By V. Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian
After reading the Gospel, the deacon adores it. The Altar servants gather at the front of the Holy Table, facing the Holy Altar. The deacon elevates the Gospel as the faithful recite the Nicene Creed.
After the Gospel reading, the choir joyously chants, “glory to you, O Lord our God.” We believe in Christ, the light from the darkness, through His Word, the Gospel. This short chant reflects the gratefulness of the faithful. At this point, we chant and confess the Nicene Creed.
God loves hearing our voices. He loves hearing our confessions. God gives us the grace to express ourselves through speech. We must use our expressions for His glory. He does not limit our expression, regardless of its content. We should not take this grace for granted.
Jesus’ apostles left everything to follow and serve Him. They witnessed all of His miracles, but Jesus still pressed them to understand their thoughts about Him. Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah…” (Matthew 16:13-20). Peter was arguably the most expressive and outspoken Apostle. This portion of the Divine Liturgy is meant to remind us of his example. Peter was vociferous about His faith, in word and in deed. The Confession of Faith connects us to the night of Jesus’ trial, when Peter betrayed the Lord. Peter denied that he was “one of them,” an apostle of Jesus. The same Peter who averred that he would never leave Jesus alone, even if it cost Peter his life, betrayed His Master three times in public. Jesus reminded Peter of those words. When we confess our faith, we do the opposite: we confess and assure God that we worship Him as the true Lord and Savior of the universe. Peter denied Jesus three times. Accordingly, we repeat “Havadamk” (we confess) three times during the Creed to “correct” his fault.
Let us contemplate on this for a moment. How many times have not betrayed our Lord with our words and our actions? How many times have we been like Peter, who sincerely wanted to be a follower of Christ but failed over and over? We feel the weight of our sins. We realize that, although we may have failed to act out of our love towards God, we really love Him. Jesus knew that St. Peter truly loved Him. Temptations can make us act in ways that we wouldn’t have wanted to. Sometimes emotions, feelings, desires and turmoil overrule our judgment and through our judgment, our actions. “Havadamk” is an opportunity for us to be like St. Peter. We confess our faith and commit ourselves to our promise with Christ.
Further, confessing the Creed signifies the unity of the Church. In the first centuries of the church, several Ecumenical Councils took place. In 325 A.D., the Nicaean council formed the base of the Creed and that is recited in the Orthodox and Catholic churches. This Creed helped the churches maintain their orthodox faith, using the Creed, as armor against false teachings. Despite worshipping in different languages and, using different rites, the Creed unites us under God’s holy name. While we chant the Creed, we remember the unity of the church. Despite living, sometimes suffering, over many centuries, her orthodoxy endures. We also remember the churches who suffer today. We pray through the Creed that they persevere in their faith.
We should all learn the Creed. It enumerates our faith in Christ. Almost every Armenian Christian receives the grace of baptism during infancy. We consider ourselves Christians by default, before even studying what we believe. The Nicaean Creed summarizes the essentials of our faith. We should not only learn it, but should also chant it together during the Divine Liturgy and confess our faith in the Holy Trinity.
After chanting the Creed and deacon’s recites, the celebrant adores the Holy Gospel hold by the deacon, by chanting:
“But we glorify him who existed before eternity, bowing down to the Holy Trinity and the one Godhead, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and always and forever and ever. Amen.”
This summarizes our faith and shows our adoration to the Holy Trinity. By adoring the Gospel, which is the Word of God and actually life-giving word, it represents Christ. Through Christ we learned about God and we were exposed to the Holy Trinity and the Divinity. That is why bowing down or adoring God through the Holy Gospel is considered a natural expression of confessing faith. If we believe in Him, then we are invited to adore Him and show love.
This brings us to the main part of the Divine Liturgy. We adore the Holy Trinity through chants and prayers. We witness how the Holy Spirit celebrates the body and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We witness Jesus ascending to heaven as redemption and salvation from our sins. Glory to Him!
Those who would like to read/learn the Creed:
We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of God the Father, only-begotten, that is of the substance of the Father.
God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten and not made; of the same nature of the Father, by whom all things came into being in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible;
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, took body, became man, was born perfectly of the holy virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit.
By whom he took body, soul and mind and everything that is in man, truly and not in semblance.
He suffered and was crucified and was buried and rose again on the third day and ascended into heaven with the same body and sat at the right hand of the Father.
He is to come with the same body and with the glory of the Father to judge the living and the dead; of His kingdom there is no end.
We believe also in the Holy Spirit, the uncreate and the perfect; who spoke through the Law and through the Prophets and through the Gospels;
Who came down upon the Jordan, preached through the apostles and dwelled in the saints.
We believe also in only one catholic and apostolic [holy] Church;
In one baptism with repentance for the remission and forgiveness of sins;
In the resurrection of the dead, in the everlasting judgment of souls and bodies, in the kingdom of heaven and in the life eternal.
And the deacon adds (St. Gregory the Illuminator’s word)
As for those who say there was a time when the Son was not, or there was a time when the Holy Spirit was not or that they came into being out of nothing; or who say that the Son of God or the Holy Spirit are of a different substance and that they are changeable or alterable, such do the catholic and apostolic holy Church anathematize.
Listen to the Creed: