With the Armenian Christmas, which in the Holy Land is celebrated on 19 January, the Christmas festivities comes to a close. On Monday 22 January, the Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land went to the Armenian Patriarchate for the exchange of greetings. The delegation, led by the Custos of the Holy Land, fra Francesco Patton – was received in the great hall of the Armenian Patriarchate by the Patriarch, Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, and by some bishops and monks.
The ancient Gregorian calendar
In the Holy Land, unlike the rest of the world, Christmas is celebrated on 19 January in the Armenian Apostolic Church, “following the ancient Gregorian calendar,” the chancellor of the Armenian Patriarchate, Father Aghan Gogchyan explained. In the same way, “all the feast days are celebrated 13 days later than in the Julian calendar,” followed by the Orthodox Churches, which celebrate Christmas on 6 January. Only Easter is celebrated by the Armenian Apostolic Church on the same day as the other Orthodox Churches.
A small part in the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem is for the Armenians; two small altars, the main one dedicated to the visit of the Magi, the other recalling the circumcision. At Christmas a third one is added with the image of the Baptism of Jesus at the Jordan, which is celebrated on the same day.
The exchange of greetings
In his words of greeting, the Custos of the Holy Land expressed the wish that “the Christmas message can reach the hearts of all men and women of goodwill, bringing peace to this region, the Middle East and the whole world,” as Pope Francis had said in his Urbi et Orbi message on Christmas Day. Fra Patton also expressed the closeness of the Custody to the Patriarch and to the Armenian community “in this period when you are suffering violent physical, media and legal attacks.”
Unity of Christians
On the days when the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is being celebrated in the Holy Land, the Custos of the Holy Land prayed “May the Lord, God of heaven and earth, bless our “walking together” towards unity in Him.” The Armenian Patriarch also wanted to emphasize “the commitment to unity” which “transcends denominations and borders between the Churches” and the bonds of friendship between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Custody. In remembering the great contribution made by the Custody of the Holy Land to preserving the Christian places and heritage in this land, he hoped for “mutual comprehension of what unites us.” This evening, the Armenian Cathedral of St James hosts the ecumenical prayer for the Unity of Christians.