Eve of Feast of the Holy Nativity and Theophany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Candlelight (Lucernarium) Divine Liturgy
According to the Armenian Church, the day changes at 5:00 pm and thus the Feast of the Holy Nativity and Theophany of Our Lord Jesus Christ starts on the eve, on the evening of January 5 and continues after midnight on January 6.
On the eve of the Feast of the Nativity and Theophany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the special Jrakalouyts service takes place.
During the solemn Vesper Vigil, the young choristers or deacons begin to read or chant the Old Testament readings from Genesis, Exodus and the Prophets prior to the proclamation of the Lord’s birth and manifestation during the Divine Liturgy.
The final solemn reading is the prophecy of Daniel. By candlelight, one person reads the narrative of the prophecy and three others chant the song of the three holy children— Shadrach (Setrak), Meshach (Misak) and Abednego (Apetnakov).
“Blessed are You, Lord, God of our fathers. Praised and glorified is Your name forever, For You are fair in everything that You have done to us, and all of Your deeds are true.”
In the Armenian Church we read this story on the eve of Christmas and Easter as an anticipation of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and the presence of the living Son of God in our midst assuring us of God’s healing and life restoring presence for all eternity. Just as the faithful boys are not burned by the heat of the furnace, those who know and trust Christ will be saved from the flames of hell.
After this, the altar curtain, which had been drawn in front of the altar, is opened and the Divine Liturgy begins.
The Divine Liturgy (the lighting of the lamps service) is celebrated in honour of the manifestation of Jesus as the Son of God (“manifestation of God” is the literal meaning of the word “theophany”).
It is custom for the faithful to hold lit candles or lanterns during this service. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, the assembled faithful take the lit candles and lanterns home which symbolises the radiance of the spiritual light in our lives and hearts that the Saviour of the world and the Prince of Peace has given us through His humanity and His Divine direction.
All of our Christmas hymns exuberantly celebrate Jesus as the Light. He is the holy Light that God has shined on Earth. He is the radiant Saviour born to Mary the Mother of God. He is the heavenly lamp that illuminates the path of our lives, allowing us to recognise our blessed purpose in life; and giving us the privilege of seeing God and knowing God.
“I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12