TYARNENDARACH

“When the days of their holy acts were over, according to the Law of Moses, He was taken to Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord, as was written in the Law of the Lord. “Each male child that is born is a saint for the Lord”. According to the Law of the Lord, a gift has to be given to two doves or two pigeons.“

(Bible according to Lucas, B 22-24)

Symbol of the celebration

Tyarnendarach means “to rise ahead of the Lord”. Tyarnendarach is one of the most cherished Holidays of the Armenian nation. It is the celebration of the Theophany of the 40-day Savior, Baby Jesus to Jerusalem. The Armenian Holy Apostolic Church, staying true to the mission, celebrates Tyarnendarach on February 14, that is, on the 40th day after the birth of Jesus Christ. The Armenian people call this day “Trendez, Terenddzez or Terentes, which, according to the interpreters, are the reformed versions of the expression “Tern end dzez” (The Lord to you), and according to some sources, “Tern Tes” (the meaning of “seeing the Lord”).

Taking 40-day old children to the temple was a custom of the Old Covenant to present the newborn to God. As the children were presented to God, the mothers were purified, according to the order.

Historical Background of Tyarnendarach: Holy Tradition

According to tradition, when Joseph and Mary approached the temple in Jerusalem with Baby Jesus, it was already dark, and at the moment of approaching the Lord, the east door of the temple, which had been closed by God for a long time already, opened by itself, and the words of the Prophet Ezekiel were fulfilled: “That door will remain closed and won’t open…so that the Lord of Israel enters through there” (Ezekiel KD 1-3). As the doors of the temple opened, there was a great boom in the city. The residents ran out of their homes to see who was coming to the temple. But since it was dark, they took lighting lamps and torches with them. We do the same as we perform the melody of “The Arrival of the 40-Day Old Lord to the Temple” with lighting candles and torches.

According to the Jewish Law, each woman giving birth to a child was considered impure and had to go to the temple on the 40th day of the newborn and kill a lamb to become purified, as well as two turtledoves or pigeons for sins. Poor parents could sacrifice two turtledoves or pigeons, one to purify themselves and one for their sins. According to the church’s tradition, a turtledove is considered a reasonable bird and symbolizes Christ, while a pigeon is calm and peaceful, and it symbolizes the infinite meekness of Christ.

But why should the Virgin Mary fulfill this obligation? After all, she had given birth to her child “without getting pregnant” and “by giving birth as a virgin”, thus this law was meaningless for the Virgin Mary since the one whom she gave birth to, the Savior of the World, had come to this world with the power of the Holy Spirit, because…Jesus didn’t come to do away with the Law and the prophecies, but to enact His law as an example of meekness. It was because of this that Christ was subject to the Law of ……

The Old Simeon becomes a prophet and is blessed

“In Jerusalem, there was a man named Simeon, and that man was just and god-fearing and anticipated the console of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was within him. The Holy Spirit had commanded him to not see death until he saw Christ. Guided by the Spirit, he came to the temple, and when his parents brought Baby Jesus to perform some custom according to the Law, Simeon took him in his arms, blessed God and said:

“Now, Lord, release your servant in peace, according to Your words
Because my eyes saw Your salvation,
That you gave to all peoples,
A light that will be a discovery for the pagans
And glory to Your people of Israel” (Lucas B 25-32).

And while Joseph and Mary were listening to these words with amazement, the old man blessed them and told Mary: “Oh, here She is, the one that will be the reason for the fall and rise of many in Israel and the sign of opposition. Something sharp will pass through your soul as well so that the mysteries of many hearts become revealed.” 

According to tradition, Simeon was one of the 72 translator scholars who translated the books of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek by the command of the Fraternal King Bdgomeos of Egypt. During the translation, Simeon encountered the phrase “THE VIRGIN WILL BECOME PREGNANT AND GIVE BIRTH TO A SON” (Yessiah E. 14) from the prophecy of Yessaiah. Simeon had doubts that the pagans wouldn’t believe him, and he erased that. At that moment, he thought twice and started feeling drowsy. When he woke up, he witnessed a miracle-the erased part was written in the same place, in gold letters. Simeon wished to be one of thoseo who would see Baby Jesus and be worthy of having the joy of hugging Him. The Holy Spirit that guided the translators and fulfilled the wish of those who feared him, told Simeon: “You won’t see death until you see Christ”.

