His Holiness Catholicos Aram I blessed the Holy Muron before a crowd of thousands of faithful outside St. Gregory the Illuminator’s Cathedral at the Holy See in Antelias, Lebanon. A tradition that is repeated every seven years, this is the 13th time that the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia holds the ceremony at its current seat in exile, following the 1915 Genocide.
On behalf of the Holy See of Echmiadzin, Bishops Moushegh Babayan and Vrtanes Aprahamian participated in the service alongside members of the Cilician brotherhood, while Archbishop Aram Ateshian represented the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Among the officials who attended the ceremony was the Ambassador of Armenia to Lebanon, Vahagn Atabekyan. Representatives of Lebanese churches were also present for the occasion, which attracted pilgrims from the Americas, Europe, Iran, and Arab countries. Meher Der Ohanessian, Vice-Chair of the Executive Council of the Western Prelacy, was the godfather of the ceremony.
Unique to the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Holy Muron is prepared every seven years. It symbolizes the grace of the Holy Spirit as well as rebirth and renewal. The chrism is used in sacraments and services, such as christenings and ordinations, as well as church and iconographic consecrations. It is diligently prepared with 40 ingredients including oils, plants, and herbs, cooked over wood fire, and when ready, poured in a special caldron. The caldron is then placed on the altar of St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral for 40 days prior to its blessing.
Catholicos Aram was led to the altar under a canopy held by four laymen from the Diaspora, preceded by a procession of seminarians, monks, and bishops. Four bishops carried key ingredients to be added to the already-prepared Muron: Muron from the Holy See of St. Echmiadzin, the old Muron from the Catholicosate of Cilicia, balsam oil, and rose essence. With assistance from the participating bishops, after a series of scripture and gospel readings, the lid of the caldron was removed by the Godfather, and His Holiness added these ingredients, with the last being the Muron from the Holy See of Cilicia, poured out of the dove container, the ultimate symbol of peace.
With the Cathedral as majestic backdrop, Catholicos Aram used the Right Hand of St. Gregory the Illuminator to bless the Muron and the faithful, marking the culminating moment of the ceremony. As the choir sang ‘Oorakh Ler,’ a traditional hymn, doves were released amid the cheers of the crowd. His Holiness, participating bishops, and heads of churches, kissed the caldron of the newly blessed Muron.
In the name of His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, Bishop Moushegh Babayan offered His Holiness’ warm brotherly greetings to His Holiness Aram I, the clergy and the faithful, and highlighted the significance of the Muron as the symbol of one Armenian Church, saying that we remain unshaken as one nation and one Church.
In his address to the faithful, Catholicos Aram stressed that the blessing of the Muron is a heavenly call, a period for spiritual renewal, and a moment to reaffirm our national identity. “Remain faithful to the Muron that you were anointed with,” he said. “Rely on its ministry and purpose and its eternal message.”
He prayed for the unity of Armenia, Artsakh, and the Diaspora, and expressed his hope that the holy chrism would cure the sick and keep evil away from our lives.
In a message addressed to Catholicos Aram and the Armenian faithful, His Holiness Pope Francis offered his heartfelt greetings and prayerful wishes, expressing his gratitude for the friendly relations between the Catholic Church and the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia. His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II of the Syrian Orthodox Church offered his warm brotherly greetings, recalling our shared history of struggle, but keeping steadfast in our faith.
Catholicos Aram offered the benediction after which the Shnorhali choir led the congregation in the singing of Cilicia, as His Holiness proceeded to the Pontifical residence where he offered his final blessings.
The newly anointed Holy Muron will soon be distributed to all the Prelacies under the jurisdiction of the Holy See of Cilicia. The Antelias chrism will be brought to Echmiadzin to be mixed in the Holy Muron that will be blessed there on September 25.