Blind Man Running Through the Light of the Night

When news of the Tehran-Yerevan airplane tragedy arrived, we were in the middle of taping this week’s “Next Step” podcast. I was talking about the Light emanating from Christ – the feast of Transfiguration (celebrated this Sunday, 7/19/09). Now, the lights had got out for 168 people. There I was again, at the crash site, holding a flashlight up to the human suffering. It’s a conflict that has followed this priest my entire life: Jesus talks about life, but it is confounded by a reality of death in some very big tragedies.

Ever since we’ve moved to our new studio we’ve had the luxury of an extra monitor which is constantly refreshing different windows with various news feeds. The news of the disaster was literally coming in as a stream of disassociated information – pictures of the crash, a comment from an eyewitness, and of course the useless statistical commentary: When the plane was built. Who built it. How many black boxes, etc. When the dust settled, 168 people were only the immediate casualties. They never give you the number of lives that are devastated, the number of families that will have to cope with the losses, the number of children that will have to grow up without parents, the number of jobs and dreams that ended.

The church came out with a statement. HH Karekin II,issues condolences. After a few hours, it was difficult to find new information. In fact, the event wasn’t even reported on the TV news programs the following morning. (Sadly typical for news coming from Armenia.) So I appreciated the bloggers and the small tweets that followed. And then the screens went blank. It was over – no more news. Sure the American news media forgot it (or never knew it), but so did the rest of us.

But here’s the catch – today is feast of Transfiguration. It is one of the five major FEASTS of the Armenian church. It is a celebration of an event which is recounted in the Gospel – where Jesus transforms to pure light. It is a completely supernatural event. He gives us a glimpse of eternity. Yes, that LIGHT that he radiates is the same one which was there at the beginning of time. It transcends any light source such as the sun, stars or electricity. And it is the light that is needed in the midst of such darkness as plane tragedies, war, and genocide. Its so brilliant, it can overtake all of darkness. It is the assurance of LIFE that cannot be confounded by DEATH even in some very big tragedies. It is HOPE to be shared with a suffering world.

The sad reality is that today, probably most of the victims of the crash are forgotten in our minds. Sad that today, on a major feast day, where requiem (hokehankist) should not be allowed, those who choose to remember will do so only by singing a song of grief and will mourn in hopelessness. Even sadder is that the church won’t make the connection with the Transfigured Christ. And still sadder is that most of those attending churches will get the Wiki-version of a story called Vartavar.

So, I’d like to hold a flashlight at the crash site for those who are looking: today is the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ. Death, whether it comes naturally or super-tragically, is never the darkness that you believe it to be. The Christ LIGHT is over and beyond – it is supernatural – it is a chance to glimpse all eternity.

Download Today’s Sermon (in Armenian)

Blind man running
through the light
of the night
With an answer in his hand,
Come on down
to the river of sight
And you can really understand,
Red lights flashing
through the window
in the rain,
Can you hear the sirens moan?
White cane lying
in a gutter in the lane,
If you’re walking home alone.

Don’t let it bring you down
It’s only castles burning,
Just find someone who’s turning
And you will come around.

-Neil Young

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