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Armenian Christmas pic
Pictured above is the “Blessing of Water” ceremony at the Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church of Turlock. Pictured from left to right: Lucas Sargissian; Deacon Barlow Der Mugrdechian; Archpriest Fr. Yeghia Hairabedian; His Eminence Archbishop Houvan Derderian, primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of America; Deacon Hayop Iskenian; and Grandfather of the Cross Matthew Hakimi. - photo by Photo courtesy of Daniel Aydenian

Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church of Turlock celebrated “Armenian Christmas,” the Feast of the Nativity and Theophany, on Saturday. The Armenian Church holiday, traditionally recognized on Jan. 6, is a feast day that commemorates not only the birth of Christ, but also His baptism by John the Baptist. The latter is remembered through the "Blessing of Water" ceremony, which follows the Divine Liturgy.

In ancient times, this ceremony was celebrated by the riverside or sea shore, but, for various reasons, it was later confined to the interior of the churches. During the ceremony, the cross is dipped in water, recalling Christ's immersion in the Jordan River. Blessed oil, or Holy Chrism (Muron), is poured into the water from a dove-shaped container, symbolizing the appearance at the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and the voice of the Father proclaiming to all that Jesus is His Son.

The Holy Chrism is prepared in Holy Etchmiadzin and is blessed by the Catholicos assisted by the bishops. Muron contains olive oil, balsam and the essence of forty different flowers and herbs. At the end of the ceremony, members of the congregation are given the blessed water to drink, thereby sharing in the life giving act of Christ. As water is essential to the life of the body, drinking the blessed water is a reminder that participation in the acts of Christ is essential for eternal life.