Seminarian Benjamin Rith-Najarian kneels before Archbishop Khajag Barsamian as he is bestowed with the order of Tbir
Benjamin receives the Mashdots book from which he will offer healing prayers for the sick and suffering
The Archbishop tonsures the candidate, cutting a lock of his hair, as a symbol of his new standing as a cleric of the Church.
The new Tbir with his classmate Sub-deacon Justin Ajamian
September 28, 2007
Seminarian Benjamin Rith-Najarian kneels before Archbishop Khajag Barsamian as he is bestowed with the order of TbirBenjamin Rith-Najarian, a third-year seminarian, was elevated to the order of Tbir (Acolyte) during a service conducted in the Seminary chapel last night. His Eminence Abp. Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America and President of the Seminary Board of Directors presided.
Entry Level Ministry
The order of Tbir is the first step in the ministerial ranks in the hierarchy of the Armenian Church, which also include deacon, priest, bishop and catholicos. The Tbir's ministry involves assisting in the liturgical services of the church as a reader, candle-holder, chanter and as caretaker of the sanctuary and sacred vessels.
A native of Philadelphia, Benjamin grew up in Bemidji, Minnesota. He was baptized at St. Sahag Armenian Church (St. Paul, MN), which became his home parish. He is a graduate of St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, where he majored in natural sciences and theology.
His road to ministry began with a life-changing trip to Armenia while in college, and was reinforced when he participated in a summer conference for college students at St. Nersess.
"Today Ben begins his formal ministry in the Armenian Church, even though he has already been serving God, the Church and our people with great dedication," said Fr. Daniel Findikyan at a reception following the service.
Service Rich in Symbolism
The service of conferring what are known as the minor orders of the church takes place in the context of prayers, psalmody and the singing of Armenian hymns.
During the ceremony the bishop hands the candidate objects that symbolize the ministries he is authorized to engage in as a Tbir: the Book of Psalms (Saghmos) for chanting the Psalms during the church services. A Ritual Book (Mashdots) contains prayers for healing and liberation from the forces of evil which atbir may offer for those who are suffering. The Lectionary Jashots contains the Scripture passages to be read by the tbir during the services.
"What you read with your lips you must also believe in your heart; and what you believe in your heart you must demonstrate by your deeds," said the Archbishop as he handed the Book of Psalms to the young candidate.
The Archbishop commissioned the new tbir to hold candles during the Divine Liturgy by handing him a candlestick. Likewise, a crystal cruet was given to him to as a sign of his charge to assist in the preparation of the bread and wine for the Eucharist.
This year Benjamin is serving every Sunday at the altar of St. Sahag Armenian Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Behind the Scenes
Ministers of the church must also be ready to serve behind the scenes. In the Armenian Church such lowly but essential tasks as opening the church doors early in the morning and cleaning the sanctuary are entrusted to the tbir. During the service the Archbishop handed Benjamin a key and a broom.
"There are many twelve-year old boys who become tbirs," said the 25-year old seminarian. "But I was really inspired by the service and I feel that I have advanced on my path," he said, quickly adding, "But I still have a lot to learn."
Ben is taking graduate courses in theology this year at his old alma mater, St. John's, a Catholic university that is in the midst of the largest Benedictine Abbey in the world. He will return to complete his Armenian Church studies at St. Nersess next year. His next step in the ministry will be next Spring when he will be elevated to the rank of sub-deacon.
Following the ceremony Abp. Barsamian said, "It is always a joy for me to ordain our St. Nersess seminarians for service in our church. The entire Armenian Church rejoices today because another Armenian-American youth has stepped forward to serve the Lord with gladness."