The Armenian Apostolic Church celebrated the Feast of the Holy Cross of Varak on Sunday, September 29, 2019. On the Feast Day, the day’s celebrant at St. Paul Armenian Church of Fresno was His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America.
His Eminence was assisted at the Holy Altar by the deacons of the parish.
Archbishop Derderian also congratulated the parish family of St. Paul Armenian Church on the auspicious occasion of the 40th anniversary of the consecration of the present church building. His Eminence also exhorted the faithful to cherish and preserve the sacred Christian teachings and values and to continue to uphold the traditions of the Armenian Apostolic Church in one of the oldest Armenian communities in the Diaspora.
In his homily the Primate reflected on the symbolism of the Holy Cross in the life of each Armenian Christian. “Just like the Thotig was in awe as he gazed up at the light of the cross radiating in the heavenly skies, we, as descendants of the world’s oldest Christian nation, must look up at the heavens and acknowledge the presence of God in our lives,” said Archbishop Derderian in part.
Following the Divine Liturgy, a celebratory banquet containing an exciting cultural program was held at the Berberian Hall of the parish.
Guests also viewed a video presentation depicting the rich history of St. Paul Armenian Church.
The historical and archival information related to the Armenian community of Fresno and the St. Paul Parish had been compiled by Dn. Allan Yeghia Jendian.
The luncheon concluded with the Primate’s closing prayer.
THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS OF VARAK
On the last Sunday of September, the Armenian Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Cross of Varak. On this day, we observe the discovery of a piece of our Lord’s wooden cross, upon which He was crucified, on Mount Varak near Van, in the province of Vasbouragan, in the heartland of historic Armenia. It is a celebration unique only to the Armenian Church and its historical background is a fascinating, indeed.
In the 4th century, a devoted and a Christian nun named Hripsime was running for her life from the tyranny of The Emperor, Diocletion, who had ordered his Roman soldiers to capture all Christians. During her escape, she buried a piece of the true cross in the mountains of Varak.
Three hundred years later, while praying on Mount Varak, a hermit named Thotig, had a vision. He saw a shining cross with light radiating around it on top of the mountain. The light indicated to him the place where Hripsime had hidden the piece of cross so many years before. It was a miracle that this true piece of the Holy Cross was discovered! It is said that there was an overwhelming smell of incense where the cross was buried and the sweet fragrance could be smelled all over the land. Today we celebrate this discovery as "the Holy Cross of Varak."
It was 650 or 660 A.D. when Catholicos St. Nersess III the Builder declared that each year the Sunday closest to September 28 or the second Sunday of Exaltation be dedicated to the Holy Cross of Varak. It is likely on this day that he wrote the beautiful sharagan, “Nushanav Amenahaght Khachivut,” (By the sign of Your all powerful Holy Cross), who is one of the most moving and popular sharagans (church hymns) of the Armenian Church.