Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Feast of the Holy Cross (Soorp Khatch)

Today is the last major feast of the calendar year- the Feast of the Holy Cross, or Soorp Khatch. Soorp means holy, and khatch means cross. This is a name day for anyone named Christopher, Christian, Christine, Christina, etc.

My first clue that something was going on was this huge tray of basil up on the altar (not on the altar, but on the "stage" (for lack of a better word) where the priest and the deacons are during the service. I asked one of my fellow choirmembers (who are always so sweet to explain things to lil' ol' ignorant me) what it was, and she explained that today was the Feast of the Holy Cross. She also said that basil is used because that is what they (the apostles? Mary?) found growing at Christ's tomb.

This feast is important because it reminds us that the cross is important to Christians because it reminds us of Christ's sacrifice. The Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church (in the USA) provides a nice description of the significance of this feast, and one of the historical events that it celebrates.

The cross is important to all Christians (well, perhaps excepting those who go to nondenominational megachurches, who shun religious symbolism like crosses and crucifixes because they make people "uncomfortable."), but especially to Armenians, who even have their own style of cross. If you go to Badarak, you will see people crossing themselves all the time. The priest is always turning around and making the sign of the cross over the congregation. The act of crossing yourself is very important.

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish what rituals are based in religion, and what is mere tradition, but one of the other traditions of the day is eating harisa- this is a porridge of pounded wheat and meat, which is not nearly as gross as it might sound. Traditionally, it's made by the community, and people take turns stirring it over the night. I don't know much more about it than this.

If anyone else knows more about this, please jump in with the comments. I would like this blog to teach and inform as well as to be a place where I can learn as well.

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