Death: The Kevorkian Factor, Vol. 3, No. 3 & 4

View the PDF version of this issue: Window_Vol3_No3and4_Death_The_Kevorkian_Factor

view of the Armenian Church

1993 Volume III, Number 3 & 4

(This version contains text only.  References to graphics,
charts, pictures and columns correspond to the actual published issue.)

Brought to you courtesy of the S*A*I*N* Archive Server

© 1993 Armenian Church Research & Analysis Group
(ACRA Group)


Write to:

P.O. Box 700664
San Jose, CA 95170-0664


or on the

St. Andrew Information Network
(An Electronic Bulletin Board Service)
408-257-1846 (8-N-1)
(contains only text)


The Armenian Church Research & Analysis Group

Fr Vazken Movsesian
Dn Hratch Tchilingirian

Art Director:
Yn Susan Movsesian

Alice Atamian

Dn Michael Findikyan
Abraham  Sldrian

Bruce Burr

Roupen Nahabedian

Administrative  Assist.:
Sosi Topjian

Layout & Logistics:

The views expressed in Window are not necessarily those of the
Armenian Church hierarchy.  Window is known as Loosamood in
Armenia.  Window is an independent publication supported solely
by reader subscriptions. Entire contents _1993 ACRAG. All
rights reserved. Use of original articles, translations, art work
or photographs without the expressed permission of the publisher
is strictly prohibited by law.  All manuscripts submitted for
publication become the property of ACRAG. Subscription
information: Send name, address and  $22.00  for each
subscription to: ACRA Group, P.O. Box 700664, San Jose, CA 95170.
An electronic Version of Window is available on the St. Andrew
Information Network (SAIN) System: 1-408-257-1846 or via the
internet at Address all correspondence to: The
ACRAG.  Window  is produced on a Macintosh/Apple II system and
Laserset on a  LaserWriter II, utilizing the ITC Bookman and ITC
Avant Garde fonts.  Some of the material used is compiled
and prepared utilizing the SAIN electronic forum. Printed in the
United States of America by ACRAG Publishing.  Window and the
logo appearing on the cover are trademarks of ACRAG.
Macintosh, Apple II and LaserWriter are registered trademarks of
Apple Computer.
_ 1993 A.C.R.A. Group
P.O. Box 700664,
San Jose, CA 95170

Window Vol. III, No. 3 & 4

Table of Contents
(page numbers refer to the printed publication)

Death: One More Pain to Avoid?   3
by Vazken Movsesian

What is Good Death?   7
by Hratch Tchilingirian

Medicine & Spirituality   10
by Gregory Semerdjian

Reflections on the Canon of Funeral   12
by George A. Leylegian

The Final Act   18
by Gregory Doudoukjian

Death of an AIDS Victim    20
by Tateos Abdalian

The Boy Who Sang the Psalms   21
by Vazken Movsesian

Toward a Theology of Science    23
by Richard Kirby

Letters  28


Death: One More Pain to Avoid?

Fr. Vazken Movsesian

When we first decided to focus this issue of Window on death,
Dr. Jack Kevorkian was still causing people to pause from their
fast paced lives and contemplate their own mortality. By now,
Kevorkian is dismissed as merely a doctor unfaithful to his
calling, carrying the misleading title “Doctor Death.” He
continues to buck the system, defying court orders and accepting
jail sentences.  Every now and then his name finds a spot in the
Armenian Church bulletins and pulpits by priests more
captured by his being Armenian, than the ethical dilemma he may
Kevorkian is a rebel and as such is a working man’s hero.  He is
a genuine person, evaluating problems of life and death in a
down-to-earth manner.  If someone is dying without any hope of
recovery, why add to the terrible hand that life has dealt
him?  Why not assist and make his exit from this life as quick
and painless as possible?  What could be more practical?
Wouldn’t it be nice if every problem in life could have such a
pragmatic solution?
The dilemma which Kevorkian has brought to the limelight
intrigues our society — a society which places all its eggs in
one basket.  Material wealth and the belief in the finality of
our temporal existence defines our understanding of life.
Kevorkian rocks the shaky foundation which society has built.
The ramifications of Kevorkian’s challenge to societal ethics is
inescapable, especially for us in the Church.
After reading Kevorkian’s book, Prescription Medicine: The
Goodness of Planned Death, it becomes obvious that the title “Dr.
Death” is only a ploy by the media to sensationalize a society
which is scared to deal with ultimate questions.  Dr.
Kevorkian is no more an advocate of death than Mother Teresa.
What differentiates Kevorkian from all the rest is his
willingness to apply intellect and reason to a very important
issue facing society today — the boundaries of and control over
and death.

Death and Society

“_The chief duty of the state [is]  to protect the individual and
give him the opportunity to develop into a creative personality;
that is to say; the state should be our servant and not we its
Albert Einstein

The first time I received a letter from Armenia, I was amused at
the way the address had been written.  It had “USA” at the top,
followed by my state, city, street address and at the very bottom
was my name.  It was the opposite of the way we
address envelopes here in the U.S. — with the person’s name at
the top, followed by his location in the world. It may be merely
a matter of custom, but it does reflect the understanding of a
self-conscious society.  For much of the world, the state
is what comes before all else.  The state is greater than all
else and is there to be served.  However, in America (and the
Western world), the self has been allowed to superceed all else.
Though this ideal may not be achievable, the state is there
to serve the person.
In the hierarchy of life, we have put our personal existence
above all else.  Advances in the field of medicine are steadily
stretching life expectancy years.  Add to this the doctor’s fear
of malpractice litigation and you have a unique system —
where every and all measures may be taken to preserve a person’s
physical existence —  despite the quality of life that treatment
may render.  The primordial question of life and its meaning
follow when the quality of life issue is brought to
focus.  What is the value of existence without purpose or plan?
What is existence without a measure of quality?
With subjective references as “quality,” the definition and
meaning of life becomes a confusing mishmash of capitalistic and
humanistic idealism.  The popular slogan, In the end, he who dies
with the most toys, wins!  characterizes a society where
material wealth and accumulation of goods define the quality of
Modern medicine is opening a Pandora’s box every day. The longer
life expectancy is stretched, the more chances a person has to
see the next generation of illness and disease.  In Prescription
Medicine, Kevorkian addresses issues that are paramount
to our ability to control, regulate and limit life.  For the
ethicist, these are questions which are evaluated in relation to
the norms of society.  For the theologian, these are concerns
which are tested against an understanding of a supernatural
force — the author of life — and therefore the only legitimate
“regulator” of life.

“Prescription Medicine”
Society has already made a decision on which life is
insignificant by virtue of its capital punishment laws, contends
Kevorkian.  Prescription Medicine expounds his idea of “judicial
euthanasia.”  The book begins by portraying a handful of
individuals with life threatening diseases and the possibility
for survival, provided they can obtain a donated organ.
Simultaneously, Kevorkian details a state sanctioned execution:
when a criminal is executed by the state, “an abstraction called
tice [is] served_.”  At the same time a greater sentence is
handed down to those suffering from illness.  By the
extermination of the criminal, a cure for the ails of another
becomes impossible.
Kevorkian’s premise is simple and rational.  Given the set of
circumstances produced by society, we can find a more equitable
way of “serving justice.”  He explains, “Originally the word
retribution meant compensation or something of value given in
return.  How can the involuntary death of a criminal fit that
definition?  What is returned to society or to anyone in it?
There can be no compensation from executions as traditionally
understood; there can be only loss of life.”
Criminals sitting on death row are a source for organ
transplants as well as medical experimentation.  Kevorkian
interviews a handful of these inmates and finds that they are
willing to “pay their debt” to society in this manner.  What
stops them,
however, is the politics of medicine.  For one, the American
Medical Association cannot sanction a doctor to play executioner.
The greater problem is faced by law makers who have to face
voters on a record blotched with the word “murder.”
Clearly, Kevorkian shows there is precedence for this type of
planned execution.  He  dedicates Prescription Medicine “to those
enlightened doctors in ancient Hellenistic Alexandria and
Medieval Cilician Armenia. They dared to do what is right.”
He explains, “Articles published recently in academic journals
from Soviet Armenia_ cited publications in the classical Armenian
language from around 1350 to 1375 describing the practice
(medical experiments during execution of condemned
criminals) then in vogue. They also tended to verify what I had
guessed about Alexandria: experiments were performed there only
after subjects were rendered insensitive with large amounts of
alcohol.  Much of the Armenian research dealt with
observation of organ structure and function, including
circulation of the blood.  This then represents the second and
well-documented episode of man’s homage to the nobler and usually
ignored values inherent in the willful destruction of humans.”
The benefits of this “judicial euthanasia” are great, Kevorkian
contends. Cures for illness based on human experimentation and
organ transplants are possible, but societal rules and
regulations now stand in the way of progress.

Enter the Church
For the Church, the issues that are presented by Kevorkian’s
work can not go unnoticed.  And certainly, for the Armenian
Church, Kevorkian must stand as a challenge to Her theology
because of his work and not because of his ethnic background. (I
often wonder, had he not been Armenian, would we in the Armenian
Church have even picked up on this controversy. Everyday we are
challenged with issues of euthanasia, capital punishment,
suicide, abortion and our inhumanity to one another in war.
Rarely, do I hear our Church make mention of these ethical
For the Church, doctor assisted suicide cannot be approached
vis-a-vis the political debate, nor does it necessarily have to
be an ethical debate.  Life is precious, granted. We may
certainly ask, who has the right to take that life away?  But we
must also ask the question, who has the right to extend it?
Because our theology discounts fatalism, (despite the popularity
of the Middle Eastern custom of coffee cup reading), we accept a
model of self-determination.
The ramifications of self determination are many and can be
debated endlessly. But the living Church must rise above mundane
and lifeless philosophical discussions.  The Church has a
statement to make and must be heard beyond the discussion of
physical expiration. Today, the Church can speak in such a
language that no other secular institution can speak and
pronounce a message equally distinctive and unique.
The basic foundation of the Church is built upon the
Resurrection of Jesus Christ. There can be no concessions made on
acceptance of this event by the “Christian.” It is the premise of
our Faith.  Therefore, physical death is no longer a mystery
nor is it a pain to be avoided.  We cannot “treat” death as we do
a disease.  It is a natural process through which every living
entity must pass.  The Church is bound to witness to the message
of the resurrection, which heralds, “Where, O death, is
your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55)
The “pain” of death is found only in the grieving of those who
remain with memories of the deceased.  By the unfailing words of
Christ, we are partakers in His resurrection. If not for Her
witness to the Resurrection, the Church is but one voice
among many in a controversy which began when Adam first
questioned his existence and will continue to the end of time.
In witnessing to the resurrection, the Church has a ministry in
and through the event unparalleled in human history – Christ’s
Resurrection.  It is the strength by which we change the focus of
death to life. In so doing, the message of the Church
becomes one of life in light of death.
Society is dying daily as it denies death and places the self
above all else. It leads consumers in a futile search for a
better look, a better feeling, a better life, all at the cost of
one’s spiritual demise.  As victims of societal pressure, our
lives lose meaning and purpose, because our labors are in vain.
Death is seen as the ultimate evil, to be avoided at all costs,
while life is defined by the expressions of what we taste, hear,
smell, see and feel.
Society is overrun by self-centered idealism.  Quite the
opposite, the Church teaches and challenges the individual to a
life of sacrifice, even to the point of death, for the good of
others.  The life of the Christian is one of love.  That love is
expressed in giving.  Life is meant to be given as freely as it
is given to us by God.  The idea that life is to be preserved at
all costs is a foreign concept to the Church.  Without limits,
life would not be faithful to its own definition.
In witnessing to the resurrection, the Church first and foremost
must rise out of the grave Herself.  Death is a done deal.  It
has been conquered.  It needs no apology.  The Church must be
willing to address the issues of life.  The resurrection
of Christ was not only an event in history, but also an event
that happens every moment in a Christian’s life.  The spiritual
death we face daily digs us deeper and deeper into a grave from
which the Church must lift us up. The Church is not the
mortician which pumps us with embalming fluid to simulate a
life-like state,  rather She is the voice which echoes Christ’s
shout to Lazarus to “come forth” and live today! With the message
of the resurrection, the walls of death crumble and we walk
from darkness into light, from spiritual decay into spiritual
In his book The Courage to Be, theologian Paul Tillich describes
the types of “anxiety,” one of which is the “anxiety of guilt.”
He explains, “Man’s being, ontic as well as spiritual, is not
only given to him but also demanded of him.  He is
responsible for it; literally, he is required to answer, if he is
asked, what he has made of himself.  He who asks him is his
judge, namely he himself, who, at the same time, stands against
him.”  We succumb to the anxiety of guilt, as our lives
turn inward and decay in a battle to inflate the ego with surplus
garbage.  We all fall victim to a spiritual demise. We need the
hand that will pull us out of this grave and will allow us to
believe that our efforts and labors are not in vain.
The Church has this as Her mission. When the Church is defined
as the Kingdom of God on Earth, what more is this than to allow
Her children to share in God’s love during their temporal
existence.  The power of the Church is in her ability to talk
to the lives of mortals here on Earth, with the authority and
conviction of the Creator in Heaven, through the Holy Spirit.
Our deeds are judged by the self, evaluating itself.  The Church
must move its emphasis away from a judgment yet to come to
a judgment which is here today. In so doing, the Church’s message
of love overshadows and overcomes all discussion and concern
for death.
Death happens in the here and now. It is not to come, but an
event from which we need to be saved today. Death is the end
feared by those whose lives have been lived in vain. Lives lived
in love and out of love do not die.


