Antelias, Lebanon - A large number of the faithful gathered in the Mother Cathedral in Antelias on April 2 to attend the feast of St. Gregory the Illuminator and kiss relic of his Right Hand, kept with much care at the Antelias headquarters of the Armenian Orthodox Church (Catholicosate of Cilicia).
A few decades ago, the Armenian believers used to walk barefoot from the various regions of Beirut to Antelias to kiss this relic of the Patron Saint of the Armenian Church. The tradition goes back to Cilicia, where Armenians used to climb to the historical cathedral of Sis to renew their faith and kiss this centuries-old relic.
True to this old Armenian tradition, a group of Seminary students walked from Bikfaya to Antelias as a symbol of a renewal of their faith with the intention of becoming worthy of the blessings of this holy Hand. This national relic has traveled with the Catholicosate of Cilicia through the paths of Genocide and deportation and today once again extends its blessings to the entire Armenian nation.
Bishop Dirayr Panossian celebrated the mass and delivered a sermon on the occasion of the day that marks St. Gregory the Illuminator’s imprisonment into Khor Virab (the pit) and the Catholicosate’s Pilgrimage Day. His Holiness Aram I presided over the Church service and the procession of the Patron Saint’s Right Hand as well as other relics. Members of the Cilician Brotherhood, priests, guests and a large number of faithful participated in the procession.
His Grace Dirayr Panossian focused on the history of the See of Cilicia in his sermon, mentioning how the late Catholicos His Holiness Sahag II Khabayan had described this pilgrimage day as an opportunity to rise from the Genocide and strengthen faith.
He pointed out that since the day His Holiness Sahag II put Holy Chrism in the river of Antelias and baptized hundreds of Armenian orphans there, the land of Antelias became holy, gave birth to new seeds that strengthened by Saint Gregory the Illuminator dedicated themselves to the mission of the Armenian Church and nation.
The “Shenorhali” Choir of the Catholicosate participated in the service singing the Badarak.
Lead by His Holiness Aram I, the procession marched inside the Cathedral because of the pouring rain outside. His Holiness gave blessings with the Right Hand of St. Gregory the Illuminator and priests followed with other relics and crosses blessing the believers who kissed the relics with great faith.
A blessing of water with the holy Right Hand of St. Gregory the Illuminator was then held on the altar of the Cathedral. His Holiness Aram I read a special prayer for the healing of the sick and the strengthening of faith: “From the Antelias Cathedral of the Catholicosate of Cilicia, we, the pilgrim children, appeal to you St. Gregory, renowned pilgrim of our Great God. Oh our Illuminator Father bless our entire nation in Armenia and the Diaspora under the protection of your Holy Right Hand. Particularly bless your faithful people gathered in the Antelias Cathedral. Erase our sins, clean our spiritual and physical vices; grant health to all the sick; enlighten the dark paths of our lives; enrich the lives of our nation’s children, our families and our Big Family, your noble people with heavenly kindness for the glory of the Armenian Orthodox Church and the eternal existence of the Armenian nation.”
The Patron Saint’s Right Hand was then placed on the Cathedral’s altar, where believers came to kiss it throughout the day.
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