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Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Խաչվերաց Khachverats)

This feast occurs on the Sunday closest to September 14. When Jerusalem was captured by the Persians in 610, the true cross was taken away as booty. In 629, Emperor Heraclius defeated the Persians and the cross was returned. Its ceremonious journey from Persia back to Jerusalem passed through the land of Armenia and was a source of inspiration to the faithful; it was elevated constantly along the way for the faithful to venerate.

The Exaltation is connected with several historical events, each of which involves the "raising up" or glorification of the cross. An early tradition identifies St. James, the brother of the Lord – one of Jesus' 12 Apostles and the first bishop of Jerusalem – as the first to exalt a cross. Taking in hand a likeness (or perhaps an actual piece) of the original cross of the Crucifixion, St. James elevated it before the people, and venerated it as a symbol of "the power of God," praying: "We bow before your cross, O Christ." Those very words in Armenian – Խաչի քո, Քրիստոս, երկիրպագանեմք Khachee ko, Kreesdos, yergeerbakanemk – are still repeated in our church services.

On this feast day, the liturgy is marked with the Blessing of the Fields service (antasdan անդաստան) during which the processional cross is adorned with basil (a symbol of royalty) and the four corners of the church are blessed as a symbol for all the world. Following the liturgy, the faithful venerate and kiss the cross and take home a sprig of the basil.

 
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