Archbishop Sumbat Lapajian Laid To Rest


A scene from Arch. Lapajian's Funeral Service

On Saturday, July 17, one of the longest serving members of the Catholicosate Brotherhood and the first Prelate of the Western Prelacy Archbishop Sumbat Lapajian entered eternal rest at Ararat Home in Mission Hills.

Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian presided over the wake service which was held on the evening of Sunday, July 25, at Holy Cross Cathedral in Montebello.  Participating in the service were Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Archbishop Yeprem Tabakian, Very Rev. Father Muron Aznikian, Primate of the Western Diocese Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, Archbishop Mikayel Achabahian, Very Rev. Father Baret Yeretsian, Very Rev. Father Kegham Zakarian, and clergy members.

Following the service, the late Archbishop’s English biography was read by Holy Cross Cathedral Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Hagop Dikranian.

Archbishop Tabakian paid tribute to Archbishop Lapajian, recalling his life and service to the Armenian Church.

Archbishop Lapajian was laid to rest at Holy Cross Cathedral on the morning of Monday, July 26. The Prelate conducted the funeral mass, with the participation of Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Catholicosate Vicar of Kuwait and the Gulf Archbishop Gorun Babian, Archbishop Yeprem Tabakian, Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, Eparch of the Catholic Church Bishop Manuel Batakian, Mekhitarist Fathers, head of the Syriac Orthodox Church Archbishop Eugene Kaplan, Minister of the Armenian Evangelical Union of N. America Rev. Joe Matossian, clergy, and deacons. Among the more than 400 faithful in attendance were Catholicosate Central Executive member Khajag Dikijian, Executive and Religious Councils’ members, delegates, Boards of Trustees and Ladies Auxiliary members, and representatives of the ARF, ARS, and Homenetmen.

The funeral mass began with the reading of the late Archbishop’s Armenian biography by parish pastor Rev. Fr. Ashod Kambourian. 

Prior to the Kiss of Peace, and with the reading of Psalms, the casket was led to the altar for the Extreme Unction service, during which the Prelate anointed the forehead and right hand of Archbishop Lapajian.  The casket was then rotated four times to face the four corners of the world, symbolizing the last greetings of the late Archbishop to the church, clergy, and faithful.

Archbishop Babian then read the condolence letter of H.H. Catholicos Aram I, in which he exalted the virtues of Archbishop Lapajian, remembering him as a kind, compassionate, and humble clergyman.

The Prelate delivered the eulogy, exalting Archbishop Lapajian as a remarkable man and clergyman who devoted his life, heart, and soul to working for our Lord.

He remembered him as a humble and faithful servant of God, a simple and kind man who related to every one and empathized with every one, thus earning the love, respect, and admiration of the community.  He spoke of him as a dedicated son of the Armenian church and nation, whose life and service bore witness to his deep love and devotion to our Lord and our church.  He was a devoted pastor and spiritual leader, who was always there, in good times and in bad, and who was more like a family member to many in his congregation.  He was an effective leader, who as the first Prelate of the Western Prelacy was instrumental in the establishment of a number of parishes and schools.  He was a talented teacher who influenced the lives of countless students from Lebanon to the United States, and an exceptional preacher of the Word of God who dedicated his life to spreading the word of Christ, teaching it, and instilling it in his parishioners.  “We are privileged to have had a clergyman like Archbishop Lapajian serve within the Western Prelacy for over four decades, and we are ever thankful for his many accomplishments and contributions to the advancement of our Prelacy and to the spiritual nourishment he provided to our community.  He led a life of great service and leaves behind a legacy which will not be forgotten.  Through our many fond memories, his influence will continue”, said the Prelate. 

As the choir sang during the Kiss of Peace, clergy members one by one ascended the altar and approached the casket to pay their final respects by kissing the late Archbishop’s forehead and right hand.  Clergy members then joined together to lower the casket from the altar to allow the faithful the opportunity to pay their respects as well.

Accompanied by prayer and the singing of hymns, the casket was led to the courtyard of the church.  Given that Archbishop Lapajian spent a large part of his life serving the Holy Cross parish community, per his wishes and by the authorization of H.H. Catholicos Aram I, he was interred in the courtyard of Holy Cross Cathedral. 

The service concluded with the singing of the Cilician anthem, after which the faithful to a memorial luncheon at “Bagramian” Hall, hosted by the Holy Cross Board of Trustees.

Following the opening prayer, Dr. Hagop Dikranian invited Archbishop Choloyan to offer his remarks.  He reflected on the humility, goodness, and simplicity of Archbishop Lapajian, as well as his unwavering faith and devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Prior to a slide show chronicling the life and works of Archbishop Lapajian, L.A. City Council member Paul Krekorian, Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, John Kossakian (representing the ARF Central Committee), Central Executive member Khajag Dikijian, Levon Kirakosian (representing the Executive Council), and Knar Baghdassarian (representing Holy Cross Cathedral Ladies Auxiliary) were invited to convey their sympathies. Letters of condolence from State Senator Carol Liu and President of Haigazian University Rev. Paul Haidostian were also read. 

