Great Lent (Medz Bahq)

Compiled for Azad-Hye readers

Each year the liturgical calendar lists many occasions for observing Paregentan (good living). One such occasion is Poun Paregentan (Main or Prime Good Living). The name rings for all people with a joyful sound. It is the signal for the start of the abstinence. It serves as a joyous celebration as a counter-balance to the burdensome weeks of abstinence (lent). It is a toast for long life, health and success. It is a heartfelt expression of an attitude toward loved ones, disclosed in gatherings and around bountiful tables.

This year paregentan is marked on 22 February 2009

The Peace Service (Khaghaghagan), the Rest Service (Hanksdyan), and the Sunrise Service (Arevakal) are performed more often during Lent than at other times of the year. In popular terms Peace and Rest services are combined and called Hsgoum.

Peace Service, performed in the late evening, contains prayers for peace at the end of the day. Rest Service, which comes just before retiring for the night, asks God's continuing care through the night. Sunrise Service, performed first thing in the morning, reminds us that God is the giver of the light of the morning and the light of salvation.

The Great Lent (Medz Bahq) is 48 days from the day that followes Poun Paregentan until the morning before the Easter (this year it starts from 23 February 2009 until the morning of 12 April 2009). The main part of the Lent is between Poun Paregentan and Palm Sunday “Dzaghgazart” (6 weeks), followed by the Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Holy Easter (total 7 weeks).
What is the purpose of Medz Bahq?
A time designated by Christian churches as a unique period for self examination, a search for spiritual values and for spiritual renewal. By voluntarily depriving ourselves from material pleasures, we make a conscious effort to dwell on our spiritual values.
What are the customary dietary rules when observing Medz Bahq?
Most people who observe Medz Bahq, give up eating all animal products (meats from all sources, butter, milk, eggs, cheese, etc.) Some people choose to observe Medz Bahq throughout the 40 days; others do it only on Wednesdays and Fridays; others may give up specific things like desserts or drinks; or others may choose whatever they feel is a material pleasure for them.
Note that observing the dietary restrictions without accompanying kind deeds, renders the observation of Medz Bahq useless.

The Meaning of Lent:

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry.” (Matthew 4:12.)

This is the Biblical basis of the period called Lent, given to us to prepare for the Feast of Feasts, the Resurrection.  Just as we need time to prepare for any great event in life, we need time to make ourselves ready to participate in the blessed and wondrous event commemorated by Easter.

Lent gives us the opportunity to:
Renew our commitment to God
Reflect on our lives and let them be directed by God
Respond to Jesus' call for love and mercy toward all of God's children

Michink or median day of Lent is the 24th day of Lent and it occurs on the Wednesday of the fourth week. Although it does not have any specific religious significance, this mid-point day has been traditionally marked as a special day, an occasion for celebration. It is often marked with fellowship and friendship while sharing a table of Lenten foods.

This year the median day of Lent (Michink) will be on 18 March 2009.

Armenians around the world celebrate the Easter Sunday. They exchange the Easter greeting: Krisdos haryav ee merelotz and Orhnyal eh harootiunun Krisdosee. They share with relative, friends and community members a joyous Easter feast, often including lamb and colored eggs (symbols of new life).

On the Monday after Easter, Armenian families in many parts of the world visit the graves of their loved ones.

Easter Sunday is followed by a period of 40 days, during which time there are no saints' days or fasting days. This period is dedicated to the 40 days Christ spent on earth after His Resurrection. The end of this period is called Ascension Day, commemorating Christ's entry into heaven.

Fifty days after Easter is Pentecost, on which day the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and gave them the power to preach in various languages. This usually is marked as the birthday of the Church.