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ACYOA Juniors gathered over Columbus Day weekend at St. Leon Armenian Church of Fair Lawn, NJ, for their annual Sports Weekend. The parish hosted 285 participants from 17 parishes across the Diocese. With the theme of “Rise Hye, Live, Thrive” echoing throughout the weekend, participants treasured their time together through worship, sports, and fellowship.

The Rev. Fr. Diran Bohajian, pastor of St. Leon, and event co-chairs Serda Belekdanian and Diane Zoraian worked alongside dedicated community members to ensure the success of the weekend. Events were held at the church’s Charles and Grace Pinajian Youth Center, and participants were housed with local families.

Kathryn Ashbahian, of the Diocesan Youth and Young Adult Ministries department, was present throughout the weekend and offered an encouraging message during morning service before the kids broke off to play their Saturday games. Once the sports concluded for the day, participants headed home for dinner with their host family before heading to a Hollywood-inspired social and dance.

As part of a service project for the weekend, participants came loaded with items to donate for those who have experienced the devastation of the recent hurricane season. The ACYOA Juniors were asked to collect baby wipes, diapers, flashlights and batteries to donate to the “Empire State Relief Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico.” JetBlue Airlines will fly the items to Puerto Rico for distribution to those who need it most.

On Sunday, Fr. Bohajian celebrated the Divine Liturgy, and the church pews were happily packed with the weekend’s participants and parishioners. After finishing their final sports and games competitions, participants gathered at St. Leon Church for an awards ceremony and Hawaiian-themed banquet, where they danced to Armenian and American music. On Monday morning, everyone gathered for a farewell breakfast before heading back home.

AWARDS:

Advanced Chess:
1. Garo Amerkanian, St. Thomas, Tenafly, NJ
2. Jacob Naroian, St. James, Watertown, MA

Beginner Chess:
1. Armen Dervishian, St. Sahag & St. Mesrob, Wynnewood, PA
2. Michael Connors, Holy Resurrection, New Britain, CT

Advanced Tavloo:
1. Chris Kapikian, St. Sahag & St. Mesrob, Wynnewood, PA
2. Jack Dadian, St. Leon, Fair Lawn, NJ

Beginner Tavloo:
1. Taline Janikian, St. Leon, Fair Lawn, NJ
2. Alina Kouzouian, Holy Trinity, Cambridge, MA

Boys’ Ping Pong:
1. Michael Nargizian, St. Leon, Fair Lawn, NJ
2. Jake Khorozian, St. Leon, Fair Lawn, NJ

Girls’ Ping Pong:
1. Adi Najarian, St. Leon, Fair Lawn, NJ
2. Adrena Sederian, St. James, Watertown, MA

Connect Four:
1. Shahe DerTorossian, St. James, Watertown, MA
2. Lauren Dadekian, St. Leon, Fair Lawn, NJ

Boys’ Basketball:
1. St. Leon (team A), Fair Lawn, NJ
2. St. Sahag & St. Mesrob, Wynnewood, PA

Girls’ Basketball:
1. St. Leon (team A), Fair Lawn, NJ
2. St. Mark, Springfield, MA & St. George, Hartford, CT (Regional Team)

Co-ed Volleyball:
1. St. Sahag & St. Mesrob, Wynnewood, PA
2. Holy Resurrection, New Britain, CT & St. Mark, Springfield, MA (Regional Team)

Sportsmanship Awards:
Albert Yildirim, St. James, Watertown, MA
Isabelle Hagobian, Holy Martyrs, Bayside, NY

Overall Champion:
St. Leon, Fair Lawn, NJ

The Armenian Church calendar lists the following saints under the title “Holy Translators”: Sahag the Parthian, Mesrob Mashdots, Yeghishé, Movses the Grammarian, David the Invincible, Gregory of Nareg, and Nersess of Hromgla.

The English word “translator” hardly does justice to the Armenian word tarkmanich. To our ances­tors the word tarkmanich had the meaning not only of translator, but also of commentator, narrator, writer, poet, rhetorician, historian, intellec­tual, and philosopher.

For this reason, the group of saints labeled as Holy Translators includes the familiar names of Sahag and Mesrob, but also the names of a 5th-century historian, a 6th-century grammarian, a 6th-century philosopher, a 10th-century poet, and a 12th-century theo­logian.

