The birth of Jesus has transformed the world, leaving behind a rich heritage of doctrine and teachings, he said.
"We, as Armenians, should be grateful not only because we were the first nation to officially accept Christianity, but more so because our entire history and achievements have been the embodiment of our Christian faith, which is integrated in our national identity and character."
At the conclusion of the Mass, the clergy held the traditional blessing of the water, a ritual that symbolizing the baptism of Jesus Christ, St. Mary's Pastor Vazken Atmajian said.
The Armenian Church's Jan. 6 celebration of Christmas follows a historical tradition that began in the 4th century, well prior to the split in 1054 between Roman and Orthodox Catholicism, according to an account written by Archbishop Besak Toumaian.
Called the "Feast of Theophany," Jan. 6 recognized both the birth and the baptism of Jesus.
But when an inclination arose to separate those two feasts, the celebration of Jesus' birth was moved to Dec. 25, which was already the day of a pagan holiday.
Roman Catholic Church officials wanted to eliminate the temptation that newly converted Christians might follow the pagan holiday, called the "Birth of the Sun," which celebrates the end of winter solstice.
So though the Dec. 25 recognition of Christmas spread all over the Roman Empire and later to the world at large, the change did not reach Armenia because the country did not have a pagan festival to suppress.
Today the Armenian Church is the only religion to celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6.
CHRIS WIEBE covers City Hall and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at chris.wiebelatimes.com.