Morning clouds gave way to afternoon sunshine on Easter Sunday, as worshippers spilled onto the plaza of New York’s St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral for the traditional “Release of Doves” ceremony.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), celebrated the Divine Liturgy and delivered the Easter homily on Sunday, March 27. As many as 2,000 people took part in the day’s events at the cathedral, greeting one another with the joyous words, “Krisdos haryav ee merelotz! Orhnyal eh harootiunun Krisdosee!”
“The great Easter message of hope, redemption, and new life was Christ’s gift to the world. But to carry it forward into the world, Jesus gave his gift to messengers who were all-too-human,” Archbishop Barsamian said. “Think of the fearful disciples in the Upper Room; the denial of Peter; “doubting” Thomas; the tearful Mary Magdalen. The gospel shows us that these and others were all just ordinary people.”
He went on to speak of the Armenian people who found themselves the targets of one of the greatest crimes against humanity, the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
“In many ways, they too started as ordinary people,” the Primate said. “But the ordinary nature of our sainted Martyrs is what makes them examples for us today. Realizing that they were men and women just like us places the responsibility to live saintly lives directly on our shoulders.”
After the Divine Liturgy, the Primate led a procession to the cathedral plaza, where 12 doves were released, symbolizing the dispatching of the 12 apostles.
Renowned Armenian-American artist Michael Aram was the godfather of this year’s doves ceremony, jointly with church benefactor Sandra Shahinian Leitner. Mr. Aram’s sculpture “Migrations”—honoring the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide—was installed on the cathedral plaza last fall, as part of the 100th anniversary commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.
The Shushi Dance Ensemble of St. Vartan Cathedral, donning traditional Armenian costumes, performed dances on the plaza following the “Release of Doves” ceremony.
A reception followed in Haik and Alice Kavookjian Auditorium, where Archbishop Barsamian officiated over a home-blessing service. The faithful received nshkhars to take home.
The St. Vartan Cathedral Choir sang the Divine Liturgy on Easter Sunday under the direction of Maestro Khoren Mekanejian. Florence Avakian accompanied on the organ.
The Easter Divine Liturgy and “Release of Doves” ceremony were broadcast live online. The program is archived and available for viewing on the Diocese’s live-stream channel.
Holy Week services
Easter was preceded by Holy Week, which commemorates the dramatic events leading to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
At St. Vartan Cathedral on Palm Sunday, March 20, the Very Rev. Fr. Mamigon Kiledjian, cathedral dean, celebrated the Divine Liturgy and conducted the Turun-Patzek or “Door-Opening” service. At the conclusion of services, the faithful walked from the cathedral plaza to the western entrance of the building, carrying palms in commemoration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
The St Vartan Cathedral Council organized a special “Children’s Day” event on Palm Sunday. Some 25 children from New York City learned about the final days of Christ’s earthly ministry. They decorated Easter boxes and eggs, and made crosses from palms. The children also received a blessing from Fr. Kiledjian in the cathedral sanctuary, before concluding the day with a pizza luncheon.
On March 24, Great and Holy Thursday, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the morning. In the evening, the “Washing of the Feet” ceremony was held, which re-enacts Christ’s humble service to his 12 disciples during the Last Supper. This year, members of the Knights of Vartan served as surrogates for the disciples.
The Order of the Crucifixion of Christ and the Order of the Entombment of the Lord (or Taghoom Service) were held on Great and Holy Friday, March 25. On Easter Eve, Saturday, March 26, Fr. Kiledjian celebrated the Divine Liturgy.
Similar celebrations were underway at parishes across the Diocese throughout Holy Week and Easter Sunday.