 8701 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Saturday evening: “Golden Evening Kef Celebration,” featuring the Vosbikian Band. Sunday, Golden Anniversary Banquet, following the Divine Liturgy. 

October 14 —Armenian Friends of America, Inc., present “Hye Kef 5,” a five hour dance featuring Onnik Dinkjian with John Berberian (Oud); Mal Barsamian (Clarinet); Ara Dinkjian (keyboard); Ron Tutunjian (Dumbeg), at DoubleTree by Hilton, 123 Old River Road, Andover, Massachusetts. Tickets: $55 (before September 1); $65 (after September 1); $50 for students 21 and under. Continuous buffet 7:30 to 9:30 pm; coffee and dessert will follow. Advance tickets only. Proceeds will benefit five Armenian churches. For information: Sharke Der Apkarian 978-808-0598.

October 29—CHANGE OF DATE / SAVE THE DATE . Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ordination of His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, under the auspices and presence of His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia. Divine Liturgy at St. Illuminator Cathedral, 221 East 27th Street, New York City, at 10 am. Followed by reception and dinner at The New York Palace, 455 Madison Avenue, New York City.

December 5-8 —World General Assembly of the Great House of Cilicia, at the Catholicosate in Antelias, Lebanon.
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