Soorp Dzenoont yev Asdvadzahaydnootyoon

Kristos Dznav yev Haytnetsav, Tsez yev Mez Meds Avedis (Christ is Born and Revealed, Good News for us all)

The Holy Nativity (Christmas) is the blessed birth of our Lord Jesus Christ which took place in a humble manger in Bethlehem.   [Gospel reading Luke 2:1-20]

The Theophany of our Lord Jesus Christ is the revelation of God when John the Baptist baptised Jesus in the River Jordan.  [Gospel reading Mark 3:13-17]

The Holy Nativity and Theophany are celebrated together on January 6.  The reason for this double celebration is that at Christ’s baptism, He was revealed as God and Saviour.  The voice of the Father and appearance of the Holy Spirit in dove-form was likewise a revelation of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and the one Godhead.

The Feast of Theophany is an eight day (octave) celebration from January 6 to 13.

At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, the Blessing of Water is conducted, symbolising the Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan and his Revelation as God’s Son at the commencement of His ministry.

A cross is emerged into the water basin which symbolises the baptism of Jesus in the water of the Jordan river. A dove shaped silver container of Holy Muron (or Holy Oil) is then brought forth and placed near the basin. Various scripture passages from the Bible are read reminding the believers of the fact that the water is the “womb” of our physical and spiritual birth.  Jesus became the source of life giving water for all who drink from his fountain (John 6:35, Rev 22:17). With hymn and prayers, including a prayer written by St. Basil, the service continues until the celebrant takes the cross out of the water and gives it to the Godfather of the cross.

The Godfather is typically a young member of the congregation, as he represents the congregation, on whose behalf he caries the baby Jesus . The Holy oil, Muron, which symbolises the Holy Spirit is then poured into the water reminding us of the descent of the Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove on the newly baptised Jesus.

Until about the second half of the 2nd century, in both the East and the West, the Baptism of Christ was held in pre-eminence above all celebrations even over the that of the Birth of Our Lord.  It was in the same period that a need arose in the West to separate the Feast of the Birth from Theophany by celebrating the former on December 25.  This was also designed to discourage Christians from partaking in a major pagan festival on that day. This custom eventually became accepted in the East as well – particularly in Jerusalem where it was difficult to celebrate Christ’s birth in Bethlehem and His baptism at the River Jordan on the same day.  Therefore by the end of the 4th century, all churches were celebrating Christ’s birth on December 25, with the exception of the Armenian Church which did not feel the need to deviate from the ancient canon.

Source: Saints & Feasts of the Armenian Church –  Patriarch Torkom Koushagian