Archive for the ‘Feast Day’ Category

EASTER—THE MOVEABLE FEAST

       Easter is the holiest of holidays for Christendom. Since the time of the early church, determining the date of Easter has been a matter of argument. The date of Easter is calculated to be on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon of the year. The date of the Paschal Full Moon is determined from historical tables, and does not correspond to lunar events. Most of Christendom, including the Armenian Church (except in Jerusalem), follows the Gregorian calendar. Eastern Orthodox churches still use the Julian calendar (for calculating the date of Easter). This is partly why the dates are rarely the same. The date for Easter in the Armenian Church can range from March 22 to April 25.

       There have been a number of attempts to unify the Easter dates. In 1965 the World Council of Churches (WCC) began a discussion on the topic that continued for a number of years. In 1997 the WCC and the Middle East Council of Churches hosted a meeting in Aleppo, Syria, and they came up with a suggestion not for a fixed date, but a fixed formula. The churches could not come to an agreement. And although it is generally agreed that the Last Supper was the Passover meal, Passover and Easter do not always coincide, because the date for Passover is calculated according to the Hebrew calendar.

Posted from Eastern Prelacy’s weekly Crossroads E-Newsletter

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On January 13, the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of the Naming of our Lord Jesus Christ, in accordance with the Hebrew custom. The commemoration of this event (see Matthew 1:20-23; Luke 1:30-32; Luke 2:21) comes seven days after the Feast of Theophany, which is the eighth day of the octave of Theophany. This event of the naming and circumcision of our Lord resulted in the tradition for newborn children of Christians to be baptized eight days after birth—a tradition that is rarely followed in modern times.

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          This Sunday, October 23, the Armenian Church commemorates the Feast of the Discovery of the Holy Cross (Kude Khatchi). Empress Helena, mother of Constantine and a devout Christian, wanted to find the True Cross. She went to Golgotha (Calvary), which had become an obscure and neglected place. According to some chronicles, it was an informed Jew named Juda who pointed out the location. After excavation at the site, three wooden crosses were found. In order to identify the True Cross, the three crosses were successively placed on the body of a youth who had just died. When one of the crosses was placed on him, the young man came back to life. This was determined to be the True Cross. The commemoration of this event take place on the Sunday closest to October 26, and can vary from October 23 to 29.

       Christ’s exact burial site was also located, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built on that spot in 335. The church was destroyed by fire in 614 when the Persians invaded Jerusalem; it was subsequently rebuilt. The current dome dates back to 1870. Three denominations (Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and Russian Orthodox) administer and maintain the church and surrounding grounds, unfortunately not always harmoniously. Agreements strictly regulate times and places of worship for each denomination. Ironically, for centuries a Muslim family has been the custodian of the keys to the church, which is within the walled Old City of Jerusalem.

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       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)

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  This Sunday, September 18, is the Paregentan (Eve) of the Fast of the Holy Cross of Varak. Monday to Friday are fasting days leading up to next Sunday, September 25, when the Feast of the Holy Cross of Varak will be commemorated.

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        This Sunday, September 17, the Armenian Church commemorates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Khachverats), which is one of the five Tabernacle Feasts observed by the Armenian Church.

       This holiday is a general celebration of the Holy Cross and is commemorated by most Christian churches on September 14. The Armenian Church celebrates it on the Sunday closest to the 14th.

       The cross, once a means of death for criminals, gradually became the dominant symbol of the Christian world, an object of reverence and worship, and symbol of triumph over death. There are four feasts devoted to the Cross in the Armenian liturgical calendar, with the Exaltation being the most important. The other three are: Apparition of the Holy Cross, Holy Cross of Varak, and Discovery of the Cross.

       The ceremony for the exaltation begins with the decoration of the Cross with sweet basil (rehan), a sign of royalty, and also symbolizing the living cross. After the Bible readings, the officiating priest lifts the Cross and makes the sign of the Cross, and blesses the four corners of the world (Antastan service), and asks the Almighty to grant peace and prosperity to the people of the world.

       The Khachverats ceremony was prepared by Catholicos Sahag Tsoraporetsi (677-703). He also composed the hymn that is sung on this occasion. As with other Tabernacle Feasts, the Exaltation is preceded with a period of fasting (Monday to Friday), and followed by a memorial day (Merelots).

       Name day commemorations this Sunday include: Khatchadour, Khatchig, Khatcherets, Rehan, Khatchkhatoun, Khatchouhi, Khatchperouhi, Khosrov, Khosrovanoush, Khosrovitoukhd.

From Eastern Prelacy’s Crossroad E-Newsletter

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Posted from Eastern Prelacy’s Crossroad E-Newsletter

       The Blessing of the Grapes takes place on the Feast of the Assumption, although there is no connection between the two. Similar to other holidays, it coincides with a pagan era festival, which the Church Fathers incorporated into the liturgical calendar. The hymn Park Sourp Khatchesi (Glory to Your Sacred Cross) is sung; Biblical passages are recited, followed by a prayer composed by Catholicos Nerses Shnorhali specifically for this occasion. After the prayer, the grapes are blessed three times with the words Orhnestsee Bahbanestsee and then the blessed grapes are distributed to the faithful, many of whom have refrained from eating grapes until this blessing takes place.