Excerpts and boxed in article
“Even the various gods invented by humankind to help face the
terrifying unknowns of existence are in favor of the ultimate
penalty. They not only mandate it but they even pass the death
sentence on capitally sinful mortals, and serve as its
executioners. Yahweh and Allah have condemned and executed
millions guilty of the capital crime of lacking faith. The true
believers may have been the sword, but the gods were the
executioners who wielded it. In fact, they are still swinging it
wildly in Lebanon, Iran, Ireland and India.”

“The ‘pendulum’ of capital punishment is unstoppable. Its use has
fluctuated throughout recorded history, and there is not an
interval of peacetime during which it completely disappeared.
That is potent, indeed invincible, evidence that the practice
probably emanates from the very core of the human psyche and will
never be eradicated.”

“Capital punishment can have only two definite and absolutely
inarguable aims. The first is simply to put an end to a
criminal’s earthly existence. The second is to prevent repetition
of crime by the individual thus eliminated.”

[Jack Kevorkian: “Prescription:Medicine: The Goodness of Planned
Death”; Prometheus Books 1991, New York.]

“It was the condemnation of suicide by Augustine (354-430) that
was the single most important factor in setting the face of the
Christian church firmly against acts of self killing_. it was his
City of God which for the first time forcefully
brought suicide as a moral issue to the attention of the
Christian community and established the subsequent prevailing
attitude toward it — that suicide is self-murder and deserving
of the same strong condemnation that we normally reserve for
murder itself.
“_ For by demonstrating the immorality of suicide, he could
defend the Christian preference for Job– who suffered long and
much but clung to life and trusted God — over Cato the Younger,
the highly respected and principled opponent of Julius
Caesar who took his own life when the latter came to power.
“Suicide — worse than murder for Augustine, because it leaves
no room for a “healing penitence”.  Murderers can at least repent
and restore their relationship with God, but for suicides this
possibility is precluded, so they enter eternity in an
unforgiven condition.”

“Why indeed, should we submit, beast-like, to nature’s
capricious ways, being obliged to allow an agonizing dying to
proceed at its own slow rate? Why not place dying fully under
human control and judgment? This, the argument goes, would not
ending life on a whim or doing so without moral scruples, but it
would mean being open to the moral possibility of taking active
steps to end life. To be sure, certain stringent conditions would
have to be met, and tough questions would have to be
asked. For example, is my situation hopeless and known to be
such? Have I been faithful in discharging my responsibilities to
preserve my life, including the bearing of appropriately heavy
burdens?  However, has the burden of my suffering now become
intolerable, with nothing but an agonizing, sputtering death
(dying) lying ahead for me? Should the answer to all these
questions be “yes,” could I not throw myself on the mercy of God
and end my life? Why not show that we respect the divine
lordship over death not by letting nature have its way in these
matters but by seeking to make dying captive to values expressive
of God’s nature — love, mercy, compassion, the best interests of
all concerned, and so on?”

[Robert Wennberg, Terminal Choices: Euthanasia, Suicide and the
Right to Die. Grand Rapids: Willam Eerdmans Publishing Co.,


What is Good Death?
Issues Related to Death and Dying

Hratch Tchilingirian

Euthanasia (Greek for “good death”), in general, means “the
causing of an easy or painless death to the patient who is dying
of a terminal illness. Death can be induced by the patient
himself without the knowledge or cooperation of any other
persons. Or it can be effected by others at the request or with
the consent of the patient. In all these cases it is called
voluntary euthanasia. If death is induced against the will or
without the knowledge of the patient, [it is called]
involuntary euthanasia.1

In 1991 when the Hemlock Society published the best seller Final
Exit by Derek Humphry, a wave of controversies and debates
emerged and once again, euthanasia became a topic of public
discussion.  Meanwhile, an Armenian doctor in Michigan, named
Jack Kevorkian, was assisting terminally ill or potentially
terminal patients to commit suicide.  Kevorkian became “famous”
in 1990 when he chose to help Janet Adkins commit suicide in the
early stages of her Alzheimer’s disease.  In the beginning,
“despite some criticism by a few psychologists and ethicists,
there was tremendous public support evidenced for his
compassion,”2 Humphry writes.  However, as the number of his
assisted suicides increased, Kevorkian’s “public support” turned
public outrage.

Why did this initial support decline to an eventual disapproval?
Kevorkian – or Dr. Death as he became known in the press – was
acting “as god” in the eyes of society, i.e., determining the end
of life or when life should end “for the sake of his
patients.”  While the initial cases of assisted suicides by
Kevorkian were seen as compassionate relief from ongoing physical
pain and discomfort, eventually, his method became a major public
issue when it went “too far.”  As Nancy Gibbs in her
cover story in Time magazine wrote,  Kevorkian, in his
determination to fight for the rights of his patients,  told the
State of Michigan “to go to hell.”3  By placing himself above any
authority except the will of the dying person, Kevorkian
negated the basic ethical questions surrounding life and death.
He was satisfied with his own answer.

The Social Debate
Questions such as whether an individual has the “right to die”
or whether life should be prolonged or whether life should be
ended to prevent pain are discerned through social dialogue,
where the social, moral, political, philosophical and
theological implications of such issues are discussed on various
levels.  Who decides the length of life?  Who determines the
value of life?  What is death?  Is it a matter of personal
choice?  What is the responsibility of society?   In a
pluralistic society such as ours, when faced with these
complicated ethical questions, we find ourselves divided over the
fundamentals of life and death.
The ethical and theological problem over death and dying is
further complicated today by the fact that modern medicine and
clinical technology has succeeded in prolonging the life span of
human beings – whether by stretching out the length of an
illness or using artificial means of sustenance.  Today,
euthanasia is discussed within the context of this social
dilemma.  While on the one hand technology has made many miracles
possible, it has also legitimized the illusion that “man is the
center of the universe” and therefore controls his own destiny.
On the contrary, as Michail Gorbachev underlines, “technology has
not only failed to ease the conflict between man and nature, it
has aggravated that conflict_.  The crisis of
civilization that we see today is a crisis of the naive belief in
the omnipotence of humanity.”4
Technological advances without corresponding moral discussion
and determination create an ethical vacuum in society.
Obviously, many resort to euthanasia out of fear of machines and
hospitals where human beings are treated as “lab subjects.”  The
medical industry has not clarified its boundaries and the
parameters of its function in society.  As such, the gap in the
trust between patients and doctors has increasingly grown wider.

What is Death?
Biologically, the death of any living organism is viewed as the
“inevitable and critical moment when an organism ceases to
function as a specific, unified, homeostatic system and becomes
disorganized into a mere collection of heterogeneous chemical
substance.”  The process of death is the tangible unraveling of
the biological system; death is the cessation of systemic
functioning.  “Hence, the essential point about determining human
death is not to decide whether any life is present, but
whether human life in the most radical sense of a unified human
person is still present.”5   And yet, who determines whether this
“unified person” is present? Is it the doctor? Is it the patient?
Is it the family?  If the person is “not present,”
do we have the right to extinguish this life?  When is life no
longer of value? Today, in a market-driven society, human life is
viewed from a materialist perspective and life is often valued
for its productive capacity or for its adequacy to seek
and experience pleasure.   Thus death, while feared, is preferred
over a non-productive or painful existence.
Nevertheless, unlike other organisms, “human death has a mystery
about it, because at death we lose touch irrevocably with a
person who previously was able to communicate and to share our
human community of thought, of love, of freedom, and of
creativity.  Human death is not merely a decay of an organism, it
is the departure of a member of the human community.”6  It is
this interdependence between the individual and the community
that sets the “climate” of the dialogue concerning
community and societal issues, e.g., euthanasia.  On the other
hand, in Western societies, the loss of a member of the human
community is viewed as evil – “an evil which is resented, fought
against and battled, even though it is seen as inevitable.
Death is darkness. It is the end of life on earth as we know it.
It is the conclusion of our efforts, our hopes, our dreams, our
expectations, our existence as earth-borne beings.”7

An Orthodox Perspective
Ultimately, any ethical position or contemplation in life takes
place in a specific context.  And that context is defined by
one’s religious belief or values by which she lives.  A person’s
understanding of life is based on her values, her
upbringing, her experience in life, her religious faith and
practice and many other variables.  As Armenian Christians, we
have the rich theological tradition of the Armenian Church which
defines that context.
The Armenian Church understands death in the context of life,
i.e., dying and living in Christ.  This understanding is
reiterated throughout the liturgical tradition of the Armenian
Church, (e.g., Baptism, Divine Liturgy, Funeral Service, etc.).
In fact, in the New Testament “the dominant lines of [God’s]
revelation converge toward the mystery of Christ’s death.  There
all of human history appears like some gigantic drama of life and
death; until the coming of Christ, and without Him, there
is only the kingdom of death.  Christ comes, and by His death
triumphs over death itself; from that instant, death takes on a
new meaning for the new humanity which dies with Christ in order
to live with Him eternally.”8
In a broader sense, dying should be viewed as a process and
death as an event.   The Christian, through Baptism, dies in his
“old life” and lives anew in Christ.  The entire life process is
a process of “dying,” and “reliving” in Christ through
love in the Holy Spirit.  Death, for the Christian, is merely the
event by which one leaves this world to become a part of another.
There may be pain and suffering in the process and that is
understood through the purifying and salvific suffering
of Christ.
According to the Armenian Church,  suicide – i.e., those who
separate or cut off themselves from the church community –
constitutes the deliberate taking of human life and as such is to
be condemned as murder.9  The Church, however, “distinguishes
between euthanasia and the withholding of extraordinary means to
prolong life unable to sustain itself.  It affirms the sanctity
of human life and man’s God-given responsibility to preserve
life.  But it rejects an attitude which disregards the
inevitability of physical death.  The only “good death” for the
Orthodox Christian is the peaceful acceptance of the end of his
or her earthly life with faith and trust in God and the promise
of Resurrection.”10
Thus, the meaning of life is not determined by an individuals
productivity, or her comfort or his pleasure or her desire to
live, but by the individual’s faith in God.  Death is not an
ending, but a beginning.  Death is not a condition to be
induced or avoided; it is the culmination of this life and the
preparation of a new life in Christ.  The circumstances of death
are always difficult – for those who die, as well as those who
remain behind – but ultimately, human life and condition
are to be entrusted to God and His mercy.  It is not a matter of
personal control.  As the Psalmist writes, “The Lord redeems the
soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in Him shall be
desolate,” (Ps. 34:22).

1Andrew C. Varga, The Main Issues in Bioethics, (New York:
Paulist Press, 1984), pp. 267-68.
2Derek Humphry, Final Exit: The Practicalities of
Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying, (The Hemlock
Society, 1991),  p. 18.
3Time, May 31, 1993, p. 35.
4Time, September 6, 1993, p. 53.  Michail Gorbachev is currently
President of International Green Cross.
5ibid.,  p. 366.
6Benedict M. Ashley and Kevin D. O’Rourke, Health Care Ethics: A
Theological Analysis, (St. Louis: The Catholic Health Association
of the United States, 1982), pp. 364-65.
7Stanley S. Harakas, Contemporary Moral Issues Facing the
Orthodox Christians.  (Minneapolis: Light and Life Publishing
Co., 1982), p. 166.
8Xavier Leon-Dufour, Dictionary of Biblical Theology. (New York:
The Seabury Press, 1973), p. 117.
9Canon 11 and 28 of  St. Athanasius of Alexandria.  cf. op. cit.
Harakas, p. 174. For other related canons of the Armenian Church
see Vazken Hagopian, Canon Book of Armenians [in Armenian], Vol.
I and II, (Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences,
10op. cit. Harakas, p. 176.

Medicine & Spirituality
Gregory Semerdjian, M.D.

Deacon Gregory Semerdjian, a doctor of medicine, presented a
longer version of this article as a lecture during a Lenten
service at the St. John Armenian Church, San Diego, California,
where he serves as a deacon.

Webster’s dictionary defines the word doctor as one who teaches
and one who heals the sick. Jesus was the greatest of teachers
and healers. Throughout his time on this earth he traveled the
countryside preaching the word of God and healing the
sick.  As the word of his teaching and his healing power became
widespread, people from all around would come to hear him and
touch him so as to be relieved of their afflictions.
There are numerous examples of his healing abilities in the
Gospels of Luke, Matthew and Mark.  Luke was not one of the
apostles.  He was a physician who observed many of the works of
Christ.  He wrote his observations to Theophillus stating, “_
because I have carefully studied all these matters from
beginning, I thought it would be good to write an orderly account
for you. I do this so that you will know the full truth about
everything which you have been told,”
(Luke 1:1-4).
The entire Gospel according to Luke is an eyewitness account of
the healing powers of Christ.  In one story, Luke tells of a
paralyzed man brought to Jesus after hearing of his healing
power.  There were so many people listening to Jesus that the
man could not be brought in through the door.  Wanting not to
give up, the man’s friends carried him to the roof of the house
and lowered him through a hole directly in front of Jesus.  Luke
relates, “When he saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your
sins are forgiven you.’  Then he told the man to pick up his bed
and go home.  At once the man did exactly that.” (Luke 5:18f).
Elsewhere in the Gospel accord
ing to Luke it is written, “They came to hear him and to be
healed of their diseases.  Those who were troubled by evil
spirits also came and were healed.  All the people tried to touch
him, for power was going out from him and healing them all.”
What power did Jesus offer these people and what did he expect
from them? The power was that of FAITH.  He said over and over
again that those who believed in his word would be free from the
demons of disease.  Those who had faith would have a
place in the kingdom of God.
From the time of Christ until today, we have advanced our
scientific knowledge of medicine many times over.  Our knowledge
of the working of the human body are so much more advanced than a
few years ago.  The advancement of technology has been
explosive.  We have developed tests, x-rays and procedures which
several years ago would have been thought to be impossible.  We
have a new machine which can examine the function of the brain
and pinpoint any diseased areas (PET Scanner).  We can
scan with new non-x-ray emitting machines any part of the body
and pick up even the smallest  of diseased tissues.  We have
developed techniques in heart disease treatments where we can
remove blockages in arteries without surgery.  We have
perfected  techniques that have increased the life expectancy on
the average to 78 years. Twenty years ago life expectancy was 63
years.  Unfortunately, all this technological development has
come at a price.

