A 144 year old witness to a miracle
Some thoughts shared with the congregation on January 5, 2024
It was Christmas Eve, five days after the New Year and we had arrived in Seattle, Washington. It was cold and wet, weather which is expected this time of the year in the Northeast. I was preparing to celebrate the Theophany Divine Liturgy and water blessing service at the Holy Resurrection Armenian Church, filling in for their parish priest who was away on assignment for the Diocese.
The Holy Resurrection Armenian Church stands just in the right position for its large stained-glass window of Christ to shine and illuminate the dark night. It was welcoming. I was greeted by the church’s deacon who led me to the vestry in preparation for the service.
At the altar table I opened the “Book of Mystery” (Khorhrtadedr) which contains the prayers, both audible and private, for the priest. The deacon pointed out the publication date printed on the first page: 1880! On the page that followed, it had the sanctioning statement by His Holiness Gevork IV, who served as Catholicos of All Armenians from 1866-1882.
The church filled up with worshipers and we celebrated the Divine Liturgy that evening. Young and old families gathered. The young children brighten the inside of the sanctuary as the stained-glass window had lit the outside darkness. The big “family” of the Church was present.
Every one of us was about to participate in a miracle, a miracle which may have gone unnoticed even though everyone was a part of it. There were no thunderbolts or lightning strikes to announce this miracle. In fact, this miracle had its origins before electricity even reached our houses! In front of the Holy Altar was a book, the Khnorhrtadedr, which was printed 144 years ago (in 1880), before cars or flight and for much before the Genocide which is a marking point for our people. This book had made it through the Genocide, through the years of communism and was now in a spot half-a-world away from where it began, leading the worship of Armenians. The fact that we weren’t supposed to be living and are now, not only alive, but worshipping Christ – Christos dzunav yev haydnetsav – in all corners of the world, against all the odds is a testament to the greatest miracle of all!
The Divine Liturgy, represented by this old book, is the constant witness to the miracle.
On this Christmas eve, when we remember the Baby in the manger, and the voices of the heavenly hosts proclaiming, “Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men,” let’s acknowledge this miracle and accept that we can be the agents of peace and goodwill in this world. Christ is born and revealed!
Fr. Vazken Movsesian