       Certainly we can say that the Blessing of the Grapes is a celebration of the fruitfulness of the earth. Grapes are one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. According to biblical history, Noah planted a vineyard immediately after disembarking from the Ark (Genesis, chapter 9) in Nakhichevan, Armenia. And, of course, the wine of the Divine Liturgy comes from grapes.

Bless, O Lord, the grape plants and vineyards from which these grapes are taken and presented to the holy church, and make them bountiful and fruitful; let them be like good and fertile land, protect the vineyards from all kinds of misfortune and destruction which come from above because of our sins, from hail, from cold, from hot winds, and from destructive insects, so that we may enjoy that which You have created in this world for our enjoyment and for Your glory, and grant that we may be worthy to eat and drink with You from the bounty of Your most fruitful vine at the table of Your Father’s Kingdom, according to the just promise which You made, to the honor and glory of Your coexisting Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the most Holy Spirit to whom is due glory, power, and honor, now and forever. Amen.

(From the prayer written by Nerses Shnorhali for the Blessing of the Grapes)

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     This Saturday, August 14 is the Feast of the Shoghagat of Holy Etchmiadzin, which always takes place on the Saturday prior to the Feast of the Assumption. The title of this feast, Shoghagat, refers to the vision of St. Gregory and the rays of light when God chose the site for the Mother Cathedral. This feast is celebrated on Assumption because the Cathedral in Etchmiadzin is named in honor of the Holy Mother, although through the years it became known as Etchmiadzin and Shoghagat referred to the three other nearby churches built by Gregory the Illuminator.

Reposted from Eastern Prelacy’s Crossroad E-Newsletter

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       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.

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This Sunday, July 31, the Armenian Church celebrates one of her five Tabernacle Feasts—Transfiguration (Aylagerbutiyoun / Vartavar). The Feast of Transfiguration (also known as Baydzaragerbutyoun) is celebrated fourteen weeks after Easter, and therefore can fall between June 28 and August 1. It commemorates an episode in the New Testament recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Peter. (See the Bible reading above for the text from the Gospel according to St. Matthew).

       The Transfiguration took place on the “holy mountain” (believed to be Mt. Tabor) where Jesus had gone with Peter, James, and John to pray. As He was praying, “His face shone like the sun and His garments became white as light.” The Patriarch Moses and Prophet Elijah appeared at His side. It was at this moment that His appearance was “transfigured” revealing himself as God to His disciples as a voice from above said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

       As frequently done, a pagan festival was joined with this new Christian holiday. Vartavar (Festival of Roses) when Armenians would decorate the temple of the goddess Asdghig (goddess of love, beauty, fertility, and water) with roses, release doves, and engage in water games, was combined with the Feast of Transfiguration by St. Gregory the Illuminator.

       The fifth century historian Yeghishe wrote the prayer that is read in the church on this feast day: “O Lord, bless the harvest of this year and defend from all the perils, and may Your right hand, O Lord, protect us for the whole year.”

       Vartavar became a traditional day of pilgrimage to churches named in honor of St. John the Baptist. The most popular destination was the Monastery of Sourp Garabed of Mush, founded by Gregory the Illuminator in the province of Daron near Mush. (Garabed means Forerunner, referring to John the Baptist). The Monastery was large and expansive and built like a fortress in the mountains of the area, and more than 1,000 pilgrims could be accommodated. The Monastery was a stronghold of the Mamigonians, and in the latter part of the 19th century the monastery published Khrimian Hayrig’s newspaper, “Eagle of Daron.” In 1893, H.F.B. Lynch visited the monastery and later wrote an account of it in his book, Armenia: Travels and Studies, first published in 1901. The two-volume work was reprinted by the Prelacy in 1990.

       After the extermination and deportation of the Armenians in 1915 the complex ceased to exist. The monastery was blown up by the Turkish army, and the ravages of time, weather and scavengers completed its destruction. In 1998 a group of Armenian pilgrims went to this site for the first time in years (the area was off limits for a long time). Since then other pilgrims have made the trip to this once large and thriving Armenian monastery that now consists of amorphous ruins.

       This Sunday is the name day for those named Vartkes, Vartavar, Vart, Vartouhi, Alvart, Zevart, Nevart, Lousvart, Baidzar, Vartanoush, Vartiter, Varvar.

The Sourp Garabed Monastery in Mush before its destruction.

The remnants of the ruins in 1998. Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian, encircled by a group of Armenian pilgrims, offers a solemn requiem service as the local inhabitants watch on the sidelines.

 

Posted from Eastern Prelacy’s Crossroads E-Newsletter

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