Armenian Martyrs’ Monument Opening Speech by Fr. Vazken

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Armenian Martyrs’ Monument – Unveiling – 1/13/15

By Fr. Vazken Movsesian

Your Eminences, Reverend Clergy and Dear Sons and Daughters of the Armenian Nation,

This evening we are gathered together to witness a change. With the unveiling and blessing of this monument, dedicated to the memory of the 1.5 Million Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide we stand in the presence of change. This began several years ago when we first started preparing for the 100th Anniversary commemoration of the Genocide. It was at that time that His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, our Diocesan Primate boldly proclaimed that “April 24 is no longer a day of mourning and sorrow. April 24th is a symbol of victory for our resurrected nation which has risen from the ashes of death.”

Today this stone-structure, this monument, was consecrated with the Holy Miuron, the same Miuron that is poured upon every one of us who is baptized from the Holy Font of the Armenian Church. It is a symbol of new life. It makes each of us a new person in Christ. It is the same Miuron that is wiped across the forehead and palms of a priest making him a new and living servant of God. Today, this stone-structure, this monument was transformed into a new-living structure, which has a life of its own in service to righteousness. Not only does this monument stand as a witness to the 1.5 Million innocent lives that were annihilated during the Genocide of 1915, but it also stands as a testament to the resilience and resurrection of the Armenian People. This is a monument to life, a proof that there is life after death! This monument is our testament to the world that light will always overcome darkness, that good is always more powerful than evil, that life will always conquer death and that to every crucifixion there is a resurrection for those who believe in faith.

There is a very special significance that this monument stands in the shadow of this, the St. Leon Armenian Cathedral. Like our Mother Monument, Holy Mt. Ararat, which bore witness to the perils and persecutions and now the rebirth of our people, this Cathedral symbolizes the faith that has been at the foundation of our national life and has guided us through our trials and tribulations, and has brought us here today.

You see, 10 decades ago, the enemy wanted to destroy us, the Armenian Nation. But the enemy was only armed with conventional weaponry of swords and guns. By today’s standards these would be viewed as the weapons of choice. But the Armenian were armed with faith and hope in the Power of God. They were committed to the same Power that had kept them alive during and through the Battle of Vartanantz at Avarayr. It is the same Power that has been with us through the centuries – that has kept alive that small land-locked, surrounded-by-enemies country and its people.  It is the same Power that has brought all of us here, from the most diverse and hostile regions of the Middle East – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt – and from throughout the world and delivered us here this evening. We know in fact, that it is only by the Grace of God that we stand here today.

The Turk wanted to destroy the Armenian Nation. They wanted to silence the Armenian voice and its reverberation. The Turk wanted to extinguish the light and kill life from the people. They wanted to take us up to the cross and leave us hanging there! But it was that same faith that gave us hope that taught us that the grave is not the end; that love never dies. Have love in your hearts because it is impossible to extinguish light, impossible to kill the spirit and impossible to end life! This is the same faith that was brought to Armenia 2000 years ago by the Holy Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew, who had stood at the empty tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ himself and heard the words, “Why are you searching for the living among the dead?” They had witnessed the barbaric Crucifixion of Christ but were now standing changed and transformed at the sight of victory, at the Resurrection of Christ himself. Likewise, the Armenian people have resurrected. Don’t search for the Armenian people at the tomb nor in a grave. We are not there! Because the Armenian Light, the Armenian Spirit and Armenian Life is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. And as the great theologian and patriarch St. Nersess Shnorhali has taught us, the “Name of Love is Jesus Christ,” (Սէր անուն Յիսուս) that is, He is the manifestation of Love. So this monument stands in the shadow of St. Leon Cathedral, not only to witness to the loss of 1.5 Million people but as a testament to the enduring power of Love, the power of resurrection that we have experienced as a people and the power that has brought us here today.

No, it is not be chance that 100 years after the Genocide we erect this monument next to this Cathedral. Nor is it by chance that this monument is dedicated on this day, for in fact, the Armenian Church commemorates this day the feast of St. John the Forerunner (the Garabed). He was the “voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’” He came to set straight the people in the ways of righteousness. This monument comes alive today as it is dedicated on the feast of St. John Garabed to be one more voice, albeit in the wilderness, crying, “Repent and prepare the way of righteousness.” If we are to see righteousness and therefore peace we have to remember that repentance is the vehicle by which righteousness will come. It has to start with us. We must have a repenting heart and that has to permeate the darkest places in the world, until everyone who has done wrong is willing to move forward for peace. This is a living witness to the power of repentance – an acceptance of the facts that Genocide took place. We cannot stay silent to the truth. Because the evil that was started in Armenia in 1915 continued through Germany, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Bosnia, Rwanda and today in Darfur. We were the first victims of that evil but we are also the first witnesses to the power that can overcome evil. We have it in us to conquer evil with faith, hope and love in our hearts.

Today is exactly 100 days before April 24, the day when the Genocide began. Let today be a day of commitment for all of us, a commitment to righteousness, to peace, to love, to the faith that has brought us here today. Let this be a period of preparation and deep meditation for all of us. If the Holy Miuron has given life to this inanimate stone, let the power of the Miuron, the Power of the Holy Spirit, come upon us so that we are renewed in spirit to work for peace and righteousness. Let this be a 100 day period where we honor the past, recognize the present and define our tomorrow.

We are the living the living generation that stands at the crossroads of history with a responsibility to speak, to do, to be that voice in the wilderness to ask for righteousness so that there can be peace. Each of us must thank God tonight because we as an Armenian people have resurrected! And even greater, we are on the path to ascension. They used to call us “starving Armenians,” today Armenians feed most of the world, if you figure that most of the food that comes from California’s Central Valley is the product of Armenian tilled soil. Starving Armenians feeding the world: That’s the power of resurrection, that’s the power of love, that’s the power of life. Believe that God is with you and you can overcome all the adversity that is thrown your way! Repentance is the way to the Kingdom. The Power of Christ, of Love, is always more powerful than all the evil that is out there.

I’m asking all of you today to remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, his unfailing commitment, “I am with you until the end of the ages!” God is with us! Today we stand here ready to take on the future for righteousness and for life. God bless the Armenian people. God bless all of you!

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Vazken Movsesian

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