A traditional Great Lent luncheon hosted by the Western Prelacy Ladies Auxiliary took place at Vertigo Event Venue in Glendale under the auspices of Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian. The event was held on Wednesday, March 4.
Prior to the luncheon, the Prelate presided over Sunrise Service at St. Mary’s Church in Glendale. Vicar General Bishop Torkom Donoyan delivered the spiritual meditation on Jesus Christ as the one and only path to eternal spiritual joy and inner peace. “During the service, we prayed for God’s strength and we prayed for God’s mercy, even though we are unworthy, because we repent but commit the same transgression and continue to walk down the same sinful path. We prayed for the Lord to lead and keep us on His path. There are many paths in life, but our Lord Jesus Christ affirms that He is the one true path,” stated the Vicar General. He urged the faithful to turn their gaze from the earth to heaven above and seek the Lord’s guidance, to reject worldly pleasures, and seek lasting heavenly blessings instead.
During the luncheon, Prelate Mardirossian was joined by the Vicar General, Very Rev. Smpad Saboundjian, Very Rev. Ashod Khachadourian, and Archpriest Nareg Pehlivanian. Executive Council Secretary Elizabeth Boyajian, members of parishes’ Ladies Guilds, representatives of community organizations, Prelacy sponsors, and supporters were in attendance.
Welcoming remarks were delivered by Ladies Auxiliary member Maral Keledjian. A brief Sunrise service was conducted, followed by the blessing of tables.
Marriage and Family Therapist Nora Chitiian-Keleshian was the luncheon’s keynote speaker. In light of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I’s “Year of Armenians with Special Needs” proclamation, Keleshian spoke on how we, as individuals and as a community, can and must assist those who have special needs, whether intellectual, physical, or emotional, as well as their families. She stated that the initial diagnosis of a child with a disability is the hardest part for parents, who often go through the stages of denial, and it is at this time especially that they need the support of their family, friends, and of the community; in particular, love, care, understanding, a listening ear, and a helping hand.
Next, she touched on the true message of Great Lent, which sadly has come to be viewed as a diet rather than what it really is – a time of introspection, self-awareness, self-correction, cleansing of mind, body, and soul, prayer, and reflection, and doing good for others in need, all of which serve to draw us closer to God and transform our bodies into temples of the Holy Spirit. She focused in particular on the spiritual, rather than physical, aspect of Great Lent and doing good for others as a means of expressing and enriching our faith. Keleshian gave a number of examples of how our community has, in recent years, instituted programs for individuals with special needs, including special religious services at the Crescenta Valley Church, the Homenetmen “Hrashk” team, and the work of the Armenian Autism Outreach Project.
The program also featured nationalistic songs performed by tenor Kevork Hadjian, and musical selections on the kanoon by Nektarine Chilyan.
The Prelate then delivered the closing message. He began by conveying his blessings and commendation to the Ladies Auxiliary and to the keynote speaker, and expressed his support to children with special needs and their families, announcing that the special services which take place at the Crescenta Valley Church will be expanded to other Churches, including St. Sarkis Church in Pasadena. On this “Year of Armenians with Special Needs,” the Prelate stressed that we are all to make an effort to offer our love and support to all those with special needs in the spirit of tolerance, compassion, and mercy. He also commended the cultural program participants for their beautiful performances.
Referencing Socrates’ philosophy that self-examination, introspection, self-correction, renewal, rejuvenation, and revitalization comes from knowing oneself, Prelate Mardirossian added that, to truly know ourselves, we must be sincere and we must examine ourselves by God’s standards. “Great Lent is a wonderful opportunity to regulate our lives, morally, spiritually, and physically. And this comes from self-discipline. In addition, during Great Lent especially we are to be in constant communication with God, and that line of communication is prayer. Pray, not only for yourselves but for your fellow man, so that we may all enjoy a life of peace, justice, harmony, and tolerance, guided by discipline,” concluded the Prelate.