The Primate's Visit
This past weekend, October 19th and 20th, St. Sahag & St. Mesrob Armenian Apostolic Church hosted His Grace, Bishop Daniel Findikyan, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) on the occasion of the 95th Anniversary of the signing of our charter. A dinner was held in honor of His Grace on Saturday evening, and on Sunday the Primate celebrated the Diving Liturgy, which was followed by a banquet in Memorial Hall.
The Primate celebrated a truly transcendent Badarak and delivered a powerful homily to the parishioners. He opened his sermon by pointing out that he has been at St. Sahag & St. Mesrob Armenian Apostolic Church many times before, but to return as Primate was an enormous honor for him, beyond description.
In his sermon Bishop Findikyan theorized that Jesus’s most important message in the Bible is arguably the Gospel reading for the day, The Holy Gospel of Our Lord according to St. Luke 4:13-23. He pointed out that it is no coincidence that this was the first public sermon Jesus delivered, his first message to humanity.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering sight of the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” – St. Luke 4; 18-19. Jesus was telling the people, that he was the one sent by God to reorient the world and bring it into alignment with God’s design, and that these words hold the key to the very reason he came into the world. To do God’s will.
Bishop Findikyan focused in on the very heart of his message: We must step up to that mission. Each one of us must make caring for those in need our priority. Jesus was not preaching to his fellow rabbis when he delivered this message, he was speaking to the people. Each one of us is called to support our clergy and to reach out, step out of our comfort zones to tend to those in need.
How? 1. Serving the poor means not only those who are financially poor, but those who are spiritually poor. There are many extremely wealthy in our community who have all the trappings of a rich life, and yet they are spiritually bankrupt. 2. He calls us to heal the broken-hearted. We all have losses in our lives that rip our hearts and leave us with bleeding. The love of Christ that comes through each of us holds the power to heal the broken hearted among us. 3. He asks us to help free those held captive – again he is referring not only to those imprisoned, but those who are held captive to the abundance of dark forces in our current world. 4. And he asks us to heal those who blind; to aid those who cannot see the light and the truth and the way of Christ in recovering their sight.
Bishop Findikyan continued in saying all of these hurting souls—the poor, the blind, the captive, the oppressed – need hope. Not money, not a dream, but the eternal love and care and life that our Lord Jesus Christ promises.
Concluding with emotional call to open our hearts, the Primate asked us to break out of our comfort zones and do the radical work that Jesus commands us to do. It begins one by one, face to face. It begins with saying, how can I be of help. It begins with the courage to break out of our traditional customs, to make caring for those in need our priority in the short time God has given us here on earth.
The day continued with a beautiful banquet. Following the Invocation, Dr. Alex Mamourian, Master of Ceremonies, introduced Emily Movesian and Sona Bardakjian who beautifully sang The Star Spangled Banner and Mer Hayrenik, respectively. Angel Lush and Rosaline Meguerian represented the Sunday School with recitation before the entire Sunday School performed Sourp Asdvadz and Ortnetsetz uz Der. Rev. Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan, Pastor of Holy Trinity Armenian Church, offered an eloquent toast in honor of the occasion and Zarmine Boghosian beautifully recited The Armenian Church poem by Vahan Tekeyan. Laraine Ballard, Chair of the banquet, welcomed the Primate and touched upon upholding the example set by our ancestors by taking the responsibility to be good stewards of the church. She also gave thanks to Julyet Degirmenci and Rosine Gouveia, who she acknowledged as the women who really organized the banquet. Alex Topakbashian, Parish Council Chair, welcomed Bishop Daniel and spoke personally about Father Daniel’s humility, his wisdom and his grace that leaves a lasting impression upon the people with whom he comes in contact, particularly our young people. Alex went on to pledge support to Bishop Daniel in making his big ambitions a reality.
In light of the occasion of the 95th Anniversary of the signing of the charter, the Very Reverend Father Oshagan Gulgulian gave a passionate speech about St. Sahag & St. Mesrob’s Past, Present and Future, pointing out the remarkable tenacity that has defined Armenians over the course of history and how we have a sacred responsibility to preserve our inheritance as the guardians of our religion, our culture, our language, music and art.
And finally, Bishop Daniel offered his remarks, saying that he is enormously honored in his new position and that he has a big responsibility on his shoulders. The way ahead involves plans and ideas he is putting into place and he called upon all of those present to assist him in this effort. He shared that he is rethinking everything we do, re-examining and looking for new ways to bring in life and creativity that will take us to a new level that excites and inspires. He pointed out that we face new and very different challenges that our ancestors faced, and how from both his heart and his mind he is carefully dissecting how we do everything. Bishop Daniel concluded by blessing the attendees and challenging them to look for new and creative ways to move forward into our future.