GLENDALE, Calif.—Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Western Prelacy, conducted the ordination and consecration of Deacon Khatchig Shannakian to the priesthood, renaming him Rev. Fr. Movses, during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at St. Mary’s Church in Glendale, on the Feast of the Transfiguration, on July 23.
Vicar General Very Rev. Fr. Torkom Donoyan assisted in the ordination ceremony as the sponsoring priest, Very Rev. Fr. Vache Balekjian and Rev. Fr. Ardak Demirjian assisted, and clergy members participated, among them Holy See of Cilicia Seminary Dean Very Rev. Fr. Boghos Tinkjian. The ordination godparents were Mr. and Mrs. Ara Kurkjian. Executive Council members were among the hundreds in attendance to witness the moving ceremony.
The ordination ceremony, comprising prayers, Psalms, and Scripture readings, began with Deacon Khatchig’s being led up to the altar on bended knee. First was the confirmation of the candidate’s worthiness, with the sponsoring priest, Fr. Torkom, attesting that Deacon Khatchig was worthy to bear the yoke of the order of priesthood. Deacon Khatchig approached the Prelate, and while the attending priests placed their hands on the deacon’s shoulders, His Eminence placed his hand on his head and prayed for God to bless him and grace him with the Holy Spirit. Next, Deacon Khatchig was led kneeling to the center of the bema, where he presented himself to the people and raised his hands to the side of his head in a gesture of humble assent to the people’s will.
Deacon Khatchig again knelt before the Prelate, the attending priests once again put their hands on his shoulders as the Prelate placed his right hand upon his head praying that he may be worthy to perform with holiness the duties of the priesthood before the holy altar of our Lord, for God to keep him steadfast in his calling, that he serve with righteousness, a pure heart, sincere faith, and for the Lord to enlighten and adorn him with the gifts of His Holy Spirit. The Prelate moved the stole from Deacon Khatchig’s shoulder to behind his neck and over both shoulders in the form of a priest’s stole, stating, “Take the yoke of our Lord Jesus Christ, for His yoke is easy and His burden in light.” (Matthew 11:30)
Divine Liturgy continued, and the ordination ceremony resumed later in the service with the presentation of priestly vestments and church vessels. Kneeling before the Prelate, Deacon Khatchig was robed in priestly vestments, one by one, as His Eminence offered prayers. The Prelate placed the cope over Deacon Khatchig’s shoulders, the crown on his head, and tied the belt around him, after which Deacon Khatchig was taken to the vestry to be fully vested. Upon his return to the altar, the Prelate anointed him with Holy Muron three times, on his forehead, right palm, and left palm, each time announcing his new name, Movses. The conferral of the chalice and paten followed, giving him authority to conduct the Holy Eucharist, after which the newly ordained priest gave his first blessing to the people.
The Liturgy continued with the “Kiss of Peace,” during which the Prelate and clergy one by one approached Fr. Movses to kiss his newly anointed forehead and hands.
The Prelate next delivered the sermon, which he began by giving thanks to God for granting the opportunity to conduct and witness the ordination of Deacon Khatchig on the Feast of Transfiguration and collectively pray for the Lord to transform him with His heavenly graces. The Prelate noted that the ceremony was particularly moving for him as it evoked memories of his ordination 41 years ago and his first Divine Liturgy, as well as his first Divine Liturgy as a Bishop 20 years ago, all on the Feast of Transfiguration, thanking God for making him worthy of this service.
His Eminence gave a brief overview of the Feast of Transfiguration, how prior to the occurrence Jesus had spoken to His disciples about His forthcoming death and resurrection, and gave them the commandment to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. Jesus then retreated to a mountaintop for prayer, taking with Him Peter, James, and John, where His face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light, Moses and Elijah appearing next to Him, and His glory was revealed as a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him.”
Addressing the newly ordained priest, His Eminence stated that the message of the Feast has deep significance in his new mission, and wished that the Feast of Transfiguration inspire him to become strengthened in his faith and emboldened in his service as were the disciples who witnessed the transfiguration of our Lord. “As Moses brought the law to the people and Elijah, the greatest prophet, led the people, you are to serve in their example, be guided by God’s Word, convey His Word to the people, and lead them to God. And as the Holy Spirit strengthened the disciples, made them ;fishers of men,; and illuminated their lives, you must also seek the grace of the Holy Spirit, take on a new life and spirit, remain unshaken and firm in his faith, and always beseech the divine wisdom and guidance of our Lord,” he stressed. The Prelate congratulated the new priest and wished that he become “a worker who does not need to be ashamed” (2 Timothy 2:15) and that he make prayer a constant in his life.
Next, His Eminence gave a brief background on the new priest, noting that he has been involved in the Armenian Church since childhood, was ordained a deacon in 2005, earned a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Neuroscience and Psychology, continued his education and earned a Master’s Degree in Divinity, and served for years within the Prelacy of Canada until his relocation to the United States and employment at the Western Prelacy as Executive Secretary of the Christian Education Department. The Prelate stated that Fr. Movses will begin his 40 days of solitude, fasting, and penance, under the care and guidance of Very Rev. Fr. Torkom Donoyan, after which he will celebrate his first Divine Liturgy and continue his service within the Prelacy.
The Prelate concluded by congratulating Yeretsgin Rubina, Fr. Movses’ parents, loved ones, the Prelacy family, and the godfather, and prayed that all are enlightened and transformed by the Word of God, and in turn illuminate and strengthen our church and nation.
During “Der Voghormya,” prayers were offered for the soul of Holy See of Cilicia Brotherhood member Bishop Norayr Ashekian, who had entered eternal rest two days prior.
At the conclusion of the service, in a procession of clergy and deacons, the Prelate was led out of the sanctuary, where Cilicia was sung while the faithful received Holy Communion and had the opportunity to greet the new priest and kiss his freshly anointed hands. With the godfather by the new priest’s side, the washing of Fr. Movses’s hands took place.
An intimate luncheon in honor of the new priest followed at Phoenicia restaurant, during which congratulations, well wishes, and remarks were offered by Very Rev. Fr. Torkom Donoyan, Archpriest Fr. Khoren Habeshian, Executive Council member Mr. Avo Kechichian, Godfather Mr. Ara Kurkjian, St. Mary’s Church Board of Trustees Chairman Mr. Garo Kurkjian, parents, and family members of the new priest. Archpriest Fr. Vazken Atmajian served as the MC. Father Movses expressed his gratitude to the Prelate for his years of guidance and support, and for finding him worthy of ordination to the priesthood. The Prelate conveyed his blessings and message to the new priest, urging him to serve with utmost faith, love, sincerity, and conviction. Alluding to the name Movses, the Prelate noted that the name was chosen in part as a tribute to his recently deceased classmate and colleague, Bishop Norayr Ashekian, whose baptismal name was Movses. The luncheon concluded with the singing of “Cilicia,” after which Fr. Movses entered his 40-day period of solitude.
The ceremony of the Deacon Khatchig Shannakian’s Calling to the Priesthood was held the evening prior at St. Mary’s Church, during which he rejected and anathematized all heresy and affirmed his allegiance to the creed of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Prelate delivered his message to Deacon Khatchig, urging him to always abide by the tenets and rites of our church and adhere to the teachings of our religious forefathers. His Eminence prayed for God to pour the grace of the Holy Spirit upon the candidate and asked the faithful to pray for him and for all clergy and church servants, so that God may strengthen and lead them in their calling and mission.