February 9, 2017

His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia, has declared the year 2017 as “The Year of Renewal.” His Holiness’s message will be read in Prelacy parishes this Sunday, February 12.

 In his message His Holiness states the imperative of renewal and provides various perspectives leading toward Renewal. His Holiness states: “Renewal in the New Testament is presented as an indispensable necessity. The purpose of Christ’s incarnation and His mission of salvation was the renewal of humankind and the universe. Indeed, the New Testament is the history of the renewal of humanity and creation by divine intervention. The Book of Revelation condenses this with the following words: ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” (Revelation 21:5)

After discussing Renewal as the goal of the Holy Bible, as the axle of the Mission of the Church, and the imperative of Renewal, His Holiness concludes: “The Church has the directive from life-renewing Christ, to become the incentive for spiritual and moral renewal that forms the foundation for true renewal of social life…. The standard-bearers of this very important task of renewal must be the Armenian youth, because they are intimately knowledgeable of the current conditions, concerns, and challenges of the world. And, therefore, they feel the actual need for renewal and they can also bring important help to the collective effort of renewal with their expertise and new ideas.”

You can read His Holiness’s message in Armenian or English.


Archbishop Oshagan will travel to North Andover, Massachusetts, this weekend, where on Sunday he will celebrate the Divine Liturgy and deliver the Sermon on the occasion of the 47th anniversary of St. Gregory Church. His Eminence will also dedicate the Thomas M. Vartabedian Library, in memory of the beloved parishioner, journalist, and photographer who died last year. A dinner and program will follow church services in the parish’s Jaffarian Hall. On Saturday evening, His Eminence will preside over the Dyarnuntarach service and bonfire tradition.


This year’s Prelacy Lenten Program will be devoted to “The Year of Renewal,” starting on Wednesday, March 1 and continuing for the next five Wednesdays. All the lectures will take place at St. Illuminator’s Cathedral, 221 East 27th Street, New York City. The evening will begin with church service from 7 pm to 7:25 pm, followed by the lecture and discussion, and table fellowship at 8 pm. The Lenten program is sponsored by the Armenian Religious Education Council (AREC), the Prelacy Ladies Guild, and the Ladies Guild of St. Illuminator Cathedral. For information: Prelacy office 212-689-7810 or arec@armenianprelacy.org; Cathedral office 212-689-5880 or office@stilluminators.org. The schedule for the Lenten lectures is as follows:

March 1, Renewal in Christ by Dn. Shant Kazanjian, Director of AREC.

March 8, Parish Renewal by Ms. Karen Jehanian, member of Prelacy Executive Council.

March 15, An Introspective Guide for Renewing Ourselves, by Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian, pastor of St. Sarkis Church, Douglaston, New York.

March 22, Cultural Renewal—Yesterday and Today (in Armenian) by Dr. Vartan Matiossian, Director of ANEC.

March 29, The Legacy of the 1915 Martyrs as Source of Renewal, Very Rev. Fr. Zareh Sarkissian, pastor of Holy Cross Church, Troy, New York and Outreach Clergy.

April 5, Armenian Church Traditions and Renewal, by Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian, pastor of St. Gregory Church of Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts.


Archbishop Oshagan celebrated the Divine Liturgy and delivered the Sermon at St. Sarkis Church, Douglaston, New York, on the occasion of the parish’s name-day celebration, last Sunday, February 5. His Eminence ordained acolytes and sub-deacons as part of the celebrations of the Feast of St. Sarkis. Acolytes ordained are: Hovsep Terterian, Vahan Gostanian, Gary Nercessian, Aram Nenejian, Levon Nenejian, and Alex Demirdjian. Sub-deacons ordained are: Razmik Nenejian, Raffi Nenejian, Haig Baghdassarian, Areg Pogosyan, and Shont Voskerijian. The community also honored Deacon Frank Kabarajian in appreciation of his 50 years of service to the Armenian Church at a reception and artistic program following the church services. 

The Acolytes of St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Douglaston ordained by Archbishop Oshagan
Archbishop Oshagan and the Armenian community of Queens and New York honoring Dn. Frank Kabarajian
Sub-deacons of St. Sarkis, ordained by His Eminence.