In ancient Greece in the time of Hippocrates, physicians made an
oath and I quote, “I will prescribe regimen for the good of my
patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do
harm to anyone.”  The oath not only speaks to moral
decisions but to the entire life of a physicians.  Over the years
I am sad to say the societal illness of greed and materialism has
infiltrated the medical profession.  The cost of medical care has
increased in the last 20 years to the point where
there are millions of people in the United States that can not
afford care.  The price for profit from the manufacturers of
drugs and medical equipment has escalated costs.  Medicine has
become a multibillion dollar business.  Because of the
technological advances people are living longer and utilizing
greater services than ever before which has placed a strain on
financial resources.
We are now hearing about the medical haves and the have nots.
There is talk of rationing of medical care because there is not
enough resources to cover the increasing need for care.  For
example, the State of Oregon has developed a rationing
program for their population.  Officials are categorizing and
prioritizing disease states and are  assigning dollar figures for
each case.  As such, medical attention and service to a
particular patient is determined on where his diagnosis is placed
on the priority list.  For example a cardiac bypass surgery for
an 80 year old will not be funded.
Ethicists across the board are debating the questions of dignity
in death and birth. They ask the question, “Isn’t death a natural
extension of life?”   If it is, “How long do we keep an
individual alive by using the technological advances and
artificial means?”  We can now keep babies born in the 24th week
of gestation alive by artificial means, when 5 years ago those
babies would have died.  They suffer from great many ailments
that continue into their lives as they grow, which will
make them totally dependent on others for their daily care.

We are in the throes of an epidemic of AIDS which will further
tax our financial resources.  There are estimates that a new AIDS
case is diagnosed every 17 minutes.  There is an epidemic of lung
cancer especially in those who smoke.  The rate of
alcoholism is on the increase.  Is society responsible for the
self destructive habits of individuals?  If so at what price?  It
is estimated that we spend over $100,000 in the last year of a
persons life.  When is enough, enough?
There are no easy answers to these questions.  Perhaps one
solu-tion to the problem is that we as any adults have to set an
example to our children for a healthier and purer life style. We
need to live and not just talk about health.   There are
many things one can do to enjoy good health.  We can stop
smoking, decrease or stop our alcohol consumption, start
exercising and so on.  We need to be open and frank in dealing
with questions of health and disease with our children.  For
the only way to avoid sexually transmitted disease is by
abstinence from sexual activity.  We need to deal with the drug
problem by open and frank discussions with our children.  We as
parents must not avoid talking about these matters because if we
don’t take the initiative someone else will.  This is our duty
and should not be given to anyone else.
We need to  instill the word of God in our children.  They need
to know the moral rules which will govern their lives.  Without
this I am afraid that we have a very bleak future in sight, not
only for us but the whole of humanity.
There are no easy answers to the financial questions either.  We
spend massive amounts of money to do the research that will
uncover the mysteries of disease.  We spend massive amounts to
discover new chemicals from which drugs can be made.  The
more money we spend on research and development, the higher the
costs for implementing the newly discovered cures become.  Last
year in the United Stated alone we spent $800 billion for health
care.   The amount is mind numbing when we add to this
what is spent in the rest of the world.  Even though huge sums of
funds are spent all over the world for health care, there are
still tens of millions of people who do not have health care at
all.  What responsibility does the world community have
for these people?  Do we just ignore them and go on with life?
Advances in the technology of gene manipulation and genetic
engineering have raised new ethical and moral questions.  Are we
interfering with the normal and natural functioning of the body?
Are we playing God when we are able to manipulate the
outcome of natural genetic formation?  Or are we just trying to
alleviate genetic disease and suffering?  As we enter the 1990’s
there are and will be new discoveries in many of the examples I
have already given and many more as well.  With each new
discovery we must continue to ask ourselves are we interfering
with nature or are we using the intelligence God has given us to
discover new ways to care for and heal the sick.
The human body with all its complexity is a miracle.  Our skin
helps regulate the body’s temperature.  Our digestive system
extracts the nutrients we need to live.  Here is a complex
machine that has built in defenses to fight illness.  The brain
can carry on innumerable functions at the same time and keep it
in memory for years.  All these things happen without a conscious
effort on our part.  As we all know, however, there are many
illnesses that no matter how hard the body fights, it can
not overcome them.
In his book, When Bad Things Happen To Good People, Rabbi Harold
Kushner states, “I don’t know why one person gets sick and
another does not, but I can only assume that some natural laws
which we don’t understand are at work.  I cannot believe that
God ‘sends’ illness to a specific person for a specific reason.
I don’t believe God has a weekly quota of malignant tumors to
distribute and consults his computer to find out who deserves one
most or who could handle it best.”
We must continue always to have faith even in suffering.  As it
is said, faith can move mountains and I believe he who has faith
has everything.  Without it even the smallest of tribulation will
be gigantic and with it the largest problems will be
small.  God may not heal our body but he can ease our mind.  Our
love for Him will give us the strength to carry on.
I wish to conclude with a quote from Dimensions of Job by
Archibald Macleish. “Man depends on God for all things; God
depends on man for one.  Without Man’s Love, God does not exist
as God, only as creator, and love is the one thing, not even God
Himself, can command.
It is a free gift, or it is nothing.  And it is most itself,
most free, when it is offered in spite of suffering, of
injustice, and of death.”   We do not love Him because we are
afraid of Him, or because He will hurt us if we turn our backs on
Him.  We love Him because He is God, because He is the author of
all the beauty and the order around us – the source of our
strength and the hope and courage within us – and by which we are
helped in our time of need.  We love Him because He is
there in our time of need.  We love Him because He is the best
part of ourselves and of our world.  That is what it means to
love.  Love is not the admiration of perfection, but the
acceptance of an imperfect person with all his imperfections,
because loving and accepting him make us better and stronger.


Reflections on the Canon of Funeral
George A. Leylegian
Deacon George A. Leylegian is an investment manager in the San
Francisco Bay Area. He holds a Masters degree in Business and a
Masters degree in Theology.

“Brethren, I do not wish hat you would be ignorant with regard to
those who have fallen asleep because you should not be despondent
like the others for whom hope does not exist.”
(I Thessalonians 4:13)

Hope of Resurrection. This theme pervades every liturgical
response of the Church towards death.  The funeral rites of the
Armenian Church are based upon four Biblical teachings: a) that
humankind was fashioned out of the earth by God the Almighty
Creator; b) that humankind transgressed the first commandment not
to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil, and was expelled from Paradise before eating from the tree
of immortality; c) that humankind, in spite of its sins
and transgressions, was not forgotten, and that One Person of the
Holy Trinity, God the Son, Jesus Christ, descended to the earth
to suffer for our sins; and d) that Jesus Christ shall come again
in glory to judge the living and the dead, offering
the hope of resurrection to the just but the unquenchable fires
of condemnation for those judged unworthy.
Similarly, the liturgy of the Armenian funeral rite consist of
four main services: a) the Service of the Household; b) the
service at the church; c) the internment of the body; d) the
sealing of the tomb in the expectation of the Second Coming.  In
this article, I shall provide an overview of both the liturgy and
the theology of an Armenian funeral.  In order to do so, we must
first and always turn our attention to the rich Scriptural basis
of our funeral services.
At the Creation, God formed humankind out of the dust of the
earth, and breathed the Breath of Life into humankind’s nostrils
(Genesis 2:7).  In Hebrew, the word for “breath” and the word for
“soul” share the same root: “RWH'” or “RuWah”; this same
“RuWah” is used to describe the Holy Spirit of God.  Which is to
say, that when humankind was fashioned out of the dusty ground,
the Life-giving Holy Spirit  (in Armenian, Gensadoo Soorp Hokin)
was transferred through the breath of God into mortal
flesh and is to abide there until such time that God,
figuratively, “inhales” that breath back form humankind.  So, in
Armenian, we use the expression, Hokis hanetsin, which is to say,
“They took away my soul, my spirit, my breath, my life.”
After Adam and Eve transgressed against God, the Creator’s
commandment, He expelled them out of Paradise, saying, “For dust
you were, and to the dust you shall return,” (Genesis 32:19). The
mortality of humankind, therefore, involves the return of
the body formed out of the earth back to the earth.  Accordingly,
the Church has always taught us that we enter this earthly life
and we exit from this earthly life in the same manner.  Until
recent times, coffins were not used by Armenians.
Instead, the corpse was washed, embalmed and wrapped naked in a
shroud.  The shrouded, naked corpse was transported to the
cemetery on a pall, and was then interred into the earth without
any container.  As a result, the Church maintains that a
person comes into this world naked and is severed from the
mother’s umbilical cord and is wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Similarly,  when a person exits form this world, the person is
naked, severed from the spiritual umbilical cord of family,
friends and society and is wrapped in a shroud.
In a person’s life on this earth the Church fulfills a very
special mission; each of us is a sojourner, ookhdavor in
Armenian,  a pilgrim.  The pilgrimage of earthly life is called
bantukhdootyoon and refers to our living as pilgrims on a daily
journey through our faith.  The Church sets the course of our
sojourn and provides us with the essential spiritual needs of our
life-long pilgrimage.   We pray in the Church saying, “O lord,
direct our goings toward the ways of peace.  O Lord,
direct and lead our souls and the souls of all of the faithful to
go upon the path of righteousness and into everlasting life” (a
Bidding Prayer from the Armenian Book of Hours).  Many of us are
familiar with the traditional pilgrimages to Jerusalem
and the Holy Land.  These are geographic destinations for those
who are fortunate enough to withstand the perils of the voyage.
However, spiritually, the Church prepares us for our pilgrimage
not toward the crumbling walls of earthly Jerusalem, but
the Upper Jerusalem,  the Jerusalem which is to come, in
ArmenianVerin Yeroosaghen,  (Revelation 21).  Many times the path
which we follow is not always clear of obstacles, some of them
are caused by Satan, others are the result of our own
transgressions. In both cases, the divergence leads to sin, meghk
in Armenian.  In the funeral rite, the Church asks, “For what
person is there who shall live and shall not sin?”  This is human
nature and even God recognized this mortal flaw
following the Great Flood (Genesis 8:21).
As Armenian Christians, we believe and profess that Jesus Christ
descended from heaven, was made incarnate and became a perfect
human being (perfect God and perfect man as we profess in the
Creed).  He is perfect because He alone has no sin.
Through His ministry Christ offered us the unique opportunity to
mend our ways, to turn from our sins, to repent, to acknowledge
our transgression, to reconcile with God and our fellow man and
to be redeemed by faith and good works.
The prayers of our funeral service reflect and emphasize the
judgment of all souls. This judgment is based upon the person’s
commitment to our Lord’s call to  good works, good words, and
good thoughts while on this earth.  “For the time will come
when all who are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of
God, and they shall come up out — those who have performed good
works shall come to the resurrection of life, but those who have
done evil shall come to the resurrection of
judgments,” (John 5:29).  Recognizing the fact that human beings
are bound to sin, the Church prays that all-powerful,
all-knowing, all-merciful, all-righteous God the Judge may render
the just verdict, weighing the seen and unseen actions of each

