Archive for the ‘Feast Day’ Category

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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       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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