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Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Pilgrimage Day of the Holy Lance in Etchmiadzin

The Encyclical of HH Karekin II is read. The Holy Lance is on the lower right
On 29 November during the weekend of a pastoral visit to our congregation in Yerevan Armenia, I accompanied the Revd John Barker, priest-in-charge, to Holy Etchmiadzin for a special liturgy. Etchmiadzin is the spiritual and administrative headquarters of the worldwide Armenian Apostolic Church. The Cathedral was founded by St Gregory the Illuminator in 301. It is presently under repairs to get ready for 2015, which is the 100th commemoration of the Armenian genocide.

Holy Etchmmiadzin
The liturgy was to celebrate the Feast of the Apostles St Thaddeus and St Bartholomew. They were the first evangelizers of Armenia and were martyred there, giving the Armenian Church its apostolic foundation. But it was a special celebration. His Holiness, Karekin II, published an encyclical declaring 29 November to be a pilgrimage day of the Holy Lance, in answer to many requests of the faithful to have the opportunity to venerate this sacred relic.

The Holy Lance
The Holy Lance (in Armenian Surb Geghard) is the tip of the spear which the Roman soldier used to pierce our Saviour Jesus Christ while he hung on the cross. (St John 19.34). According to ecclesiastical tradition, the Apostle St. Thaddeus brought this sacred relic to Armenia in the first century.

Fr John Barker, besides being the priest of our Anglican congregation in Armenia is also Apokrisiarios (personal representative) of the Archbishop of Canterbury to His Holiness Karekin II. The full title of His Holiness is, by the way:

Karekin II, Servant of Jesus Christ, by the mercy of God and the will of the nation, Chief Bishop and Catholicos of All Armenians, Supreme Patriarch of the Pan-National Pre-Eminent Araratian See, the Apostolic Mother Church of Universal Holy Etchmiadzin. (The reference to the Araratian See is significant. Close by is Mt Ararat where according to the Bible, Noah's Ark landed after the Flood).

Following the Divine Liturgy there was time for conversation with His Holiness and then lunch with him and the Bishops of the Church.

Mt Ararat

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