Archive for the ‘Feast Day’ Category

Today, June 19, is the Feast of St. John the Baptist (also called the Forerunner), and Bishop Athenogenes.

John the Baptist is prominent in each of the four Gospels. He is associated with the beginning of the ministry of Jesus and is considered to be the “forerunner” to Jesus the Messiah. He baptized those who repented their sins, and he preached of the coming of one after him who is greater than he and would baptize not with water but with the Spirit. In the third chapter of Matthew, John is reluctant to baptize Jesus and does so only after encouragement from Jesus. The Armenian Church considers St. John the Baptist as one of the two prime intercessors to Jesus, the other being the Blessed Mother.

Athenogenes, a bishop and theologian was burned to death along with ten of his disciples in Sebastia, Armenia, during the persecution of Christians by Emperor Diocletian. Athenogenes wrote a hymn of praise proclaiming the divinity of the Holy Spirit. He is remembered as singing this hymn as he went into the flames.


Posted from Armenian Prelacy’s (Eastern) Crossroads E-Newsletter

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This Sunday, June 22, is the Feast of Holy Mother Etchmiadzin, the cathedral built by St. Gregory after his deliverance from the pit, to the specifications he saw in a vision, and on the place marked by the Lord with a golden hammer. This feast day commemorates the establishment of the Armenian Church and the end of paganism.
Etchmiadzin is the oldest example of a four-altar, four-pillar, domed, cruciform church in Christian architecture. More than 1,700 years old, it is the oldest surviving Armenian Christian site. Relief sculptures on the exterior walls are some of the oldest examples of the Christian Armenian art of sculpting.
Posted from Armenian Prelacy’s (Eastern) Crossroads E_Newsletter

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Christmas on January 6th?

by Hratch Tchilingirian


            "Armenian Christmas," as it is popularly called, is a culmination of celebrations of events related to Christ’s Incarnation. Theophany or Epiphany (or Astvadz-a-haydnootyoon in Armenian) means "revelation of God," which is the central theme of the Christmas Season in the Armenian Church. During the "Armenian Christmas" season, the major events that are celebrated are the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem and His Baptism in the River Jordan. The day of this major feast in the Armenian Church is January 6th. A ceremony called “Blessing of Water” is conducted in the Armenian Church to commemorate Christ’s Baptism.

            It is frequently asked as to why Armenians do not celebrate Christmas on December 25th with the rest of the world. Obviously, the exact date of Christ’s birth has not been historically established—it is neither recorded in the Gospels. However, historically, all Christian churches celebrated Christ’s birth on January 6th until the fourth century.

            According to Roman Catholic sources, the date was changed from January 6th to December 25th in order to override a pagan feast dedicated to the birth of the Sun which was celebrated on December 25th. At the time Christians used to continue their observance of these pagan festivities. In order to undermine and subdue this pagan practice, the church hierarchy designated December 25th as the official date of Christmas and January 6th as the feast of Epiphany. However, Armenia was not affected by this change for the simple fact that there were no such pagan practices in Armenia, on that date, and the fact that the Armenian Church was not a satellite of the Roman Church. Thus, remaining faithful to the traditions of their forefathers, Armenians have continued to celebrate Christmas on January 6th until today.

In the Holy Land: January 19th

            In the Holy Land, the Orthodox churches use the old calendar (which has a difference of thirteen days) to determine the date of the religious feasts. Accordingly, the Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 19th (January 6 in Julian calendar) and the Greek [Russian, Coptic …] Orthodox Church celebrates on January 7th (December 25 in Julian Calendar).

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This Sunday, May 19, the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of Pentecost (Hokekaloust), the descent of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and the birth of the church. Jesus had commanded the apostles to “Go therefore to all nations and make them my disciples,” (Matthew 28:19). Recognizing the difficulty of this great responsibility, Christ had advised His disciples not to begin their teaching mission until after the “descent of the Holy Spirit.”

In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that on the day of Pentecost the apostles gathered in one place, and suddenly a strong wind seemed to fill the house in which they were assembled. “And there appeared to them flames like tongues of fire distributed among them and coming to rest on each one. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them power of utterance,” (Acts 2:2-4). It was the Jewish feast of Pentecost (Shabuoth) commemorating the giving of the law on Mount Sinai and many people from different lands had come to Jerusalem. They marveled that they could understand the Apostles’ words in their own language. This day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles was the beginning of the mission of the Church to spread the Good News throughout the world.

In a sense Pentecost is the opposite of what occurred in the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel when God disapproved of the building of a tower to reach the heavens and He created confusion by having the workers suddenly speak in different tongues, and unable to understand each other. At Pentecost He gave the disciples the ability to speak other tongues and thus be able to be understood by everyone everywhere.

