Prelate Lectures on the Canonization of Armenian Genocide Martyrs

On Sunday, February 22, 2015, H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate, presided over Divine Liturgy and delivered the sermon at the Armenian Apostolic Church of Crescenta Valley. Following the service, by the invitation of the parish Educational Committee, the Prelate delivered a lecture on the canonization of Armenian Genocide martyrs.

The day began with Divine Liturgy celebrated by parish pastor Rev. Fr. Ghevont Kirazian. By the ordinance of the Prelate and at the request of the Armenian Relief Society Regional Executive, on this day requiem prayers were offered in Prelacy Churches in memory of departed ARS members and sponsors.

Near the conclusion of the service, on behalf of the parish family, Fr. Ghevont welcomed the Prelate and wished for God to bless him with many years of good health and leadership of the Western Prelacy. He then invited the Prelate to deliver the sermon.

His Eminence began by explaining the meaning and message of each Sunday of Great Lent, then focused on the message of that day, Sunday of the Expulsion, which recounts the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. Last Sunday, on the eve of Great Lent, we celebrated the good life that Adam and Eve enjoyed in Paradise in the presence of God. This Sunday, we recall the consequences when they disobeyed God’s commandment, said the Prelate. However, it was not the will of our merciful Lord for man to live a life apart from Him, for man to be consumed with sin and death. And so, God opened the path for our return to Him, He gives us the opportunity for redemption, through sincere repentance and confession, concluded the Prelate.
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His Eminence then conveyed his message to the Armenian Relief Society commending the organization’s invaluable contributions to our nation in the past 105 years and praying for the souls of the departed to rest in peace. The service came to a close with the requiem. Guests enjoyed a reception prepared by the parish Ladies Guild, after which they took their seats at the “Dikran and Zarouhie Der Ghazarian” Hall for the Prelate’s lecture.

Parish Board of Trustees Chair and Master of Ceremonies Mr. Dikran Der Sarkissian welcomed the guests and invited violinist Ophelia Nanakoulian and pianist Shoushan Hagopian to present two musical selections. He then invited the Prelate to deliver his presentation. His Eminence first commended the Parish Pastor, Board of Trustees, and Educational Committee for their hard work in organizing the monthly lecture series, and then began his lecture, giving unique insight to the guests as a member of the Canonization Committee.

The Prelate began by noting that preliminary discussions to canonize the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide began twenty-five years ago, on the 75th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, by His Holiness Vazken I and His Holiness Karekin II of blessed memory. At the time, Archbishop Zareh Aznavorian of blessed memory composed the hymn dedicated to the martyrs, which the Prelate read passages from. The hymn memorializes our martyrs who shed their blood for the preservation of our Christian faith, our Armenian identity, and our religious and cultural treasures.

His Eminence spoke about the two Bishops’ Synods that were held in Etchmiadzin in 2013 and 2014, stating that one of the issues discussed was whether the martyrs should be canonized as individuals or collectively. After lengthy deliberations, the Canonization Committee had decided that at this stage, the martyrs would be canonized collectively, as the 1036 martyrs of the Vartanants battle were. The Committee had also prepared the declaration, the martyrology, and the procedure for the ceremony, which were presented and approved by the Bishops’ Synod. Archbishop Zareh’s Hymn Dedicated to the Martyrs of April was also adopted for the ceremony, which will be conducted on April 23 in Etchmiadzin by H.H. Karekin II, Catholicos of all Armenians, and H.H. Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia.

The Prelate explained the various conditions required for canonization; a virtuous life, the embodiment of Christian virtues and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, martyrdom as a profession of faith, the presence of miracles during their life, the incorruptibility of relics, thaumaturgical power of relics, reveal signs of God’s authority in response to prayers for intercession by faithful, and witnessing for the spread of the Christian faith, for the defense of the church and the Orthodox tenet, and for God’s Word. In the past, said His Eminence, people have been regarded as saints for miracles performed during their lifetime, while in the case of others, their relics have been found by future generations by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There are also martyrs who were proclaimed saints by Catholicoi, or who were honored with special feast days.

In the last part of this lecture, His Eminence explained that status of our martyrs post-canonization. He first clarified that we do not worship saints, we seek their intercession. Also, upon canonization, we will no longer offer requiem prayers for them, instead they will be remembered during Divine Liturgy.

A question and answer session followed and the event came to a close with the benediction.

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