Florence Avakian reports on this week’s special service at St. Vartan Cathedral, which projected hope in a time of affliction.
It is a holy sliver of wood from the Resurrection Cross carried by Christ, embedded in a small gold crucifix surrounded with the mystical herb, basil.
The Cross carried by Christ on which he was crucified represents Christ’s victory over death, and symbolizes both the grief felt by Christians all over the world at the Crucifixion, as well as the salvation and hope of the Holy Cross through the Resurrection.
On Sunday evening, September 13, this powerful Khatchveratz service—celebrating the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross—was held at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in New York, led by the Eastern Diocese’s Primate Bishop Daniel Findikyan, who planned, organized, and presided over this special ceremonial service.
Due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, only four local area priests and nine deacons participated in this medz antasdan service blessing the four corners of the world. Some three dozen faithful were in attendance.
The Height of Love
In his inspiring remarks, Bishop Daniel called the blessing of the four corners of the world “exceptional during this pandemic. I bless every person, family, every saint, every criminal, every state, every country. I do so while carrying an actual relic of the Cross of the Resurrection that changed the course of human history.”
This was “love shown by action and self-sacrifice. When we take from ourselves and give to another, it is a gift of ourselves. God gives the gift of Himself to bring healing to the world,” Bishop Daniel said.
“It is up to us to open our hearts and minds to God’s love, to be inspired. The condition of the world today,” he continued, “is filled with selfishness, self-absorption, worries and pains. We need to open ourselves to giving, having empathy, being selfless, and focusing our lives up to God in our every action.”
Following the blessing of the four corners of the world service in the cathedral, the clerical procession marched to the cathedral plaza. They blessed the people of the world and those in attendance before a small table, with the cross surrounded by basil.
The Primate knelt before the table, kissed the cross and took a sprig of basil. Also showing their reverence, the priests, deacons, and faithful followed. A reception with Armenian delicacies was offered on the plaza.
“I am deeply moved by this service,” remarked the Primate to this writer during the reception. “For centuries the Armenian Church, one of the smallest in Christendom, has had the faith and confidence to bless the entire world. This is truly amazing.”
During the “blessing of the four earthly points, I could only think of the sickness, violence, and injustice that is all too evident in our world. May our prayers and blessings bring the peace of Christ to a world that is desperately infirm.”
By Florence Avakian
Click here to view a gallery of photos by photographer Albin Lohr-Jones.