The Last Requiem

Armodoxy for Today: The Last Requiem

On April 19, 2015 I conducted the last requiem service for the Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide. That year was the 100th anniversary of a program of systematic annihilation of the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire. The Armenian Church announced that on April 24, 2015, it would canonize the martyrs of the Genocide as saints of the Church. The April 24 date has always been used as a marker for the Genocide remembrance for it was on that date in 1915 that the Armenian leadership was rounded up, killed or deported in Constantinople, what is referred to as Istanbul today.

Designating the martyrs as saints was long over due by the 100th anniversary. Martyrdom implied that their life was given for higher principles, in this case for Christ and nation. But even more, the shift to sainthood was a change in mind-set for the Armenian nation. As saints, the martyrs are classified as “victorious in Christ” and therefore, not victims.

“If anyone desires to come after Me,” says Jesus, “Let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16)

Requiems, a tradition misleadingly referred to as hokehankist in the Armenian Church, are not conducted for saints. They have been crowned by Christ!

On that Sunday, in 2015, I had the distinct honor of celebrating the Divine Liturgy at the St. Leon Armenian Cathedral of the Western Diocese. It was the western most Armenian Church and the delayed timing of the day, had me reciting the Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide in the requiem prayer for the very last time ever. Having grown up with Genocide survivors (my grandparents) this was a most sacred moment in history.

In the days that followed the conversation would shift in a manner that only Christ can change. Christ, the one who took the words of condemnation “Take and eat” in the Garden, and madse those same words “Take and eat” into words of salvation, was now leading the Armenian nation to victory. The mind-set had been altered.

Let us pray, Lord, our God, You are with us in every transition and change. Open our hearts to the great change from victim to victor, which You demonstrated with Your glorious Resurrection. Help me to accept the change and welcome the newness of that victory. Amen.

Cover Photo: Luna & Gregory Beylerian

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