Archive for the ‘Lent’ Category



As of Monday we entered the period of Great Lent (Medz Bahk), and the Church has taken on a somber, mournful, and penitential manifestation. Beginning last Sunday, which was Poon Paregentan, the altar is closed with a dark curtain, symbolic of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (See Geneses, Chapters 2 and 3).

Holy Communion is not offered during the Liturgy. It is a period of repentance and reflection on our spiritual journey toward Easter. We are reminded that through prayers and fasting we strive to please God and regain mankind’s original sinless formation.

Each of the Sundays during Lent has a theme. This Sunday is the Sunday of the Expulsion (Ardaksman Giragi). The message of this day is a continuation of last Sunday’s Paregentan theme, namely, Adam and Eve’s fall from grace and banishment from Paradise. The hymns sung on the first two Sundays of Lent remind us of the expulsion and give sinners the good tidings that they may render themselves worthy through repentance.

O Lord, you first gave the holy observance of the law in paradise. But the first creatures disobeyed you by eating the forbidden fruit and thus tasted the bitterness of sin and death. Therefore, enable us to taste the sweetness of your commandments.
(From the hymn sung on the Sunday of the Expulsion)

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This Saturday, March 31, 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 accountimage 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.

Posted from Armenian Prelacy’s (Easter) E-Newsletter.

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During Great Lent, saint days are commemorated only on Saturdays. During the remainder of the year saints can be honored on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Saturdays. Never on Wednesdays or Fridays, these being fasting days.

       This Saturday, March 24, the Armenian Church celebrates one of the three days in its liturgical calendar devoted to St. Gregory the Illuminator, the patron saint of the Armenian Church. The three days are: Entrance into the Pit; Emergence from the Pit; and Discovery of his remains. This Saturday is the commemoration of his commitment to the Deep Pit (Khor Virab). image

       Gregory maintained his faith and refused to renounce Christ. As a result he endured many tortures and his final punishment was banishment into a deep pit where he remained for a period of thirteen or more years. Miraculously he survived, thanks to his faith and a woman (identity unknown) who lowered food and water into the pit.

       The Monastery of Khor Virab is a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims who visit Armenia. The monastery was built on the exact location where St. Gregory was imprisoned. The pit is accessible and it is possible for visitors to climb down the ladder (27 steep steps) into the pit. The church, named Sourp Asdvadzadsin, dates to the 17th century. The area is one of the most beautiful in Armenia and provides the absolute best view of Ararat from anywhere! The area surrounding Khor Virab is the site of the ancient Armenian capital, Ardashad, founded by King Ardashes I about 180 BC.

Come, let us exalt on this day the spreader of the spiritual light to us who sat in darkness, the holy patriarch Gregory. Come, you children instructed by him, exalt on this day the distributor to the sons of Torkom of the undefiled gifts of the Holy Spirit who gave us a new birth as sons of the light. Come, you children instructed by him, exalt on this day the interpreter of the divine word in the land of Armenia. On this day the Church and her children sing with the angels, on this day of memory of the enlightener ascribing glory to God in the highest.

(Canon to St. Gregory the Illuminator, Commitment to the Pit, from the Liturgical Canons of the Armenian Church)

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

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     This Saturday, March 17, the Armenian Church commemorates the Forty Martyrs of Sebastia. Although the backgrounds and identities of the forty young soldiers are not certain, it is believed they came from Lesser Armenia and served in the Roman army. According to St. Basil of Caesarea, forty Christian soldiers refused to worship the Roman emperor while stationed in Sebastia in Armenia in 320. They remained faithful to their Christian faith. The soldiers were tried and condemned to death by stoning. Miraculously, when the sentence was being carried out, the stones would not reach the condemned soldiers, but would instead come back striking those throwing the stones. The soldiers were then thrown into a frozen lake and forced to stay there, unless they renounced their faith. Warm baths were prepared for anyone who would recant. Of the forty, only one gave up. When he did, another soldier, moved by the example of the suffering Christians, declared himself a Christian and took the apostate’s place. All forty died. 
       Some of our great Church Fathers like Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Ephraim the Assyrian, and Sisian of Sebastia, wrote panegyrics about the forty martyrs, who are remembered each year during Lent on the Saturday following the median day of Lent. The Armenians have built and named churches in memory of the Forty Martyrs in various parts of the world.

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We are not more than half-way through Great Lent (yesterday was Michink, the median day of Lent). This Sunday, March 18, is the “Sunday of the Judge” (Tadavori Giragi). The Gospel reading for this day is the UnjustJudgeparable told by Jesus about a widow and a judge (see Bible reading above). The judge in the parable is seen as hard-hearted and without principles, fear of God, or regard for people. A widow in the same town has been ill-treated and she has come to the judge for justice. Although her cause is just, the judge does not pay attention to her case. However, she is persistent and she makes the same appeal again and again until at last the judge decides to see that she receives justice. He does this not because he cares about justice, but because he wants to be rid of the widow.
The message of this parable is that we must persevere and pursue righteousness and justice relentlessly with the confidence that perseverance (especially in prayer) will be rewarded.

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