Clergy, Choir singers, and newly ordained Acolytes and Sub-deacons standing together after the Divine Liturgy
The annual “Soup and Bread” luncheon took place at St. Gregory Church in Granite City, Illinois, last Sunday, organized by the local “Reubena” chapter of the Armenian Relief Society. Parishioners and friends enjoyed the selection of many different varieties of soup.


Bible Readings for Sunday, February 12, Fifth Sunday after Octave of the Nativity, Sunday of the Catechumens are: Isaiah 63:7-8; 2 Timothy 3:1-12; John 6:22-38.

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors are the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:22-38)


You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid them! For among them are those who make their way into households and captivate silly women, overwhelmed by their sins and swayed by all kinds of desires, who are always being instructed and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people, of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, also oppose the truth. But they will not make much progress, because, as in the case of these two men, their folly will become plain to everyone.
  Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecution I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:1-12)

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


Tomorrow, Friday, February 10, the Armenian Church remembers the Prophet Jonah (Hovnan), one of the Minor Prophets. The Minor Prophets are not considered less important than the ones called Major Prophets, but their books are shorter. All of the Minor Prophets were servants of God who proclaimed His will to people in need of repentance.

The story of Jonah and the whale is one of the better-known stories in the Old Testament. Jonah’s feast falls on the last day of the Fast of the Catechumens, and after four day without any specified readings, the reading for tomorrow is the entire book of Jonah. Just as the people of Nineveh fasted and repented from their wicked ways, so too do the people of God during this preliminary fast before Great Lent (Medz Bahk), the most penitential season of the year.


Saturday, February 11, the Armenian Church commemorates St. Sarkis the Warrior, his son Mardiros, and 14 faithful soldiers. This is a moveable feast that can occur between January 11 and February 15. It follows the Fast of the Catechumens, which is not connected to St. Sarkis, but has become to be associated with this saint, even often referred to as the fast of St. Sarkis.

Sarkis was a 4th century Roman soldier who became a Christian.  He rose through the military ranks because of his valiant campaign on behalf of the Emperor Constantine. With the accession of Emperor Julian, Sarkis and his son took refuge in Armenia, where Christianity had already been the nation’s official religion.  Later they went to Persia to join the Persian army in fighting Julian. Both fought with exceptional bravery. The Persian leader, Shapur II, tried to convince them to abandon their Christian faith and embrace Zorastrianism. Both refused, and father and son were martyred. Fourteen loyal Christian soldiers who went to claim the bodies were also killed. Eventually, Christians secured the remains and sent them to Assyria where they remained until the fifth century when Mesrob Mashdots had the remains transferred to the city of Karpi in the area of Vaspurakan in Armenia. A monastery was built over the site of the graves. 


On Tuesday, February 14, the Armenian Church commemorates the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord to the Temple (Dyarnuntarch in Armenian, which means “bringing forward of the Lord”). This feast always falls on February 14—forty days after the Nativity (January 6). It commemorates the presentation of the Lord to the Temple by Mary and Joseph according to Mosaic Law (See Numbers 18:15). In the temple, a righteous and devout man named Simeon to whom it had been revealed that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord, took Jesus in his arms, blessed God and said, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (See Luke 2:22-40)

Some pre-Christian Armenian customs have been incorporated into this feast, including one that remains popular to this day, especially in the Middle East and Armenia. In recent years the tradition has been revived here in the United States as well. On the eve of the feast, a bonfire is lit outside of the church using a flame from the altar. Young people, especially newlyweds, gather around the fire as the flames subside, the young men leap over the flames. The light of the bonfire is symbolic of Christ who is the Everlasting Life and Lights of the world.

Also commemorated this week:
Saint Adom the Warrior and his companions, Monday, February 13.
Saint Voski the Priest and his companions, Thursday, February 16.

Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)
Birth of Catholicos Nerses V (February 13, 1770) 

Catholicos Nerses V Ashtaraketsi was one of the most relevant names of the Armenian Church in the nineteenth century. The future Catholicos was born Toros Shahazizian on February 13, 1770. He graduated from the Seminary of Echmiadzin and was consecrated celibate priest. He soon reached an influential position among the clergy.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Southern Caucasus was under the domination of Persia. Russia was pressing towards the south with the aim of occupying the region. Bishop Nerses had an active participation in the Russo-Persian war of 1804-1813 and the Russo-Turkish war of 1806-1812. This contributed to the strengthening of the political relations of the Holy See and the Russian government.
In 1814, Nerses, elevated to the rank of archbishop, was designated primate of the diocese of Georgia and moved to Tiflis, which was already under Russian rule. He took measures towards the renewal of the diocese and the conversion of Tiflis into an Armenian intellectual center. In 1824 he opened the first Armenian lyceum of the Southern Caucasus, which was called Nersisian after him and became an education center for the next hundred years. He also founded a print shop in the school and set the grounds for editorial work.

Archbishop Nerses Ashtaraketsi established close relations in Tiflis, the capital of the viceroyalty of the Caucasus, with Russian authorities and leaders. In 1816 he was decorated with the order of St. Anna in first grade. The Armenian community of Georgia, thanks to his tireless efforts, became an influential driving force in Armenian political and cultural life.

The prelate organized groups of Armenian volunteers that participated in the Russo-Persian war of 1826-1828 along the Russian army. He personally participated in the liberation of Yerevan, Etchmiadzin, and Sardarabad. After the occupation of Yerevan in 1827, he was designated member of the provisional administration of the region. He also had an important role in the organization of Armenian immigration from Persia into Eastern Armenia. In January 1828 Nerses Ashtaraketsi was decorated again, this time with the order of Alexander Nevski.

His push for Armenian autonomy under Russian protection, however, was not well received by the imperial government. General Ivan Paskevich, commander of the Russian army in the Caucasus, persecuted autonomist leaders. The prelate was charged with a series of fake accusations, such as persecuting the Muslim population, enriching Holy Etchmiadzin on account of the royal treasury, and organizing an Armenian army. He was dismissed from his position in the administration and sent away from the Southern Caucasus in May 1828 with a designation as primate of the diocese of Nor Nakhichevan and Besarabia.

Nerses Ashtaraketsi’s exile of sorts ended in 1843, when he succeeded Hovhannes VIII as Nerses V, Catholicos of All Armenians. He returned to Etchmiadzin and, despite his advanced age, he managed to be an active player in the public field, as well as in education and economy of the Holy See.

The illusions of Armenian autonomy had left place to his support for a conservative current that fought to maintain the national spirit and traditional order of the Armenian Church. He pursued a prudent policy in his relations with the Russian state, but also with the Ottoman Empire and Persia. His encyclicals and writings continuously exhorted the Armenians to avoid steps that could displease the authorities. His efforts contributed to normalize the relations with the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Nevertheless, he fought to restore the rights of the Catholicos that had been diminished by the Polozhenye, the statute of the Armenian Church issued by the Russian government in 1836. Catholicos Nerses often took a defiant attitude and left aside the statute. He did not fill the vacant positions of the Synod created by the Polozhenye, limited the attributions of the primates, and zealously controlled the incomes belonging to the Holy See. He also prepared a new statute of the Church, which centralized the administration in the hands of the Catholicos.
Nerses V passed away in Tiflis at the age of 87 in 1857 on the day of his birth, February 13. A school and a street in his birthplace, Ashtarak, have been named after him, and his statue was placed in the central square of the town in 2009.

Statue of Nerses V Catholicos in Ashtarak
Previous entries in “This Week in Armenian History” are on the Prelacy’s web page ( www.armenianprelacy. org ).

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A lecture on the Armenian Silversmiths of Kayseri by Sylvie L. Merian will take place at The Morgan Library & Museum, 225 Madison Avenue, New York City, on Friday, February 24 at 6:30 pm.

Specialists of silver liturgical objects, the 17th-18th century workshop of Armenian silversmiths in the town of Kayseri in central Anatolia, endured for almost ninety years. The Morgan is fortunate to own three sets of silver and enameled covers from this workshop, now on exhibition in Mr. Morgan’s Library. Sylvie Merian, scholar and Reader Services Librarian at the Morgan, will present a lecture discussing what is known about these silversmiths, and the Dutch woodcuts used as inspiration by some of the craftsmen featuring dozens of examples of these splendid objects now found in collections worldwide.

