Saint Sarkis the Warrior

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Saint Sarkis the Warrior
Святой Саркис - покровитель влюблённых.jpg
Sarkis is usually depicted on a white horse.
Born 4th century
Died 362 or 363
Venerated in Armenian Apostolic Church
Oriental Orthodoxy
Armenian Catholic Church
Major shrine Saint Sarkis Monastery of Ushi
Feast 63 days before Easter
(Moveable feast)
Patronage Youth and love

Saint Sarkis the Warrior (Armenian: Սուրբ Սարգիս Զորավար, c. 4th century,[1] died 362-363) [2] was a Centurion in the Roman Empire. Sarkis was a contemporary of the ruling Constantinian dynasty and the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia.

Life[edit]

Little is known on the origins and early life of Sarkis. Sarkis is thought to have been an Armenian.[3] Sarkis was appointed by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great as General in Chief of the region of Cappadocia bordering Armenia.[4] Sarkis was reputed to possess the characteristics of piety, faith and valor, and used his position for spiritual growth, teaching the gospel and church building.[3]

Constantine’s nephew Julian the Apostate became emperor in 361 and set about persecuting Christians throughout the Roman Empire.[5] Sarkis was deeply concerned about these events and prayed for a solution. Jesus is said to have appeared to Sarkis and uttered the words: "It is time for you to leave your country and your clan, as did Abraham the Patriarch, and go to a country which I will show you. There you will receive the crown of righteousness prepared for you." Sarkis then left his military position and authority and, with his son Mardiros (later Saint Mardiros), sought refuge in Armenia under the protection of King Tiran (Tigranes VII).[6] As Julian and his army advanced toward Antioch Syria slaughtering Christians, Tiran urged Sarkis and Mardiros to leave Armenia for the Sassanid Empire.

Sassanid emperor Shapur II, hearing of Sarkis' reputation as a skilled military commander, appointed him to command the Sassanid army. Sarkis credited God for his military victories, which included fending off Julian’s troops entering into Shapur’s kingdom.[3] Sarkis urged troops serving with him to be believe in the Creator of Heaven and earth and their hearts would never be shaken.

Some of Sarkis’ soldiers were baptized by travelling priests of the Sassanid army, yet some who were not baptized went to Shapur II and had told him about the religious beliefs of Sarkis.[3] After realizing that Sarkis was a Christian, Shapur called up Sarkis, his son Mardiros, and his 14 soldier companions who were newly baptized back to his palace,[7] with the intention of testing their faith.

Martyrdom[edit]

Shapur ordered Sarkis, Mardiros, and their 14 companions to participate in a Zoroastrian ceremony in a fire temple,[8] and offer sacrifices there. Sarkis refused Shapur’s orders and said: ‘We should worship one God – the Holy Trinity, which has created the earth and the heaven. Whereas fire or idols are not gods and the human being may destroy them’.[8]

After Sarkis responded to the Sassanid King, Sarkis destroyed all the items in the temple which annoyed the surrounding crowd who fell on him and his son. Shapur outraged by Sarkis’ actions, had his son Mardiros killed before his eyes and had his 14 companions beheaded.[9][3] Sarkis was put in prison and Shapur hearing that Sarkis was strengthened by his relationship with the Lord in prison outraged him so much, Shapur ordered Sarkis’ execution.

At his execution, Sarkis began to pray and an angel descended from heaven and told, ‘Be strong. Do not fear the killers of your body; for the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven is open for you’. Sarkis understanding the sight of the angel and the meaning of everlasting life, made one last passionate plea for people to accept Jesus and was then killed.[3] When Sarkis died, light had appeared over his body.[8]

His remaining loyal followers retrieved Sarkis’ body, wrapped him in clean linen and eventually sent his body to Assyria where it remained until the 5th century. Saint Mesrob took the Sarkis’ relics back to Armenia to the village of Ushi where Saint Sargis Monastery of Ushi was built over his relics.[10]

Veneration[edit]

Saint Sarkis is one of the most beloved Armenian Saints to modern Armenians as he is the Armenian Patron Saint of love and youth. His feast day is a moveable feast, held anywhere between January 11 and February 15.[3] On his feast day young people pray to Sarkis asking him to make their prayers audible to God.

Each year after his feast day, occurs the five-day Fast of Catechumens. The Fast of Catechumens was established by Saint Gregory the Illuminator precedes the feast.

On the feast day of Sarkis, Divine Liturgy is celebrated in all churches named after him, following a special liturgy ceremony of blessing to youth is offered. On the night proceeding his feast day, faithful people place a tray full of flour or porridge before the door believing that while passing near their door at dawn, Sarkis will leave the footprint of his horse on the flour symbolizing the fulfilment of their dreams.

On the eve of the feast, young people eat salty biscuits[11] and refrain from drinking water, so as to induce the appearance of their future bride or bridegroom in their dreams, bringing them water. These salty biscuits are named St Sarkis Aghablit. Traditionally eaten by girls, the practice is also now followed by boys.[12]

On the feast day itself St Sarkis Halva, a sweet pastry stuffed with fruit and nuts, is widely eaten in Armenian communities to symbolise the blessings brought by the saint.[13][14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ St. Sarkis Armenian Church
  2. ^ St. Sarkis the Warrior and His son, St. Mardiros
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Sarkis the Warrior". The Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America. Retrieved 15 February 2017. 
  4. ^ St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic the Church
  5. ^ St. Sarkis Armenian Church
  6. ^ St. Sarkis Armenian Church
  7. ^ Feast of St. Sarkis the Warrior
  8. ^ a b c "Who is St. Sarkis?". St Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church, Charlotte, North Carolina. Retrieved 15 February 2017. 
  9. ^ Feast of St. Sarkis the Warrior
  10. ^ St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church
  11. ^ Story and recipe at the Armenian Kitchen website.
  12. ^ See The Daily Meal website.
  13. ^ Recipe at The Daily Meal website.
  14. ^ Recipe at The Armenian Kitchen website.

Sources[edit]

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