New York St. Vartan’s Cathedral at 45 years

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New York St. Vartan’s Cathedral celebrates 45 years with a special programme

It was an inspiring day, historic as well as futuristic, as more than 200 parishioners and friends gathered in Haik and Alice Kavookjian Auditorium on Sunday, September 15 to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the consecration of St. Vartan Cathedral in New York.

The event took place following the celebration of the badarak by the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), Archbishop Kahajag Barsamian on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The names of more than 150 departed St. Vartan godfathers and Cathedral Project committee members were read in a special requiem service during the services.

In his homily, the Primate recounted the spiritual importance and symbolism of the cathedral-not only for the Armenian community, also for Americans who have come to pray and light candles throughout countless occasions. He especially singled out the tragic day of September 11, 2001, when hundreds of people entered the sanctuary to find solace and comfort in the wake of the terrorist attack on New York.

The Primate also expressed great appreciation to the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II for his gift to the Eastern Diocese of the 1500-year-old relic of St. Vartan the Brave, in honor of this 45th anniversary. The precious relic, a piece of stone encrusted with the blood of St. Vartan, is encased in a hand-crafted silver cross, which was sanctified in Etchmiadzin in a special ceremony in late August, and brought to St. Vartan Cathedral. It was unveiled for the first time on Sunday in a procession led by members of the Knights of Vartan.

Mistress of Ceremonies Arpine Barseghian, a medical student, speaking in English and Armenian, introduced the keynote speaker: Mark Movsesian, Professor of Law at St. John's University, and an authority on the nexus of law and religion.

In an inspiring address, Movsesian related that this cathedral which was consecrated by the late Catholicos of All Armenians Vasken I "required vision, skill and courage, and has been part of the fabric of this city." Modeled in part on the ancient St. Hripsime Church in Armenia, it is not only a "monument to antiquity, but a living spiritual and cultural center."

He recounted many milestones that have taken place in the cathedral, including the liturgical celebrations, events for young people, families, and the elderly, musical performances, art exhibitions, spiritual and educational workshops and ecumenical gatherings.

Dedicated to Vartan the Brave whom, in preserving Christianity for Armenia, achieved a "moral victory," the history of St. Vartan "resonates with the concept of religious liberty that is so fundamental to American culture-the arguments of waves of immigrants who came here," he continued. "Many of these immigrants came so that they could worship God free from state compulsion."

The name of St. Vartan is a reminder that in other parts of the world, especially in Syria today, Armenians "continue to pay a price for their faith," Movsesian declared. "We must do what we can to help our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their religion - our religion-and welcome them as our ancestors did. May the cathedral be a symbol of hope for them."

To the delight of the audience, St. Vartan Armenian School students Erik Assatryan, Valentina Assatryan, Marar Makarian, Ariana Pamoukian and Jano Tokatiyan recited several beloved Armenian poems in clear and proud voices.

Violinist Sami Mardinian and pianist Riko Higuma offered selections from Komitas, Khachaturian and Edgar Baghdasarian.

A video presentation was shown outlining the cathedral building's history and consecration, produced by Artur Petrosyan and narrated by the Diocesan Communications director Chris Zakian.

Closing the memorable evening, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian recalled the powerful "I Have a Dream" speech of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. "This dream became a reality for us in this country of equality and opportunity. The dream of the Armenian immigrants-60, 70, 80 years ago-became a reality. Here, we welcomed the first ambassador of a free Armenia, and here we now see the young people reciting in Armenian."

That was the dream of those who built this cathedral, and "we express our deep appreciation to them. The dream now is to see that the younger generation feels proud of their identity," the Primate stated. "It's our mission to keep the dream alive now and in the future." Expressing appreciation to the members of the Commemoration Committee, and to Ambassador Nazarian who "represents for us the strength of our country," the Primate declared, "May the ties between Armenia and the diaspora always and forever grow stronger."

The closing prayer by Archbishop Yeghishe Gizirian, and the singing of the Hayr Mer by all present closed a memorable day of reflection and gratitude.

The Commemoration Committee was under the auspices of the Primate, and under the direction of the Cathedral Dean, Very Rev. Fr. Mamigon Kiledjian. Committee members included Paul and Berta Zakian, co-chairs; Araks Yeramyan Andrews, Talene Baroyan, Sona Haratunian, Kevork Kevin Niksarli,M.D., Shoghik Oganesyan, Avedis Ohannessian and Vartges Saroyan.

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Kevin Niksarli
Manhattan Lasik
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