The Feast of the Holy Nativity & Theophany of Jesus Christ, commemorating our Lord's birth and baptism was celebrated with great joy on Friday evening, January 5, and Saturday morning, January 6, 2024.
On Friday evening the faithful gathered to hear the eleven Old Testament scripture readings that prefigurate the revelation of the Messiah, and which make up the ancient service of Jrakalooyts, or "Lighting of Lanterns." Our Sunday/Armenian School students participated by reading each of the readings. The participants were as follows: Gabriel Bulbulian, Cameron Afarian, Armen Kourkounian, Hovig Baljian, Austin Afarian, Lucy Kevorkian, Scarlett Chobanian, Ani Chobanian, Thalia Sharabaika and Michael Bulbulian.
Immediately following the service, the curtain of the main altar was opened and the Vigil Divine Liturgy began. Jack Balekian read the New Testament Epistle reading from the Letter to Titus, while Nishan Baljian read the same text in Armenian. Raffi Bulbulian read the prayer of General Confession prior to Holy Communion. Following the Divine Liturgy and Holy Communion, the participants, led by Der Hayr, processed downstairs to Jaffarian Hall. After the reading of the Nativity Gospel telling about the Angels' heralding of the birth of Christ to the shepherds, Der Hayr blessed bread, salt and water in the traditional house blessing service of our spiritual home, Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church and Jaffarian Hall. On this occasion traditional Gata were prepared by Sossy Jeknavorian. Following the blessing, Der Stephan greeted all present with the good news that "Christ is born and revealed," to which all responded "Blessed is the revelation of Christ." A joyous fellowship hour took place immediately after, in which all partook of the goodness of the table blessings while greeting and congratulating each other with the good news of the birth and revelation of our Lord.
The following day, Saint Gregory Church was filled with parishioners who had come to celebrate Christmas day with their brothers and sisters in Christ. With over seventy in attendance, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated by the church's pastor, Fr. Stephan Baljian. Deacons John Saryan and Shant Eghian, as well as Subdeacon Zareh Bulbulian, served at the Holy Altar, assisted by students from our Sunday School. Ms. Knarik Nerkararyan directed the choir from the organ. Master Gabriel Bulbulian served as Godfather (Gunkahayr) of the Holy Cross.
In his sermon, Der Hayr reflected on the wise men who came from the East at the time of Jesus's birth, following a star and searching for the Savior of the world. He said, "The wise men from the Gospel...sought after the one who has been revealed as God and king and lord. Wise men sought him way back then… wise men still seek him today." To which he added, "We don’t need to be magi or kings or part of the intelligentsia to be considered wise men… we only need to seek after our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the light that shines today from his heavenly face."
Following the Divine Liturgy, a procession was formed and Dn. John Saryan solemn carried the dove-shaped vessel containing the Holy Chrism (Muron) from the baptismal font up to the holy altar. Der Hayr announced that as a surprise, one of Saint Gregory Church's newest members, Dr. Carl Manikian, would be receiving the sacrament of Holy Christmastion (Gnoonk) and would thereby be welcomed officially as a member of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Saint Gregory Church family.
Following the day's services, a community fellowship luncheon was hosted by the Board of Trustees. All were joyful amid a festive and fraternal atmosphere. The observance of the Holy Nativity and Theophany of our Lord, in accordance with the liturgical calendar of the Armenian Apostolic Church, lasts for eight days, culminating on January 13 with the Feast of the Circumcision or Naming of our Jesus Christ.