Prelate and Western Prelacy Delegation and Pilgrims Participate in Blessing of Holy Muron and Special Events in Lebanon


The weekend of July 18, 2015 was a historic one for the greater family of the Holy See of Cilicia filled with poignant religious and cultural events dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the highlight of which was the blessing of Holy Muron by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia.

The events commenced on the morning of Saturday, July 18 with the inauguration of the Armenian Genocide Orphans “Aram Bezikian” Museum at the Bird’s Nest Orphanage in Jbeil. The blessing of Muron was conducted in the evening in front of the Genocide memorial monument within the courtyard of St. Mary Monastery in Bikfaya. During Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning His Holiness conducted the blessing of water with the newly blessed Muron, which was followed by an Ecumenical Service. The weekend’s ceremonies culminated with a concert dedicated to the legacy of Armenian Genocide martyrs held in the courtyard of St. Mary Monastery in Bikfaya.

A delegation from the Western Prelacy, headed by H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate, participated in the ceremonies. The group included clergy members, Executive Council members, sponsors, and pilgrims.

Below we present an overview of the ceremonies:

INAUGURATION OF “ARAM BEZIKIAN” MUSEUM

On the morning of Saturday July 18, His Holiness Aram I inaugurated the newly established “Aram Bezikian” Museum at the Bird’s Nest Orphanage in Jibeil. Official guests included heads of Churches, ecumenical representatives, Prelates of Catholicosate of Cilicia Prelacies, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai of Lebanon, Diaspora Minister Mrs. Hranush Hakopyan, Mr. Ziad Hawat, president of the Byblos Municipality and the Bezikian sponsor family.

Mrs. Seta Khedeshian, chiarwoman of Bird’s Nest Board, welcomed the guests then recounted the history of the institution as an orphanage founded by Danish missionaries and explained the purpose of the museum. She then invited benefactor Alecco Bezikian to address the guests. Mr Bezikian spoke of his father, who was one of the thousands of orphans raised in the Birds Nest. He said that supporting the creation of the museum was his way of thanking all those who had served the institution, paying tribute to his father’s memory and remembering the orphans who had been housed and protected there. Mr. Hawat, Mayor of Jbeil, spoke of the impact of the orphanage on the town and promised to incorporate the museum in the program of the Office of Tourism. Speeches continued with messages from Rony Oreiji, Lebanon’s Minister of Culture, and from President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan, read by Mrs. Hranush Hakopyan. Patriarch Rai was then invited to address the guests. The Patriarch, who had also served as the Maronite Bishop of Byblos (Jibeil), described the institution as an integral part of the Lebanese community. He also spoke of his cooperation with His Holiness Aram I to safeguard the integrity of Lebanon. He then reminded the audience that Lebanon had also suffered under the Ottomans and said that today’s events in the Middle East were an unfortunate repetition of that history.

His Holiness Aram I delivered the closing message which he began by first thanking all those who have served the institution or sponsored it and who have helped create the museum. His Holiness declared that the “Aram Bezikian” Museum would also become a center for genocide research, and expressed hope that the Armenian Genocide Centennial commemorative events taking place around the world would renew the commitment of Armenians to the legacy of the victims, by demanding justice and the recognition of the Armenian Genocide from Turkey. “The condemnation of the Genocide by the world community will call the states of the world to work to guarantee that such atrocities never happen again,” said the Catholicos. His Holiness then described the presence of the orphanage in Lebanon as a reminder of the assistance and support given to the Armenians by American, Swiss, and Danish humanitarian organizations, and concluded by stating, “While in Turkey, our people experienced hatred and massacres, in Lebanon they received love and life from the Arab world and the international community. The Birds Nest is one of the institutions that became the source of the renaissance of our people.”

Guests then headed to the museum entrance where His Holiness presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony, after which all reviewed the documents and the photos displayed in the museum.

BLESSING OF HOLY MURON

In the Armenian Church the Holy Muron is prepared and blessed every seven years. The ceremony this year acquired a special meaning for it was dedicated to the 1.5 million martyrs of the Armenian Genocide and symbolized the recommitment of Armenians to the cause of demanding justice on their behalf. The ceremony, which was held on Saturday evening at St. Mary Monastery in Bikfaya, was attended by heads of Churches, ecumenical guests, diplomats, official representatives, pilgrims from different Prelacies in North and South America, Europe, Iran, and the Arab countries, and the faithful in Lebanon.

