Holy Week in the Armenian Church. New Book to be Released on Thursday, March 19

A new book by V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Director of the Zohrab Information Center, will be released at a book presentation and reception on Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York. #AvakShapat

2015-03_AvakShapatCoverThe book is entitled, Աւագ Շաբաթ Avak Shapat: A Guide to the Holy Week Services of the Armenian Church. The book is being published by the Zohrab Information Center. Conceived as a textbook for clergy, seminarians, deacons, choir members and others charged with conducting the Holy Week services, the guide will be of use to anyone interested in the worship of the Armenian Church, from faithful practitioners to students and scholars of other traditions.

The liturgical tradition of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church is one of the oldest and most magnificent in all of Christendom. The center of gravity of the Armenian Church’s liturgical year is undoubtedly Holy Week, the eight days preceding Easter. At no other time of the year is there such a concentration of poignant, ritually lavish, and theologically rich services in such a short period of time.

Yet with that exuberance comes complexity. The instructions for conducting these services are found in two books published centuries ago in Classical Armenian, which describe the services in a highly technical, abbreviated manner. As a result, conducting the Holy Week ceremonies properly, prayerfully and beautifully can be a challenge even for experienced clergy.

2015-03 FDFWith the meticulous eye of a teacher and scholar of Christian liturgy, Fr. Findikyan guides the reader through each Holy Week service, presenting the sequence of prayers, hymns, Scripture readings and rituals, and describing them in detail. The book also contains valuable glossaries of liturgical terms in Armenian and English, as well as separate indexes of liturgical and biblical references. As such, the book serves as a useful reference work on the worship tradition of the Armenian Church as a whole.

The March 19 presentation will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd Avenue, New York. As he presents his book, Fr. Findikyan will lead a worshipper’s tour through the sequence and meaning of Holy Week in the Armenian Church, emphasizing the meaning of Jesus’ final days for us today. At the conclusion of his talk, copies of the new book will be available for sale.

The presentation is free and open to the public. A light Lenten meal will be served beginning at 6:30PM. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

2015-03 AvakShapatFlyer.001CLICK HERE to download a color flyer.

V. Rev. Fr. (Michael) Daniel Findikyan is a priest and vartabed of the Armenian Church. He has served as Director of the ZIC for two years. He is also Professor of Liturgical Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, and Visiting Professor of Liturgical Studies at the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana). He is an internationally renowned authority on the theology and history of the worship tradition of the Armenian Church and of other eastern churches, and has published widely in this area. Read more about Fr. Daniel’s education, teaching, ministry and publications.

For more information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

#AvakShapat

A Prayer for Holy Thursday by Catholicos Khrimian Hayrig

On the Thursday before Easter (Աւագ Հինգշաբթի) the Armenian Church commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus, when he established the mystery of his abiding presence among God’s people through Holy Communion of his living Body and Blood in the Divine Liturgy. 

Erevan, Matenadaran, MS 316, Gospel, Arts'akh, XIVth century, Last Supper. Photo: Ara Güler.
Erevan, Matenadaran, MS 316, Gospel, Arts’akh, XIVth century, Last Supper. Photo: Ara Güler.

Jesus, today you sat down with your hungry farmhands gathered around you. With every step you took, you plowed with them the rocky, hardened land of Israel. You were a plowman and a sower of seed and they were your courageous tillers. You sowed fistfuls of the seed of the Word of Life. You, true vine, planted your orchard at the summit of Golgotha.

Behold! Taking into your hands a cup of the fruit of the vine and a loaf of the bread of Good News, you bless. You give thanks. You break. And you say, “Take, eat, believe. That bread appears to be mere bread. But it is really and truly my Body. It is life. It is not the manna from the desert that your fathers ate in their faulty faith and then died. Instead, you, their faithful children, with your resolute faith, eat this Bread of Life and live forever! And drink this cup filled with joy and jubilation. It really is my blood, which I will spill on the Cross, breaking the cup of my body.”

For three years you proclaimed unceasingly, “I am the living bread that has come down from heaven.” Obstinate ones did not want to understand this mystical message of yours. Perplexed, they became indignant and murmured, “How can he give us his body to eat?”

Yet today, behold! You unveil in plain sight the mystery of Communion. Blessing ordinary bread and wine, you sanctify them and with your hands you distribute them, saying, “Here you are! This is my Body and my Blood.”

Lord, we believe that through the example of the Bread, you join your life with our life. You fuse your immortality with our mortality, so that through your life, humanity’s life may be immortalized. That is why you constantly repeated, “Truly, truly, I say to you: If you do not eat the Body of the Son of Man or drink his Blood, you have no life in you.” Yes, Lord, your Body is real food and your Blood is real drink. Blessed are they who eat this meal with faith. 

Catholicos Mkrtich I Khrimian (1820-1907), popularly and lovingly referred to as Khrimian Hayrig, is surely one of the greatest leaders of the Armenian Church in modern times. Passionately concerned for the welfare of the Armenians in the waning days of the crumbling Ottoman Empire, he is best remembered as an outspoken advocate for the right of self-determination for his people. To that end he led the Armenian delegation at the Conference of Berlin in 1878. The blessed Catholicos was also–perhaps even more so–a devout and inspired preacher and a man of resolute Christian faith and fervent prayer. This excerpt is translated from his book Յիսուսի վերջին շաբաթ. Խաչի ճառ [Jesus’ Final Week: Discourse on the Cross], published in Constantinople in 1894. A precious copy of this book is housed in the ZIC collection.