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The Survivor: The Lesser-Known Armenian Genocide of 1918. Book Presentation on June 2

2015-05 SurvivorCohenBefore the dust of the great Armenian Genocide of 1915 had settled, Armenians suffered yet another mass murder, this one farther east. In 1918 Turkish Ottoman soldiers occupied the city of Khoy (in Armenian, Her) in extreme northwest Iran and massacred the Armenians that had lived there for centuries.

Noted author and journalist Rosemary Hartounian Cohen’s memoir, The Survivor, tells the true story of her grandmother Arousiak, who witnessed and survived the carnage of that second Genocide. The author will present her book at the Zohrab Center on Tuesday, June 2 at 7PM.

Arousiak was an 18-year old, recently married to an affluent and devoted Armenian man. Her blissful life in Khoy was shattered by the events of 1918. Her poignant story captures the drama and pathos of a young Armenian family’s struggle to survive against persecution and hate. Ultimately, it is a tale of the vindication of love, family and a glorious past.

Rosemary Hartounian Cohen is an award-winning author, journalist and accomplished artist. In addition to The Survivor, she is the author of several historical novels: Korban: The Life of Liana, Terrorists or Martyrs, The Mother of Jerusalem is Crying, and Anoush: The Daughter of King Shen. Dr. Cohen received her doctorate in sociology from the Sorbonne in Paris and is the founder and director of the Liana Cohen Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes music and art to support grieving families and survivors of all forms of violence and tragedy including victims of drunk-driving, and addiction.

The book presentation will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd Avenue, New York, on Tuesday, June 2 at 7PM. The event is free and open to the public. Copies of The Survivor and others books by Dr. Cohen will be available for sale. A reception will follow the presentation.

2015-05 SurvivorCohenTo download a color flyer CLICK HERE.

For further information contact the Zorhab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

“A Cross Appears in Eastertide”

The following sermon for the springtime Feast of the Apparition of the Holy Cross over Jerusalem was found among the archives of Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan (1904-1989) at the Zohrab Center. Tiran Srpazan was one of the great Armenian Churchmen and teachers of the twentieth century. He was elected Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem and served as Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church. He also founded St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. The sermon is written in Nersoyan’s own neat handwriting on five small leaves of paper. Unfortunately neither date nor the place where the sermon was preached is mentioned.  

2015-04 CrossSkyWe are in the period of Eastertide, the fifty days after Easter. Easter was the great event of the Incarnation. It is the great feast of the Church. But it is more than just a feast. It is the great recurring event in the life of the Church. it is the realization of the greatest principle in the life of the Church, of the human soul, of the world.

Resurrection is the triumph of life over death, of spirit over matter, of the higher over the lower, of good over evil, of sanctity over sin, of eternity over time, of infinity over limitation.

Resurrection thus understood is a constant fact, a continuous reality in history, in the life of the universe, in the the life of mankind, in the life especially of the Church, and in the life of the individual soul.

Christ’s resurrection was the realization of the universal fact. It was a demonstration by God of the universal fact of resurrection. God showed us in Christ that man’s destiny was in heaven. That man, God’s creature, was not to perish, but to rise and to inherit eternal life, to triumph over futility, desperation and death.

A large cache of letters, sermons and other papers belonging to Abp. Tiran Nersoyan (†1991) are housed in the Zohrab Information Center and the Archives of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church.

A large cache of letters, sermons and other papers belonging to Abp. Tiran Nersoyan (†1991) are housed in the Zohrab Information Center and the Archives of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church.

The actual fact of Christ’s resurrection was a supernatural event. It does not bear biological, physiological or chemical proof. It is above the realm of these sciences as we know them. But resurrection is not less real for that, real in a special sense. When speaking of resurrection, St. Paul says that the risen body is without corruption. It is in glory. It is in power and it is spiritual. These are the qualities of the risen person. These are the prizes of the triumph. Can we conceive such a thing? We do our best, and the rest we are content to leave in mystery.

But triumph supposes a battle, a fight. Victory is the outcome of a successful struggle. And struggle involves suffering, pain, agony, crisis. It means the Cross. Look at the long history of mankind in struggle. Look at the history of the human soul in battle. Look at the constant process of fallings and risings. Look at the ferocity of the war between good and evil, between knowledge and ignorance, between harmony and disorder.

But resurrection transfigures this Cross. Triumph transitions this suffering. The end, the result, glorified the means.

And this brings us to the meaning of today’s commemoration. Today is the Feast of the Apparition of the Cross. On May 7 in the year 351 the population of the city of Jerusalem beheld the sign of the Cross stretching from Golgotha to the Mount of Olives, just outside of Jerusalem, a distance of about two miles, across the sky, gleaming with intense light. The story is told in the letter of St. Cyril the Bishop of Jerusalem, addressed to the Emperor Constantius.