The Liturgy of the Repose of Souls

Turning now to the actual rites and services, let us examine the
setting and Scriptural content of each.  When a person “falls
asleep” at the end of life, the family (which, for Armenians
includes not only blood relations but in fact the entire
community) gathers at the home of the deceased.  The body is
washed, wrapped and shrouded, leaving the face uncovered.  The
prepared body is then placed in a receiving room, where the
priest recites the Psalmody of the Midnight Office.  In fact, the
priest holds a vigil, from whence here in America we derive the
term “holding a wake” or staying awake through the night.  The
Service of the Household includes the singing of Psalm 35,
“Judge, O Lord, all those who judge me; combat all those who
enter into combat against me.”   Then, they sing the hymn of
repose, recite a litany asking God for mercy and that He may not
consider the deceased “as chaff to be burnt on the day of
reckoning.”  A lengthy prayer is then read in which the Creation,
fall of man, suf
fering of Christ and  hope of resurrection are the main themes.
Likewise, another prayer, based upon the Lord’s Prayer is read.
The Scriptural lections are Psalm  39:4-6; II Corinthians 1:3-11;
Psalm 77:1 and John 5:19-23.  Following the readings,
there is a litany followed by two prayers, then the hymns of
repose is sung and the traditional prayers of the departed is
said: “O Christ our God, give rest to the souls of those who are
reposing, and to us sinners, grant forgiveness of our
The following morning, they carry the now-enshrouded body to the
church sanctuary where they begin the funeral service.  It is
interesting that the hymns of the funeral service correspond to
the traditional order of the Morning Hour of Prayers.
Following the many beautiful hymns – most of which are based upon
the theme of the call to repentance and the forgiveness of sins –
they read the following Scriptural lessons: Psalm 84:4, 1; I
Thessalonians 4:13-18; Psalm 30:1 and  John 12:24-26.
Upon the completion of the readings,  a litany and several
prayers, the body is carried out of the church to the cemetery.
On the way, they sing the canticle found in Isaiah 38:10- 20.
When they reach the gates of the cemetery, they stop to hear
the Scriptures: Psalm 119:133; Matthew 11:25-30 and then proceed
to the grave site. At the grave site, they sing elegiacally Psalm
116:7 and verses 1-9 and read the following Scriptural lessons:
Psalm 116:7, 1; I Corinthians 15:12-24; Psalm 102:1
and John 5:24-30.  Thereupon, a litany and  two prayers are read,
the second of which is perhaps the most magnificent prayer which
explains the Second Coming, the Final Judgment, and the Hope of
Resurrection.  Next they offer blessing thrice over
the dusty earth which is to be cast into the bottom of the grave,
recalling that we came from dust and to dust we shall return.
The  shrouded body is then lowered into the grave while they read
Psalm 23 in full.  At this point, they pronounce the
committal and begin to cast the dusty earth into the grave to
completely cover the body.  Theologically, we recognize that the
body has entered the womb of the earth, and the soul has been
released to the anges, and so the Church sings the hymn
“Glory to God in the highest” which is originally from our Feast
of the Nativity.  This is followed by Psalm 88:6 and a long
litany of petitions on behalf of the departed soul which in turn
is followed by a lengthy prayer for the forgiveness of the
sins of the departed and for eternal repose of the soul. Again,
several hymns of the departed are sung, followed by the sealing
of the grave, tomb and sepulcher, as well as the  bones of the
departed – by the sign of the Holy Cross, the Word of  the
Holy Gospel, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the
Holy Spirit.   Finally, the dominical and immovable seal is
“affixed” until Christ’s Coming when He shall renew the departed
with His Glory.  After the sealing of the grave, they
return to the house of the departed where they read Psalm
44:17-26, offer fellowship and condolences and break bread in
memory of the rested soul, in Armenian hokejash.
On the next day, they return to the grave site and read the
following Scriptural lessons: Psalm 130:1, 2; II Thessalonians
2:13-17; Psalm 30:1; Luke 21:34 -38. Then prayers are offered
prayers, including assurances that the seals of the graves are
fixed and immovable.
Again on the seventh day, the fortieth day and on the first year
commemoration, they go to the grave site and read the following
Scriptural lessons: Isaiah 66:18-20; I Corinthains 15:35-41;
Psalm 138:8; John 14:27-31.
Death, to the bereaving survivors, foments varied emotional
reactions.  Our approach to death from prolonged diseases is
markedly different from our reaction to fatal accidents or
unexpected swift natural causes.   The Armenian Church, through
rich Scriptural and liturgical tradition offers prayers for the
departed and consoles the bereaved.  She prepares us for the
Second Coming and guides us in our paths – that we may walk
toward the good and rejoice in Christ, when he invites us:
“Come, ye blessed ones of my Father, and inherit the heavenly
kingdom which has been prepared for you,” (Matthew 25:34).


The Final Exit: Compassion or Crime?
Excerpt from the Final Exit
(Derek Humphry, Final Exit: The Practicalities of
Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying, (The Hemlock
Society, 1991), pp. 15-17. _ 1991, by Derek Humphry.)

When my first wife could no longer bear the pain and
deterioration of her body and the distressed quality of her life
from cancer, she asked me to help her end her life.  It was both
a logical and a poignant request.
But what should I do?  I was not a doctor or a pharmacist.
Violent ending of life, such as shooting, stabbing, or
strangling, was deeply abhorrent to me, largely because my 35
years as a newspaper reporter had too often shown me the ugly end
“Find a doctor who will give us a lethal overdose that I can
take,” Jean pleaded.  Unable to bear to see her suffering and
noting the calmness of her request, I decided, then and there, to
Who could I ask?  The three doctors who had been treating her
with great skill and dedication came to mind first.  They had
spent so much time caring for her, although they now recognized –
and spoke openly to her and to me – that death was
approaching, and that they were running out of countermeasures.
However, I was thinking of asking one of these three highly
professional men to commit a crime: that of assisting a suicide.
The penal code takes no account of a person’s wish to die, nor of
how close and inevitable death may be.  If it were
discovered that one of them had helped my wife to die, that
individual would be subject to prosecution in court, and
disqualification from practicing medicine.
I couldn’t ask them, I decided.  But I still had to help Jean –
she was depending on me.
Then, I remembered a young doctor whom I had met many years
before while reporting on medical matters for my newspaper
I called ‘Dr. Joe” and asked if we could meet.  He invited me to
his consulting rooms, for he had by now become an eminent
physician with a lucrative practice.   As prestigious and
powerful as he was, he still had not lost the compassion and
humanity that I had noted in earlier years.  I told him how
seriously ill Jean was and of her desire to die soon.  He
questioned me closely about the state of the disease, its effects
on her, and what treatments she had undergone.
As soon as he heard that some of her bones were breaking at the
slightest  sudden movement, he stopped the conversation.
“There’s no quality of life left for her,” he said.  He got up
from his desk and strode to his medicine cabinet.
Dr. Joe did some mixing of pills, and handed a vial to me.   He
explained that the capsules should be emptied into a sweet drink
to reduce the bitter taste. “This is strictly between you and
me,” he said, looking straight into my eyes.
A few weeks later, when Jean knew the time had come, she asked
me for the drugs. As wrenching as it was, I had to agree. We
spent the morning reminiscing about our 22 years together.
Then,  after dissolving the pills in some coffee, we said our
last goodbyes.  I watched as Jean picked up the coffee and drank
it down.   She barely had time to murmur, “Goodbye, my love,”
before falling asleep.  Fifty minutes later she stopped
My wife died in 1975 as she wished and as she deserved.
However, to accomplish that, two crimes were committed.
First, Dr. Joe broke the law by prescribing drugs for a patient
not registered with him, a patient he had never seen.  Also, he
had assisted a suicide because he handed over the drugs knowing
what they were intended for.  Second, I committed the
crime of assisting a suicide, the penalty for which in Britain,
where I was living at the time, is up to 14 years imprisonment.
Now, did Dr. Joe and I commit truly felonious, culpable crimes
and did we deserve punishment?  Aren’t these archaic laws ready
to be changed to sit
uations befitting modern understanding and morality?


Suffering or Salvation?
An excerpt from T. Droege’s Guided Grief Imagery
(Thomas A. Droege. Guided Grief Imagery: A Resources for Grief
Ministry and Death Education, (New York: Paulist Press, 1987),
pp. 27-28. _ 1987 by Thomas A. Droege.)

We preach Christ crucified, (I Corinthians 1:23).  Of all the
world religions only Christianity has an image of death as its
central symbol.  To rediscover the full imagery of death that the
cross represents, we need to return to the Gospels,
especially the Gospel of Mark.  The fear of death which is evoked
by the image of the cross is expressed by Mark with striking
realism, and its is clear that Jesus experienced the fear as well
as his followers.  The fear was that Jesus’ death meant
defeat, the powerlessness of God, the victory of Satan, and the
establishment of death’s reign.  If the valley of the dry bones
is an image of the death of Israel in the exile, then the cross
is an image of the death of the whole cosmos.
Rarely do we allow ourselves to experience the full power of
death which is imaged in the cross.  Rarely do we let ourselves
contemplate how close to the teetering edge of chaos our world
came in this event.   Rarely do we see the image of the
cross as an image of the death we deserve.  Rarely do we see the
cross as the moment of Death’s greatest victory and Life’s
greatest loss.
The power of death must have seemed omnipotent to Jesus on
Calvary unless we assume that his deity rendered death more
important for him than it is for us.  Jesus is called “the
pioneer and perfector of our faith” (Heb 12:2) because on the
cross he
is a better example than even Abraham of faith which sustains in
the throes of the deepest kind of existential anxiety, an anxiety
which floods the heart and soul when the promise by which one
lives seems to be under the threat of extinction.
Though feeling abandoned, forsaken even by God, Jesus calls out
“My God,” trusting in the promise that he was indeed the “beloved
Son” that his Father in heaven had called him at his baptism.
The cross which stands behind the altar in the Chapel of the
Resurrection at Valparaiso University is called Christ the King.
It depicts Christ on the cross, but with the crown of a king
rather than a crown of thorns, and with arms outstretched in
victory rather than being nailed to victory from defeat.   This
is imagery of life bursting forth from death, victory from
defeat, strength from weakness, and the power to save from
suffering.  Such imagery is a helpful reminder that God chose
as the means by which to end death’s reign of terror, that the
images of the cross and the empty tomb are inextricably
intertwined, that there is no way around death, but only a way
through it.


The Final Act
Gregory Doudoukjian
Deacon Doudoukjian is a graduate of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary
and is currently continuing his post-graduate studies in
Jerusalem at the Seminary of the Armenian Patriarchate.
On August 1, at 8:00 PM, the entire United States population
will have the opportunity to view the public killing of David
Jones.  His death will come quick – a matter of seconds – much
shorter than his ten year wait on death row.
In the Summer of 1983, Mr. Jones was convicted for the first
degree rape and murder of two young Los Angeles women.  His wait
on death row has ended and U.S. citizens will have front row
seats for this widely debated primetime viewing.  Sit back,
relax, kick your shoes off and make the popcorn because the show
is about to begin.

Lights.  Camera.  Action.
The mood inside the prison is pensive, as preparation for the
execution of David Jones is about to get underway.  Mr. Jones has
just finished his last meal — the meal of his choice — lobster
tails and New York steak.  Mr. Jones has spent the
majority of his day in the company of his family, waiting for his
time to end.  Television cameramen and personnel have been busy
all day preparing wires and cables for this public spectacle.  At
7:30pm Mr. Jones is asked to say his final good-bye
to his family.  In a tearful embrace David bids farewell.  He
walks down the long corridor leading to the separate building
where a room will have the cold, steel chair awaiting his
arrival.  Meanwhile, his body is being prepared for the
His head, wrists, and left shin and calf are shaved to make the
circuit complete.  The witnesses begin to arrive; among them are
the parents of one of Mr. Jones’ victims.  They wait behind a
sound proof glass window to view the execution.  Mr. Jones
has requested the presence of a clergyman to offer final prayers.
Fr. George, the local Orthodox clergyman from the area has been
called to perform the blessing.  His parish is five minutes away
from the prison.  His pastoral work often includes prison
ministry.  At 7:20pm, Fr. George enters into his car in route
to the prison.  His inner thoughts are racing regarding the
execution that is about to take place.  As he gets into his car
and begins his drive, Fr. George starts to question the morality
of this event.  He convinces himself that the State has the
right to punish in the name of the government and in the name of
law and order.  He reminds himself that it is all right “to
render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the
things that are God’s.”  At the next traffic light, his
conscience screams out loud – “You have heard that it was said an
eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth_ [and] You have heard that
it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those
who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those
who spitefully use you and persecute you_”  Fr. George thinks to
himself, How can I, as a Christian man, a Christian priest, a
representative of Christ, be present at such an event,
an event aired on national TV?  What has happened to our society,
millions will tune into their TV’s and watch this live horror
movie!  At the next intersection, Fr. George rationalizes the
execution by saying, “Maybe this event will help deter
future criminals from performing such violent crimes in our
society.”  His conscience quickly counters, “You know George,
there is a greater problem at hand.  The problem is not what to
do with the criminal or how to deter their criminal activity.
It must start with reforms in society, in government, in the
penal system, in education, in family life.  Don’t rationalize
this equally barbaric crime performed by the government!”
As he pulls into the prison parking lot, Fr. George takes a deep
breath, makes the sign of the cross, and prays for the Holy
Spirit to direct him in his actions.  As he walks to the front
doors, he thinks to himself, “What about the value of human
life, we are all created in the image and likeness of God.  A
life should never be taken, on the contrary, life should be
valued and esteemed.  Mr. Jones should be given another chance, a
chance to prove once again his value as a citizen of this
country, a child of God, who has the possibility to seek
forgiveness– instead this act will make everything final.  In
the next fleeting moment he lays eyes on the victim’s family, who
look on in anticipation and nervousness.  “They want vengeance,
retribution, and justice,” Fr. George ponders.  As Fr. George
shakes their hand and greets them, he realizes that they are
entitled to feel the way they feel, after all, “How would I react
if this had happened to someone in my family,” thought Fr.
George.  “Hopefully, my reactions would be based on my previous
reality.  The reality in which I base my life — a life based on
the Gospel.  However, does everyone live in this reality?”
Engrossed in his thoughts, the warden taps Fr. George on the
back and says, “It’s time.”  A lump forms in his throat, as he
enters onto death row where he greets David Jones.
A ten second walk seems like eternity as he thought to himself,
am a man of the cloth – my job is to pray for God’s grace, to
pray for healing, to pray for the uplifting of the soul, not to
condemn the soul.  How can I participate in such an event.  How
is my God reacting to this?  How is David’s God reacting?
Where is the power of the Church?  Where is the power of God?  Is
it entrusted in the executioner who in five minutes, with the
switch of a lever, will send almost 2000 volts of electricity
into a frail human body and soul?
Fr. George looks into the eyes of David Jones and begins his
final prayer.  “May God our heavenly Father have mercy on you.
May He forgive you of all your trespasses.”  Fr. George then
offers David Jones communion proclaiming, “May this portion be
unto you for the forgiveness and the remission of your sins.
With the priestly authority committed to me and by the divine
command that whatever is forgiven on earth shall be also forgiven
in Heaven; I absolve you of all participation of sin. I
welcome you back into the community of the church.  Your sins are
forgiven.  Go in peace and may you sin no more.”  A single tear
falls from the eye of Fr. George,  as he realizes David Jones
will no longer go in peace on this earth.  He says “Amen”
and ends his prayer.  Fr. George accompanies Mr. Jones, the
prison warden, and four guards to the execution chamber.  David
Jones is strapped helplessly into the chair and a face guard is
tied around his head.  No sooner does Fr. George exit than
the switch is pulled and Mr. Jones is jolted to his death.  David
Jones is pronounced dead at 8:02 PM, February 1.  At 8:03pm,
Americans, some satisfied, others not, continue to watch their
regularly scheduled program.
At 10:30pm that same night, Fr. George is at home with his
family.  After spending time with his two children and wife, he
retires for the evening.  Before sleeping, he goes before his
Holy Icon of Christ, lights a candle, and falls to his knees.
On his knees, he begs God to have mercy on him, on David Jones,
and on the United States government.

