(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, on Sunday presided over the Divine Armenian Liturgy celebrated at the new Cathedral of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg in Glendale, California.
It was during this liturgy that the seat of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy was transferred from New York to Glendale and the Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator was raised to the level of Cathedral.
With this brief weekend visit, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches said he desired to demonstrate his closeness to the faithful of the Oriental Catholic rites and thank them for their dedication to establishing and caring for their own liturgical, theological, and disciplinary heritage.
Cardinal Sandri also thanked Archbishop Gomez for his constant attention and the collaboration between the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and all the Oriental dioceses of the West Coast of the United States.
Please find below Cardinal Sandri's full homily:
Homily of His Eminence Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, on the occasion of the Divine Liturgy celebrated at the new Cathedral of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg, Glendale-California
Sunday August 2, 2015
Your Excellency Mons. Mouradian
Your Excellency the Most Reverend Archbishop Gomez
Your Excellency Mons. Zaidan, Maronite Bishop
Dear Fathers, Religious,
Sisters and brothers in the Lord,
First of all I thank the Lord for having granted me the privilege of being with you on this beautiful occasion, to celebrate solemnly the relocation of the Cathedral of your Eparchy here in Glendale. The Cathedral is the see of the bishop, the primary place where he celebrates Divine Liturgy for his faithful. It is the place where the Christ experience of a believer deepens because of his day to day encounter with the Lord. He invites him to be immersed in the mystery and to experience the salvation Jesus came to bring through his birth, death and resurrection. The cathedral building throws light on the essential relation between the bishop and the faithful, the flock entrusted to his care by the Lord. The Bishop is called to be a living image of good shepherd. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, we can think of today’s celebration as a Family Feast.
1. The bond of communion that exists within this family is not only on the level of the bishop with the priests and the faithful but also all our brothers and sisters who proclaim the name of Jesus Christ in every part of the world. His Excellency Mons. Mouradian has just returned from Lebanon, where the funeral rites of late Patriarch Nerses Bedros were held. In the just concluded Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church in Beirut, His Beatitude Gregory Peter XX Ghabroyan was elected as the new Patriarch. His enthronement ceremony will be celebrated next Sunday. According to the ancient tradition of the church, as soon as he was elected, the new Patriarch was granted Ecclesial Communion by the Holy Father Pope Francis. This is a sign of the deep connection with the family of all believers who proclaim the name of Jesus Christ in every part of the world. In this Eucharistic celebration we will renew this connection to this family and commit ourselves to testify to the beauty of praying every day for each other. Living in the Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the visit of our Holy Father Pope Francis to the United States in just over a month. He is a witness and servant of this union. We are invited to join our Holy Father through our prayers and presence during his visit for the 8th World Meeting of Families, in Philadelphia. His presence for this great event will be a special occasion not only for the celebration of the joy of coming together as a family but also for reflection and prayer in preparation for the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops next October.
2. The letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians that we have heard, invites us to reflect on two ways of being “on a journey”. On the one side, we heard about the story of the people of Israel who cross the Red Sea and find themselves in the desert. They complain against Moses and against God, and thus they sinned. They lost faith in their God, who loved them and cared for them, in the face of adversities. On the other hand we have the image of an athlete who runs for glory and the glory for which he runs is the person Jesus Christ. The suffering, hard work and pain are nothing compared to gaining Jesus as his Lord and Master. In other words he is totally taken up or seized by the desire to experience Jesus. He is illumined by the glory of God which is a foretaste of the eternal glory that awaits him and each one of us. All this make me think about your history, the Armenians, whose journey is marked with the signs of light, starting from the baptism as the first Christian Nation, passing through its martyrs and saints. One I remember particularly is Saint Gregory of Narek, proclaimed doctor of the universal church on 12th April this year by Pope Francis. The Armenian people had to keep themselves on a journey: I cannot forget the tragic events of the last century, and other episodes during his history. The Armenian diaspora is reached everywhere in the world, and our Eparchy here is a living symbol of this journey. A great number of Armenians today are an integral part of American society contributing to its rich diversity. Throughout the centuries, your people were able to put into practice the challenging invitation of St. Paul going through struggles, hardships and sufferings like the athlete in the stadium. You were able to overcome every hurdle without losing the treasure of faith, because you were able to fix your gaze on Christ who overcame death on the cross. Like St. Paul we say today “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to be conscious of this great history, and to be intelligent interpreters of it to the present to reconstruct and to reconcile.
3. Keeping in mind these thoughts, I would like to give you an image from the word of God. I ask each one of you to ponder it in your heart and to make it become a personal experience in life. I refer to the 28th chapter from the book of Genesis. Jacob is heading to Harran and on the way he stopped at a certain place where he slept keeping a stone under his head. This was a sign of his destitution and poverty; of his being exile, after having lost everything. In sleep he had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its head reaching to heaven and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There God promised him that he will protect him and accompany him wherever he goes. Waking up in the morning, he took the stone and erected it up as a pillar as a perennial memory of the meeting with the Lord, anointing it with oil. He named that place Bethel. Through this vision, God gave him the grace to perceive the truth that the “House of God” is his unique and stable dwelling place where all human uncertainties will disappear. So, dear brothers and sisters, I wish that this cathedral represents for each one of you the stone of Bethel: the sign and guarantee of the fidelity of God. My thought at this moment goes to the innumerable stories of suffering, destruction, tragic death and exile of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, where the origins of most of your families are rooted. God has not forgotten his children and listen to their cries, and desires to reach out to them through our presence. We can be messengers of peace through our prayers, like the angels in the story of Jacob, to ascend to heaven and implore for our brothers and sisters in order to descend on earth to show them God’s loving presence through our acts of charity. In this way you remain grafted to Jesus Christ, who brought about through his death on the cross, the reconciliation of the human race with God.
Pray for us Mary Our mother and the Mother of God, who with her YES has offered to the world Jesus Christ. Let us invoke with the same words of saint Gregory of Narek, quoted by the same Pope Francis, in whose name I will give you the blessing:
"O Most Pure of Virgins, first among the blessed, Mother of the unshakeable edifice of the Church, Mother of the immaculate Word of God, (…) Taking refuge beneath your boundless wings which grant us the protection of your intercession, we lift up our hands to you, and with unquestioned hope we believe that we are saved." Amen.
(Devin Sean Watkins)