The significance of the apparition is obvious. The Cross that is born for the sake of God’s triumph against the Devil, for the triumph of life against death, is no more a sign of misery and defeat, but an instrument of glory. The Cross rises from earth to heaven. It is, as it were, the resurrection of the Cross, the glorification of suffering endured for God’s sake.

Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan (1904-1989)

Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan (1904-1989)

When we decorate ourselves with crosses of gold and precious stones, when we elevate the Cross and carry it in procession or place it on the altar we show the victory of the Cross. We show suffering and triumph, Cross and Resurrection combined. And a Cross shown like that is entirely different from a crucifix.

But then we may ask, What has all this got to do with us now? What has it got to do with the business of making a living, in which we are engaged? It has everything to do with it. Are we not suffering while making a living? Are we not constantly falling and rising? Are we not engaged in a constant fight in this world? Are we not continually troubled in our souls? Don’t we encounter evil at every turn? Don’t we keep on falling day in and day out against all kinds of temptation? What can have more relevance to our daily lives than the same promise of triumph? What can have more to do with us than the assurance of life for us against death? Life of this soul against the death of the body?

But victory, triumph, glory, life can be achieved only through power. No one ever fell and then rose again without having the power for it. No one ever fought and won a victory without having the strength for it. So Christ rose from death through his divine power. And that life and power come from God, from above. From God, who dwells in us, who dwells in his Church; who dwells in heaven, who dwells everywhere.

And the point in being a Christian is nothingabsolutely nothing but to put ourselves in the condition in which we can receive that power, which is called grace. The Church, as Christ’s body, communicates that power to us through God’s Word, pronounced and proclaimed by the Church, and especially through the sacrament of Holy Communion.

The world around us is constantly in danger of falling. But let it rise. We are always in danger of falling, but let us rise. Because Christ is always rising. Christ is always risen. His Cross is always shining in glory. Let us rise with Christ in the Church. Let our prayer constantly be: “Raise us, O Lord with you, from death to eternal life.”

Glory be to the risen Christ. Amen.

Public Symposium on the Meaning of the New Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide Next Week

2015-05 GenocideIconThumbnailA one-day public symposium titled, From Victims to Victors: The New Armenian Saints of 1915 will take place at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC next Wednesday, May 6.

The event is being held in conjunction with the national observance of the Armenian Genocide centennial and the recent canonization of the martyrs of 1915. It is being co-sponsored by the School of Theology and Religious Studies of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC and the Zohrab Information Center.

Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian speakers will consider the meaning of new Genocide martyrs in the context of the wider Christian practice of the canonization and veneration of saints and martyrs, with special attention to their practical impact on the faith and lives of Armenian-Americans today.

The day’s program will begin with welcoming remarks by the Provost of Catholic University, Rev. Dr. Mark Morozowich; Rev. Dr. Paul McPartlan, Dean of School of Theology, and V. Rev. Dr. Daniel Findikyan of the Zohrab Information Center.

Dr. Stefanos Alexopoulos is a Greek Orthodox priest and Professor of Theology at the Catholic University of America.

Dr. Stefanos Alexopoulos is a Greek Orthodox priest and Professor of Theology at the Catholic University of America. He will be among the speakers at a public symposium on the newly-canonized martyrs of the Armenian Genocide.

Dr. Robin Darling Young (Associate Professor of Theology, Catholic University of America) will open the day’s deliberations with a talk entitled, Armenian Chroniclers, Early Martyrs, and Communal Intercession, from Agat’angelos to Yeghishe.

Christopher Sheklian, an ordained deacon of the Armenian Church and doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Chicago, will reflect on the tension between the secular-national significance of the Genocide martyrs and their Christian-theological meaning. His talk is entitled, Witnessing, Sacrifice, and Suffering: Martyrdom and the Relationship Between Ethnic and Religious Identities.

Greek Orthodox priest, Rev. Dr. Stefanos Alexopoulos (Assistant Professor of Liturgics and Sacramental Theology at Catholic University) will next speak on the topic, The Armenian Martyrs of 1915 and the Greek Martyrs of 1922: Pastoral and Practical Applications for Armenian and Greek Orthodox Christians in America Today.

The afternoon will conclude with a panel discussion among all the speakers, moderated by Rev. Dr. Ronald Roberson of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The symposium is free and open to the public. It will take place in Caldwell Auditorium of the Catholic University of America (620 Michigan Ave. N.E., Washington, DC). The program will begin at 10 a.m. and conclude at 3:30 p.m. For information, contact the Zohrab Information Center at (212) 686-0710.

