Testing the Myth and Beyond, Vol. 2, No. 4

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1992 Volume II, Number 4

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TESTING THE MYTH AND BEYOND
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E d i t o r s_ Fr Vazken Movsesian & Dn Hratch Tchilingirian
A r t   D i r e c t o r_ Yn Susan Movsesian
D i s t r i b u t i o n s_ Alice Atamian
L i a i s o n_ Dn Michael Findikyan & Abraham  Sldrian
P h o t o g r a p h y_. Bruce Burr
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W I N D O W
view of the Armenian Church
Volume II, Number 4 — 1992

What is Myth? by Paige Lindsey Shaw
Testing the Myth and Beyondby Vazken Movsesian  & Hratch
Tchilingirian
A Sacrifice of Praise: Blessing of Madagh by Michael Findikyan
The Bishop in Cassock & Reebocks
Chrismation in the Oriental Orthodox Church by Garabed D.
Kochakian
“A Call to Excellence”
Compendium
Letters
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Cover: Original Oil Painting “Failed Papacy”
by Ared Arzumanian, Toronto, Canada
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A Note from the Publisher

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In the two years since, Window became the first forum where
the religious needs of Armenia and Kharabagh were discussed; The
work of Teotig was translated and analyzed; Impact of the cults on
the Armenian community was recorded; The first ever
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distribution in Armenia. Editor Hratch Tchilingirian recently
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in
the next issue.
We have now restructured and are ready for full operations.
At ACRAG, we are committed to Window and its continued
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–Armenian Church Research and Analysis Group

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What is Myth
by Paige Lindsey Shaw

Paige Lindsey Shaw received her M. Div. from Yale University in
1976.  and has taught classes in Christian origins, New Testament,
and the history of the Early Church.  She is the wife of Dr. Lewis
Shaw, an orthodox theologian and a friend of the
Armenian Church.

Why is everybody suddenly talking about “myth?”  What is a myth?
Am I supposed to understand by a myth that a story is a true
story, or a made-up story?  Does “it’s only a myth” mean something
is a fairy-tale?  Does an “event of mythic
proportions” mean something never really happened?  Aren’t myths
just stories from folk religions?  Nothing in the Bible is a myth,
is it!  Is it?
A myth is about something that is true.  It is a story –or a
tale embedded in a cultural tradition–about a universal,
recognizable truth.  The story as it unfolds may not be factually
true, but that is not the point; it may be set in a no-time, a
“dream-time”  (as Australian Aborigines call it), or the
“creative-era”  (as Mircea Eliade calls it) of the world.  There
is nothing in a myth that we can “prove” objectively, nor do we
want to–but we find ourselves moved, gripped, enlightened by
the story.  Subjectively, we, as individuals, and we in society,
or as a people, find ourselves transformed with a new
understanding.  We may learn what is expected of us in a new stage
of life, how to express our identity, how to understand and
face the inevitabilities and mysteries of life.
Myths are so important to every culture in every stage of its
development, that we have continued, in every age, to try to
explain them–and we interpret them or propose a formal key to
them by the lights of what is most important to us in that age.
If you were to take a course or to read a set text on myth or on
mythology (a word that can mean either the study of myth itself,
or a collection of the mythic tales of a people), you would learn,
first of all, that six major and exclusive theories
have governed the study of myth in modern times.

Speculation on the earliest origins of religion–a pursuit that
can really only be guesswork–led nineteenth century scholars to
declare that all mythology was allegory:  myths were about the
personification (called “anthropomorphism”) of weather,
seasons, or astronomical phenomena.  A story about a young hero
who fights and kills a monster, for instance, is really about
daylight conquering darkness, or spring overpowering the winter.
Of course, there are nature myths, but they hardly make
up the majority of “traditional tales” (G.S. Kirk’s term) in any
culture.  Yet, it is true that in all mythologies the whole
natural world appears to be infused with countless anthropomorphic
powers.
By the end of the nineteenth century educated people had come to
believe in the triumph of science–all things could and would be
explained scientifically.  Therefore, it made sense that myths
were simply primitive (or proto-) science.  They were
etiological–they gave people a cause-and-effect explanation of
something in the real world, usually something profound or
disturbing, as well as important physical aspects of the world.
Why is there death, or evil?  Or, where did we as a people
come from?  Why is there sea,
and then land?  Why animals and  also humans?  Well, clearly,
today we have “science”–and we still need myth.  We also now
recognize that “primitive man” is neither as credulous or as
ignorant of the actual processes of nature, as scholars
previously supposed.  Yet, if one explores a myth using this key
one can often discover a deep and subtle philosophical
interpretation of human problem.  “Why does — ?” can reveal a
surprisingly sophisticated solution that still obtains.
Modern anthropologists, however, insisted that the study of myth
belonged only to the actual study of primitive cultures and of the
function of society.  Mythology was not infantile science but
instead a society’s way to establish and legitimate
its social institutions and conventions.  This is called the
charter theory.  It depends on several academic disciplines,
including psychology and comparative religion.  Yes, in many
important ways, a society’s mythology tells much about how it
works.  Also, this concept is crucial to an informed understanding
of primitive cultures, how they explain their customs, and the
logic informing their underlying societal structures.
At the same time, though, many scholars of the nature of religion
maintain that myths serve the very special purpose of bringing us,
the hearer or participant in a rite, into an intentional
relationship with, or an experience of, the creative  era,
the moment when all that is was made, and when the Makers and
Powers themselves were reachable.  This is why some myths go with
certain “rites of passages;” their telling puts the initiate in
contact with the generative and transforming power of
creation, and the essentially sacred.
An earlier concept that was important, and is so even today, is
the Myth and Ritual School that was made popular by the
publication of J.G. Frazer’s lengthy The Golden Bough (1890-1915).
Myths, these scholars said, are vestiges of important
rituals–most of them forgotten or radically changed.  Any story
that cannot be related to an actual cultic act or ritual cannot,
therefore, be classed as a proper myth.  Clearly, we can connect
many myths to cults and rites.  But did the action and
rite come first, and then give us the tale?  Some questions about
the origin of religion can never be answered; furthermore, this
view leaves us with a massive body of clear-cut mythologies that
cannot fit the mold.
Last, we have the school of thought popularized today which is
derived from the studies of the human psyche made by Sigmund Freud
and C.G. Jung.  The late twentieth century is assuredly the age of
the individual.  Our age is manifestly concerned
with how one becomes an individual, and the well-being and
wholeness of that individual.  And we expect psychology to explain
and to determine that well-being.  At the same time, it is a tenet
of modern belief that traditional society is falling
apart, so we experience concern for the structures and beliefs
that used to hold that society together.  In addition we recognize
an organic integrity between an individual and his or her society.
A current school of understanding the meaning of
myth, therefore, rests on the work of Freud, Jung, Ernest
Cassirer, and its popularizer, the late Joseph Campbell.
Myths, this explanation goes, can be determined to have their
ultimate reality in the human psyche.  As each person tries to
understand and internalize his or her own individual experience,
these myths, depending usually on symbols (which are
revealed in dreams and in all mythologies), express crucial ideas
and emotions repressed deep within his or her self.  We often come
across significant “archetypes” like the all-important “earth
mother” or mother-goddess, or perhaps the
developmental process reflected in the common “quest” story.  This
interpretation describes how society and each person needs ritual,
mystery, transcendence, awe, and myth in order to fulfill the
whole self, and to achieve well-being and inner
integrity.  All cultures up until our day understood these things,
and we must recover them.
While myths may be like dreams and may have developed to meet the
unconscious needs of those who told them–much as Freud’s “dream
work” of the individual does– myth’s role as an inchoate clue to
some vaguely-defined “dream-thinking” of a people
depends on erroneous assumptions about the evolution of any given
human culture.  Myths do indeed plainly deal with common and basic
human ideas, but they are only one expression of the unconscious
human mind or any given human culture.
Furthermore, some cultures do not seem to use the conventional
“archetypes.”  Also, we are left with questions of definition such
as, what does “symbol” or “archetype” actually mean?  Anyone who
is well-read finds himself uncomfortable with
Campbell’s attempts to stretch out obscure legends and etiologies
to put them on a par with obviously highly significant, central,
and complex cosmic stories.
Still, the contributions of Freud, Jung and Cassirer, that myth
is one of the primary facets of cultural expression, has
illuminated the entire study of mythology.  G.S. Kirk, in The
Nature of Greek Myths, maintains that myths are a unique form of
expression; they make us respond imaginatively and emotionally.
They are most clearly “psychologically satisfying” on their own,
and in some way they evoke in us a particular feeling, “a visceral
thing, like a response to great music or poetry.”
What then is it about a particular story that creates this
response?  What is it that is the mythic quality?  Some say that
the story must be about sacred events or about deities, but this
would exclude many powerful stories–stories that contain
important messages about life, in general, and our place in the
world, in particular.
Every absolute and exclusive theory ends up dismissing or
marginalizing some stories, and sometimes even an entire culture’s
body of traditional tales.  Certainly we have to apply, in order
to understand the full import of any given story, several
methods of analysis — and even then some tales will defy
analysis.  If you should successfully explain a myth to your
satisfaction, you want to still keep exploring and examining that
story.  Myths are subtle, and may surprise you if you keep
applying different keys.  Myths are changeable things–a
traditional tale may have evolved, have re-located in time and
place, and have developed new ambiguities.  True myths will always
work on several different levels and respond to several kinds
of examination and there is not always a “right” key to every
story.

Some scholars are careful to separate proper myths from other
kinds of traditional stories.  The legends, for example, could be
described as tales about plausibly historical figures like
Hercules, or Odysseus, or George Washington.  Yet books of
Greek mythology contain tales about the Trojan War and about
Hercules.  Then there is the animal fable like Aesop’s Fables or
the Uncle Remus tales; some of these overlap into the traditional
moral or cautionary tale.  Finally there is the great
body of stories called folk-tales like those of the Brothers
Grimm.  Nevertheless these folk-tales, as we call them, contain
mythic elements, and a good many myths have folk-tale motifs.
Several child psychologists point out that “fairy tales” have
important things to tell children about developmental tasks ahead
of them; children, it seems, are reassured by the solving of
problems in these stories.  They identify with the characters and
their actions, and they sense that small and powerless
though they are, their day will come at last.  An examination of
some folk-tales such as “Beauty and the Beast” in light of its
relation to the tale of “Eros and Psyche” lifts it out of the
mainstream of ordinary fairy tales.  Clearly, few hard and
fast rules can be absolutely applied to all bodies of traditional
tales.
Sometimes the attempt to find the right “key” to myths to explain
all its elements separately, can rob a story of its power– and
its point.  Perhaps, trying to analyze a myth is like explaining a
joke:  the power to amuse or awe us is gone.  For
example, take the story tol
d in Exodus of the parting of the Red Sea that allowed the
Israelites to pass through safely.  By trying to “prove” the story
(according to western notions of factuality) and showing that the
Red Sea dried up as the consequence of an earthquake or
volcanic eruption — one has reduced a major event in the sacred
history of Israel and its relationship with God to a mere accident
of the weather (and hence, one assumes, a rather gratuitous
misunderstanding on the part of the Hebrews!).  The truth
in the story, the point of telling it, is that in real human
history God acted to save His people; He is a God Who acts, and
Who works out His purpose in our world because we matter so much
to Him.  God acts in this world and makes our human history
a transcendent thing.
On the other hand, we can point to more recently recorded,
historical events–the sort in history books–and speak of them as
having gained “mythic proportions” because of royalty, no ancient
history, and no indigenous connection to the land, have
events which when described move us all profoundly.  The bleeding
feet of Washington’s soldiers at Valley Forge, the
Constitution–these images and documents recounting our nation’s
founding have the power to evoke strong, universal feelings in all
Americans.  They describe something essential about our common
identity and beliefs.  They are not simple nor easily “unpacked”
either.  Here our history is lifted up and we see a sort of
transformation begin as we sanctify our past.  One would,
today, point to the images repeatedly shown of the Berlin Wall
tumbling down, of the tanks rumbling away from Red Square–as long
as the twentieth century is remembered these images will remain.
Myths grip us when tricky moral problems are described–things we
do not understand, where justice does not seem to apply, where an
inevitable end is foredoomed.  Human death, for instance, in
almost every culture, seems to be explained as the
tragic consequence of some apparently trivial kind of accident or
wrong choice.  We can point to the fixed dichotomy between the
goddesses Artemis and Aphrodite.  Why is this?  Then there is the
tragic tale of Oedipus–which is not about incest, but
about the terrible fact that ignorance is not innocence, that our
most unknowing act may be our most guilty, and that countless
people suffer from one man’s deed.
Why are  such images, tales, recountings, and retellings repeated
over and over, from generation to generation and culture to
culture?  One answer lies in just that emotional and ineffable
power that draws one across language and culture.  This
writer remembers, as a child, being utterly and repeatedly
entranced by two compelling stories — the story of “The Death of
Baldur” from Norse mythology, and the story in Iroquois mythology
of the self-sacrificing death of Mondamin at the hands of
Hiawatha (the Algonquin Manabozho) and how the maize grew from his
body in the earth.  Such stories, poetic and mystical, make us all
human together, in the same way, and make our common human heart a
transforming, transcendent thing.  Something to
tell stories about.

