The Season of Advent refers to the coming of Christ and in the Armenian language it is termed “Hisnag” (or Yisnak), derived from the word for “fifty”.

Hisnag refers to the fifty-day period of preparation in celebration of the Nativity and Theophany of Jesus Christ.

What type of preparation does this involve?

During Advent, we can rededicate ourselves to Christ through our actions, thoughts, and prayers. This is a good time for us to improve our habits and offer them as gifts to God. Perhaps Advent can also be an occasion to discover God’s gifts all around us. We need to have an open heart to receive Christ—God’s greatest gift of all!

Fasting during Hisnag

In the Armenian Church, the season is introduced by a week of fasting, called “the Fast of the Beginning of Hisnag”.

The second fast, of a week’s duration, follows the third Sunday of Hisnag. This fast is known as “the Fast of St. James, Bishop of Nisibis.” The commemoration of the latter takes place on the following Saturday.

The third and final fast, again of a week’s duration, precedes the Feast of the Nativity and Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ.

During the remaining weeks of Hisnag, when there is no fasting, the Wednesdays and Fridays are regularly observed as fasting days.

Commemorations during Hisnag

During the Hisnag we commemorate some of the important and major saints of the Christian Church. Among them are the 4th-century founders of Christian theology St. Gregory the Wonderworker and St. Basil of Caesarea; the Holy Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew, the enlighteners of Armenia; the Egyptian fathers; the early bishops of the church, such as St. Clemens, St. Ignatius, St. Polycarpus, St. Nicholas; St. James of Nisibis; and at the very end of the year, King David commemorated as a prophet; the Holy Apostle James, Brother of the Lord; St. Stephen the Protomartyr; the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul; the Holy Apostles James and John, both of them surnamed as Sons of Thunder.

Advent begins on the day after the Sunday nearest November 18. It lasts between six and seven weeks, depending each year on the duration of the period between Assumption (Sunday closest to August 15) and Theophany (January 6).