Celebrations Commence With Episcopal Divine Liturgy and Ordination of Deacons and Stole-Bearers
ENCINO—On Sunday, November 3 Holy Martyrs Church of Encino commenced its 50th anniversary celebration with Episcopal Divine Liturgy celebrated by Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, who also ordained deacons and stole-bearers on this special occasion. Rev. Fr. Boghos Tinkjian and Parish Pastor Rev. Fr. Razmig Khatchadourian assisted at the altar. Archbishop Yeprem Tabakian participated in the service as well.
The Church was filled beyond capacity as hundreds of faithful had gathered to be part of this historic and momentous day. Central Executive member Khajag Dikijian and Executive Council Chair Rima Boghossian were among the guests in attendance, as well as Ferrahian School 11th grade students. Sunday School students joined the choir in the singing of the Liturgy.
Accompanied by the “Hrashapar” hymn, the Prelate entered the sanctuary to begin the service. After the Scripture reading by Sunday School students, the ordination of deacons began with the “Oorakh Ler” hymn.
Rev. Fr. Razmig Khatchadourian presented the two candidates, Hovig Seraydarian and Toukhman Khatchadourian, and testified that they are worthy of ordination. The sub-deacons ascended the altar on their knees and facing the altar, knelt before the Prelate. With his hand on their heads, the Prelate prayed for God to extend His protective hand over them and to bless them so that they are worthy of this calling to serve His holy church. May they receive Your grace and spread it among the faithful as they serve our one true Lord through their rank as deacons, recited The Prelate. He prayed for them to leave behind the worldly and become preachers of His Word, for god to cleanse them of sin, give them the strength and wisdom to live righteously, and for the mercy of His son and the truth of the Holy Spirit to be upon them.
The candidates then turned around to face the congregation, hands on their ears with palms facing out as the “Divine Heavenly Grace” hymn was sung. The Prelate placed his hands on their heads and prayed for God to look upon His servants with mercy, keep them resolute in their calling, increase their faith and love, and give them the strength and grace of the first deacon and proto-martyr St. Stepehen so that they serve obediently and humbly, filled with the Holy Spirit, and bring joy and goodness to themselves and those around them.
With the Gospel reading by Rev. Fr. Boghos Tinkjian, the Liturgy continued until The Kiss of Peace when the ordinations continued. The sub-deacons once again knelt before the Prelate, and with his hands on their heads, the Prelate prayed for God to be the helper and protector of His servants, keeping them in peace away from visible and invisible enemies so they live just and pure lives and become worthy of eternal life in the example of His saints. Placing the stoles on their left shoulders, he called on the deacons to cast off the shadow of sin and to become an example to others with their lives and actions. Presenting the Gospel, The Prelate granted them permission to read the Word of God from the altar, and presenting the censer, granted them permission to cense. The newly ordained deacons censed three times, and before the final benediction, the Prelate placed stoles on the shoulders of acolytes Hagop Demirjian, Manuel Bayramian, Bedros Najarian, and Gary Markarian, elevating them to the rank of stole-bearer. Thus the ordinations concluded, and the Liturgy continued until the sermon.
The Prelate began by offering praise and glory to God for making us worthy of participating in the Liturgy on All Saints Day, which is also the name-day of Holy Martyrs Church and this year coincided with the 50th anniversary. He congratulated the deacons and stole-bearers once again, praying that they remain faithful in their calling. Service to our church, from acolyte to the highest rank of Catholicos, begins with faith, hope, and love, stressed the Prelate, and prayed for the Lord’s strength, wisdom, and grace to lead them in their God-pleasing service. The Prelate offered the same prayer for all the faithful, stating that as children of God, as Christians created in the image of God and children of the Armenian Apostolic Church, all of us must live God-pleasing lives strengthened by the Holy Spirit.
Speaking on All Saints Day, the Prelate noted that in the early days of Christians, martyrs who sacrificed their lives for our Lord and our faith and became witnesses for the church were venerated individually. As the number of martyrs grew, the Roman Catholic Church established a day for all saints to be honored collectively. These saints, old and new, known and unknown, were heroes and champions of our faith. They were pure men and women who lived pure lives obedient to God’s commandments and were persecuted for our Lord and for righteousness. All Saints Day, as the name-day and pilgrimage day of Holy Martyrs Church, is an invitation, a call to follow in their example of unwavering faith, utmost devotion to God, selfless spirit of sacrifice, and purity. Nothing could shake their faith or lead them astray from their path, not even torment and untold afflictions.
