May 29, 2020
Message from the Archbishop
A Message from the depths of the heart in faith, in hope and in love, to our beloved parishioners and friends of the Armenian Prelacy,
This Sunday, we will be celebrating the Feast of Pentecost, commemorating the Coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles as foretold by our Lord Jesus Christ. It is true that on Easter Sunday we were deterred from celebrating the victorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ together in our churches in compliance with universal requirements to maintain social distancing in the midst of the pandemic. Nevertheless, we have remained resilient in our faith and faithful to our Holy Church. Our heartfelt thanks go to our Clergy, Deacons, Choir members and Trustees who offered the Divine Liturgy and arranged for all of us to actively pray via livestream over the last two months.
We thank Almighty God who is working through the heroic sacrifice of doctors, nurses, and members of the healthcare communities who are on the front line of this invisible war, as well as through the community of science who supported by different Agencies of governments are in their mission to discover the cure of this pandemic.
The 2020 pandemic is indeed unprecedented. Nevertheless, each and every threat against human life, regardless of its harshness, has mobilized the inner abilities of this unique creature carrying the image of his Creator, to face and to conquer challenges in all ages. There is no doubt that our journey through the valley of the pandemic is quite long. However, after two months of lockdowns, full of prudence and vigilance, we salute the decisions of the civil authorities, based upon the instructions and data of healthcare communities, for a gradual return to normal life, and by phases the reopening of the doors of the parish churches for our believers so that they may fully attend services.
As Christians, how grateful we are that this good news coincides with our major feast of the Pentecost. The bounties of the Holy Spirit throughout history are innumerable. He has elevated the shepherds to be prophets and kings; the fishermen to be messengers of the King of kings; the imprisoned ones in the dungeons to be Illuminators; the sinners to be saints; and the terrestrials to be celestials. Therefore we do believe firmly that the Holy Spirit, the transforming power of the Divine essence, has always interceded in Creation, for the welfare of Mankind, and likewise can lead us today when we ask His wisdom, guidance and strength.
As a community of faith, our top priority is the physical, intellectual, and spiritual wellbeing of each and every member of society. Hence, we take serious consideration of the instructions provided to us by each local civil authority and healthcare professionals, and likewise by Holy Scripture and the guidance of Church Fathers. As such, following extended consultation with His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, as well as with the Prelates of the Western Prelacy and the Prelacy of Canada, the reverend clergy serving in our Prelacy and the honorable members of the Central Executive, we would like to announce procedures for the re-opening our parish churches according to the guidelines and the timeline set by each state.
As each state revises local guidelines, each of our parishes is also encouraged to review and to publish revisions to ensure the health and safety of all of our parishioners. We encourage all of our parishioners to contact their local pastor and church office to confirm up-to-date procedures to safely attend church services. The parish church is the home of the entire community, and therefore, each person must feel as safe and as welcome as if in their own home.
At long last, public church services will resume this Sunday and hereafter, state by state, and all of the faithful are warmly welcomed to their spiritual home. Church services will continue to be live streamed from each parish to allow those who are unable to be physically present to fully participate in the church services.
At this time, we would like to explain some of the temporary adjustments to our traditional Badarak which will allow all of us to better participate and to conform with current healthcare guidelines. These measures are being implemented for the health and safety of the clergy and the laity, and as circumstances change nationally, will be adjusted.
First, the Badarak will commence with the “Hayr mer” “Our Father”, followed by the opening of the curtain and the proclamation: “Orhnyal Takavorootyoonun Hor yev Vortvoh yev Hokvoon Srpoh” “Blessed be the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit etc.”
Second, the Kiss of Peace. As the deacon invites us to share the Kiss of Peace, the priest shall turn to greet the congregation, saying “Krisdos i mech mer haydnetsav” “Christ is revealed in our midst”. The people shall remain in their places, without approaching others, and shall reply “Orhnyal eh Haydnootyoonun Krisdosi” “Blessed is the Revelation of Christ.” And then the choir will sing the hymn “Krisdos i mech.”
