His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan, Prelate, addressed the National Representative Assembly held on May 18-20 at Sts. Vartanantz Church of Providence, RI, urging the Prelacy and the parishes to be guided in the new term by the cardinal virtues of faith, hope, and love. In his message, he also mentioned the pontifical visit of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I to the jurisdiction of the Prelacy in the Eastern United States. Considering the challenging situation of many faithful in these years of turmoil, Archbishop Anoushavan also called to extend throughout the parishes under his leadership a provision for charity and charitable giving in their annual budgets, something that has already been practiced for years by some Pastors. Below is the full text of the Prelate’s address:
I would like to greet you all in the providential city of Providence, RI, where we are gathered as a large family of the Eastern Prelacy, under the jurisdiction of the Holy See of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, to evaluate our annual cooperation and to explore new avenues in strengthening our mission for the revitalization of our communities unto the glory of Almighty God.
On this occasion, I would like to thank the Almighty Lord for providing us with bounties from which our brothers and sisters in other countries are often deprived. I would like to express my filial respect to our Catholicos, His Holiness Aram I, whose leadership at this critical period of history is indeed praiseworthy. My heartfelt gratitude goes to all my colleagues, the Religious and Executive Councils, the Prelacy staff, the Pastors, the NRA Delegates, the Boards of Trustees, and church Auxiliary Bodies, as well as our partners, the Sister Organizations, and the Faithful at large, for their superb collaboration as part and parcel of the revitalization of hye gyank —Armenian life in the Eastern region of the United States.
During the 1920s, in the aftermath of a series of massacres and deportations, Armenians arrived in the New World with the resolution to reconstitute the life that had been destroyed through genocide. These brave immigrants built churches across the United States, and a sense of community was established based upon the cardinal virtues of Christianity: Havadk – Faith, Hooys – Hope, Ser – Love. Today, the descendants of the immigrants continue to shoulder the responsibilities of maintaining the existing community structures and propelling a new generation to expand and to elevate our common dedication to the Armenian Church and to our national identity.
This year, 2023, coincides with the 850th anniversary of the passing of Catholicos Nerses the Graceful. Also, for the second time in a row, the year has been proclaimed “the Year of Diaspora” by His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, who will graciously pay a pontifical visit to the Eastern Prelacy in October and November. Also considering the Executive Council’s theme for this year, “Strong Faith, Stronger Communities and Nation,” I would like to liven up this marvelous year with the three cardinal virtues of Faith, Hope and Love, which are the prerogatives of Christendom and Armenian Church life.
Faith is the authentic response and commitment of rational beings to the Divine providential care to learn and grow in His way and enjoy abundant life with Him and through Him.
The Armenian Church is privileged to have among her Catholicoi Saint Nerses the Graceful, whose vitae and works would be regarded as a supreme blessing for any Christian denomination. His saintly life, uplifting spiritual literature, and sublime diplomacy to create mutual understanding and respect among Christians are phenomenal. His prayer, “I Confess in Faith,” has been translated into 36 languages, and is the best testimony of his universal character reflecting the deep bond between the heavenly, merciful Father and us, sinful mortals. This great Church Father refers to the early stage of the Diaspora reality in his Pastoral Letter, named «Թուղթ Ընդհանրական». In his own words, living in Cilicia, far from the Homeland, but embracing the Christ-centered Faith, like St. Gregory the Illuminator, Saints Sahag and Mesrob, and St. Krikor Naregatzi, he thought and acted, prayed and created accordingly as a champion of Dialogue, Unity, and Peace.
Today, we who are the heirs of a glorious legacy, residing in a worldwide Diaspora, as long as we stay faithful to our Armenian Christian Identity, anchored in our Faith, and inspired by the heroic and sacrificial love of our ancestors and martyrs, we will surely hear the Divine voice regardless of time and geographical location, “Do not be afraid, little flock,” for the Lord promised to be with us, He who conquered Death and taught us the True Way leading to Life.
Hope, when paired with Faith, is the most powerful supply of energy to assist us to go through and to come out of any personal or collective crises.
This year, we will be blessed with the Pontifical visit of His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia. His Holiness wishes to visit all our communities, regardless of size or location. Following the global threat of Covid-19, as well as the incredible devastation in Artsakh and Armenia, in Lebanon and Syria, Catholicos Aram will bring hope to us all. In 1979, His Holiness manifested the spirit of true leadership as a young Prelate by strengthening the hope of his flock throughout the darkest days of the civil war in Lebanon. In 1995, as a young Pontiff, he galvanized the hopes of all those who are affiliated with the Holy See of Cilicia at a time of uncertainty for her continuity. In 1998, as a young moderator of the World Council of Churches, he refreshed hope in the Redeemer at a critical juncture of the split of member churches. In 2015, in Washington D.C., His Holiness solemnly trumpeted the undeniable just cause of the Armenian Genocide.
