Sunday, September 14, was the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross – one of the five major feast days of the Armenian Church. This year, the day was also significant in Armenia, as it played an important role in the preparations leading up to the Blessing of the Holy Muron (Chrism), scheduled to take place in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin on Sunday, September 28.
His Holiness Garegin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, presided during the Divine Liturgy celebrated in the Mother Cathedral, located in Etchmiadzin, Armenia, about 10 miles away from the capital Yeevan. In the evening, following vespers, His Holiness presided during the “Andastan” service, wherein the Catholicos, bishops, priests, deacons and faithful processed around the Cathedral with the reliquary containing an actual piece of the Holy Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. The Andastan service also includes the blessing of the four corners of the world on this festive day. The service is noted by the blessing of basil and the sprinkling of rosewater on the faithful.
At the conclusion of the Andastan service, the procession of clergy and faithful moved from the courtyard of the Mother Cathedral to the garden of the Old Pontifical Residence, where the service of blessing the ingredients that will comprise the Holy Muron was offered. As Holy Scripture was read, prayers intoned and hymns sung, the Armenian Pontiff blessed the oils, balsam, floral extracts, aromatic roots and plants, and asked for the graces of the Holy Spirit to descend from heaven, infuse the elements of nature that would soon be added to the cauldron, and to dwell within the hearts of Armenian faithful in the homeland and throughout the Diaspora. In his message to the faithful, His Holiness also stated, “We encourage our sons and daughters throughout the world to pray with us unceasingly during this time, so that your voices will be mixed with the sweet aromas and floral essences, and thereby sanctify the Muron. We ask God to send the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit with His miraculous power to purify the souls of all Armenians who will be baptized, sealed and ordained with this Chrism, and that the sanctity of the Muron becomes the adornment of every individual.”
After the ingredients were blessed, His Holiness added the elements into the cauldron one at a time, and sealed the lid. The cooking process will take three full days, during which time, the cauldron is constantly attended to by the monks and deacons of the Brotherhood of Holy Etchmiadzin. As the fire below the cauldron cooks the elements, the clergy stand 24-hr vigil and offer their continuous prayers and recitation of psalms, since the mixture is never left unattended.
On the evening of Wednesday, September 17, the cooking process came to an end, and the mixture will be allowed to rest for three full days. During this time as well, the cauldron is never left unattended and is always accompanied by the prayers and psalms of the priests.
On Sunday, September 21, the mixture will be strained and prepared for the actual blessing of the Holy Muron one week later, on Sunday, September 28, when it is mixed with the pure olive oil that has been placed in the main cauldron which has been resting on the bema of the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin for the past 40 days. Also added at that time will be a portion of the Holy Muron consecrated by the Catholicos of All Armenians in 2001, to confirm the continuity of the Holy Muron from the past to the present, and from the present to the future.
Reported by the Public Radio of Armenia