For Armenians, February 14 is much more than Valentine's Day. It is the 40th day after Armenian Christmas (January 6) and thus the Feast of Dyarnuntarach, the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Temple.
In accordance with the centuries-old traditions of the Armenian Church, St. Nersess Seminary began its celebration of the feast on Sunday evening, February 13, with the pre-festal Evening Service, which features the lighting of a bon-fire.
The fire recalls the words of St. Simeon, the pious man who presented the 40-day old Christ child to the Jewish temple according to the Gospel of Luke. As he dedicated Jesus to God's service, the elderly man spoke these beautiful words:
"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."
The fire of Dyarnuntarach recalls the light of Christ which Christians receive at their baptism. John the Baptist said that Jesus would come to baptize mankind "with the Holy Spirit and with fire" [Matthew 3:11], a reference to Pentecost.
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord to the Temple is observed with great excitement in Armenian seminaries throughout the world, where, like Jesus, servants are prepared for God's service.
The St. Nersess seminarians were led in their prayers by the dean, V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Rev. Fr. Daniel Karadjian, a student from Bulgaria, and Rev. Fr. Karekin Kasparian, Assistant Secretary of the Board of Directors.
"Don't we need a permit to light an outdoor fire in this neighborhood?," second-year seminarian Deacon Nishan Baljian asked the dean.
"Don't ask too many questions," Fr. Daniel retorted. "It's a holy fire."
At the end of the service, as flames reached upward, each of the seminarians, as well as the on-campus faculty, their families and staff, lit individual vigil candles to take to their rooms and dwellings as a reminder of God's promises to those who love him; as impetus for their own journey to serve God in the Armenian Church; as the continuation of a longstanding Armenian tradition; and as a blessing from the Almighty.
Fr. Daniel Karadjian was to celebrate the holy Badarak (Divine Liturgy) the next morning at 7AM in the seminary chapel.