On Sunday, February 14, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus to the Temple coincided with a further opportunity of joy for the Armenian Church, the Armenian Prelacy and, in particular, the community of St. Sarkis (Douglaston, New York), with the ordination and anointment of Deacon Roland a priest of the Armenian Apostolic Church. This event acquired special significance amid the uncertainty and restrictions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
The two-day process that began on Saturday evening followed the Vespers service with the ceremony of the calling to the priesthood. Deacon Roland, accompanied by his Sponsor, Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian, Pastor of St. Sarkis Church, and Rev. Fr. Vahan Kouyoumdjian, Pastor of St. Stephen’s Church (New Britain, Connecticut), was led on his knees towards the Chancel, while Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian, Vicar of the Eastern Prelacy and Pastor of Sts. Vartanantz Church (Ridgefield, New Jersey) sang “Nayea i mez” (“Look after us”).
His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate, queried Deacon Roland about his knowledge of the Bible, his behavior, and faith. After the Sponsor and Deacon Roland gave their pledges, Archbishop Anoushavan nominated him to the holy rank. Deacon Roland renounced 159 schismatic and heretical movements, and he promised to be a disciple of the Fathers of the Universal and Armenian Church and follow their teachings.
The ceremony came to a close with the Lord’s Prayer.
The ordination and anointment continued on Sunday during Divine Liturgy at St. Sarkis. It started right before the reading of the scriptures, with the ordinand kneeling in the middle of the chancel. The Archbishop censed the altar area and the people and sat on the episcopal seat, placed at the right side of the altar, as the choir sang the sharagan “Aysor Asdvadzootyoonun zvarjana” (“Today the divinity rejoices”). The clergy led the candidate, who was on his knees, from the chancel up to the altar, while Psalm 26 was being read. At the top of the steps, Der Nareg, as the sponsoring clergyman, said, “Your Eminence (Srpazan Hayr), the Holy Church our mother requests that you ordain Deacon Roland, who is being presented to you, a priest.” After a final brief inquiry about the character of the candidate, the Archbishop invited him to the priesthood.
Then the clergymen led the candidate, still on his knees, to the center of the sanctuary, facing the congregation. The candidate raised his hands with open palms, and the clergy started singing “Asdvadzayin yev yergnavor shnorh” (Divine and heavenly grace): “Divine and heavenly grace that always fulfills the needs of the sacred ministry of the apostolic church calls Roland from the diaconate to the priesthood, as a minister of the Holy Church, according to his testimony and to the testimony of all the people.” And the people acclaimed, “Arzhanee e” (He is worthy). This was repeated three times.
The ordinand was brought to Archbishop Anoushavan, who laid his hands upon the head of the candidate crosswise and said: “I place my hands on him and all of you pray that he may be worthy to keep the rank of priesthood pure before the table of the Lord God.”
The Prelate then went on to ask the Lord to grant the ordinand apostolic grace to carry out various priestly functions: to lay hands on the sick, to dispel evil spirits, to be worthy to perform the sacrament of baptism and the divine sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and to fulfill all priestly duties virtuously.
Vesting and Anointing
Right before the “kiss of peace,” as the Archbishop sat on the episcopal seat and while Psalm 119 was being read, the ordinand was brought before him, kneeling. On the left side of the Altar, Rev. Fr. Nareg, as the Sponsor, pleaded for Deacon Roland, praying that God Almighty may grant him the strength and grace to be worthy of the rank of priesthood.
Archbishop Anoushavan laid his hands on the candidate and prayed that God would pour out his abundant grace of the Holy Spirit upon him so that he may keep the order of priesthood with virtuous conduct. The Prelate then took the black cape (pilon) and put it around the shoulders of the candidate, saying “take the breastplate of righteousness from our Lord Jesus Christ.” The priests standing next to the Archbishop held the saghavard (crown), the shoorchar (cope), the pazban (cuff), the kodi (girdle) and the other priestly vestments. At that point, the Archbishop started giving each piece of the priestly vestments to the candidate with a prayer, granting him the authority to serve as a priest. Then the priests took the candidate behind the altar to fully vest him, and the choir began singing “Khorhoort khoreen” (O profound mystery), the hymn of vesting during the Soorp Badarak.
The Holy Muron was brought from the baptistery in a solemn procession. The Prelate poured Holy Muron into a small vessel while singing the hymn “Arakeloh aghavnoh.” He anointed the forehead of the candidate, giving him the new name of Garabed, and he then anointed his right and left palms. Archbishop Anoushavan then gave the “chalice and paten” containing the bread and wine to the newly ordained priest and said, “Take, receive authority and power from the Holy Spirit to bless and offer the Soorp Badarak in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ for the living and for the dead.” He then took the censer (poorvar) and censing the newly ordained priest, said, “And again for peace let us beseech the Lord. Receive us, save us, and have mercy upon us. Bless Der Garabed Kahana.” Der Garabed said: “Blessing and glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and always and forever and ever. Amen.” And turning to the congregation, he made the sign of the cross over the people while intoning, “Peace be to all” (Khaghaghootyoon amenetsoon). This was repeated three times. The ceremony concluded with the Archbishop’s benediction: “May the blessings of God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit descend upon you, who have been consecrated into the holy order of priesthood, so that you may present the offering of the Body and Blood of Christ for the peace of the world and for the forgiveness of sins. Amen.”
Archbishop Anoushavan then delivered the homily, reflecting on the etymology of Garabed (an Armenian alternate denomination for St. John Baptist) and how auspicious it is, as it means the one who opens the way, “not for a mere earthly being, but for God become flesh.”
Following the ceremony, a luncheon was served at the St. Sarkis hall, where the newly anointed Rev. Fr. Garabed and his family were honored by the faithful.
Rev. Fr. Garabed is observing the customary 40-day of retreat at the Armenian Prelacy in New York, spending his time reflecting and praying as he prepares for his mission.