Feast of Exaltation
of the holy cross

before your cross
let's fall down, Christ

and Your holy resurrection
we glorify.

The Armenian Church has four festivals a year commemorating the holy and life-giving Cross of Christ. These are: The Apparition of the Holy Cross over Jerusalem, The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, The Discovery of the Relics of the Cross on Mount Varag, and The Finding of the Holy Cross. Apart from the Feast of the Discovery of the Relics of the Cross, which has a purely Armenian origin, the other Feasts of the Cross are also celebrated by other historical churches.

Although all feasts dedicated to the Holy Cross have their special place and importance, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (Arm. Վերացումն Սբ. Խաչի կամ Խաչվերաց) is one of the five high feasts of the Armenian Church. This festival is celebrated every year on the Sunday closest to September 14th (i.e. between September 11th and 17th), if September 14th itself does not fall on a Sunday.

The celebration of the Exaltation of the Cross is based on a historical event that happened in the year 628. With this feast the Church celebrates the liberation of the cross of Christ from the Persian captivity and its return to Jerusalem. We would like to take a brief look at this event and its history.

In the year 614, the Persian king Chosrau II attacks Jerusalem, destroys the city, massacres the city's inhabitants and takes a large part of the population as hostages to his kingdom of Persia. In order to humiliate the Christians, he also confiscates the cross of Christ kept in the Resurrection Cathedral and also takes it to Persia. Historians testify that during the 15 or so years that the Cross was in Persia, innumerable people were restored to faith and converted to Christianity through the power of the Holy Cross.

In 628, the Byzantine emperor Herakleion attacked Persia with a powerful army, intending to free the cross from captivity and bring it back to Jerusalem. The historians testify that an Armenian battalion led by Prince Mjej Gnuni took part in the campaign of Heraclius. At the end of the battle, the Persians were defeated and forced to take St. Returning the Cross of Christ to Emperor Herakleion, who in turn brought the Cross back to Jerusalem.

On the way back to Jerusalem, popular festivals and solemn processions were being prepared everywhere to venerate the cross. At these festivals and processions the Cross of the Lord was always held up for the believing crowds involved to see and worship. Hence the name "Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross".

The cross's return journey to Jerusalem also passed through historic Armenia. According to the accounts of the historians, the procession stopped on a mountain slope near Karin (Erzurum) to hold a folk celebration. And where the cross was placed, a clear spring of water gushed forth. A church was later built on this site, which became a well-known place of pilgrimage, drawing Armenian and other pilgrims to drink from this blessed spring.

Emperor Herakleion kept the Holy Cross in Constantinople for three years before bringing it to Jerusalem. After this, the emperor carried the cross himself, kneeling in his chariot and holding the cross of the Lord in his hands. Arriving in Jerusalem, he carried it on his shoulder to Calvary and placed it in the restored Cathedral of the Resurrection. This is how the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross was definitively confirmed, and this is how it is celebrated in churches to this day.

From: S. Isakhanyan, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, Etchmiadzin, 2012

The Armenian Church has four festivals a year commemorating the holy and life-giving Cross of Christ. These are: The Apparition of the Holy Cross over Jerusalem, The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, The Discovery of the Relics of the Cross on Mount Varag, and The Finding of the Holy Cross. Apart from the Feast of the Discovery of the Relics of the Cross, which has a purely Armenian origin, the other Feasts of the Cross are also celebrated by other historical churches.

Although all feasts dedicated to the Holy Cross have their special place and importance, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (Arm. Վերացումն Սբ. Խաչի կամ Խաչվերաց) is one of the five high feasts of the Armenian Church. This festival is celebrated every year on the Sunday closest to September 14th (i.e. between September 11th and 17th), if September 14th itself does not fall on a Sunday.

The celebration of the Exaltation of the Cross is based on a historical event that happened in the year 628. With this feast the Church celebrates the liberation of the cross of Christ from the Persian captivity and its return to Jerusalem. We would like to take a brief look at this event and its history.

In the year 614, the Persian king Chosrau II attacks Jerusalem, destroys the city, massacres the city's inhabitants and takes a large part of the population as hostages to his kingdom of Persia. In order to humiliate the Christians, he also confiscates the cross of Christ kept in the Resurrection Cathedral and also takes it to Persia. Historians testify that during the 15 or so years that the Cross was in Persia, innumerable people were restored to faith and converted to Christianity through the power of the Holy Cross.

In 628, the Byzantine emperor Herakleion attacked Persia with a powerful army, intending to free the cross from captivity and bring it back to Jerusalem. The historians testify that an Armenian battalion led by Prince Mjej Gnuni took part in the campaign of Heraclius. At the end of the battle, the Persians were defeated and forced to take St. Returning the Cross of Christ to Emperor Herakleion, who in turn brought the Cross back to Jerusalem.