Third, Holy Communion will be administered in our parishes. As all of you know, in the Armenian Tradition, Holy Communion is administered by the clean hand of the priest, and is placed directly into the mouth of the faithful.
We fully appreciate that some of our parishioners may be hesitant to approach for Holy Communion. We extend our full love and embrace to you, and welcome you in all sincerity. We Armenians believe that Holy Communion is the real, living and life-giving Holy Body and Honorable Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is distributed in faith, in hope, and in love, and we especially reassure you that it is distributed in accordance with all of the precautions as required by governing laws. We pray that you will resume your participation in Holy Communion.
However, for the time being, the Prelacy shall remain cautious and careful in the manner in which Holy Communion is administered to our faithful. As a current adjustment, Holy Communion will be placed into the palm of the hand of the individual. We ask that the person then transfer the Holy Communion directly into the mouth. All who receive are encouraged to please exercise every care, and to respectfully keep their hands clean before and after partaking of Holy Communion.
Fourth, the Dismissal. For the time being, the tradition of kissing the Holy Gospel will be suspended. The packages of “mas” will be available at the door of the church for the faithful to take home to those who were not able to attend services. In the current environment, we ask that people respect social distancing and avoid congregating. Until further relaxation, the traditional coffee hour following services is postponed.
We are grateful to Almighty God who has led us from darkness to light, and we appreciate all of the efforts of our elected officials to ensure safety and protocol as we re-open our churches. We welcome all of our faithful to attend services, to light candles, to offer prayers, to receive Holy Communion, and to re-energize the Christian Life in all of our parishes with safety and dignity. We know that over time these restrictions will gradually be lifted, and we look forward to that day. In the meantime, we need to work together and exercise due diligence to find a cure for the COVID-19 virus, and we continue to pray for God’s protection and providential care.
Prelate, Eastern United States
Taken from the May 28th issue of Crossroads, the e-newsletter of the Eastern Prelacy.
April 9, 2020
Prelate’s Easter Message
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This Sunday we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ: a Feast of the fulfillment of Prophecies and Promises; a Feast of an eternal dawn of Faith and Hope; a Feast of undeniable and unchallengeable victory of Life over Death.
The road toward this universal celebration of Faith, Hope, and Life was paved, as predicted by our Lord Jesus Christ, with His Passion, Crucifixion and Entombment (Mt 16.21).
Let me ask you a simple question: Have you ever questioned yourself or your Pastor, why we call the Friday preceding Easter, a day of deepest sorrow and lament, disappointment and frustration, insecurity and uncertainty, “Good Friday”? Actually all these and more are valid questions, but from the Human perspective only. Yes, that Friday seemed to be the end of a new Era of goodness and of peace. That Friday seemed to be the day when the dream of the Evil power became true: that “I will ascend to the tops of the clouds / I will make myself like the Most High” (Is 14.14). This is, however, from the Human perspective only. From the Divine perspective, everything was running according to His plan of Redemption. As God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Is 55.8). Unlike those who cling to the Human perspective believe, God reminds us that, “My power,” His Power, “is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12.9). Therefore, that Friday was a good Friday, and every year we have a Good Friday, because it is the day that heralded the Resurrection and manifested the absolute truth that the final verdict belongs to God, who said, “Let there be light, and there was light”. It is indeed Good Friday for it ushered in the Resurrection and on it the mortal stings of death were swallowed up in the victory of our Lord (cf. I Cor. 15.55). It is indeed Good Friday because climaxed in the Resurrection, and on that day Mankind was granted eternal life through the unconditional love of the Sacrifice on the Cross.
With this understanding, amid the universal distress, agony, and hopelessness caused by the coronavirus pandemic, let us all pray for Almighty God, Lord of Creation, to shower upon us His wisdom, so that our human perspective does not misguide and perplex us. Let us pray that His perspective will show us the way forward and help us conquer each and every Gethsemane and Golgotha experience in our lives and turn them into victory for His glory. Let us greet each other with the most invigorating and ever-victorious good news, “Christ is risen from the dead” Halleluiah!
Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the United States
March 26, 2020
A MESSAGE FROM THE PRELATE
We Shall Overcome
This story has been the subject of countless science-fiction films and TV series, but it is no longer fiction. The memory of the H1N1 pandemic of 1918 (the so-called “Spanish flu”), with 500 million people infected and 50 million victims worldwide, has only survived in the work of historians and scientists. For the first time in living memory—perhaps ever—a large part of the world is quarantined. Humankind, misled by the experience of millennia into believing that it is unstoppable, has come to a sudden halt. A microscopically tiny yet deadly virus, invisible yet omnipresent, has us locked up in our homes, only venturing outside to buy the essentials, many of us wearing protective masks and gloves.
Yet as a church and a nation, we shall emerge stronger in our faith from this test. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair,” as we read in 2 Corinthians 4:8.
If history is any guide to the present, we Armenians have learned to find strength in adversity. Faith is our indestructible rock. In every calamity that has befallen us, faith has been the source of our rebirth as individuals and as a nation.
And now the coronavirus finds the entire world in the same predicament. One lesson this calamity may teach humanity is how irrelevant are the artificial divisions we create when our lives are endangered by the same threat. The Bible offers the key to understanding a reality that at times may appear incomprehensible and overwhelm us: “For whatever was written in former days for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
As the Spanish saying goes, hope is the last thing lost. We shall overcome.
March 19, 2020
A MESSAGE FROM THE PRELATE
As a consequence of the recent decision of His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia, we hereby announce to the Pastors, Boards of Trustees and the pious people of our Prelacy that, for the next three Sundays (March 22, 29 and April 5) either Holy Badarak or Morning Services will be conducted behind closed doors and in accordance with local circumstances. In spite of this, we respect the heartfelt desire of our faithful to light candles and pray within the church and allow it on the condition that their presence does not exceed the limits set by state and local civic and health authorities. Wherever possible, we suggest that Holy Badarak or morning services be live streamed via social media.
Also, wherever possible, special morning or evening Lenten services may be performed only behind closed doors, while Bible studies and other gatherings and activities must be canceled.
We are certain that our voices, lifted up to God in prayer at home or in church, will be heard by our merciful and loving God and save us from the worldwide pandemic caused by the coronavirus as well as from all visible and invisible threats.
In conjunction with the other services, the sacrament of Baptism can only be performed in cases of extreme need and only in the presence of a small number of people. Funerals must be performed with the same understanding.
Eastern United States
March 16: Wednesday Lenten services have been cancelled.
A Message from the Prelate
March 12, 2020
In light of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic and the declared state of emergency in many states throughout our Prelacy, I am writing to reassure you that the health and well-being of our church community is our highest priority. For this reason, we wish you to know the following:
- Being the Lenten Season, the parts of the Divine Liturgy which would normally entail direct contact (i.e. Holy Communion; Kiss of Peace and kissing of the Bible) are not performed for the duration of Lent. Further information about the post Lenten period will be forthcoming.
- We urge you to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control:
- Clean your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
- Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash and immediately wash your hands. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
In addition to the above, I am working with both the Religious and Lay members of the Executive Council of the Prelacy in consultation with the pastors of our various parishes, to formulate an action plan in our churches for the continued health and well-being of all of our faithful after the Lenten season is finished.
In the meantime, we ask that the Board of Trustees in each of our parishes take the necessary actions to make sure the church sanctuary is clean and disinfected every week and that hand sanitizer will be available during services.
It is our goal that all of our faithful parishioners who attend services and worship in our church will feel comfortable and not fearful or uneasy. If you feel uncomfortable about coming to church, please rest assured that we totally understand if you decide to stay home.
Also, if you have recently traveled outside the country or have come into contact with someone who may be infected with COVID-19, you should stay home for at least two weeks to ensure that you have not been infected.
Please know that we all need to weather this together as a community of faith, trusting in the Almighty to protect us from all mishap. As we often pray:
“Guardian and hope of the faithful, Christ our God, preserve, protect and bless all your faithful people under the shadow of your holy and glorious Cross in peace. Save us from visible and invisible enemies and make us worthy to glorify you with thanksgiving, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen”