Palm Sunday & Holy Week

Ծաղկազարդ եւ Ավագ Շաբաթ

 Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday marks Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. When Jesus entered Jerusalem “they took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Blessed is the King of Israel!” (John 12:13).

Palm Sunday is referred to as Advent, in reference to Christ’s coming as the Messiah to Jerusalem and to His Passion. For that reason, it is connected with Christ’s Second or Final Coming and is celebrated in the Armenian Church in the evening with the special “Opening of the Doors” (Դռնբացէք) ritual; a foreshadowing of the Second Coming of Christ, the End of Days and the Last Judgment.

On Palm Sunday in the Armenian Churches, there is also a special service of blessing for the children. The Lord Jesus Christ said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone, who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10.13-16). Both rites will be celebrated immediately after the Divine Liturgy.

 Holy Week

 Holy Week is the week beginning up to Easter; it always starts on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. Here are the dates for Holy Week 2020: Sunday April 5 – Saturday April 11.

Holy Monday is in remembrance of Creation day, cursing the fig tree and cleansing of the Temple of Jerusalem. It reminds us to preserve and care for our creation.

Holy Tuesday is in Remembrance Day of the 10 wise virgins. As wise virgins we have to be attentive and have to keep the torches of faith lit as we do not know when the groom will come at the end of times.

Holy Wednesday symbolises the anointing of Jesus and betrayal by Judas. It was on this day that a woman anointed Jesus with expensive oil at Simeon the Lepers’ house in Bethania, predicting Jesus’ death. It was here when Judas made his decision to betray Jesus.

Maundy Thursday symbolises the Last Supper and the establishment of the sacrament of Eucharist or Holy Communion. The faithful prepare themselves through penance and by receiving absolution and receive Holy Communion.

Washing of the Feet- (Ոտնլվա) On Holy Thursday the ritual of the washing of the feet is celebrated in the Churches. The ritual is based on the accounts of the Gospel of John (13:1-17). The washing of feet was a gesture of hospitality normally performed by a household slave, not the presiding host. Jesus thus shows himself a model of humility (1 Tim 5:10) and, at the same time, gives a preview of the historic service he will render when he accepts the humiliation of the cross (Mk 10:45, Phil 2:5-8).

Grand Vigil or Betrayal Service (Խաւարում)

In the Armenian Church originally it was practiced in more simple fashion. The priest would wash and bless with oil the feet of all the faithful in the vestibule (narthex) of the church. Later, this ritual became more elaborate enriched with special hymns and is performed on the altar. Though there is not a fixed number, the clergymen usually wash the feet of 12 people. Holy Thursday It symbolises Jesus’s Betrayal, Crucifixion and Burial. During the services the Gospel readings describe the last hours of Jesus’s earthly life; betrayal, arrest, denial of Peter, trial of Pontius Pilate, the decision of death, sufferings, agony, crucifixion on Golgotha, eclipse, death and burial. No liturgy is celebrated on Holy Thursday with the services being divided into three parts. To remember these events, the Church has services on Thursday evening, Friday afternoon and Friday evening.

The Evening Service (Խավարման գիշեր) is performed in remembrance of Christ’s betrayal and suffering. It is called Passion Evening. Jesus was arrested by the Temple guards of the Sanhedrin in the Garden of Gethsemane, immediately after the kiss of Judas, which is traditionally said to have been an act of betrayal. The arrest led immediately to his trial before the Sanhedrin, during which they condemned him to death.

Holy Friday, The Burial of Christ Service symbolises the burial of Jesus Christ. It is conducted on Friday evening. It can also be considered as the Rite of the Descent from the Cross. The Trisagion (Սուրբ Աստված) is sung on bended knees and is traditionally dedicated to Joseph of Arimathea, who, according to tradition, sang it as Christ’s body was taken down from the Cross. The symbolical coffin is decorated with followers and there is a procession around the Church. During the procession passages from Gospel are read.

Holy Saturday is dedicated to the Saviour’s burial and the sealing of the tomb. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated at the end of the day. “Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week” (Matt. 28:1). For that reason it is called Ճրագալույց (Candlemass), because it was at that time that in all homes every lamp was lit to signify the beginning of a new day. During this liturgy Christians around the world exchange the Easter greeting: Christ is risen from the dead! Blessed is the resurrection of Christ! (Քրիստոս յարեաւ ի մեռելոց, օրհնեալ է յարութիւնն Քրիստոսի․)

Easter Sunday is the greatest Christian feast. During the Easter Sunday, Christians all over the world celebrate the glorious Resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ and His victory over the death. Again exchanging the Easter greeting: Christ is risen from the dead! Blessed is the resurrection of Christ! (Քրիստոս յարեաւ ի մեռելոց, օրհնեալ է յարութիւնն Քրիստոսի) Easter Sunday, April 21st .

Easter Sunday is followed by a period of 40 days, during which time there are no saints’ days or fasting days. This period is dedicated to the glory of Christ’s Resurrection and to the 40 days He spent on earth after His Resurrection. The 40th day after the Resurrection is Ascension Day, commemorating our Lord’s entry into heaven.

 Armenian Traditional Easter Meals

Traditional Easter food consists of coloured eggs, fish, rice, herbs and traditional Armenian pastry. They also have bread, salt and water so that the priest blesses them and shares the good tidings of Resurrection.

The eggs and fish are symbolic foods. The Church fathers have a lot of interpretations about them. St. Gregory of Datev (15th century) said that “we dye the egg with red colour, because the egg symbolises the world, the shell resembles heaven, skin symbolises the air, whiteness is water and the yellow is the earth.’’ This means that the world is saved by the blood of Christ, which He spilled for the love of humanity.