Life-creating God, Spirit and lover of mankind, with tongues of fire you enlightened those united with one accord in love; therefore we also celebrate today your holy descent.

Filled with joy by your coming the holy apostles began in different-sounding tongues to call into unity them that had been divided from each other; therefore we also celebrate today your holy descent.

By spiritual and holy baptism through them you have adorned the universe in a new and radiant garment; therefore we also celebrate your holy descent.

From the Canon for the First Day of Pentecost according to the Liturgical Canons of the Armenian Church


Posted from Eastern Prelacy’s Crossroads E-Newsletter

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This Sunday, May 12, is Second Palm Sunday (Yergrort Dzaghgazart). The seventh Sunday of Easter is called Second Palm Sunday because of the readings on that day. Beginning with New Sunday and continuing until Pentecost, the Armenian Church reads from the four Gospels every day in their proper order. Luke is read in the morning; John at midday; Matthew at the beginning of the evening hour; and Mark at the end of the evening hour. The sections related to Christ’s entry into Jerusalem coincide with the seventh Sunday of Easter, hence the designation of “Second Palm Sunday.”

        There are several feast days in our liturgical calendar dedicated to St. Gregory the Illuminator, but according to tradition he is also remembered on the fourth day of Hampartsoum, known as Second Palm Sunday. During the years of Gregory’s imprisonment in the deep pit his guardian angel would appear daily to give him nourishment. On the fourth day of the Ascension the angel did not come, and the next day Gregory asked why. The angel told him that the fourth day of Ascension is the feast day for his celestial army of the 4th rank, and he was permitted to remain in the heavens to celebrate the feast day and enjoy Christ in heaven. 


A tradition has come down to us concerning the mysterious meaning of this great and wonderful feast; the Enlightener of our souls heard from his guardian angel: On this day there is a great feast in the heavens in my rank. For during the ascent of the heavenly One from earth the heavenly spirits in their ranks celebrated this event with rejoicing, beginning with the angels and concluding with the thrones. The Illuminator’s guardian angel being from the fourth rank hastened to share in the joyful celebration of which the angel in the flesh learned when he asked him a question. This great mystery took place for the salvation of the logical of angels and mankind so that both of them might unite in one.


(From the Liturgical Canons of the Armenian Church for the first Sunday after Christ’s Ascension, known as Second Palm Sunday).

Posted from Eastern Prelacy’s Crossroads E-Newsletter 

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Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, March 31, 2013

In the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

"That God gave us eternal life,
and this life is in his Son."
1 John 5:11

Dear and pious faithful,

With the warmth of the dawning spring and the awakening of nature filled with new life, the hope and joy of the Feast of the Resurrection take flight in our souls today with the angelic tiding of "Christ is Risen", renewing and strengthening us in the confidence "that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son".

These words of the Apostle testify to the event that changed the course of the history of mankind, which occurred when the crucified and entombed Christ rose from the dead. From that moment on, death has no power over men, sin is absolved, and the reign of death is destroyed. It is the light of salvation and eternal life on the other side of the grave that brightly shines today in our souls – renewing us in our hope and faith.

The belief in the Resurrection of Christ always brings strength and power to always rise up and live that life that is in the Son of God. The foundation of that life is love – the love that sacrifices. That love with which the Son of God came to the world, fulfilled His mission of salvation, and instructed His disciples and followers saying, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another". John 13:34. Christ placed love at the foundation of human life, so that man would be perfect and that he would lack nothing. Love creates, builds and establishes and does not ruin; it illuminates, inspires hope, grants joy and bliss and does not succumb to indecision and despondency; it does not bring pain and grief. Love is the fountainhead of goodness and joy, the rock of peace and justice, the encouragement to support and help each other for the sake of a life of goodness and ongoing progress.

Today, alongside the bliss in our heart of the feast of Christ’s Resurrection, is also the regret that our Lord’s message of love for mankind and all of God’s creation does not manifest itself everywhere and always in human life. The seeds of Christ-commanded love that have been preached for two millennia often fall on the barren stones of souls that have strayed away from God, or do not produce results due to the negligence of man; or that which is planted by the Lord is plundered by evil, spreading dissension and leading men astray from their good paths. The present difficult global-political and economic developments, the growing self-centered mindset, and the disregard of spiritual and moral values, bring forth new disagreements and conflicts, problems and concerns in the life of societies, and human relationships. The path to rise above these realities that devastate the peaceful and harmonious life is illuminated by the good news today of Christ’s Resurrection, bringing with it the message of that life, which is in the Son of God. That life is real, attainable and within reach for us all. When human thoughts and works are born and guided by faith in God and love for one another, that is the life that is in Christ. When care and mutual support are the characteristic and natural state of society, that is the life that is in Christ. When thirty pieces of silver do not clear the way for Judas-like falsification and betrayal, and injustices are not realized through Pilate-like indifference, that is the life that is in Christ. When both in times of difficulty and plenty, the mouths of men resound with prayer and praise to God; when families raise pious children, that is the life that is in Christ, and for which mankind is called through God’s benevolent grace.

