Vehapar’s Historic Visit a Holy Chrism
All but lost in a “Holy See” of emotion was an anniversary that should be applauded.
HH Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia, can look upon his month-long visit to New England as both a personal and historic milestone.
His presence during the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and National Representative Assembly no doubt created euphoria of its own. Perhaps overlooked during the visit was his very own 20th anniversary as a Vehapar, having been appointed in 1995.
For two decades, the pontiff has enriched the Armenian communities throughout the diaspora, fostered an allegiance among people of all distinctions and character, and continued bringing a wealth of piety and education to his church and people.
To know him is to love and respect him. Anyone who garnered his presence throughout the month of May was surely enamored by a man whose humility and spirituality never took a backward step.
We saw him at the Canonization of Sainthood where 1.5 million martyrs were being anointed. He spoke with passion. Even a dove that somehow perched itself on an iconic piece of artwork seemed to be listening. Was this God’s answer to victims of our genocide?
A couple hundred campers were mesmerized by his presence at AYF Junior Seminar in Pennsylvania. This was no ordinary man in their midst, but a Catholicos who made it a point to become engaged.
He continues to embrace the youth, knowing they are the future of adoration. Here in Watertown, he toured the schools and held a breakfast meeting with the younger generation. A hundred guests turned out for an informal rap session.
He spoke their language and digested their concerns with conviction. “They don’t belong in the kitchen,” was one answer to a question about the role of women and girls in the church.
Had you been at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., you would have heard a most remarkable delivery. No notes or reference cards. Strictly impromptu.
With the president of Armenia looking on, joined by Vice President Joe Biden and Ambassador Samantha Power, the essence was more nationalistic in nature as opposed to religious. More emphatic about country and God than holistic.
The idea of recognition and justice aroused some 2,500 worshippers that evening. Clergy of different faiths were moved by his delivery. If words could only translate into actions, every country in the world would renege toward recognition and justice, including America.
When he walked through the hotel lobby, people stood and watched his every encounter. They marveled at his countenance and his regality when and if any showed.
His last appearance was 10 years ago, a decade after being appointed Vehapar. Three years ago, the crisis in Syria postponed a scheduled visit after arrangements had been solidified. People were ready to lay out the welcome mat. They understood.
The grand finale was saved for an NRA convention with a hundred guests seated in the pews at St. Stephen’s Church in Watertown.
Cell phones were high in accelerated motion. It marked the first time a Vehapar had addressed any NRA gathering in person. HH Aram I had just returned from Toronto and put any fatigue aside. He sat between our two Srpazans, Oshagan and Anoushavan, and spoke from the heart about bringing the church to the people. The more he spoke, the better they heard.
His oratorical skills were brilliant. Education was his mantra and he utilizes it well. The eye contact he makes with listeners is riveting. His resume is one that we would all like to emulate. A lifetime of service to the church and heritage.
How sad, though, when two Armenians (a married couple) happened to cross the scene when photos were being taken of the NRA group in Watertown. They were from the Etchmiadzin side and were struck by curiosity. Neither one knew about Vehapar’s visit or the fact he was here. He had to be pointed out.
The unity being preached all month long was never more intrinsic than now.
Anyone in Washington would know Barbara Tutelian. She’s an activist, always there when you need someone. The church honored her one year for her dedicated spirit.
Once she was asked to handle the housekeeping chores for the Vehapar at a hotel. Duties included making sure he was comfortable, preparing some Armenian edibles, making him feel at home. A dubious honor, certainly, but one that could put a person under duress.
Barbara handled it well because HH Aram I handled it well, entourage and all.
“What kind of a person was he off the job?”
“Just like a normal person,” she felt. “You would never know he was the Vehapar when he didn’t dress the part. He never flaunted his position. He preferred a common role.”
The greatest attribute for any hierarchy, religious or otherwise, is to relegate yourself to our flock. The common folk. To become one of them.
HH Aram I does that well. For that, he will always be cherished and adored. We welcomed his visit with gratitude.
Link: Vehapar’s Historic Visit a Holy Chrism