On the way back to Jerusalem, popular festivals and solemn processions were being prepared everywhere to venerate the cross. At these festivals and processions the Cross of the Lord was always held up for the believing crowds involved to see and worship. Hence the name "Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross".

The cross's return journey to Jerusalem also passed through historic Armenia. According to the accounts of the historians, the procession stopped on a mountain slope near Karin (Erzurum) to hold a folk celebration. And where the cross was placed, a clear spring of water gushed forth. A church was later built on this site, which became a well-known place of pilgrimage, drawing Armenian and other pilgrims to drink from this blessed spring.

Emperor Herakleion kept the Holy Cross in Constantinople for three years before bringing it to Jerusalem. After this, the emperor carried the cross himself, kneeling in his chariot and holding the cross of the Lord in his hands. Arriving in Jerusalem, he carried it on his shoulder to Calvary and placed it in the restored Cathedral of the Resurrection. This is how the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross was definitively confirmed, and this is how it is celebrated in churches to this day.

From: S. Isakhanyan, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, Etchmiadzin, 2012

The Mystery of the Holy Cross

Until the crucifixion of Jesus, the cross was considered an instrument of torture and death. Criminals and those who rebelled against the Roman Empire were sentenced to torture or death on the cross. Many are familiar with the story of the historical figure Spartacus. This cruel punishment was also inflicted on our Lord Jesus Christ and he shed his saving blood on this instrument symbolizing and spreading suffering and death.

It should be noted that even after the Lord's ascension, the cross was considered a degrading tool for the apostles and their successors. Not even the cross of Jesus deserved special treatment. According to church tradition, the Lord's brother, Apostle James, was the first person to pay special homage to the Lord's Cross. During a sermon addressed to his Christian followers, he takes a wooden cross, holds it up, bows to it and utters the following words of reverence and bowing: "Before your cross, Christ, we bow down...". This is how a special reverence and respect for the Holy Cross begins, and this scene becomes the occasion for the fundamental change in the meaning of the cross. This instrument of death, upon which the redeeming blood of the Lord was shed, was no longer considered a sign of suffering. It became "Means of Salvation", to the "Source of Salvation" and to "Weapon to Victory" (this is what the cross is called in the Armenian hymns), as an expression of the inexhaustible love of Christ, because love also means sacrificing oneself and, if necessary, accepting deprivation for one's neighbor or loved one. Love is not only a feeling, but also life and action. The crucifixion of Jesus is precisely the practical expression of this love, for he embarked on the way of the cross to save us "from darkness into light" to lead and "from death to life". For us Christians, the cross became one "Bridge between heaven and earth and to the key of the gates of heaven" (Saint Gregory of Tatev).

This is also why the domes and altars of our holy churches are adorned with crosses of the Lord, countless beautifully crafted, meaningful cross stones are placed all over our land of Armenia, Armenian clergymen hold a cross in their hands during services and all the services begin and end with a crucifixion. This is also why the Armenian Christian wears a cross on his chest and crosses himself when entering and leaving the church.

So we commend ourselves to the life-giving protection of God, believing that the cross of the Lord will keep us from all the temptations of the devil and the snares of evil.

Խաչվերաց տոն

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The Annual Cycle

  • Nativity and Theophany
  • Lent
  • Easter
  • Pentecost
  • transfiguration of the Lord
  • Assumption of Mary into heaven
  • Cross Exaltation Festival
  • Hisnak or Advent season

THE FIVE HIGH STRENGTH

The Armenian Apostolic Church has five main festivals called "Taghawar toner" (Arm. Տաղաւար Տօներ). This designation most likely comes from the Old Testament Feast of Tabernacles (arm. Taghawaraharats ton / Տաղաւարհարաց Տօն). The Armenian word "taghawaraharats" is composed of the roots "taghawar" (hut, tent) and "harel" (to beat, to prepare). Since the Old Testament Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated over several days, believers and pilgrims had to pitch a tent or build a hut. The Armenian word "Taghawaraharats" was in all probability changed or shortened to "Taghawar".

The five main festivals of the Armenian Church were also celebrated for more than three days and many believers not only made the pilgrimage to the main festivals but also to other festivals to places of pilgrimage and lived there in tents (Arm. Taghawar / Տաղաւար). This tradition has been preserved in some places to this day. An example is the pilgrimage of the Iranian Armenians to the St. Taddäus church.

On the eve of the five main festivals, a special ceremony called the "pre-festival" (Arm. Նախատօնակ) is held. This is already considered the beginning of the respective main festival.

The Armenian Apostolic Church has five main festivals called "Taghawar toner" (Arm. Տաղաւար Տօներ). This designation most likely comes from the Old Testament Feast of Tabernacles (arm. Taghawaraharats ton / Տաղաւարհարաց Տօն). The Armenian word "taghawaraharats" is composed of the roots "taghawar" (hut, tent) and "harel" (to beat, to prepare). Since the Old Testament Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated over several days, believers and pilgrims had to pitch a tent or build a hut. The Armenian word "Taghawaraharats" was in all probability changed or shortened to "Taghawar".

