Twice a year you receive special envelopes and are asked to pay “Youghakin,” but many may know little about the practice.
Youghakin is made up of two Armenian words: “yough” and “kin.” “Youghakin” literally means the price of oil or donation in lieu of oil.
In olden days, prior to electricity, oil lamps and lanterns illuminated homes and worship places. Parishioners donated oil to keep the church lighted. After the invention of electricity, as oil lamps were replaced with electrical lamps, the Armenian Apostolic Church continued asking members to bring symbolic contributions for the illumination of the church through the youghakin program at Christmas and Easter.
The context of this practice is inner illumination rather than stewardship. When you send in your youghakin envelope, you are not merely helping the church financially but are helping centuries of Armenian faith shine. Light and faith are synonymous. According to the New Testament, whoever has faith is in light. Jesus says: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12). Through youghakin, you are in effect refueling the traditional symbolic lantern of faith, which St. Gregory the Illuminator lighted.
According to legend, St. Gregory, after building the convent of St. Garabed in Moush, hung from the ceiling of the cathedral a lantern to encourage Armenians in their faith. He indicated that as long as the lantern was lit, the light of their faith would shine. The lantern stood as a symbol of their faith.
In the cathedral, there was believed to be a demon, tamed by the saint who punished him by forcing him to dust every day. When the saint was sleeping, the demon extinguished the lantern. The saint would awaken and light again the lantern, not knowing why the flame had died. This continued over several days. Finally, a frustrated St. Gregory took the lantern to the tomb of St. Garabed, fasted, prayed and cried for 40 days. At the end of the fasting, he found the lantern filled with his tears. He lit the lantern and hung it in its place and slept in the church. The demon was ready to blow at the wick, when suddenly the heavens rumbled. The saint awoke and caught the demon red-handed. Crippled by the saint’s cane, the demon never again dared to approach.
From that day on, St. Gregory’s lantern has shined in our sanctuaries all over the world. The light is perpetual, the faith everlasting.
After hearing this story, which Armenian Christian will not come forward to refuel our lantern of faith? Youghakin is not about dollars but about participation in the enlightenment of our faith and our spiritual home. If you need light, first give light. The psalmist once said to God, “In thy light, we will see light,” (Ps. 36:9). Likewise, we must pray to St. Gregory, saying, “Only in your light will we see our light.”
Author: Rev. Nerses Manoogian