Bishop Daniel Findikyan, surrounded by members of the clergy walks to St. Vartan Cathedral.

Primate Findikyan Leads First Service as Bishop at St. Vartan

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By Florence Avakian

NEW YORK — On Saturday, May 18, the Primate of the Eastern American Diocese, Bishop Daniel Findikyan, celebrated his first Episcopal Badarak in America before more than a thousand worshippers who filled every crevice of New York’s St. Vartan Cathedral.

The tremendous excitement and enthusiasm was palpable as people from all over the United States filed into the Cathedral on a Saturday morning at 10 A.M. to see their beloved Primate celebrate his Antranig holy Badarak.

Bishop Findikyan at the altar

Findikyan is the first American born Primate, now elevated to Bishop, in the history of the 121-year old American Diocese.

It took quite a while for the excitement shared by so many in attendance to quiet down for the special service.

To the majestic strains of the Hrashapar hymn, Findikyan led a large group of priests and deacons into the crowded St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral.

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His immediate family, including his father Nurhan, his brother Stephan, and sister Tamara, with their families were visibly emotional, as they partook of the powerful and moving service.

Among the many dignitaries present were Armenia’s Ambassador to the United States Varuzhan Nersesyan, Armenia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Mher Margaryan, and several leaders of Armenian-American organizations, including the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian Missionary Association of America, and the Fund for Armenian Relief.

Findikyan had just returned from Echmiadzin where the Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II had elevated him and two Armenian Primates from Europe to the rank of bishop, as more than 100 American Armenians who had made their travel arrangements several months ago, witnessed the ceremony.

 

The pews were full of supporters for the new bishop

For all who know him or have met him, Findikyan is a priest deeply admired and loved for his dedication, humility, honesty and compassion.

The holy Badarak at St. Vartan Cathedral, attended by dozens of priests — Armenian as well as representatives from sister churches — was a unique inspiration to hear and witness, as the angelic voices of choirs from local Armenian parishes joined the Cathedral choir conducted by Director Khoren Mekhanejian. Florence Avakian accompanied on the organ.

In his inspiring and powerful sermon delivered in both Armenian and English, with all the faithful listening intently, Findikyan described how before the outdoor altar in Echmiadzin, “three of us vartabeds walked on our knees, and knelt as Christ had done 1700 years ago.”

“We were referred to as ‘hovvabed’ – chief pastor. It’s an audacious and terrifying claim,” he stated quietly. “Jesus was referred to as ‘the chief shepherd, the good shepherd, called to lead His flock. The good shepherd cares for his sheep because he has a personal interest in them. The sheep are more precious than his own life, because he loves them.”

Elected to the “awesome” position as Primate a year ago, he continued, “my vocation includes loving my flock to the extent of laying down my own life to raise you up and lead you to green pastures. You are under my care,” he declared emotionally.

The Armenian Ambassador to the US Varuzhan Nersesyan and Armenia’s Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Mher Margaryan with Bishop Daniel Findikyan

“You have also been called to be like the Good Shepherd. Our call of love for you and me is to lift up one another, and love one another. Let us revive that call that apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew brought to us, the call that could not extinguish the souls of one and a half million martyrs.”

“Come and join me in this new chapter in the life of our Diocese,” he declared, his voice cracking with passion.

Holy Journey

This holy journey had begun in Echmiadzin on May 11 before an outside altar, since Echmiadzin Cathedral is under massive renovation. The three vartabeds, the Very Rev. Daniel Findikyan, Primate of the Eastern U.S. Diocese, Serope Isakhanian, Primate of Germany, and Tiran Petrosian, Primate of Austria, had approached the tufa stone altar flanked by the symbolic white and purple flowers, approaching slowly on their knees.

Witnessing this spiritual and most humble action in Echmiadzin was mysteriously beautiful for this writer.

The three priests were accompanied by dozens of Armenian and sister church clergy, including the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and clerical dignitaries from the Vatican, Syrian, Ukrainian, American, German and Austrian churches.

“It was a once in a lifetime moment for me,” related Findikyan. His facial expression reflected the intense emotions he was feeling, as he slowly knelt before the Etchmiadzin altar with his eyes closed in prayer.

Throughout the May 11 initial liturgy, as well as during the Pontifical Badarak on May 12, celebrated by the Vehapar when the second phase of the elevation sacraments continued, Bishop Daniel often had his eyes closed, his face reflecting his love, and the responsibility he was feeling for his future calling.

May 12, Mother’s Day, was also a very special day for him. Six months ago, he had lost his beloved mother, Ursula. His intense feelings were visibly obvious, as he often looked towards heaven, with moistened eyes.

Armenian-Americans were in great anticipation on Monday May 13, as Bishop Daniel celebrated his first historic Episcopal Badarak in the beautiful and intimate setting of the 1500-year old St. Gayane Church in Echmiadzin.

Bishop Findikyan in church

Totally focused and garbed in the robes, mitre, medallions and the insignia of bishop, he movingly celebrated his first Episcopal Badarak before an enthralled group. A group of priests and deacons from the Eastern Diocese spiritually sang the holy hymns.

His sermon again reflected the profound belief of his vocation. “Our responsibility is to confirm our calling – the new identity every hour, every moment, with every breath in our church so we can walk with our Lord into the kingdom of heaven. “

A brilliant homilist who always speaks from the heart without any notes, Findikyan delivered his message to worshippers who are often led to tears. His face often reflects the depth of his spiritual responsibility.

At the reception held in Kavookjian Auditorium following the bishop’s Antranig Badarak at St. Vartan Cathedral, there were many emotionally overwhelmed attendees who wanted to express their feelings.

Among them were his 14-year-old nephew James, and 12-year-old twin nieces Julia and Kira who gushed, “We are so terribly proud of our uncle whom we love so much.”

Deacon of the Indian Syriac Church Kuriakos said that “the legacy of Bishop Daniel is about giving love. He will multiply that love everywhere.”

Bishop Daniel’s clerical godfather, the Rev. Karekin Kasparian who has taught hundreds of seminarians over more than 50 years at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, tearfully and quietly voiced, “I am very much moved. Thank God that my very favorite seminarian became a Bishop, and gave me the honor to represent our clergy for him.”

And Findikyan’s lay godfather Dr. Garo Garibian, who was the donor of the reception, called the bishop “the perfect choice. Srpazan never sought this position. He was chosen by a higher being.”

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