With this same faith, love, and devotion, the founders of Holy Martyrs Church established this church fifty years ago, stated the Prelate. And each year, when we celebrate another anniversary, the message is for us to reflect on the past and on our forefathers, and to pray for God to help us live in their example and in the example of our martyrs who dedicated their lives to worshipping God, to doing good; they loved God with all their being and God blessed them and made them worthy of eternal life and of inheriting His kingdom. On this 50th anniversary, my call is for servants and faithful alike to live and serve with the faith, spirit, and devotion of our martyrs, loving God with all your heart, said the Prelate. He blessed the memory of the church founders and prayed for God to bless us, their descendents, with faith, love, wisdom, and strength to continue their path of service. He blessed and commended all those who serve for the progress of our church, and blessed the students, stating that our churches and schools are united in common cause and purpose. “Heavenly King, preserve Your Church unshaken and keep in peace those who worship Your name,” concluded the Prelate, and the Liturgy continued.
Prior to the Lord have Mercy prayer (Der Voghormya), Fr. Razmig addressed the congregation On behalf of the Holy Martyrs Church family he thanked the Prelate for the sharing in this special day and for the ordinations, welcomed Archbishop Yeprem Tabakian, Rev. Fr. Boghos Tinkjian, Khajag Dikijian, and Rima Boghossian, and congratulated the new deacons and stole-bearers. Fr. Razmig also announced that special donations were made on the occasion of the Church 50th anniversary; he thanked Mr. and Mrs. Garbis and Vart Berberian for donating a beautiful hand decorated Bible, Dr. and Mrs. Garo and Lida Tchakian for sponsoring the new church robes, and acknowledged the donation of the late Lucine Kahkejian which was used to purchase new church vessels for this occasion.
The service came to a close with the requiem, during which prayers were offered for departed church servants and faithful. By the request of the Homenetmen Regional Executive and the ordinance of the Prelate, requiem prayers were also offered for departed Homenetmen members.
With Homenetmen scouts standing at attention in the courtyard, the Prelate was led in a procession to “Avedissian” Hall where he blessed the madagh. The service came to a close with the Cilician and Armenian anthems. The celebration continued with a sit-down luncheon during which the madagh was served.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees Fr. Razmig welcomed the guests, giving thanks to God for the opportunity to collectively celebrate the 50th anniversary, which he stated was even more special because the church was enriched with the ordination of deacons and stole-bearers. He thanked the Prelate again for sharing in this historic day, stating, “We offer to you our boundless gratitude. During your Prelature, the Prelacy has experienced great growth, and you have impelled us in our service”. In conclusion, Fr. Razmig thanked the Board of Trustees, Delegates, Ladies guild, and all the church servants for their devoted service, the Executive Council for their support, and the madagh sponsors for their generosity.
The luncheon also featured a cultural program of music, poetry, and dance. Newly ordained deacon Hovig Seraydarian and his young daughter Nanor presented two songs on the piano and violin. Young dancers from Lilia Dance Group performed two dances, and Sunday School students recited poetry and presented three group songs.
The historic day came to a close with the Prelate’s message.
“Let us build the holy altar of light, because from there light dawned upon the Armenian nation”, began the Prelate with these words from the “Etchmiadzin Ee Hore” hymn. Today’s service and this cultural program are living witnesses to these words from the hymn sang by the Sunday School students, stated The Prelate. St. Gregory the Illuminator had his vision and received the sign to build the church, and with it the spiritual and national lives of the Armenian people were illuminated. Hand in hand, with faith and love, our religious forefathers established our church and spread spiritual light. Thanks to God for sustaining our church over the centuries. Stating that as the descendants of our forefathers it is our duty to continue their path, the Prelate commended all servants, clergy and laity alike, for their service. He greeted fellow clergy members Archbishop Yeprem Tabakian, Fr. Boghos, and Fr. Razmig, Central and Executive Council members Khajag Dikijian and Rima Boghossian, Board of Trustees, Delegates, altar servers, choir members, Sunday School staff and students, stating that the more we are elevated in rank, the more deeply we must serve, with humility, without judging one another, with Christ’s presence in our hearts and souls. All that we do is for our spiritual awakening, said the Prelate, thus, we must serve with pure hearts and minds, with faithfulness and integrity, with goodness in our actions, words, and thoughts, and for praise from God and not from people. The celebration concluded with the Prelate’s benediction.