It was in my capacity as a university chaplain that I first met Fr. Koumranian, the pastor at the Armenian Orthodox Church in Lowell. For some reason unknown to me, Fr. Koumranian took a liking to me – or, maybe he was simply intrigued by a “woman priest” – and decided that I should learn the “real” liturgy of the church. So, he took me under his wing in one of the most delightful mentor relationship I have ever known.
He was called “Father” so I, of course, became known as “Mother”. That’s not what I wanted; it’s what he insisted. He would call me and, in his heavy Armenian accent, begin, “Mother? Dees is Father. We are having baptism at church. It would be good for you to learn Divine Liturgy. It would be good for my people to see woman priest. You come.”
Mind you, that wasn’t so much an invitation as an expectation. I was thrilled. I went. Every time.
One evening, he called. “Mother? Dees is Father. Der is funeral Wednesday. It would be good for you to learn Divine Liturgy. It would be good for my people to see woman priest. You come.”
Nothing was so important that couldn’t be rearranged so that I could be there.
There was smoke. There were bells. There was chanting. I admit that I loved it all in that beautiful mosaic tile sanctuary.
When it came time for the eulogy, I looked around the church and saw that it was filled with lots of old Armenian men and women, all dressed in black. I thought sure the eulogy would be spoken in Armenian and I could meditate quietly while he preached. To my surprise, Fr. Koumranian walked into the aisle, near the casket as he began the eulogy.
“Der are people in dees world,” he said, “who are always making you happy. You see dem walking on de street and your heart leaps for joy, for dey are making you so happy.”
He put his hand reverently on the casket and said solemnly, “Dees . . . is not one of dos people.”
I was, in a word, stunned. I shut my eyes tight. All I could think was, “Don’t let my face show what I’m thinking.” Which was, “What in the heck is he doing?” When I opened my eyes, I could see the front row of women, including the man’s widow.
They were all nodding their heads in agreement.
Fr. Koumranian continued, “But, isn’t God – our God – so wonderful, dat now – even now – even one such as dees is resting eternally in de arms of Jesus? Because, you know, eets true: People is people. And, God is God.”
And then he said, “Ah-min,” and sat down.
(PS: I wouldn't take nothing for my journey now)