Origins and history
Various legends tie the origin of the Armenian Church to the Apostles. Apostolic succession is an important concept for many churches, especially those in the east. The legend of the healing of Abgar V of Edessa by the facecloth of Jesus has been appropriated by the Armenian Church by claiming that Abgar was a prince of Armenia.The more common tradition claims that Thaddaeus, one of the Seventy Apostles was sent to Armenia from nearby Edessa by Abgar (uncle of King Sanatrook of Armenia) to evangelize. The details of the story vary widely, but in all stories Thaddeus converted Sandookdht, the king's daughter. In some versions Sanatrook was also converted, but later apostasized. In other versions, he was never converted, but was always hostile to Christianity. In any case, Sanatrook martyred both Thaddeus and Sandookdht. Some versions have the apostle Bartholomew arriving in Armenia about the same time to also be martyred. Though these stories are considered historically questionable by modern scholars, Christianity must have reached Armenia at an early date as persecutions against Christians in 110, 230, and 287 were recorded by outside writers Eusebius and Tertullian.
The Kingdom of Armenia was the first state to adopt Christianity as its religion when St. Gregory the Illuminator converted King Tiridates III and members of his court, an event dated to AD 301 (after Mikayel Chamchian 1784) though now believed by most scholars to have occurred somewhat later, but by 313. Gregory, trained and ordained in Christianity at Caesarea returned to his native land to preach about 287, the same time that Tiridates III took the throne. Tiridates owed his position to the Roman Emperor Diocletian, a noted persecutor of Christianity. In addition, he became aware that Gregory was a son of Anak, the man who assassinated his father. Consequently Tiridates imprisoned Gregory in an underground pit, called Khor Virap, for 13 years. In 301, 37 Christian virgins, among which was Saint Nune (St. Nino for Georgia), who later became the founder or the Georgian Orthodox Church, fleeing Roman persecution, came to Armenia. Tiridates desired one of them, Rhipsime, to be his wife, but she turned him down. In a rage, he martyred the whole group of them. Soon afterward, according to legend, God struck him with an illness that left him crawling around like a beast. (The story is reminiscent of Nebudchadnezzar in Daniel 4.) Xosroviduxt, the king’s sister, had a dream in which she was told that the persecution of Christians must stop. She related this to Tiridates, who released Gregory from prison. Gregory then healed Tiridates and converted him to Christianity. Tiridates immediately declared Armenia to be a Christian nation, becoming the first official Christian state.
Tiridates declared Gregory to be the first Catholicos of the church and sent him to Caesarea to be consecrated. Upon his return, Gregory tore down idol centers, built churches and monasteries, and ordained hundreds of priests and bishops. While meditating in the old capital city of Vagharshapat, Gregory had a vision of Christ coming down to the earth to strike it with a hammer. From the spot rose a great Christian temple with a huge cross. He was convinced that God wanted him to build the main Armenian church there. With the king's help, he did so, along the lines of what he saw in the vision at the spot he saw the hammer strike. He renamed the city Etchmiadzin which means "the place of the descent of the only-begotten". Initially the Armenian church participated in the larger church world. Its Catholicos was represented at the First Council of Nicea and the First Council of Constantinople. Although he could not attend the Council of Ephesus, the Catholicos Isaac Parthiev sent a message agreeing with its decisions.Under the jurisdiction of the church was also the Georgian Orthodox Church. It broke away from the Armenians and reunited with Eastern Orthodoxy in the early 7th century The Armenian Church began to retreat from the larger church world in 373 when King Pap appointed Catholicos Yusik without first sending him to Caesarea for commissioning.
Christianity was strengthened in Armenia by the translation of the Bible into the Armenian language by the Armenian theologian, monk, and scholar St. Mesrob Mashtots. Prior to the fifth century, Armenians had their own spoken language, but it was not written. The Bible and liturgy were in Greek. The Catholicos Sahak commissioned Mesrob to create an Armenian alphabet, which he completed in 406. Subsequently the Bible and liturgy were translated into Armenian and written down in its new script. The translation of the Bible, along with the translation of other works of history, literature and philosophy, caused a flowering of Armenian literature and a broader cultural renaissance.
Unlike the Bible used in other Eastern Churches, the Armenian Bible originally had 39 books in the Old Testament. What are commonly called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical books were not translated until the 8th century and not read in the churches until the 12th century.
