After a brief introduction of the masters of ceremony — seminarian Gregory Andonian and Harvard University graduate student Anoush Varjabedian — Diocesan Council Chairman Oscar Tatosian gave the toast celebrating the 40th anniversary of the cathedral. “I look at the cathedral and see our past as well as our future. The cathedral has 1,700 years of history and sacrifice and determination,” said Tatosian, who stressed that Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, Eastern, is an inspiring leader and tireless worker.
Armen Martirossian, Armenia’s ambassador to the United Nations, said the foresight of the Armenian community made it possible to erect a symbol of Armenian faith in New York City.
“Today’s event is an opportunity to commend the wisdom and virtues of the founding fathers of the cathedral,” said Martirossian, paying tribute to the previous generations who made the existence of the cathedral possible.
The Shushi Armenian Dance Ensemble of St. Vartan Cathedral performed five traditional dances under the leadership of Seta Paskalian-Kantardjian, artistic director and choreographer.
In his message and benediction, Barsamian said everyone was gathered as one Armenian Christian family, and expressed his appreciation to Chevian and 40th anniversary committee co-chairs, Lynn Beylerian, and Sandra Leitner, for organizing the event.
The Primate also thanked the three godfathers of the cathedral who were present, including Nazar Nazarian, Vahan Najarian and Alex Dadourian, and gave them a crystal plaque of St. Vartan Cathedral.
“This cathedral, from its very inception, was meant to unite all our people and to serve as a national home and testimony to Armenians in the country,” said Barsamian, noting that building the cathedral was a great milestone in the life of the Armenian- American community. The Primate added that the builders of the cathedral set their sights on the future, and “St. Vartan Cathedral is the expression of their profound faith and vision for the future.”
Tying in that St. Vartan Cathedral has been a center of spiritual and cultural activities, Barsamian recognized four honorees for their dedication to the Armenian Church and their accomplishments in the performing arts. Lucine Amara, Kay Armen, Anahid Ajemian and Lili Chookasian were honored with a medal and Pontifical Encyclical from the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin.
“Each of these individuals has been involved in the cathedral since the very beginning,” said Barsamian. “As a community, we all felt a part of their great artistic achievement.”
Blessing of Muron
A total of 66 young people from 43 parishes in the Eastern Diocese traveled to New York to participate in Sunday’s service. The representatives were presented with vessels containing the Holy Muron to carry back to their home parishes. Following a solemn procession through the cathedral, each youth representative approached the altar and received the Holy Muron from the Primate.
The Muron — a mixture of olive oil, balm and extracts from 40 different plants and flowers — was blessed by Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, at the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin on Sunday, September 28. Pilgrims from the Eastern Diocese, including members of the Diocesan Council, traveled to Armenia to take part in the blessing ceremony.
After it is blessed, the Muron is distributed to every Diocese of the Armenian Church, which in turn distributes the Muron to all local parishes for use in baptisms, ordinations and consecrations. In the Eastern Diocese, youth representatives were invited to receive and carry the Muron to local churches. It was in this spirit of commemorating the past and celebrating the future that the Diocese marked the 40th anniversary of St. Vartan Cathedral.
“It’s a huge honor to be a part of the process of bringing the oil that connects Armenia to my home parish in Chicago,” said Mark Berberian, a representative of St. Gregory the Illuminator Church.
Parish representatives arrived in New York on Saturday to prepare for Sunday’s celebration. They toured St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, met with the Primate and had the opportunity to take part in an evening of fellowship.
“These are wonderful new leaders of our parishes and our Diocese,” the Primate said. “I feel proud of them, and I trust them because they are dedicated and they are very committed to continuing the mission of the Armenian Church.”