Sts. Sahag and Mesrob are considered major saints of the Armenian Church for of their efforts to spread spiritual and intellectual enlightenment throughout Armenia. Under the inspiration of God and the sponsorship of King Vramshabuh and Catholicos Sahag, Mesrob Mashdots created the Armenian alphabetic script in A.D. 406. His fore­most endeavor was to trans­late the Holy Scriptures into Armenian. For a period of four decades, Sahag and Mesrob established schools, educated the young, and spread the word of God throughout Armenia and its neigh­boring regions. The literary output of these 5th-century figures is referred to as “the literature of the Golden Age.”

Below are brief sketches describing the five other figures honored in the calendar as Holy Translators.

St. Yeghishé Vartabed: St. Yeghishé, the historian of the Vartanants War, was the secretary of St. Vartan Mamigonian, chaplain of the Armenian troops, and a former pupil of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob. As a bishop he participated in the Council of Ardashad in A.D. 449, when Armenians openly defied the Persian demand to convert to Zoroastrianism.

After the great rebellion of 451 and the martyrdom of St. Vartan, Yeghishé spent years in seclusion, living a solitary existence on the mountains of southern Armenia. When his fame as a saintly man became known, he moved to the mountains south of Lake Van. He died in the wil­der­­ness and was buried there; his grave in the village of Varishad could be seen until the early 19th century.

St. Yeghishé was a prolific author, who spent most of his life in military camps and in the wilderness. Most people know him as the historian of the Vartanants War: a unique piece of Christian historiography, full of philosophical reflections and poetical inspiration. Other writings are attributed to Yeghishé, but only some are considered genuine. These include writings on the Transfiguration, the human soul, and the Old Testament books of Genesis, Joshua, and Judges.

St. Movses Kertogh (the Grammarian): Very little is known about this saint, but he is mentioned as the teacher of writers who flourished in the 6th century. This leaves no doubt that he actually lived sometime in the first half of that century.

Movses Kertogh was the bishop of Pakrevant: a man well-versed in Greek grammar, rhetoric and philosophy. Modern scholarship attributes to him the translation, from Greek, of the Grammar of Dionysius Thrax: a landmark in the history of Armenian literature.

His works opened the way to new translations and original works in philosophy and theology. Technical words and idioms formulated by Movses remain indispensable today for coining scientific and philosophical terminology in modern Armenian.

Movses is also one of the earliest hymnographers of the Armenian Church. A medieval list names Movses as author of all the hymns of the Theophany (Christmas) cycle, several on the Resurrection (including the Magnificat hymns), and others hymns

St. David the Invincible: Although tradition states that St. David the Invincible was a pupil of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob, it has now been established that he is a late 6th/7th-century personality. Like Mesrob Mashdots, he came from the district of Daron.

As a young man he went to Alexandria, Egypt, and studied in the renowned Neo-Platonic school there with a philosopher named David. The latter is also known to have been a Christian of Armenian origin. The fact that both teacher and pupil have identical names has created much confusion in historical works, with the result that the works of these two Davids have all been attributed to one person.

The David we venerate as a saint is responsible for the Armenian translations of a number of philosophical works. He was surnamed “the Invincible” because of his invincibility in philosophical dialectic.

David’s translations provided Armenians with a philosophical language they could employ in theological discussions. His Armenian translations of the works of Aristotle—rendered from manuscripts more ancient than those we have today—have been extremely valuable for understanding that great Greek philosopher.

St. Gregory of Nareg: St. Gregory of Nareg is known for his prayer book, The Book of Lamentations. He was the son of a priest named Khosrov, who after his wife’s death was elevated to the rank of bishop.

As a boy, Gregory was placed in the care of his mother’s uncle, Anania Vartabed, abbot of the Monastery of Nareg south of Lake Van. He was among the first generation of pupils at Nareg (founded in the mid-900s). Gregory became a monk and spent his life in the monastery teaching and writing.

His saintliness was acknowledged during his lifetime. He spent time in seclusion, praying in a cave by the lake, where he received a vision of the Holy Virgin with the baby Christ in her arms. He later wrote about this miraculous experience.

