It is a solemn tradition that on the day following the 5 major feast days of the Armenian Church, a day is observed in memory of those who have passed away, and are asleep in Jesus Christ. On this day, the faithful the gravesides of their dearly departed, and the priest will offer requiem prayers for their souls. According to tradition, a special Divine Liturgy is also held on these days, when the faithful can remember the names of all of the faithful for whom we pray for eternal life. These Divine Liturgies are not typically celebrated in the Diaspora, because of peoples work schedules, but the faithful are invited to offer the names of the faithful to be prayed for during the Divine Liturgy celebrated the following Sunday.
If you would like to observe this tradition on the day following a major feast day, which includes Christmas, Easter, Feast of the Transfiguration, Assumption of the Holy Virgin Mary, and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, please contact the Church Office.
Bellow is an article about an Armenian American's reflection on Merelots.
Easter has come and passed. Now what? Well, for us Armenian Orthodox Christians, the Monday after any major feast day – Easter, being the most significant of them all – is a kind of ‘Day of the Dead’ as celebrated in some Latin American cultures, though without the painted skulls and all-night camping out, etc. The term we use for it is “Merelotz.”
It is a day when families all get together to visit the graves of their dead, and priests will pray over the deceased. In olden times, people would flock to the cemeteries in the thousands, priests and deacons sought after without mercy, an all-day event. In Armenia, and some other eastern countries where the Armenian Diaspora is large, this is still largely upheld. But the U.S. is one of those countries, where, for convenience sake, it is no longer celebrated on Monday but the Sunday following (thus, we remembered Merelotz today), and a Requiem Service replaces the grave visits.
Why am I reflecting upon this? Well, a number of reasons. We are in the wake of celebrating Easter, and the message of the resurrection is quite fitting here I thought. But also because I am a traditionalist, and am always disappointed to see tradition – in this case religious tradition – modified. But I suppose, that is how the Church has survived all these years – through adaptation.
Despite my zest for maintaining tradition (much like the theme of Fiddler on the Roof, an all-time favorite of mine, as well as a cornerstone of my childhood), I have to admit that I myself have never been to the cemetery on Merelotz. But this is because I have no family members buried in this country. My roots in this country only extend back to my parents who emigrated to the U.S. So I’ve never really had the experience of visiting the grave of a family member in this sense. While I don’t look forward to the day that I will have this experience, I realized today how much more completely my life will come full circle. As much as I am conscious of death and dying, I’ve never felt my own personal loss, the loss of my own flesh and blood.
I think our day of Merelotz is a beautiful commemorative act, and I wish more Armenians remained faithful to the tradition in its original form, because I do think such acts really contribute to healing. Imagine going into a cemetery and it being flooded with people and clergy, of the air being saturated with the sound of prayers being recited and hymns being sung? Consolatory, no? If not that, then at least what a reminder it must serve of the universality of the human experience! In a world of 6 billion plus people, it can still be often quite lonely, so sometimes a little reminder such as this can be inspiration and consolation enough for us in our lives.
by Ani Nalbandian