As a testament to its unwavering faith—despite the past year’s extraordinary global suffering and tribulations—the Armenian Church celebrated the Feast of the Nativity and Theophany (Asdvadzahaydnoutiun), commemorating the birth and baptism of Jesus Christ, at New York’s St. Vartan Cathedral on January 6.
Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel Findikyan, joined by members of the Diocesan clergy and deacons, celebrated the Divine Liturgy and performed the Blessing of the Water (Churorhnek) ceremony. A Christmas Eve badarak, celebrated by Cathedral Vicar Fr. Davit Karamyan, preceded the service the prior evening. The Feast of Theophany is an annual eight-day (octave) celebration observed from January 6 to 13.
“The glory of the Lord will appear, and everyone shall see God’s salvation, which will bring comfort to humanity,” said Bishop Daniel in his moving homily. He defined Christ as comfort, or mkhitaroutiun: consolation and relief from pain and sorrow incarnate.
“Relief is coming; God’s salvation is within reach and hope fills the air. It is already here because Jesus Christ is here,” he continued. Bishop Daniel then spoke of the gravity of the realization of the birth and revelation of Jesus Christ into this world, which compelled mankind, particularly the Armenian people, to shift its entire view and perspective of “who we are, why we are here, and where we are going.”
“It is this realization that we celebrate on this Feast day of Christmas and Theophany.”
Reborn in the Christian Faith
Throughout the service, the angelic spiritual hymns sung by the St. Vartan Choir created an atmosphere of hope and underscored the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout.
Following the Divine Liturgy, the Blessing of the Water ceremony, a symbolic commemoration of the baptism of Christ, began with Bishop Daniel introducing Saro Hartounian as the Godfather of the Churorhnek. He described Mr. Hartounian’s coordination and funding of countless philanthropic and humanitarian endeavors benefitting the global Armenian community.
Most recently, Saro, along his wife, three children and brother, have provided food, shelter and medical relief to the needy who were displaced and are suffering in Armenia and Artsakh as a result of the tragic conflict and injustice recently in that region. “Being selected as Godfather of this ceremony is a humbling honor for me, and today I am again reborn in the Christian faith that plays such an important role in our Armenian identity,” said Hartounian with humility, during an interview after the service.
“I am one member of a very large group of selfless people in the Armenian diaspora whose collective efforts help our brethren in dire need. This recognition belongs to all of them.”
Hartounian spoke about his lifelong connection to the Armenian Church, which has been passed to him through generations. “My grandfather built an Armenian church in Haleb (Syria), and my father was very involved in the church. My involvement in the church is a continuation of their history, and now my children are carrying that legacy forward,” he said.
Christmas in a Pandemic
With the safety of parishioners during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic remaining a paramount concern of the Diocese, there were limitations on the usual activities surrounding the celebration and the public’s access to them. Although socially-distanced worshippers donning surgical masks were present in the cathedral, the number of faithful allowed into the sanctuary reached the permissible limit in strict compliance with local regulations regarding public gatherings.
However, to ensure that all of the faithful had an opportunity to experience the spiritual beauty of the Christmas service, a live broadcast on the Eastern Diocese’s YouTube and Facebook social media platforms enabled thousands of worshippers to participate from home. The use of a four-camera configuration to transmit the program, directed by Yervant Keshishian with live English commentary by Chris Zakian, enabled viewers to watch the cathedral service in three-dimensional definition.
Comments from the public posted on Diocesan social media in the days following the event expressed viewers’ feelings of appreciation and connection with their Christian brothers and sisters, at a time when physical congregation is not possible.
Click the following links to:
- VIEW a gallery of Armenian Christmas photos
- WATCH the recording of the entire Armenian Christmas badarak
- WATCH Bishop Daniel’s sermon in English and Armenian
In the spirit of Christmas, we wish all Krisdos dzunav yev haydnetzav! Tzezi yev mezi medz avedis!
By Stephan S. Nigohosian