Dear and beloved faithful, today our state and national life continues to be troubled by serious challenges: the issue of Artsakh, the illegal blockade of our country, socio-economic concerns, emigration, and the influx of false values and customs. Worrisome also are the moods of despondency and disparagement, the lack of mutual trust, the lack of will to listen to each other; and the implacable imposition of one’s own truth. Let us expel from ourselves these kinds of behaviors. Our truth is the newly independentArmenia– the inextinguishable dream of centuries of our fathers and grandfathers; liberated Artsakh – the modern day heroism of our spirit and our proud victory. Our truth is our people who face difficulties and distress, the Armenian Armed Forces who defend our native borders under threats of war, our communities dispersed throughout the world, struggling daily for their national and spiritual identity, and today’s endangered and shrinking Syrian Armenian community – yearning for aid and support. These are the realities before us, dear faithful. We have only one path to strengthen our homeland, to build our flourishing life, for the realization of our visions and with aspirations for national rebirth and reawakening: that life that is in the Son of God. Let us renew our oath with God with the tiding of the Savior’s resurrection, let us fortify ourselves with faith and the hope of the risen life, to overcome our present difficulties and troubles. Let us reject fear, indifference, despondency and all doubt that can weaken our people and our unity, and by helping one another, let us implement all of our nation-building programs and cherished goals. Let us live with the love witnessed and testified by our Lord, so that the success and accomplishment of each one of us serve the general welfare and progress, turn into victory, glory and honor for our country and the entire nation, and may we remain God’s own and faithful people, worthy of the Lord’s heavenly graces and gifts.

With the glad tiding of our Lord’s glorious Resurrection, we extend our brotherly love in Christ and best wishes to the incumbents of the hierarchal Sees of our Apostolic Holy Church: His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia; His Beatitude Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem; His Beatitude Archbishop Mesrob Mutafian, Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople; and the graceful heads of our Sister Churches.

Appealing for the graces of the Risen Lord, we greet President Serzh Sargsian of the Republic of Armenia; President Bako Sahakian of the Republic of Artsakh; and all Armenian state officials, wishing many accomplishments and lasting achievements done in the name of the bright future for our land and people. With the good news of the glorious Holy Resurrection of Christ, we extend our blessings to the leaders and representatives of diplomatic missions accredited inArmenia, wishing them all good things and success to their work.

We extend our pontifical love and blessings to the oath-bound clergy and faithful sons and daughters of ourHolyChurchdispersed throughout the world.

We pray that the graces of our Risen Lord flow into the souls of men, so that peace, love for one another and justice be established and flourish everywhere throughout the world. May the Lord keep our homeland and our people in peace, and may He bless all efforts in the name of the goodness of our life and the vibrancy of our faith, so that the Armenian Nation, today and always says with joy:

Christ is Risen from the dead!
Blessed is the Resurrection of Christ.


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We are now entering the most solemn period for Christians—Holy Week—leading us to our most sacred holiday, Easter and the Resurrection. The week before Easter marks a series of events in the life of Jesus that were ordained or prophesied. These events include the raising of Lazarus (described above) and the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, where he is greeted by large assembly of people carrying olive and palm branches.

       On Palm Sunday (Dzaghgazart) the altar curtain, which was closed at the beginning of Lent, is open. The palms are blessed and distributed to the faithful. Children dressed in their best clothes and carrying beautifully decorated candles, parade around the church in a procession. In the evening, or as now done immediately following the Divine Liturgy, the faithful gather at the door of the church or at the closed altar, for the Opening of the Doors (Trnpatsek) ceremony, symbolizing the opening of the gates to the Kingdom of God. This solemn penitential service in preparation of Holy Week is unique to the Armenian Church.

