MONTEBELLO–The Feast of the Birth and Epiphany of Jesus Christ was ceremoniously celebrated by Armenia’s worldwide on Tuesday, January 6. The celebration of the Feast began on Monday, January 5, Christmas Eve, with Divine Liturgy celebrated in all Prelacy Churches and continued on January 6th, with Divine Liturgy the blessing of water. Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian celebrated Divine Liturgy and conducted the blessing of water ceremony at St. Mary’s Church in Glendale.
In the evening, hundreds of Prelacy supporters and friends gathered at “Bagramian” Hall of Holy Cross Cathedral in Montebello for the Prelate’s traditional New Year and Christmas Dinner. This year’s hosts were Prelacy benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Osko and Yeran Karaghossian who additionally made a generous donation to the Prelacy building.
The evening officially began with the entrance of the Prelate and clergy members into the hall, candles in hand and with the singing of Christmas hymns, followed by the Prelate’s invocation.
Among the over six hundred guests in attendance was the Consul General of Armenia the Honorable Armen Liloyan, Central Executive members Khajag Dikijian and Vahe Yacoubian, ARF Bureau member Dr. Viken Hovsepian, ARF Central Committee members, Executive Council members, representatives from the ANC, ARS, Homementmen, and Hamazkayin, Board of Regents and principals, Boards of Trustees and parish members, media, sponsors and friends.
Following his welcoming remarks, Master of Ceremonies Rev. Fr. Vazken Atmajian invited Ladies Auxiliary Chairlady Mariam Karapetian to deliver her remarks, who on behalf of the Ladies Auxiliary welcomed the guests. In his welcoming remarks, Executive Council Chair Dr. Garo Agopian emphasized that the Prelacy has a vital mission and events such as the traditional dinner offer a unique opportunity for us all to renew our allegiance to that mission. He expressed hope that the work of the Prelacy will continue to thrive in 2009, thanked all the supporters, and wished the Prelate further successes in the coming year.
The taped message from His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia was then presented to the guests, in which His Holiness congratulated the Prelate and guests on the occasion of the New Year and Christmas. His Holiness focused on the theme of renewal as we celebrate Christmas, reminding the faithful that the purpose of the Jesus’ mission on earth was the renewal of mankind and that the message of renewal is a timeless one that applies to our lives today. His Holiness concluded by reiterating that 2009 has been designated as the Year of the Youth, emphasizing the importance of youth involvement in the renewal of our church and community.
Consul General Armen Liloyan was then invited to convey his thoughts. Consul General Liloyan expressed that the New Year and Christmas is a time for faith and hope. He stated that the Armenian people have always been able to overcome hardships because of our faith and Christian values. He continued, “Our lives are enriched by our faith, which in turn allows us to better serve our nation and republic, and a strong republic is needed to preserve our faith and heritage.” Consul General Liloyan concluded by expressing his appreciation for the opportunity to serve in this community and stated that upon his return to Armenia at the end of his term, he will be met with new endeavors and opportunities to continue his service to the Armenian people.
The evening also included an artistic program which was comprised of musical performances and recitation. Prior to and during dinner, instrumental renditions of traditional songs were performed by the “Donagan” band. The artistic program also included a solo violin performance by Armine Nergararian, a duet with her sister and singer Knarig Nergararian, and a solo performance by Knarig. The highlight of the program was soprano Meline Hampartsoumian who astounded the guests with her performance. A poem recited by Rose and Alex Pilibos 10th grade students Garen Arabian and Ani Mnatsaganian completed the artistic portion. The singers were accompanied on the piano by the renowned Professor Levon Aprahamian.
The evening concluded with the Prelate’s closing remarks. The Prelate began by first commending the organizers of the dinner, the participants of the artistic program, and the host parish. He spoke of the love, peace, goodwill, and harmony that the Feast of the Birth and Theophany symbolizes, the goodness, humility, and devotion expressed during the Nativity, and the incarnation of Jesus as the epitome of God’s love and mercy towards mankind. The Prelate noted that though the past year was a difficult one due to the economic crisis, the celebration of Christmas reminds us to be hopeful and optimistic.
The Prelate expressed his thanks to His Holiness for his paternal blessings and constant care and guidance, and thanked all the official guests present. In addressing Consul General Armen Liloyan, the Prelate commended his efforts during his term in Los Angeles and wished success in his future endeavors as his term nears its end.
The Prelate had a special word of thanks for the evening’s hosts Mr. and Mrs. Osko and Yeran Karaghossian as well as for Ms. Tina Carolan and the Carolan Family Foundation for sponsoring the 35th anniversary celebration and their generous donation of various religious publications. He also expressed his appreciation and thanks to the Lincy Foundation for their unprecedented donation to Prelacy Schools in the past year. His Eminence made a special announcement regarding a recent donation made by Professor and Mrs. Harut and Tamar Barsamian to establish the Harut Barsamian Disabled Armenian Students Scholarship Fund. Professor Barsamian is currently publishing his memoirs, the proceeds of which will be allocated to the fund established in his name.
The Prelate then presented some of the highlights of the past year which included visits to the Catholicosate in Antelias for the feast of St. Gregory the Illuminator, the blessing of Holy Muron, the General Assembly, and accompanying the entourage of His Holiness on an official visit to the Vatican to meet with Pope Benedict XVI. He asserted that in the coming months special focus will be given to youth activities in response to His Holiness proclaiming 2009 as the Year of the Youth. The Prelate turned his attention to the 50th anniversary of the North American Prelacy and the 35th anniversary of the Western Prelacy, milestones that were recently celebrated and which kicked off the expansion of our endeavors and mission, among them the establishment of a new parish in North Hollywood where Divine Liturgy was celebrated for the first time on Christmas day.
The Prelate concluded by thanking all the individuals and organizations for their continued support, encouragement, and collaboration, urging all to begin the New Year with the same will and determination and look to reaching new heights in our service to our church and community. He once again commended the Ladies Auxiliary for their diligence and dedication in organizing not only this particular event but various events throughout the year.
After concluding his message the Prelate had another surprise announcement, that the Ladies Auxiliary was donating a sum corresponding to the 35th anniversary of the Prelacy, for which he expressed his deep thanks and appreciation.
The evening came to a close with the singing of the Pontifical and Cilician anthems.