On Saturday, the 11th of February we celebrated the Feast of St. Sarkis the Warrior.
St. Sarkis, of Armenian descent, was a centurion under Emperor Constantine the Great (fourth century A.D.), in the Roman Empire.
However, when Julian the Apostate came to power in 361 A.D., Christians were not free from harm as during the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great.
St. Sarkis and his son Martiros therefore went to Armenia, ruled by King Diran. When Julian’s troops also approached Armenia, he was urged to go to Persia, where Shapur II reigned.
St. Sarkis served in Shapur’s army, and converted some Persians to Christianity.
When King Shapur understood that St. Sarkis was a Christian, the king invited him to become a Zoroastrian. St. Sarkis and his son Martiros blatantly refused. St. Sarkis even destroyed the Zoroastrian shrine, upon which he and his son were captured.
His son Martiros and 14 companions were brutally killed before his eyes. When the time of his own execution approached, St. Sarkis prayed and saw an angel from heaven, who told him that the Gate of Heavens were awaiting him. St. Sarkis witnessed of our Saviour Jesus Christ to the crowd. When he was killed a light shone above his body.
St. Mesrop took St. Sarkis’s relics back to Ushi in Armenia, on which location the St. Sarkis Monastery was built.
There are interesting Armenian traditions connected with the feast of St. Sarkis.
On occasion of St. Sarkis delicious dinners are prepared and celebrated, with special attention for those named after the Saint.
Armenian tradition tells about 40 virgins, who on the command of the Persian king were to kill St. Sarkis and his companions. When St. Sarkis and his companions were fast asleep after an exhausting battle, the young women approached. The woman who was to kill St. Sarkis, could not bring herself to murder him. When she saw the sleeping Saint, she fell in love with him. St. Sarkis awoke, realized what had happened, took the young woman with him, and escaped on his horse. St. Sarkis is therefore venerated as the Patron Saint of youth and love.
Salty cookies are baked by newlyweds on the eve of St. Sarkis, and those who want to find a marriage partner, eat the cookie before going to sleep. If in their dream someone brings a cup of water, this person will be their spouse. Details about the material of the cup signify wealth or poverty, and the amount of water in the cup stands for longevity of the marriage.
Another tradition involves a plate with flour and salt, which is placed outside during the night. If in the morning the print of a horseshoe can be seen on it, St. Sarkis passed by on his horse, which means that someone of the household will get married soon.
It is also practice to feed breadcrumbs to the birds, which, when they fly away, designates the direction from where the future spouse will come. The youth exchange socks and pouches, taken from inside the house, for coins and sweets.
Between the Feast of St. Sarkis and Lent quite a number of weddings take place, as Lent starts two weeks later. During the Great Lent, when the altars are covered, no wedding ceremonies are performed.