Offering (Matagh)

Matagh, offering, is one of the traditions of the Armenian Church, its main meaning is giving a gift to God and giving alms to the poor.

Matagh existed in Armenia as early as in the times of St. Gregory the Illuminator. After having converted King Trdat to Christianity, along with all his people, St. Gregory the Illuminator offered a thanksgiving sacrifice to God in the Church of St. John the Forerunner, in Taron, killing numerous animals and distributing them to the poor.

Since ancient times the custom of offering sacrifice during great feasts, in the connection with the consecration of Churches or khatchkars (cross-stones), was practiced in the Armenian Church.

Offering is carried out for different purposes:

  • as gratitude to God for having saved the individual from misfortune or for granting health and well being
  • as plea for the peace of the souls of the deceased

One needs two elements for offering a sacrifice: an animal and salt.

The animal must be male. It can be a cow, sheep, chicken or dove. When a cow is killed, its meat is distributed to 40 houses, a lamb, to 7 houses, a chicken, to 3 houses. The meat must not be left until the next day. If the sacrifice is a dove, it should be set free. First, the salt must be blessed. The salt is the element which purifies the matagh and makes it different from the pagan sacrifice. The meat is cooked only in salted water.

The custom of the Armenian matagh is a profoundly humane, Christian custom, which gives an opportunity to the faithful to express their love towards God, show mercy by helping the poor.

The origin of matagh comes from Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and other patriarchs. Christ Himself during the Last Supper ate the meat of the Easter lamb, which is considered to be matagh, handed down by Prophet Moses.