This Sunday, September 25, is the Feast of the Holy Cross of Varak, a feast that is unique to the Armenian Church. The Hripsimiantz Virgins, after coming to Armenia, lived near Mount Varak. Hripsime always carried a small wooden cross believed to have been made from a piece of the true cross. One day, in order to escape persecution, she sought refuge on the mountain where she hid the cross among the rocks before fleeing to Vagharshabad. According to tradition, in the year 653, a hermit named Totig found Hripsime’s hidden cross. He followed a brilliant light that illuminated the mountain and guided him inside the church to the altar where he found the cross. The light shone for twelve days. In memory of this event, Catholicos Nerses established the Feast of the Holy Cross of Varak. He also wrote the beautiful hymn, "By the Sign of Your All Powerful Holy Cross," (Nshanav Amenahaght Khatchit).
The Monastry of St. Nishan was built on Mount Varak, which is in the southeastern region of Van. In later years the Monastery became prominent when Khrimian Hayrik established a printing house and a school there hoping to make the monastery an educational center. The massacres and deportations of 1915 destroyed those plans, as well as so much more.
"To you, O Christ, who bestowed on it universal Church, this victorious, precious sign received by God, we always send up praise in the highest. This cross by your will, O Christ, and by the power of the Almighty Holy Spirit lifted up by the assemblies of angels is seen resting on Mount Varak. Come, you people, bow down in worship before the divine holy sign; lift up your hands in holiness with one accord and always glorify him who lives on it."
(Canon to the Cross of Varak from the Liturgical Canons of the Armenian Church)