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TOP STORY                                                          December 22, 2016

New Paths

Join the Magi on their Christmas Quest  

The Diocese’s video series—“Bread and Salt: Stories from the Armenian Church”—returns for a second season with a special episode about Christmas. Join the mysterious Magi on their spiritual quest to meet Jesus. Click here to view the Christmas special. 

And stay tuned for new episodes this season on Armenia’s conversion to Christianity. Revisit the heroic stories of Sts. Thaddeus and Bartholomew, Sts. Hripsime and Gayane, St. Gregory, King Drtad, and the other figures who shaped the history of early Christian Armenia.
 
Click here to view a trailer, and share these videos with friends and family to help us spread the word about the “Bread and Salt” series. 
 

Scripture of the Week

Is 41:4-14
Heb 7:11-25
Lk 19:12-28

Prayer of the Week

My soul is always in your hands and I place my hope in your Holy Cross, O Heavenly King. May the multitude of your saints intercede on my behalf.

You who are patient with everyone, do not neglect me who trusts in you, but keep me in peace with your precious and Holy Cross. Amen.

Upcoming Saints & Feasts

24 December: St. David the Prophet-King, and the Holy Apostle James, Brother of the Lord

26 December: St. Stephen the Protodeacon and First Martyr

27 December: Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

29 December: Holy Apostles James and John, "Sons of Thunder." Barekendan of the Fast of Nativity

CHURCH NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBE

Christmas

What It's All About  

There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

But the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For, behold—I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying: “Glory to God in the highest! And on earth, peace; good will toward men.”


As a very wise person once said, having quoted this passage from the gospel of Luke: “That’s what Christmas is all about.”

Today, as so much of the world prepares to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we wish our readers all the blessings of Christmas.

Two weeks from now, faithful souls in Armenian sanctuaries across the world will be raising their voices in grateful praise of our Lord’s birth—and we encourage you to be a part of that joyous celebration in your local church.

And throughout the coming days, keep hold of what Christmas is all about: God’s love for mankind; His gifts of peace and good will—embodied in the birth of His precious son.

To read the Primate’s Christmas message for this year, click here.



 

Letters to Santa

Letters from Santa

Just in time for Christmas Eve, here's a tender reflection on children and the question of belief, by our longtime colleague on the Diocesan staff, Chris Zakian. 

It begins: "It was the Christmas of 2013, and my 10-year-old sons were having a crisis of faith..."
 
Read the whole piece on the website of the magazine First Things.



 

Praying for Peace

Der Voghormya  

The year has reached its final weeks—traditionally a time of tranquility and fellow-feeling, as we await the celebration of our Lord’s birth. Yet the past month has been disfigured by acts of violence that are deeply troubling to peace-loving people. These include a grotesque massacre in Berlin, and a psychotic act of terror in Ankara—which cannot help but reminds us, as Armenians, of the decade-old assassination of our countryman Hrant Dink, and the generations of state-sponsored violence inflicted upon our ancestors.

Threading through this period is the ongoing tragedy of war and persecution in the Middle East—which affects our people, our sister Christian communities, and other innocents in the region.
 
There are very few words of consolation to offer in the face of such dreadful events—except for the assurance that our risen Lord knows the sufferings of his children. He, too, was born into a time of anxiety and suffering; and he will vindicate the faithful when he establishes his kingdom, where true peace and justice will finally prevail.
 
It is to him we pray—this week, and always—for the souls of the departed, and for an end to the afflictions tormenting our world. In the immortal words of our liturgy: Ungal, getso, yev voghormya; Receive our prayers, save your people, and have mercy.

DIOCESAN NEWS

Chrismtas Service Live

Christmas Services at St. Vartan Cathedral 

The Feast of the Nativity and Baptism of Jesus Christ will be observed at New York's St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral on Thursday and Friday, January 5 and 6, 2017. Click here to view the special liturgical schedule for these "Armenian Christmas" services.

The Blessing of Water service will follow the Divine Liturgy on January 6. Artyom Sahakyan will serve as "godfather" of the Blessing of Water service. A live broadcast of the January 6 service will be available online here.

A Home Blessing service and Christmas reception will be held in Haik and Alice Kavookjian Auditorium following services on January 6. The Astxikner Junior Vocal Ensemble of St. Gregory Mission Parish of Brooklyn will perform. A special photo exhibition will be on view at the Diocesan Center during the celebration of Armenian Christmas (please see the item in “Events” below).

Most local parishes will celebrate Christmas on January 6, but the Primate has also directed that they may observe the occasion on Sunday, January 8. For information on services in your area, contact your local parish to ascertain the date and time of its Armenian Christmas celebration.


 

Praying for Peace

Memorial Service for Victims of Bombing in Cairo 

On December 15, the Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Diocesan Vicar, represented Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian at a memorial service for the victims of the attack earlier this month on St. Peter Coptic Church in Cairo, Egypt.
 
Bishop David of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of New York and New England led the service, which included the participation of the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches (SCOOCH). In addition to the Armenian Church, clergy of the Ethiopian, Syriac, Roman Catholic, and Russian Orthodox churches took part in the service.
 
