As a child, I was mesmerized by the Armenian church service on Sunday mornings. Incense hung in the air, people arrived sporadically to light a candle, and for over two hours, we stood, sat, and crossed ourselves at mystifying intervals. Although I didn’t understand the meaning of most of the words or gestures, the music spoke to me and offered a spiritual bridge to a tradition that goes back over 1700 years.
As years passed, I discovered that many other members of the congregation also felt somewhat disconnected from the ceremony. Despite the dedication of generations of often life-sacrificing priests and scholars, many churchgoers find themselves today in a crisis of context. How do we shift from respectfully observing our ancient traditions to spiritually participating in them in a way that restores the church to being more than a cultural touchstone?
For many of us, I believe this pathway can be lit by music.
This recording is a collection of hymns arranged to follow the cycle of life. A life’s journey, “janabar” in Armenian, is marked by events and transitions that inspire us to seek deeper spiritual connection. At times we gather as a community in celebration or consolation; at other times, we embark as individuals on quests for healing, reconciliation, or refuge. We begin our musical journey here with an invocation for guidance. With each successive hymn, we gradually trace the arc of life through birth and baptism; companionship and commitment; transition and loss. We pray for safety in our travels, reassurance during times of fear, and compassion during times of difficulty. These are the mornings and evenings that shape our lives until death, when our souls finally rest, waiting to enter the door of our promised life eternal.
Many of us in the West are accustomed to the first words of the Bible being “In the beginning…” The Armenian translation begins with the words “Since the beginning…” A subtle difference, but one that suggests creation is ongoing, and as such, we have not been abandoned on our life path. May this music help us find inspiration, connection and the comfort of feeling God's presence more closely – on these special occasions and on all the days between the milestones.