The Feast of the Universal Church of Holy Etchmiadzin (Կաթողիկէ Եկեղեցւոյ Սրբոյ Էջմիածնի Տօն) is celebrated on the second Sunday of Pentecost. The building of Etchmiadzin Cathedral was a significant turning point in the life of the Armenian people. Etchmiadzin means ‘the begotten Son of God descended’.
On the occasion of the feast, there was a solemn celebration at St Sarkis Church in London with a special prayer service for the longevity of the Catholicos of all Armenians and for the luminance of the Holy See. The celebrant was Father Shnork Bagdassarian, pastor of St Sarkis church. The service was presided by His Grace Bishop Hovakim, the Primate of the Diocese, who also preached before the service explaining the history of the conversion of Armenia and the establishment of the cathedral of the Holy Etchmiadzin. He also mentioned that Etchmiadzin starts from this church and this parish: ‘The stronger you are, the stronger the Diocese will be, and the stronger the Church will be in general’ and that ‘Etchmiadzin is the heart of the Armenian Church which pumps blood around the body’. ‘For better functioning of this heart, the rest of the body must also be healthy, this is why we need strong parishes and why our community needs to be stronger’. His Grace also invited the faithful to renew their faith and commitment and become participants in the life of the Church rather than being just visitors. He urged everyone to be more involved in Church activities such as the choir and church administration.
The feast is a celebration of the Armenian Apostolic Church and how our Church is part of one body of Churches. The bringing of Christianity to Armenia through St Thaddeus and St Bartholomew led to the spread of the Gospel throughout the region and in this way the Armenian Church is part of ‘one universal and apostolic holy Church’, as is stated in the Nicene Creed.
This is an important time as we remember both martyrs and evangelists within the Armenian tradition: St Santookht (a student of St Thaddeus and the first Armenian martyr), St Gayane and St Hripsime and St Voski and St Sookias. All their efforts culminated in the miracle performed by St Grigor the Illuminator.