The premise of the script, “The Final Act” was taken from an
article titled “The Ultimate Horror Show” in Time Magazine, June
3, 1991.  The article was based on the defeated court decision
which wanted to publicly show the execution of Robert Alton
Harris from the San Quentin prison in California.  The article
argued that the public meaning of Harris’ execution would do more
harm to our society than good.  I have taken their idea one step
further and presented the inner thoughts of one
Orthodox clergyman, who is caught between the conflict of the
separation of church and State, of right and wrong, and life and


Death of an AIDS Victim
Fr. Tateos Abdalian

Note: Gary Kahian was a man of 36 when he died of the AIDS virus.
He and Fr. Tateos became good friends over the last few years of
his life. Here presented are the words spoken at his funeral,
just a week before Christmas, 1992.

Throughout the Scriptures, there is a theme that runs strong and
true. It says that when we feel that life has betrayed us, when
others turn away from us, when we feel most alone, God stands by
us, is always faithful to us and persists in loving
us, being with us even in the most terrifying of situations,
caring for us without regard for spiritual or physical condition.
St. Paul affirms this by writing that “nothing can separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”
God is always with us, regardless of circumstance, though
sometimes we must struggle to discover that abiding presence. For
pain and suffering are sometimes accompanied by guilt which may
lead us to feel that God has turned away and no longer
cares. But this is far from the truth, for God is always eager to
offer forgiveness and to accept us in his love.
St. Paul writes to the Romans “For at the very time when we were
still powerless, then Christ died for the wicked. Even for a just
man one of us would hardly die, though perhaps for a good man one
might actually brave death; but Christ died for us
while we were yet sinners, and that is God’s own proof of his
love towards us.”
Gary ran the gambit of these emotions. At times, he felt
betrayed. He was frightened. He felt alone. He was angry. He felt
he was being punished. He knew pain and suffering. But one thing
Gary always held onto was hope. He never let go of it. His
desire to live was strong. He was keenly aware of all the
different medications and their consequences, all the procedures,
the testing and their results, saying OK, what’s next?
Gary and I became good friends. As his priest, we would sit and
talk about his life and impending death, of AIDS, of how people
reacted to him and treated and sometimes mistreated him. I would
hear his confession and administer the Sacraments to
him. I would try to console him, assure him of God’s love for
Gary and I were also a challenge for each other. He would come
up with the most incredible questions about the teachings of the
church; he would make comments about the community, about me. We
would get into it, and when I got frustrated because I
was losing the argument, I would just tell him he was either a
lunatic or was experiencing a reaction to all the medications. I
would get on his case about his smoking, threatening that if he
smoked any more, I would make him eat his cigarettes
before he smoked another. One time I reported him to the nurse in
the hospital for smoking and he yelled at me again.  There were
other times, but I’ll leave those between Gary and me.
But above all, Gary was a man of hope, of the future. Last
spring, he talked of traveling to Cape Cod for a summer vacation,
and to Maine for a few lobsters. We were to go to Boston and I
was to be his tour guide. Gary was TKA 6/93 always looking
ahead. His reports on local television about AIDS and its affect
on his life were a great opportunity for him to speak to the
general public of this terrible disease, trying to make people
understand the horror of it all, but without looking for any
pity or sorrow, just understanding. Gary was a class act and his
monthly reports became a source of inspiration for others who
also suffered and felt only hopelessness. His work for the AIDS
Counsel of New York, the Damain center and Unity house,
showed a courage and determination that Gary had in making his
life, even in his weakened state, one of meaning and purpose.
Gary taught me a lot about life, lessons I will never forget,
lessons no classroom or textbook could ever offer.
Christmas is a difficult time to lose a loved one, especially
being surrounded by all the music and merry-making. But
Christmas, the birth of our Saviour, is the beginning for earthly
man to see his destiny. That birth of Jesus by the Virgin will
lead to the cross of pain and suffering which will lead to his
death. His placement in a tomb again marked the beginning, just
as he was in his mother’s womb awaiting birth, but now awaiting
resurrection.  All who are born on this earth must one day
face death. But for all who believe in Jesus Christ, that dark
shadow is overcome by a light which reveals the way to eternal
Last year, Gary read at Christmas Eve services. I’ll never
forget the inner sense of joy that I felt having Gary there. And
I remember the joy on his face, the sense of accomplishment when
he finished. I know it meant a lot to him because he asked
to read again this year.
Loving relationships do not end with the grave. Christmas does
not end with a date on a calender. This year and every year, as
you celebrate this holy day, celebrate the gift of life, the
lives of loved ones and friends, the life of Gary Kahian and
others who have entered into their eternal rest. Greet your loved
ones, your friends, a stranger, not with a generic “Happy
Holidays”, but with the words, “Merry Christmas”. Remember those
words contain the innocence of a new born child who is to
lead us through life with all of it’s joys and sorrows, to that
time when we are to enter into the bosom of the earth, but who
will also be waiting on the other side of death to welc
ome us to eternal life.


The Boy who Sang the Psalms
Fr. Vazken Movsesian

Note: Saro Balabanian passed away at age 7, after a four year
battle with lukemia. During his bout with cancer, he earned the
affection and respect of his community. Following is the eulogy
from his funeral service (June ’93), translated from

Just about every day we hear reports of children dying in
Somalia, Bosnia, Bangladesh or some third world country. Famine,
war and poverty claim the lives of these, the young and innocent.
As tragic as these stories may be, we have the option of
turning the station or folding close the newspaper and going
about our daily business. But today’s story is not from a world
far away. And unlike other tragedies in this world, we don’t have
the opportunity to turn the channel or turn the page. We
are facing the death of a young boy, one who has touched so many
of us in many different ways. We are standing before the reality
we can’t escape, Saro has left us.
Unlike the stories we hear from Somalia and Bangladesh, Saro
didn’t die because of man-made problems of famine, greed and war.
In fact he had all the resources one could want along with the
love and devotion of very special parents and family. The
villain was cancer and after fighting it for a few years, the
good guy lost this battle.
Saro was a unique little boy. He always had a smile, even when
he wasn’t feeling well. Until his last dying moment, that smile
did not leave his face.  You didn’t hear Saro  complain much
either. Whether a blood transfusion or not being able to
play with other little boys, you didn’t hear him complain or
frown. He wasn’t too different from other little boys. He loved
sports. He liked to play video games. He knew the basketball
statistics like no one else.  Most of all, he had a positive
outlook. He hoped for a brighter tomorrow and was always filled
with wonderment about things around him. Saro was a young boy
with hope and expectations. His outlook was positive, always
finding something good in even the worst of situations. It is
in this light that I wish to present this eulogy today. For if
Saro were standing with us now, knowing him, he would want to
make us feel good and would comfort us.
But how do we find something good in what happened today? Saro
was seven years old. At that age, your biggest concern should be
what kind of ice cream you’re going to eat, or which ride you
will go on at the carnival. Instead, Saro was confronted
with the nightmare of waking up with cancer, of receiving new
blood, of rejections and transplants– all things which would
scare anyone– but somehow Saro would comfort us all.
Saro grew up with a love for God, instilled by his father Rafi
and mother Nora and grandparents. He would recite the psalms. On
his last day, he recited Psalm 23: “The LORD is my shepherd, I
shall not want_”
It is easy for us today to look, in our usual cynicism and ask,
where was God when Saro needed Him? Why did the God who Saro
trusted, let him down? But let us look at Saro’s life through the
eyes of innocence that Saro had. Where was God? God was
there throughout every phase of Saro’s illness. God was working
the miracle of miracles– bringing people together out of
concern– in love and respect for human life!  God was teaching
us the most valuable lesson of our lives — the need to love
and help one another!
It is unusual — we adults think we have so much to teach the
young ones, when in reality, there is so much to learn from them.
One day, people brought infants to our Lord so that he would
touch them and the disciples ordered the people not to.
Jesus told them,  “Let the little children come to me, and do not
stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God
belongs.” (Luke 18:16)  And later he tells us that “the angels
(of the children) continually see the face of my Father in
heaven.” (Matt. 18:10)
We expected and waited for a miracle with Saro. In fact, we
received it, but sometimes our senses are too dull to notice it
or to accept it. Saro was an angel sent by God, who visited us
and taught us much about life. Saro’s was a short life, but a
full life — where he touched and loved us. He taught us. You
see, the miracle happened three years ago, when the doctors told
the family that Saro’s life was limited to a few months.  Since
that time we have seen strength, courage, hopefulness and
faith in this young boy.  He taught us what it means to believe,
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” He taught us what it
means, to “have faith as a little child, for to such belongs the
kingdom of heaven.” He taught us that there is no
fear when you trust in the Lord because you trust in the One who
said, “Courage! The victory is mine. I have overcome the world!”
He taught us that the pure in heart are truly blessed, “for they
shall see God.”
Saro’s life became the miracle we expected. God touched us
through Saro!
We began to believe. We began to hope. We began to pray. We
began to realize that this existence is not the end of all
things! We saw people crossing boundaries. It didn’t matter if it
was an evangelical church, a catholic church or an orthodox
church (Armenian and non-Armenian alike) — communities came down
on their knees to pray. As if God were telling us, “Enough of
these denominational divisions. I am ONE!”
Saro was the miracle. Saro was the angel who came and touched
us. And whenever we look at the stories of the Bible and see
miracles of angels and bright lights — let us never forget that
those are not stories which happened centuries ago, but God
is working through His people today! Saro was now. And everyone
of us who was touched by Saro was a part of the miracle.
Today, we have the comfort of knowing that this life has not
ended for Saro, because of the unfailing words of our Lord Jesus
Christ: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in
me, even though they die, will live!” Today, we bid
farewell to Saro with the complete faith and acceptance that Saro
lives today, where there is no pain, where there is no suffering,
where there is no cancer, in his rightful place with his heavenly
father, in the kingdom of all eternities.
In the Armenian Church funeral service we read the passage from
the Gospel of St. John — “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the
earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies,
it bears much fruit.” Jesus was talking about himself,
but we can easily extend this to Saro. Saro is that single seed
that has died, but will produce much harvest and fruit. You, me,
everyone of us who has been touched, is now obligated to keep the
miracle going. Today, when you remember Saro, remember
all the pain in the world. Remember the children of war. Remember
the children of famine. Remember the children of disease.
Remember the need to put an end to illness and disease. Pray for
and support the research projects that promise hope for the
sick. If you gave blood for Saro, don’t stop giving because Saro
is gone. If you prayed, don’t stop praying because Saro is gone.
If you visited and laughed with Saro, don’t stop doing so with
others in need, because Saro is gone. There are many
other Saros who need and deserve our attention.
And when you help these other Saros, that “grain of wheat”–
Saro — begins to blossom.  It will be evident that our Little
Angel, our Little Saro, lives in you through your deeds. And may
God bless all of you — family, friends, acquaintances,
doctors and nurses. You were all part of the miracle which can
now only begin — the miracle we knew as Saro.


