On Saturday, February 11, a few dozen parishioners braved the cold temperatures and icy roads to be present at the annual celebration of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord to the Temple, or "Dyarnuntarach." This annual feast day takes place every year on February 14, exactly forty days after the feast of the Nativity & Theophany of Christ -- or Christmas -- on January 6.
It commemorates the infant Jesus being dedicated to the Temple in Jerusalem by his parents Mary and Joseph. While they were there, a righteous old man named Simeon was led by the Spirit to the Temple in order to meet the baby Jesus. There, he took him in his arms and offered a prophetic blessing over him, pronouncing him to be the savior of Jews and the light to the nations of the world. He asks the Lord to now let him die in peace because he has finally seen God's salvation with his own eyes. (Luke 2:28-31)
The Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates this feast day (known as Dyarnuntarach, literally "meeting the Lord") by gathering at the church on the night of February 13 for Vespers service and nakhadonag (a pre-festal ceremony on the eve of major feast days). A large candle is lit and young infants are brought to the altar for a special prayer of dedication, after which the clergyman offering the prayer carries the child around the altar.
Forming a procession, the clergy, altar servers and the faithful all walk outside to the church yard where a large bon fire is lit. Although a holdover from Armenia's pagan past, when fire was worshiped, today it stands as a reminder of the infant Jesus -- the Light from Light -- having taken his place in his Temple, and how he now sits at the right hand of God the Father in the heavenly Kingdom. This strong image went a long way in replacing that of the eternal flames burning in the temples of the fire gods in Armenia, which Saint Gregory our Illuminator went through painstaking lengths to convert into Christian churches in the early days after Armenia's conversion.
Dyarnuntarach is widely celebrated with much enthusiasm in Armenia, and has begun more and more to be celebrated in the Diaspora as well. Many years back, our Prelate, His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, began to encourage the parochial observance of this religious/national feast wherever possible. Archbishop Oshagan, who was to be in town for our parish's 47th anniversary observance, was looking forward to being with us and personally presiding over the festivities. Unfortunately, the poor weather of that weekend and the impending major snowstorm looming over the Northeast caused him to have to cancel his trip.
However, we were fortunate to have with us Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian, pastor of Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church in Worcester, to preside over the ceremonies, as well Archpriest Antranig Baljian, pastor of St. Stephen's Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown. Other New England clergy were supposed to join us, but were impeded by the weather as well.
Following the lighting of the bon fire, a warm reception was given by the Board of Trustees and the Ladies' Guild in Jaffarian Hall.