Saluting a “Soldier of the Light” March 24 at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary

1767_001The Zohrab Information Center and St. Nersess Seminary will co-sponsor a day-long symposium dedicated to the life and vision of His Holiness Catholicos Karekin Hovsepian, a true titan among the Armenian people in modern times.

The symposium is titled, Soldier of the Light: The Aspirations of Catholicos Karekin Hovsepian.” It marks the 150th anniversary of Hovsepian’s birth and the centennial of the Battle of Sardarabad (in which he fought). It will take place on Saturday, March 24, at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, 486 Bedford Road, Armonk, NY.

Speakers include Dr. Abraham Terian, Dr. Roberta Ervine, Dr. Christine Maranci, Rev. Fr. Karekin Kasparian, and Mr. Nubar Kupelian. V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Director of the Zohrab Center and Professor at St. Nersess Seminary, will moderate. Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian will preside.

A Man of Staggering Accomplishments Abounding in Grace 

HovsepiantsBefore being elected Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Catholicos Karekin Hovsepian (1867-1952) served as Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America during the turbulent years following the assassination of Archbishop Ghevont Tourian in New York in 1933. Born in Artsakh, Armenia, he earned graduate degrees from the best universities in Europe, encouraged the Armenian troops on the front lines of the Battle of Sardarabad, chaired the Department of Archaeology and Art History at Yerevan State University, led pioneering archaeological expeditions in western Armenia, published learned books on the art of medieval Armenian manuscript illumination, and previously obscure chapters in Armenian history, and inspired countless people through his preaching and teaching. Through it all Hovsepian tirelessly summoned his flock to rise up from pettiness and division, and to embrace the dignity, richness, and eternal values of Christian life as embodied in Armenian art, culture and history and above all, in the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Church.

On this occasion a volume of selected essays and sermons by the Catholicos, translated for the first time into English by Dr. Ervine and Fr. Findikyan, has been published. Those present for the symposium will receive a complimentary copy of Toward Light and Life: Reflections of Catholicos Karekin Hovsepian.

The March 24 conference starts at 10:30 a.m. (10 a.m. check-in) and concludes at 4 p.m., with a light lunch served at midday. The symposium and lunch are free and open to all interested.

Please contact St. Nersess Seminary at (914) 273-0200 to reserve your seat. SPACE IS LIMITED.

The event has is generously underwritten by Mr. and Mrs. Berge and Vera Setrakian.

A Light Shines in the West

2014 TorchPassedby Alexander Calikyan

The Armenian community in the United States of America has existed for more than a century. The Torch Was Passed: The Centennial History of the Armenian Church of America, a work edited by Christopher Hagop Zakian in celebration of the centennial history of the Armenian Church of America in 1998, tells the history of the Armenians in the land of freedom and opportunity, from humble and often distressing beginnings in 1898 to a hopeful and bright one hundred years later.

Improbable Beginnings

Zakian embarks on a detailed journey that has its roots in the little community of Armenians in Worcester, Massachusetts, who banded together to form the first Armenian Church of America, the Church of Our Savior. From this small and improbable starting point, Mr. Zakian tells of the spread of the faith of the Armenians across the country. For the Armenian community at this time, no one imagined a permanent diocese taking shape in the United States; as far as they were concerned, America was a pit stop for refugees before returning to the motherland again one day.

Trials and Tribulations

The developments of the coming century would change all of that. As Mr. Zakian writes, changing circumstances at home and abroad would forever change the destiny of the Armenians in America and shape their future. With Bishop Hovsep Sarajian chosen by the Armenian flock to serve as the first primate in the United States, the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America was established in 1898. For the next 50 years, the young and fledgling diocese underwent numerous periods of trial, tribulation, and transformation on the path of coming to resemble, more or less, the Diocese that we have today. Notable events included coping with the emotional trauma of the Armenian Genocide, caring for countless refugees from Soviet Armenia, and fracturing from within, culminating in the assassination of Archbishop Ghevont Tourian.

Consolidation and Growth

Following years of relative peace and stability under Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan, the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America began to expand and prosper, forming organizations recognizable today, such as the ACYOA, the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, and the construction of the St. Vartan Cathedral and diocesan headquarters in New York City. Indeed, with the ardent confidence and support exhibited by the newly-elected pontiff of the Armenian Apostolic Church in His Holiness Vasken I, the Armenian Church in America continued to increase in number of parishes, laypeople, and clergymen. Especially under the long primacy of Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America reached its peak of influence for the Armenian-American community. Mr. Zakian concludes his chronicle with a review of the diocese and its various activities and organizations under the tenure of the current primate, His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, and he looks to the future of the Armenian Church in America.

