The Blessing of Grapes | Khaghogh Orhnek
On the day of the Feast of the Assumption of the Holy Mother-of-God, the blessing of grapes takes place immediately after the Divine Liturgy. The ceremony is rich in symbolism and emphasizes the important role the Virgin Mary assumed in the revelation of God.
The custom of blessing grapes, the first fruits of the harvest, can be traced back to Old Testament times, when farming was a common vocation. Of the vast variety of produce, grapes had a special place of honor and were considered the “first fruits” because they were the first produce of harvest.
Among the Israelites, as among many neighboring cultures, grapes were regarded as belonging in a special way to God since they were the first fruits. It was He who gave the gift of the whole harvest and to offer Him the first fruits was to acknowledge complete dependence on Him. Special services of thanksgiving were conducted by priests in the temple, a tradition that prevailed to the time of Christ.
With the birth of Jesus, these dedications took on a new meaning. Jesus Christ was the first born—or the first fruit—of Mary and, as such, was offered to God in the temple. (Luke 2:25-30)
Armenian Church doctrine teaches that Mary has a primary place of honor because it was of her and by the Holy Spirit that God became incarnate (took human flesh). She is seen as the image of humanity fully obedient to God and ultimately sanctified by doing God’s will. Therefore, on the feast remembering her dormition (falling asleep in Christ) and Assumption (ascending to heaven), we celebrate the blessing of grapes.
Christ gave His blood to us for eternal life, and in remembrance we bless the grapes, the fruits of the earth.
It is traditional to use seedless grapes to emphasize that this fruit came into being without seed, just as Christ became man without any human agent.
- A Spark of the Divine
- Prayer for the Blessing of Grapes
By St. Nersess Shnorhali
O Lord, Almighty God, infinite Father, uncreated, immortal and self-existent, who didst create all things from nothing; who on the third day of Thy creation didst command the earth to bring forth various fruit-bearing plants to supply nourishment for the needs and existence of animal life. Thou didst also plant elegant trees for the sustenance and enjoyment of human mortals and so didst bestow upon them Thy blessings, according to the Divine saying: “God saw the multitude were good and blessed them…”
Therefore, O Lord, as in thy first creation Thou didst bless the good, now likewise bless the first fruits of this present year, these bunches of grapes which are donated to thee according to the custom of the ancient priesthood of Aaron.
And just as thou commanded the Israelites, through Moses, to donate the first bearing of all their fruits, on the Tabernacle of witness, in order that with this first offering all fruits would receive thy blessing, so too we seek Thy divine and spiritual blessings on these fruits offered this day.
And through this blessed fruit we shall receive in our spirit the intelligible grace of Thy blessings, earning pardon and remission of our mortal sins; to be also worthy of partaking from the Tree of Life which Thou didst order the Cherubic regiment to protect with a flaming sword. And thus immortalized, we shall in the realm of the immortals forever glorify The Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.
Peace Unto All
Blessed art Thou, Son and Word of the Father, inexpressible radiant of the first light, form and image of the invisible God … who didst call thyself the vine; Thy followers in love, the branches; and Thy Divine Father cultivator, who sanctifies those who are fruitful in righteousness and cuts off the unfruitful and condemns them to the eternal fire.
The juice of the grape makes the wine which dispels sadness and creates gladness, as the Holy Bible states: “Wine that maketh glad the heart of man.” And Thou, O Lord, on the occasion of Thy last supper, dispensed this same pleasure-giving wine to Thy disciples as Thy expiatory blood and representing the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and thus Thou didst establish the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, saying: “This is my blood which is shed for the salvation of mankind.”
Therefore, O Lord, bless these bunches of grapes which have been donated to Thine Altar and grant remission of sins and spiritual and physical well-being to all who partake of this blessed offering with faith.
Bless, O Lord, the vineyards and the vinestock from which these grapes came to Thy Holy Church for blessing. Make them fruitful like fertile fields.
O Lord, protect the vineyards and the farms against all kinds of accidents which happen because of our sinful acts. Keep them free of hail, frosts, sunburn and harmful insects, so that through Thy bountiful mercy we may be deserving of sharing the product of Thy vinestock, at Thy Father’s heavenly table, and to glorify the Holy Trinity, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever unto the ages of ages. Amen