SUGGESTED READING
Joseph Campbell, Hero With a Thousand Faces.   New York, 1949.
Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth.  New York,
1988.
H.R. Ellis Davidson, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe.
Harmondsworth, 1958.
Mircea Eliade, Myths, Dreams, and Mysteries.  New York, 1961.
Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion.  London, 1958.
T.S. Eliot, “The Wasteland.”  London, 1922.
Sir James G. Frazer, The Golden Bough.  New York (one-volume
edition), 1922.
G.S. Kirk, The Nature of Greek Myths.  Harmondsworth, 1974.
S.N. Kramer (ed.), Mythologies of the Ancient World.  Garden City,
New York, 1961.
Bronislaw Malinowski, Magic, Science, and Religion.  New York,
1948.
Martin P. Nilsson, Greek Piety.  New York, 1948 (1969).
J.B. Pritchard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the
Old Testament (Third Edition) .  Princeton, 1969.

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Testing the Myth and Beyond
by Fr. Vazken Movsesian and Dn. Hratch Tchilingirian

The understanding of myths and their place in religious
perception is vital to the understanding of Christianity, as it is
the case with most religions.  Myths help define and shape beliefs
and practices of a group of people, for instance, the
Armenian people. It is important to emphasize, however, that by
labeling a story as “myth,” it does not mean that the story is
false or is a product of imagination. Myths may or may not be
factual, but they ostensibly point to certain truths.
The present discussion will focus on “myths” created by Armenians
and used in various forms to perpetuate an Armenian religious
dynamic, which sometimes is removed from the basic tenets of
Christianity.
The truth of a message is not necessarily in the factual details
of the story, or the  saying, or the parable.  But rather in its
substance.  For example, the Fundamentalists claim to read the
Bible literally, while for the Orthodox, the truth of
the Bible is not limited by the absolute details of the stories
and events. In the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11f), the
literal reality of whether the son had to tend to swine or any
other livestock is inconsequential. The didactic intent of
the story is found in the father’s unconditional love and
acceptance of his son. As such, myths may not always be factual,
but they always certainly point to an accepted truth.
The Armenians also perpetuate many myths. These myths invite and
challenge the person to see the truth rather than search for
literal analysis.  The story of Christ’s apostles–Thaddeus and
Bartholomew–coming to Armenia is one such story from
which we can deduce that the Armenian’s had a need to claim
apostolic origins.  The Armenian Church has gone to great pains to
prove her apostolic origins and succession–even to a point where
she has dropped the title “orthodox” from the official
name of the church–to substantiate and prove a point.  What is
substantiated however, is that the Armenian Church, a very small
player in the ecumenical movement, resorts to apology to maintain
her distinctiveness  among churches of greater
followings.

A Working Trilogy
The Armenian Church is “unique” in Christendom and so are her
myths. In particular, three classic myths continue to meet the
test of time for Armenians, who recount and enjoy hearing them to
the present day: 1) The Enlightenment of Armenia by St.
Gregory the Illuminator; 2) The God-inspired creation of the
Armenian alphabet; 3) The epic battle of Vartanantz.  These myths
are perpetuated because they work, i.e., they convey the basic
truths of Armenian Church glory.
Moreover, these three myths express dominant themes which are
common to all myths and fit the mythological configurations. In
studying myths, it is accepted that most fall into one of three
categories: creation myths; origin of a divine being;
renewal and rebirth of the world. As the Armenian Church has tried
to define herself to her children throughout the centuries, she
has quite capably used these stories to further perpetuate the
myths. St. Gregory’s conversion of King Tirtad and the
Armenian people is the “creation myth” of the Armenian Church. It
allows for someone from the outside, in this case a Parthenian, to
set up shop, be rejected and later glorified; someone who
ultimately effectuates change.  The story of Vartanantz,
likewise, epitomizes renewal and rebirth, despite the odds and
adversaries (of the David and Goliath genre). As for the origin of
divine beings, is there any example more pronounced than the
creation of the Armenian alphabet? What began as a simple
means of conveying the Gospel to the people, has, throughout the
centuries, assumed a personality of its own and today the alphabet
is deified  in poetry and prose.
A myth will  perpetuate only if it has a useful function.  In
this respect, these three Armenian myths work. But what about
those myths which are held so near and dear to the heart of the
people that they–these myths–defy and even contradict each
other? The Armenian Church herself f
alls into such a category.  The people perceive the Church, Her
functionaries and Her “mission” in a mythic context. Poet Vahan
Tekeyan expresses this sentiment quite pleasantly by claiming
that, “The Armenian Church is the birthplace of [his]
soul_ .”  While enumerating the virtues of the Armenian Church,
Tekeyan deifies her to a point beyond contemplation and criticism.

Testing the Myth
A few years ago, a collection of stories written by Vahe Oshagan,
in Armenian, entitled Tagartin Shoorch (Around the trap,  New
York: Vosgedar Publications, 1988), caused controversy in the
Armenian media.  The story in question was called Odzoom
(Consecration).  In this piece, Oshagan tests the power of the
Armenian myth, vis-a-vis the Church and attempts to underline the
fact that many times, the self-created and recreated myth of the
Armenian leads him to isolation from universal human
values.  For Oshagan, the power  of the Armenian myth is in its
universal dimension.  Unlike the common perception, the Armenian
myth should not be a device for separation and rejection, but
rather a means to elevate the person to a higher level of
understanding.
The Odzoom (pp. 39-142) takes place in Philadelphia, in a St.
Sarkis Armenian Church. The time is winter and there is snow on
the ground. The story begins with a scenario very familiar to
clergy serving in America and could have come from any
parish priest’s diary.
The opening scene begins with Fr. Avedis, the parish priest,
going to church at 7:00 AM.  Almost like a ritual, he first opens
the Agoomp (club), makes the coffee and then  proceeds to open the
Hokapartzoutyan Ofis (parish council office).
Subsequently, Oshagan describes in detail the characters who come
to church. They come to church for every conceivable reason,
except religion.  Indirectly, each  personality reveals the
various characteristics of the false  myth: the chairman of
the parish council and his “attitude;” two women sitting in the
church and talking about what they did during the week; a Hagop
Arakelian, whose wife had just died in Cairo,  comes to church
with his Buick (“he went to the bathroom, urinated, held
his p_. and stood for a long time_ [than he] combed his hair, came
into the church and made the sign of the cross_”); the hyphenated
Armenians and their idiosyncrasies-Iranian-Armenians,
Beruit-Armenians, American Armenians_ .  A total of 16
people come to church on that Sunday: ten of them in the church
and six in the parish council ofis.
During the Divine Liturgy, the priest looks tired, because of
back pain experienced the night before.  He is sleepy and thinks
that the choir is singing wrong again.  The deacons must remind
the priest of his line. The priest surmises, “My god
[sic], we are going to say the same thing again_we’ve said it a
thousand times.  I wish there was a bed here_.”
A young Armenian, named Bruce, who is a former member of ASALA,
enters the scene with two other characters, Jacques and Sona.
They speak about starting a revolution in the Church.  They
believe that, “if Armenians really love and believe in their
church, they will rise against [them]_”  They stipulate that
everyone in the church “should comply_ if not,” Bruce says, “we
will burn the church_ I am hayrenaser (patriot) and that is why I
will do this.” Bruce, Jacque and Sona, dressed in
black, enter the church.  Nobody knows who they are. Sitting in
the church, while the Liturgy is being conducted, they turn on a
transistor radio and jazz music interrupts the service. They cover
their faces with masks.  They begin discussing
national concerns, the Tashnags, the Church, America, life, etc.
Jacques says, “We should destroy the myth_ That is why I want you
[Sona} to kiss in the church standing on the pews.”
“While we do this,” he contends, “the people should not know that
we are Armenians_ because we are then a part of the myth; if we
are identified with it,  we cannot destroy it_ we are the
non-Armenian, we are the Anti-Armenian_.  Church,
religion, God are not worth anything for the Armenian.”
Bruce lights a cigarette in the church.  Jacque and Sona get up
on the pew and start kissing.  The people start to panic and try
to stop them, yet they are hesitant to approach them.  “_as the
myth was momentarily broken, the couple jump down
from the pew_ Fr. Avedis resumes the Liturgy saying, ‘Blessed is
God the Holy Spirit.'”
The conversation continues among the three young characters.
“_my opponent is not the church people.  It is the priest, if I
can bring him to the ground, everybody will be finished_ you
should provoke the people and they will go crazy.”
The three young characters create havoc in the church.  People
are fighting, using profane language, screaming, etc. One of the
young men gets up on the altar and strips the vestments of the
priest off his back.  When the people see the priest
naked, they start laughing in amusement.  However, the priest
continues to read the prayers of the Liturgy, undisturbed with all
the commotion.  Suddenly, Fr. Avedis realizes his embarrassing
position.  He was being put to shame nakedly before “the
altar of Armenians, in the palm of the Church and before the god
[sic] of Armenians_”
After a momentary outburst and rebellion against God, the priest
continues the Liturgy.  A fight breaks out and one of the
instigators of the chaos is wounded with a knife. He lays on the
altar covered with blood. As he lays on the floor, the
priest with tears in his eyes, comes and gives him communion,
saying “Holy Blood for remission of your sins.” The priest then
kisses the forehead of the wounded young man with a forgiving
smile. The wounded man lifts his head with great difficulty,
and with a soft voice, whispers, “Der Hayr, (Reverend Father) you
are stronger than us.”
Following this incident, through the thoughts and voices of the
characters, Oshagan begins to analyze the   event, its taboos and
myths.  Here are some of the thoughts of the characters:
“_We should have gone all the way, there wasn’t a big shock. . .
that’s why I fought with you [in the church]_ the people should
have suffered, they should have seen their priest like that.  I
wanted to break the taboos of sex, to show them
that the p_. is an ordinary, natural organ, it is an instrument of
pleasure and not of shame, sin and transgression_ I should have
broken the myth.  With the myth, the imposition of the centuries,
the fear of the Turk, and the fear of the
massacres would have gone_”
“_ still myth has power, at least for certain people.”
“_revolution should be heartless, heartless, heartless.”
“_there were no youth in the church, if there were,  many things
would have been changed that day_”
“_we started with the church, perhaps we should have started with
the [Armenian] political parties.  They also live with myths, at
least the Tashnags and the Hunchags_”
“_ [The priest] was a brave man.”

