Fr. Magar, director of the seminary choir, has helped me prepare the students to serve as the choir for the service, singing the hymns for the service ("The Day Thou Gavest" and "Tell Out My Soul") as well as the Anglican "Preces and Responses" and the evening canticle Nunc Dimitis (Luke 2.29-31). The choir also sings several pieces from the Armenian repertory for the service. Click here or on the photo above to see a short film (9.7 MB) from the seminary choir's singing the "Kristos i méj mér haydné tzav." (Christ in our midst has been revealed) the hymn for the Kiss of Peace in the Divine Liturgy.
Before closing the service with a rendition of the "Hayr Mer" (the Lord's Prayer), there is a reading from the great 11th century Armenian mystic St. Gregory of Nareg Monastery (Sourp Krikor Naregatsi) taken from his famous book of prayers, "Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart." The prayers have recently been translated afresh in English by Dr. Thomas J. Samuelian and the entire text is available on the web at http://www.stgregoryofnarek.am/
I was pleased to bring the congregation assembled for the service greetings from the Lord Archbishop of Quebec, and to give a short explanation about my time in Beirut and the Scholarship of St. Basil the Great. I then provided a brief introduction to the prayers of St. Gregory of Nareg and the three excerpts chosen for the night's reading. Deacon Nshan (pictured front right in the choir photo, above) introduced each prayer with a short sample of the text read in Ancient Armenian; and Ms Sae Osawa from Japan,, a literacy worker for the U.N. in Lebanon and the organist for the occasion, accompanied the readings with some quiet music on the organ.
Since there is no salvation for souls without Christ
and there is no light without the sight of the eyes,
nor is there sweetness of the sun
without the rays of dawn,
in the same way there is no remission of sins
without confession of secrets and the baring of the soul.
For what good is purity,
if you are judged with the Pharisees?
… How can the proverb be interpreted:
“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”
And now remembering
the image of your royal kingdom above,
God of light for all, do not let iniquity rule me.
Do not let the haughty rebel
steal the grace of your breath
from this creature you made.
Do not let sin trap and rule my mortal body,
No king rules my soul except you, Christ,
who without force submits me to your easy yoke,
who lifts away my sinful passions
with your all-powerful word,
who redeems me with your blood
and nourishes me with your body,
who sets forth and establishes
the unchanging covenant of life,
who by setting the stamp of your spirit
on me as your cohort,
presents me to your Father as a co-heir,
and in the name of your sacrifice
and memory of your torment,
emboldened me to pray to the same benevolent God.
Creator of all life, you are the God of all souls
who made this gift of grace
greater than all of your other miracles.
Neither the heavens with all their raiment,
nor the angels in their brilliance,
nor the earth and humanity and their wonders,
nor the expanse of the seas and all in them,
nor the abyss in its infiniteness and all in it,
exalted you as sublimely as your sympathy toward me,
when you said through the prophet,
our hope of sweet goodness,
“Who is a God like me,
always pardoning sin
and cancelling the debts of iniquity?”
Behold your words are honoured with incense,
and your good works proclaimed,
glorified, deep mystery
and worshiped, overflowing grace.
And taking refuge in this unclouded assurance,
I who was broken, am restored,
who was wretched, am triumphant,
who was dissipated, am healed,
who was desperately outlawed, find hope,
who was condemned to death, find life,
who was mortgaged by damnable deeds, find the light,
who was debauched by animal pleasures, find heaven,
who was twice caught in scandal, again find salvation,
who was bound by sin, find the promise of rest,
who was shaken by incurable wounds,
find the salve of immortality,
who was wildly rebellious, find the reins of tranquility,
who was a renegade, find calling,
who was brazenly self-willed, find humility,
who was quarrelsome, find forgiveness.
Therefore, to Jesus Christ
and his almighty and awe-inspiring Father,
to the name and the will of
the beneficence of the true Holy Spirit,
the blessed essence and one Godhead,
all power and dominion, majesty and glory forever.