BIKFAYA, Lebanon—Religious leaders, community members and parishioners came together Saturday evening at St, Mary’s Armenian Monastery near the Armenian Genocide Memorial Monument for the traditional blessing of Muron (Holy Chrism or Holy Water) presided over by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicial.
The preparation and blessing of the Muron takes place every seven years. This year it coincided with the anointment of the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide and brought special significance to the recommitment to the Armenian Cause.
The ceremony was attended by religious leaders, ecumenical guests, diplomats, government officials and parishioners who had made the pilgrimage from the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.
A procession toward the Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument, where the ceremony was held, kicked off the festivities, with the Catholicos being escorted under a canopy—known as a baldaquin—held by four laymen, representing different prelacies in the Diaspora.
They were followed by two bishops who carried the case containing the right hand of St. Gregory the Illuminator, a relic that symbolizes the direct involvement of the founder of the Armenian Church in the process of preparing and blessing of the chrism. Joining the procession were also four clerics who carried containers of Muron from the Holy See of Etchmiadzing, remnants of the previous batch of the Muron from the Cilician Catholicosate and the essence of rose and balsam, the key indriendient of the chrims. The procession was followed by 12 other clerics
The ceremony began with a procession toward the Martyrs Monument where the ritual was held. His Holiness walked towards the monument under a canopy held by four laymen, who represented the Diaspora. They followed two bishops who carried the case that contains the relic of the right hand of St. Gregory the Illuminator. Four bishops carried containers of the Muron that had been brought from Holy Etchmidadzin, the old Muron from the Catholicosate of Cilicia, and the essence of rose and balsam. Twelve other bishops led the way.
During the blessing of the oil, Catholicos Aram I was assisted by prelates of the Catholicosate of Cilicia, two representatives of the His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of the Holy See of Etchmidadzin, Bishop Vazken Mirzakhanian the primate of the Armenian Church in Georgia and Bishop Vartan Navasartian, the Primate of the Australia, as well as two representatives from the Patriarchate of Constantinople: Archbishop Aram Ateshian, the Locum Tenens, and Bishop Sahak Mashalian.
The ceremony began with readings from the Bible and special prayers recited by Aram I and the bishops, beseeching the intercession of the Holy Spirit. To the original mixture of oil, spices, herbs and essence of different plants, prepared 40 days ago, His Holiness added the essence of rose and the Holy Muron from Etchmiadzin, symbolizing the unity of the Armenian Church. He then added the old Muron, which is the remnant of the healing oil St. Thaddeus brought to Armenia and the Holy Muron which was blessed by St. Gregory the Illuminator. At the end, His Holiness mixed everything in the special Muron cauldron and stirred it with the right hand of St. Gregory the Illuminator.
When the Holy Muron was blessed, His Holiness Karekin II’s message was read by a representative of Holy Etchmiadzin.
“I greet His Holiness Aram I with brotherly love. On the occasion of the blessing of the Holy Muron, we join you with our prayers and intercede with our recently sanctified martyrs and all our saints and ask God to grant us His peace, protect us and lead us to Him. The blessing of the Holy Muron is an invitation to us to renew our faith in Him, recommit ourselves to safeguarding our spiritual heritage and national identity. It is also an invitation to serve together for the glory of our Church and for the prosperity and strengthening of our homeland and the diaspora,” Karekim II’s message.
After receiving the message, His Holiness Aram I blessed the people with the relic of St Gregory the Illuminator.
After the ceremony, the Catholicos greeted His Holiness Karekin II, the patriarchs of Jerusalem and Constantinople, the heads of other churches and the international ecumenical guests. He then explained the special place of the Holy Muron in the Armenian Church: for children to become members of the church, for priests to become ordained and serve the Church. He said that through anointment the members of the community are strengthened in their faith and are filled with love and hope.
“Historically,” he said, “the faith, love and hope of the Holy Muron has always empowered Armenians to endure the dark days of their history, safeguard their identity and rebuild their lives.” He continued, “Within the Armenian Church the Holy Muron has been the bond between the two Holy Sees.” His Holiness then concluded, “The blessing of the Holy Muron today, on the 100th Anniversary commemorations of our Genocide is an invitation to our people to deepen their Christian faith, arm themselves in love and, with the power of hope in God, continue demanding justice.”
The weekend events at the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia also included the inauguration of the Armenian Genocide Museum at the Bird’s Nest Orphanage.