This Sunday, August 14, the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption (Verapokhoum) of the Holy Mother of God and the Blessing of the Grapes. The word verapokhoum in classical Armenian means “transport up.” According to tradition, when Mary, the mother of Christ, died she was buried by the apostles. Bartholomew, who was not present at her funeral, wished to visit her grave. When the gravestone was lifted they were surprised to find that the body had disappeared. It was believed that Christ had come and taken his mother to the Heavenly Kingdom. Based on this event, the Church Fathers established the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is one of the five tabernacle feast days in the Armenian Church’s liturgical calendar. The feast is preceded by a week (five days) of fasting and followed by a memorial day.
Because Bartholomew was very fond of the Holy Mother, the apostle John gave him an image of her (which she had given to John). Bartholomew took this image with him to Armenia to Tarpnots Kar in the province of Antsev, Vasbouragan (Western Armenia) where a convent of nuns, Hokyats Vank (Monastery of the Spirits) was built and where the icon was kept. Most images of Bartholomew show him holding this icon.
The concept of the Virgin Mary’s Assumption is an old one as seen in sacred prose and poetry dedicated to the Holy Mother. However, it did not become a basic doctrine of the church until the ninth century and it was in the twelfth century that the feast was called “The Assumption.”
The Feast of the Assumption is the name day for those named Mariam, Maro, Mary, Mari, Mayrenie, Maroush, Serpouhi, Dirouhi, Takouhi, Lousig, Arpine, Arpenig, Markarid, Nazig, Azniv, Arousiag, Seta, Verzhin, and Arshalouys.