The “AYF Summer 2017” section of the Armenian Weekly’s Youth page will highlight the 2017 summer programs of the Armenian Youth Federation – Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (AYF-YOARF) Eastern United States.
Lost In Revelation
By Rita Bahnan, 2017 AYF Intern and member of the AYF-YOARF Worcester ‘Aram’ chapter
One of the most prominent features of the Armenian culture that we take pride in claiming ourselves as the first Christian nation. Growing up in the diaspora where religion is not necessarily prioritized by our generation, I had always dreamed of a more tangible way to experience this part of our history. The first excursion we took as participants of the AYF Internship was to Etchmiadzin—the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Considering this is my first visit to Hayastan, my first week had been far from what I had expected. And my experience at the Sunday Feast badarak at Etchmiadzin was beyond what I could have ever imagined.
As my group scattered within the confinements of the cathedral’s perimeter, I was independently drawn to the energy of the hundreds of Armenians lined up patiently waiting for the Der Hayr to walk through the middle of us with a bag of rocks. I hadn’t a clue of the significance of these rocks until the deghatsis (locals) explained to me that they have been, and will continue to be, blessed by the priests of Etchmiadzin.
Hand in hand trading rocks with the members of the church, I was overwhelmed with the connection I felt to the religious part of my heritage. After I placed the rocks into the bag that the Der Hayr held in front of me, I quickly moved onto the next step. Everyone slowly filed through to kneel down and kiss a beautifully carved khatchkar (cross stone) structure. Not sure of where to go next, I was pulled towards the middle of the cathedral, directly where the light of God beamed down on the small alter. I looked down to see the young boy who was drinking water from the fountain outside with my peers and me, standing next to my leg. He tapped me and told me to kneel down so that we could kiss the Holy Bible on the altar together.
Being led in church by a 4-year-old spoke volumes of how the people of our holy Etchmiadzin city are raised. Once Vehapar entered, I was pushed towards him in a mass of Armenians where he blessed my head. An hour or so passed when one of the interns called me out of the crowd to tell me that our group (and the vosdigans-police officers) had been looking for me for over an hour. No matter how hangry everyone was because of me, nothing can even compare to the revelation I encountered standing before that alter; not even the google image searches.
As if this day wasn’t emotional enough, our next stop was Sardarabad. Stepping foot onto the grounds of what I have always learned to be one of the most important battles for the first independence of Armenia brought forth an indescribable feeling of pride and faith.
Personally, this experience felt like home to me in more ways than one, since Aram Manoukian, whom my chapter was named after, was one of the organizers of the Armenian side. Being there with the group of interns by my side ensured me that our generation of thriving Armenians today will continue the sacrifice that our fedayees made on that field, leading us to Armenia today. Without the triumph of this battle, we would not be able to sing, laugh, and pray again in our motherland today.
Our ancestors battled all odds through their heroic deeds, which we will continue to do in honor of them for generations to come.
The time is now, the freedom is ours.
«Սերունդնե՛ր, դուք ձեզ ճանաչէք Սարդարապատից»: