For Christians, the Cross is already linked to Jerusalem as the place of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Like all Christians, Armenians recognize the cross to the be consummate symbol of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and through them, of God’s abiding presence in our lives” (Diocesan Liturgical Committee 2007:iii). So, obviously the cross is central to the life of a Christian, and the link to Jerusalem, where the drama of salvation played out, seems equally obvious. Yet the feast this Sunday, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, tells a longer, continuing story of the connection between the Cross and the city of Jerusalem. And through our liturgical veneration of the Cross, this feast also points to a long connection between Armenians and the city of Jerusalem.
A Brief History of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
After the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the city’s population and importance was drastically reduced. As hard as it is to imagine, after the destruction of the Temple, for about two hundred years, we know little about what was happening in Jerusalem and it was not a major center of Christian activity. All that changed when St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, led an effort to discover the true cross of Christ (celebrated in two weeks as The Feast of the Discovery of the Holy Cross). After the discovery of the Cross, she began the construction of what is today known as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which encompasses both the site of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. This week’s feast, described in detail by the V. Rev. Fr. Daniel in this issue of The Treasury (pages 4-11), commemorates the return of the Holy Cross to Jerusalem after it had been captured by the Persians under Khosrov II in 614 (Manookian 1986:101). “Historical sources tell us that the service of Procession and Veneration of the Holy Cross originated in Jerusalem in connection with festivities surrounding the dedication of a Church built there by Emperor Constantine in the early 4th century” (Diocesan Liturgical Committee 2007:iii)
|Exaltation of the Holy Cross: Processional and Adoration According to the Rite of the Armenian Church||This pamphlet, produced by the Diocesan Liturgical Committee, provides an introduction to the feast day and the details (including music) of the service.|
|The Armenian Church Feasts||A short introduction to some of the most important feasts of the Armenian liturgical year, by Archbishop Artak Manookian of blessed memory, former Primate of the Diocese of Tehran.|
|“The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross”||An introduction to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, including the history of liturgical elements, by V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan. This is a short article in the quarterly magazine The Treasury.|
|The Ecclesiastical History||The definitive history of the early Christian Church by Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea. It is an important source for many of the details about the discovery of the Holy Cross.|
|The Ancient Churches of Old Jerusalem; the evidence of the pilgrims||A book that describes some of the churches in Jerusalem, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.|
The Early Armenian Presence in Jerusalem
This Armenian liturgical connection with Jerusalem is further strengthened by a long historical connection: the letter of Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem to the Armenian Catholicos Vertanes, around the same time of the discovery of the Holy Cross serves as evidence of an Armenian pilgrimage presence in Jerusalem from this early date. The letter has been translated by Dr. Abraham Terian and is available through the St. Nersess Avant (“Tradition”) series. Another early piece of evidence for an Armenian presence in Jerusalem is the so-called “Bird Mosaic” from the fifth and sixth centuries. Moreover, our Armenian Lectionary, the collection of readings that follow the calendrical and liturgical year, is closely associated with the Jerusalem Lectionary, and points to an early and deep liturgical connection between Armenians and Jerusalem.
|Macarius of Jerusalem: Letter to the Armenians, AD 335||A translation, introduction, and commentary of the letter of Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem to the Armenian Catholicos Vertanes by Dr. Abraham Terian. The letter concerns liturgical questions, among other things, and is an important piece of evidence for early Armenian contacts with Jerusalem.|
|Armenian Art Treasures of Jerusalem||A beautiful volume, full of colored illustrations, including some of the mosaics that provide evidence for an early Armenian presence in Jerusalem.|
|The Armenians in Jerusalem and the Holy Land||A collection of essays about the Armenian presence in Jerusalem.|
|Lives and Times of the Armenian Patriarchs of Jerusalem: Chronological Succession of Tenures||By Haig Aram Krikorian, a detailed book that provides an early history of Armenians of Jerusalem and then offers extensive information about each of the Patriarchs of Jerusalem.|