January 6, 2019, fell on the first Sunday of the New Year, and the Armenian Church of America welcomed the occasion with the new Primate of the Eastern Diocese celebrating the “Armenian Christmas” Divine Liturgy.
Celebrating the Feast of the Nativity and Theophany of Jesus Christ for the first time since his election as Diocesan Primate, the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan led an inspiring badarak before a crowded sanctuary and several thousand viewers watching an online broadcast.
In an animated sermon, the Primate noted how the story of Christ’s nativity—though it describes an event of cosmic significance in human history—is told through the experiences of common, everyday people.
“The story’s heroine, Mary, is a young Jewish girl,” Fr. Findikyan said. “Joseph has no prestigious pedigree; he’s not a king; the most we know is that he was a carpenter. The shepherds, gritty with the dirt of their daily work, are the ‘star characters’ who first greet the newborn savior.”
“And the son of God himself comes into this world as a baby, born in an oppressed, occupied land. He’s born not in a palace, not even in a bed, but in a manger, with animals surrounding him.”
Finding Christ in Unexpected Places
The Christian story, the Primate said, marks the greatest possible contrast with mankind’s mythological traditions, which stress the remoteness of the gods from average human concerns.
“Why is that?” he asked—before replying: “Because that’s how God works. God as we know Him—God as Armenian Christians know Him—is a God who brings the glory of heaven down to the earth, in the most unexpected, counter-intuitive way.”
The Primate noted that Armenian Christians have profoundly experienced this truth. “We children of the Armenian Church know that God brings His loving power to bear where we least expect it. Sometimes, it’s in a beautiful cathedral like this, or in Holy Etchmiadzin. But sometimes, it’s in the parched highlands of Ottoman Turkey.”
The story of Christmas, Fr. Findikyan said, shows that “God brings His healing power to ordinary people”—in their everyday activities, and especially in moments of weakness and trial. He urged listeners to seek out Jesus Christ in unlikely places and people; to see the frailties of life as the stage on which a loving God acts with His greatest power.
Fr. Findikyan delivered his first Armenian Christmas homily as Primate with passion and conviction, in both English and Armenian.
The Very Rev. Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan, the vicar of St. Vartan Cathedral, also participated in the Armenian Christmas service.
Dr. Ed Khoury served as godfather for the churorhnek (Blessing of Water) ceremony, which commemorates the baptism of Jesus by the hand of John the Baptist.
To mark the occasion, Dr. Khoury had also donated to the cathedral a large ceremonial cauldron of embossed metal, which was used for the 2019 Water Blessing service, and will be used every year going forward.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Diocese broadcast the Armenian Christmas liturgy over the Internet. The live broadcast with a running narration was watched by thousands on Livestream and Facebook. Even more viewers have tuned in to the recorded program in the days that followed.
(Click here to watch the recorded program.)
The sacred music of the Divine Liturgy was rendered beautifully throughout the service by the St. Vartan Cathedral Choir, under the direction of Maestro Khoren Mekanejian. Accompanying on the organ was Florence Avakian.
Following services on January 6, a traditional home blessing and Christmas reception were held in Haik and Alice Kavookjian Auditorium.
An Armenian Christmas Eve service was held on the evening of January 5. The celebrant was Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan.
Parishes across the Eastern Diocese also held Christmas services on Sunday, January 6.