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  • Jerome Kocher

78. Relics of the Past

Armenia has four borders. Two are closed, Turkey and Azerbaijan are “No Go” land zones because Turkey burned their house down, then Azerbaijan took the land. The other two, Georgia and Iran, have friendly relations with Armenia. So there is definitely no HOA concensus in this neighborhood. To survive geopolitically Armenia may be the only country that cultivates good relations with the US, Russia and Iran at the same time. Armenia has no oil or gas reserves, no natural resources. So it must drill deeper into the earth for wealth and national sustenance. Instead of black crude, they have devotional gold. That means Armenia has sacred relics dating back to the life of Christ in the first century. These are its national treasure.

At the residence of the Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church (their Vatican) they have the proof. Forget the high rising architecture of Dubai and Baku. Armenia has loftier goals. Here you will see the relics (usually bone fragments from saints) from John the Baptist and St. Augustine.

Encased within the hand is John the Baptist relic. St. Augustine in glass frame right.

A medieval map shows The Garden of Eden located in Armenia. And that’s just the beginning. They have wooden fragments from the very cross of Christ (right center). 

But the crown jewel of relics is the spear of Longinus, used by this Roman sentry to pierce the side of Christ to ensure his death. This is famously called the Spear of Destiny that occultists have sought out for its power. Hitler wanted it to align his Third Reich with the powers of the spiritual world. Little did he know it was in Armenia? There are actually three other Longinus spears in existence: Italy, Poland and Austria. But scientific testing shows Armenia’s is the only one dating back to the first century AD. It conveniently has a Christian cross cut into the spear blade. If all else is true, then we can assume that was added later to transform a weapon of death into a relic of redemption.

But all that is New Testament revelation. Going back to the Old Testament Armenia has something even greater, a mountain, Mount Ararat on which Noah’s Ark presumably came to rest allowing humanity to have a fresh start after the purging of The Flood.

This is a national symbol, emblazoned in every Armenian’s mind and in every marketer’s campaign since Noah’s patent of using this name has long since expired. So now it is a national icon on most everything, like Ararat brandy or Ararat gas stations. Even my driver had a pack of cigarettes labeled Ararat. Boarding my plane at Gate 5 at the airport I was staring out through the high glass ceiling at of course, Mt. Ararat.

Ararat is everywhere, but especially in the hearts and minds of Armenians. But there’s one problem. It’s no longer in Armenia, but taken by Turkey. Turkey not only crushed the spirit of West Armenia but stole their mountain as well. How bad can it get. Much worse, but that’s still a later story.

But the spear, the cross, the saints’ remains, even the mountain are not the only remnants of devotion. There are the pilgrims themselves. In one church you can see grooves in the wall, like patterns of sand on a beach, that are left by pilgrims’ hands scraping the soft stone with their fingers to carry back the slightest trace of memory under their nails. Or in one church, a spring of healing holy water, not like the waters of Fatima from the Virgin Mary, but more like Moses staff, or in this case from the spear of Longinus gouging the stone to reveal its power. I cannot attest to the legend, but I can say that in the dark corner of this stone cavern I did cup the waters in my hand for a refershing drink as well as a facial cleanse. It can’t hurt. Every little bit helps. You never know.

Then there are unending etchings of crosses on the walls of another church, each one representing a human being, a devotional request for help in this life. But relics of the past are not only the patent of the dead. At another church famous for its variety of wild roses, an older woman had broken off a small branch to take home and plant. I nodded in approval. She responded. I saw her grandchildren and said “Nana?’’ asking if I could take a photo. She said “Babushka” in Russian. This simple rose cutting was a living relic to be transplanted in her own garden. By her dress she was Yazidi, the largest minority in Armenia with their own culture and religion.

On a secular note, speaking of relics from the past, Karas Wines advertises on its labels that its been crafting wine for centuries, 6,200 years to be exact. That sounds more legit than saying they’ve been in business since 4,200 B.C. And not as old, but equally impressive is Ararat Brandy. They have a 50 year reserve that sells for $218,000 dollars a bottle. If price means anything, that’s a relic worth tasting. Although I don’t drink much, I had to purchase a 15 year brandy, still pricey, but in the double digit budget.

My 15 year brandy is much better than Churchill’s favorite 10 year Ararat Brandy. Gifted to him at Potsdam by Stalin, Churchill was so impressed that he yearly ordered 365 bottles. I can’t say if it won the war or if it contributed to his election defeat in the post war years, but the Churchill Premium Collection joins the ranks of secular relics.

And lastly, if we’re speaking of relics, there is the omnipresent Soviet architecture of apartment buildings that dominate the Yerevan skyline. These would be categorized as atheist relics, functional and utilitarian without any thread of inspiration let alone national devotion. Fresh laundry hangs from their balconies today. A newer generation lives within these walls. During the Soviet Era religious relics had to be hidden and churches were repurposed for hospitals, schools, or social halls. The Socialist goal was to strip away any religious or cultural narrative and create the next stage of evolution, Homo Sovieticus.

But when the USSR finally becomes a distant memory . . . the spear, the cross, and Mt. Ararat will still be part of Armenia’s psyche and national identity.

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1 Comment

6 days ago

What a pilgrimage, so relevant to the past, the present, and the future!

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