As might be expected, following the publication of Odzoom,
Oshagan was severely criticized by both clergy and laity for his
“rude” and “foul” language and concepts. One priest branded him as
the Salman Rushdie of the Armenians.  Yet, Oshagan plays
the ultimate trick.  At first, he challenges the “myth” by
breaking the taboo in writing; and  secondly, he creates a
community wide shock response to his fiction, thus challenging the
conventions of the myth within the Armenian community.  How
would Armenians react to the defamation of their church and
priest?  For sure, Oshagan found that the reactions in real life
Armenian community were no different than those he presented in
his tale. Interestingly enough, the critics of Odzoom make
no mention of the “myth,”  they rather arbitrarily use
out-of-context sound bites from the story to sensationalize their
own criticism and treatise.
To reduced Odzoom to a mere expression of offensive and crude
thoughts is to miss its point.  In essence, the story deals with
the core of Armenian problems, i.e., the people’s fascination with
their own myth. Oshagan’s use of graphic and strong
language literally hits the issue in the chops. At the conclusi
on of the story, Oshagan, through the characters, explains the
reason for ripping the priest apart. “To be naked was more for him
(priest) than the others (congregation).  The priest is a
functionary, he has a status and a duty, he is a symbol, a
paraphernalia, clothing, beard.  When the symbol is lost, the
function is lost also. I thought that the priest could still
believe in what he is doing, even without his cloths, by virtue of
his simple, strong, Armenian orientation.”  By stripping
the priest, it was thought that his function and personality would
be stripped also–that he would be deprived of his ministry.  The
story ends with the persuasion that the priest had a stronger
character than the myth.
Still, the myth is very much alive among Armenians. The myth,
that Oshagan writes of, is deeply rooted in the Armenian
collective conscience and therefore not easily evident.  As such,
its false perception and interpretation may be devastating to
the true mission of the Church.
It is this myth which allows association without proclamation of
faith (even the instigators in Oshagan’s chaos considered
themselves as part of the myth). This myth keeps the church doors
open despite the absence of a congregation– to be
apostolic without the presence of the apostles. It gives the
Church an opportunity to use the rhetoric of martyrdom to call for
action, when in fact, the necessary discipline and commitment has
not been cultivated among the communicants of the
church.  And the list of inconsistencies as a result of the myth,
goes on.
The Ultimate Myth
Myth is powerful. Once understood, that power can be channelled
in a desired direction.  This is what makes myth effectual, but at
the same time dangerous. Therefore, the Church is obligated to use
the power of the myth responsibility (on the
assumption that the myth(s) can be identified).
The challenge before the Armenian Church today is two fold.  At
first the Armenian Church must demythify the explanation that She
has a national mission only. Jesus Christ, as the founder of the
Church, did not sanction Her to preserve any ethnic
or national aspiration.  Second, once demythified, the Armenian
Church must perpetuate the only message it can with any degree of
integrity: the Christian Gospel.  The Christian Gospel has the
elements of birth, rebirth, suffering, victory,
resurrection, creation and re-creation. The Gospel is not confined
to the historical Jesus, but to the time-transcended God who
reveals Himself from the time of Creation to the Second Coming. As
such, the Church is the temporal upholder of this
Truth. Hence, the story of St. Gregory the Illuminator becomes one
of a lone apostle in his struggle to bring the Truth to a heathen
people.  St. Mesrob and St. Sahag are seen as true evangelists,
who’s dedication to the Gospel was so strong that
they created an alphabet to speak to their people.  St. Vartan’s
importance as a warrior for freedom of conscience is validated.
Furthermore, the scores of other saints of the Church begin to
gain their value within the newly-pronounced gospel.
The Divine Liturgy, as the main ritual of the Armenian Church,
presents and represents the Christian message.  This message is
heralded and the life of Christ reactualized. The ultimate victory
of resurrection is offered to all who participate.
The Divine Liturgy is instructional. It allows for the
intercession of the Saints providing a vital link with the past.
The Holy Communion nourishes. Hence, the Christian Gospel has an
opportunity to be revealed, to penetrate and to become part of
the collective consciousness of the people.
The manner in which the Divine Liturgy is presented and offered
to the faithful is crucial to the proper transmission of this
message.  Here, the need for reform of this vital ritual becomes
evident. The Divine Liturgy has no intrinsic value in and
of itself.  It is yet another means, albeit a vital one, which
bring Christ to the center of community life.

=================================================================
Vahe Oshagan:  Anti-Clericalism? Or Stripping the Myth?
Excerpts from Odzoom_

–Look, I’m going to the altar by myself, my purpose is to destroy
the priest in his ridiculous vestments, [his] useless garments,
[I’m going] to tear them apart one by one and throw them away,
until he is left with his underwear — those sh-ty
underwear.
–At first, I had decided to bring to the altar a black common
woman, to undress him there, to f–k him.
— Our job is to dismantle that magic, it is to open the prison of
our sexual energies, in a most ferocious way_ in the church.
— And to give a strong blow to the testicles of Armenians, we
will kill the tongue by not speaking it, we will destroy the
priest, and screw the moral from its vital principles.
–The Armenian language is not a language to give a speech, teach,
write an encyclical, speak with God, pray_ it does not bring
husband and wife together, it is not a language of intimacy.
— The young man jumped to the altar, tore apart the vestments of
the priest with a dagger and dropped his robe (shoochar), he
violently tore his vagas, his white and neat shirt and undershirt.
Within five seconds, Fr. Avedis’s delicate and heavy
garments were compiled under his feet.  Suddenly, a naked body
appeared there, in front of the altar, a crown on his head and
below that an underwear, with a big line of dirt or sh-t behind
it.
–A rag, give me a rag, screamed Fr. Avedis, to cover my d-ck.
–He thought of a rag around him but only the cover of the chalice
was there_.
=================================================================

A Sacrifice of Praise: Blessing of the Madagh
by Dn Michael Findikyan

A ceremony which is unique to the Armenian church is the ritual
of the Blessing of Madagh.  In this ceremony an animal such as a
chicken, dove or lamb is brought to a special stone altar in the
courtyard of the church.  There the priest blesses
salt, feeds it to the animal and offers special prayers, psalms
and hymns.  Then the animal is led away to a separate building
where it is slaughtered.
The ritual, which because of the ignorance and apathy of the
officiating clergy has been abbreviated and ritualized to the
point of meaninglessness, has become the victim of the same fate
as the slaughtered beast. According to current pietistic
customs, after the brief ceremony, the person offering the madagh
rushes home with the meat of the sacrifice and gives a portion of
it to each of seven neighbors. After that, they cook the remaining
meat and host a festive (and sometimes raucous)
day-long celebration with the participation of  relatives, friends
and neighbors.
This ritual is very common in Armenia, where people offer a
madagh sacrifice as a pious gesture on various occasions:  upon
the baptism or wedding of a child, on a birthday, to honor a
special guest, or as a memorial to a loved one on the
anniversary of his death.
But  visitors to Armenia are regularly horrified and repulsed
when they witness the seemingly barbaric ritual, so unlike the
decorous ceremonies they have seen in the Armenian Church in the
west. Others remember the universal Christian teaching
that Christ’s death on the cross became the final and ultimate
sacrifice, rendering any others superfluous. They accuse the
Church of perpetuating an obsolete Jewish custom, thereby
denigrating the saving act of Christ and the entire new covenant.
Indeed, this ambivalence regarding the madagh reaches back to at
least the time of St. Nersess the Gracefilled (11th century), who
found it necessary to devote a portion of his famous pastoral
encyclical to defending Madagh against the attacks of
those who called it a “Jewish sacrifice.”  At the same time he
corrects errors which had crept into the performance of the
ritual.
To determine whether such objections are legitimate, one need
only turn to the words of the rite itself.  First, however, it is
essential to understand the concept of sacrifice as witnessed in
the Old Testament.

ATONEMENT BY SACRIFICE
According to Jewish understanding as revealed in the Old
Testament,  the one God dwells among his people Isra
el and in return for his promise of blessings, he expects above
all their absolute acknowledgement that he alone is God.  This
they must demonstrate by unwavering obedience to his will. The
first commandment makes this clear: “I am the Lord your
God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of
bondage. You shall have no other gods besides me.” [Ex 20:2-3] A
transgression is therefore dangerous not so much in itself, but
rather because it represents a lapse in obedience
which calls into question the community’s absolute allegiance to
God.
Consequently, to become reconciled with God, a sinner must make
atonement for his transgressions.    This is much more than
“paying for your sins.”  It means that in the wake of his aberrant
behavior, the transgressor must do something to once
again prove beyond any doubt his utter fidelity to God.  Offering
a sacrifice is the only way this can be done.   When one takes
something of great value and offers it to God for His sole use,
this is a radical and unmistakable, ontological
affirmation of one’s allegiance to God.    When Abraham, following
God’s instructions, took his son Isaac to a mountain, gathered
wood. laid it on him and “took in his hand the fire and the knife,
“Abraham was prepared to make the ultimate
ontological demonstration of his total commitment to the One who
said to him, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you
love_and offer him_as a burnt offering_” [Gen 22:2] There is no
other rational explanation why a man would kill and
burn his own son:  Either he is lunatic, or he actually believes
in the voice of Him who instructed him to do this.
The Old Testament is replete with examples of individuals–and at
times the entire nation–making animal sacrifices to God to atone
for their sins.  The opening of the book of Leviticus,which is
appointed to be read during the madagh ceremony,
describes the manner in which a person should make offerings to
the Lord:  “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he
shall offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it at the door
of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted
before the Lord_and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement
for him.  Then he shall kill the bull before the Lord; and Aaron’s
sons the priests [the “Levites”, hence “Leviticus”] shall present
the blood, and throw the blood round about
against the altar that is at the door of the tent of meeting.  And
he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces; and the
sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar, and lay wood
in order upon the fire; and Aaron’s sons the
priests shall lay the pieces, the head, and the fat, in order upon
the wood that is on the fire upon the altar_And the priest shall
burn the whole on the altar, as a burnt offering, an offering by
fire, a pleasing odor to the Lord.”  [Lev 1:3-9]
Blood was considered the seat of life, and throwing the blood
around the altar was understood to be an essential element of the
ritual of sacrifice for atonement.  More important, however, is
the notion that the animal to be offered was “without
blemish.”  (Madagh means literally soft, tender, delicate, young;
these describe the kind of animal which is suitable for
sacrifice). Offering a deformed or sick animal to God would  not
be a true sacrifice, and would amount to a half-hearted
affirmation of God.  To be effective, the one offering a sacrifice
must choose a prized possession (as Abraham did), slaughter it at
the altar of the One God (thereby dedicating it to him) and  then
after giving a portion to the officiating priests,
burn the remains totally and completely, thereby assuring that God
is the sole beneficiary of the sacrifice.  No part of the animal
may remain, and/or be eaten or used in any way.  This is the power
of the ritual.  To destroy an animal (or other
prized possession) and effectively “waste” it is absurd.  The only
other explanation is that the person destroying the animal is not
wasting it, but dedicating it to an unseen but living deity, and
ipso facto  affirming his fidelity to that deity.
Note that God has no particular need for charred animal carcasses;
but he is pleased by the faith affirmation of those who make
sacrifices in his name.

