Many of us know the famous song by James Taylor, “You’ve got a friend.” The words are based on the basic tenets of friendship — a friend will be there for the other person when they are in need and that a friend is one that can count on your support. Pretty simple!
The lyrics in the opening verse, “…and you need a helping hand…and soon I will be there,” address the core beliefs of our Christian faith. Lately these lyrics have been speaking to my heart especially the past few Sundays. During a very specific part of the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, this song has come to my mind and has put a smile on my face.
During the singing of the hymn, Vorti Asdoodzo (The Hymn to the Son), as I am blessing the bread and wine which becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, two Altar servers approach the Altar table shaking the Kshotz (fan). The Altar servers angle the Kshotz toward the center of the Altar just as I begin my prayer over the gifts of the bread and wine. In order to get a better idea of why the Kshotz (fans) are used during our Liturgy, Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan in his commentary on the Divine Liturgy explains, “Fans were originally used during the Liturgy to keep flies and other insects away from the cup [Chalice]. They also symbolize cherubs driving evil spirits away from the sacred place.”
Last month, Kevork Derian, during Liturgy was one of the two Altar servers holding the Kshotz. When the time came for him to angle it toward the Altar table, I noticed that the Kshotz was wobbling and getting very heavy for him to hold. At that point his father, Dn. Garo Derian, came to his rescue and held the base of the Kshotz, so that Kevork could continue shaking the fan. I have noticed this on other recent occasions that Dn. Garo has been lending a “helping hand” to other younger Altar servers as they too struggle holding the heavy Kshotz during this important part of the Divine Liturgy. This synergy and connection between the older and younger Altar servers brings an enormous smile to my face and a spiritual joy to my soul. I love watching this take place on the Altar. The words of St. Paul encourage us to do the same — “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
This happening may not be visible to those in the congregation during the Liturgy, but to me, as an Armenian priest, it is such an inspiration to witness. Keep your eyes open next time and see if you notice this beautiful act of love taking place.
As we go through our daily lives, dealing with things that are heavy, wobbly and difficult, let us remember this story of Dn. Garo and his son Kevork and the other youth that serve so faithfully at the Altar, but need help from time to time. May we offer a “helping hand” and “be there soon” to offer assistance, compassion and love to our brothers and sisters.
Remember the words from the Old Testament: “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.’” (Deuteronomy 15:11)