ST. GARABED MOTHER CHURCH
Since the official adoption of Christianity in Armenia, magnificent churches and monasteries have been erected and have become the bastions of our faith. Throughout the Armenian land stand thousands of ancient and modern churches and monasteries, most functional and some almost in ruins, such as the remarkable Keghart or the Monastery of Datev, a marvel which sits high up on the mountains, as if soaring towards the heavens.
As was their fate, the Armenian people were uprooted from their ancestral lands of three centuries and forced to settle in Diaspora communities around the world. No matter where they settled, before establishing their own homes the Armenian people first built churches, the birthplace of our soul.
In the heart of the “Little Armenia” neighborhood of Los Angeles sits one such church, St. Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church, across it Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School which has been a fixture of the community for four decades.
The blessing of the church foundation was conducted in 1977 by the first Prelate of the Western Prelacy, H.E. Archbishop Sumbat Lapajian. Construction finished in 1979, and in 1980, the church was consecrated by H.H. Catholicos Karekin II of blessed memory during the term of H.E. Archbishop Yeprem Tabakian.
Morning prayers are offered each Sunday at 9:30 a.m., with Divine Liturgy celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Membership information can be obtained by calling (323) 666-0507.
Serving under the auspices of the church are various bodies that contribute to the splendor of the church, such as the Board of Trustees, Delegates of the Representatives Assembly, Ladies Auxiliary Guild, Sunday School, Bible study group, altar servers, deacons, and choir members.
These groups and individuals serve on a volunteer basis, and it is through their diligent efforts and contributions that the church continues to advance. There is no small or great work, just work; and the volunteers of St. Garabed Church readily take on any and all work that is entrusted to them which they successfully carry out through their collective efforts. It is hard to imagine the life of the church without even one of these bodies.
Participating in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy each Sunday is the choir, a group of about 40 dedicated volunteers who sacrifice their Sunday rest to enhance the celebration of the Divine Liturgy with their beautiful voices under the leadership of choir master.
Assisting at the altar are 13 arch-deacons, sub-deacons, and acolytes, including a number of youth, who arrive early each Sunday morning to prepare for the service and ensure that the sanctity and richness of the Liturgy is preserved.
The faithful members of the parish Ladies Auxiliary work hard to ensure the progress of the church by lending their support to the Board of Trustees, organizing fundraising events, and by assisting in any way needed during holidays and special feasts. In a nutshell, the Ladies Auxiliary spare no effort or resource in their service to the church.
St. Garabed Church is also pleased to have a Bible study group comprised of youth who bring new life and new energies to our religious and national life.
A staple of the church for the past 30 years is the Sunday School which provides Christian education to our youth under the directorship of Mr. Raffi Torossian. Over a dozen teachers and aides teach the curriculum to the students entrusted to their care. Furthermore, the Sunday School administration organized social events, field trips, and other activities to bring the youth together in a warm family atmosphere. We urge our parents to enroll their children in our Sunday School program where they will learn valuable information and receive high quality religious instruction.
Overseeing the activities of the committee serving under the auspices of the church are the Pastor, Delegates, and Board of Trustees, who work together to ensure that the operations of the church are carried out smoothly and effectively. The latter two are elected at the annual parish membership meeting.
During its biweekly meetings, which are headed by the Parish Pastor, the Board of Trustees works to implement the suggestions and proposals of the Executive Council as well as those presented at the annual membership meetings. The members of the Board of Trustees are a constant presence within the church and at all church-related events and activities, and diligently serve St. Garabed Mother Church with great devotion. The members are elected for a two-year term and can be re-elected to a second consecutive two-year term; however, there must be a one year gap between the second and third or subsequent terms.
St. Garabed Mother Church is represented at the Prelacy Representatives Assembly by five delegates. A delegate can simultaneously be a member of the Board of Trustees.
The delegates are also a constant presence within the church; in addition, they periodically participate in the meetings of the Board of Trustees and offer their invaluable input and assistance. As the representatives of the Hollywood parish community, they are entrusted with the task of presenting the concerns of the church to the Representatives Assembly.
We invite all those who wish to contribute their time and resources for the benefit of our church to approach the church office and inquire about joining the Ladies Auxiliary.
We commend all the members of the aforementioned committees who have and continue to selflessly and commendably serve our church. May God bless them all.