On the edge of our parish is a small 140yr old Armenian Church. It is the only Armenian Church in Britain outside London. It serves a dispersed community in the North West.
Fr Jirayr, from Paris, is serving the church during April and May. It has been good for us to get to know one another. On Maundy Thursday at 5pm he invited me to have my feet washed in the Church at the ceremony of the washing of feet, Armenian style. It was a simple and moving occasion.
A friendly group of people, of all ages, welcomed me and one another and the liturgy began. The liturgy was sung with some moving ancient melodies, and was entirely in ancient Armenian. The two deacons sang with the priest. Those attending said very little. The worship and the whole event had a timelessness about it, one felt part of an ancient tradition, and I reflected during the liturgy how Armenia was the first Christian country and how in recent centuries the Armenian peoples had suffered greatly. (There is a memorial to the Armenian martyrs in the Church).
Towards the end of the liturgy those selected, men and a young girl, myself included
gathered by the altar on chairs and Fr Jirayr washed out feet thoroughly and then made the sign of the cross with butter on them. (I am not sure of the significance of the butter – perhaps someone can post a comment explaining it, please). After the liturgy butter was distributed to the people present.
As I walked down the busy Manchester road after the liturgy I felt that for a time I had stepped out of the busy western world for a while and had been caught up in a timeless liturgy.
It was a different and moving way to begin the Triduum.