Armenian News Network / Groong

Greetings from the Homeland

Armenian News Network / Groong
August 22, 2012

Travel Wire
By Ruth Bedevian

    I have lost count, but it is well over a dozen trips since Armenia
    gained Independence in 1991. Upon each visit I encounter fresh
    experiences and gain greater understanding and knowledge of my
    ancestral homeland. I am privileged to share them.

July 1, 2012

Instead of attending Liturgy in Etchmiadzin today, we took a 20- minute cab ride to Jrvezh. It is a charming town on the outskirts of Yerevan. Believe it or not, this has been the first time in Yerevan that we have worshipped among the local people outside of Etchmiadzin. I had visited Jrvezh in 2005, but had not attended Liturgy; thus I kept a promise to myself to return. Since there are many miles separating us, my reflections, I hope will inspire you. Armenians are returning to the fullness of their religious heritage and effectively erasing the negative results of Soviet suppression of religion.

Sourp Catholicate, Jrvezh Armenia - During Soviet Era, used as a warehouse
Sourp Catholicate, Jrvezh Armenia
During Soviet Era used as a warehouse

Ruth Bedevian

Earlier arrivals have filled the front pews of Sourp Catholicate, but the faithful still keep coming - by public buses and vans, private cars, and by foot. The community spans age groups as there are aging grandparents, middle-aged men and women, teenagers, and young married couples holding their toddlers' hands. Several fathers carry their sleeping newborns in their arms. They are eagerly congregating at the doors of Sourp Catholicate and exactly at 11.00 AM the liturgy begins. A distinct variation for a visitor from the USA, the liturgy begins with the general confession.

We find seating in the few pews at the entrance, but multitudes stand in front of us throughout the morning's worship. Not used to covering my head, I am embarrassed as I observe every woman's head is covered with a scarf. Understanding that I am a foreign visitor, the lady sitting next to me hospitably covers my head with her own scarf and then opens the palm of her hand, offering me incense. As Father Guregh, deacons and acolytes approach during the procession, there is a gentle urgency among the faithful to kiss the cross. Others place the incense in the bag the deacon is carrying and I follow the custom and place my borrowed treasure along with many who are also placing their written prayer notes.

The multitudes obscure our view of the choir, but voices rise robustly. They are familiar to me as I have listened often to the CD that Father Guregh had managed to record a few years prior. The believers genuflect to the call, "Let us bow down to the Lord". It is a holy scene as they touch the stone flooring, kiss the three fingers of their right hands and make the sign of the cross.

The Kiss of Peace is an exhilarating medley - of joy, affection, fellowship, welcome. I am caught up in it and spontaneously offer the traditional greeting to my neighbors while physically embracing them as they embrace me and one another.

The hour for Holy Communion arrives and Father Guregh gently, but firmly instructs us: You must be baptized. You must truly believe this is the body of blood of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. You must have peace in your family life and with your neighbor to be worthy to participate. It takes almost one hour for Father Guregh to give Communion.

Just imagine. This church was used as a storage building during 70 years of Soviet rule!

* * * * *

20th AUA Graduation
AUA Graduation - 20th anniversary
Jubilant AUA Grads' Finale to Commencement
June 23, 2012

How privileged we are to have been invited to the graduation ceremonies of American University of Armenia (AUA). It's hard to put into words - and you know how I can use words - to relate to you the pride I felt to be part of a global family that is helping our ancestral homeland stand up tall after centuries of domination and near annihilation a century ago!. Armenia is beginning to smile again.

Over 170 graduate degrees were award in seven disciplines. What jubilation we witnessed as the mortarboards soared into air at the finale of the ceremonies! Hope arose in me, as I am sure it did in others, that these young people - all bi-lingual and many tri or quarto-lingual - will soon render their talents and education for the betterment of life in Armenia and on the world's stage.

There were two graduation speakers - a young man spoke in English and a young woman spoke in Armenian. Both put forth stirring messages of hope for a brighter Armenia. Gratitude filled me for the founders of AUA and their vision.

I am awed by the progress in 20 short years! For your information, no eligible student will be turned down for lack of funds. Starting in 2013, AUA will offer undergraduate degrees. See photo attached and do, please, check out the AUA website at:

* * * * *

June 28, 2012

Komitas - Charents Museum of Arts and Literature
Komitas - Charents Museum of Arts and Literature
Gift of grand piano to Komitas Vartabed from Alexander
Mantashian, noble philantropist
Ahh! Would I not attempt a visit to a museum? Today Gohar joined me and we walked across Republic Square and entered through the large arch to the Charents Museum of Literature and Arts. Established during the Soviet Era (1954) as a museum, it has grown into an impressive research center, where the archives of more than 600 Armenian authors, playwrights and musicians are presently housed. By 1967 the name was officially changed to honor the brilliant poet, Yeghishe Charents, who died in prison under mysterious circumstances during the Stalin purges of the late 1930s.

