Change of Guard
The Catholicos
Armenian Writers
Palm Sunday
Change of Guard
Gates of Heaven
A Change of the Guard
April 9th, 2006 - Post No. 48

Palm Sunday is a big day as well for two of the deacons from the Armenian Seminary in Bickfaya, Alex (centre) and Khajag (right). Here Deacons Varoujan and Khajag help Sub-deacon Alex put on the long wrap-around deacon's stole for the very first time. Though he has served as thurifer (incense bearer) on several occasions, today is Sub-Deacon Alex's debut on the team of double thurifers deployed whenever a bishop as celebrant. Khajag, for his part, may be doing this for the last time. A fourth year student, Khajag is eligible for ordination to the priesthood in June, and this duty is reserved for deacons.

The precision teamwork of the double thurifers or incense bearers takes practice, and there's time for one more go-round before the Palm Sunday celebrations begin.

While Bishop Nareg and his attendants await the signal to begin the procession to the Cathedral for the Badarak, Deacon Khajag puts Sub-deacon Alex through his paces, as much to build the confidence of his younger partner as anything else.

The program at the seminary is particularly solid were training for liturgical duties is concerned -- and there are a lot of duties, morning and evening services, seven days a week, and the Badarak on Sunday mornings. Sub-deacon Alex has developed proficiency in carrying the thurible over the year since his ordination last June to the order of sub-deacons, and is ready -- if a little nervous -- and well prepared for this morning's duty.

Soon the team of Alex and Khajag are in the thick of the action, and it is a "baptism by fire" for Alex in many ways -- "They didn't tell us about crowd control in thurifer school!"

Possibly the most impressive liturgical choreography that I've ever seen is the timed movements of the Armenian thurifer team; and Alex and Khajag perform their duty this morning with skill and precision, as is evident in this video (click here or on the photo, left, to download -- 23.2 MB) a movie taken of the thurifers in action during the Sourp, Sourp, Sourp (Holy, Holy, Holy) the Sanctus in the Armenian Divine Liturgy, ... just before the words of institution and the consecration of the bread and the wine.

All and all a very successful changing of the guard!