Toward a Theology of Science
by Richard Kirby, Ph.D.
Special for Window

Dr. Richard Kirby is Principal of the International Academy of
Christ, a theological college based in London, England, and Chair
of the American-based Religious Futurists Network.  He is the
author or co-author of several theological texts,
including The Mission of Mysticism  (1979), Christians and the
World of Computers
(1990) and The Temples of Tomorrow: World Religions and the
Future  (1993), and has been as an occasional lecturer and
teacher for the Armenian Church in the U.S.A.
The 20th century has been the Age of Science par excellence.
Yet as we stand at the threshold of the 21st century, the need
for a “spiritual civilization”- in accordance with the teachings
of Christ: on earth, as it is in heaven – alongside
“technological civilization” is imperative.  The 21st century
needs to be an Age of Theology as well as an Age of Science, and
therefore the 20th Century’s intellectual achievement, the
Philosophy of Science, needs to be followed by the 21st
century’s Theology of Science.
The 20th century, the century of quantum mechanics and
electronics, relativity theory and atomic bombs, genetic
engineering and biological warfare, has been the most scientific,
the most deadly, the most warlike and the most turbulent in
The 21st will have the same mix of the potent fruits of the Tree
of Knowledge unless there is a concerted movement by the Church
to place sound theological understanding at the very heart of
philosophy of science.  In other words, there needs to be
New Science for the New Millennium, a science worthy of Christ,
just as the First Millennium ended with the Renaissance looming
up and the principle of experimentation appearing.  The Church
must not ignore science and technology – this is the easy
option –  but extend to these great branches of human activity
the resources of the Gospel of redemption and the life of
sanctification.  For a truly holy science, based on the Gospel
and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, is a real possibility, and
an intellectual task worthy of the coming century/millennium,
which is just seven years away as I write.
Historians of science are widely agreed that it was the
Christian doctrine of Creation – faith in the Universe or Nature
as both contingent and rational  – which paved the way for the
modern era of science; but this does not mean that the actual
ideals, or to speak more theologically, the ‘gods’, of science,
are presently derived from sound Christian theological
For we are not stuck with our present philosophy of science as
the only one possible.  To see how theology can contribute to the
sanctification and redemption of science, as it contributed
somewhat to its creation or origination, we must however
look at some history.
‘Modern,’ in the phrase ‘modern era’, does not in this
connection mean 20th century; it means an era which was launched
by the Renaissance of the 12th and 13th century, followed by the
Reformation, and resulting in the birth of such modern
nation-states as Germany – and, later, America. ‘Modern’ means
that which is contrasted with ancient (as in the time of
Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle),  and medieval (as in the time of
Augustine, Boethius, Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire).
‘Modern’ means the era in which the high medieval synthesis
broke up, and the rule of popes and creeds was gradually
succeeded by the principle of truth, of experiment, of individual
conscience, of guidance by civil rather than ecclesiastical
powers – in short, the ‘modern age’ is almost exactly the age of
‘science’ in the broad sense.
The 20th Century has been the great Age of Science. It was some
time coming; the Age of Reason which preceded it in the 18th
Century was followed by the Age of the Industrial Revolution
which reached its peak in the 19th century foundations had
been laid in the 18th century.
The word ‘science’ is simply an adaptation of the medieval Latin
word scientia meaning knowledge. In the modern era (in the
specifically ‘scientific’ sense which began to get fully under
way by the time of Italy’s Galileo Galilei  and England’s
Francis Bacon [16th- 17th century]), however, this scientia was
particularly associated with the study of nature.  Bacon was one
of the prime movers of the experimental study of nature which led
to the creation of the Royal Society, the premier
society of scientific investigators of which Sir Isaac Newton
(born 1642, the year of Galileo’s death) became  in due course
the President.  But above all this new scientia  represented the
new principle of experimental, observational truth – a
principle which supplanted, not without upheaval – the medieval
principle of revealed truth interpreted through the
doctrines/dogmas of the Church, i.e. the Roman Magisterium, and
therefore through the ecclesiastical authority which we now
with the  Inquisition, the Auto-da-Fe [burning at the stake] and
the suppression of truth and education.
Galileo and his version of the New Physics and the New Astronomy
was, as is well known, silenced and forced to recant the
‘Copernican hypothesis’, the heliocentric theory of the
universe*.  This is not to say that Galileo was ‘right’, morally,
the Church ‘wrong’.  Different values were operating in that
dispute; they still are.   And since the atomic bomb, science has
known sin, according to Robert Oppenheimer.**  That was part of
its coming-of-age in the 20th century, as it discovered
the dark underside of eating of the Tree of Knowledge.   But the
way forward does not lie in cultivating ignorance or
technophobia; what is required is to follow the sin of science
with the redemption of science, and then its sanctification.
to Abraham Maslow and others, we have the rudiments of a
“psychology of science”; we lack as yet a spirituality of
science.  This will come when theologians become deeply involved
in the adventure of scientific research – not as ‘insiders”, nor
‘outsiders’, but as pastors to the knowing process itself.  This
means, for example, a chaplaincy to laboratories – and sometimes
it means that church communities should be deliberately
experimental so as to learn more about the scientific outlook.
As science begat the Philosophy of Science, the church will
beget the theology of Science.  This is neither a renunciation of
scientific research, nor is it a quest for a “Scientific
Theology’ or a Theological Science (other than Christian
Doctrine); rather,  theology of science is the exposition of the
work of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in the creation,
redemption and sanctification of science, and therefore of
For if we are to “create the 21st century”, in the words of the
Washington-based World Future Society, we need a new science for
a new century; and this science, guided and empowered by that
divine love and wisdom which is the life of the Holy
Spirit,  requires a new, non-dualistic theory of knowledge
(epistemology) in which love and science are unified under the
canopy of the Gospel. For the ‘gods of science’ are not love but
power, and ultimately the mechanical assumptions of
contemporary science lead the human race towards the order of
death and away from the order of life.  Furthermore, until the
philosophy of science learns about the relational nature of being
from the Christian Trinitarian doctrine, it will remain
individualistic and separatist, leading only to frustration.
We need a new science for a new century; and therefore, to some
extent, we need new theologies, new theologians.  The challenge
of  21st century science therefore provides an opportunity for
the theological teachers of even the Armenian Church to
develop a new curriculum: not theology and science, nor science
and religion, but theology of science, which will lead in the end
to science in Christ, a work of the church, a part of the mission
of the people of God to the suffering world. n

*For a fair-minded account of this, see the monumental history of
astronomy by Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers.
** For more information, see The Physicists  by C.P.Snow.

Sections of the article “The Lost Generation: An Armenian Church
Scenario,” by Dean Shahinian (Window Vol. III, No. 2) were
inadvertantly omitted. Below we reprint the text in its entirety.
We appologize for this error. –ACRAG

The Lost Generation:
An Armenian Church Scenario
by Dean Shahinian
Dean Shinian is an atto
rney in Washington DC and a member of the Eastern Diocesan

Recently, questions have resurfaced about the relationship of
second generation Armenian-Americans and the Armenian Church, and
why so many have left the Church. As we know, second generation
young adults can bring a parish community their
enthusiasm, new ideas for activities, professional skills, care
and love, and other qualities and resources. Thus, many
parishioners are concerned that their children, grandchildren or
other relatives and friends have stopped participation in the
Armenian Church.
There are numerous reasons to explain the absence of this
generation in the life of the Church. Some young adults say that
the Armenian Church in America:
+Lacks an apparent mission (other than money and publicity)
+Offers an Eastern form of worship that alienates Western minds
+Treats people who do not speak the Armenian language as
second-class parishioners
+Is mostly a social club or political organization
+Is indifferent to parishioners’ needs
+Has some lay leaders and clergy who do not set good examples
+Ignores their suggestion to improve the church
+Cannot teach about contemporary moral issues
+Has a value system that is not Christian
+Is irrelevant to their lives
Many of these concerns are beyond the control of most
parishioners. However, each parishioner can influence at least
one important factor that determines whether a second generation
young adult participates in the Church. When a parishioner forms
relationship with a young adult– treats him or her with respect
and meets some of his or her needs — the young adult will become
more involved in the community.
Here, I present two humorous vignettes depicting how young
adults are treated at two imaginary Armenian Church parishes.
Both skits are caricatures and neither replicates any actual
parish. At parish #1, selfish parishioners deal with young adults
to get their money, time and free professional advice; to use
them as chaperones, cooks and chauffeurs; and to manipulate and
berate them. Who would stay here? At parish #2, caring
parishioners deal with young adults to praise and encourage them;
give career counseling and advice on marriage, to offer them
food, a social outing and spiritual programs to meet their needs,
and to seek their participation in improving parish life.
We may recognize personal experiences in each of these vignettes
and smile as we read. However, afterwards, let us consider “what
type of relationships do I have with young adults?” the answer
describes in part the church we are building.

Which is your Church?
Mrs. Pezishkian , mother of daughter in her 20’s
Susan, young doctor in her 20’s-30’s
Armen Norian, newcomer to the community in his 20’s-30’s
Tom Lavian, financial analyst for company in his 20’s-30’s
Mrs. Kitigian, older woman with arthritis in knee
Mr. Barabian, aggressive man who sells raffles
Mrs. Manchian, mother of strong-willed teenage son who is
applying to college
Mr. Jashian, man who recruits women to cook for the bazaar
Mr. Zuilian, father of teenagers who need activities
Mr. Parevian, talkative man who remembers the good old days
Rev. Karozian, parish priest

Sunday morning. The fellowship hall of Sts. Thaddeus and
Bartholomew Armenian Church. The Divine Liturgy has just
concluded and parishioners are leaving the sanctuary and entering
the fellowship hall.
Armen, a newcomer, enters and stands alone, looking at people as
they come in. Nobody talks to him and he talks to no one else.
Other parishioners come and go.

Church 1
After Badarak at the Coffee Hour
Mrs. Pezishkian and Susan, her daughter, enter the hall.
Susan (complaining): I hardly understood a single thing they said
or sang in the church. Nobody does. Classical Armenian that
nobody speaks. Chanting, sensing, standing, sitting, people going
through the motions. Why do we come? (pause) There are no
young adults here. The people talk only with their friends – they
ignore me unless they want me to do something for them or give
some money. I could be doing_
Mrs. Pezishkian: Ssh. Be quiet. It’s been weeks since you came
last. This is your parish. These are your people. You will enjoy
being back in the Armenian Church.
Susan: Why? Are they serving lehmajune?
Mrs. Pezishkian (ignores the question): Oh, look, there’s that
nice Tom Lavian – he doesn’t come around often. Wasn’t Tom in
your Sunday School class?
Susan nods.
Mrs. Pezishkian: Why don’t you say hello to him? (Mrs. Pezishkian
pushes Susan towards Tom. Then she turns and goes offstage.)
Tom (sees Susan and walks towards her): Hi Susan! I haven’t seen
you in a while. How’s your internship at the hospital going?
Susan: Hi Tom! Glad to see you. The hospital’s been interesting.
I’m in pediatrics and enjoying it. Some working conditions are
tough to cope with, but I am under a great doctor. How is your
work with the company?
Tom: I enjoy it. But, they keep me working late practically every
night and some weekends. So, I am beginning to think of looking
elsewhere. (Keeps talking until interrupted) I’ve been working on
some commercial loan agreements in a deal that is
very complex_
Mrs. Kitigian (an older woman, comes up to the two, looks at
Susan): Dalis, I need to talk to you. (She pulls Susan by the arm
away)  Susan, my knee aches. Take a look at it and do something.
Susan (dismayed): Is this the same ache you asked me about at the
picnic a few months ago? _and at the concert last month.
Mrs. Kitigian nods: Yes.
Susan: There’s not much I can do. Why don’t you rub some Ben Gay
on it? As I said before, if you want, I will recommend a doctor
who specializes in arthritis.
Mrs. Kitigian (indignant): Uff! Is that all you can do? (she
leaves in a huff)
Susan: Sorry, Tom. You were telling me about your work_
Mr. Barabian (carrying books of raffles enters, walks up and
stands between them, saying): Tom, Susan, I haven’t seen you in a
while. (pause) You need to buy some raffle tickets for the
church. Here, it’s $10 per book. (Pauses, hold out four books)
Young professionals should buy a couple, don’t you think?
Tom and Susan each look for their wallets and give him money for
the raffles. Mr. Barabian takes the money, gives them the raffle
books and leaves.
Tom to Susan: I thought we just gave money for name day, and for
Easter and for aid to Armenia_seems like they always want our
money or free professional advice. (Resuming their conversation)
What was I talking about? Oh, dear, work’s been busy.
This year, I am not even teaching Sunday School, which used to be
fun – molding the next generation.
Mrs. Manchian (comes in and interrupts): Excuse me, Tom. You
remember my teenage son, George?
Tom: Yes, he was enrolled in my Sunday School class last year,
but showed up only once. Very strong will, but I am sure that he
will mature as he gets older.
Mrs. Manchian: Yes, and thank you for sending him all of those
postcards to remind him about Sunday School. George is applying
to colleges and I want you to write recommendations to four
schools – tell them how good he is, strong mind – just like
you said_you write so well.
Tom: (Gulps hard) Well, (pause) I will help you and write
recommendations. Tell George to call me up with the specifics and
bring me the forms next Sunday.
Mrs. Manchian: (Annoyed) Tom, you know, George is really too busy
to call you. He has school and sings in a rock band with his
friends. (She hands Tom some forms.) Here are the forms. (Without
waiting, she walks away.)
Tom: (Shakes his head). Anyway, we were talking about_
Mr. Jashian (enters): Susan, honey, the ladies need some help in
the kitchen. They are making sarma for the bazaar. Go help them.
And let me tell them that you will come and work to make bourma
and kufte on Monday and Wednesday afternoons.
Susan: I really can’t cook. Perhaps I could help some other way?
Last year, I helped with decorating in the evening and got
Mr. Jashian: An Armenian girl cannot cook? Nonsense. We need you
in the kitchen. The only reason you decorated last year is that
digin Zarouhi, who had decorated for the last 37 years, was sick.
Now, she is well and will decorate
the hall this year. You have to cook. Be in the kitchen, and
come Monday and Wednesday.
Susan: Well, I can’t stay today, but (reluctantly) I’ll try to
come on Monday and Wednesday to make bourma and kufte if another
doctor can cover my hospital rounds.
Mr. Jashfan: (leaves)
Mr. Zuilian: (comes in, pushes Armen out of the way and
interrupts Tom and Susan) Tom, you are great with kids.
Tom: (flattered) Thanks, very much, Mr. Zuilian.
Mr. Zulian: We want you to take all of the teenagers for a day
long outing to the amusement park next month on the second
Tom: (gasps) Well, thank you for the opportunity, but my free
time these days is very limited. Couldn’t you and other parents
do it?
Mr. Zuilian: But you are so good with the young people – and this
is your church. It is your duty. (Slyly) It won’t be much work.
Tom: Give me a few days to think about it I will call you back.
Mr. Zuilian: Don’t shirk your obligation – think of all the
Church gives you.
Armen walks offstage. Tom and Susan resume talking.
Tom: The Church gives me a lot of work.
Susan: Some people just won’t take no for an answer. That reminds
me of one time_
Mr. Parevian: (Comes up and loudly) Young people! That’s what I
love to see, the young people together. You know, I was young
myself once. When I was your age, I used to go every summer to
the Catskill Mountains for two weeks and to Asbury Park for
two weeks. In fact, the other day, I was looking through old
snapshots (Susan and Tom look bored, but polite – check their-
watches – yawn). Why, I used to love the dining room of the Van
Hotel in Asbury Park. They made the best dinners. But, on the
other hand, the Hye Hotel had nice rooms. (Keep talking unit Mr.
Zuilian comes in.) And in the Catskills, Mr. Holigian had a
wonderful hotel. They used to ring the bell for meals_
Mr. Zuilian comes up, followed by Mrs. Manchian. Mr. Zuilian
pushes Mr. Parevian out of the way and says to Tom: Tom, when you
drive home, you go by Main Street, don’t you?
Tom: Yes, Mr. Zuilian, I do.
Mr. Zuilian talks to Mrs. Manchian: Tom will drive you home.
Mr. Zuafan (talks to Tom): You can drive Mrs. Manchian home. She
lives on your way.
Tom, bewildered, nods yes. Mrs. Manchian stands by Tom and starts
tugging on Tom’s sIeeve, impatient to go.
Tom: Let me just finish talking to Susan.
Mrs. Manchian stands next to him ond looks angry and impatient.
Rev. Karozian enters, holding out his hand to be kissed and
saying: Tom, Susan, it must be two months since I have seen you.
(Tom and Susan each kiss his hand.)
Rev. Karozian: (grows surly) Why haven’t you been coming to
church? It is your duty to serve this church! Where have you
been? Where is your loyalty? What are your priorities?
Susan: Well, Hayr Soorp, I don’t understand the Badarak. And the
blue books just make it like being at the opera rather than
worshipping God. The sermons are not relevant to my life. The
music is not done well. I am looking for something to help me
with my life and my spirituality – something that I can
understand and that is done with excellence. But, I don’t get
much out of church.
Rev. Karozian: These are excuses. You are lazy. It’s your fault.
We have many books that you can read. You must read the books if
you want to understand worship. Is it too much for you to come
every Sunday? This is your duty as an Armenian.
Tom: But, Hayr Soorp, a friend invited me to his church, and
there everybody understand the service, the songs are upbeat, the
people talk about God in their everyday life. After church,
nobody asked me for money or to do work. I got a lot out of
it. Why can’t our church be like that?
Rev. Karozian. Troublemaker! That’s all you two are,
troublemakers! This is the Armenian Church. This is how we have
Badarak. Theses are our traditions. You must submit to the
control and authority of the Church.
Tom: Yes, Hayr Soorp.
Susan (nods): Yes, Hayr Soorp. (Hayr Soorp leaves).
Mrs. Manchian pulls Tom away, off-stage. As he is dragged off,
Tom waves good bye helplessly to Susan.
Mrs. Pezishkian: (comes back to Susan) Susan, honey, I saw you
talking to Tom and all those other people. Didn’t I tell you –
isn’t it enjoyable to come back to the Armenian Church?
Susan glares at her mother and says angrily: Let’s get out of