       Each day of Holy Week (also called Great Week, Avak Shabat) is a holy day. Monday commemorates the barren fig tree (Matthew 21:18-20). Tuesday commemorates the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:13). Wednesday commemorates the Anointment and Betrayal of Christ (Matthew 26). Thursday is Maundy Thursday, which originates from Christ’s command that His disciples love one another (John 13:34). In the evening the Washing of the Feet (Vodunlva) takes place in remembrance of the events of the Last Supper. Late Thursday evening the betrayal and torment of Christ, Tenebrae (Latin for darkness; in Armenian Khavaroum), is commemorated. In one of the most dramatic ceremonies, Gospel readings describing Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal by Judas, and denial by Peter, are read interspersed with the singing of hymns composed by Nerses Shnorhali, some of the most beautiful hymns in the Armenian Church. Holy Friday (Avak Ourpat), the solemnest day in the Christian calendar, commemorates the crucifixion, death and burial of our Lord.


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       This Saturday, March 23, the Armenian Church commemorates the Raising of Lazarus as told in the Gospel of John, Chapter 11.

       Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha were good friends of Jesus. Their home in Bethany (near Jerusalem) was Jesus’ home whenever he was in Jerusalem. Lazarus’s sudden death threw his sisters into deep mourning. Jesus also wept for his friend. John’s gospel account emphasizes the fact that Lazarus was indeed dead by pointing out that his body was in the tomb. Jesus’ raising of Lazarus convinced many people of his unique powers, and according to John, the authorities took steps to try to silence him.

       Lazarus personifies the whole of humankind and Bethany represents the whole world. Lazarus Saturday is the real beginning of the Cross. Its major themes are the forthcoming victory of Christ over death, the supreme sacrifice of love, and the resurrection as the ultimate triumph of love.

       A hymn traditionally sung on Saturday evening (eve of Palm Sunday) says: “With the raising of Lazarus by which the dead were given hope, the descendants of Adam were also raised….” Thus, as the Lenten period comes to an end, we are greeted by the hope of Christ’s promise of the resurrection of humankind.

       The forty days of Great Lent (Medz Bahk) come to an end with Vespers on the Friday prior to the commemoration of the Raising of Lazarus. A new fasting period for Holy Week begins on Monday and continues through Holy Saturday. 


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This year, on Thursday, February 7, the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of Vartanants, commemorating the war between pagan Persia and Christian Armenia in 451. The king of Persia ordered all Christians under his rule to abandon Christianity and embrace Zoroastrianism. The Armenian clergy and ruling princes refused to follow this dictum. As recorded by the historian Yeghishe, the Christian soldiers took an oath to fight the enemies of truth: “We are ready for persecution and death and every affliction and torture for the sake of the holy churches which our forefathers entrusted to us by the power of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby we were reborn ourselves by torments and blood. For we recognize the Holy Gospel as our Father, and the apostolic universal church as our Mother. Let no evil partition come between us to separate us from her.”

Vartan Mamigonian was the leader of the Armenians in the decisive battle of Avarayr, and although outnumbered, the Armenians put up a valiant defense. Vartan and many of his soldiers were killed, but the Persians suffered greater casualties and with this battle the Persians recognized the strong commitment the Armenians had for their Christian faith.

On the eve of the battle of Avarayr, Vartan spoke to his men, assuring them that righteousness was on their side and encouraged them to be brave and fearless:

“I entreat you, therefore, my brave companions, especially because many of you surpass me in valor and precede me in princely rank. But since you, of your own free will, have selected me as your leader and commander, let my words be pleasant and agreeable to you all, great and small: Fear not the heathen hordes and never turn your backs to the frightful sword of mortal men; because should our Lord grant us victory, we shall destroy their might and the cause of righteousness shall be exalted. But if the time has come for us to meet a holy death in this battle, let us accept our fate with joyful heart, without mingling cowardice with our valor and courage. … Our Commander is not a mere man, but the Commander-in-chief of all martyrs. Fear is a sign of doubt; but as we have repudiated doubt long since, let fear also disappear from our hearts and minds.”

The struggle continued for more than thirty years. In 484 Vahan Mamigonian, nephew of Vartan, successfully negotiated the Treaty of Nvarsag, the first document in history granting religious freedom and home rule, preceding the Magna Charta by nearly 750 years.

Posted from Crossroads E-Newsletter by the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Church.

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Today,  Tuesday, December 4, the Armenian Church remembers King Apkar, considered to be the “first believing king.” His realm was in Edessa (Urfa) where many Armenians had migrated. Suffering from a debilitating skin disease, King Apkar sent a letter to Christ hoping to be cured, and received the answer that a disciple of Christ was visit the king. According to tradition, Christ sent Apkar a linen cloth (Dastarak) with His image. After Christ’s ascension Thaddeus went to see the king and cured him. King Apkar and his family became Christians and wrote to other kings urging them to accept Christianity.

Posted from the Armenian Prelacy’s (Eastern) Crossroads E-Crossroads

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