The ceremony began with a procession towards the Martyrs Monument where the ritual was held. His Holiness Aram I proceeded towards the monument under a canopy held by four laymen who represented the Diaspora. They followed two bishops who carried the case that contains the relic of the right hand of St. Gregory the Illuminator. Four bishops carried containers of the Muron that had been brought from Holy Etchmidadzin, the old Muron from the Catholicosate of Cilicia, and the essence of rose and balsam. Twelve Prelates led the way. Catholicos Aram I was assisted by Prelates of the Prelacies of the Catholicosate of Cilicia, two representatives of the Catholicosate of Holy Etchmiadzin and two representatives from the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The ceremony began with readings from the Bible and special prayers recited by His Holiness and the bishops beseeching the intercession of the Holy Spirit. To the original mixture of oil, spices, herbs and essence of different plants prepared 40 days ago, His Holiness added the essence of rose and the Holy Muron from Etchmiadzin, symbolizing the unity of the Armenian Church. He then added the old Muron, which is the remnant of the healing oil St. Thaddeus brought to Armenia and the Holy Muron which was blessed by St. Gregory the Illuminator. At the end, His Holiness mixed everything in the special cauldron with the relic of the right hand of St. Gregory the Illuminator.

When the Holy Muron was blessed, the message of His Holiness Karekin II was read by the representative of Holy Etchmiadzin. After receiving the message, His Holiness Aram I blessed the people with the relic of St Gregory the Illuminator.

His Holiness then delivered his message, which he began by explaining the special place of the Holy Muron in the Armenian Church: for children to become members of the church, for priests to become ordained and serve the Church. He said that through anointment, the members of the community are strengthened in their faith and are filled with love and hope. “Historically,” he said, “the faith, love and hope of the Holy Muron has always empowered Armenians to endure the dark days of their history, safeguard their identity and rebuild their lives.” He continued, “Within the Armenian Church the Holy Muron has been the bond between the two Holy Sees.” His Holiness concluded, “The blessing of the Holy Muron today, on the 100th Anniversary commemorations of our Genocide is an invitation to our people to deepen their Christian faith, arm themselves in love, and with the power of hope in God continue demanding justice.” The Catholicos then prayed that God might make this day one of a new beginning, spiritually enriching, and nationally strengthening.

DIVINE LITURGY AND ECUMENICAL SERVICE

On the morning of Sunday, July 19, Divine Liturgy was celebrated at St. Gregory the Illuminator Mother Cathedral in Antelias in memory of the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide. His Holiness Aram I presided over the service in the presence of visiting patriarchs, ecumenical and political representatives, Armenian pilgrims arriving from different parts of the world, and local faithful.

His Beatitude Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, gave the message of the day and His Excellency Cardinal Kurt Koch read the message of His Holiness Pope Francis. The two Pontiffs greeted and congratulated His Holiness Aram I and thanked him for inviting sister churches and ecumenical representatives to join the Armenian Church in the commemorative events. They also emphasized the special spiritual meaning of sanctifying the one-and-a-half million victims of the Armenian Genocide.

The Holy Liturgy ended with the Blessing of Water with the new Muron, followed by an ecumenical prayer service in memory of all Christian martyrs. At the end of the service Catholicos Aram I led the guests in procession to the St. Martyrs Chapel in Antelias, where the remains of the victims are buried. Each guest prayed, laid a flower, and received the blessed water.

CONCERT

The commemorative events concluded on the evening of Sunday, July 19, with a concert at the Armenian Genocide martyrs monument in Bikfaya, led by Maestro Harout Fazlian, artistic director and principal conductor of the Beirut Symphony Orchestra, and featuring soprano Hasmig Babyan and tenor Parsegh Toumanian.

The program included compositions by Aram Khatchadourian and other Armenian composers. The association of the beautiful music and the Genocide monuments bore witness to the spirit and ability of the Armenian people to survive genocide, and out of the ashes of that genocide to create transcendent art. The performance received a standing ovation, after which His Holiness concluded the evening by thanking Harout Fazlian, Hasmik Papian, Barseg Tumanyan and the members of the orchestra for communicating to the guests so successfully the emotions and aspirations of all Armenians.

His Holiness Aram I then invited to the podium sponsors Alecco and Ani Bezikian and their family, introduced and thanked them for sponsoring the Bikfaya Memorial Compound next to the monument symbolizing the renaissance of the Armenian people (built in 1965), the creation of the “Aram Bezikian” Orphans Museum in Byblos, and the renovation of Martyrs Chapel in Antelias. He then decorated their son Zareh Bezikian with the “Knight of Cilicia” insignia and informed the audience that a few years ago he had already decorated Alecco and Ani Bezikians with the “Prince of Cilicia” insignia. He thanked the members of the Building Committee for overseeing the construction and renovation of all the projects and decorated architects Vahe Kalendjian and Vazken Tchekidjian with the “St. Mesrob Mashdots” insignia and mentioned that he had already decorated Trustee architect Hagop Atechian in 1999 and Hagop Shamelian in 2006.

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