Roots of Armodoxy: Baby Angels
Garegin Nzhdeh was a legend in his own time (1886-1955). He was a military strategist and statesmen. I’ve been intrigued by his story and inspired by many of his thoughts, especially about the Armenian national liberation struggle and revolutionary activities. So, when I met a gentlemen named Arthur Nzhdeh in Etchmiadzin last month of course I was curious to find out if there was a connection with the freedom fighter I had only read about.
In Yerevan, a block off the main Republic Square stands a statue dedicated to Garegin Nzhdeh. This statue has a large tablet inscribed with a couple of key pieces of inspiration by Nzhdeh. At the top, reads his holy trinity: “God, Nation and the Fatherland,” followed by his words, “Live and work only for those things that are worth dying for and die only for those things that are worth living for.” It was an earlier version of Rev. Martin Luther King’s often quoted, “If you have not discovered something you are willing to die for, then you are not fit to live.”
At the Monastery of Datev, there are signs with photos of Nzhdeh, remembering he was one of the leaders of the First Independent Republic (1918-1920). Nzhdeh had gone to the Monastery as a retreat where he could connect with the Divine. “God, Nation and the Fatherland” were what directed him.
It was Wednesday afternoon. I stood in Etchmiadzin, just past the main gate and before heading to the church proper. I had just visited my dorm room, where I stayed in 1977-78, during my student time at the seminary. I met with a priest who was now working out of the room, converted to an office for diasporan affairs. Things seemed so different and so much larger 45 years ago.
The room still had the radiator-heaters and the windows with the long shelf where we would place our supplies during the winter months to keep them from spoiling.
I was there this day to baptize my grand-niece and I had about an hour before the appointment in the baptistry.
There is a beautiful fountain memorial just as you enter Etchmiadzin and I stood there, reflecting in the shadow of the first Christian cathedral. The meditative moment was broken by the arrival of a man, his wife, and their baby. He came right up to the fountain, stripped the baby down to its diapers and placed him under the fountain so the water came over him like a waterfall. Without a warning (or a towel) he handed the baby to me and asked for a blessing.
He pulled out his cell phone and began showing me pictures. He explained he was an athlete, a sports celebrity of sorts. He coached and taught. And quickly showing me his Instagram page he pointed to the tens of thousands of followers he had. But his excitement couldn’t be contained when he told me about his son. He said that they named him Garegin, because their last name is Nzhdeh. And so, there I was, holding Garegin Nzhdeh and offering a blessing.
Angels come in different shapes, sizes and forms. We spoke about the singing angels, stone angels and today’s “messenger” came in the form of a baby. He was named after a larger than life statesman and hero of the nation. The parents had the courage and the boldness to think outside of their limits and name their child with dreams for greatness. It was a small message that came to me in the shadow of the Great Etchmiadzin Cathedral. As the name Etchmiadzin describes, it is the place where the Son of God descended – the Descent of the Only Begotten, Etchmiadzin. Here was a young couple and a very young baby who had come to connect with a past, but also dream of big things to come.
Baby Gagegin Ndzdeh sent us a message that day, that when we approach God with our dream, be courageous and bold. He is our Heavenly Father, and the lower we move our guards, the more access we give to God’s great miracles in our lives.
We pray, Heavenly Father, bless those who bless you. Parents and children who stand at your door, seek a blessing on their lives.
May we all be reminded of our Lord Jesus’ words to approach You as Father, who cares and tends to our needs. We thank You for the blessings You give so abundantly. Amen.