CHRIST’S ETERNAL REDEMPTION
Of the five scripture readings appointed to be read during the
ceremony of the Blessing of  Madagh,  three of them deal with the
traditional Old Testament use of atoning sacrifice (Lev 1:1-9;
2Sam 6:17-19;  Is 56:6-7).  But the prescribed New
Testament readings make it clear that even though the Madagh
ceremony is rooted in the sacrificial rituals of the Old
Testament, however it does not at all contradict or in any way
minimize Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross.
The Epistle to the Hebrews includes the most explicit assertion
of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice in the New Testament:  “But until
Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have
come, then through the greater and more perfect
tent_he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the
blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an
eternal redemption.  For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with
the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a
heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more
shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered
himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead
works to serve the living God.”  [9:11-14]    The
Blessing of Madagh ceremony includes a passage from the end of
this argument which suggests that the emphasis of Madagh is not
atonement for sins, but rather worship and charity:  “Through
[Jesus Christ] let us continually offer up a sacrifice of
praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his
name.  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for
such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”  [Heb 13:15-16]  Madagh is
the actualization of these two mandates:  “Offer up a
sacrifice of praise,” and “share what you have.”
Indeed this is confirmed by the prescribed gospel reading from
Luke:  “He also said to the man who had invited him, “When you
give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your
brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also
invite you in return, and you be repaid.  But when you give a
feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you
will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.  You will be
repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  [14:12-14]   It is
clear that the compilers of this rite have made it their duty to
affirm the traditional use of animal sacrifice, while providing a
different purpose for the ritual.  This is proven beyond any doubt
in the prayer of blessing.

SHADOW OF TRUE SALVATION
The author of the prayer clearly recognizes that the slaughter of
animals is not expected by God and is no longer efficacious for
the atonement of sins.   He affirms that God has no “need” for a
sacrifice, or anything else, when he addresses God as
the “Saviour who lacks nothing.”    He also quotes Psalms 50 and
51 in which God rejects animal sacrifices in favor of “a broken
heart and a humble spirit.”  Though the prayer establishes that in
former  times God was pleased by the sacrifices
offered by mankind, such as the sacrifices of Abel, Noah and
Abraham,  nevertheless  true salvation results from Christ’s
coming into the world and the tradition of offering animal
sacrifice is a mere “shadow of the true salvation to come.”
Nevertheless, avowing all of this, the author boldly beseeches
God to receive this sacrifice the same way he accepted the
sacrifices of our forefathers, “as a burnt offering of rams and
bulls and as ten thousand fattened lambs.”  But again in the
next breath the prayer declares that we will not rejoice in this
sacrifice, but “in your salvation,”  in “the spotless faith of the
Holy Trinity,” and in the “power of the sign of your
all-conquering cross.”
Therefore we have in this prayer a confession of the power of
sacrifice to please God with the acknowledgement that salvation
comes only from Christ.  We must conclude that in Madagh, the Ar
menians have preserved what they consider a radical act of faith
affirmation.  Standing with Christ on the ephemeral bounds of the
old and new covenants, they utilize the ritual of animal sacrifice
for its supreme ontological value as an
indisputable demonstration of faith and worship, and
simultaneously they make a definitive and eloquent confession of
Christ as saviour.  In this sense, the rite is a real tour de
force.
Furthermore, the New Testament readings indicate that the
emphasis in this rite is not on the slaughter of animals, much
less for the atonement of sins.  Instead, there is a clear
emphasis on charity.  Clearly the meat from the sacrifice is
intended to be fed to “the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.”
Unlike the Jewish sacrifice, there is no evidence in this rite to
suggest that slaughtering the animal is anything more than the
necessary means to this end.   It seems gruesome to
many only because our sterile modern western culture insulates us
from the vivid details of what is, for most of the world, a daily
and rather mundane task.

MADAGH IN MILWAUKEE?
In the Armenian Churches of the United States, the rite of Madagh
has been reduced to the serving of dainty boiled lamb finger
sandwiches after the Divine Liturgy on April 24, in commemoration
of the martyrs of 1915.  As such, the modern-day ritual
lacks what we have found are the two essential elements of  the
ceremony, personal sacrifice and charity.  It follows that in this
guise, the ceremony is equally anemic as an act of affirmation of
faith in God.  Instead of striving to preserve the
original spirit and purpose of the ritual, we have mindlessly
preserved its physical elements, which, in twenty-first century
America, are ripped out of their intended context.
What is needed is a creative reunification of  ritual and
context.  It is not necessary to slaughter animals on the steps of
the Armenian Church in Milwaukee, Fresno or Montreal.  What
matters is that the donation be a sacrifice.  In the same way
that in former times a person sacrificed an “unblemished” young
animal, the meat of which is food for many days, and the fur of
which is clothing for many people, likewise today, a Madagh
offering must have such value that the person offering it
feels the loss of that which he has given up.  In sacrifice, the
hurt of loss is transformed into the joy of giving and of pleasing
God.
Beyond the sacrifice itself, the gospel passage from the rite
declares that all the fruits of the sacrifice must be given to
“the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind_”  No part should be
enjoyed by “your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen
or rich neighbors.”  These deserve our charity as well, but the
fruits of Madagh are reserved for those who “cannot repay you.”
Finally, sacrifice and charity come together when standing before
the altar, the offering is made to God reading the words of the
prayer.
Recently five students went to a grocery store and pooling their
limited money, they bought 40 pounds of chicken.  That night, with
great care they washed the chicken pieces, placed them on baking
sheets, flavored them with spices and baked them.
Later they wrapped each piece individually and placed them all in
large cardboard boxes.  The next evening they brought the boxes to
church, and placed this sacrifice at the foot of the holy altar.
Standing reverently in the quiet peace of the
darkened church, they read aloud the appointed passages from
Leviticus, from 2 Samuel, and from Isaiah and following those,
passages from Hebrews and the Gospel according to Luke.  One of
them then stepped forward, in the midst of the saran-wrapped
offering, and read the words of the prayer:  “_Receive from us by
your mercy this gift, for the pleasure of your all-powerful will.
Receive, O Lord our loving God this gift which we have promised
and pledged to you_Receive, O provident God this
sacrifice which we lift up and offer to you_Receive it, O
compassionate Lord and liken it to the blessed offerings of the
holy forefathers_”
Having made their offering, they proceeded downtown, where they
fed those “who cannot repay you.”

=================================================================

PRAYER OF MADAGH

Almighty God, you are praised by the highest heavenly orders and
you are worshiped by those of the earthly realm, O God the Word,
with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
In the beginning you imprinted the shape and example of the good
things to come.  For although mankind fell from his rightful place
in paradise by the instinctive artifice of the crafty deceiver
[Satan], who made promises of noble glory,
nevertheless when mankind multiplied and became numerous upon the
earth, you were pleased by the pious deeds we offered to you as
sacrifices upon the altar.
Like the sacrifice of Abel, who by being sacrificed, was called
just; and Noah, when he left the ark, offered there a fragrant
oblation to  you for God.  And Abraham, being tested, offered the
true burnt offering and typified your incorruptible
death on the cross.
And  therefore, O Lord our beneficent God, we ask and beg you,
receive from us by your mercy this gift, for the pleasure of your
all-powerful will.
Receive, O Lord our loving God this gift which we have promised
and pledged to you in our affliction, when we called to you and
you saved us.
Receive, O provident God this sacrifice which we lift up and offer
to you, O Saviour who lacks nothing, whose mercy and compassion
are incomprehensible and infinite.
Receive [it], O compassionate Lord and liken it to the blessed
offerings of the holy forefathers, and dissociate it from the
false sacrifices and pagan burnt offerings of satanic idolatry.
By Moses your holy and blessed prophet you commanded your people
Israel to offer you burnt offerings.  And by other holy ones, [you
commanded that] animals be brought to the door of the tent of
meeting before the Levite priests.  By placing their
hand upon [the animal] and  and letting its blood flow upon your
holy altar, O God, transgressions were forgiven and prayers were
answered.  But this was [only] a shadow of the true salvation to
come, which was granted to us by your coming into the
world.
For you yourself, O most-merciful and beneficent Lord, by your
prophetic spirit, said through your prophet, ‘I do not accept your
fattened bulls .  Rather offer to God an offering of blessing, and
willfully offer a bloodless offering–a broken heart
and a humble spirit, which God will not despise”  [Ps. 50:9;
51:17].
But now, we sinners who are unworthy fall down before your
compassion with humble hearts and we beg you for the great love
[you showed to] your beloved ones, our fathers.
Look down upon this our offering and receive it from us as a burnt
offering of rams and bulls and as ten thousand fattened lambs.
Answer our prayers,  O Lord, so that we not be put to shame before
our enemies.  But rather let us delight and rejoice in your
salvation.
For if by your gaze you can weigh all the mountains and the hills
and the fields; and you hold heaven and earth in your hand, and
you are seated in the highest heights upon the throne of the
cherubim and hell is not invisible to you;  and if giving
you all the four-footed beasts and all the animals [in the world]
is still not sufficient as a burnt offering to you, then how do we
dare to offer [you] a sacrifice?
But you, O Lord, were pleased to become incarnate for us, and by
your holy apostles you taught us the spotless faith which is the
Holy Trinity, by which you made us worthy to be called brothers
and sons by your incorruptible body and blood, O God
the Word.
Now, therefore, O miraculous Lord, receive from our hands this
gift of sacrifice by the intercession of the holy Mother of God,
and by the power of the sign of your all-conquering cross which we
worship continually.
And by the prayers of the holy apostles and prophets and the
blessed martyrs who shed their blood in return for  your blood, O
Lord, grant the petitions of those who make this offering and
grant them forgiveness of their sins.  Increase the flocks
and the herds and all animals and the prosperity of your servants.
Make th
e clouds rain sweetly upon our fields and grant the fruit of
profit, and dispel from us the snares of Satan.
So that standing here in piety and in your pleasure, we might be
worthy  to meet you when you are revealed in your glory on that
awesome day when you come again from heaven to apportion [to us]
according to our works.  For you are worthy of glory,
dominion and honor, now and ever and unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

=================================================================

The Bishop in Cassock and Reboks

The one most striking and unexpected discovery made by Dn. Michael
Findikyan, during his one year stay in Armenia was that the
Armenian community in the United States was worlds removed from
the ancestral homeland.  The disparity which confronted
this young American  was often shocking.  “I struggled with an
Armenian language very different from my father’s Armenian and
from the Armenian I studied for five years; I found a
thought-process in the Armenians very different from my own way of
thinking.  Moreover, I discovered that the Church in Armenia has
an entirely different set of issues and problems to face than in
America.  This unexpected disparity  between the Church’s
operation in Armenia and in America proved very frustrating
for me at times.”  Yet probing this tension can be both healthy
and creative for both worlds.
–eds.

