Monday, October 05, 2020

Photos and Descriptions of a Recent Armenian Liturgy in California

In this time of pandemic when many churches are required to hold religious services outdoors, it is edifying to see how much effort some parishes are making to cultivate a sacred environment for their outdoor Masses. In the following photos we are given a look at the efforts of the Armenian Catholic Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator in Glendale, California, to provide both dignified worship and a sacred space for the divine liturgy. The location of the liturgy is a courtyard in between the cathedral church and parish hall. All photos were taken by Viken Abassian, a seminarian for the Armenian Catholic Eparchy. The celebrant pictured is Fr. John Henry Hanson, O. Praem., whose articles on the Armenian Liturgy have been featured on NLM in recent years. Each photo (click to enlarge) will be accompanied by an explanation of what is taking place in the liturgy.

After prayers at the foot of the altar, the celebrant ascends altar steps and approaches the altar reciting this prayer: “Bowing down in this Holy abode of praise, which for the Angels is a dwelling temple and for men a place for expiation, in the Holy presence of this glorious Cross and Holy Altar, we worship Your triumphant Resurrection...”

There immediately follows the “Preparation of the Oblation” or minor offertory, during which the celebrant fills the chalice with wine alone, i.e. unmixed with water, according to ancient Armenian usage.

During the Preparation of the Oblation, the celebrant places the paten on top of the filled chalice and says the Prayer of St John Chrysostom: “O Lord our God, who sent the heavenly Bread, our Lord Jesus Christ, to nourish the whole world, sanctify us.  And now we implore You, O Lord, bless these oblations and accept them on Your Holy Altar....”

A server reads the Epistle, facing the congregation, as the celebrant remains at the altar.

The celebrant reads the Gospel, facing the congregation.

The homily follows the gospel reading, normally delivered from the center of the sanctuary, with or without a pulpit.

Here begins the major offertory, after the homily and recitation of the creed. The celebrant prays: “I implore You, O Christ, Son of the Living God, to look upon me Your sinful servant and cleanse me, and by the power of the Holy Spirit to make me worthy to stand before your Holy Altar to consecrate Your Immaculate Body and Precious Blood.”

The Lavabo, during which the priest recites, as in the Latin rite: “I will wash my hands in holiness and walk around Your Altar, O Lord.”

Differing from the Latin rite, the celebrant places his palms on the altar throughout the Preface.

The Major Elevation of the Host, during which the celebrant sings “The Holy Things are due to the Saints,” or “Holy Things to the Holy.” (The elevation of both Host and Chalice take place just before Holy Communion and not directly after the consecration.)

The Major Elevation of the Chalice, during which the celebrant sings: “Blessing and glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now, always, and forever.” Before returning the chalice to the altar, he kisses its base.

A Eucharistic blessing is given before the invitation to Holy Communion. As the celebrant blesses the congregation with Host and Chalice, he sings: “This is Life, Hope, Resurrection, Expiation, and Forgiveness of sins!”

After the distribution of Holy Communion, normally given by intinction on the tongue, the celebrant offers prayers of intercession for the Church and the world, concluding with the final blessing: “May you be blessed through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Go in peace, and may the Lord be with you all.”

The vestments were made by a convent of Catholic sisters in Damascus, Syria. Most of the vestments we use at the cathedral are made there.

The Armenian Masses are being live-streamed, so videos are available. Here is the link.

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