Click here to visit the SCOOCH Facebook page for more information.



 

FAR

Art for a Cause 

Children from Armenia’s Kharberd Orphanage recently gathered at a bookstore in Yerevan to create and sell eco-friendly canvas shopping bags—part of a project organized by the Fund for Armenian Relief. The children planned to create 50 bags, but they were so taken with the project that they ended up decorating more than 100.
 
Located a few miles outside Yerevan, Kharberd Orphanage is home to some 300 children with physical and mental disabilities. Part of the proceeds from the bag sale will benefit the orphanage’s art therapy program.
 
Click here to read more on FAR’s blog.



 

St. Vartan Bookstore
 

PARISH NEWS

St. James Church, Watertown, MA

Watertown Parish Celebrates 85th Anniversary

On Sunday, December 18, Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian visited St. James Church of Watertown, MA, as the parish observed its 85th anniversary and held its annual Name Day celebration. The church is named for St. James, the Bishop of Nisibis, whose feast day fell on December 17 this year.
 
The Rev. Fr. Arakel Aljalian, parish pastor, celebrated the Divine Liturgy; Archbishop Barsamian delivered the sermon. At a banquet following services, longtime parishioners Krikor and Nancy Kassabian were presented with the "Parishioners of the Year" award. Former Sunday School superintendent Marsha Alabachian received the parish’s “Service Award” for her decades of service to the Sunday School. The Kassabians and Ms. Alabachian also received the Diocese’s “St. Vartan Award.” Outgoing parish council members Scott Kapilian and Garo Yavshayan were recognized for their service to the parish.
 
Click on the following links to read more and to view photos.



 

Christmas Pageants

Christmas Pageants Across the Parishes

Sunday and Armenian school students across our parishes have been busy preparing for and performing in Christmas pageants this month.
 
At St. Stepanos Church in Elberon, NJ, Armenian School students put on a play in Armenian about Jesus’s birth and related popular Christmas traditions on December 18. The Sunday School performed an original play about an orphanage in Yerevan at Christmastime. Click here to view photos.
 
At Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, MA, the Sunday School presented “The Story of Christmas,” accompanied by caroling. Following services on December 18, the second annual “Brightening of Holy Trinity’s Christmas Tree” took place with lights donated by parishioners in memory or in honor of loved ones. The ACYOA Seniors placed an angel atop the tree. Click here to view photos.
 
In Orlando, FL, children at Soorp Haroutiun Church performed at the Christmas party held in the church’s cultural hall on December 18. Families contributed to the potluck lunch and enjoyed hearing Christmas carols and instrumental performances. The program was led by the parish’s new teachers: Nora Minassian, Rikki Eloian and Carolin Avedisian. Santa Claus surprised children by distributing gifts. Click here to view photos.
 
St. Mary Church in Livingston, NJ, held a Christmas luncheon on December 18, where parish Sunday School students offered a yuletide pageant showcasing individual musical talent, light comedy, and drama. Younger children enacted a traditional Nativity tableau with narration, and sang Christmas carols in English and Armenian. Middle-grade classes explored Armenian traditions at a Christmas dinner, and quietly dramatized the Christmas spirit of generosity to guitar accompaniment. The older students presented a gameshow sketch with clever Armenian twists, and a message on the incredible-but-true miracle of Christ’s birth. Click here to view photos.
 
The Nativity story was told by Sunday School students of St. James Church in Watertown, MA, on December 11. Following a welcome by superintendent Laura Purutyan, students put on their pageant, which was accompanied by Christmas carols. At the beginning of the month, the Sunday School students in grades 4 through 8 visited the local Armenian Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to sing Christmas carols and distribute cards. Click here to view photos.
 
The Sunday School of St. George Church in Hartford, CT, put on its Christmas pageant on December 11. Following the pageant, parents and staff sponsored a festive coffee hour. The pageant was led by superintendents Cynthia Messikian and Virginia Wasynczuk; Maral Virdokian donated new costumes.
 
The Sunday School of St. Sahag and St. Mesrob Church in Wynnewood, PA, visited a local assisted living facility on December 11, where they sang Christmas carols to the elderly residents. The program went forward under the guidance of Talene Metjian, who prepared props to help bring the songs “to life.” For instance, the children handed out bells as they sang “Jingle Bells.” Later they passed out candy canes and visited with the residents.



 

St. Mark Church

Christmas Luncheon in Springfield  

The Avaks organization of St Mark Church of Springfield, MA, hosted its annual Christmas luncheon on Thursday, December 8, at Storrowton Tavern. The Rev. Fr. Sevak Gabrielyan, pastor of St. Mark Church, joined the Avaks group for the celebration.
 
Among the more than 30 people in attendance were parishioners of St. George Church of Hartford, CT, and their pastor, the Rev. Fr. Gomidas Zohrabian. The afternoon included games and fellowship.
 
Click here to view photos.



