Jan 12, 2017


Prelacy parishes celebrated Christmas and Epiphany on January 5 and 6 with large numbers of the faithful participating in the services. Here is a sampling of photographs received.

St. Illuminator’s Cathedral, New York City

Archbishop Oshagan celebrated the Divine Liturgy and delivered the sermon at St. Illuminator’s Cathedral and officiated over the Blessing of the Water service. The Godfather of the Cross was Michael Aloyan.

St. Sarkis Church, Douglaston, New York

Bishop Anoushavan celebrated the Divine Liturgy and delivered the sermon at St. Sarkis Church, Douglaston, New York, and officiated the Blessing of Water Service, symbolizing the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan. Godfather of the Cross was Gary Nercessian.

Sts. Vartanantz Church, Providence, Rhode Island

Rev. Fr. Kapriel Nazarian celebrated the Divine Liturgy and officiated over the Blessing of the Water Service at Sts. Vartanantz Church, Providence, Rhode Island. Godfather of the Holy Cross was Raffi Rafaelian. 

Sareen Khatchadourian sings Silent Night in Armenian on Christmas Eve with the encouragement of her uncle, Raffi Rachdouni, at Sts. Vartanantz Church, Providence.

St. Stephen’s Church, Watertown, Massachusetts

Archpriest Fr. Antranig Baljian celebrated the Divine Liturgy and officiated over the Blessing of the Water Service at St. Stephen’s Church, Watertown. Godfather of the Holy Cross was Krikor Iskenderian.

The Armenian Home, Flushing, New York

Bishop Anoushavan and Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian offered a Christmas service for the residents and staff of the Armenian Home in Flushing, New York, and distributed blessed water to all.


On the evening of January 6, the Prelate and Vicar greeted the well-wishers who attended the Prelate’s Christmas reception. The traditional Blessing of the Home service was offered by Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian, pastor of  St. Illuminator’s Cathedral. The Armenian tradition of “home blessing” has diminished in recent years. Not very long ago it was considered essential to have homes blessed during the Christmas and Easter Holy Days. During the ceremony the priest blesses bread, water, and salt—all considered to be essential to life. It is customary to burn incense, echoing the words of the psalmist, “Let my prayers be counted as incense before you,” (Psalm 141). The priest usually places a wafer (nushkhar) with the bread, water, and salt. 

“O Christ our God, guardian and hope of all your faithful, protect and keep in peace your people under the protection of your holy and venerable cross; and especially this family, their home, the bread, the salt and the water. Save them O Lord from visible and invisible enemies and make them worthy to glorify you with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always, forever and ever. Amen. (The Benediction from the Armenian Blessing of Homes ceremony)


Archbishop Oshagan will travel to Lebanon this weekend where he will participate in the meetings of the Catholicosate’s Executive Council.


Bishop Anoushavan attended the Christmas and New Year celebration organized by St. Thomas Ecumenical Federation of North America in Floral Park, New York. The Federation is composed of fourteen churches, whose mission is to foster ecumenical spirit and harmony among the Indian Christian community in North America and to encourage activities in the spirit of St. Thomas the Apostle of India. During the celebration, Bishop Anoushavan conveyed a Christmas message to churches serving in India via the Flower-USA TV Channel.

Bishop Anoushavan offers a message that was broadcast to churches in India. Standing next to His Grace is Rev. Fr. John Thomas, the President of the St. Thomas Ecumenical Federation.


Upon an invitation from Ambassador Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Armenia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, certificates of recognition were given to Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian and Ms. Azadouhi Zaroukian at the Armenian Mission offices. The certificates were signed by Hranoush Hakobyan, Diaspora Minister of the Republic of Armenia. 

In her letter to Ms. Zaroukian that accompanied the certificate, Minister Hakobyan praised Ms. Zaroukian’s generous gesture to bring her contribution to Armenian education and the preservation of Armenian identity. Ms. Zaroukian recently made a generous donation of four million dollars to St. Illuminator’s Cathedral, whose proceeds will be allocated to charitable goals. In her letter, Minister Hakobyan also stated her hope that the many projects to be executed will also contribute to strengthen the links with the Homeland.

Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian and Ambassador Zohrab Mnatsakanyan with Ms. Azadouhi Zaroukian at Armenia’s UN Mission where the Certificates were presented.