One day I was chatting with Bishop Karekin Nersissian in his
spacious office on the second floor of the Diocesan center in
Yerevan which is the hub of the Araratian Diocese.  “What are you
doing Sunday?” he asked with his typical breathless
alacrity.  “Good.  Be here at 9:00.  I’m taking my kids up to
Mount Aragadz.  We’re going to do Badarak in a twelfth-century
church_”
I had long since made it a general policy while in Armenia to say
“yes” to anyone offering me anything that didn’t seem overtly
immoral.  This policy was in keeping with the generally impulsive
flow of life in Armenia, and it assured me of taking
advantage of every diverse opportunity in my limited time in the
homeland.  Besides, experience had shown me that Bishop Karekin’s
enterprises were usually unconventional and adventuresome.
On Sunday morning I took a cab for the twenty-five minute ride
from Etchmiadzin to the ever-bustling St. Sarkis Church in
Yerevan, which sits adjacent to the Diocesan Center and Bishop
Karekin’s office.  Today was not unlike any June day in
Yerevan:  hot and dry, the sun beating down intensely on the
dusty Armenian earth.  Two lines of busses, parked on both sides
of the road, at first blocked my view of the church.  Passing
them, I was confronted by two or three hundred Armenian
teenagers scurrying around.  These are Bishop Karekin’s “kids.”
They represent the sum total of the participants in the various
programs which the Bishop has set up in his diocese for the young
people:  two choirs, a dance group, a drama group, a
Bible Study group, two English language classes, and a diocesan
youth publication.  I knew many of the kids:  Armand, “Moogooch”
(Mgrditch), Lilit, Shahe, Marine, Kevork, Hasmig, Artur, Samuel_
You can’t possibly miss them–they’re the die-hards
who participate in every  youth activity in the diocese, and thus
are at church every  day.
And there in the middle of it all, was the bishop, in his cassock
and Reeboks, his monastic cowl (“Veghar”) in one hand, a bright
blue soccer ball in the other, shouting directions at the bus
drivers and trying to fend the kids off of him and into
the busses.  Needless to say, in trousers and clerical shirt, I
was overdressed.  And grinning, the bishop wasted no time making
me aware of that.
So off we went in caravan out of the hot city and onto the
winding road up Mt. Aragadz, the tallest mountain within the
Republic of Armenia.  As we travelled up the mountain the air
became gradually cool and crisp, and the landscape grew harsher,
jagged rocky cliffs plunging into the earth.  At first the
edifices were mere pebbles on the horizon, but they became larger
and larger as we climbed toward them.
Amberd is the name of the fortress which soon gazed down at us,
its hundred foot walls  partially crumbled, but steadfast in the
strong mountain wind.  One hundred yards away stood the church,
its doors sealed for centuries.  The two structures
stood stoically along a steep ridge.
The Divine Liturgy, the first celebrated in this church in
centuries, was choreographed by the bishop as a celebration of the
youth.  The young celebrant had been ordained a priest only a few
weeks before; nine teenage students from the Seminary of
Sevan served at the stone altar; the choir was composed of sixty
young people who practice at St. Sarkis twice a week, and the
soloist was none other than  an eleven year old boy graced with an
angelic voice.  Dozens drew near to receive the
Lord’s body and blood in  holy communion.
Then the fun started.  With the sun shining down at mid-day, the
hundreds of young people and their families separated into  groups
and claimed flat patches of grass, where they set out colorful
blankets, and baskets of crusty bread, cheese,
chicken and the early harvest of cucumbers, tomatoes, diverse
greens, apples, peaches, and watermelon.  Within minutes  after
the Liturgy had ended, this mountainside became a checkerboard of
picnic blankets, with young people eating, singing,
dancing and running as far as the eye could see.  Here were young
Armenians tromping over their land; seemingly extracting every
ounce of bliss from of the clean, mountain air, the bright blue
sky and the Armenian soil. With the nasal tones of the
doudouk wailing in the background, hundreds of Armenian kids were
having good, clean fun, the  ancient church and massive fortress
watching with care from above.

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The Sacrament of Chrismation in the Oriental Orthodox Church
by Fr. Garabed Kochakian

Fr. Kochakian is the chancellor of the Eastern Diocese of North
America. This paper was presented at a meeting of the Oriental
Orthodox-Roman Catholic National Bilateral talks in the United
States. It was part of a study session concerning the
theological significance of the Sacrament  of Holy Chrismation as
it is celeb

A sacrament is to be understood as a ‘gift’ and not merely a
liturgical act; therefore reference to the ‘Sacrament of
Chrismation’  is best stated as a grace ‘given’ rather than a
performed liturgical rite.  The explication set forth is primarily
based upon the ceremony celebrated in the Armenian Orthodox
tradition, however the theology of the sacrament itself is
consonant and in compliance with the Christological understanding
among all the Oriental Orthodox Churches; namely, the Syrian
Orthodox, the Coptic Orthodox, the  Ethiopian Orthodox and Syrian
Orthodox Church of India otherwise known as Malabar.
In the tradition of all the national Oriental Orthodox Churches
the Sacrament of Chrismation is more clearly understood within the
context of the tripartite rite variously called THE RITE OF
CHRISTIAN INITIATION that includes the Holy Sacraments of
Baptism, Chrismation and Communion in that precise order of
administration.  Indeed, each is a separate gift of Divine Grace
yet the blessings of each sacrament that are imparted to the
recipient become conjoined finally with the essence of the Holy
Trinity that has clothed the individual with Divine Adoption, the
Energies and Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Membership into the
Mystical Body of Christ that  is the Holy Church.  We understand
that sacramental graces are unique and particular. But,
at the same time they collectively and cohesively co-operate with
each other as the life of the Christian develops in the Holy
Church.
Therefore, the three sacraments within the rite of Christian
Initiation are essential to the  wholeness and wholesomeness   of
the life of every believer. The road toward  salvation is  opened
through the spiritual bath of Baptism in water and is
generated with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit by the anointing
rite of Chrismation.  Finally salvation is assured with the
reception of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the Christ
. These three Sacraments when administered in this sequential
manner introduce the neophyte to the experience and hope of
Salvation.
Oriental Orthodoxy affirms that one’s spiritual development,
growth, maturation and fortification can only come about by a
consistent exposure and unified ‘experience’ of God’s grace.
Therefore  this faith experience is the way to salvation.
Conforming to early church practice of immediate inclusiveness,
i.e. persons of every age and gender, Oriental Orthodoxy adheres
to the belief that everyone should immediately identify with the
community and become truly  part of the community in
all things; from the waters of the font, by and through the
Spirit, to the table of the Lord. All these moments of grace are
essential and important.
It is difficult to speak about the Sacrament of Chrismation in an
isolated fashion without maintaining a constant regard for and
reference to the water rite of Baptism.  In fact, the action  of
Chrismation, unfolds within the baptismal rite  when
the water itself is  anointed. Therefore it will be important to
refer periodically to the water blessing in the ‘font’   as the
meaning of the anointing sacrament is further explored and
explicated.

THE WATER RITE
The mystery of Baptism is the beginning of the life in Christ,
causing men to exist, live and excel in true life and being.  From
the eternal point of view, baptism incorporates a person as a
child of the Eternal Heavenly Father into the ‘Body of
Christ’.   Through and by the grace of this sacrament, one has
been purchased  outright by God Our Father and begins to develop a
new spiritual life which sets him/her free from sin, making
possible one’s reconciliation with God.  With these Divine
Graces there is a completed and harmonious unity with God.
Water is one of the primary, most ancient and universal of all
religious symbols. There can be no life without water yet
paradoxically it can destroy and annihilate life. Sacred scripture
reveals in the Old Testament that through the blessed water,
God is present: The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God
of glory thunders, the Lord, upon many waters. (Psalm 29:3)
Without the presence of God, humankind is doomed.  But as the
psalmist’s declaration reveals, his power-filled presence assures
the redemptive and salvific action within all creation. When
consecrated, water indeed does save as it acquires the very
breath of God; permeating all created beings with his holy
presence.
In the actual rite of blessing, in particular both the Armenian
and Syrian rites, water is anointed with the Holy Chrism (Meron)
and is infused with the Holy Spirit and presence of the Christ.
Saint Ambrose comments on this divine epiphany
saying, “The water does not heal if the Spirit does not descend to
consecrate it.  The water which has the grace of Christ heals.”
The Prayer Over the Water that appears in the Armenian rite is an
Epiclesis addressed to the Holy Spirit requesting Divine action
and descent for the sanctification of the water.
We now therefore pray  thee, O Lord, send thine Holy Spirit into
this water and sanctify the same_.And grant that this water_ be
unto  him/her for the remission of sins and for the reception of
the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Chrism is used not only to sanctify the water but to
permeate it. The water truly becomes the ‘Christ Clothing’ into
which the catechumen is immersed. Finally, the newly  Baptized is
attired by donning a spiritual ‘Garment of Salvation’.
Christ now dwells in the water which washes, cleanses, forgives,
saves and finally clothes. This is verbally proclaimed by the
priest, “You that have been baptized in Christ and have put on
Christ. Alleluia. You that have been enlightened in the
Father, the Holy Spirit shall rejoice in you. Alleluia.”

CHRISMATION
The Chrismation rite is uniquely understood as the Baptism with
the Holy Spirit. Yet it still refers to the water rite whereon the
Spirit first hovered.
It is important to understand its the origin and semiotic
character.  In the Old Testament writings, anointing is first
associated with authority. On the direct command of God, Moses
received the tradition of  the authority of the priesthood,
kingship and prophecy (Exodus 28:1; 19:10).  This theophany to
Moses on Mount Sinai was a type of sealing or sign, that imbued
him with the authority to establish the priesthood.  Although
Moses ,at first, anointed Aaron as a priest, the rite of
anointing that later developed in the Hebraic tradition  imparted
an  authority  associated with ‘kingship’ as well.   It was first
used by Samuel, in the anointing of King David (1 Kings 16:1) and
then in the anointing of Saul, (1 Kings 10:1). Yet
the ritual of anointing raises a question concerning the
particular usage of oil as a symbol of God’s salvific power and
authority and not any other kind of liquid.
Like water, oil has also acquired a functional purpose in
creation and as been likewise seen as an emblem of grace. It has
been used as medicine for healing, fuel to create light and warmth
and as food to sustain life. Moreover, oil is a symbol of
reconciliation and peace.
After the Great Flood, a dove, bearing in its mouth a branch from
an olive tree, came to Noah and assured him of the end of the
flood, of God’s forgiveness and of his own reconciliation with the
Almighty Lord God   ( Genesis 8:11 ).  Thus, this oil
from the fruit of the olive tree encumbers a number of semiotic
allusions;  as an act of redemption and reconciliation, a sign of
protection and safety,  a sign of authority, leadership,
commission and creation of new life.  But most importantly, it
signifies that God’s covenant with all of humankind since creation
has not been abandoned but has been faithfully kept as Promise .
This covenant is to restore all things to Himself; those things in
heaven and on earth.  With and by this oil, He is
present and all who are sealed and anointed by this oil are imbued
with His presence as proclaimed by the Holy Prophet Isaiah, “The
Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me with
oil, he has sent me to bring  the good news to the
poor.” (  Isaiah 61:1 )
It is therefore essential to understand this prelude to the
actual Sacramental rite of Chrismation. In the ritual this holy
oil not only conveys the symbolisms already explained but more
importantly effectuates the mystical presence of Christ’s
Holy Spirit. Finally through unction our own mystical
transformation is made possible by the grace given with the
Blessed Meron The Oil of  Gladness.
Thus, oil is used  to seal, consecrate, validate and establish
the presence of the Kingdom made manifest upon those whom this
mark of anointing has been placed.  Protection, sanctification
commission and ministry are all effectuated by the mystical
power and grace of the Holy Spirit with the oil which marks and
identifies the believer.
Anointing as Seal
As a seal oil is used to mark those called to salvation granting
protection to them as explained in the prophetic literature of the
Old Testament, “And the Lord said to him, go through the city of
Jerusalem and set a mark  upon the
foreheads_touch not any  man upon whom is the mark.” (Ezekiel 9:
4-6)
With this oil of Chrism, Meron, those who are marked and anointed
with it become God’s full possession; saved_and_sanctified.
Furthermore,the anointed ones become participants in process of
theosis, i.e. taking part in the Divine Nature of God.  Hence,
this  Orthodox doctrine is made manifest by this heavenly grace
imparted and given with the particular Sacrament of
Chrismation.
Thus Chrismation spurs these dynamics of Divine Power; Theophany,
Sanctification and Theosis. They are both inherently present and
operative in the life of the believer. The holy unction with Meron
is truly  God’s act of  claiming full possession
of us who he has purchased outright  through the water rite of
Baptism though not yet removed [us] to his own warehouse
(Kingdom).

