Baptism Revelation: Theophany

We have arrived at the Theophany. Advent has prepared us to accept the great news: Christ is Born and Revealed. More than a “Christmas Celebration” we now understand that this is the Revelation of God to the world. “God so love the world that he gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16) says the Scripture that most have learned by heart. Following Advent and this Advent Journey, I trust that these words resonate deep in your spiritual consciousness.

It is not by accident that we haven’t spoken about the virgin birth, the obedience of Joseph, the visit of the Magi or the shepherds’ vigil until now. Today we move to the Baptism of Jesus, which is recorded by all the evangelists in their gospels. It was after his baptism, that Jesus began his ministry. In a very real sense, his baptism was the “birth” of him ministry; it was immediately after his baptism that Jesus went into seclusion and began the period of his life that we read in the Gospels. Reading the account of St. Matthew (chapter 3) we find, “Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’ But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”

At this one moment in history, God is revealed as the Holy Trinity. The Son of God stands next to John the Baptist in the River Jordon, the Holy Spirit of God descends on Jesus in a dovelike manner and the voice of God the Father is heard. The Holy Trinity is revealed at this moment in History. Hence, the name of the Feast is “Theophany” = the Revelation of God: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.  The Armenian word for the feast is Asdvadzahaydnoutiun, which is a literal transition of God is revealed.

In the Armenian Church the Feast of Theophany encompasses all of the events in the life of our Lord Jesus from his Birth to his Baptism. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, water is blessed to symbolize the Baptism of Jesus. Into the water is poured Holy Miuron, that is chrism or “Holy Oil” which is made up of the essence of forty different flowers indigenous to the Arartian plateau in Armenia. It is blessed every seven years by the head of the Armenian Church, who is referred to as the Catholicos, or the chief bishop. During the Blessing of Miuron, some of the previous batch is poured into the new batch. Technically, there are molecules in the miuron from the time of Christ. This is the strength of the Apostolic continuity of the Armenian Church.

Today is a new beginning. It is a new day of celebration. In modern terms, you can think of it as a hard-reset, it is like hitting the reset button on your device and coming back to the original form.

Now that you have arrived at Theophany after an intense period of Advent, I invite you to follow along the daily podcasts, “Armodoxy for Today” where we will explore the intricacies of the Armenian Church and her faith. We’ll learn where do the Christmas narratives of shepherds, wisemen and stars fit into our Faith? What is the mystical and magical quality of Holy Miuron? What is the strength of the Holy Divine Liturgy that is repeated every week? Mostly, Armodoxy for Today will connect the dots between the relationships and aspects of our lives with the beauty of God’s Kingdom and His Love and Kindness for each of us. I look forward to having you join us.

For today, we play the hymn of the synaxis dedicated to the Holy Mother of God. It is meditative and I invite you to be swept away by the melody and this celebration by the Luyse Vocal Quintet.


Armodoxy for Today: Revelation (Eve of Theophany)

It is the eve of Theophany. And you might expect a message about a babe in a mangers or a star in the sky, but instead we take a detour and present a story from the Old Testament with a surprising twist at the end that connects to the Revelation of God that is celebrated on Theophany.

There is a tradition in the Armenian Church to chant “The Song of the Three” from the Book of Daniel (chapter 3) at the Eve of Theophany. Four chanters come before the altar, one narrates the Scripture while the other three sing a song of rebellion against the powers of the world and pledge their loyalty to God.

Many stories from the Old Testament feature royalty, and this one doesn’t disappoint. This about a king who is as unique as his name, Nebuchadnezzar. As the story is read, he has constructed a huge gold statue celebrating himself and his magnificent prowess. He has sent out an order for everyone in his kingdom to come forward, pay homage and worship before the statue. Should anyone refuse to do so, the penalty was death by means of a fiery furnace. Three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, refuse the order of the King. The orders for punishment are carried out and Shadrah, Meshach and Abed-Nego are thrown into the fiery furnace. They go in singing the praises of God and survive the heat and flames.

Their song, “The Song of the Three,”* says, “O Nebuchadnezzar, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

Nebuchadnezzar is furious at their contempt and their rebellious attitude. He has the heat turned up seven fold. The three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, continue to sing the praise of God.

The narrator continues, “Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”

God is revealed! On the Eve of Theophany, the Eve of the Celebration of Jesus Christ being born and revealed, this Scriptural passage is read in all the Armenian Churches as a reminder that during our worst moments, when the heat is on and even exceeding normal expectations of survival, God is revealed and in our midst. He never abandons us. The story of the three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego is retold as a prelude to the greatest story ever told, a prelude to the Birth of the Savior, who stands with us during our most difficult moments and a loving and caring God who never abandons us.

Tonight we greet one another with the great news: Christ is born and revealed, blessed be the revelation of Christ!

Let us pray, “O Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. On this evening you entered the world. The Word was made Incarnate. You stand with us during our trials and tribulations. You are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Keep the freshness of this story ever present in my life. Tonight we finish our Advent Journey and I proclaim the great news that you are born and revealed. May those who hear turn to the Truth and may I never turn away from this connection to Life. In all things I praise you along with the Father and Holy Spirit. Amen.”

*Note: The story of King Nebuchadnezzar and the three men can be found in Daniel 3 and I strongly urge that you read it in its entirety. The Song of the Three is part of the Armenian canon, that is, it is in the Traditional Orthodox and Roman Catholic Bible. Unfortunately, the Protestants (including the Armenian evangelical churches), have removed the Song of the Three from the Holy Scriptures along with several other books, and placed them in a group of books labeled as “Apocrypha (that is, “Hidden”). For the Armenian Church, Holy Scripture cannot be discarded.


Armodoxy for Today: Theophany

When we first began to journey through Advent I mentioned that there are three Gospel narratives concerning the birth of Jesus Christ. We are all familiar with St. Matthew’s account of the Nativity, with the virgin birth, to the visit of the Magi. Likewise we know that St. Luke presents the Nativity in the context of the census and with Joseph and Mary finding a birthing area in a barn because there was “no room at the inn.” The angels herald the Good News with the words “Peace on Earth and good will among men.”

The third Nativity story does not read like the other two. It is recorded by the Evangelist St. John in His Gospel. The time referenced is not two thousand years ago, rather it at the beginning of all time. It reads as follows:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

The final narrative, the one according to St. John, is about the eternal presence of the Christ. The holy words of scripture point to the Eternal One, the Creator and the Source of Light. And now, “The Word became flesh” and “Dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (14)

We refer to this event as the Theophany, that is, the Revelation of God. In Armenian, the word is descriptive of the event, Asdvadzahaydnutiun. In Jesus Christ, God is revealed to humanity. The Nativity is part of the Theophany. He that was at the beginning, the One that took nothing and created the stars and the sky, the sea and scenery, is now in our midst. Advent has prepared us for this moment and we now understand that no matter how long we prepare, we can never be prepared enough to stand in His presence. It is only by His grace that we can find the expression of awe that lifts up from our inner being.

January 6 is the feast of Theophany, Asdvadzahaydnutiun. It arrives in two days. The 50 days of Advent have been filled with lessons from Holy Scriptures and the teachings of Jesus Christ. We are ready to view the Theophany through the lens of Armodoxy. That means, with awe we await to witness the Nativity from Bethlehem to our homes. We look up to the heavens and see the shining star guiding us to the stable where the Child Jesus is wrapped in swaddling clothe and lays in a major. And the spot under the star is in our neighborhood, close to home. We now understand that the star shines above Artsakh, Ukraine, the Congo, Ecuador, and San Salvador because most of all, we understand that Jesus Christ is revealed under each of these locations. Tomorrow comes a revelation of God, on the eve of the Birth of Christ.

Let us pray, Lord God, on this Holy Day you came into a world in the most lowly of all conditions. You came to share Your Divine message with us. Fill us with the power of the Holy Spirit. Give us strength to marvel at the wonders of this Day and to stand in awe. Give us the perception to see the star of Bethlehem everywhere where you are born to those in need, to us and those who hurt.  I thank you for giving me the opportunity to be witnesses to this blessing. Amen.

Service, the Last Stop

Armodoxy for Today: Service

We started this journey at the direction of the Church almost 50 days ago. Advent, meaning coming. We have prepared ourselves for the coming of Christ – the Nativity, or in more distinct terms, the Theophany. Preparation has been emotional, spiritual and even physical with the scriptural passages and the exercises prescribed to us by the Church.

The last stop on the Advent Journey is the passage that comes to us from the Gospel of St. Luke and is read during the last Sunday worship before Theophany. It reads as follows:

Now there was also a dispute among [the Disciples], as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.” (22:24-28)

This is the “last station stop,” so to speak, before the celebration of the Theophany. Having learned the lessons of the last six weeks, today we move on to service. Jesus tells us, in no uncertain terms, that he comes to us to serve and sets himself as an example for all of us to do the same: to serve one another. During his last supper with his disciples, he further demonstrates the message of service by washing the feet of the disciples (see John 13).

We find this as the last station stop because in order to serve you must first be spiritually and emotionally ready. This means you must be rid of egotism that will restrict or forbid you from serving others. Christian service is selfless, in other words, it demands that the self be put on hold while you tend to the needs of others. Without the training of the last six weeks, service would be extremely difficult because emotionally you were not at the spot to cast aside selfish pleasures to be able to help someone else. Service comes from an empathetic heart. Empathy is the result of understanding the pain of others, or walking in their shoes.

The path of Armodoxy is simple and interconnected. Today you are one step closer to the great news that Christ is in our Midst. Tomorrow, Theophany will be explained.

Let us pray, O Lord, Jesus Christ, you have given us an example of loving and serving. May we be worthy to be called your Living Body, the Church by loving and caring for others. Allow me to see the hurting world and the pain of people, and answer with my ability to serve others. Give me the strength and courage to express my love to all. Amen.

Lessons from Pasadena: Happy New Year

Armodoxy for Today: Lessons from Pasadena

Today’s lesson comes not from the Church but from the City of Pasadena. Ten miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, lies the City of Pasadena. The town has the distinct honor of ushering in the new year, every January 1st with the Tournament of Roses Parade. It is estimated that about one-million tourists enter the city to watch the five-and-a-half mile parade which features floats, bands, horses with riders, celebrities and football champions. Another 50 million people watch the television broadcast.

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses parade began in 1893. The floats are constructed of all natural herbs and plants, with over 18 million flowers used annually to construct the displays, taking 80,000 hours of human power.

But of all the remarkable statistics that I can rattle off about the parade there is one that sets it apart from all others. Pasadena has a “Never on a Sunday” rule! The parade takes place on January 1st, unless January 1st falls on a Sunday, in which case the parade is moved to the following day, on Monday January 2nd.  The rule was put in place when Pasadena started having parades in the 1890s to avoid interference with church services. It is a simple rule and an overt expression of the city’s priority.

The new year begins a few days before the Theophany. January 1st is a convenient time to access our life directions and make necessary changes to our course. It is a time to set goals and priorities. Jesus instructs us with the words, “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse.” The new year doesn’t need to be patched and if it does, not with old habits. You don’t want to carry old baggage into the new year. Begin by a simple assessment of your life and what are the priorities you would like to implement. Think of the lesson of Pasadena’s Rose Parade. Are you ready to implement policies that will prioritize God in your life?

Let us pray. A prayer for the New Year by Rev. Marcy Sheremetta

As the dawn breaks on a new year, let us give thanks for all we hold dear: our health, our family and our friends. Let us release our grudges, our anger and our pains, for these are nothing but binding chains. Let us live each day in the most loving ways, the God-conscious way. Let us serve all who are in need, regardless of race, color or creed. Let us keep God of our own understanding in our hearts and to chant God’s name each day. Let us lead the world from darkness to light, from falsehood to truth and from wrong to right. Let us remember that we are all one, embracing all, discriminating against none.

May your year be filled with peace, prosperity and love. May God’s blessings shower upon you and bestow upon each of you a bright, healthy and peaceful new year.

Fast for Nativity

Armodoxy for Today: Fast for Nativity

All good things come with discipline. A regular prayer life is essential for the Christian, as is engaging with the Holy Scriptures and regular participatory practice in community worship. Christianity engages the body, soul and mind with its teachings and practices.

Toward the discipline of the body, the Church prescribes fasting. Today, the fasting period for Theophany begins.

Every major event in the Armenian Church, is preceded by a period of fasting. The practice can take different forms. Whether you fast completely or partially, the matter is between you and God, and no one else. Jesus’ instruction for fasting is clear “When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:16-18)

When you fast you only naturally think of food. Hunger brings pain physically and psychology you experience discomfort because you know that food is only a few steps or minutes and yet you are being deprive of food of your own will. In that discomfort you understand Christ’s words, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

The first day of fasting is truly the hardest because your body is acclimating to the hunger. On the second and third days your body begins to understand that there is a change and accepts the hunger and focuses on strengthening the spiritual and psychological senses.

Theophany is in sight. It is the revelation of God, the Creator, Jesus Christ on earth, in our midst. Being ready psychologically and emotionally has been the journey of the last several weeks. This last week, with the addition of fasting, we bring these all elements together to meet and greet Christ in his Incarnation.

If you were to see Christ in your midst, that is, with you and your family and friends, what would be your reaction? Would you say, “Merry Christmas?” Would you say, “Christ is in our midst?” or would your reaction be more profound? Would you be shocked and in awe? Finding that perfect expression of joy in meeting the Christ Child in our midst is the focus of this Advent Journey.

Let us pray, Lord Jesus, you were born and revealed, bringing Light into the world. Fill the darkness that surrounds me with the Light that is you. Fill my heart with your Love, so that there is no room for hatred, disease and evil. And may I meet you with as a disciple of your love. Amen.

Sons of Thunder

Armodoxy for Today: Sons of Thunder: Disciples

“The Sons of Thunder” is how Jesus referred to two of his disciples, two sons of a man named Zebedee. (Mark 3)

We can imagine why Jesus gave them such a nickname. Perhaps, like thunder they were uncontrollably loud? Brash? Maybe ready for a brawl? Or perhaps like Thunder they didn’t care if their message was welcome or not, they were ready to yell it out. Aggressive? Confrontational? Jesus called them “The Sons of Thunder, James and John.”

St. Luke records an event when the people of Samaria did not want to receive the message of Christ, James and John seeing this said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”

In the Gospel according to St. Mark we see Jesus telling his disciples (chapter 10) that  “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles;  and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” Perhaps a bit of surprise, uncomfort, disbelief might have been the case for the disciples. Not so with the sons of Zebedee who came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, we want You … to grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” Definitely low on the sensitivity scale. Imagine, your friend of 3 years tells you he’s going to die and youre first question to him is about status in the afterlife?

But at the same time, we know that Jesus welcomed them. They were in the “Inner Circle” of friends, who, along with Peter, Jesus invited to join him at some very critical moments of his ministry, such as when he resurrected the young girl, (Matthew 9) or at the Transfiguration which revealed the Light of the Creator (Mark 9).

The Sons of Thunder, in the years after the Resurrection went on to witness for the Resurrected Christ. James became the first disciple to be martyred for the faith, while John went on to be known for the manner in which he articulated the Love of God. He was the author of the fourth Gospel and the letters at the end of the New Testament. This thunderous voice expounded the message of love as the ultimate God connection.

How comfortable are we with the message of Christ and his love? Are we able to unashamedly proclaim it? How thunderous is our voice when we speak about Christ and the Love of God?

We pray from the 10th hour of St. Nersess Shnorhali’s prayers, O Christ, who are the Living Fire, inflame my soul with the fire of Your love, which You did send forth upon the earth, that it may burn the stains of my soul, sanctify my conscience, purge the sins of my body, and kindle in my heart the light of Your knowledge. Amen.

Peter & Paul

Armodoxy for Today: Peter & Paul

During this week, the Church commemorates a group of leaders of the early Christian movement, the Church. The Apostles Peter and Paul are remembered on the same day because they shared in a ministry at Rome, where they were also martyred for their faith.

Peter was one of the disciples chosen by Christ to become a “fisher of men.” He was a member of the original twelve disciples and part of the entourage that accompanied Jesus from town to town. Paul, on the other hand, was a persecutor of Christians in the post-Resurrection era but converted to Christianity following an encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus. Their stories are documented in scripture, in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. This is a continuation of the Gospel of St. Luke. Think of it as a part 2 of the Gospel, where the first part followed Jesus from Birth to Resurrection, the Book of Acts is the story of the post-Resurrection trial of the early Church. Their story is further documented in the epistles and letters which make up the bulk of the New Testament. Most notably, St. Paul wrote letters to the different spawning and growing Christian communities in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica and elsewhere. In his writings he encourages the believes of the new religion, to stay faithful to the person of Jesus Christ, and therefore, to God. He uses stories of his own trials and tribulations, his imprisonment, and his salvation through Christ, to encourage the members of these young communities.

The Epistles of St. Paul are some of the oldest Christian writings, giving us a unique view of the early Church community. By remembering the Apostles Peter and Paul we are called to look at the difference and similarities of these two giants of the Christian Church. They come to Christ in two different ways, they served in the same arena and in the end, they left an indelible mark on the history of the Christian Church and therefore Western Civilization. Their lives and ministries intersected at the point of suffering for the Kingdom. Both were persecuted for their faith and belief in Jesus Christ.

Where is our faith today? As we take the Advent Journey, we should examine the uncomfortable moments in our life, where faith in God might be mocked or challenged? How do we deal with those challenges?

We pray today, Psalm 63, O God, you are my God, early will I seek You, my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your Power and Your Glory. Because your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus, I will bless You while I live, I will lift up my hands in Your name.


