On the evening of Friday, January 6, 2017, the annual Prelate’s New Year and Christmas Dinner brought together six hundred guests who had gathered at Holy Cross Cathedral’s “Bagramian” Hall for a traditional Christmas celebration and at the same time to lend their valuable support and encouragement of the Prelacy’s endeavors and mission. The time-honored event is held annually under the auspices and leadership of H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate, and by the united efforts of the Religious and Executive Councils and Ladies Auxiliary.
Among this year’s guests were Counsellor of the Consulate General of Armenia Mr. Razmik Stepanyan, Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Armenia in Fresno Mr. Berj Apkarian, Central Executive member Mr. Khajag Dikijian, ARF Western Region Central Committee Chair and members, Clergy, Religious and Executive Council members, California State Senator Anthony Portantino, California State Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian, Glendale City Councilmembers Ara Najarian, Zareh Sinanyan, and Vartan Gharpetian, Montebello City Councilmember Jack Hadjinian and City Treasurer Ashod Mooradian, Board of Trustees members, representatives of sister and community organizations including the Armenian National Committee of America Western Region, Hamazkayin, Homenetmen, Tro Gomideh, Board of Regents, CASPS, Prelacy Schools’ Principals, Asbarez, Armenian American Medical Society, Armenian Jewelers Association, Los Angeles County Commission for Women, Glendale Unified School District Board of Education, the leadership and members of Forest Lawn Memorial Parks, Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital, and Glendale Adventist Hospital, benefactors, sponsors, and friends.
Archpriest Fr. Vazken Atmajian and Miss Zabel Karaghossian served as the Masters of Ceremony. The program began with remarks by Ladies Auxiliary Chair Mrs. Dzovig Zetlian, who on behalf of her fellow Committee members welcomed the guests. “Each year we strive to maintain the family atmosphere and Armenian spirit of this event, with our ethnic foods, cultural performances, and traditional exchange of wishes, and this year is no different,” stated Mrs. Zetlian, and wished a pleasant evening and a happy New Year to all.
An air of tranquility came over the dimmed hall, illuminated solely by candlelight, as the Prelate and clergy procession entered the hall with candles in hand chanting Christmas hymns announcing the Birth of our Lord. Guests followed the poignant ceremony intently as the Gospel account of Christ’s Birth was read. The tatakh ceremony followed, a ceremony where guests at each table consumed a morsel of consecrated bread dipped in wine, after which the Prelate delivered the invocation.
Miss Zabel Karaghossian conveyed her greetings, first giving thanks for the privilege of serving as one of the MC’s, and then sharing her thoughts on the Armenian celebration of Christmas on January 6, s stating, “As Armenians we are at a great advantage to celebrate the Birth and Revelation of Our Lord on January 6. The month of December is overwhelmed by the commercialization of Christmas. When the commotion ends as we enter the New Year, and as January 6 approaches, Armenians around the world are given the opportunity to truly focus on the holiness of Christ’s Birth. As I pondered on the Nativity story, what stood out to me was faith, hope, and love. These three words encapsulate the message and spirit of Christmas, and are key to understanding and living a Christian life. Thus, my wish is for us all to be led by the virtues of faith, hope, and love, to leave behind our troubles in the past, and for the joy, light, and peace of the Christmas Spirit to illuminate our hearts and souls all the days of the New Year.”
Guests then turned their attention to the screens to view the message of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I. His Holiness greeted the Prelate, Councils, and guests, and conveyed his blessings and well wishes to all. Our Pontiff commended the endeavors of the Western Prelacy, which he stated that he joyfully witnessed during his recent visit, and urged for the mission of faith and nationalistic service to continue with the same devotion and conviction under the leadership of the Prelate, with the collaboration of the clergy and Executive Council, and with the participation of the faithful. Next, His Holiness emphasized the invaluable role of the church and the importance of engaging our youth in the life of the church, stating, “The Church must be a constant presence in the life of the people. Drawing in our youth and keeping alive our religious values and traditions is the responsibility of all, and Christian Education is essential in this mission. His Holiness concluded by inviting the guests to follow in the example of our Lord Jesus Christ in our lives and in our service, and to emulate the faith of our forefathers, and wished for a New Year filled with divine blessings, prosperity, and joy.
