SINGAPORE—On February 26, the Eve of Great Lent (Great Barekendan), a Divine Liturgy was celebrated at St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church of Singapore by Very Reverend Father Zaven Yazichyan, Pastor of the Armenian Spiritual Pastorates of Singapore, Myanmar and Bangladesh and the Representative of the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians to The Far East. The event was planned with the blessings of His Holiness Karekin II Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians.
The day was significant and momentous. The celebration of the Divine Liturgy was an proclamation for Great Lent which lasts 48 days beginning on the Eve of Great and lasts till the Eve of the Feast of the Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Holy Easter). According to the church traditions during the fasting period, people not only refuse of certain kinds of food, but also of ill habits – talkativeness, lying, swearing, and other sins, and increases mercy, kindness and kindheartedness.
The Divine Liturgy was attended by Haig Didizian of London, UK and Tunyan family of Singapore, the benefactors of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin as well as the members of the community and committee of Armenian Church in Singapore, friends and visitors. Gayane Vardanyan, one of the prominent and talented members of Armenian community in Singapore, assisted Father Yazichyan during Holy Mass by her brilliant singing and organ playing.
In his pastoral message, Father Zaven Yazichyan expressed his appreciation for the community for their devotion and dedication to the Armenian Church. Father Yazichyan explained that Great Lent is a spiritual journey and time for reflection to ourselves; it is not only about refusing from some kind of food, but also it is about avoiding the sin; without it would be useless.
The period of Great Lent consists of seven remarkable Sundays. Each Sunday during this period is named after a parable and the Scriptural readings for each Sunday underscore the day’s lesson. The Sunday of the Expulsion, the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the Sunday of the Steward, the Sunday of the Judge, the Sunday of Advent is the sixth and last Sunday of Lent, when the church recalls the revelation of the Savior, who sacrificed His life for mankind. This day is devoted to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ; Great Lent ends with Lazarus Saturday, which recalls how Jesus raised His friend from the dead.
This episode foreshadows Resurrection of Jesus Christ and serves to remind us of the promise of new life to those who love Him. Palm Sunday, celebrates the victorious entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, when He was hailed as the Messiah and King of Israel. The Eve of Great Lent (Great Barekendan) which is the manifestation of the virtues of the soul, through which people can transform mourning to joy, and torment to peace. It is with this comprehension, with bowing of our souls, penitence, fasting and hope for mercy, that each Christian individual should take his first step on the long, forty days journey of Great Lent, culminating with the Glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ” – said Father Yazichyan
Following the Divine Liturgy, the curtain on the Holy Alter was closed off; the first visual appearance of Lent in the Armenian Churches. This the last opportunity for the faithful to eat and drink abundantly, which symbolizes the spirit of innocent joyfulness during man’s days in Eden. The closed curtain symbolized the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise, when God brought them out of the joy of Eden, and ordered the Cherubim to guard the way to the tree of life by the flame of the flashing sword. During Great Lent the curtain will be closed and the Divine Liturgy would be celebrated with closed curtain.
The day was concluded with the special Requiem service. The prayers were offered in memory of Marine Tunian, who unexpectedly past away in Armenia.
Although a small community, the Armenians of Singapore have played a very vital role in shaping the early history of Singapore. The Armenian Church, the first-ever Christian Church built in Singapore, located at Armenian Street and Hill Street which is currently the central business ward in Singapore is one of the proud testimonial of the rich legacy of Armenians.
In 1827 Reverend Grigor Hovhannes became the first priest appointed to serve as the Pastor of the Armenian Community in Singapore. In 1835 the Armenian Community was granted the land to build the Church and in the same year the construction of the Church building was completed. In 1836 the Church was consecrated.
The Armenian Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator, undoubtedly the finest masterpiece of the renowned architect George Drumgoole Coleman, was designated. The Armenian Church was officially acknowledged as a national monument on June 28, 1973 by the Preservation of Monuments Board of Singapore.
As an unfortunate consequence of the rapidly diminishing numbers of the Armenian community in the overall population of Singapore, the last Armenian resident priest had to leave in the 1930’s. After a long lapse of more than 80 years finally on March 29, 2016 by the Pontifical Order of His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, Very Reverend Father Zaven Yazichyan has been appointed to serve as the Pastor of the Armenian Spiritual Pastorates of Singapore, Myanmar and Bangladesh and as the Representative of the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians to the Far East.
Father Zaven Yazichyan, currently based in Yangon, Myanmar till the completion of the renovation work of the rectory-church house in the church compound. The parsonage was built in 1905 by Nanajan Hovhannes in memory of her late husband, Shanazar Sarkisian and was donated to the Armenian Church to use as the residency of the pastor. As part of a broad government strategy to protect and preserve buildings and monuments in a city that has so rapidly modernized and developed that its precious heritage is on the verge of disappearing, on May 20, 2016, eight national monuments in Singapore received a $2.22 million direct grant from the Government for restoration of heritage monuments. Playing an active and serious role in this regard, the Singapore government has also created and distributed a new class of funds that are especially intended to be utilized for regular maintenance and repair of these buildings and monuments postrestoration.
Among those selected being the Roman Catholic Churches, Indian Muslim Heritage Centre and other heritage monuments, the St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church of Singapore is the first-time recipient. Due to ongoing repair works more than six couple of months Armenian Community in Singapore did not have an opportunity to worship, celebrate the Divine Liturgy and Sacraments․ Fortunately, today the major restoration works in Armenian Church has been accomplished and it stands proudly on its all beauty. However, the parsonage is still under ongoing renovation work.