ENCINO—On Sunday, April 13 the triumphant entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem was celebrated in Prelacy Churches with Divine Liturgy, the Children’s Procession, and the Opening of the Portals service. Church entrances and altars were beautifully decorated with palm branches, and multitudes of faithful were in attendance to partake in the celebration, among them a large number of children, with olive branches and decorated candles in hand.
Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, having just returned from Lebanon after participating in the Catholicosate Brotherhood General Assembly and a number of other meetings in Antelias, celebrated Palm Sunday with the Holy Martyrs Church family in Encino.
As the choir sang the hymn “Hrashapar,” the Prelate entered “Avedissian” Hall, where the service was held to accommodate the large gathering, and began the celebration of Divine Liturgy, assisted at the altar by Rev. Fr. Razmig Khatchadourian and with the participation of deacons and choir members led by Gomidas Keshishian.
Prior to delivering the sermon His Eminence first expressed gratitude for his safe return from Lebanon, and offered prayers for peace and stability in the world, especially in Syria, and for the safe return home of Kessab’s residents. The Prelate spoke of the numerous meetings held in Antelias under the presidency of His Holiness Aram I, through which he stated Brotherhood members renewed their oath to serve God, our Church, and the Holy See of Cilicia, in honor of the memory of our martyrs renewed their pledge to our just cause, and reaffirmed their commitment and solidarity to our brothers and sisters in Syria.
Reciting a verse from Zachariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey,” the Prelate began his sermon with those words of Zechariah foretelling the triumphant entry of our Lord into Jerusalem, stating that those words revealed by God and spoken by the prophet became reality six centuries later when the King rode into Jerusalem, lowly and on a donkey, to restore His kingdom of peace and humility upon the people and in their souls. His Eminence reflected on the joyous atmosphere of that day, as a great multitude had gathered for Passover waving palm branches and spreading their clothes on the road as a sign of obedience as they awaited the Messiah chanting “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” But this King did not come riding on a horse with an army of soldiers to wage war; this was the Savior King, the King of humility and peace, who came on a donkey, with an army of innocent children and faithful.
On that day there were two groups of people; the innocent and faithful, symbolized by the children, and the treacherous, symbolized by the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadduccess who were seeking a Messiah to grant them liberty and freedom from the Roman empire so that they could establish their own earthly kingdom and exert their rule over the people. Today, there are still these two groups of people, said the Prelate. His Eminence emphasized that Palm Sunday is not one day in history, rather an enduring message which we relive every time we celebrate Divine Liturgy and receive Holy Communion when our hearts become the New Jerusalem (City of Peace) and our Lord dwells within us. And so, let us pray that we remain in the group of innocent children through our meekness and by inviting our Lord into our hearts and having His peace, love, and humility reigns within us always, said the Prelate.
On the eve of Holy Week, the Prelate called on the faithful to expel any and all negative forces which seek to disturb the peace or our families and communities, and during the Opening of the Portals service urged them to pray for the Lord to open the doors of His mercy so that we may receive His kingdom, to open the hearts of world leaders so that peace is restored to the world, in Syria and particularly to the people of Kessab who are being uprooted from their ancestral lands for the third time in the last century, and for peace, justice, recognition and reparation as we approach the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and the canonization of our martyrs.
Prior to “Lord have mercy” prayers, on behalf of the parish community, Rev. Fr. Razmig Khatchadourian welcomed the Prelate, expressed gratitude for being with the community on the special day, and wished him strength during the many Holy Week services.
The Children’s Procession took place at the conclusion of Divine Liturgy. Guided by deacons and choir members, the Prelate made his way throughout the courtyard, bestowing blessings upon the faithful and in particular on the children. Sunday School students and Homenetmen scouts participated in the procession.
The prelate then returned to the altar to conduct the Opening of the Portals ceremony. Given that His Holiness has proclaimed 2014 the “Year of the Elder”, by the decision of the Prelate and the Religious Council, the Godfather of the service, usually children, were this year elders. At Holy Martyrs Church, the Godfather was Mr. Kevork Atmajian, long-time parishioner and sponsor. His Eminence conducted the service, symbolizing the Second Coming of Christ, during which the Godfather opened the altar curtain, representing the opening of the door of salvation.
At the conclusion of the service, the Prelate addressed the faithful, once again inviting them to confession and repentance so that they are cleansed of sin and the door is opened to them, and for them to open the doors of their hearts and souls for Christ to dwell in. His Eminence blessed Mr. and Mrs. Atmajian, and through them all elders, wishing them good health and for their wisdom and good example to be a model for all.
The day’s festivities came to a close with the benediction by the Prelate and the “Cilicia” anthem.