During the dinner service, guests enjoyed a traditional Armenian Christmas meal and had the opportunity to mingle and exchange well wishes to friends and loved ones. The festive atmosphere was further enlivened with beloved traditional Armenian songs performed by the Greg Hosharian Quintet and Christmas hymns by Mr. Berj Kirazian, Honorary Artist of the Republic of Armenia, who was accompanied on the piano by Sophie Sarkisyan.
Later in the program, Fr. Vazken acknowledged two important milestones the Prelate celebrated last year, his 40th anniversary of ordination into the priesthood and 20th anniversary of his election as Prelate, and saluted his faithful and selfless service, meritorious leadership, and hard work for the advancement of our church and community.
Thereafter, the Prelate was invited to deliver his message and blessings, which he began by commending the two MC’s, the Ladies Auxiliary, staff, and program participants. His Eminence greeted all and conveyed his well wished for a happy and bright year, and then expressed his gratitude to His Holiness Catholicos Aram I for his message and blessings and for appointing two young members of the Brotherhood, Very Rev. Father Dajad Ashekian and Very Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian, to serve within our Prelacy, and announced that soon we will have two more members of the Brotherhood joining our mission.
The Prelate thanked all the guests for their attendance and encouragement, and especially Mr. and Mrs. Sarkis and Nune Sepetjian for their allocation of $100,000 as the main hosts of the dinner, Dr. and Mrs. Scott and Jane Asmar for their $100,000 pledge in support of our Christian Education Department, youth activities, and programs for needy students, and Mr. and Mrs. Vahan and Anoush Chamlian who on the occasion of our Pontiff’s visit donated $100,000 to the Holy See, our Prelacy, and their namesake school. His Eminence invited the three families to the podium to receive plaques in appreciation for their generosity. He was joined by Executive Council members Mr. Antranik Kasbarian, Mr. Avo Kechichian, and Dr. Kaloust Agopian.
Continuing his message the Prelate reflected on the endeavors of the previous year, the highlight of which was the visit of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his enthronement, which alongside being an occasion for celebration served as an impetus to renew our pledge to faithfully serve our church and nation. Speaking on our Pontiff’s “Year of Renewal” proclamation, the Prelate emphasized that the proclamation is an invitation to all, as individuals and as part of the collective, to improve upon past achievements and commit ourselves to serving with renewed drive and resolve. His Eminence tied in the “Year of Renewal” proclamation with the message of renewal brought by the Birth of our Lord, stating that on that holy night millennia ago, God became man in the form of the Baby Jesus and ushered in new life for mankind.
The Prelate reflected on his election to a sixth term as Prelate by the Representatives Assembly, for which he gave thanks, and on the election of new Religious and Executive Councils, which launched a new term of service with new energies, new drive, and new plans, building on the progress of the previous administration. Turning to the coming year’s plans and the expanding mission of our Prelacy, the Prelate gave thanks for the collaboration and support of our community organizations and institutions that stand beside the Prelacy in its vast mission., stating, “We can achieve so much more when we combine our efforts, when we join hands and resources, and above all, in the words of the Apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians, when all that we do is done with love (1 Corinthians 16:14).”
Thus, the Prelate urged for continued collaborative efforts to meet the needs not only of our local community, but those of our brothers and sisters in Armenia, Artsakh, Syria, and Aleppo especially, to reclaim the Catholicosate of Sis, to bring to fruition the Armenian American Museum and Cultural Center in Glendale, construction projects at Mary Cabayan Elementary School in North Hills, to assist our North Hollywood and Crescenta Valley parishes in attaining their own churches, and more, and called on each and every person in attendance to reaffirm their commitment to joining forces for the good of the collective, in the words of St. Paul to Titus, “to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men (Titus 3:1-2).”
In conclusion, His Eminence once again conveyed his best wishes to all, praying for the New Year to bring goodness and peace for the Armenian nation, and for the spirit of love and harmony to take hold in the hearts of all and in the hearts of our world leaders so that all peoples can live among one another in peace, mutual respect, and brotherhood.
The evening concluded with the Prelate’s benediction, Cilicia, the Pontifical anthem, and the national anthem of the Republic of Armenia.