Tickets: $15; free for members and students with valid ID. Tickets include free museum admission for the day of program. Tickets can be purchased online at www.themorgan.org or by contacting the Box Office at 212-685-0008, ext. 560 or by email at tickets@themorgan.org.

Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)

The Treasury that Became a Museum

We all know what a museum is. The –um ending of the English word museum sounds like Latin, and, indeed, the word comes straightforward from Latin museum. However, museum did not originate in Rome, but, like many other things, in Greece.

The nine Muses, the patron divinities of the arts in Greek mythology, had their own place in Alexandria (Egypt), which was built at the beginning of the third century B.C. It was called Mouseion (Μουσεῖον) and was, in modern terms, an institute of scientific research where hundreds of scholars were hired to conduct research, publish, lecture, and gather sources. Unlike the current museums, the Mouseion did not harbor artifacts or artistic objects.

As it happens in more than one case, the Armenian language invented its own term for museum: թանգարան (tankaran). Many readers may think that the root tank (t’ang in Classical Armenian) may be a modified version of the root tang (թանկ/ t’ank in Classical Armenian), which means “valuable; expensive,” especially since a museum gathers valuable items. The suffix –aran (արան) indicates place (դասարան/tasaran “classroom”)

This was the view of linguist Hrachia Adjarian in his multivolume etymological dictionary of the Armenian language. However, a contemporary linguist, Nerses Mkrtchyan, has shown that the word tankaran is not related to tang (“valuable”). The word թանգար (tankar, Classical Armenian tangar) appeared a few times in Armenian literature of the fifth century A.D. with the meaning “merchant,” but this was not an Armenian word. Its ultimate origin was Akkadian tamkaru “merchant”; Akkadian was a Semitic language spoken in Mesopotamia in the third and second millennium B.C. The word seems to have entered Armenian via another Semitic language, Aramaic, where it was spelled taggaru. (We will leave to linguists to explain how tamkaru became taggaru and then tangar(u).)

Merchants trafficked in valuable commodities, sometimes from exotic places. Wherever tangar came, the interesting fact is that the word tankaran was also used in the fifth century A.D. with the meaning “treasury.” It is also useful to remember that there is a suffix –an (ան) in Armenian (հօրան/horan “sheepfold”). The millennia-old word tankar, via its Armenian derivation, tankaran, returned in modern times to become the modern Armenian word for “museum.”  

Previous entries in “Armenian Language Corner” are on the Prelacy’s web page ( www.armenianprelacy. org ).
The Armenian Church
An Introduction to Armenian Christianity
By Aram I

This 240-page paperback book is good for anyone who wishes to learn about the history and current situation of the Armenian Church. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of the Armenian Church. As His Holiness writes in the Preface to the book, “I will highlight those specific features of the Armenian Church that ensure its identity and spell out its particular mission in world Christendom, in general and in the life of the Armenian people in particular.”

240 pages, paperback, $20.00 plus shipping and handling

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

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.

Prelacy Lenten Program at St. Illuminator Cathedral, New York City at 7 pm.
March 1, Renewal in Christ by Dn. Shant Kazanjian, Director of AREC.
March 8, Parish Renewal by Ms. Karen Jehanian, member of Prelacy Executive Council.
March 15, An Introspective Guide for Renewing Ourselves, by Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian, pastor of St. Sarkis Church, Douglaston, New York.
March 22, Cultural Renewal—Yesterday and Today (in Armenian) by Dr. Vartan Matiossian, Director of ANEC.
March 29, The Legacy of the 1915 Martyrs as Source of Renewal, Very Rev. Fr. Zareh Sarkissian, pastor of Holy Cross Church, Troy, New York and Outreach Clergy.
April 5, Armenian Church Traditions and Renewal, by Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian, pastor of St. Gregory Church of Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts.

February 11—Observance  of Dyarnuntarach (Presentation of the Lord to the Temple), under the auspices of Archbishop Oshagan, Prelate, with the participation of the New England area clergy; Evening service and Dedication of Infants at 6:00 PM followed by outdoor procession and bon fire; reception will follow in Jaffarian Hall; St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley, 158 Main St., North Andover, Massachusetts 01845.