Bible Readings for Sunday, January 15, First Sunday after octave of Nativity are: Isaiah 54:1-14; 1 Timothy 1:1-11; John 2:1-11.

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:1-11)


Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy, my loyal child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
  I urge you, as I did when I was on my way to Macedonia, to remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith. But the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions.
  Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (1 Timothy 1:1-11)

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


Tomorrow, January 13, the Armenian Church commemorates the Feast of the Naming of our Lord Jesus Christ, in accordance with the Hebrew tradition. The commemoration of this event (Matthew 1:20-23; Luke 1:30-32; Luke 2:21) comes seven days after the Feast of the Nativity (the eighth day of the octave of Nativity). This event of the naming and circumcision of our Lord is the basis for the tradition of baptizing children eight days after birth—a tradition that is rarely followed now. “After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21)


On Saturday (January 14), the Armenian Church commemorates the Feast of the Birth of St. John the Forerunner (also known as St. John the Baptist). The elderly couple Zechariah and Elizabeth welcomed with great joy the birth of their son who they named John just as the angel Gabriel had instructed. Neighbors and relatives, who had gathered to celebrate the birth of this special child, pondered about his future asking, “What then will this child become?”

Having gained his voice after months of silence, Zechariah said, “And you, child will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79)

Hasten to our help from on high, Saint John, apostle and prophet and forerunner and baptizer of the Son of God and intercede for us before Christ. You are the priest who offered himself on the cross; beseech him to grant purification from sins to me who composed this hymn and to those who celebrate your memory; Saint John, intercede for us before Christ.”
(Canon for the Nativity of John the Baptist according to the Liturgical Canons of the Armenian Church)

Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)

Birth of Osip Mandelstam (January 15, 1891)

Osip Mandelstam, a famous Russian poet, was the author of one of the finest essays on Armenia in the twentieth century. His sojourn in the country helped him end his poetic block during the years when Stalinism was in the rise and his own life would end in a concentration camp.

Mandelstam was born to a wealthy Jewish family on January 15, 1891, in Warsaw (Poland), then part of the Russian Empire. Soon after his birth, his father, a leather merchant, was able to receive a dispensation that freed their family from the Pale of Settlement—the western region of the empire where Jews were confined to live—and allowed them to move to the capital Saint Petersburg.

Mandelstam entered the prestigious Tenishevsky School in 1900 and published his first poems in the school almanac (1907). After studying in Paris (1908) and Heidelberg (1909-1910), he decided to continue his education at the University of St. Petersburg in 1911. Since Jews were forbidden to attend it, he converted to Methodism and entered the university the same year, but did not obtain a formal degree. He formed the Poets’ Guild in 1911 with several other young poets. The core of this group was known by the name of Acmeists. Mandelstam wrote The Morning of Acmeism, the manifesto for the new movement, in 1913. In the same year, he published his first collection of poems, The Stone.

Mandelstam married Nadezhda Khazina (1899-1980) in 1922 in Kiev (Ukraine) and moved to Moscow. In the same year, he published in Berlin his second book of poems, Tristia. Afterwards, he focused on essays, literary criticism, memoirs, and small-format prose. His refusal to adapt to the increasingly totalitarian state, together with frustration, anger, and fear, took their toll and by 1925 Mandelstam stopped writing poetry. He earned his living by translating literature into Russian and working as a correspondent for a newspaper.

In 1930 Nikolai Bukharin, still one of the Soviet leaders and a “friend in high places,” managed to obtain permission for Osip and Nadezhda Mandelstam for an eight-month visit to Armenia. During his stay, Osip Mandelstam rediscovered his poetic voice and was inspired to write both poems about Armenia and an experimental meditation on the country and its ancient culture, Journey to Armenia (published in 1933): “The Armenians’ fullness with life, their rude tenderness, their noble inclination for hard work, their inexplicable aversion to anything metaphysical and their splendid intimacy with the world of real things – all of this said to me: you’re awake, don’t be afraid of your own time, don’t be sly.” As poet Seamus Heaney, winner of the Nobel Prize of Literature, wrote in 1981, “The old Christian ethos of Armenia and his own inner weather of feeling came together in a marvelous reaction that demonstrates upon the pulses the truth of his belief that ‘the whole of our two-thousand-year-old culture is a setting of the world free for play.’ Journey to Armenia, then, is more than a rococo set of impressions. It is the celebration of a poet’s return to his senses. It is a paean to the reality of poetry as a power as truly present in the nature of things as the power of growth itself.”  