In memory of the late Archbishop, the “Holy Cross Archbishop Sumbat Lapajian Memorial Fund” has been established. 

May his memory remain ever blessed.

Prelate’s Eulogy For Archbishop Sumbat Lapajian
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Dearly beloved,

With a heavy heart we are gathered in this sanctuary to pay our final respects to our beloved brother-in-Christ Archbishop Sumbat Lapajian, a remarkable man and clergyman who lived his life true to this Scripture passage, devoting his life, heart, and soul to working for the Lord.

It is said the measure of a life well-lived is through the lives they touched.  If Archbishop Lapajian’s life is to be measured by those he touched, then he lived a truly rewarding and purpose-filled life.  Most of you here today had the good fortune of knowing him personally, and you all have your own personal memories of him. 

Archbishop Lapajian was many things to many people, but he was first and foremost a humble and faithful servant of God.  Having been orphaned at a very early age, he was raised at the Birds’ Nest Orphanage under the guidance of Maria Jacobsen, who nurtured him and shaped him into the man he became.  Rather than discourage him, his lot in life served only to strengthen him, inspire him, and prepare him for his calling and ministry to help others in need.  Through hard work and dedication he rose to prominence, but he remained humble no matter what position or title he held.  He was a simple man, a kind man who related to any and every one and empathized with his fellow man.  This humility and sincerity earned him the love, respect, and admiration of all who knew him.

Archbishop Lapajian was a dedicated son of the Armenian church and nation.  From early on, he felt a calling to serve God, the Armenian Church, and the Armenian people, and remained steadfast and unwavering in this calling and mission throughout six decades.  He served with the same conviction and passion from the time of his arrival in the United States in the early 1960’s until recent years, giving himself fully to the work of the Lord and to his flock.  His life and service bore witness to his deep love for and devotion to our Lord and our Church.

He was a devoted pastor and spiritual leader.  I am sure there are generations of families here who were baptized and wed by Archbishop Lapajian, or had him conduct funeral services for your loved ones.  In good times and in bad, he was always there, whether to share in the joy of a birth or marriage, or the sorrow of a death.  He was there to celebrate on joyous occasions, and there to console in times of sadness.  To many of you he was more than a pastor; he was a family member, a father figure, a grandfather, a mentor, a friend who could be called upon at any given moment.

He was also an effective leader, who was the first Prelate elected to head the Western United Sates.  During his tenure, and even prior to being elected Prelate, he was instrumental in the establishment of a number of parishes and schools which are thriving today, and set the foundation for the successes we have today. 

He was a talented teacher who influenced the lives of many of his students in Lebanon and the United States.  Understanding the value of an education, he dedicated himself to self-education after having to leave school at a young age to earn a living.  He eventually returned to school, graduating from Haigazian University, and became a teacher himself.  In the many years he spent teaching, he ensured that his students received the best education he could provide and thus the best opportunities life had to offer.  I am sure his students are among us today and remember their beloved teacher and his teachings from long ago.

Finally, he was an exceptional preacher of the Word of God.  Each and every Sunday he stood on this very altar, and before that on the altar of Holy Cross Church in Los Angeles and of various Prelacy Churches, and taught his congregation the Word of God through his spiritually uplifting sermons.  He spoke with wisdom yet simplicity, with solemnity yet humor, in a manner that young and old could relate to.  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16).  The word of Christ dwelled in Archbishop Lapajian, in accordance with these words by the Apostle of Christ. It was the guiding force of all he spoke and all he did, and he dedicated his life to spreading the word of Christ, teaching it and instilling it in his parishioners.

The Lord gave us this remarkable man, and for that we are grateful.  “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).  We are privileged to have had a clerygman like Archbishop Lapajian serve within the Western Prelacy for over four decades, and we are ever thankful for his many accomplishments and contributions to the advancement of our Prelacy and to the spiritual nourishment he provided to our community. 

And now, the Lord has taken away, He has called His servant home.  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  Let us find comfort in that he is now removed from the physical pain and suffering of the last few years and in the abiding presence of God where there is no sorrow nor pain, but the fullness of peace and joy with the Son and the Holy Spirit.

And let us not despair, for his life was truly fruitful.  He led a life of great service and leaves behind a legacy which will not be forgotten.  Through our many fond memories, his influence will continue.

His loss is being felt far and wide, from the Catholicosate of Cilicia in Lebanon, to Brotherhood members in various Dioceses around the world, to our Prelacy, and especially the parish community of Holy Cross Cathedral where he was a beloved everyday presence for forty years.

May God bless the memory of Archbishop Sumbat Lapajian, and may eternal light shine upon him as he dwells in peace in the glory and kingdom of our Lord Almighty. 

Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian
Prelate, Western United States
July 26, 2010


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