Holy Week (Avak Shapat) – What’s It All About?

The Armenian Church calls the final week of Christ’s life on earth Great Week or Holy Week (Avak Shapat). With Palm Sunday, and Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, we have just begun a memorable journey, the greatest spiritual journey imaginable! During Holy Week, we will be with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during His last days. We will be with Him when he is betrayed, imprisoned, falsely tried, crucified, buried and, most importantly, when He conquers death. Let’s take this journey together…
Holy Monday – dedicated to the creation of Heaven and Earth, the foundation for Christ’s Second Creation. Christ condemns the fig tree that did not bear fruit (as Israel failed to bring forth the fruits of repentance) and teaches that faith can have the strength to move mountains, overcoming despair and even death. (Matthew 12:18-22).
Holy Tuesday – the focus is on the parable of the Wise and Foolish Maidens (Matthew 25:1-13). Ten maidens waited for their bridegroom. (In the custom of that time and place, the bridegroom would fetch the bride from her parents’ home to bring her to his own.) Five of the women foolishly took their lamps with no extra oil and when the bridegroom was delayed, could not go out and meet him. The wise maidens went prepared and joined him in the marriage feast. Similarly, we must pray and wait, in a state of perpetual preparation to receive Christ.
Holy Wednesday – In the reading for Holy Wednesday (Matthew 26:6-13), a fallen woman anoints Christ with costly oil and kisses his feet. The apostles chastise her for wasting oil that could have been sold to help the poor, but Christ defends her action, perceiving her deed as one of devotion, and knowing that this anointing anticipates His upcoming death and burial.
Holy Thursday – (Morning Service-10:00 AM) The morning liturgy service marks the institution of the New Covenant: Holy Communion, which Christ established at the Last Supper. During a Passover meal, Christ broke and distributed unleavened bread and shared the wine with His apostles, identifying these as elements His Body and Blood, (Confession & Communion- 11:30 AM). Through this sacrament, mankind participates in the Kingdom of God. “Service of the Washing of the Feet”- (6:30 PM), Another episode at the Last Supper is recalled during the evening service on Holy Thursday, in a ceremony that commemorates how Christ washed the feet of His apostles, setting an example of humility and love. (John 13:1-17). The priest in turn washes the feet of twelve church members, usually young men. “Service of Betrayal and Passion of our Lord, Khavaroom (darkness)- (8:30 PM). On Holy Thursday, an all-night vigil is kept in memory of the last sleepless night of our Lord on earth. Before He was arrested, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and endured in solitude the agony of His impending death. Six sets of laments are chanted, each followed by a Gospel reading depicting Christ’s betrayal, imprisonment, torture, trial, sentence, and crucifixion. Twelve lit candles, 11 white and 1 black (representing Judas) are extinguished in pairs.

Good Friday – Service of the Burial of Our Lord- (7:00 PM). This is the most solemn and sad day of the Christian calendar. The “Crucifixion Service,” recalls the suffering, execution and death of our Lord, memorialized amid readings from the psalms. A white tomb is placed in the chancel of the church for the “Entombment or Burial Service.” The tomb is adorned with flowers and during the service is taken in procession around the church. As the faithful leave the church they approach the tomb, kiss the Gospel book, and take a flower in remembrance.
Holy Saturday or Easter Eve – Also known as the Easter Vigil, is when the mystery of salvation in the Resurrection of Christ is celebrated. “Evening Service and Reading of the Scriptures” – (6:00 PM), The church is dark, and its lights are dim. Then the great verses from Isaiah 60 are read: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you”- at which point the lights are suddenly turned on. The dramatic, joyful candle-lighting ceremony is called Jurakalouyts.

Easter Sunday –10:00 AM, The Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ! “Antasdan Service” (Blessing of the Four Corners of the Earth) – (12:30 PM). A ceremony devoted to the blessing of the four corners of the “world”, (symbolized by the round central part of the church). In ancient times Antasdan was conducted outside the church, to bring fruitfulness and fertility to the fields/gardens. During the ceremony the Priest first blesses the East (which represents Armenia) with the Holy Cross and the Gospel, in the name of Holy Trinity and the singing of “Amen Alleluia”. Then he turns towards the West which represents all the Christian kingdoms and nations. Next, he faces the South and blesses the countries, fields and harvest of the South, and finally tuning to the North he blesses the northern side of the earth, its churches, fields, cities, villages and their population. White Dove Release- Immediately following services

March 27, 2018| Comments Off on Holy Week (Avak Shapat) – What’s It All About?

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