Mrs. Pezishkian and Susan, her daughter, enter the hall.
Susan (complaining): I hardly understood a single thing they said
or sang in the church. Why do we come? (pause) The last time I
was here, there were no young adults and the people just asked me
to do something or give money. I could be doing_
Mrs. Pezishkian:  Be quiet. It’s good for you to be here. This is
your church. You will have a good time. Oh, look, there’s that
nice Tom Lavian. Why don’t you say hello to him? (she pushes
Susan towards Tom)
Tom sees Susan and walks towards her: Hi Susan! How’s your
internship at the hospital going?
Susan: Hi Tom! The hospltal’s been interesting. I’m in
pediatrics. The working conditions are tough, but, I am under a
great doctor. How is your job?
Tom: Well, I enjoy it. But, my firm keeps me working late and
sometimes on weekends. I am beginning to think of looking
elsewhere. (Keeps talking until interrupted) I have been working
on some complex commercial loan agreements_
Mrs. Kitigian, an older woman, comes up to the two, looks at
Susan: Dalis, we are so proud of you being a doctor. And thank
you for recommending that doctor to me who specializes in
arthritis. He made me feel better.
Susan looks pleased: You are welcome.
Susan: Sorry, Tom. You were telling me about these loan
agreements that you have been working on_
Mr. Barabian holding raffle books enters between them and says:
Tom, Susan, haven’t seen you in a while. It’s great to see you
again. Tom, you know, I have worked for years with commercial
transactions. If I can ever help you think through some of
those complex deals, or dealing with corporate life, just give me
a call.
Tom: Thanks very much, sir. I really appreciate that and may call
you up, because I have been facing some tough decisions.
Mr. Barabian: Any time, Tom. (He leaves to sell raffle tickets to
some older people.)
Tom: That’s really nice of him. (Resuming their conversations)
Yeah, it’s been busy. This year, I am not even teaching Sunday
Mrs. Manchian comes and interrupts: Excuse me, Tom. You remember
my son, George?
Tom: Sure. In fact, he was enrolled in my Sunday School classes
last year but only came once. Very strong will, but he’ll mature.
Mrs. Manchian: George is applying to colleges – who do you think
we should get to write recommendations? I am not asking you
because you hardly know him.
Tom: (Gulps hard) Well, he should talk with the teachers who know
him real well and like him. They will write the best
recommendations. I’ll explain this to him if you want.
Mrs. Manchian: (Grateful) Thanks, but I’ll tell him what you
said. I don’t want to take up your time.
Tom: Anyway, we were talking about_
Mr. Jashian (enters): Sudan, honey, the ladies are in the kitchen
making sarma for the bazaar. (Pause) Can I bring you a few from
the kitchen to sample?
Tom: Thank you so much.
Susan: I’m sure that they are delicious. We may get some in a few
minutes. (After a moment.) If you need help decorating the hall
again this year, I’d love to volunteer.
Mr. Jashian: Thanks, Susan. I will call you.
Mr. Zuilian comes and interrupts: Good to see you again Tom,
Susan. The parish council next month is sponsoring the teenagers
to go to the amusement park (Pause. Tom and Susan look
apprehensive.) with their parents as chaperons. (Tom and Susan
relieved.) The parents don’t want to spend the time, but we told
them that the kids are theirs and they have to!
Susan: Good idea.
Mr. Zuilian: But the reason I came over is that the parish
council knows that you and the others are great young people. We
want to sponsor an outing for the young adults–our treat. Do you
have any ideas?
Tom (flattered): Thanks, very much, Mr. Zuilian.
Susan: Why don’t we call Simon, Linda, Greg, Roxanne, and some of
the others and talk about it? Thanks so much for thinking of us.
Mr. Parevian (come
s up and loudly): Young people! That’s what I love to see, the
young people together. You know, I was young myself once. (To
Susan) In fact, you know Tom here is one of the brightest and
most practical young men I have ever met. (To Tom) And Susan
is one of the most beautiful and responsible young ladies I know;
and she is so kind. Think about it.
Tom and Susan talk silently, while Mr. Parevian walks over to
Mr. Parevian (goes up to Armen): Hi! I don’t believe I know you.
I am Gregory Parevian.
Armen (happy): Hi, I am Armen Norian, and just moved here from
New England. Thanks for stopping to talk to me. I am a computer
programmer for IBM.
Mr. Parevian: That’s great. Welcome to the community. Let me
introduce you to two other parishioners who work for IBM. (They
both walk off.)
Rev. Karozian (comes up): Tom, Susan, it must be two months since
I have seen you. (Grows smiling) I am so delighted to see you
again. I always enjoy your smiling faces. It brings back memories
of our retreats and Sunday School outings.
Tom: Thank you, Hayr Soorp.
Susan nods affirmatively.
Rev. Karozian: How is it being a Christian in the “real world?”
Remember, we are in the world, but not of it.
Tom: Well, you know, I have been wondering about how to apply
Christianity in some of the things that I am being asked to do.
Rev. Karozian: Why don’t you come by Tuesday or Wednesday evening
this week and let’s talk about it. Meanwhile, I will be asking
God in my prayers to give you wisdom in the situation. (To both
Tom and Susan) If I can help you with anything, just let
me know. (Pause) And I am considering ways to make the worship
more relevant to everyone, including young adults. Let me know if
you have any suggestions – as long as we keep the substance, the
form should be as meaningful and helpful as possible to
our people.
Tom and Susan both smile: That sound’s great, Hayr Soorp. We will
discuss it. Hayr Soorp waves goodbye and leaves.
Tom: Susan, good seeing you again. See you soon.
Susan: Yes, see you again next Sunday.
Susan walks to the side and waits a few moments for her mother.
Tom starts to walk off. He sees Mrs. Manchian and walks over to
her: Mrs. Manchian, I am going home now and drive in your
direction. May I give you a ride home?
Mrs. Manchian (looks pleased): Why, yes, thanks very much, Tom.
Tom and Mrs. Manchian walk off.
Mrs. Pezishkian comes back and talks to Susan: I saw you talking
to Tom and all those others. Didn’t I tell you–isn’t it
enjoyable to come back to the Armenian Church?
Susan (smiles at her mother):  Yes, indeed, mother.  Susan hugs
her mother and they walk off.


Letters to the Editors:

I am encouraged by your superb publication. When I read the last
issue, I felt a new hope for Christians and Armenians. These were
truths that I have all too often kept to myself. I would love to
see five million Armenians on their knees for a day,
or a week, or a month asking forgiveness, pleading to God for
mercy, peace and salvation. That will not happen until the
Armenian Church cleanses itself, carries only the torch of Jesus
Christ, and does its job of reaching people for Him. In the
meantime, no voice of truth should remain silent.
–Paul Atmajian
New Haven, CT

Rev. Fr. Tateos Abdalian, who is a regular contributing columnist
was our parish priest for five years. His recent article in
Window was provocative, enlightening and inspiring. Our parish
misses him. However, we shall be able to receive his
Christian messages through your publication. Keep up the good
– Khachig Chobanian
Greenfield, WI

I applaud your effort. Window is a vital and necessary adjunct to
our church life. Thank you for this labor of love.
-Rev. Dajad A. Davidian
Watertown, MA


Dear Editors:
I have been receiving your publication, Window, for over a year
now, and each time I can hardly wait for the next issue. I wish
you could put it out monthly, or every other month instead of
quarterly as you do now.
I am a Pastor serving the Armenian Congregational (Evangelical)
Church in Chicago. As a past and present editor of a number of
Armenian Evangelical official and semi-official magazine and
semi-official magazines and publications, I have read and
written extensively about the Armenian Apostolic and Evangelical
churches and institution. I read your magazine cover to cover the
day I receive it, and sometime later, I read it again. Indeed it
is a window opened to the 21st century. It is wide
open to bring in not only some fresh air but also a bright and
almost piercing light to penetrate all the dark corners of our
church institutions. I write these lines as a concerned Armenian
Christian, and not because I am an Evangelical Pastor. I
recognize the fact that the roots of the Armenian Evangelical
Church are found in our historic Mother Church(which includes a
vast number of nominal apostolical), it is natural for all
concerned Armenian Christians to turn their eyes to the Mother
Church to take the lead. Therefore, whether we like it or not,
any attempt for a diagnostic process should concentrate on the
Mother Church.  By virtue of her historic role and nationwide
influence, she is the only Armenian religious institution
that can bring about the much desired religious revival among our
As a truly concerned Armenian Christian and a student of Church
history, I have often been  confronted by a sad dilemma. While,
on the one hand, I see the great and immediate need for a reform
within the Mother Church (as a first step for a general
renewal), on the other hand, I abstain from writing about it for
fear of being misunderstood by Apostolic  [individuals] and
accused of sowing dissension among our people. My denominational
affiliation suppresses in me the desire of expressing my
views and participating in the ongoing discussion about church
reform. My position as an Evangelical Minister  will make it even
worse. I hate to see the secular media taking advantage of our
denominational infighting which will bring dishonor to
the name of our Lord Jesus.
Believe me! I envied the contributors of Window’s most recent
issue which had most compliantly featured the problem of
hypocrisy among the religious and within the institutionalized
church. Father Kelegian was superb in his spiritual diagnosis.
other articles were also most admirable and displayed much
courage and sincerity. I can wholeheartedly subscribe to each and
every one of those articles. In saying this, I  also  have in
mind Evangelical churches and Pastors, including myself, who
often fall victim to this mortal sin, Hypocrisy. After I read all
the articles more than once, I said to myself that if there were
such openness and spiritual concern around the Armenian clergy in
the early part of the 19th century, there would have
been no need for a reform movement and the subsequent emergence
of the Evangelical Church.
I consider the Armenian Evangelical Church to be not an end in
itself, but “a voice in the wilderness,” crying out for a
reformation in the Mother Church. Once this happens, the
Evangelical Church will cease to exist having no other raison
Unlike the Armenian Catholic Church, our church and community
recognize the Armenian Apostolic Church as the Mother Church of
all Armenians. As such, and historically, we consider ourselves
as an offshoot of the Mother Church. I do not believe in
denominationalism, or in proselytism. Whatever we do in the
Diaspora and Armenia is motivated by our faithfulness to the
Lord’s Great Commission, “Go_ preach_ teach_ baptize_”
Matt.28:16-20. Our aim and desire for the Mother Church is not to
turn it into a Protestant or Evangelical church, but to see it
become a spiritual power-house to strengthen and to enlighten our
nation spiritually for the glory of God and for the wellbeing of
our people.
My present wish for you is that you continue your courageous
work at the ACRAG through Window unhampered. May the forum that
you have created be open to Armenian Evangelicals as well so t
hat a constructive dialogue is launched for the spiritual
advancement of both churches within the same national family.
Rev. C. Darakjian
Chicago, IL