 

St. Mary Church, Livingston, NJ

Christmas Lessons

When 10-year-old Azniv Basralian wanted to do something for those less fortunate at Christmas, she asked her Sunday School class to join her. Azniv’s father Joseph Basralian teaches 5th and 6th grade students in the Sunday School at St. Mary Church in Livingston, NJ, and he suggested having a bake sale to raise contributions for Armenian charitable groups. With the proceeds, each student would pick a cause to support.
 
The class was excited about the project and got to work right away. On an autumn Sunday, the students set out a table topped with sweets and delicacies they had brought to church. Following badarak, parishioners at St. Mary’s fellowship hour “voted” for their favorite dish by placing a donation in the adjacent box.
 
The project raised $247—which was divided among the students in the following week’s class, to be sent to the charity of the child’s choice. The Armenia Eye Care Project, Armenia Tree Project, Society for Orphaned Armenian Relief, and the Children of Armenian Fund all received donations—along with a hand-written note from the student telling why he or she felt the cause was important.
 
The beneficiaries were touched by the thoughtful words of the children; some of the students even saw their notes posted on social media. But more importantly, they received a lesson in the Christian virtue of charity, to carry with them in the season of the birth of Christ: God’s loving gift to mankind.



 

St. Kevork Church, TX

Houston Parish Recognizes Festival Committee

St. Kevork Church of Houston, TX, hosted a successful 2016 Armenian Festival earlier this year. The Rev. Fr. Martiros Hakobyan, parish pastor, and parish council chair Vreij Kolandjian thanked the organizing committee and delivered certificates of appreciation to the following members : chair Avo Mavilian, Zareh Aghajanian, Vicken Asadourian, Anais Babajanian, Maria Bedrosian, Erika Bouzon, Lousi Dakessian, Araz Garakanian, Kevork Kasparian, Tony Kyoumjian, Armen Merjanian, Haig Tachejian, Sasoon Tahmassian, Karina Shtenberg, Vacheh Melikian, and Jack Sahagian.



 
Events

Upcoming Parish Events

St. David Church | Boca Raton, FL
On December 31, St. David Church of Boca Raton, FL, will host a New Year's Eve celebration at 8 p.m. Harout Pamboukjian and his band will provide the night's entertainment. Tickets can be purchased through the church and online at newyearsevekef.com. For more information, click here to view a flyer, or contact the church office at (561) 994-2335.

St. James Church | Watertown, MA
St. James Church of Watertown, MA, will host a New Year's eve celebration on December 31, beginning at 8 p.m. Enjoy entertainment by Alfred Galstyan. Click here for information. For reservations, contact Aaron Derderian at (781) 264-8680, or via e-mail at amderderian@gmail.com.

St. Thomas Church | Tenafly, NJ
St. Thomas Church of Tenafly, NJ, will host a New Year's Eve dinner dance on December 31 at 8 p.m. The evening's festivities will include a full course dinner, Viennese table, free champagne and more. Children will dine and be entertained in a separate room and will have a special visit from Santa. Music entertainment will be provided by DJ Alan. Early reservations are strongly encouraged as space is limited. For more information, click here to view a flyer, or call the church at (201) 567-5446.

Holy Resurrection Church | New Britain, CT
The Church of the Holy Resurrection of New Britain, CT, is teaming up with St. Vartan Church of Toronto, Canada, for a special project benefiting the residents of Artsakh. Parishioners are asked to donate knitted hats, gloves, and scarves—or to donate funds for the purchase of these items—no later than Sunday, January 8, 2017. All knitted items will be delivered to Artsakh by the Vancouver-Armenian Friendship Society. Click here to view a flyer for information.

EVENTS

Blessing of Pomegranates

New Year's Day Service at St. Vartan Cathedral

New York’s St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral will hold a special “Blessing of Pomegranates” service on New Year’s Day, Sunday, January 1. The Divine Liturgy is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
 
Also on January 1, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Diocesan Primate, will ordain sub-deacon Eric Vozzy to the diaconate. A reception will follow services. Click here to view a flyer for information.



 

Karapetian's Photography

A Photo Exhibition at the Diocesan Center

The Feast of the Nativity and Baptism of Jesus Christ will be observed at New York's St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral on Thursday and Friday, January 5 and 6, 2017. The Blessing of Water service will follow the Divine Liturgy on January 6. 
 
A special photo exhibition will be on view at the Diocesan Center during the celebration of Armenian Christmas. It will showcase candid portraits of Armenian dignitaries and celebrities in the homeland and the diaspora over the past 60 years, as captured by photographer Robert Karapetian.
 
The exhibition opens on January 5 at 8 p.m. in Guild Hall of the Diocesan Center, and will remain on view through January 6. It is free and open to the public. For information, call the Diocese at (212) 686-0710.



 
Armenia

Film Screening in Manhattan 

An evening focusing on Diaspora-Armenia relations will be held at the Tribeca Film Center in Manhattan on Wednesday, January 4, beginning at 7:30.
 
The program will include the screening of Robert Davidian’s recent film “Referendum Rewind” followed by a discussion. Click here to view a flyer for information. 
 






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