The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Montebello

On Sunday, September 15, 2013, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross was celebrated in Prelacy Churches with Divine Liturgy, the Blessing of the Four Corners of the Earth service, and the blessing of basil.  The Feast is also the name-day of Holy Cross Cathedral of Montebello.  Thus, on this occasion, H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate celebrated Divine Liturgy, delivered the sermon, and conducted the blessing of madagh and basil at Holy Cross Cathedral.

Upon the wish expressed by the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund, and by the decision of the spiritual leaders of the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic, and Evangelical Churches, this day was designated Day of Prayer for Syria.  By the ordinance of the Prelate, “Der Voghormya” (Lord have mercy) prayers were offered in all Prelacy Churches for the safety and peace of the Syrian people and the Syrian-Armenian community.

As the choir sang the “Hrashapar” hymn, the Prelate entered the Cathedral and to begin the Liturgy.  Dean of the Cathedral, Very Rev. Fr. Muron Aznikian, participated in the service.  Parish Pastor Rev. Fr. Ashod Kambourian, and former Pastor Archpriest Fr. Nareg Pehlivanian, assisted at the altar.

Prior to his sermon, the Prelate first gave thanks to God for the day and the opportunity to collectively celebrate last of the five major feasts, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and the name-day of the Cathedral.  Addressing Fr. Muron, His Eminence wished him success in his new duties as Dean of the Cathedral, conveying his expectation that he will work alongside the Pastor, Board of Trustees, and all affiliated bodies to ensure that Holy Cross Cathedral grows in strength and numbers and continues its ninety-year history.  The Prelate also greeted Principal of Mesrobian School, Mr. David Ghoogasian, who was assisting in the service, wishing him and the Mesrobian family a successful and productive school year.  He expressed joy and pride that enrollment has increased by ten percent this year, and urged the community to continue to work together and support Mesrobian School, “for great things can be achieved with love, unity, and harmony.”

Noting that the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is also the day on which Sunday Schools resume, citing the passage from Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” the Prelate spoke of just how important Christian education is, for it molds our youth to grow to be good, faithful Christians and to follow Christ and His commandments with total devotion and love.  Thus, he commended the Sunday School director and teachers for their dedication to this important task.

The Prelate began his sermon by giving a brief overview on the history of the Feast.  He explained that in the 7th century, the Persians had confiscated the sacred relic, which the Emperor Heraclius was eventually victorious in recovering through a series of battles.  Upon the Emperor’s triumphant return to Constantinople, the people, including the Armenians, greeted him with great enthusiasm, praising and exalting the Cross he had recovered.  The Armenian people had contributed to the battles and shed their blood for the return of the Cross, and they also witnessed the sacred relic as it was being transported from Constantinople to Jerusalem via their lands.  That is why the Armenian people hold this feast in such high regard, designating it as one of the five great feasts of the church.  “Our forefathers rejoiced and triumphed in the return of the Cross because they comprehended its profound significance and symbolism,” stated the Prelate.

His Eminence then spoke on the true meaning of the Cross, as the symbol of God’s justice, wisdom, love, power, and peace, and the promise of redemption and salvation.  By sending His only Son as a substitute for our sins, through the Cross, God revealed his unbound love towards mankind; He made it known that He is the only path to salvation; He displayed His mighty power over sin and death; He reestablished the peace that was once lost because of sin.

“Today, more than ever, we are in great need of the peace of the Cross.  All across the world, and in the Middle East especially, love and peace has been replaced by violence and injustice.  For the past 2 ½ years, our brothers and sisters in Syria have been living a nightmare with no end in sight.  Day by day, their circumstances are becoming increasingly difficult as the situation continues to deteriorate,” stated the Prelate.  His Eminence called on the faithful to pray for the watchful Eye and the protective Hand of the Lord to safeguard the innocent Syrian people caught in the crossfire of the civil war, for the Holy Spirit to bring some semblance of peace and comfort to the people who are struggling for basic necessities each and every day, and for God’s compassion and mercy to fill the hearts of world leaders, so that they can work together to restore peace to a broken world.

At the conclusion of Divine Liturgy, the Prelate conducted the Antasdan service, (Blessing of the Four Corners of the Earth), a ceremony where the four corners of the church are blessed as a sign of the sanctification of the world, and also blessed basil which was then distributed to the faithful.

The Prelate was then led in a procession to “Bagramian” Hall where the blessing of madagh took place, in memory of departed church servants and loved ones.

Following the blessing of tables, Fr. Muron welcomed the guests gave an overview of the Cathedral’s current and upcoming endeavors, and invited all those present and the community at large to participate in the fulfillment of the Cathedral’s mission.

The Prelate delivered the closing message, in which he once again congratulated the parish community on their name-day, and urged all to work together in the spirit of love and harmony for splendor of Holy Cross Cathedral and Mesrobian School.  The celebration concluded with the Prelate’s benediction.

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