The second Sunday after Easter is one of the most mysterious Sundays in the liturgical year of the Armenian Church. It has two names: Ganach Giragi (Green Sunday) and Ashkharamadran Giragi (Sunday of World Church).
On Green Sunday the Armenian Church holds the Antastan Service (the Blessing of the Four Corners of the Earth), which can be compared to the “Rogation” days in Western Christianity, when the fields were blessed prior to planting. (Rogation refers to days of prayer and fasting, with the major Rogation Day observed on April 25.)
The word “green” makes us think of nature, tranquility, and preservation, especially in the time of year when we watch with amazement all the changes going on in nature. The activities of nature seem to be part of a plan we can barely fathom.
It is fitting, then, that the month of April is when the world marks Earth Day, when millions around the globe join to give thanks for the beauty and abundance of the earth, and to reflect on our responsibility to care for it.
It goes without saying that environmental issues have become a hot topic, literally and figuratively, as our society argues about how human activity affects nature, and vice versa, in the short and long term.
But that’s why the themes of Green Sunday should ring true to modern ears—even though the day was established hundreds of years ago. Did our church fathers anticipate the environmental crisis? I’m not sure they did—but the very fact that they created a “Green Sunday” should intrigue us, alert us that there is wisdom to be found here.
A key term in both the studies of the environment and theology is the word “ecology.” Several meanings can be drawn from it: to care for the planet and preserve it from further damage; to carry a vision of the world, nature, and life as worthy of human responsibility, solidarity, and respect; to protect the biosphere on which life depends.
But the word “ecology” (from the Greek oikos plus logos) etymologically means: “study of the home” or “the logic of the house.” It’s the science of our dwelling place.
Now, what might all of this have to do with the church calendar, and with our badarak?
One of the fundamental ideas in the badarak is that mankind takes the fruits of nature, with thankfulness, and offers them back to God. The bread and wine of the badarak might be seen to represent the fruits of the earth—wheat and grapes—transformed by man into something that satisfies our primary human need to eat and to drink. But man effects this transformation at the pleasure of, and with gratitude to, the Creator of the world: God. Man’s interaction with the created order is not willful or destructive, but creative, reverent, and grateful. In the Divine Liturgy, we pray: “We offer to you [God] yours of your own, from all and for all.”
That last phrase, “from all and for all,” links us to the second name for Green Sunday: World Church Sunday (Ashkharamadran Giragi). The world we have been given belongs to everyone—to all of God’s children, and all of His creatures. We worship as a community, not as individuals; badarak is one way we share God’s creation with each other.
Long before the earth was seen as a whole from space, the church understood that we stand before God together, and that we hold in common the earthly blessings that He has given to humanity and all creatures. In this way, the entire cosmos might be seen as a church, where human beings are not masters of the universe but worshipers of God. During every badarak, we proclaim that the earth is full of God’s glory: “Holy, holy, holy, heaven and earth are full of your glory.”
While we’re still freshly in the after-glow of Easter, Green Sunday reminds us that our faith is not abstract, but is part of a living, breathing, existence in the world. Through the badarak, it invites us to acknowledge our true place in the cosmos, through praise and thanksgiving. It exhorts us to embrace the original role our Creator wanted us to play in the world, in a renewed way.
We read in Genesis that “The Lord God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden, to work it and take care of it” (Gn 2:15). Through willfulness we were exiled from Eden; but through Christ we are placed again at the center of God’s garden, not to neglect and abuse it, but to cultivate it with respect, with a sense of sharing, and with concern for future generations.