Nativity and Theophany 

Սուրբ Ծննունդ եւ Աստուածյայտնութիւն

This feast marks the anniversary of the birth and baptism of Jesus Christ. He was born in a manger in Bethlehem, near Jerusalem City, later baptised in the River Jordan by John the Baptist.

The Armenian Church celebrates both the birth and the baptism of Jesus Christ on the same day, the 6th of January. Because Jesus was baptised when He was almost thirty years old (Luke 3:23), His baptism happened nearly on the same day as His birthday, according to church traditions. For this reason, this feast is called birth and baptism, or Nativity and Theophany.

When Jesus was baptised, He prayed to His Father; and as He prayed, Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove. A voice came from Heaven which said, “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). By these words, the divinity of Jesus Christ was revealed to the world. This event is also called Theophany and Epiphany. In the early days of Christianity,    Christians held the celebrations of both Christmas and the baptism of Christ on the same day, the 6th day of January, as the Armenian Church does today. But later on the date of Christmas was changed to the 25th day of December. In order to abolish this heathen feast, the Catholic Church transferred Christmas from the 6th day of January to the 25th day of December.

To this day, the Armenian Church remains faithful to the old tradition of Christianity, and continues to celebrate Christmas and the baptism on the same day, 6th January. Therefore, after the offering of Christmas Badarak (mass), the Church holds a special ceremony of the blessing of water taking place every year. – The Cross is immersed in this blessed water and then taken out again, symbolizing the baptism of Jesus Christ.

In Armenian tradition, the first hymns of Christmas were assigned to Movses Khorenatsi in the 5th century. During the blessing of water, two wonderful pieces of Armenian hymnology are sung by 12th century author Grigor Bahlavouni (Ov Zarmanali-) and 13th century author Hovhanness Bluz Erzenkatsi (Aysor dzaynn hayrakan).

It is good to know that Western Christianity, the feast of epiphany commemorates principally the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles. It is sometimes called Three Kings’ Day, and in some traditions celebrated as Little Christmas.

Eastern Christians, on the other hand, commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God.