Mandelstam was ferociously criticized in Pravda for failing to notice “the thriving, bustling Armenia which is joyfully building socialism” and for using “a style of speaking, writing and travelling cultivated before the Revolution,” meaning that it was counterrevolutionary.

In November 1933 Mandelstam composed the poem “Stalin Epigram” (also known as “The Kremlin Highlander”), which was a sharp criticism of the climate of fear in the Soviet Union. He read it at a few small private gatherings in Moscow. Six months later, in 1934, he was arrested and sentenced to exile in Cherdyn (Northern Ural), where he was accompanied by his wife. After he attempted suicide, the sentence was reduced to banishment from the largest cities in European Russia, following an intercession by Bukharin. The Mandelstams chose Voronezh.

This proved a temporary reprieve. In 1937 the literary establishment began to attack Mandelstam, accusing him of anti-Soviet views. In May 1938 he was arrested and charged with “counter-revolutionary activities.” He was sentenced to five years in correction camps in August. He arrived to a transit camp near Vladivostok, in the far east of Russia, and died from an “unspecified illness” on December 27, 1938.

Like so many Soviet writers, after the death of Stalin, in 1956 Mandelstam was rehabilitated and exonerated from the charges brought again him in 1938. His full rehabilitation came in 1987, when he was exonerated from the 1934 charges. Nadezhda Mandelstam managed to preserve a significant part of her husband’s work written in exile and to hide manuscripts. She even worked to memorize his entire corpus of poetry, given the real danger that all copies of his poetry would be destroyed. She arranged for the clandestine republication of Mandelstam’s poetry in the 1960s and 1970s, and also wrote memoirs of their life and times, the most important being Hope against Hope (1970).

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


The crisis in Syria requires our financial assistance.
Please keep this community in your prayers, your hearts, and your pocketbooks.






Armenian Prelacy
138 E. 39th Street
New York, NY 10016
Checks payable to: Armenian Apostolic Church of America
(Memo: Syrian Armenian Relief)

Thank you for your help.

Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC)

How the Chestnuts Showed Up from Nowhere?

There are no-words in different languages that become words by a stroke of the pen. We have discussed such a case in the past: շերամ (sheram), the Armenian word for “silk.” Something similar happened with “chestnut.”

The story starts with the word շահդանակ (shahdanak, in Classical Armenian), which appeared in the Atlas of geographer and astronomer Anania Shirakatsi (seventh century A.D.). As all compound words starting with shah (“king”), this one had Iranian origin: it came from Pahlavi—the language spoken during the kingdom of Parthia (250 B.C.-224 A.D.)—shahdanak (Persian shahdana), literally “royal grain,” which actually meant “grain of hemp.” The manuscripts of this work showed nine variants of the Armenian word, due to the work of the scribes, ranging from շաղդանակ (shaghdanak) to շատանայ (shatana) to շագանակ (shaganak).

The Haigazian Dictionary (Հայկազեան Լեզուի Բառարան), spearheaded by Mekhitar of Sebastia (1676-1749), was the first project to compile the entire Armenian vocabulary. Mekhitar wrote and saw to the publication of the first volume (1749) in his death bed. The second volume was compiled by five of his disciples and published in 1769. Its authors selected the word շագանակ (pronounced shakanag in Western Armenian) from the manuscripts of Shirakatsi’s work as the most reasonable variant and attributed it the meaning “chestnut.”

They were wrong. The accurate word was շահդանակ (pronounced shahtanag in Western Armenian) and its meaning was “grain of hemp.” However, the following dictionaries of Classical Armenian in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, including the authoritative New Haigazian Dictionary ( Նոր Հայկազեան Լեզուի Բառարան) , published in 1836-1837, adopted the same word shakanag with the meaning “chestnut.” As a result, the inexistent word and its inexistent meaning entered the literary language. Today, if you need to pull someone’s chestnuts out of the fire (i.e. do something difficult for someone else), you will say շագանակները կրակէն դուրս հանել ( shakanagneruh gragen toors hanel “to take the chestnuts out of the fire”). The word shahtanag has lost the train of language history.


Monday (January 16) is a federal holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was a civil rights leader who adopted the ideals of Christianity and the non-violent teachings of Gandhi. In 1964, at age 35, he received the Nobel Peace Prize. Four years later on April 4, 1968, he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.


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. 

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).

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