St. Garabed Church of Las Vegas celebrated its name day with Episcopal Divine Liturgy, blessing of madagh, and the second annual Harissa Festival. The celebrations were held from January 25 to 26.
Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian presided over the festivities, which began on Saturday evening with the preparation of harissa and dinner at “Koujakian” Hall. Consul General Dr. Armen Baibourtian participated in the events, which were sponsored by Jack and Louise Balabanian.
The program began with opening remarks made by Board of Trustees Chair Arpi Hicks. Prelate Mardirossian delivered the invocation, after which guests enjoyed a meal prepared by the Church Ladies Auxiliary. Archpriest Vahan Gosdanian and Master of Ceremonies Hagop Havanjian gave a brief overview of the feast day, the tradition of the harissa, as well as the history of St. Garabed Monastery of Mush. The Prelate and Consul General both conveyed their congratulations and commendation to the parish family. During the celebrations, the parish honored Siran Nersessian, Manoushag Ourfalian, Lilly Sagherian, Liana Havanjian, Hovig Bayramian, and Gabriella Gueyikian for their service to the church.
Guests then headed to the courtyard where the Prelate, accompanied by the Consul general, Parish Pastor, Honorary Consul Adroushan Armenian, and sponsors began the process of churning the harissa, while members of the Armenian Dance Academy of Las Vegas performed Armenian national dances.
On Sunday morning, Prelate Mardirossian celebrated Divine Liturgy, delivered the sermon, and conducted the blessing of madagh. Homenetmen “Artsakh” chapter scouts participated in the Prelate’s procession. Parish Pastor Archpriest Vahan Gosdanian and Archpriest Avedis Torossian assisted at the altar, and Archpriest Mesrob Galstanian from the Isfahan Prelacy participated in the service. Among the faithful in attendance were Andy Armenian, representatives of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation “Ishkhan” Gomideh, Armenian Relief Society “Shushi” chapter, and Homenetmen “Artsakh” chapter.
In his sermon, the Prelate first spoke about the feast of the birth of St. John the Baptist, which marks the name day of St. Garabed Church, referencing the writings of the Evangelists on St. John as the forerunner who prepared the way of our Lord Jesus Christ, adding that St. John was regarded as the greatest of the prophets, the prophet of the Most High, and apostle of the Son of God; yet, despite all of this acclaim, he remained humble and dutiful, deflecting attention from himself toward Jesus stating, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Prelate Mardirossian noted that St. John prepared the way for Christ and prepared the people for the coming Messiah, summoning them to repent for the kingdom of heaven. He added that the answer to how one can attain this salvation proclaimed by St. John the Baptist is found in the day’s Gospel reading from John 3:13-21, in the words of Jesus Himself, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
The Prelate stressed that as St. John drew the people to the Lord, we too must draw others to Christ and to our Church, for we too are called to be disciples, and everyone, whether clergy or laity, has a duty to become witnesses to that Light, so that through us, all might believe. “The Church – this Church – is not just a building; it is a body of believers united in Christ, and when we unite here in His name, His is present among us. Through our participation in the life of the Church, we are nurturing and maturing our faith, we are being sanctified and transformed. When you look with your physical eyes at the cross adorning the top of this Church, see also with your spiritual eyes the love, sacrifice, life-changing, and life-giving message represented through that cross. It is my wish that within this community, St. Garabed Church becomes the haven that unites the people, the lighthouse from which the unfading Light of Christ radiates and enlightens the people,” stated the Prelate.
He concluded by conveying his blessings and congratulations to the parish family, urging for the name day celebration to be a day of renewal and recommitment of our faith, belief, and trust in the Lord, our submission to Him, and to choosing goodness and light over evil and darkness so that we may be worthy of inheriting the everlasting life promised to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.
At the conclusion of the service, the Prelate made his way to the Church courtyard in a procession to conduct the blessing of the madagh. The service closed with singing of “Cilicia” and the Armenian national anthem.
The blessed harissa was later served at the luncheon held at “Koujakian” Hall.
On behalf of the City of Los Angeles, Greg Martayan Director of Public Safety and Special Assignments for Councilmember Paul Koretz presented a certificate of appreciation to the parish. Remarks were delivered by Andy Armenian and Fr. Vahan, expressing gratitude to the Prelate for presiding over the celebration and thanking all for their hard work and participation.