We were warmly greeted by David Petrossian who is the Manager of the Scientific Exhibition Department. He explained that drafts and original writings are preserved in the institution for researchers.

Many photographs, posters, theatrical costumes and props and some personal artifacts of these artists are also owned by the museum. "The Matenadaran," he clarified for us, "is the archival institution of manuscripts dated through the 18th century whereas the Charents Museum of Literature and Art covers the 19th century to modern day." The oldest book in its possession, however, is dated 1513.

He cordially invited us into the exhibition hall which is used for events and this is where we encountered a wonderful treat - the artifacts of Komitas Vartabed! The personal piano of Komitas Vartabed was the focal point of the room - a gift from Alexander Mantashian, the great philanthropist. His biography deserves full attention for another day. Mantashian's vision and generosity supported the education of Komitas and many other worthy contributors to Armenian cultural life. On occasion the piano is played for very special events. Mr. Petrossian generously allowed me to take photos to share. I am awed to think that this treasure is but walking distance across Republic Square from the Marriott and in countless visits to Yerevan, I had missed its existence. I hope that you will visit and see for yourselves someday, but in the meantime enjoy the photos.

* * * * *

July 30, 2012

Mer Hooys Board Members and Friends with HH Karekin II
Nakashian Children's Support Center and
Mer Hooys Board Members and Friends with
HH Karekin II
The Mer Hooys (Our Hope/House of Hope) group is here from California. Lynn Nakashian came down from Vanadzor to be with the group. She is working with a Fuller House group from Minnesota. She is also a member of the Mer Hooys Advisory Board.

I am very happy that Sarkis and I are present for the dedication of the building that Lynn's parents and uncle, John and Arpine Nakashian, and Jack Nakashian, of Fair Lawn, NJ, donated to the Holy See of Etchmiadzin. With this gift they have memorialized their parents who were orphaned during the Genocide. It will provide a healthy home environment for Armenia's disadvantaged young women.

Before the traditional home blessing took place, Lynn remembered her late parents and uncle for their vision and honored them. She also thanked His Holiness Karekin II for supporting the Mer Hooys program which the Western Diocese of the USA created. Its mission is to provide teen-aged girls advanced levels of training and education in languages, life and social skills, the arts, and other areas to augment their basic state-provided education. Unfortunately teenage girls who age-out of their orphanages are vulnerable to homelessness and human trafficking. Mer Hooys' mission is to provide training and transition for the girls to enter mainstream living to avoid such pitfalls. Adrienne Krikorian chairs the Board of Directors of Mer Hooys. In professional life, she is an Administrative Law Judge in the area of Special Education in the state of California. She said to the initial 20 residents and more than 120 invited guests, "You can be a doctor, lawyer, teacher - anything you dream. Our hope is that with your hard work and commitment and our support, you will receive the foundation at Mer Hooys to achieve your dreams."

Residents letting loose their 'notes of hope' in balloons
Residents letting loose their
'notes of hope' in balloons
The Arabkir Youth Center is right next door so the girls will have opportunities to develop their talents in an array of skills. Most importantly, because Mer Hooys and the Youth Centers are under the supervision of the Holy See, the girls will benefit from spiritual support and religious education. Several representatives from international support organizations with bases in Armenia like Unicef, World Vision, Project Harmony International, and the United States Peace Corps, attended the dedication because they are partnering with Mer Hooys.

Bishop Moushegh Babayan, liaison of the Mother See to Mer Hooys, presided over the traditional house blessing and Very Rev. Komitas Vardapet Hovnanyan, spiritual head of the Holy Mother See's youth centers was also present. Afterwards, we enjoyed a tour of the home and a buffet dinner. The evening climaxed with the Mer Hooys girls writing their wishes and dreams on paper angels, tying them to balloons and releasing them into the heavens! It was an outward and visible sign of everyone's inward hopes. Do read more about the program at their website - very professionally done.

Paree Kisher (Good Night!)

 Ruth Bedevian on all photographs on this page.

Ruth Bedevian continues her visits in Armenia. Many of her articles are at:
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