ENCINO—On the morning of Sunday, October 2, “Avedissian” Hall of Ferrahian High School in Encino was filled to capacity as religious and community leaders and members and faithful had gathered for Pontifical Divine Liturgy celebrated by His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, who was assisted at the altar by Western Prelate Moushegh Mardirossian and Western Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian.
His Holiness was escorted from the “Yeghia Sarafian” meeting room to “Avedissian” Hall under an “Ambhovani” with an honor guard of Homenetmen scouts. At the entrance of the hall, His Holiness was greeted by Sunday School students and throngs of faithful, and as the choir sang the “Hrashapar” hymn of welcome, the Pontiff entered the hall and blessed the faithful as he approached the altar to begin Divine Liturgy.
Divine Liturgy was sung by a choir comprised of members and soloists from various Prelacy Churches, led by Crescenta Valley Church parish pastor Rev. Fr. Ghevont Kirazian, with Holy Martyrs Church choir leader Mr. Gomidas Keshishian on the organ.
The Prelate conveyed his greetings prior to the Pontifical message. His Eminence thanked God for the day and for the celebrations of the previous days in honor of the 20th anniversary of the enthronement of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I. The Prelate reiterated His Holiness’ sentiments from the prior evening, that such anniversaries are occasions for spiritual renewal and an invitation to renew our pledge and dedication to serve, and concluded by greeting his clergy brothers H.E. Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, H.E. Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, H.E. Archbishop Yeprem Tabakian, Fr. Antony Atallah representing H.G. Bishop Serapion, Deputy Consul General Valery Mkrtoumian and Counsellor Razmik Stepanyan, ARF Central Committee members, community leaders and representatives, Prelacy Councils’ members, and faithful. He then invited Archbishop Derderian to convey his remarks.
On behalf of Diocesan clergy and council, Archbishop Derderian greeted His Holiness with love and gratitude. The Primate reflected on his years as a student at the Seminary of the Great House of Cilicia, where he received instruction from His Holiness, and lauded His Holiness’ spirit of hard work and diligent service which he personally witnessed. The Primate stated that His Holiness’ past twenty years of service as Catholicos has been characterized by service dedicated to the people, and concluded by praying for God to grant His Holiness Catholicos Aram I a long and healthy life so that he may continue to stir the souls of the faithful as an “apostle of faith,” and for God to keep the Holy See of Cilicia unshaken.
Prior to inviting His Holiness to address the congregation, the Prelate urged the faithful to heed the Pontiff’s messages on the importance of Armenia, Artsakh, and Diaspora unity, and to be guided by faith, hope, and love in our service.
Prior to delivering his message on the day’s Gospel reading from 2 Corinthians 13:5-13, His Holiness gave thanks and praise to Almighty God for the opportunity to be with the people and to witness the bond of the faithful with our church and faith. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” It was on this, verse 5 from the day’s Gospel reading, that His Holiness delivered his spiritually renewing and inspired sermon. St. Paul in Corinthians asked this important question to the Corinthians centuries ago, but today, the same question can be addressed to us, stated the Pontiff. Being Christian, having Christian faith, means believing in our Lord Jesus Christ alone, making Christ a living presence in our daily lives, the purpose of our lives, and becoming witnesses of Christ, stressed His Holiness. “Our Lord Jesus Christ has been a constant presence in our history and in the lives of our forefathers. Through Him we overcame infinite storms, Through Him we were illuminated and strengthened, through Him we walked from death to life. Our forefathers had Christ as the center of their lives, as their guide, strength, and hope. They even became witnesses of Christ with their blood. We must follow in their ideal example. Armenia and Artsakh are surrounded by enemies; in the Diaspora, we are surrounded by a different type of enemy. Thus, we must keep our Lord Jesus Christ close to us always, in our individual and collective lives, to become renewed in our faith and walk with Christ alone, for this is the key to our survival and endurance,” emphasized His Holiness.
At the conclusion of Divine Liturgy, “Achahampouyr” was held at the foot of the altar. One by one, faithful approached His Holiness to kiss his hand and receive his blessing. Each faithful also received a gold-plated cross as a memento.
Following “Achahampouyr,” the procession of altar servers and choir members guided His Holiness to the courtyard, where doves were released. The spiritually moving and inspiring day came to a close with “Cilicia.”
Both the Divine Liturgy and the 20th anniversary celebration the prior evening were live streamed on Pan Armenian TV.