St. Gregory died on October 7, 1003 and was buried in Nareg. The monastery remained a pilgrimage site until 1915; but following the Genocide it was razed to the ground. In 1021 Gregory’s relics were laid near the city of Agn and a monastery was built there. By the 19th century, however, the monastery was in ruins, and after 1915 the site was abandoned entirely.

Besides The Lamentations, St. Gregory wrote a commentary on the Song of Songs and odes dedicated to feast days–some of which are still chanted at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy.

St. Nersess Shnorhali (the Graceful): St. Nersess Shnorhali was born in the early 12th century, to a family that traced its ancestry from St. Gregory the Illuminator. Various members achieved renown as generals, statesmen, and men of letters in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Orphaned as a boy, Nersess and his older brother Gregory were placed in the care of their great uncle Catholicos Gregory II. While his brother ascen­ded to the patriarchal throne in 1113, Nersess was sent to Garmir Vank near Kesun (a town east of Cilicia). His title shnorhali —“the graceful” or “grace-filled”—is thought to be an honorific bestowed on distinguished alumni of the Garmir Vank.

As a bishop, Nersess became his brother’s chief adviser at the catholicate of Hromgla (an outcrop on the Euphrates, in southern Turkey). His diplomatic missions with Latin and Greek churchmen influenced his outlook, shaping Nersess into a world-renowned ecumenist. When he became catholicos, Nersess’ letters with the Byzantine emperor Manuel Comnenus led to an attempt to unite the Armenian and Greek churches; but the effort failed because of Nersess’ death and the Byzantines’ crushing defeat at the hands of the Seljuks of Rum. Nersess died in 1173 and was buried at Hromgla.

One of the most prolific Armenian writers, St. Nersess Shnorhali is the author of epics, poems, encyclicals, pastoral letters, and theological treatises. He is best known, however, for his prayers, songs, and hymns—which still constitute the bulk of the Armenian Book of Hours and our Hymnal.

—Fr. Krikor Maskoudian, adapted from his book, The Holy Feasts of Saint Gregory the Illuminator: Celebrating the Life & Lineage of Armenia’s Patron Saint (New York: St. Vartan Press, 2003).

Las Vegas Strong

Once again, our country has awakened to a horrifying spectacle of death. We are told that this latest massacre, in Las Vegas, NV, is the worst mass shooting in modern American history—surpassing the previous outrage of 15 months ago, in Orlando, FL.

Once again, a culture that prides itself on its defiant cleverness—on its “liberation” from traditional religion and morality—looks in vain for a way to explain these mass killings, and the frequency with which they disfigure our national life. Both the killings themselves, and the routinely ineffectual reaction to them, say something deeply troubling about our society.

Once again, our public figures—in the media, politics, the academy and the arts—seem inadequate to the task of binding our fragmented citizenry together. In the moment of crisis, with all eyes upon them, they offer verbal gestures in the unifying language of faith. But at every other moment they insist on marginalizing that faith in our public discourse.

In the face of the motiveless evil, the contempt for human life, that we witnessed again this week, we might draw upon the deep experience of our Armenian Christian heritage—and offer its wisdom to our fellow Americans.

As Armenian Christians, it does not come as news to us that the world is a disordered place. We know—from experience—that Evil is abroad among us; that the world is a veil of tears. We believe that to save His children, God sent His only Son to live among us and suffer the ills of this world. That Son, Jesus Christ, triumphed over evil, sin, and death—and shares his triumph with everyone willing to grasp his rescuing hand in faith and love.

As Armenian Christians, we assert the spiritual truth that every person who fell in Las Vegas is a human soul, precious to God, and connected to loved ones who are now suffering the deepest grief. We reach out with prayer in the midst of such suffering.

Finally, as Armenian Christians we are consoled that our risen Lord knows well the sufferings of his children, and will vindicate them when he returns to establish his kingdom. On that day Jesus Christ will “wipe away every tear” (Rev. 21); until then, we ask for his mercy on the world and on us, in the timeless sharagan of our Sourp Badarak:

“Lord, have mercy. All-holy Trinity, grant peace to the world. Bring healing to the sick, and thy kingdom to those at rest. Have mercy on us Jesus, our Savior. Through the holy, immortal, life-giving sacrifice, O Lord, receive and have mercy.”

—Christopher H. Zakian

Holy Apostles of Christ

You might think it’s a misprint. Everyone knows that Jesus had exactly twelve disciples—so why does the Armenian Church calendar reserve a feast day for the Seventy-two Disciples of Christ? (We’ll observe it this Saturday, October 7.)