The Holy Chrism
This particular oil is called Chrism that derives its name from
the Greek word “Chrismata” which itself means anointing.  It is
also known by the word of Semitic origi
n Myron or Meron, [in Armenian Miuron] which means sweet ointment.
The Chrism used in the Sacrament fundamentally consists of olive
oil mixed with the precious balsam perfumes and essences of
forty-eight kinds of flowers and other sweet smelling
herbs and ingredients.
The actual prescription for preparing a type of Meron/Chrism oil
that serves as a paradigm to such oils prepared today is explained
in the second book of the Pentateuch:

Moreover the Lord said to Moses, ‘ Take the finest spices; of
liquid myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet smelling  cinnamon
half as much, that is, two hundred and fifty, and of aromatic cone
two hundred and fifty, and  of cassia five hundred,
according to the shekel of the sanctuary and of olive oil , a hin;
and of these you shall make a sacred anointing  oil blended as by
the perfumes, a holy anointing oil it shall be_and you shall
anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them, that
they may serve me as priests, and you shall  say to the people of
Israel,  This shall be my holy an anointing oil throughout your
generation.
(Exodus 30; 22-30)
It is with such oil that Christians are anointed and become a
“Royal People”, imbued and dressed with a Christ-like essence, as
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem explains, “Take care not to imagine that
this  Myron is anything ordinary_ (but) after the
epiclesis, but the charism of Christ, made efficacious of  the
Holy Spirit by the presence of  His Divinity.” The sacred
scriptures further clarify the significance of this oil as the
very essence and presence of Christ Our God, “Your name is
ointment poured upon me.” ( Canticle 1: 3)
The Chrism is the Lord Jesus THE CHRIST Himself. The Spirit of
Jesus called Christos  {the Anointed One Gk.} is this Meron, sweet
anointing ointment, the mystical and spirit-filled presence of the
Incarnate Word, Jesus Lord God– the hypostasis of
Godhead and manhood.
With the celebration of the rite of Chrismation, humankind
immediately experiences Theosis and at once participates in the
Divine Nature of God.  We  become that  which is poured upon us
(cf. Canticle 1:3). “It is as though the vessel of the
alabaster were by some means to become the chrism it contains.”
(cf. Mark 14: 3)
As occurred in the water rite of Baptism,in this anointing rite
we become clothed again with Christ.  We become a new “Christos”.
This  new Christos  is not only imbued with Christ’s Holy Spirit,
His Godliness, prayer, and love and compassion but
he/she  receives by  this grace a crystal clear identity, truly
‘confirmed’ and validated before the Eternal Heavenly Father.

Into the Body of Christ
From the waters of the font through and by the sealing with the
Holy Meron the gift of Chrismation assures a genuine continuity
between the entrance into and participation in the Mystical Body
of Christ – His Holy Church.  It is finally through the
Eucharist that this membership is maintained.  The sacramental
anointing balances this new life  acquired by the grace of Baptism
and by the believer attiring and putting on  the ‘Christ Clothing’
to ultimately become the fabric itself; a new
Christos. The grace of Chrismation strengthens and confirms, one’s
life in the Holy Church, which moves toward an  everlasting life
into The Kingdom and it eternally remains the energy of that
movement or ‘spiritual progress’ towards the Kingdom of
God forever belonging to Christ.
It is noteworthy to mention that in accordance with the rite in
the Armenian Orthodox tradition, this anointing is done always in
the name of Jesus Christ; making a new Christos (anointed one).
“Sweet ointment in the name of Jesus Christ  is poured
upon thee as a seal of the incorruptible heavenly  gifts.”
This chrism is  perceived not just as a Divine Energia but the
persona of the Holy Spirit of Christ Himself. The act of anointing
clarifies one’s identity and membership into the sacred fellowship
of Christ.  All who have been   anointed form the
new physical and mystical Body of Christ. The chrismated believer
becomes truly A Christian in the very essence, nature and spirit
of the prototype The Christos, Jesus Himself. Identity then is not
conceptual but substantive; not merely Christian
but A Christian.
Everything which this Christian does hereafter is ‘marked’ with
Christ  and His Holy Spirit so that he/she  may be a temple and a
dwelling of thy Godhead and may be able to walk in the ways of
righteousness.
Christ’s residency is validated by the sealing with the Holy
Meron. This seal is placed upon every part of the body that makes
manifest His presence in us and through us- both individually and
corporately in the Body of Christ.  The sanctification
of the human physical body through anointing is done so with the
intention that the Mystical Body, The Holy Church is likewise
marked, blessed and will be the final repository of  grace.  By
the Faith of the believer and the Works borne and
performed by that faith, ultimately the Church will become that
which is poured upon it a temple and dwelling of thy Godhead. The
believer through his/her works and deeds, wrought through the
anointed senses of the body, i.e. the forehead, eyes,
nostrils, mouth, hands, heart, back and feet, will become a New
Christos.

Communion In Christ
It is finally through the Sacrament of Chrismation that the
Church is given life and breath. All who are anointed who have
become members of the Church are enabled to enjoin one another now
in sharing in the mystery of  The Christ Jesus in His Body
and His Blood at the Holy Eucharistic banquet.
Since the earliest tradition of the church until the present,
this reserved  privilege, sharing Christ in His Body and Blood, is
predicated upon one’s full membership into the Christian
Community. Such an identity is ratified and validated in the
Oriental Orthodox tradition through the Sacrament of Chrismation.
This practice is rooted in the Mosaic Law concerning (cf.
regarding circumcision) membership. And now this same regard is
transferred to the Christian view of Table fellowship and
Eucharistic sharing.  Circumcision was a ‘seal’ of the covenant,
and
only those who were circumcised could partake of  table
fellowship.
This praxis became transferred and basic to the Church. Only
those who were Chrismated and confirmed with the ‘seal’ of Jesus
Christ were allowed to enter into Communion with Him at His Holy
Eucharist.

Born In The Spirit
Unless one is born of the water and the  Spirit he cannot enter
the Kingdom of God.   ( John 3: 3 )
As the Sacrament of Baptism becomes one’s  spiritual birth as a
child of God, the Sacrament of Chrismation is the  movement  of
this new life toward God’s Kingdom–‘a spiritual progress’. It is
a life now conformable to the Son of God; a life of
Theosis i.e. becoming Christ and participating in His Divine
Nature in entering His Kingdom.
Through Chrismation, humankind is born in the Spirit and
progresses toward perfection.  Though the power of these gifts of
the Spirit are not all visibly manifested at the very moment of
the ceremony but later in the spiritual progress of the life
of the “New Christos” it is certain that this powers’ origin and
cause is of the Divine Godhead Himself.
Thus Chrismation is the BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT of which Our
Lord speaks. It is our personal Pentecost.  Through this sealing,
confirmation and anointing rite,the Holy Spirit opens up our
physical senses and gives the newly baptized the
potential ability and energy to progress in the knowledge of the
Triune God and to practice the virtues of faith, hope and a
charity in the light of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
The tradition of the Orthodox, thus teaches the immediate need of
Chrismation as essential grace to give that mystical breath,
spirit and energy to the body born in the waters of Baptism.  The
body cannot move without the energy, guidance and grace
of the Spirit which is the breath of God placed upon us through
this holy anointing.
As the Father sent me, so I am sending you. And saying this he
breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit.   ( John 20:
19-23)
Christ’s Holy Spirit with which we are graced and clothed at
Chrismation becomes His
Breath upon and in us in the same way as He breathed  upon the
Apostles.  His Breath is now our breath, His Spirit now resides in
us.
Both the water rite of Baptism and the anointing rite of
Chrismation in the theology and tradition of the Oriental Orthodox
Church are essential to one’s salvation. Each sacramental grace
having its unique salvific dynamic yet both dependent upon
each other in preserving the continuity of spiritual progress
toward perfection and life in God’s Heavenly Kingdom.
While some non-Orthodox communions emphasize the Chrismation rite
in terms of community membership alone, the Orthodox perception is
more comprehensive because of the union with the Baptismal rite.
It is by this anointing one’s salvation begins
with the marking of the water and the sealing of the body.
In conclusion, Orthodox theology of the sacraments is rooted in
the concept of wholeness..   The sacraments which are each
individual gifts of grace are likewise and even simultaneously
components of wholeness  of the soul and spirit.
When these sacramental graces are received, the believer moves
closer in   spiritual progress toward experiencing all the
fullness of God.  The sacraments ,thus, are genuinely those gifts
which show the plan of God as he designed it for all
humanity.
The Oriental Orthodox rite of Chrismation–the gift of Spiritual
Baptism– assures us of  the presence of God’s grace which is
Christ Jesus Himself. Our Saviour’s spirit is poured upon us in
order to heal, make whole,and totally unite us with
Himself and bring us unto Salvation. Through this spiritual
progress of every Christian, by the anointing with the Holy Meron,
one’s  completeness is achieved as the sweetness of this Life and
Breath of Christ binds us all to God and to each other.
Christ is our common antecedent and common denominator; the Alpha
and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the road to salvation
and it is by and with His Holy Spirit we are able to move toward
the Kingdom. As He said, “Unless one is born of the
water and the Spirit , He cannot enter the Kingdom of God. ( John
3:1-8  )
Now the grand design of God’s plan though appearing to be
completed yet commences.  The life of A Christian has just begun
and will be completed in eternity, in the Heavenly Jerusalem, In
Thy Kingdom Come.

Sources
Cabasilas, Nicholas,  The Life in Christ, ( New York: St.
Vladimir’s Press, 1974), p.101
Coniaris, Anthony M.  These Are The Sacraments.  Minneapolis,
Minnesota, Life Publishing Company, 1981.
Dix, Dom Gregory. The Shape of The Liturgy.  London: Dacre Press
Adam & Charles Blackwell, 1970.
Kochakian, Garabed.  The Sacraments: The Symbols of Our Faith. New
York: Saint Varan Press, 1983.
Kaloustian, Shnork.  Saints and Sacraments. New York: Saint Vartan
Press, 1969.
Nersoyan, Tiran. The Order of Baptism According to the Rite of the
Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church.  Evanston, Illinois: Saint
Nersess Seminary Press, 1964.
Tawil, Joseph.   The Three Sacraments of Christian Initiation.
West Newton, Massachusetts, 1976.