2014-07 Calikyan
Alexander Calikyan is an intern at the Zohrab Information Center.

Mr. Zakian’s work contains helpful appendices provided by contributing authors that supplement his narrative of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America. The first two deal with the formation and history of the Western and Canadian Dioceses, respectively. The third appendix discusses the unique schism within the Armenian Church in America and its slow, painful progress towards reconciliation and hoped-for unity. The book is rounded out by a general chronology of the Armenian Church of America and a list of parishes of the Eastern Diocese. While it is clear that Mr. Zakian went to painstaking lengths to obtain and compile informative lists and histories of the various Armenian churches in America, he also narrates the story of the Armenians in the United States compellingly. Surely, this book not only serves as a history of our people, but reminds us of just how strong and tenacious the Armenian community is.

ALEXANDER CALIKYAN is a senior at the Catholic University of America (Washington, DC) majoring in philosophy. He has been an intern at the Zohrab Center last summer and this summer.

In Memory of Archbishop Ghevont Tourian

Archbishop Ghevont Tourian, former Primate of the Armenian Church of America.
Archbishop Ghevont Tourian, former Primate of the Armenian Church of America.

This week will mark the 80th anniversary of the tragic death of Archbishop Ghevont Tourian, who was martyred at Holy Cross Church of Armenia in New York on December 24, 1933.

Tourian Srpazan was one of the intellectual and spiritual giants among the clergy of the Armenian Church in modern times. Born in Constantinople in 1879, he was a graduate of the renowned Seminary of Armash outside the imperial capital. There he studied from 1898-1902 under the tutelage of his elder cousin Archbishop Yeghishé Tourian, who would later become Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Autographed inscription by "Ghevont Vartabed Tourian" dated July 1, 1907 in the Zohrab Center's copy of the first volume of his book "Simple Sermons."
Autographed inscription by “Ghevont Vartabed Tourian” dated July 1, 1907 in the Zohrab Center’s copy of the first volume of his book “Simple Sermons.”

Consecrated priest and shortly thereafter bishop, Ghevont Srpazan served as the Archbishop of the Armenian Church of Smyrna, Bulgaria, Greece and Manchester, England. He also served as the personal secretary of yet another prominent Armenian churchman and past dean of the Armash Seminary, Patriarch Maghakia Ormanian of Constantinople. In 1931 he was elected Primate of the Armenian Church of America.

Tourian was an accomplished writer and orator. Many of his sermons and speeches were published during his lifetime in a multi-volume collection entitled Պարզ քարոզներ [Simple Sermons]. The Zohrab Center’s library holds copies of all of his books.

One of them is Volume 1 of this series, which contains an autographed inscription by Archbishop Tourian which reads:

To the most noble and radiant Mr. and Mrs. Gullabi Gulbenkian as a sign of respect and eternal remembrance. –Ghevont Vartabed Tourian. 1 July 1907.

Gullabi Gulbenkian was a Genocide orphan who became an affluent industrialist and philanthropist. Tourian inscribed the book to him just months after it was published in Constantinople, when he was still a young priest “Vartabed.”

A Christmas Sermon by the Young Tourian Vartabed

In a Christmas sermon that opens the volume, Archbishop Tourian quotes the words of King Herod: “Search diligently for the child” [Matthew 2:8]. Herod was threatened by the attention that the newborn Jesus was attracting. Exotic Magi had arrived from the East bearing gifts for the newborn, whom they were referring to as a king, and thus a potential rival to Herod’s throne. Herod ordered that the child be located so that he might worship him. But the devious King actually intended to destroy the child. Setting out from this scene, Tourian Srpazan gives a lesson in how one should diligently seek God today. CLICK HERE to read an English translation of this sermon.

Ghevont Srpazan’s books, as well as those of his elder cousins Yeghishé and Bedros, are available in the Zohrab Information Center for those interested in perusing them.

May the eternal memory of the just be blessed. Յաւիտենական յիշատակն արդարոց օրհնութեամբ եղիցի։