In fact, the Seventy-Two Disciples are firmly rooted in Scripture—but only the Gospel of Luke mentions them. They were distinct from “The Twelve”—Christ’s inner circle of companions. The larger group had the character of an “advance team” for Christ’s ministry, its members fanning out into the countryside, preaching in villages and towns—preparing the soil, as it were, for Jesus’ personal arrival in a given locale.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few,” Christ said as he dispatched the 72 disciples. “So the Lord of the harvest has to send more workers out into the fields.”

He sent them out “as lambs among wolves,” without purse, bag, or sandals. He told them to live simply, but urgently. And the message they were told to convey was equally simple and urgent: “The kingdom of God is coming near you”—so be prepared!

Evidently, their mission went well. Luke lets us listen in as Jesus “debriefed” the 72 after their return.  “Lord,” they excitedly explained, “even the demons submit to us in your name!” Jesus was so delighted by the news that he replied, “I seem to see Satan falling like lightning from heaven”—his poetic way (perhaps) of saying: “It looks like the good guys are winning!”

Several ancient authorities went so far as to try to name all 72 disciples. A typical list reads like a “Who’s Who” of the early church, incorporating figures well-known through Scripture (Matthias, Mark, Luke), others who are merely familiar (Timothy, Titus, Tabitha), and some who are truly obscure (Thorus and Zakron). The compilations have dubious historical value, but they suggest that at least some among the 72 went on to lead the early Christian movement during the Apostolic Age.

What happened to the 72 disciples? Luke’s Gospel doesn’t say; but a curious episode in the Gospel of John might offer a clue.

At a contentious moment in his ministry, Christ made the incredible announcement that “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them” (Jn 6:56). We today recognize this as a reference to the mystery of Holy Communion; but Christ’s listeners at the time were deeply scandalized by the assertion. “From this time,” John writes, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

Presumably, the deserting disciples here were among the group of 72—suggesting a bittersweet sequel to the triumphant mission depicted by St. Luke. Some of them were willing to follow Jesus only so far—but no further; they supported him when he was “winning,” but at the first sign of controversy they distanced themselves. It was hardly the last time Jesus would be betrayed by his followers.

Yet for this moment, at least, Jesus could still count on the loyalty of his closest companions. When he asked the Twelve whether they, too, intended to abandon him, Peter spoke up for the others with these touching words:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:68-69).

Peter’s simple expression of trust could be a motto for people throughout history—like our own Armenian forebears—who have stood by our Lord, and followed his teachings, even when to do so brought them grief, ridicule, and persecution.

Read about Christ’s Seventy-Two Disciples at Luke 10:1-24.

—Christopher H. Zakian

The independence of Armenia 26 years ago was celebrated at New York’s St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral on Thursday, September 21, 2017, with a classical concert attended by esteemed diplomats and featuring young musical talents. The evening cast a positive outlook for the future of the homeland and the diaspora.

The event was organized by the Armenia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, and its Ambassador Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, along with the participation of regional and national Armenian organizations.

To begin the celebration, a special Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Republic of Armenia was conducted by clergy from throughout the metro region, led by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan.

The special guest for the evening, Mr. Edward Nalbandian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, congratulated everyone on Armenia’s National Independence Day, making special mention of the soldiers who defend the borders of the homeland and emphasizing that Armenians will continue to live on their native soil.

The St. Vartan Cathedral Choir sang under the direction of Maestro Khoren Mekanejian, with soloists Anoosh Barclay, Alvert Mayilian, Hasmik Mekanejian, Solange Merdinian, and Anahit Zakarian rendering the national anthems of the United States and Armenia. Florence Avakian accompanied on the organ.

The evening’s musical program featured young performers in a concert curated by renowned master pianist and ethnomusicologist Şahan Arzruni.

The concert included pieces by world composers, ranging from Khatchaturian to Tchaikovsky. These were expertly played by cellist Laura Navasarian, pianist Michael Kakossian Khoury, and violinist Simon Hagopian-Rogers—all New York natives in their young teen-age years.

In concluding remarks, Archbishop Barsamian offered congratulatory words that “we as a people around the world come together in unity to celebrate the 26th anniversary of Armenia’s independence.”

