High School and college-aged altar servers gathered at the Seminary on Veteran's Day weekend for a special Deacons' Training Program Reunion and Workshop. The weekend was organized for recent participants of the Seminary's long-standing annual summer training conference for altar servers and prospective deacons.
Ten young men from Massachusettes, Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York took part in the reunion and workshop. In a series of intensive tutorials, they learned to chant the Canticle of the Three Youths in the Fiery Furnace from Chapter 3 of the Book of Daniel. This challenging piece is the highlight of the Armenian Church's Christmas and Easter Eve [Jrakalooyts] services.
V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Seminary Dean, and Rev. Fr. Daniel Karadjian, Pastor of St. Gregory Armenian Church (Binghamton, NY) and St. Paul Armenian Church (Syracuse, NY) co-directed the weekend and instructed the participants. Assisting as well was Deacon Levon Altiparmakian, Seminary Administrator.
Between rigorous singing sessions, the young men took part in special Bible Study sessions focusing on the uplifting story of the three Jewish boys who refuse to venerate the pagan diety that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had set up, crying, "We will not worship your gods nor the golden image that you have set up." In a fury, the King throws the boys--Setrak, Misak and Abednago--into a fiery furnace, which he has heated up seven times hotter than usual. Miraculously, the boys do not perish, but survive the ordeal, dancing among the flames singing praise to the one God: "Blessed are you, God of our Fathers. Praised and glorified is your name forever!"
This story resonated with the earliest Armenian Christians, who saw in it a foreshadowing of Christ's own triumph over death. Over those who devote themselves to him, the fiery flames of hell will have no power.
To read more about the Biblical story of the Three Youths, and its celebration in the Armenian Church CLICK HERE.
To hear the beautiful Canticles of the Three Youths in Armenian and to download the musical score, visit the Seminary's SACRED MUSIC LAB.
To better understand the how Armenians traditionally celebrated the mystery of the birth and revelation of the Son of God, the deacons enjoyed a slide presentation on Armenian Christmas in Bethlehem by Fr. Karadjian, who studied and lived in the Armenian monastery of Sts. James for seven years.
On Saturday, Fr. Findikyan led an evening excursion to Manhattan, where, after dinner, the deacons went to a concert of early western sacred music at the beautiful Episcopal Church of St. Ignatius of Antioch by acclaimed choral group Polyhymnia. Following the concert, Deacon Levon led the deacons on a night-time driving tour through Times Square and other Manhattan sites.
The program ended Sunday following Divine Liturgy at St. Vartan Cathedral in New York, where the deacons had the privilege of serving at the holy altar.
"Our hope is in this young generation of deacons," said Fr. Karadjian. "We need to spare nothing in teaching them the our sacred hymns and rituals. Otherwise they will be lost."
The Seminary's next Deacons' Workshop will take place during the Spring and will focus on the chants and rituals of the Holy Thursday Washing of the Feet ceremony.