Message to the
National Representative Assembly
May 15-18, 2013
Dear Guests and Delegates,
I greet you with Christian and fatherly love on the august occasion of the National Representative Assembly of the Eastern Prelacy. It is my heartfelt prayer that with the grace and wisdom of the Almighty, our meetings will be efficient, constructive, and helpful, as we focus our thoughts and plans on the advancement of our church and people, the vitality of our ecclesiastical and national life, and our efforts and mission toward our goals.
First and foremost, I express glory and thanks to our Almighty Lord under whose grace we were able to, as a prelacy with all our parishes, carry out our ecclesiastical-national life, on the one hand, properly and peacefully full of success and growth, and on the other hand, always striving to confront our problems with optimistic solutions and positive results. Glory to the power and grace of the Almighty.
With gratitude and filial respect, I thank His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia, for his fatherly care. Vehapar’s thoughts, advice, directions, and ideas contributed immensely to the success of our work. Contrary to our plans, we were unable to realize the Pontifical Visit due to the civil strife and dangerous situation in Syria. As a caring and thoughtful shepherd, he postponed his visit to our prelacy so that he could personally follow the situation of our historic mother community and provide the leadership of his wisdom and experience to the wounded and suffering Armenians in various communities in Syria. Together with our auxiliary bodies, all of our communities quickly organized fundraising events to aid the Syrian Armenian community. Thanks to all those who felt the pain of Syria’s wound as their own, and with their donations helped many in need. In our everyday prayer we ask God to give wisdom to the leaders of the world, grant peace to Syria, so that they can rebuild their productive life with prosperity and progress. It is our hope also that after the resolution of Syria’s turmoil, His Holiness will grace us with a visit to the Eastern Prelacy of the United States.
I extend my brotherly greetings to His Eminence Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Western Prelacy, and to His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Hagopian, Prelate of the Canadian Prelacy, with whom we enjoy a cordial and brotherly relationship. I extend heartfelt wishes for the success of their God-pleasing mission for the advancement, betterment, and elevation of our church and people.
I extend brotherly greetings to His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, with whom we have a smooth relationship, and we endeavored to work in a brotherly atmosphere for the sake of the internal strength of the Armenian Church.
On behalf of our Religious and Executive Councils, as well as all of our parishes and faithful, I extend special greetings and thanks to Rev. Fr. Sarkis Aktavoukian, pastor of Soorp Khatch Church of Bethesda, Maryland, as well as to the Board of Trustees and affiliate bodies, who are hosting this National Representative Assembly and who make our presence here comfortable and pleasant.
I have a debt of gratitude to express to our Vicar General, Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, to our pastors, as well as to the Religious and Executive Councils, to our parish communities, the Boards of Trustees, and to the dedicated compatriots who serve our people faithfully and diligently and who assist in the harmonious and productive success of our endeavors.
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As we all know, His Holiness Aram proclaimed 2013 as the “Year of the Mother of the Armenian Family.” For many centuries, it has been the true understanding of the Armenian people through experience that the mother of the Armenian family has a God-given mission, not only for the physical health and the firm foundation of the members of her family, but also for their spiritual and intellectual advancement, and their human and national instruction and education. The mother of the Armenian family is the family’s founder of the family’s vitality, and the keeper of the understanding of pure ethical and moral values. The human character, the keeper of God’s incorruptible image within us, and the upholder of the saintliness of the family is the mother of the Armenian family, to whom we owe so much gratitude and thanks. She is the miraculous force which turns the Armenian family as holy as a church where future generations will be born, grow, and prosper.
This same role has been taken on by the Armenian Church—our Mother Church! The Armenian Church has given our people the same care and love that a mother gives to her family.
Just as a mother shapes her child, the Armenian Church has formed and enriched our nation with her spiritual and cultural values. Through the Armenian Church’s holy font—baptism—we have received new life. Through the Armenian Church’s incense and prayer, candles and hymns, we have received the Armenian spirit, and through the vigilant devotion of the servants of the Armenian Church our image is stamped with our language and faith. The Armenian Church is the heavenly gift given to the Armenian people that has maintained us for centuries, and has saved the Armenians from dispersion and assimilation, becoming our spiritual and national power and bastion, just as the Armenian mother is the pillar and source of the family’s strength.
When the family is strong, the nation is also strong, durable, and creative.
The communities in our prelacy are the families of our prelacy, where in partnership with our parishes and our sister and auxiliary organizations, we can enliven and strengthen our ecclesiastical and national life by harmonious and joint efforts. Just as a nation’s dynamism and radiance depends upon the health of the family, in the same sense, our prelacy depends upon the lively and purposeful efforts of our communities.
