Holy spirit

Singing, chanting can be heard as St. James Armenian Apostolic Church prepares for Easter.

Lent holds different meanings for different people, but the basic tenets are consistent across many Christian denominations. It’s a period of reflection and atonement, fasting and alms-giving, culminating in the joyous celebration of Easter, which commemorates the resurrection of Jesus. Recently, I sat in on a Lenten service at St. James Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, listening as the Rev. Arakel Aljalian guided about 30 people in worship and prayer. Aljalian and fellow church leaders conducted the service largely through chanting and singing, much of it in Classical Armenian. Their spiritual stanzas hovered and echoed in the grand sanctuary, the sweet smoke of incense filling the air. At times, I was struck by similarities in tone and scale with the music of other faiths, namely Judaism and Islam. Red curtains were drawn in front of the altar, sealing it from view. The separation, Aljalian explained, represents how sin separates men and women from the kingdom of God. On this Sunday morning, the curtains will be open, as Armenians, like their brethren in many other Christian churches, celebrate the most holy day on their calendar.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SOUNDS OF SPRING?Send ideas to or via Twitter @swhelman.