Seminary dean Fr. Daniel Findikyan led an all-day Lenten retreat for members of St. Leon Armenian Church (Fair Lawn, NJ) on Saturday, March 5 at the Carmelite Retreat in Mahwah, NJ.
The theme of the retreat was "The Holy Cross: In the Life of Jesus, the Life of the Armenian Church, and Your Life."
Following introductory remarks by Mrs. Lucy Chagachbanian, retreat organizer, and Rev. Fr. Diran Bohajian, Pastor, Fr. Daniel opened the first session by asking participants to think of a person, event, or time in their life that assured them of God's love for them. "The cross is our proof of God's love for us," Fr. Daniel said.
Changing gears for the next session, Fr. Daniel displayed an image of the crucifixion of Christ taken from the 15th-century Armenian manuscript Gladzor Gospel. Drawing attention to details in the Armenian artist's depiction of the Jesus' crucifixion, Fr. Daniel led the participants into a graphic illustration of how our Armenian Christian ancestors understood the significance of the cross for their lives.
"This was one of the best retreats I have ever attended," said Mrs. Regina Ohanian, a long-time St. Leon's parishioner. "There is no path to God apart from the cross. Our people, having endured persecution after persecution in their history, have always understood this central tenet of our Christian faith," she said.
"There is no pain, no suffering, that is beyond God's power of transformation," said Fr. Daniel during one of the sessions. "The Armenian people embraced Jesus Christ because they were convinced that he was their only hope. That conviction can be a source of great strength for us today as we strive to live our lives in faith and in hope."
At the end of the day, Frs. Daniel and Diran, accompanied by another St. Nersess alumnus, Deacon Ara Kadehjian, led a short prayer service in the chapel of the retreat center. The participants read, in turn, lines from the splendid hymnic prayer of church father Sahak Dzoraporets'i for the Feast of the Holy Cross of Varak.
Fr. Daniel and the other members of the Seminary faculty are frequently invited to lead retreats and workshops for Armenian and other church communities throughout the United States.