Seeing Baby Jesus at the temple, Simeon sees that He is the Messiah whom he had been expecting for a long time. On this occasion, the light that was recalled in his blessing-prophecy addressed to Mary, according to John the Evangelist, is the Light that enlightens each person who will come to this world. The old Simeon became a prophet, and brought the tiding that our Lord Jesus Christ is the promised Savior.

Anna becomes a prophet

“And there was a woman prophet named Anna, Panuel’s daughter from the Aseri family. She was very old and had only lived with her husband for seven years, starting from the time of her virginity. She was a nearly 14-year old widow who didn’t leave the temple, but served God day and night with her prayers. She also got up and came, served the Lord and spoke about Baby Jesus with everyone that was expecting salvation in Jerusalem.

When they did everything in accordance with the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilia, their city Nazareth. The Baby grew and became stronger. He was wise, and he had what God had granted him.” (Luc. B36-40).

According to tradition, the Virgin Mary had been fostered by the temple’s widows throughout her childhood, was Anna’s godchild, and this was great joy for the prophet-to see the Virgin Mary and her Savior Son.

According to the fathers of the Church, the old Simeon and the prophet Anna not only gave important testimonies about the Savior, but also became the living symbol of Adam and Eve, the people who had aged because of their sin, the people who approached Christ to hug Him and to relieve themselves of their sins, to move from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, from the life of the dead to the Eternal one. That is why we call today’s remembrance and celebration Tyarnendarach, assuring that we move toward the Lord to accept Him in our hearts…

Order of forty-day babies being presented to the Church and the ritual of Tyarnendarach at the Armenian Church

The custom of taking babies to the temple 40 days after their birth and donating them to God has always been a custom of the Armenian Church as well. Today, many Armenian mothers take their 40-day old babies to the church where the priest presents the baby to God with the request to keep him or her healthy, as well as grant him the Communion and the Kingdom in Heaven. The mothers are also purified, and this beautiful ceremony is called Karasunk (Forty Days). 

The Armenian Church starts celebrating Tyarnendarach on February 13 after the end of the evening liturgy. There is strange lighting at the church halls. With candles in their hands, after the liturgy, the faithful take that light home as a symbol of the Light of the Salvation of Christ to light their hearths. The Andastan Order is conducted through the blessing of parks and fields, and that symbolizes the end of winter and the beginning of spring. As far as the bonfire is concerned, according to the rules of the Church, this has no significance or meaning in terms of the ritual. In addition, in regard to spinning around the fire, it is said that that is condemnable and has been introduced by the ignorant. The large bonfire lit in the yard of the Church where the newlyweds attend on that festive day, according to St. Grigor Tatevatsi, has the following symbols: “By lighting a bonfire, we are asking for the fire of God’s love. The pagans served the honor of God to the fire, and we Christians make the fire serve God. Just like the Hebrew children presented the twigs of a tree to Christ, we present the fire.” 

During the second coming, the fire shouldn’t appear in front of the Lord so that it illuminates the saints and the pious, while it condemns the evil and the unfaithful to burn in eternal fire”. 

Thus, taking lit candles home and lighting a bonfire in the yard of the Church apparently have nothing to do with the worshipping of the fire of our distant pagan ancestors.

Thus, the Tyarnendarach celebration is a call for all of us to move toward the Lord. The Son of God that saved us from Heaven to the Earth is calling out to us every minute. “Come to me, you tired and laden, and I will calm you down” (Matt. JA 28). Let’s hear the Lord’s calling because he who listens to His calling“won’t walk in the dark and will receive the Light of Life” (John. H 12). 

By the order of Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, Tyarnendarach has been declared the Day of Blessing of Newlyweds” as well.

Prepared by Hayk Karapetyan, in accordance with the sermon of the Armenian Apostolic Church

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