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“A Call to Excellence”
presented at the Eastern Diocese of America Assembly
April 29, 1992–Boca Raton, Florida
We recognize the tremendous demands already placed upon your time
and energy, but hope you hear our pleas to recognize the
centrality of Youth Ministry to the mission of our Church in the
United States.  Our commitment to the youth must transcend
periodically from saying “the youth are the future of our Church”
to leading us, clergy and youth, to join together and become a
force for change.  Together, we can transform the relationship
between the Church and young people and truly make the
Church the source for faith and inner strength that the Armenian
youth and young adults of this country so badly need.  We are not
the future of the Church.  We are a part of the present and should
always be made to feel that we are a part of the
Church.  We should feel free to voice our concerns, without
intimidation, and know, in our hearts, that we are being listened
to and respected as well.
As an initial matter, many of the children take pride in serving
on the alter, but feel they are inadequately trained.  We feel
that comprehensive and continual training of these youngsters will
not only enable them to serve respectfully on the
altar, but also instill within them at a very young age a sense of
love for and belonging to the Armenian Church.  This will, in
turn, provide them with a foundation for service to their Church
and community which they can then build upon as they
grow through the years.
When we become of age, we should be invited to become voting
members of the Church.  As yet, we have no formal method of
recruitment and policies re: dues-paid members vary from one
parish to the next.  We want to be involved but more importantly,
we want you to want our involvement, to appreciate our presence,
and to want to utilize our talents.
We also strongly feel that you should know the occupations of our
young professionals and request their assistance; when the
occasion arises.  At present, when we are requested to “serve the
church,” we are too frequently asked to perform menial
service (i.e. serving meals, selling raffle tickets, etc.).  We
are rarely given the ability to utilize our talents and
creativity; yet, our generation is more educated then that of our
parents.  But we also don’t want to be given “token leadership”
(i.e. being placed in leadership roles wherein much of the work
has already been accomplished by someone else).  Show us that you
are interested in us as people, not just parishioners.
Furthermore, as our spiritual fathers and shepherds of the flock,
you must act as the most vigorous advocates for the youth in the
parishes and especially before the parish councils.  We have a
tremendous desire to serve Christ and our Church.  As
our advocates, you must apply your great dedication to the task of
ensuring that meaningful opportunities for service are available
to us.  Give us the chance to express our love and dedication, and
you will never be disappointed.  In particular,
you can display your recognition of the importance of our presence
and contribution by making sure that young people are nominated
and elected to our parish councils.  Such an investment of love
made by you today will surely lead to incalculable
gains for our church tomorrow.
As college students away from home, many of us often feel cut
off, as if a part of our family is lost.  The college years are a
critical and vulnerable time, when we form opinions and make
decisions which will have great impact on our lives.   The
Church can provide an essential source of stability, strength, and
confidence so necessary during these years.  Our home parishes
should remain in contact with us by sending us the parish
newsletter and supplying us with a mailing list of students
from the parish studying at other colleges.  Maintaining such
strong bond between student and Church will not only nourish us
during our college years, but also signal to us the love our
Church feels for us and the importance with which she regards
us.
When we come home to visit for the winter and spring breaks, we
would very much appreciate interacting with our parish
communities.  As an example, we would be very interested in
participating in both formal and informal discussions with the
clergy
as well as the laity on a variety of issues, such as:  our
prospective careers, intellectual (not necessarily religious)
topics moderated by academia and clergy; religious topics; and
other topics which are not of a religious nature but which can be
discussed from a religious perspective.
Education and Nurturing
Education and information about the Armenian Church is immensely
lacking, not only for those who marry into the Church but also for
those who are born into it.
Sunday School teachers must be well educated concerning the
teachings of the Armenian Church to better enable them to relay
that knowledge accurately and clearly to the children they are
teaching.  All teachers should be required to attend not only
annual workshops
, but also supplemental programs and seminars to ensure that they
are well trained and have sufficient knowledge of our Church’s
teachings.  And the parishes should be required to assist
financially, if necessary.
But it shouldn’t end with Sunday School.  We should have a
continual means of educating our parishioners about what our
Church is about, her teachings, her beliefs, how it differs from
other Christian denominations, etc.  And it should start with
the very leaders of the parishes, the members of the Parish
Councils.  In many  cases, they know absolutely nothing about the
Church, their roles and responsibilities, but are nevertheless
elected.  They should be properly educated in this respect
to serve as an example for us.  Knowledge of Church etiquette, as
one example, is inherently lacking.  What kind of leadership does
this present to us?  Perhaps a comprehensive manual prepared by
the Diocese or even a leadership seminar for Parish
Council members would assist in this regard.
Attention should be given to non-Armenians marrying into the
Church.  There should be a program for all engaged couples wherein
comparable Christian education is taught and comprehensive
information on the rite of marriage in the Armenian Church is
presented to them.  At this same time, these couples should be
given: an introduction to the Armenian Church; some background and
history on the Armenian Church in general as well as on the local
parish with which the couple will be involved; an
explanation of the hierarchy and structure of the Armenian Church;
information about the Armenian Culture with a synopsis of how it
may or may not differ from other cultures; and some familiarity
with the Diocesan by-laws.
There are also many individuals of Armenian descent who did not
“grow up” in the Church and/or  have at one time or another felt
“unwanted” or “alienated.”  Many of these individuals may have had
a bad experience or two while others may have little
or no self-motivation.  We must reach out to them.  They too need
our love and understanding and should never be neglected.  In many
cases, these individuals have been deleted from our mailing lists
because they haven’t come around, or because we
don’t feel they belong or have an interest in taking part.  Who
are we to judge as to who belongs and who doesn’t?  You never know
when someone may be inspired by a single action or concern of
another and hence decide to participate.
It is very important that we place a strong emphasis on educating
and nurturing all of our people, whether they are of whole
Armenian descent, partial Armenian descent or not of Armenian
descent.  And we must rid our vocabulary of the word “odar.”
In literal translation, the word means “foreigner” or “alien.”  It
is hurtful and does not encourage the love we should have for one
another as Christians.  If we alienate these people, we are also
alienating their respective spouses who were born
into our Church-and we will eventually lose them and their
children.  It is very important that the clergy accept these
individuals into the Church and appreciate their presence so that
the congregation will also accept them.  We must keep in mind
that it is not necessarily having “ian” at the end of our names
that makes us Armenian, but how we live our lives.
We should also place less of an emphasis on the task to be
accomplished and more on the person accomplishing the task.  We
need to work together, learn together and learn from each other
appreciating everyone’s presence as well as what they have to
offer.
Finances and Demographics
Although we recognize that our Church will forever operate under
tight financial constraints, we must never allow this problem to
impair our visions of and dreams for the future.  At this critical
time in our history, we can and must join together
and, inspired by the Holy Spirit, develop an adequately ambitious
and far-reaching plan to strengthen and enrich our Church and
glorify Christ.  Without a dream today, a glorious future is most
certainly impossible.
We currently have no demographics for our community.  We strongly
urge our hierarchy to design a means for obtaining such and
request that our clergy make it a priority to put together a data
base of people beginning with birth to be subsequently
centralized and updated through the Diocese with assistance from
the parishes.  This will help us determine the long-range needs of
the Armenian-American community.
Church Services
Our church service is rich in tradition and very beautiful, but
very difficult to follow and understand.  We have several
suggestions for your consideration and comments in this regard:
While the blue guidebooks in the church pews contain
comprehensive information and explanations of our service, the
information and explanations are not very well presented.  Perhaps
the Church could look into preparing another guidebook wherein
the information presented is done so in  a more organized manner.
We also recommend that a course on the Divine Liturgy be developed
to be taught on either a regional or parish level.
Many of us have benefited from the “Instructional Badaraks” that
are occasionally held in several parishes.  We strongly suggests
that they be held more frequently than once or twice a year and
that they be made mandatory.
We must also realize that with the increasing number of
non-Armenians marrying into the Church and the fact that many of
our young people have no knowledge of the Armenian language, our
Church service is not enabling them to completely participate
in the Liturgy.  While few have learned the language and have
grasped somewhat of an understanding of our Liturgy, many are
unable to do so and cannot wholly participate.  While we don’t
necessarily feel that the service should be performed entirely
in English, we suggest that sincere consideration be given to
periodically offering it in English, in addition to our
traditional Armenian service, to accommodate these individuals.
Additionally, as many of us have difficulty understanding the
service, the one thing we hope to walk away with is the message
from the sermon.  We feel the sermons can be more spiritual and
relative to what we are struggling with in our daily
lives.  In many cases, sermons are reprimanding and focus on
giving money.  In other cases, while the subject is appropriate,
the sermon is not well presented.  We do realize that for many of
our clergy English is not their primary language an thus,
they have some difficulty in preparing and delivering sermons.
Several suggestions include sharing sermons among the clergy,
providing the opportunity for lay members to give sermons, or
utilizing a question and answer format.  We also feel that
our clergy should be permitted to take courses in “communication”
to assist them with preparing and delivering their sermons and the
parishes should realize that by providing the opportunity for our
clergy to do so will only be of greater benefit to
them in the long run.
A Part of the Universe
We must realize that we are not living alone in this world.  We
are surrounded by people of all races and creeds.  As much as we
do for ourselves, we must also do for others.  We need to
understand the plight of the homeless and those afflicted
with AIDS and other life-threatening diseases.  And we must also
realize that we, as Armenians, are not immune from these issues.
Our people can be homeless, they can be afflicted with AIDS, and
many do use drugs.  We have to get rid of the notion
that “things don’t happen to us because we are special,” because,
in reality, they do.
We must not only be more compassionate concerning the needs of
these individuals, but we must also be more available to them.  We
must focus on ways to assist the needy and those who are less
privileged that we are and we need to be more generous
in our giving toward them.
The Physical Edifice
Our generation is faced with many varied interests and outside
considerations as opposed to our parents’ generation. Many of
these activities/interests seem more attractive and easier to get
involved with and thus, the Armenian Church is not in the
forefront. To
counter this, we feel our church facilities should be readily
accessible and available to us for activities, which we can
schedule at our convenience.  In many cases, the building is
locked up and only certain individuals have access.  Furthermore,
there should be someone in charge of maintaining the church
complexes so they are more readily accessible for those who serve.
We need to deal more professionally with what our churches are
here for.
Our Clergy
As the leaders of our Christian faith, we want to see you, our
clergy, illustrate more love and respect for each other and we
want to see you work together for the betterment of our Church.
We often hear clergy gossiping about their fellow
clergymen and feel that there is too much competition and not
enough cooperation.  We feel that respect and cooperation amongst
the clergy is essential if the clergy, as the spiritual leaders of
our flock, are to teach us by example.
We also want to hear more from you.  We want to know why you
chose to become priests and what your priesthood means to you.  We
want to hear about your own spiritual journey so that we may learn
from your experiences.
We are no doubt aware that all of our clergy are overwhelmed and
overburdened in ministering to our people.  The issue is one in
which all of us must work together to alleviate.  But to help us
understand you and your difficulties, you must
communicate effectively with us so we can assist you in your
efforts to minister to our church and our people.