Archbishop Barsamian addressed his words to several hundred audience members in the cathedral as well as to viewers of a live internet broadcast of the concert. More than a 1,500 viewers tuned to watch the concert on the Livestream channel and Facebook page of the Eastern Diocese.

Reflecting on the musical talents of the young generation, Archbishop Barsamian said they are the ones who will carry forward the spirit of the Armenian martyrs and survivors.

“We bow our heads in front of our martyrs, parents, grandparents and survivors who had the dream of a free and independent Armenia,” he said. “We were fortunate to see that dream realized; and witnessing the talents of the young generation tonight is a source of inspiration for all of us.”

He offered respectful words of gratitude to the generous benefactors of the celebratory concert, Mr. and Mrs. Nazar and Artemis Nazarian.

A reception followed in Haik and Alice Kavookjian Auditorium, where Ambassador Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Armenia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, spoke of the birth of Armenia’s independence and the struggles it has faced over the last two and a half decades.

“Today is a symbolic day for all of us and we celebrate with the performance of brilliant talent,” said Ambassador Mnatsakanyan. “Today reminds us that Armenia is a source of joy; but it also reminds us that Armenia is a responsibility, and Armenia is hard work.”

Ambassador Mnatsakanyan spoke of the need to defend the nation’s borders and that “Armenia is for us all.”

An Extra Dose of Armenian Spirit

One of Armenia’s achievements throughout its history has been its cultural prowess, as displayed by the young talents performing that evening in the St. Vartan Cathedral sanctuary. Şahan Arzruni, winner of the Armenia’s “Movses Khorenatsi Medal” for exceptional achievement in cultural development, said he wants to pass on his musical knowledge and experiences to the gifted students because “they are the future of our people.”

“If I can infuse them with an extra dose of the Armenian spirit, for the preservation of our culture and my heritage, so much the better,” said Arzruni, who recently traveled through the provinces of Armenia and Artsakh to teach and perform music.

“The other day I read that the Armenian DNA has been around for 3,500 years. Let’s keep it going,” he said.

Cellist Laura Navasardian, a student at the Special Music School and Julliard Pre-College, said she was proud to be part of the Armenian Independence Day celebration and dreams of one day performing in her homeland, where her parents were born during the Soviet period. Having played Impromptu by Alexander Haratunian, she noted the importance of spreading Armenian music globally.

“Musicians are ambassadors of culture,” said Navasardian, who won first prize at the Cremona International Music Competition in Italy last year as well as the Grand Prize at the International Grande Music Competition in New York. “We have great Armenian composers who could be introduced to the world through Armenian musicians and it should be our pledge to our culture and to our country to do that.”

Playing the violin since the age of four, Simon Hagopian-Rogers said he was happy to help celebrate Armenian Independence Day, September 21—which coincidentally falls on his own birthday. Hagopian-Rogers, a student at the Special Music School and Julliard Pre-College selected Chante-Poème by Aram Khatchaturian to play—one of his favorite pieces.

“I always try to have an Armenian piece prepared for Armenian audiences, but the main thing is the quality of the music,” said Hagopian-Rogers, who made his debut at Carnegie Weill Hall and won first prize in the American Prodigy Competition. “I played Chante-Poème once in a competition in Europe and I could see the Russian judges knew the piece and they were happy to hear it since it is not played as much now.”

Performing works by Arno Babadjanian and Aram Khatchaturian, pianist and composer Michael Kakossian Khoury, who has played for the Armenian Armed Forces in Yerevan, said it was an honor to perform among other Armenian talents at a holy site like St. Vartan Cathedral, noting the “ambiance of togetherness and unity.”

“The concert brought out my Armenian roots more than any other event because of its meaning and location,” said Kakossian-Khoury, who has played the piano for seven years and has been a finalist in competitions at Carnegie Hall. “It felt great to identify as someone who can share the value and celebration of Armenian independence.”

In an interview, Ambassador Mnatsakanyan reiterated the significance of an independent Armenian land and the importance of strengthening the homeland through unity.

“Armenia is not just 29,000 square kilometers. It is more than that, and we must care about it,” he said. “We have demonstrated this power of being together on such an important and symbolic day. We have all these institutions that define our strong sense of identity; and we have statehood, which tops it all.”

—Taleen Babayan

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