Over 75 Coptic and Malankara Indian Orthodox college students from the greater New York/New Jersey area met with participants of the St. Nersess Post High-School Conference on Sunday, August 14 for a day of fellowship, Bible Study and prayer.
What was originally intended to be a late summer outdoor celebration had to be brought inside the intimate Seminary building as record rains poured down upon the metropolitan New York area. No matter. St. Nersess has always provided a warm and welcoming home to children and friends of the Armenian Church.
The Coptic and Malankara Orthodox youth quickly found common ground with their Armenian colleagues. The Copts are the ancient Christians of Egypt, while the Malankara Orthodox are the children of the Apostle Thomas, who brought the Gospel to the state of Kerala on the southwest coast of India.
The three ancient churches belong to the Oriental Orthodox family, who, along with the Ethiopian and Syrian Orthodox Churches, are in full communion. While fully independent, and heirs to distinct traditions, Christian cultures and history, the Oriental Orthdodox Churches share the same Christian faith and fully recognize the sacraments and ministerial orders of the sister churches.
"This means that a Coptic Orthodox woman is welcome to participate in the Eucharist and other sacraments of the Armenian Church or any of the other Oriental Orthodox Churches as if they were her own," said V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Dean of the Seminary and Chaplain of the 2011 Post High School Conference during a discussion with the Armenian young people.
United Around the Mother of God
Following some ice-breaker activities, the young people were divided into small groups for a Bible Study on Mary the Mother of God. Sunday was the Feast the Assumption of the Mother of God, one of the major feasts of the Armenian Church. St. Nersess alumnus Deacon Ryan Tellalian prepared the Bible Study, which included discussion of the famous Armenian hymn to the Mother of God, Antaram Dzagheeg(Unfading Flower).
CLICK HERE to download the score from the St. Nersess Sacred Music Lab.
CLICK HERE to download the Bible Study.
The Assurance of Our Salvation in Jesus Christ
The students discussed the importance of the Mother of God, who is our assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man. Mary is also the perfect model of the Church, which, like Mary, manifests the Body of Christ in our midst.
Standing Room Only for the Blessing of the Grapes. Median age: 20Rarely has the St. Nersess Chapel been as crowded with young people as Sunday evening, as the Armenian students welcomed their guests to participate in the Blessing of the Grapes, presided by Fr. Daniel and another St. Nersess alumnus, Rev. Fr. Sahak Kaishian. Assisting in the uplifting and colorful ceremony were Deacon Vijay Thomas of the Malankara Orthodox Church, and several other guests, who read from the holy Scriptures.
Surrounding nearly 50 pounds of multicolored grapes, the Seminary chapel resonated with the acclamation, "Amen Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia."
Armann Basil of White Plains, NY distributes clusters of blessed grapes to Melissa Mardoian of Palos Heights, IL.An indoor barbeque sustained several hours of fellowship, conversation and exchange of contact information.
"It was so exciting to meet young people who are very different us, yet are so close to us and who understand our Christian traditions," said 21-year old Evelyna Avanessian of Fairfield, Connecticut. "We found so much in common with them," added Evelyna, who was participating in her 10th St. Nersess Conference.
"I was surprised how interested they were in our Armenian Church history and traditions," said 18-year old Maryam Garabedian of Vancouver, British Columbia. "They love St. Nersess as much as we do!," she said. Maryam's father is Rev. Fr. Keghard Garabedian, Pastor of St. Vartan Armenian Church of Vancouver. She was at St. Nersess for the first time.
"We must do more of this," said John Malek, a Coptic Orthodox deacon from Saddle River, New Jersey. "At a time when traditional Orthodox Christian values are under assault by rampant secularism and moral indifference, we would be foolish not to bring our Oriental Orthodox young people together to build friendships, and to support each other in our common apostolic faith in Jesus Christ, he added.
--PHOTOS COURTESY OF JASMINE TELLALIAN