To the Editors

The American Passion for Cults

“For the building of this holy place and its reform
(barekargut’ean) let us beseech the Lord.”
Heresy is bad theology. It is not necessarily bad religion, but
like all wrong thinking it may lead to bad religion.
Religion and theology are not identical. Religion is our belief
in God and our effort to live by that belief. Theology is the
effort to give a rational explanation to our belief: it is
thinking about religion. Heresy is a mistake in that thinking.
It is therefore bad theology. This is how I will sum up the
impression I received reading the articles in your latest issue
of Window (vol. III, no. 2). This was particularly so in the
pieces written by Elise Antreassian and Louise Kalemkerian who
seem to have the American passion for cults.
A striking feature of the public debate about the future of the
Armenian Church has been its one-sidedness. The rhetoric of
dissidents is generally strident, pugnacious and partisan.
Occasionally it is dishonorable. For dissidents to aver that they
are being thrown out of the Church is simply nonsense. For one
reason or another they have decided that they can no longer hold
to the doctrinal core of the Church of Armenia. That is their
choice and their responsibility. I personally find it
deeply distressing but let the record of its causes, at least, be
straight. For a substantial and influential section of the
Armenian nation the Armenian Orthodox Apostolic Church is the
nation’s conscious, the bearer of its spiritual culture,
bearing witness in its ancient Churches, the Bible, in the
spirituality of Geiger Narekac’i and Nersess Shnorhali, Khrimian
Hayrik and Komitas Vardapet, and to a spirit which lies at the
heart of Armenianess.
How does the Church maintain its ancient teaching on faith and
morals in a culture increasingly indifferent to the one and
disobedient to the other? The ordination of women to the
priesthood in the Anglican communion was taken under pressure
secular feminism in alliance with the theological liberalism
dominant in the ranks of the senior clergy. In discussing whether
women should be ordained to the priesthood or not it will be well
for the sake of clarity to make some preliminary points.
First, it must be recognized that two quite distinct questions
are involved, though once their common existence and their mutual
distinctness have been accepted it will for the most part be
possible to discuss them together. The former is whether
it is possible for women to be priests. The latter is whether it
is right and desirable for them to be priests. Unless the former
is answered in the affirmative the second cannot arise. This is
important because it is frequently assumed without
argument that a woman upon whom the traditional rites of
ordination to the priesthood have been performed by a bishop will
undoubtedly have become a priest so that the only questions
remaining to be discussed are ethical ones (Is it not unjust to
withhold the priesthood from woman?) and pastoral ones (Will not
women perform the traditional duties and functions of the
priesthood just as efficiently as men?).
Secondly– and this is closely connected with the first
point–it must be stressed that what we Armenians are concerned
with is the Catholic priesthood common to the great Episcopal
communions of East and West and not with the various forms of
ministry that exist in the Protestant churches and communities.
In saying this I am not adopting an attitude of contempt or
unfriendliness to our separated brethren but simply recognizing
the fact that the Catholic conception of the ministry is
different from the Protestant conception even if the Catholic
conception includes the Protestant conception as an element in
The questions to which I address myself are as follows:
1. What is the significance of Christ’s maleness for his Eternal
High Priesthood?
2. What is the significance of a Christian priest’s maleness for
his participation in Christ’s Priesthood?
Divine Sonship does not in itself give us a proof of the
necessary maleness of the priesthood of the incarnate Word. That
can only be done considering the major sexual image in the New
Testament of Christ’s redemptive work–the image of Christ as
Bridegroom of the Church. The sexual nuptial and sacrificial
priestly images are interdependent and inseparable that Christ’s
sacrificial death could be such only if it was the death of a
God-man, one of the male gender who could be said to be
Those in favor of women’s ordination should consider the
following declarations made in the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian
Apostolic Orthodox Church:
+    Remembrance of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is seated on the
throne not made with hands ( Prothesis- arajadrut’iwn).
+    O Lord our God who didst send our Lord Jesus Christ, the
heavenly bread, the food of the whole world, to be savior and
redeemer and benefactor.
+    For thou thyself offerest and art offered and receives and
divest, O Christ our God (Prayer of Entrance).
+    And at the end of these days, tearing up the sentence of
condemnation for all our debts, thou didst give us thine only
begotten Son both debtor and debt, immolation and anointed, lamb
and bread of heaven, high priest and sacrifice for he is
distributor and he himself is distributed always in our midst
without being ever consumed. (The Remembrance).
+    And thine of thine own unto thee we offer from all and for all.
+    O Lord our God, thou didst called us Christians after the name
of thine only begotten Son.
+    O thou who fittest with the Father and art here sacrificed.
The objections to the ordination of women are not those of blind
prejudice, male chauvinism, or even of expediency and psychology,
but of theology. Women’s ordination is, then, not only
undesirable, it is impossible. There is a defect of matter.
Woman ‘ordained’ bishop or priest are not bishops or priest,
Their orders are not orders. Their sacraments are not sacraments.
The ‘ordained’ women are simply muddled, apostate laywomen, who
have turned their backs on their true Christian vocation.
The Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church is still the only upholder
of true, Armenian Christianity. It is still the one, true,
Armenian manifestation of the universal church. I do not want to
be told what others think of us–or how they view us–I
want to hear about our strength, our achievement, our spiritual
The recent joint encyclicals issued by our church leaders were
priceless documents. The central purpose of the letter should
have been to demonstrate once and for all the strength of tile
Armenian Church tradition and the mythical nature of the
adversaries’ claims. They should have consulted the Encyclicals
of Patriarch Maghakia Ormanian (1899) or Catholics Makertich
(1889).The questions to be asked should have been Does the
Armenian Church retain a unique historic purpose? If so, wherein
lies the authority that will sustain it? The Church is not a
debating society, a salvation army soup kitchen, nor a catering
On Easter Sunday (1993) I preached to my congregation on the
need to make our lives a real searching for God, a real giving of
our lives to God. The journey through life should take the
appearance, not of a pilgrimage which follows remotely the
footsteps of a hero who first trod the way long ago, but of a
journey like that of the disciples to Emmaus, companioned by
Christ. They were to ask: “Was not our heart burning within us
whilst he spoke on the way_.”
To share a journey with a friend is to halve its length and its
hardships. With this companionship we need not fear the aspirates
of the road. The disciples at Emmaus recognized the Lord when he
” took bread, and blessed, and brake and gave to
them”. The breaking of the bread is the symbol of hospitality of
friendship. The cult of individual secularization, and the loss
of community have turned religion in
to something people take up as a private hobby. I would urge our
members to safeguard the habits and values of their Church as a
source of stability and familiarity in a dangerous and confusing
But religion is also about creative new life, change and
adventure. The problem is to hold these things in relation when
everything seems to be changing so fast. The Armenian Church is
not against change. The corpus of sacred poetry introduced into
the Church’s worship by Nersess Shnorhali in the twelfth century
reveals a deep and touching spiritual devotion expressed not in
classical Armenian but in middle Armenian. The exposition of the
Prayers of the liturgy and the Commentary of the Divine
Offices by Nersess Lambronatsi, an eminent figure of the twelfth
century, was also an effort to make sure that we members of the
Armenian Church were holding to the unchanging essence of our
faith amidst changes in the formulation of Christianity.
The outstanding pioneer work in recovering and recording the
treasury of ancient Armenian sacred music by Komitas Vardapet
(1869-1935) in a new system of notation and the introduction of
the organ and the harmonization of the Holy Liturgy for male
and female voices was also achieved through desires for change.
The religious works of Khrimian Hayrik is nothing else but the
continuation of the work begun by Nersess Shnorhali–a thorough
going exposition of the Christian doctrine positively
expounded as confessed and taught in the Armenian Church (Draxti
Entanik= Family in Paradise). There is no reason why the sacred
poetry of the late Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Eghishe
Duriant (1860-1930) should not be incorporated into the
Armenian Hymnal. The same can be said of the hundreds of old and
new uncanonical hymns edited and published by Sahak Vardapet
Amatouni in Vagharshapat in 1911.
Rather than bailing out in haste and peddling exhibitionist
wishes and impulses I would recommend all the contributors and
readers of Window to study Errand Vardapet Ter Minasian’s Havots
ekeghetsou veranorogut’ean khndir’e’ (The problem of the
reform of the Armenian Church) published in Tiflis back in 1910.
The lessons of history encourage us not to fear such changes so
long as in escaping the dominance of the past we take equal care
to escape the dominance of the contemporary and retain
an eye for those kinds of Christian imagery which, though old,
have a timeless power to reach over the passage of centuries.
Amidst changes in the formulation of Christianity I want members
of the Armenian Church to be sure that we are holding to
the unchanging essence of our faith. It is in this spirit that I
interpret and understand the dictum of the Armenian Church father
Stepanos Siunetsi who said, “Our faith is not depleted to be
renewed and is not deficient to be replaced.” How can we
be sure of this? What is the difference between Christianity and
some substitute for it? The test is whether we hold firmly to the
Passion and Resurrection of the Savior. Keep in mind the Cross
and you will know the horridness of your sins and your
need for forgiveness, and you will never substitute a facile
humanism for the Gospel. Keep in mind the Resurrection and you
will know that the goal is heaven and will never slip into
secularized religion. I expect you have ambitions. Most people
have ambition stand there are ambitions which are right to have.
But there is one ambition which Christ requires of us if we bear
his name: the ambition of being near to him John 12: 24, 26)”
Save thy people and bless thine inheritance. Guard the fullness
of thy Church.
–Rev. Dr. Nerses Nersessian
Vicar of St. Peters Armenian Church


Women and the Priesthood

“This is my body,
This is my blood”

A  Roman Catholic Priest’s View

Even a quick glance around a Catholic congregation on Sunday
shows one reason why Jesus chose men as apostles:  it was the
only way he could get at least some of them into church!  Yet
clerical privilege, power and prestige no longer attract men to
the priesthood in great numbers, Thank God.  The one thing worse
than shortage of priests would be men who become priests for the
wrong reasons.
Jesus expected his apostles to serve, not rule.  The Bible
quotes Jesus as clearly  instructing the ordination class of 33
A.D. not to lord it over others.  He called 12 men to follow his
example and give up the traditional male role of dominance.
He commanded his chosen ones to assume the role expected of
women: service.
Twenty centuries later, only men wield power in church while
women still serve.  Yet service, not power, characterizes a
priest of Christ,  and women have proven themselves worthy and
willing to be called holy orders.  Rome has rejected the idea
and many Catholics consider women priests unbiblical and
untraditional.  But  if  priests are called to communicate Christ
to the community, the blessed Virgin Mary,  Mother of all
priests, is also a role model.
She did what the priests do: submit to God’s will, receive the
Holy Spirit, glorify God in prayer, treasure the Word, give it
flesh, direct people to full Christ and share his sacrifice on
the cross.  She of all people can point to Jesus and say,
“This is my body.  This is my blood.”
If a woman was worthy to produce the body of Christ physically,
why are women unworthy to produce the Body of Christ
sacramentally?  The argument “But it has never been done before”
applies also to the virgin birth and the resurrection.  Since
self-sacrifice, not power, is at the heart of the Eucharist, who
is better qualified to re-present Jesus’ sacrificial love than
the one who offers faithful service?
– By Fr. Joseph R. Veneroso, M.M.
Editorial in MaryKnoll, May 1993


in the Armenian Church

Points of Light – Parables of Faith in the Everyday Experience of
Armenian Priests. Edited by Hratch Tchilingirian. New Rochelle,
NY: St. Nersess Armenian Seminary Press, 1993. 51 pages.

Most often the Armenian priest is seen primarily as a liturgical
functionary on Sundays or as someone who is preoccupied with
administrative duties in the parish.  Contrary to these
stereotypical characterizations, the recently published Points of
Light  records events and experiences in the life of the Armenian
priest that challenge these perceptions.

This engaging book – a collection of fifteen pastoral vignettes
– is a welcomed first publication in its genre.  The simple,
short and moving narrative of each priest leaves an endearing
impact on the reader.  Each story is a personal account of a
real experience that the author shares with the reader in “an
informal conversation.”

As the forward of the book states, “many Armenians see the
Church as a ‘historical monument,’ rather than the gathering or
the assembly of God’s people.  Many Armenians are unaware of the
Armenian Church where the Grace of the Holy Spirit is
experienced in the small miracles and in the little incidents
that occur on a daily basis in the lives of Armenian faithful.”
Points of Light gives the reader a glimpse of these miracles and
establishes once again that true faith can only be
expressed in a living praxis.

Copies of this book can be ordered from
St. Nersess Armenian Seminary
150 Strattton Road, New Rochelle, NY 10804, (914) 636-2003
($5 per copy).



Window on the Internet
The Armenian Church Research and Analysis Group (ACRAG) is
pleased to announce its accessibility on the internet. ACRAG can
be reached internationally via email at:

ACRAG has joined forces with S*A*I*N* to make Window available
through the SAIN archive server. Anyone with internet access can
now download past and current issues of Window with a simple
command. Internet access is available world wide through
government agencies, private businesses, universities and
subscription services such as CompuServe, America on Line, GEnie,
and Delphi. With a population of over 12 million people and
growing at a rate of 10% per month, the internet provides a
means for information dissemination. ACRAG is proud to be a part
of this growing community.

Send letters to the editors, subscription requests, back issue
requests or a note requesting details for downloading Window to:

Window Vol. III, No. 3 & 4
copyright 1993 ACRAG