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Der Samuel's Sermon from October 1, 2023

Today, the Armenian Church celebrates one of the four feasts of the Holy Cross, which is unique to the Armenian Church it’s the feast of the Holy Cross of Varak or Varakakhach. Like other cross feasts, this one also has its own story. According to tradition, the Hripsimiane-maidens arrived in Armenia under the guidance of Mother Gayane. They had brought with them a fragment of the True Cross. Fleeing persecution, they sought refuge on the mountain where Hripsime hid the cross among the rocks before fleeing to Vagharshapat. Some of the maidens remained on Mount Varak. The rest and maidens Hripsime and Gaiane reached Etchmiadzin when St. Gregory the Illuminator (Krikor Lusavorich) left Khor Virap. He visits the hermits of Mount Varak, who built a church there in his name.

In the days of Vart Badrik Rshtuni, in 653, the hermit named Todik went to Mount Varak for vows with his disciple named Hovel. They have been praying and praying there for a long time, longing to find the holy relic. One evening, a light appeared on top of the mountain illuminating the entire mountain, then 12 pillars of light rose to the sky and lit up everyone around for 12 days. They say that the holy relic rose from the lights within its reliquary and entered the altar in the church.

This is the story of Varaka Khach (Holy Cross of Varak). While it is true that history is important to know, each feast of the cross has more to convey to us than just history.

As we know from history, the Cross during the time of Christ and even earlier, as Apostle Paul remembers in his letter, was “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”. The cross did not have any significance before the crucifixion of Christ. It was a meaningless object, through which evildoers were punished, tormented, and executed. However, God gave meaning to the cross, which was filled with scandal and foolishness and made it a symbol of life and salvation through his Only Begotten Son. The cross used as an object of punishment became a symbol of forgiveness. By means of the cross, Jesus cut the chains of the gates of hell and crushed the devil, something that continued in the following centuries through our holy fathers on the way to the cross. The cross became the bridge through which we once again renewed our covenant with the exalted God.

The cross became a symbol of healing, just as the one who looked at the bronze snake was healed in the Old Testament, so Christ rose on the cross for us, so that whoever looks at him will be healed and have eternal life.

Also, it should be clear that we do not worship the cross, but the crucified Jesus. It remains for us to believe in the cross and the power of the crucified, and to trust him in our difficulties. The cross is our weapon, through which we will be able to protect ourselves from the difficulties and trials of the devil. We hang a cross around our necks or in our homes, not by chance, because we believe in its power. When we see the sign of the Cross, we feel safe, because we believe that it will help and protect us. Let's continue our life with the crucified one, and our life will be easier, even if evil tries to hinder our path, to discourage us. If we have Christ with us, Christ is our hope, and the devil's temptations will be nothing.

May the most powerful cross continue to protect our lives, our souls, our families and relatives, as well as our homeland and our brothers and sisters in Artsakh. And whatever comes from evil, let it not be a reason for us to depart from God, from the crucified one. We must know that everything that happens in this world has its beginning and its end, we just must have patience, and the one who puts his hope in God will never be ashamed, but we will come out victorious with Christ and together we will glorify the most holy trinity now and always and forever and ever.

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