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The Liturgy of the Word

The Procession and the Beginning of the Liturgy of the Word (Synaxis or Midday Office)
When the altar and the Eucharistic gifts have been prepared, the curtain opens and the deacons lead the priest in a procession around the altar and down into the nave. The priest offers incense to the main and side altars, the baptismal font, the sacred icons, and all the people. As the priest makes his way around the church, the faithful come up to him, kiss the hand cross and say, Heeshescheer yev zees arachee anmah kareenun Asdoodzo [Remember me, too, before the immortal Lamb of God]. This is an acknowledgment that during the Divine Liturgy we encounter "the Lamb of God," Jesus Christ himself. The people ask that the priest pray for them in the presence of Jesus.

The procession marks the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word. Everything until this point has been a preparation for the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist, the two components of the Badarak. The Liturgy of the Word concerns the Word of God, Jesus Christ. He comes to his people in the public reading of the Bible, and especially when the deacon solemnly chants a passage from one of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). Every prayer, psalm, hymn and ritual during this part of the Divine Liturgy is related to Jesus Christ as the Word, the supreme expression of God. This idea is inspired by the Gospel according to John: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God" [John 1:1].

A Hymn to Jesus Christ the Only-Begotten Son of God
Most appropriately, the Liturgy of the Word begins with a hymn to Jesus Christ, the Word, Meeyadzeen Vortee yev Pant Asdvadz [Only-begotten Son and Word of God]. The words of this ancient hymn express our conviction that Jesus Christ is the immortal Son of God. He became man by being born of the holy Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. He was crucified and destroyed death in order to give us eternal life. He is one person of the Holy Trinity [12].

Another hymn, called the Jashoo Sharagan [Midday Hymn] changes each Sunday according to the feast or season of the church year. The hymn always focuses on Jesus Christ and the gift of salvation that he has made available for according us.

The Gospel Procession: A Parade in Honor of the Savior
Since the Gospel contains the words of Jesus, the Son of God, it is chanted with great solemnity. The senior deacon calls everyone to attention by chanting Broskhoomeh, "Be attentive" [13]. He takes the ornately bound Gospel book from the priest and elevates it high over his head. Lifting up the Gospel book is a sign of the authority of God's Word over our lives. When we commit ourselves to the wisdom of the Bible, we find there a powerful source of meaning and direction.

The altar servers then follow the senior deacon in procession around the holy altar. Just as we honor a hero by organizing a parade, in church we worship Jesus Christ by processing around the altar with the Gospel book that contains His Word. At the end of the procession, the deacon lowers the Gospel book so that those who will be reading the day's Scripture readings may kiss it, a sign of their faith and devotion.

The hymn that is sung during the Gospel procession, Soorp Asdvadz [Holy God], is also in honor of Jesus Christ, who is holy, mighty, and immortal, and who rose from the dead for our salvation [14]. As we sing this hymn, we should take comfort in how powerful a guardian we have in Jesus Christ.

This hymn is followed by a litany chanted by the deacons. A litany is a series of chanted petitions, or prayer requests, in which the deacon invites the people to pray for various intentions: for peace in the world, for the bishops of the church, for the Catholicos, for the clergy and faithful, for the deceased [15-16]. The deacon ends each petition with the words, uzDer aghachestsook [Let us beseech the Lord]. The choir and people respond, Der voghormya [Lord have mercy].

During and after the litany, the priest prays that God will answer our prayers; that he will "accept the supplications of us [His] servants and be merciful to us according to [His] great mercy..." [17].

The Reading of the Scriptures: We are Nourished by the Word of God
The focus of the Liturgy of the Word is the public reading of passages from the Old and New Testaments. In the Armenian Church every Sunday specific Bible passages are read. They are selected according to an ancient system that has its roots in fourth-century Jerusalem, the cradle of the Church. The Scripture passages should be read by ordained tubeerk, "readers."

The Reading of the Holy Gospel: God is Speaking
The Gospel reading is the culmination of the Liturgy of the Word. It is not read, but chanted from the elevated bema by an ordained deacon. Before the deacon begins to chant the Gospel, the priest makes the sign of the cross over the people, saying Khaghaghootyoon amenetsoon [Peace to all]. An altar server advises the people to "Be attentive." The fathers of the Armenian Church emphasize that the solemn chanting of the Gospel during the Badarak is not only a lesson for our minds, but a real meeting with Jesus Christ. This is why the choir proclaims, Aseh Asdvadz [God is speaking] right before the deacon chants the Gospel. It also explains why Park kez Der Asdvadz mer [Glory to you, O Lord our God] is sung both before and after the Gospel is chanted [18].

The Nicene Creed: Our Common Faith
Another component of the Liturgy of the Word is the chanting of the Nicene Creed by all the people [18-19]. The Creed is the official declaration of the principal doctrines of the Church. It was composed by all the churches at .the ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 AD. We solemnly chant the Nicene Creed at every Divine Liturgy as a formal declaration that those participating in the Badarak are unified by the same understanding of who God is, and who we are relative to Him. In the articles of the Nicene Creed there is no room for diversity of opinion.

And yet each time we thoughtfully recite the Nicene Creed, the same declaration of faith that has united Christians throughout the world for 1700 years, we can sense our inclusion in the great, universal Church that extends beyond time and space. We begin to realize that our own faith is not strictly a personal affair. It is rooted and nourished by the "one, catholic and apostolic holy Church" [19] with Jesus Christ as its head [Colossians 1:18].

The End of the Liturgy of the Word
The Liturgy of the Word ends with a litany [19-21] and a prayer [21-22]. The closing prayer is specifically for those who are not yet baptized members of the Church. Since they are not yet permitted to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, the unbaptized were originally dismissed at the end of the Liturgy of the Word. Speaking on their behalf, the priest prays, "Make us equal to your true worshipers, who worship you in spirit and in truth." This quotation from the Gospel according to St. John reminds us it that being a baptized Christian is a privilege, not a right: "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him" [John 4:23].

The Liturgy of the Word concludes with the priest's blessing over the people and is sealed with their acclamation, "Amen" [22].
© ArmenianChurch.org

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