February 12—47th  Anniversary celebration of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley; episcopal Divine Liturgy celebrated by Archbishop Oshagan followed by dedication of the new Thomas M. Vartabedian Memorial Library and unveiling of a new portrait of Tom Vartabedian created by Leo Sarkisian; banquet and commemorative program to follow in Jaffarian Hall, for tickets please contact Sossy Jeknavorian (978) 256-2538.

February 13—Dyarnuntarach service and bonfire at St. Gregory Church, Granite City, Illinois.

February 19 -  Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, the Prelate,  will be visiting St Stephen’s Armenian Church of Hartford/New Britain to present Merit Awards.  He will preside over the Divine Liturgy (Badarak) and deliver the homily.  Following the church service, the Ladies Guild will be providing a luncheon. Luncheon is free of charge. All are welcome! 

February 19—Presentation on St. Vartan and the Vartanantz Battles by Knights of Vartan Merrimack Valley Arakadz Lodge #35 at St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley; members of the local Lodge will present the history of Vartanantz during the regularly scheduled coffee hour.

February 24—Lecture by Sylvie L. Merian, “Made by These Unworthy Hands”: The Armenian Silversmiths of Kayseri, at The Morgan Library & Museum,  225 Madison Avenue, New York City, at 6:30 pm. Tickets $15; free for members and students with valid ID. Tickets online at www.themorgan.org or 212-685-0008, ext. 560, or by email at tickets@themorgan.org.

February 25—St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley's Sunday/Armenian School Poon Paregentan Celebration; 6 PM in Jaffarian Hall; delicious food, dancing, lots of fun & door prizes; Adults $15, Students $6; to RSVP please contact Karen Shahtanian (978) 689-8929 or Leslie Boloian (978) 502-6410.

February 26—Vartanantz Sing-along program at St. Gregory Church, Granite City, Illinois.

March 4—121st  of ARF Lowell "Aharonian" Gomideh featuring a memorial tribute to Tom Vartabedian; St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley Jaffarian Hall, 158 Main St., North Andover, Massachusetts 01845; Cocktails 6:00 PM, Dinner & Program 7:00 PM; proceeds to benefit The Armenian Weekly & Armenian National Committee of Merrimack Valley; for tickets contact Armen Jeknavorian (978) 256-2538 or Ara Jeknavorian (978) 251-4845; tables of 8 or 10 may be reserved in advance.

March 4—ARS Youth Connect Program at Columbia University, New York. Speakers include Sarah Leah Whitson (Human Rights Watch), Dr. Kim Hekimian  (Columbia University), Dr. Levon Avdoyan (Library of Congress), and YVP program coordinator Dr. Khatchig Mouradian (Columbia University).

March 5—Annual General Membership Meeting of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley, 12:30 PM in Jaffarian Hall; light luncheon will be served.

March 31—Eastern Prelacy’s annual Musical Armenia concert at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, New York City at 8 pm. Featuring: Hasmik Vardanyan, cello; Karen Hakobyan, piano; Haik Kazazyan, violin; Hayk Arsenyan, piano. For tickets ($25) and information call Carnegie Hall Box Office (212-247-7800) or Prelacy Office (212-689-7810).

March 31-April 2—Armenian Relief Society Eastern USA is hosting an Art Exhibit at St. Illuminator’s Cathedral, 221 E. 27th Street, New York City, of works of Arthur Pinajian to benefit the ARS Education Fund. Opening ceremony and reception on Saturday, April 1, 7 to 10 pm. Additional viewing Friday March 31, 4 to 10 pm; Saturday April 1, Noon to 4 pm; Sunday April 2, 1 to 4 pm. Selling Exhibition. Free admission. For information: Sonia 917-679-6992.

April 9—Annual Palm Sunday Dinner, ARS Merrimack Valley "Arax" Chapter, St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church Jaffarian Hall, 158 Main St., North Andover, Massachusetts 01845; dinner & program; Guest speaker: Mr. Robert Megerdichian, presenting the Metal Artworks of Abraham Megerdichian; Adults $15, Children 12 & under $8; to reserve tickets contact Sharke' Der Apkarian (978) 808-0598.

May 18-20—National Representative Assembly of the Eastern Prelacy hosted by All Saints Church, Glenview, Illinois.

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

Visit the Catholicosate webpage at http://www.armenianorthodoxchurch.org/en/