Glendale Adventist Medical Center celebrated its annual “Blessing of the Grapes,” an Armenian harvest-time tradition that dates back 1,700 years, on Aug. 9 in the hospital’s chapel. The chapel was packed with patients, doctors, nurses, the media, and members of the community.
Father Vazken Atmajian of St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Glendale performed the blessing with help from several other representatives of the church.
“It is good for us to be here,” he said. “On this celebration of the Assumption of the Holy Mother, we ask God to enlighten us with good will, to open our hearts to truth, wisdom, and love; to serve people, to help others, especially those in pain or in need,” Father Atmajian prayed.
Historically, the Blessing of the Grapes is celebrated on the Sunday closest to Aug. 15, but on Aug. 9 the hospital held an abbreviated ceremony. The blessing denotes the end of summer and the beginning of the harvest. Grapes hold a special place of honor and are biblically considered the “first fruit.” Armenian Church doctrine esteems the place of Mary as the “Blessed Mother,” and the holiday coincides with the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, commemorating the Christian belief that God assumed the Virgin Mary into Heaven following her death. Long before 301 A.D., when Christianity was adopted as the religion of Armenia, priests went out into the vineyards at the beginning of the grape harvest to bless the grapes and the harvest, clippers in one hand, cross in the other.
On the Monday after the Blessing of the Grapes, or “Khaghogh Orhnek,” it is traditional to honor the dead by going to the cemetery.
At Adventist Health Glendale, each of the patients in the hospital received a small bag of grapes on their dinner trays with a card that reads: “These grapes were blessed during our Blessing of the Grapes ceremony today. Please accept them in recognition of this Annual Armenia Harvest-Time celebration.”