Now, during his planned visit in 2023, His Holiness, a staunch champion of Faith on Armenian as well as on international levels, will generate a new dimension of hope to overcome our existential struggle and to reorganize our communities hailing a stronger future. We are well aware that the entire world in general and we Armenians in particular are crossing a stormy time in history. We all need a refreshing boost to continue our journey in the Diaspora and to be beacon to all children of our nation who are experiencing different degrees of hopelessness. It is an opportunity for us to re-energize our Hope intermingled with Faith in God, in our nation’s aspirations, and in the unshakable trust in values upon which society has been founded, and most especially, here in our blessed Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
People may interpret love in various ways by looking through their own lenses, be it emotionally, poetically, rhetorically, philosophically, etc. From a Christian perspective, Love is the gravity law of Creation. Saint Paul, exposing this truth, says “Love is God” (1 John 4:7), while Nerses Shnorhali complementing, says, “Love, moved by love, sent Love to the world.” Indeed, love brings life, light, and hope there, where death, darkness, and hopelessness prevail. Anchored in Faith and Hope in Christ, Love surely will enable us to navigate through all challenges the world presents to us.
As much as Love mirrors the very essence of Almighty God through His Creation, the Redemption of mankind, and His Providential care, Love also reflects our response toward the Divine sacred initiation. Love has been made manifest through martyrdom for Faith, starting with the Protodeacon and Protomartyr Saint Stephen. It has been revealed through charity when in the early Churches collections in one community were aimed at helping other communities. It has been demonstrated in support of noble causes, such as when King Vramshabouh financed the mission of the invention of the Armenian alphabet in the fifth century through the royal treasury or when nobles and people from different walks of life sponsored the writing of manuscripts and building of churches.
Charity has been one of the characteristics of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America since her inception. Only Omniscient God knows how much charity has been poured out to reach our brothers and sisters living in the Middle East and Armenia. At each natural catastrophe or socio-political and economic crisis, our communities have spontaneously and generously reached out, comforting them by bringing hope to their shattered lives.
Time and circumstances always teach us to reshape and reorganize ourselves for a better future. Hence, we must make every effort to restructure this most precious and Cardinal Virtue to strengthen ourselves as local communities for the betterment of the global Armenian community.
Throughout the years, I have heard from different pastors, and I have experienced during my own pastoral service, that there are needy not only overseas, but within our own bosom. The sad stories we should mention here are but a few of the countless examples of charity extended in our local communities. I have heard of families who were threatened to be thrown out into the streets by their landlords if they did not pay their past-due rents. In other cases, families who have confronted critical health situations, which have required enormous expenses, have requested in despair the help of the church. Churches have also received calls from funeral homes to cover the expenses for the casket and burial expenses for individuals, totally unknown, simply by the virtue of their last name ending in “-ian.” Pastors have quietly done their best to address these emergencies.
Forgive me if I elaborate a little bit more on this point. During my 18 years of service at the Prelacy as Vicar and then as Prelate, whenever an appeal has gone for an urgent charity fundraising, except in a few instances, we have been totally dependent upon parishioners or friends’ donations, without hardly any contribution by the church as an institution. Moreover, often several reminders are needed for the donation to come through to the Prelacy. The delay in transfer is detrimental to the charitable efficiency of the original donation.
Therefore, I would like to share a pragmatic concept with you. Gladly, this has been practiced already by a few Pastors and Boards of Trustees by incorporating a provision for charity and charitable giving in their annual budgets. What I would like to propose is to turn this practice into a systematic approach throughout our Prelacy. To add one item of Charity to our annual church budget, regardless of the amount, would mirror the essence of our identity and mission as a faith-based extended family. By adopting this policy, we would be able:
- To put love into action;
- To reach out to all those who unexpectedly knock on the door of our churches as the last resort of their hope;
- To support families who are short in financing the tuition of their children’s higher education;
- To encourage our youth to participate more in community-building programs;
- To reach out beyond our borders promptly whenever there is an urgent appeal.
Incarnated love is the source of Strength, Joy, and Prosperity, both on individual and collective levels. The more we give, the more we are identified as the children of Almighty God, whose visible and invisible bounties shower upon us all.
Anchored in strong Faith, Hope, and Love, we become Stronger Communities and Nation. We become the authentic heirs of five thousand years of legacy full of Divine blessing; finally, we become a strong link between our ancestors and the generations to come for the progress of mankind, the perpetuity of the Armenian nation, and for the glory of the Almighty Lord.