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  • Writer's pictureBishop Mesrop Parsamyan

Poon Parekentan



Poon Parekentan, similar to Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday,” occurs on the Sunday before the Great Lent (Medz Bahq) in preparation for Easter. We celebrate Poon Parekentan (meaning vitality or the good life), which leads us into the longest season of fasting, known as the Great Lent. The Sunday before this great feast is when we remember the Good Life in Paradise prior to Adam and Eve’s expulsion.


In the Armenian Christian tradition, feasts and celebrations center on the principles taught in the Holy Scriptures to remember and reflect upon and to bring the past to the forefront of our minds to aid us in our holy living. Poon Parekentan is the feast that stirs our memory of the past good life when we lived in God’s paradise. Through this recollection of the Good Life, the Great Lent is an exercise of reentering this Garden.


The Parekentan is the exemplary joyous life of human beings, as enjoyed by Adam and Eve in the gardens of this Paradise. Humans were permitted to enjoy all the fruits of the trees in the garden, with the exception of the fruits of the tree designated as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This was deemed the first God-given commandment for humans to observe.


The day after Poon Parekentan (Monday) marks the first day of the Great Lent. This lasts 40 days until the week marking the resurrection of Lazarus. Following that week, Avag Shabat (The Holy Week) begins.


The 40 days of the Great Lent is the yearly journey our church undertakes. It is a time of fasting for our bodies; of prayer for our spirits; of performing acts of charity and mercy in the world around us. It is a time to appraise the state of our souls; to subject ourselves to an honest analysis of our lives. And at the center of it all is the fundamental question: How have we progressed along the path leading to God?


Every journey begins with a single step, and the first step in the journey of Great Lent is Repentance. It is indeed a mysterious and saving act, involving a person’s mind, feelings, and will. Repentance is, first of all, awareness of one’s sin—and no movement towards God, no spiritual growth, is possible without this awareness.


But Repentance is also a doorway to something greater. The Greek word for it is Metanoia, and the beautiful Armenian term is Abashkharoutiun—but all mean the same thing: a change of heart, a change of mind, a change of life. Indeed, the entire discipline of Lent—the commitment to prayer, fasting, and mercy—aims to bring about this profound change in our bodily and spiritual life.


Through prayer, we speak with God, pour out our hearts to His tender attention, and receive His counsel of comfort and guidance.


Through fasting, we separate ourselves from some of the pleasures of this world in order to focus on the One who is truly important. Abstinence reminds us to seek a deeper relationship with God and find our true happiness in Him.


Finally, through acts of mercy—in Armenian, Voghormoutiun—we bear witness to the spirit of overflowing love that is the foundation of the church and its people. The English word “almsgiving” seems to emphasize material giving, but this is only one aspect of Voghormoutiun.


Voghormoutiun is also the gift of the Lord’s forgiveness: his forgiving love for us. It is his greatest gift, and Jesus died to give it to us. But by doing so, he asks us to use this gift to be a blessing to someone else.


This is the Lenten journey by which we bring about that fundamental change of heart. I wish you a prosperous and fruitful spiritual journey during this Great Lent. May this journey be one of spiritual renewal for all of us, cleansing us of our sins and brilliantly shining God’s light upon us. We then welcome the dawn of Easter and meet our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, to whom we give eternal praises. Amen.


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