Armodoxy for Today: Stephen – Advent

Another Christmas Carol with lyrics that often go unnoticed is Good King Wenceslas, who, “looked out on the Feast of Stephen when the snow lay round about deep and crisp and even…” The Feast of Stephen is traditionally on December 26 and the Armenian Church celebrates this first century saint’s day either on the 25th or the 26th, depending on the year.

Yesterday in our Advent Journey we began counting down the 12 days of Christmas and with the “partridge in a pear tree” we started a trip to the physical reality that is the purpose of every spiritual journey. In other words, the spiritual strengthening we receive through discipline has a reason and a purpose: to help us in our daily struggles in this world and to allow us to better understand and communicate with our brothers and sisters.

St. Stephen is known as the first martyr of the Christian Church. In Armenian the word “Nakhav’ka” is used for the first martyr but the word also is used as the first “witness” implying that in martyrdom St. Stephen became the first witness for Christ. In the early Church, faith was demonstrated through actions.

The other distinction that sets St. Stephen apart is that he was the first to accept the call to serve through the diaconate. He was the first deacon, according to the Holy Scriptures. In the Acts of the Apostles chapter 6, we read that the first deacons were selected to assist at the distribution of the meals in the Christian community. Reading this passage of scripture we understand that action, tending to the physical needs of the community is part of the Church’s mission. The Church as the Body of Christ, does not operate in the clouds, its responsibility is with people in this world.

As we approach the message of the Nativity we focus on God becoming Man to reach out to us, His creation. Jesus asks, “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table?” And just as we are ready to answer the obvious, he says, “But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 20:27)

The selection of the deacons in Acts 6 takes place a few months after the Resurrection of Christ. It is most important to note that the Christian Church was taking form, the deacons to help the apostles, the bishops to continue the mission of the Apostles and the priests to ministry to the people.

It is the second day of Christmas: Two turtle doves are a nice reminder of our need to straddle our spiritual and physical realities in our Advent Journey.

We pray, Lord Jesus Christ, you did not abandon us, but set up your Church, your Holy Body, to bring your message home to new generations to come. In the spirit of St. Stephen, help me find my mission and my purpose, to follow your example of serving as an expression of my love. Lord, help me. Amen.

Partridge in a Pear Tree

Armodoxy for Today: Partridge in a Pear Tree – Advent

Christmas carols happen to be one of my favorite genres of music; however, usually by December 25th most of us have had our fill. Reprogramming our car radio button away from 24/7 Christmas carols might be easy enough, but don’t erasing your playlists too quickly, because today is the first day of Christmas and you know what that means… 12 days of Christmas with drummers drumming, maids a milking, gold rings and of course, a partridge in a pear tree.

Between December 25 and January 6 there are 12 days. It has been said that in early centuries, pilgrims who would go to pray at the sight of Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem would travel to the River Jordan, to offer their prayers at this place of His Baptism. The travel time by foot was approximately 12 days. In some churches the visitation of the Magi (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) is celebrated on January 6 justifying the elaborate gifting pattern during the 12 days of Christmas is expressed in the song. For the Armenian Church, the Nativity and the events to the Baptism are remembered on January 6. But calendar considerations are not what drives Armodoxy (#56). The 12 days of Christmas are the last sprint we have on the Advent Journey we began over a month ago.

Listen to the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” It is one of the favorite sing-along songs because each verse builds on the previous verse. We begin today with the partridge in a pear tree. Each day is a gift of value. Each day has a beauty to it, albeit in the eye of the beholder, but we can all agree that there is beauty and value to be found in each gift.

As we wind down our Advent Journey we come back to the tangible world we inhabit. Christianity is about the spiritual plane, yes, but it is grounded in the physical dimension as well. In other words what we learn from the spiritual lessons, we have to apply to our life in this world. For instance, we learn about loving one another, but this is not a concept, it is a way of life and therefore, we must practice the “loving one another” on the relationship we have in our lifetime.

As we go through the last 12 days before Christmas, we see a real world that is hurting. There are wars, some small, some large, but all of them are devastating. They strip us of our humanity. We live in a time where the need for peace is essential to our survival as a civilization. Countries and governments have the capability of obliterating our world and our planet many times over. These countries and governments are made up of people. The partridge in pear tree is a call to all of us to be attentive to the need to harbor peace and goodwill among one another. The greatest threat to our planet and our existence as a human race is our inability to understand one another. Jesus Christ, revealed in our midst, is for us to understand that we are all his children, as such we are all united with one another through blood and spirit. If God so loves us, and if God seeks to understand us, and if God gives us a path to understand Him, then the only logical next step is for us to love and understand one another. This knowledge, is the first step toward peace.

We appeal to the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.