What Makes Armenian Art “Armenian”? Lecture by Dr. Helen Evans. Thursday, April 30

Dr. Helen Evans of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art will discuss the unique features of Armenian art at an illustrated lecture at the Zohrab Center.

Dr. Helen Evans of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art will discuss the unique features of Armenian art at an illustrated lecture at the Zohrab Center.

The distinguished specialist in Early Christian, Byzantine and Armenian art, Dr. Helen Evans, will give an illustrated lecture entitled, Armenian Art: Voice of a People at the Zohrab Center of the Diocese of the Armenian Church (Eastern) on Thursday, April 30 at 7PM.

A visual tradition of the Armenian people that spans many centuries and prosperous communities from the Armenian homeland across the globe, Armenian art is at the same a highly specialized and a vast phenomenon. Dr. Evans will explore what makes a work “Armenian” by looking at key works of art of several historical periods. She will consider the role of the Armenian communities producing the works as well as that of the varied peoples with whom Armenians were in contact in attempting to define new and old ways to make Armenian art compelling not only to its people but also to the larger world.

Helen Evans is the Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator for Byzantine Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She earned her Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. After joining the curatorial staff of the Museum in 1991, she installed the Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Byzantine Art, the first galleries dedicated to Byzantine art in an encyclopedic museum, in 2000 and expanded them in 2008. Dr. Evans has lectured widely in the United States and abroad and has taught at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University, Columbia University, Hunter College, the University of Chicago, and Oberlin College. She is a member of the Board of the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture at Holy Cross College; treasurer and a founding member of the Association of Art Museum Curators; and former chair of the Editorial Board of the Art Bulletin.

2015-04 HelenEvansFlyerCLICK HERE to download a full-color flyer.

The lecture is free and open to the public. A wine and cheese reception will follow. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

Purity of the Heart

Երանի այնոցիկ, որ սուրբ են սրտիւք, զի նոքա զԱստուած տեսցեն։
“Blessed are they who are pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
—Matthew 5:8

This sermon was delivered by Catholicos Garegin Hovsepiants, former Primate of the Armenian Diocese of America, who was possessed of a brilliant mind, heroic love for his people and culture, and sweeping Christian conviction. The sermon was originally published in Ararat, the official journal of the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, in 1907 and reprinted in his collection of sermons, Դէպի լոյս եւ կեանք [Toward Light and Life]. The Armenian the word “pure” is սուրբ / soorp, which can also be translated “holy,” “pure,” “clean,” “saint,” or “saintly.”

2015-04 DewdropSunThe heart is mankind’s primal organ. Before anything else it is the heart that takes shape in the mother’s womb and it is the heart that outlives all other organs. When the heart dies, the person dies. The entire body dies.

But the Lord is not speaking about this physical organ but rather the spiritual organ that is as significant for moral life as the heart is for physical life. By “heart” Christ understands our inner world, our identity, our personality in its entirety. He is speaking about our three spiritual faculties: mind, emotion and will; that which is relative, which gives color and shape to our personality.

However as in ancient times, likewise today, the concept of “heart” is also somehow a synonym for emotion. It is not at all coincidental that our Lord gives so much importance to its sanctity, considering its purity to be a condition for blessedness and the ability to see God. None of our spiritual faculties plays such a great role in religious and moral issues as the “heart” or emotions. Reason endows us with principles and distinguishes the good from the bad, but this is still not enough for us to turn its suggestions into work or life.

Untainted Love

Similarly, the exercise of the will is a support for us but it becomes powerful and effective only when it receives content and impetus from our inner feelings and passion. It is emotion that compels a person toward self-sacrifice and moral heroism, not cold reason. During war the hero is the soldier who sacrifices himself, driven by love for the liberation of his homeland, ignoring the objections of mind and reason. All of the  astounding achievements in history and life that are worthy of admiration can be explained as having been motivated by untainted love and emotion. Any and every virtue that we consider—bravery, patriotism, love for one’s parents, philanthropy—all of them share one and the same source: a pure heart or emotion.

Consider the Source

But emotion can also make a person tumble into the abyss if its source is murky or self-absorbed. Greed, selfishness, hatred, conceit and every sort of repulsive obsession share the same source as the virtues. It is a characteristic of the human spirit that evil and good, noble and base, the shameful sentiments and crude egotism all have a place in our hearts alongside self-sacrifice and honorable inclinations. Sometimes one dominates in our life, sometimes the other.

Like a true and compassionate physician, Jesus wishes to eradicate evil by pointing out the real cause of moral infirmities. Our entire way of life, our speech, our inclinations, and our actions are all merely the expression or instrument of our inner ways. If our inner ways or emotions are pure, then their corresponding actions will inevitably be pure. If the source is pure, the water flowing from it will be pure. Read more…

The Martyred Armenian Writers 1915-1922. A Book Presentation by Herand M. Markarian

2015-04 ArmenianWriters1915Dr. Herand M. Markarian will present his new book, The Martyred Armenian Writers 1915-1922: An Anthology at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, April 16 at 7PM.

