31 October 2011

We live according to long-established laws-civil, moral, humane and
religious. We also live by rules--written or unwritten. There are
rules and etiquette guidelines which nobody tells us about but we
somehow-innately, by osmosis or otherwise-observe. Such rules govern,
for instance, our manner and the way we present ourselves at church.

Whether one is a believer or not a civilized person, when within the
walls of a house of worship, respects the faith demonstrated by the
clergy and the congregation. These are givens which one would assume
do not require a reminder. Unfortunately, the absence of decorum by
some North American Armenian faithful at Badarak Holy Mass forces us
to comment.

A female worshipper's long, curly and bottle-blonde tresses spread like
a fan well below her uncovered shoulders. Perhaps she rejected the
traditional hair covering because it would have hidden her physical
allures. Once in a while (in case the men had not noticed her silken
locks?) she would sway her big hair, like a lion gently shaking his
golden mane.

A man in his early forties had his hands in his pockets throughout
Badarak, except when he was not kneeling. His hefty belly projecting
way ahead of his torso, the man's posture seemed to say, "I am not
impressed: make me another offer." When the collection plate was
passed around, the man with the generous belly dropped all of 25
cents in it. He didn't seem to be embarrassed by the clinking sound
his miserly metal made as it hit another coin. As everyone knows,
a North American altar boy can't buy even a single candy with 25 cents.

Another man had his dark sunglasses resting on his head, as if he
was passing through the church on his way to the beach or some other
sybaritic venue.

A number of women were dressed in tight pants and seemed to
precariously balance themselves on high heels. The concept that at
church the faithful should cover their physical attributes rather than
expose them is obviously a bizarre or arcane idea to these women who
ostensibly had come to church to re-live the passion of Christ.

Someone should tell them what passion means in the context of Badarak.

A middle-aged man had brought along bottled water. He noisily guzzled
from the bottle and then furtively wiped his mouth with his sleeve.

A girl in her late teens, dressed in layered shirts, exposed
her glossy, suntanned shoulders. Two of her friends were chewing
gum... once in a while a cell phone rang shattering the ecclesiastic

One doesn't have to be religious to object to the above disgraceful
behavior. In addition to insulting the Christian faith and Armenian
traditions, these insolent or ignorant people also insult the priest,
the Armenian people, our history and culture.

What did the rest of the faithful think about these fashionably-dressed
barbarians? What did the poor priest, reciting our 1,500-year-old
Badarak... the words of Christ, Nerses Shnorhali and Krikor Naregatsi
...think as he watched the shameless, uncouth, if not sinful, pageant
from the altar? Would he hesitate to condemn such behavior from the
pulpit, fearing that he might lose a number of his congregants?

To paraphrase the lyrics of "Eleanor Rigby," where do these people come
from? Who were their parents? What school did they go to? What makes
them behave the way they do? Do they realize that there's a difference
between a cat walk, the beach, the street and the house of God?

At the beginning of Badarak Armenians recite "Havadamk"-the cornerstone
of the Christian faith. At the end of that collective statement,
they say that those who don't believe the doctrines expressed in
"Havadamk" should leave the church. Perhaps the Armenian Church
should put an addendum to "Havadamk"-a few words which would remind
people, who do not respect the sacred ground, that they should take
their uncovered hairs, their tight pants, their shades, stilettos,
bottled waters and chewing gums and vacate the church post haste.

A youthful Christ grabbed the whip and lashed at the money-changers
of the temple, driving them out.  In the same spirit perhaps someday
an Armenian priest should order these brazen "faithful" out of the
house of God. Their presence is a "beeghdz" the Armenian Church and
congregations have tolerated long enough.