Episcopal Divine Liturgy and Blessing of Water at St. Gregory the Illuminator Church in San Francisco

On the weekend of August 23, 2015, H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate, traveled to San Francisco where he celebrated Divine Liturgy at St. Gregory the Illuminator Church, conducted the blessing of water, and presided over the parish annual banquet, during which community members Mr. and Mrs. George and Mary Atashkarian and Mrs. Arax Sarian were honored for their service. H.E. Archbishop Papken Tcharian, Prelate of Isfahan, Iran, and former parish pastor of St. Gregory, participated in the weekend’s festivities. Executive Council members Mr. Vahe Hovaguimian, Dr. Dikran Babikian, Mr. Antranig Kasbarian, Dr. Navasart Kazazian, and Dr. Kaloust Agopian and their spouses also participated in the ceremonies.

On Sunday morning the Prelate celebrated Divine Liturgy and delivered his sermon, which he began by greeting the parish community and conveying his blessings to the Krouzian-Zekarian-Vasbouragan School family for a fruitful new academic year. Reiterating his message from the banquet the night before, His Eminence once again called on the community members to contribute their part in the advancement and prosperity of St. Gregory Church, adding that this mission will receive new impetus as His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, has assigned a young member of the Brotherhood to serve as parish pastor of St. Gregory Church. Another young member of the Brotherhood has been assigned to serve Holy Trinity Church in Fresno. Thus, His Eminence called on the community members to show full cooperation with the newly appointed pastor.

The Prelate also reflected on the ceremony of the blessing of the water with Holy Muron, and beseeched the Lord to bless and protect us by the seal of the Holy Muron, for it to bring cleansing and purity to our bodies and souls, arm us with triumphant faith, and bring peace and joy to our spirits.

The Prelate then turned to the day’s Gospel reading from Luke 1:39-56, in which is recorded the “Song of Mary,” a song of praise to God. The Virgin Mary lived her life exalting and rejoicing in our Lord, and thus was made worthy of the greatest privilege and blessing, to be called the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a title she earned owing to her obedience, her utmost trust in God, and complete devotion to Him. She was willing and prepared to serve her God and Savior in any capacity He had chosen for her, and trusted in the Holy Spirit to guide her, said the Prelate.

The Holy Mother of God is an inspiration to women as the ideal mother and ideal woman of faith, but she is also a model of living for us all as the ideal of obedience, humility, faithfulness, and devotion to God’s work and will, stated His Eminence. Thus, let us draw inspiration from her life by being obedient, humble, and willing to do whatever God requires of us, and by relying not on our strength, but on the power of the Holy Spirit to empower us. And throughout our lives, in the example of Mary, may our hearts be full of exaltation and our spirits rejoicing in God our Savior. The Prelate concluded with a prayer for the intercession of the Holy Mother of Go, to reinforce us in our collective faith, strengthen our unity as one people and one nation, and for health, joy, and prosperity to permeate throughout our homeland, our communities, and our families.

BANQUET The parish annual banquet was held on Saturday evening at “Saroyan” Hall of the “Khachaturian” Armenian Community Center. The evening began with welcoming remarks by Ms. Naira Der Kiureghian. A dinner and slideshow presentation followed the blessing of tables by the Prelate. Remarks were successively delivered by Ms. Rita Hovakimian, Mr. Garo Mirigian, and Board of Trustees Chair Mr. Rostom Aintablian, all of whom conveyed their congratulations and commended the evening’s honorees. The presentation of awards followed, after which remarks were conveyed by Executive Council Chair Mr. Vahe Hovaguimian and Archpriest Fr. Khoren Habeshian, Parish Pastor. During the evening, guests also enjoyed musical and vocal selections by Alique Momjian and Helene Zindarsian, accompanied by Ms. Kerrilyn Renshaw.

The Prelate was then invited to deliver his message. His Eminence began by greeting the St. Gregory the Illuminator Church family and also the members of the Executive council, and commended all the members who tirelessly serve for the advancement of the parish and community. The core of the Prelate’s message was the importance of service, engagement, and involvement in our church life. “All of us are here today because St. Gregory is near and dear to our hearts and because we want to see this church remain strong and serve this community of faithful for generations to come. This church, and all of our churches and national institutions, have stood the test of time thanks to the engagement, involvement, and service of active disciples like you,” highlighted the Prelate.

His Eminence noted that each of us has been blessed with a unique gift and it is our duty to use our gifts for good, to be good stewards of God’s grace, for “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” As children of God and as members of one and the same Church and community, each of us is called to serve with love and humility according to our unique abilities, to build up the body of Christ, to build up our church, national organizations, and communities. The Prelate commended the evening’s honorees, who he said embody this spirit of service, and urged the guests to also become active participants, for we always need more volunteers and young energy especially. “Let this banquet be an invitation to recommit ourselves to engaging the younger generations in our national life. Let us inspire and rouse their interest in community affairs while they are still young, so that as adults they are ready and eager to assume leadership roles and become active participants in the future of our churches, our schools, and our nation, preserving and promoting our faith and heritage for centuries more to come,” concluded the Prelate.

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