by Fr. Arten Ashjian
Mrs. Vartanesian, a survivor of the Genocide, was the chairperson of the Ladies Auxiliary at St. Leon’s Armenian Church in Paterson, New Jersey, where I served briefly as pastor in the early 1950’s. Mrs. Vartanesian, whose husband was also very active in the church, worked in a local textile factory as a supervisor. The Vartanesians did not have any children.
It was winter. One night after a meeting in the church hall, Mrs. Vartanesian approached me privately. “Der Hayr,” she said, “Business is very slow where I work. The situation is getting worse, week after week. I suggested to the boss, who has confidence in me, that you as my priest pay a visit to the plant to perform an Armenian home blessing ritual far the benefit of the business. Would you come?”
I did not know her boss. All I knew about him was that he was a non-Armenian and a non-Christian. “What did your boss think of your suggestion?” I asked Mrs. Vartanesian.
“He will certainly welcome you in performing the blessing,” was her answer. On the appointed day, I took my “ritual tools” and some salt with me as I went to climb to the second floor of the old factory where Mrs. Vartanesian met me in her work clothes. She was anxious to introduce me to her boss. The man was thin and pale, wearing an expression which betrayed worry. He welcomed me without enthusiasm, saying something like, “We tried everything to improve the state of this business. Now we are at the point where we are willing to try anything, particularly since Mrs. Vartanesian has such faith in God.”
There was hardly any other witness to the Armenian “home blessing” ritual I was about to begin. The machines were already turned off. The boss kept himself out of my way while I, putting an a stole, began chanting. I remember sprinkling a little salt and water upon same workbenches nearby after touching the salt and water with my hand cross…
The following week Mrs. Vartanesian reported to me that the business at the factory had started to pick up.