Perhaps, many of you are aware of what I am going to say. Nevertheless, I want to repeat it modestly, to refresh the expected role of the church and organizations.
Where does it exist? What are the pre-conditions for the success of our endeavors? These are questions whose answers we must seek and examine together, in order to help the growth of our communities, prelacy, church, and nation.
The pre-condition of any society, nation, or country’s strength and progress depends upon wise and visionary leadership. Without constant and consistent leadership and complete devotion, without getting weary, it is not possible to establish any organization—in our case the Armenian Church—entrusted to our care on a firm foundation. We are acquainted with our prelacy’s leadership pyramid-like hierarchy that begins with the National Representative Assembly as a legislative body, and then goes to the Executive body—the Religious and Executive Councils—and ends with the Boards of Trustees, who are the planners of the activities of our parishes, who guide the plans to completion.
Therefore, when we speak of leadership of our church and prelacy, we speak of this three-tier leadership. It is necessary for delegates, council members, and boards of trustees to work with faith in their mission, dedicated to their work, and especially in harmony first with each other, the prelate, and the pastors, and then with our auxiliary organizations, be it in the political, educational/cultural, or youth/athletic realm. Faced with our everyday varied challenges, time constraints, the economic situation, and other reasons, we are confronted with the current diminishing number of individuals prepared to serve any of our organizations within our prelacy.
This is true for our general membership meetings and our National Representative Assembly. At times, active and lively communities experience problems finding candidates for the board of trustees or delegates, which without doubt makes the communal efforts more difficult. We should not look upon this reality as a shortcoming. On the contrary, we must look upon it as a challenge to recognize the weaknesses and problems and to work to achieve a more organized life. The ultimate solution is the message given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ, to love each other and love his church. Where there is love, there are joy and happiness, vitality and growth, and we as the children of the Armenian Church must approach our nation and church with this feeling of love in order to assist their growth.
2. Education and Instruction
In the understanding of our church, love finds its fertile soil, especially when we truly understand our church, her unique rituals, liturgy, theology, and her centuries of service to our people, and the caring and nurturing of our cultural posterity. Unfortunately, we do not have parochial schools as we have in countries in the Middle East, where catechism and the history of the Armenian Church are taught. A place where there is always an Armenian link for social interaction in our homes, schools, community centers, and organizations that keep us informed about the life of the Church. Here then is the challenge directed at our leaders at all levels. Fortunately, the needs have prompted us to utilize all possibilities that are aimed at enriching our religious and ecclesiastical knowledge. It is necessary for every community to have its Sunday and Saturday schools to provide religious and national education. We are happy to tell you that in some of our parishes Bible Studies are taking place, instruction in Armenian Church rituals and liturgy are given, lecture series are organized, and various events are planned. The community within our Prelacy that provides this and similar programs is to be envied. It is our suggestion that this should be a reality in all of our church communities, and should be aimed at everyone without exception—infants, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. No group should feel neglected or deprived.
The programs are for all of us. The more knowledge we gather, and make the history of the Armenian Church our own, the more we are lovingly linked with our unique church and we proceed to eternity as a nation walking “toward the secret road to heaven,” as the poet says.
It is time for us to utilize all means of communication so that the leaders and the faithful will be in continuous and immediate communication. It is time for our talented youth—even our adolescents—who possess certain skills, to become advisors to our pastors, so that the positive aspects of technology can be enjoyed by both the leaders and the children of the Armenian Church.
3. Finally, when we have love for the church, when we have the knowledge and information of our ecclesiastical/national life, it is necessary to have the presence and participation of our nation’s children in the life of our church. Our parents and grandparents, in spite of thousands and thousands of problems, bequeathed to us our churches and centers through their vision and love. What is their value today, if there is no life or spirit within those physical buildings? This is the greatest concern for our leaders. We always use the excuse of lack of time, when the true and conscience approach of what we do and what we will do is the convincing explanation and answer to our negligence. We devote so many hours to concerns of secondary value, and we forget to be with the Lord for a few hours per week, to suffer with our nation, to enrich each other with spiritual and national issues and information. No, neither self-centered or partisan understanding are capable of leading our nation to a bright future. Indifference and irresponsibility weaken our endeavors, distancing from our past disparages our Armenian image, and impoverishes our spiritual and national life. Yes, being present and especially working together are the best means to enrich each other, help and support each other, and thereby strengthen the church and the organizations, because the only road to success and confronting the judgment of history with a “clear forehead,” is “For each other and with each other.”
I wish you a successful and a productive national assembly. Thank you.
May 16, 2013