Saturday, June 20, 2015

St. Gregory the Enlightener and Relics

The right hand of St. Gregory the Enlightener
According to the Armenian Church calendar, the Feast of the Discovery of St. Gregory the Enlightener’s Relics is commemorated on the Saturday of the 4th week of Pentecost. (In Christianity, relics are physical remains or personal effects of a saint, which are then preserved for purposes of veneration and honor).

In the 5th century, a hermit named Karnig had a vision, which guided him to discover the burial place and body of St. Gregory. As was customary, the remains of the saint were distributed as relics to various monasteries and churches. Today, some of his relics are located in Holy Etchmiadzin, Jerusalem, Antelias, and Naples. The relic in Etchmiadzin is kept on display in an arm-shaped reliquary, and used once every 7 years to bless the Holy Myron.

St. Gregory the Enlightener taught something that is very unique to the Armenian Church; that each person has their own Փառք/Park (glory) surrounding them. A person’s Փառք is the character or quality of who that person is, and what they do. He taught that a Փառք is an actual thing, and after a person dies it remains in the person’s bones, as well as with items the person touched. And it can also be passed on to others. This is one of the reasons why relics are important in the Armenian Church.

At St. Vartan Cathedral, located in Manhattan, NY, there is a bone fragment from a martyr of the Armenian Genocide kept as a relic. It is preserved underneath a khachkar where the faithful light candles and pray. If you ever find yourself at St. Vartan Cathedral, light a candle in front of that khachkar and while you venerate the bone relic, think of the endurance of that martyr; his or her Փառք. Then ponder your own Փառք; the wisdom and grace that God has granted you to live for Him. What else makes up your Փառք? How can you add to it? How will it be inherited by others? And how can you invite others into the Փառք (Glory) of God?