A particularly fitting tribute during this centenary year of the Armenian Genocide, Markarian’s book surveys the lives and writings of 13 authors who perished during that cataclysm–several of them precisely on the night of April 24, 1915, when they and other community leaders, intellectuals and clergy were rounded up from Constantinople and deported, never to be seen again.

Organized in three parts, the book includes general introductions to 19th-century western Armenian literature and to the Genocide. The weight of the book is in the third part, which contains short biographies of some of the most beloved Armenian writers of the era, along with a bibliography of their writings. Dr. Markarian has also provided a sample of excerpts from each author, all translated into English.

2015-04 MarkarianHerand

Dr. Herand M. Markarian must be considered one of the most accomplished Armenian literary figures of our day. He will present his latest book, a survey of Armenian authors who perished during the Armenian Genocide.

“The development of Armenian literature is a unique phenomenon in the history of world literature,” writes Markarian. “In contrast to others, it developed in countries where the official language was not Armenian.”

Herand Markarian is a scientist, professor, playwright, poet, director, actor, literary and theater critic, and translator. He was born in Basrah, Iraq. He has authored 26 plays and 13 books. As a director he has 53 plays to his credit, while he has acted in 50 others.

The book presentation will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd Avenue, New York at 7PM. It is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the presentation, during which books will be available for sale.

2015-04 MarkarianWriters.001CLICK HERE to download a color flyer.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

#ArmenianWriters1915

The Good News of the Resurrection

The angel at Jesus' tomb proclaims to the holy women "He is not here. He has risen." Armenian miniature from Isfahan, Iran, dated 1610.

The angel at Jesus’ tomb proclaims to the holy women “He is not here. He has risen.” Armenian miniature from Isfahan, Iran, dated 1610.

The following Easter sermon was delivered and published in New York in 1938 by then Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America and later Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, Garegin Hovespiants. A scholar, soldier, and man of intense Christian commitment, he escaped the rubble of the Genocide to become one of the great Armenian Church leaders of recent centuries. In this sermon, the Archbishop reveals the relevance of Christ’s Resurrection for the modern, scientific age.

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He has risen! (Luke 23:5)

Who will roll away the huge stone, the boulder that was placed in front of the tomb? This was the discussion among the women. Taking with them sweet incense and oil, they had come to pay their last respects to the earthly remains of the great Teacher. Just yesterday he was alive, today he was but a breathless corpse, and tomorrow he would forever disappear from their view as a bit of decay and destruction. This final noble deed should have been done with heart and soul. Yet the women were frail and weak. So who was going to help them to roll away the huge stone that sealed off the tomb so that they could have access to the cave?

Do Not Weep for Me

But look—the door is open! The stone has been rolled away and they hear a voice: “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here. He has risen.” Amazing. Wasn’t it just three days ago that they had seen him carrying his cross on his shoulders on the road to Golgotha, exhausted, falling to his knees under the weight of his cross? With pain in their hearts, tears in their eyes, sobbing, groaning, they watched the disdainful procession. The last time they had seen the peerless Teacher’s kind eyes looking at them they had heard his heart-rending words, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me. Weep rather for your children” [Luke 23:38]. They had seen from afar his death on the cross, his burial in the cave; his antagonists’ derisive laughter and taunting as they returned from Golgotha now liberated of the rabble-rouser from Nazareth. Even his disciples had scattered. The shepherd had been struck like his sheep. If only he were still alive…

Poor, naïve but holy women. They did not yet know that that very day in history a miracle was taking place by God’s will. New paths to salvation were opening before them to destroy death by means of death, yes, to cripple it. Their eyes would open, their earthly eyes, to see and to understand that it is not possible to destroy the truth by means of falsehood and deception. Jesus’ message about the redemptive and great power of faith would become clear. In the face of that faith mountains moved, boulders were rolled away, rough roads were made smooth, dead bodies were coming to life. It was necessary die, to “die daily” [1Corinthians 15:31] in the name of God, for one’s brother, for one’s homeland in order to receive and to protect eternal values. And there was the key to open the otherwise locked gates to life.

The Power to Subdue the World

The primitive force of Christianity lay there. The early Christians believed that Christ rose, he was alive in the midst of those gathered in his name. He was in their lives and in their hearts. Great moral strength was to be found in the idea of resurrection and in their faith in it. The power to subdue the world consisted in external weakness, poverty, distress. “Henceforth it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me” [Galatians 2:20].

But the good news announced by the angels is also for us, who thrive in the theoretical and practical science and in the aesthetics of the twentieth century.

Read more…

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