On Sunday, September 29, the Surp Kevork Armienain Apostolic Church in Samatya hosted a special liturgy for the occasion of the Feast of Surp Varaka Haç (Cross) Festival.
The liturgy which started at 10:30 was presided by the Patriarcal Locum Tenens Bishop Sahak Mashalyan. Father Zohrap Civanyan and Father Zakar Koparyan, the church’s clergymen, assisted the altar. The deacon of the Surp Kevork church was accompanied by the senior Psalmists and choirs. During the ritual, the Sahakyan Choir performed under the direction of conductor Sevan Agoşyan.
After the liturgy, hundreds of believers who attended the ceremony shared an Agape table prepared for the church’s name day.
The chairman of the spiritual council Archbishop Aram Atesyan, The mayor of Fatih Ergun Turan, AK Party Fatih district chairman Orhan Narin and other church foundation chair persons also attended. Yesai Demir, the chairman of the Samatya Surp Kevork church foundation, took the first word and thanked all participants, especially Bishop Sahak Mashalyan. During the Agape meal, Bishop Mashalyan presented Mayor Ergün Turan a plaque on behalf of Sahakyan Nunyan school. The closure of the meal was made by the school students who sang poems and songs. Bishop Mashalian and said; “Our churches and schools need financial and moral aid every semester and we thank all the charitable people. This is the continuation of our traditions. We must keep them alive. We exist with these traditions.”
In addition, Bishop Mashalyan said that the Patriarchal election process has begun and it should pass in a brotherly and friendly manner.
What Does Varaka Haç Mean?
According to the historian Agathangelos, St. Hripsime and her companions, running away from the Roman Emperor Dioklethianos, who started persecutions against Christians, reach to Armenia and find shelter in Vagaharshapat. However, before reaching Vagharshapat they stop at the Mountain Varak, which is to the southeast from the Lake Van. Taking off from her neck the relic of the Lord’s Wooden Cross, St. Hripsime gives it to the praying monks living on the mountain and asks them to preserve it in one of the caves. Thus, the sacred relic remains hidden till the seventh century.
In 653 A. D. the monk Todik and his disciple Hovel pray at the Mountain Varak and ask God to show the place of the relic. Suddenly 12 bright columns appear around the mountain and the sign of the Cross is seen among the columns. For 12 days the bright columns remain visible even from distant sites. This joyful news spreads everywhere.
Nerses the Creator Catholicos who was the Catholicos of All Armenians of that period, and Captain Vard, son the Knight Theodoros, learning about that miracle, go the Mountain Varak to personally witness it. With the support of the Armenian people the Pontiff builds a magnificent church, which in honor of the miracle is named Holy Cross Church. The Pontiff Nerses also writes the marvelous church hymn “By means of the most powerful sign”, which is sung in the churches on the day of the feast.
The sacred relic remains at the Mountain Varak till 1021 A. D. Later the Armenian King Senekerim Artsrouni brings the relic to Sebastia. After the latter’s death the relic is again transferred to its old place and remains there until 1651 A. D. when the relic is taken to Khoshab. In 1655 A. D. the relic is placed in the Church of Holy Godmother, in Van, which is renamed to Church of Holy Sign. The relic was preserved there till 1915 A. D.