The five main festivals of the Armenian Church were also celebrated for more than three days and many believers not only made the pilgrimage to the main festivals but also to other festivals to places of pilgrimage and lived there in tents (Arm. Taghawar / Տաղաւար). This tradition has been preserved in some places to this day. An example is the pilgrimage of the Iranian Armenians to the St. Taddäus church.

On the eve of the five main festivals, a special ceremony called the "pre-festival" (Arm. Նախատօնակ) is held. This is already considered the beginning of the respective main festival.

SOPHISTICATION OF THE CHURCH

SOPHISTICATION OF THE CHURCH

SOPHISTICATION OF THE CHURCH

SOPHISTICATION OF THE CHURCH

SOPHISTICATION OF THE CHURCH

The classification of festivals

Theophany / Surb Tsnund (immobile)

  • Jesus' birth and baptism (Christmas) - 6th January
  • Naming of the Lord (8th day of birth) – January 13th
  • Presentation of the Lord in the Temple – February 14 (40th day)

Resurrection (Easter):  (Moving between March 22 and April 25) 
Celebrations associated with Christ's resurrection include:

  • Remembering the resurrection of Lazarus by Christ
  • Palm Sunday and Holy Week
  • The period of 40 days from Easter to Ascension
  • Pentecost (7 Sundays after Easter, between May 10th and June 13th)

Transfiguration / Wardawar (7 Sundays after Pentecost)

  • Annunciation – April 7 (immobile)
  • Discovery of the Blessed Mother's chest (fifth Sunday after Pentecost)
  • Assumption Day (the Sunday closest to August 15)
  • Discovery of the Belt of the Blessed Mother (second Sunday after the Assumption of the Virgin Mary)
  • Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary – September 8 (immobile)
  • Introduction of Mary into the Temple – November 21 (fixed)
  • Conception of Mary by Anna – December 9 (immobile)

Feasts of the Holy Cross

  1. Apparition of the Holy Cross (Fourth Sunday after Easter)
  2. Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sunday closest to September 14)
  3. Holy Cross of Varak (Third Sunday after the Exaltation of the Cross)
  4. Finding of the Holy Cross (Seventh Sunday of the Exaltation of the Cross)

Feasts of the Holy Church

  1. New Sunday (first Sunday after Easter)
  2. Green Sunday (second Sunday after Easter)
  3. Red Sunday (third Sunday after Easter)
  4. Feast of Saint Echmiadzin (second Sunday after Pentecost)
  5. Commemoration of the Old Ark of the Covenant and the Feast of the New - the Holy Church (Saturday before the Transfiguration)
  6. Shoghagate Feast of Echmiadzin (Saturday before the Assumption of Mary)

In the Armenian Apostolic Church, the saint is commemorated on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. During Great Lent, saints' days are observed only on Saturdays, and no saints' days are celebrated during the Easter Triad.

The Saints can be divided into three groups:

This group of saints includes Old and New Testament saints such as B. the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament, or St. John the Baptist, the disciples and the evangelists.

These include saints celebrated by the entire Church. They are saints such as St. Athanasius, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Theologian, the bishops of the first three ecumenical councils and many others.

This group includes saints who have their descent in the Armenian Church or are especially venerated here. There are saints like B. the Virgin Sanducht, St. Gregory the Illuminator, St. King Trdat (Tiridates) and Queen Ash'chen, St. Mesrop Maschtotz and the Catholicos St. Sahak Partev, Movses Khorenatsi and other translators up to St .Nerses Schnorhali, the Holy Priests of the Ghewont, the Saints of Vardananz and more. In 2015, the victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide were elevated to the rank of Holy Martyrs and canonized.

A.Pahq – No food of animal origin (vegan)
B. Tsom – Abstaining from any food (usually only on Sundays before receiving Communion and on Good Friday)

– Great Lent before Easter from Bun Barekendan to Palm Sunday
– Holy Week from Holy Monday to Easter
– Hisnak from Hisnakats Barekendan to Christmas. (about 50 days before Christmas. It used to be intended for all believers, currently it applies to the clergy)

There are ten week-long fasts preceding major festivals and observances, observed Monday through Friday. The exception is the 6-day fast before Christmas:

  1. Fasting before Christmas: December 30th – January 4th
  2. Fasting of catechumens
  3. Fasting before the memorial of Holy Prophet Elijah
  4. Fasting before the feast day of St. Gregory the Illuminator
  5. Fasting before the Transfiguration Feast
  6. Fasting before the Feast of the Assumption of Mary
  7. Fasting before the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
  8. Fasting before the feast of the Holy Cross of Varag
  9. Hisnak/Advent Fast
  10. Fasting before the feast of St. James (Surb Hakob)

– Every Wednesday and Friday except the 40 days from Easter to Ascension Day and the eight days after Christmas.