=================================================================
“WILLIAMS BAY MANIFESTO”
Presented at the ACYOA General Assembly
September 2, 1968–Williams Bay, Wisconsin
The world is in an age of revolution, a time of changing and
becoming.  The Church, if it is to be relevant to the world, must
speak of God’s will in terms of today.  Christianity is not a
religion for the timid, for it takes courage and strength
of conviction to resist that which is comfortable, convenient and
traditional in favor of God’s will, which may at times be
difficult. Christ continually calls His followers to renewal,
reform, and revolution.
As the youth of the Armenian Church, we are disturbed by our
Church’s refusal to be a part of the twentieth century, to face
the urgent and real problems of today, and to seek Christian
solutions to them.  Poverty, hunger, disease, wars, racial
tensions, social discontent and turmoil sear the world around us,
and yet our Church concerns itself mainly with erecting costly
buildings and monuments and amassing material goods, rationalizing
that it is necessary for self-preservation.  We want
our Church to see beyond its own interests, to share others’
sufferings and problems.
At present, in the mind of many Armenians, the Armenian Church’s
primary function is to act as the defender of nationalism, to
protect Armenians from assimilation.  This is indicated by their
fear of reform, for they worry that with change would
come a certain loss of identity.  On the contrary, we feel that
specific reforms would bring increased dedication and enthusiasm,
a renewal and rebirth of our Church.
Apathy and spiritual indifference pervade our Church life.  Few
Church members have that sincere relationship with God which is
the basis of Christian living.  We, as the youth, are not simply
condemning the adults of our Church; we can see the
same problems among ourselves.  The ACYOA is suffering from an
internal malaise; membership has fallen off, only socials and
dances are well attended, spiritual growth has come to a complete
standstill.
The time has come when we, the youth of the Armenian Church, can
no longer in conscience allow ourselves to be used as instruments
for the preservation of a Church which is living in the archaic
past.  We feel we must make known our discontent with
the present antiquated and meaningless structures and institutions
and our desire to ameliorate the stagnated condition of the Church
which is ours  We are told so often that the Church belongs to us;
therefore, we have not only the right but the
duty to see that our Church relates to the present day, and thus,
becomes meaningful to its members. We are committed to action_ the
watchword is revolution.  Our revolutionary commitment and action
addresses itself to a radical concern of making
Christ live and grow in our Church and members.  We are now
resolved to speak out and act in accordance with the dictates of
our conscience in all areas of life within and without our Church,
wherever Christ is being crucified anew.
=================================================================

Compendium

= The Diocese of the Armenian Church of America arranged with the
US Department of Defense to airlift US miliary supplies,
originally destined in Europe for use in Operation Desert Storm,
to Armenia.
= January 6, Theophany, for the first time was officially observed
as a national and religious holdiay by government decree in
Armenia.  Government offices were closed.
= Bishop Mesrop Krikorian represented the Armenian Church and the
Catholicos in the Synod of Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church
convened in Rome.  His Grace made a statement to the general
assembly detailing the Armenian Church’s position on
topics such as the Christian renewal of the world, improvement of
relations between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Churches,
cooperation among Churches, international issues and the role of
the Church, reforms in the Church, the disparity of
the financial means between the Eastern Churches and the Roman
Catholic Church and the resulting lack of proper clergy training.
Bp. Grigorian, concluded his statement, by making an appeal to all
present to mediate with their respective governments
for Armenia’s diplomatic recognition, citing the delicate
situation and its similarity to 1915. (Source: ZIC News Digest)
= Rev. Fr. Husik Lazarian, was elected chairman of the Executive
Council of the Armenian National Movement.  Fr. Lazarian succeeds
Vano Siradeghian, an appointee of Armenia’s Minister of the
Interior.
= His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of Cilicia received in
Antelias, Cardinal John O’Conor, Archbishop of New York in
January.  His Eminence Cardinal O’Connor was in Beirut on a
three-day visit with a delegation representing the Catholic
Welfare
Association for the Near East and the Pontifical Mission.  The
Catholicos and Cardinal discussed the current situation of Lebanon
and the role of the Church and the people of America.
= Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the
Armenian Church of the United States and Canada, was appointed as
a member of the new Faith and Order Plenary Commission of the
World Council of Churches. The commission, formed in
1910, is studies and finds resolutions to the questions which
affect the unity of the Church.
= Bishop Barkev Mardirosyan, Primate of the Artzakh, visited the
United States during March 1992.  In an unprecidented display of
solidarity, over four million dollars was raised for Artzakh
(Kharabagh) within the Western Diocese, under the
direction of Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian.
=A meeting of the world’s Orthodox leaders was convened by
Patriarch Bartholemew I, (“first amond equals” of the Orthodox
communion) in Istanbul Turkey.  The purpose of the meeting was to
discuss the Church’s activity in a rapidly changing world,
where the socialist system has disintegrated and religion is being
resurrected in East European Countries.      The meeting, held in
March 1992, was the first of its kind in the history of the
Orthodox Church.  A key topic of the three day closed door
meetings was the stepped up activities of the Catholic Church
within the Former Soviet Union and East European Countries.  The
primates of the Orthodox communions issued a warning against the
proselytizing activities of Protestant and Catholics.
= A seven page statement issued by the primates of the Orthodox
communions, stongly criticizes the Protestants and Catholics for
proselytizing in these orthodox countries and suggests that these
churches spend more efforts in “missions” to
non-Christian countries, where the gospel is more desperately
needed.  Mak
ing a distinction between prselytizing and mission, the report
notes that the current behavior of these non-Orthodox groups,
“poisons the relations among Christians and destroys the road
toward their unity.”  It was decided to suspend talks with the
Vatican as regards to bridging main theological differences.
Twelve of the 14 heads of Orthodox churches attended this meeting
and the other two sent representatives.

=================================================================
Letters to the Editor

Dear Editors:
You consistently focus on timely, significant issues in the
Church. It is interesting to learn more about the background of
Armenian Protestantism and Catholicism.
With respect to their influence in Armenia today, I feel that
their involvement is preferable to perpetuating ignorance and
atheism.  Since the Armenian Church is unable to adequately
address the spiritual needs and interests of its people in
Armenia –or in many other parts of the world (where it has not
suffered persecution) — other groups that can accurately teach
people about Christ should be welcomed.
And the Armenian Church agrees with these other Christians on all
of the fundamentals or essentials of the faith.  The effect of
their involvement will be that Armenia will have a more informed
Christian population and will develop networks with
Christians in countries around the world.  This will help nurture
international interest in Armenia.
May God bless your work.
–Dean Shahinian, Alexandria, VA

Dear Editors:
It seems ironic that your last issue opens with a graph depicting
the rise of Muslims and agnostics in the world while the remaining
pages detail the differences among Christians.  Could this be why
Christianity is loosing ground?  I am
disappointed.
–Martha Gulesserian, Detroit, MI

Dear Editors:
I thoroughly enjoyed your last issue.  It provided very useful
information.  As a “son” of the Armenian Church for over 60 years,
I have never heard the protestant story, the Catholic story and to
tell you the truth, I’ve never been challenged to
think about these groups.  It is obvious that the spread of
Protestantism and Catholicism must be addressed by our church
leadership, even more obvious is that it can’t be done by merely
coming together for various activities.   I found very
interesting Fr. Movsesian’s comments in “Rethinking Armenian
Protestantism” that commemorations of Vartanantz and Martyrs Day
“together” defies reason.  His proposal makes good sense, but I
fear it will go the route of Abchbishop Nersoyan’s work —
“no follow ups to these consultations.”
I am certain that I speak for many when I thank God for a
publication such as Window which gives us an opportunity to think,
question, and not take our religion for granted.  Thanks again.
–Haig Omartian, Pico Rivera, CA

Dear Editors:
The Antiochian Orthodox model is precisely what the Armenian
Church must follow if there is to be rapprochement.  I thank Fr.
Movsesian for focusing in on the AEOM work.  I have been following
their activities for a few years now.  The action of
Metropolitan Phillip is an act of a true representative of Christ.
I am certain that God will crown their efforts and can only hope
that our Armenian bishops would be so open.  I would appreciate
further comments and opinions about these
“evangelical orthodox,” in coming issues.
Thanks for a great publication.
Aram Donikian, New York, NY

Chrism -of- Independence?
Dear Editors:
I write to bring to your attention an apparent error in your last
issue, Volume II Number 3.   In that issue, you provide a
translated transcript of an address, “ONE Free Nation; ONE Free
Government; ONE Free National Church,” which was delivered
at Holy Etchmiadzin on the occasion of the Blessing of the Holy
Chrism last September.  You have clearly mis-identified this
nationalistic but highly secular oration as coming from the lips
of Vasken I, the catholicos of all Armenians, when in fact
it is obviously not a sermon, but a political discourse by one of
the public officials of the Republic.
You were obviously misled by the speaker’s pseudo-Christian
introduction, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy
Spirit, Amen_,” and by the religious rhetoric of the opening two
paragraphs with their reference to the descent at
Etchmiadzin of “the Son of God, our Saviour Christ.”    But this
is merely a clever rhetorical gimmick designed to appeal to the
spiritual roots of the Armenian people.  The perceptive reader
recognizes immediately that this is not a spiritual
message by the head of the church–the name of the Lord is never
again mentioned after the second paragraph–but some poor
nouveau-democrat’s pedestrian attempt to incite the patriotic
fervor of his audience.
And “Chrism of Independence?”  Really.  How could the erudite
editors of Window be so gullible?   The Catholicos would consider
it blasphemy to denigrate the holy chrism by referring to it in
such obscenely secular terms.  Credit for this cheap
sound-bite should go to the savvy politician who used it as the
focus of this political speech.  It should not be used to defame
the catholicos–as you have–by suggesting that he has nothing
more inspiring to say on the occasion of the blessing of
holy chrism.
Indeed, having so erred, it is now incumbent upon you to find and
print the true transcript of His Holiness’ sermon;  the one in
which he no doubt leaves aside the cheap patriotic rhetoric and
boldly preaches the true themes of the holy chrism–the
sanctifying, healing presence of the Holy Spirit of God; the
transforming holiness which unites all the children of God who are
baptized and anointed by it; the spiritual legacy of the great
saints from Gregory onward who have been sealed with this
very oil; the spirit of regeneration, resurrection and life which
confront us when the old chrism is added to the new; and
ultimately the glaring reality that when we touch the holy chrism,
we mystically touch God.
The children of the Armenian Church are thirsty for the hope
which God offers.  We long to hear spiritual and life-giving words
of holiness, faith and hope from our chief patriarch.   We expect
to hear from him the MEAT of our faith, not just the
garnish.  Anyone can speak about our “ONE Free Nation.”  But when
the catholicos speaks, he speaks in the awesome name of our Lord.
There is a serious problem inherent in your transcript as it
stands.  I pray that it is a mere mis-identification on your part,
and not an identity crisis on the part of the catholicos.
–M. Minassian, New York, NY

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Vol. I, No. 1 Premier Issues (out of print)
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ABOUT ACRAG

The Armenian Church Research and Analysis Group was founded in
1989 by a group of clergy and lay servants of the Armenian Church.
In view of the recent developments in the world and particularly
in Armenia, the need for professional and innovative
approach to the matters facing the Armenian people in general and
the Armenian Church in particular was strongly felt by
individuals, who are committed to the Traditions of the Church and
share the vision of St. Gregory the Illuminator.  The aims of
the GROUP are: Through research and observations, highlight the
role of the Armenian Church in the life of the Armenian peopl
e; To provide a forum for dialogue and discussion on matters
concerning the Church today; To provide publications that would
further contribute to the growth of the Armenian community in the
Faith of their forefathers: To feel the gap between the
National and Religious characteristics of the Armenian Community.
In 1990 ACRAG began publishing the Window quarterly.  Within a
year, Window  has become the premium journal of contemporary
Armenian Church thought.
Among its accomplishments during its short history was the
production of the “Teotig” data base.  Compiled in this file are
names of over 1000 Armenian clergymen who were martyred during the
Genocide of 1915. (Results of this study can be found in
Window vol. I, No. 3.)
ACRAG has been expanding its service to the community by
organizing theological conferences and discussions. Information
pamphlets have been produced for the immigrant.Armenian
communities in America.  The Group has also supplied technical
advise
to various parishes in developing church computer systems.
In the field of telecommunications, ACRAG is the voice of the
Armenian Church on the international network, now covering the
Soviet Union and Armenia.
As part of ACRAG’s developing scope and service there will be an
opening for a Director of Operations at the ACRAG headquarters.
The director will function directly under the ACRAG advisory board
and will be responsible for development of specific
programs.  Fluency in Armenian, English and computer skills are
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