Sacraments and Traditions
The Requiem Servicel/Hokehankisd is not only a custom but also a rule of the church. Forty days after the death of a member of the church, a Requiem is offered for the repose of his/her soul. This also ends the official mourning period and usually the grave of the departed is also blessed.
After the Forty Days Requiem (Karasoonk), Hokehankisd may be requested annually (Dareleetz) on the Sunday closest to the date of death or, according to a more ancient custom, the day commemorating the saint after whom the departed was named.
Requiem services may be requested at any time during the ecclesiastical year. They may however not be performed on the Five Major or Tabernacle Feasts (Daghavars) as Hokehankisd is penitential and the Feasts are dominical in nature. Likewise, Hokehankisd should not be performed on Dominical Feasts, i.e. Palm Sunday, Ascension and Pentecost.
Although through the Requiem we are praying for our departed as a matter of love and respect, we cannot alter their state or the fmal judgment. What we do request through prayer is that the Lord remember our loved ones and judge them mercifully and with compassion.
The Practice of Youghakin
Twice a year parishioners receive special envelopes and are asked to pay "Youghakin," but many may know little about the practice.
Youghakin is made up of two Armenian words: "yough" and "kin." "Youghakin" literally means the price of oil or donation in lieu of oil.
In early days, prior to electricity, oil lamps and lanterns illuminated homes and worship places. Parishioners donated oil to keep the church lighted. After the invention of electricity, as oil lamps were replaced with electrical lamps, the Armenian Apostolic Church continued asking members to bring symbolic contributions for the illumination of the church through the youghakin program at Christmas and Easter.
The context of this practice is inner illumination rather than stewardship. When you send in your youghakin envelope, you are not merely helping the church financially but are helping centuries of Armenian faith shine. Light and faith are synonymous. According to the New Testament, whoever has faith is in light. Jesus says: "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light oflife." (John 8:12). Through youghakin, you are in effect refueling the traditional symbolic lantern of faith, which St. Gregory the Illuminator lighted.
According to legend, St. Gregory, after building the convent ofSt. Garabed in Moush, hung from the ceiling of the cathedral a lantern to encourage Armenians in their faith. He indicated that as long as the lantern was lit, the light of their faith would shine. The lantern stood as a symbol of their faith.
In the cathedral, there was believed to be a demon, tamed by the saint who punished him by forcing him to dust every day. When the saint was sleeping, the demon extinguished the lantern. The saint would awaken and light again the lantern, not knowing why the flame had died. This continued over several days. Finally, a frustrated st. Gregory took the lantern to the tomb of St. Garabed, fasted, prayed and cried for 40 days. At the end of the fasting, he found the lantern filled with his tears. He lit the lantern and hung it in its place and slept in the church. The demon was ready to blow at the wick, when suddenly the heavens rumbled. The saint awoke and caught the demon red-handed. Crippled by the saint's cane, the demon never again dared to approach.
From that day on, St. Gregory's lantern has shined in our sanctuaries all over the world. The light is perpetual, the faith everlasting.
After hearing this story, which Armenian Christian will not come forward to refuel our lantern of faith?
Youghakin is not about dollars but about participation in the enlightenment of our faith and our spiritual home.
If you need light, first give light. The psalmist once said to God, "In thy light, we will see light," (Ps. 36:9). Likewise, we must pray to St. Gregory, saying, "Only in your light will we see our light."
The Tradition of "Madagh" in the Armenian Church
Madagh is a mercy offering intended for the poor and needy in thanksgiving to God.
The tradition of Madagh comes from the Old Testament, when lambs were sacrificed at the altar of God: for expiation of sins, for thanksgiving and to offer a vow (or after a vow has been fulfilled) to God.
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is referred to as the "Lamb of God", as He is sacrificed on the Cross for our sins. (Badarak means sacrifice, as it is the Body and Blood of Christ that we sacrifice during every Badarak).
Individuals and families who give madagh, ask God's mercy for the soul oftheir loved one(s), or for the seeing them through a great difficulty which they face, and in return, they do a God-pleasing act by feeding the hungry.
Madagh should be seen as a meal that joins people together, a meal of solidarity (the request for which the madagh was made, becomes the prayer of all who partake in it). In churches/parishes, madagh has become a monetary offering, and the meal is prepared by the church for the faithful.
Madagh (most usually lamb) should be totally consumed, and is to be distributed freely and without charge. The faithful of the Church may offer madagh for a specific vow, or in memory of loved ones on a special holiday.
Presently, madagh is often distributed on April 24 (or the closest Sunday thereto) in commemoration of the Armenian martyrs. A mercy offering is one of our Christian duties, and madagh is only one means of helping the poor and needy.
Here, at Holy Trinity, we have traditionally offered Madagh on the Sunday of our church picnic. People donate for Madagh in memory of their deceased loved ones who are remembered by name during a Requiem (Hokehankisd) service.