Concluding a momentous visit to the Greater Boston area, Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church on Sunday.
While His Eminence has visited Massachusetts and the Greater Boston area several times in the past, this was his first official visit to the Watertown church community as Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America. He was elected in September 2018, succeeding Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, who has retired after 20 years of faithful and dedicated service.
Before an altar adorned with bright red poinsettias, Archbishop Tanielian prayerfully lead the badarak and offered Holy Communion to a church body of about 200 people.
He delivered a passionate and inspirational sermon in both Armenian and English, evoking the spirit of humility, which he says is the “essence of Christmas.” He compelled those in attendance to be active participants in the badarak—not just to sit and listen and watch, but to be involved and engaged wholeheartedly and consistently. “Doing so,” he said in Armenian, “we will all see the Holy Spirit’s work within us.”
In a moment of comic relief during an otherwise important time of reflection, Archbishop Tanielian asked the Watertown parishioners for some patience as they now have to chant his lengthy, four-syllable name during a hymn in the badarak. “Ah-nou-sha-van,” he joked in Armenian. “May God grant all of you patience,” he continued. “I know that this patience is a good thing, because only with your prayers will I be able to serve the Armenian people, wherever they may be—near or far, young or old.”
Blind faith was the central topic of Srpazan’s message in English. “Don’t say, ‘I cannot see,’” cautioned Srpazan referencing the galaxies and even the living organs in the human body, phenomenons that indeed exist but are beyond the scope of comprehension and vision. “God has provided us with the most simple but sophisticated telescope—our faith.” That is why, he said, we must be humble during prayer to try to understand the mysteries of our daily lives and our mission in this world. “I beseech the Almighty Lord to always fill you with His wisdom, with His love, with His understanding so that you can make each and every day a masterpiece. Each and every day constitutes a page of our life’s volume. Fill it with beautiful things.”
Sunday’s badarak also marked another honorable occasion for the Armenian Apostolic Church: St. Stephen’s Day, which falls on December 25. After the Divine Liturgy, the Archbishop presided over a short service commemorating the protomartyr St. Stephen—the first person to be martyred in the name of Christ and the Christian church.
During this commemoration, St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church deacons followed tradition and donned a liturgical crown to symbolize martyrdom. Then, kneeling before the altar, deacons Jirayr Barsoumian, Ara Barsoumian, Zadour Bedoyan, John Daghlian, John Dorsounian and Jirayr Iskenderian were all named and blessed by Srpazan. The service concluded with the singing of the anthem of the Holy See of Cilicia.
During this official visit, the Archbishop also spent some time visiting students at St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary and Nursery School on Friday. He was accompanied by the Very Reverend Sahag Yemishian from the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church of Worcester and Reverend Archpriest Antranig Baljian. Houry Boyamian, principal of the elementary school, had organized a guided tour from classroom to classroom for the religious leaders.
The Archbishop was engaging and friendly with the young people, asking them about their schoolwork and gauging their excitement for the winter break. Most of the students spontaneously performed for the Archbishop, singing Armenian songs and reciting Armenian poetry.
On Saturday, the Archbishop visited students at St. Stephen’s Saturday School and also met with its board members. Mayda Melkonian, principal of the Saturday school, hosted a reception for the Archbishop at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center (ACEC) during which she gifted him a commemorative pen. “I will never forget the happiness of these children,” said the Archbishop to the guests in Armenian. “I will make sure I only sign the most important documents with this pen so that it lasts a long time.” The Archbishop also commended the parents in the room for enrolling their children in the Armenian program that is lauded for the disciplined instruction and preservation of the Armenian language and its history.
Days after the Armenian Apostolic Church rings in the new year 2019, it welcomes all Armenians in celebrating the Nativity and Theophany of Jesus on Armenian Christmas, that is January 6. As for Watertown, St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church patiently waits for the next scheduled visit of Srpazan, which is traditionally on Palm Sunday.