Same Rules for Religion

Armodoxy for Today: The Same Rules

When I have an opportunity to teach or lecture at schools, particularly high schools and colleges, I’m rather annoyed that I’m treated as an anomaly. Well, perhaps, and I hope, it’s my topic rather than me. Students learn formulas, languages, history, but when it comes to religion, they put most everything they’ve learned to one side and look at the topic irrationally. Of course, the reasons for this push is because so often religion is taught as something that has to be accepted without question. Add to that the element of mystical incantations and unexplainable events, and yes, religion comes across as an anomaly amidst all the other disciplines.

Armodoxy is the study of the Armenian Orthodox Faith – Christianity in its essence, in its primitive form – a Faith that has been expounded by the Armenian Apostolic and Orthodox Church for the last 2000, and understanding it not as history, but as a living faith with applications for our life today. Just as Jesus intended His teachings to be applied to life of the common man in that day and age, so too, we must understand manifestation of Christian teaching not as bizarre and unusual, but as part of our nature today.

For instance, the Church has set aside “fasting” days and meatless days two millennia before the modern medicine steered us away from cholesterol producing meats and discovered the importance of intermittent fasting. Jesus stated the golden rule, “Whatever you want other to do to you, do also to them…” (Matthew 7:12) centuries before Newton set the laws of motion and thermodynamics – e.g., actions and reactions.  And of course, Jesus’ admonition to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44) was an answer to war to produce peace. And although it has yet to be tried, simple mathematics will demonstrate and prove that x+x = 2x and ≠ 0, that is war plus war, begets more war, not peace.

Armodoxy is ancient Christianity applied today. It makes sense with all of life. Every so often, it is important to reiterate what we’re all about. Let us pray.

Our Father in Heaven, may Your name be holy, may Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil. For your is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, forever. Amen.



Armodoxy for Today: Contrast

What is darkness? Very simply, it is the absence of light. Darkness is only definable in the presence of light.

What is evil? Very simply, it is the absence of good. Evil is defined in reference to the good.

Some take this one step further and define Hell as the place where there is the absence of God. With this simple definition it is possible to find Hell here on Earth now, not at some future time. Still, others will argue that by definition there cannot be a place where God does not exist.

Questions and ponderings such as these are more than mental gymnastics, they are brought to the forefront of our thoughts when light is threatened. It is part of our natural defense system because we are afraid of the dark. As humans, we want to stay in the light but sometimes the darkness can be so overwhelming that we succumb to its power.

The power of sunlight is so great, that its light enlightens our entire planet and heats it as well. Likewise, the power of Jesus, as Light of the World, is so great, that His Light overcomes the Darkness.

Jesus begins his ministry by referencing the prophet’s saying  –  “…The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”

The Evangelist St. Matthew continues the narrative (chapter 4), “From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

We pray, Christ, the true Light, make my soul worthy to encounter with joy the light of your divine glory, on the day I will be called by you; and to rest in good hope, in the mansions of the righteous, until the great day of your coming. Have mercy upon your creatures, and on me, a sinner. Amen. (St. Nersess Shnorhali, I confess with Faith)

Choked with Emotions

Armodoxy for Today: Choked with Emotions

In 1985 Carl Segan and his wife Ann Druyan authored the book, “Contact.” The story was about the possibilities of contact between humans and extraterrestrial beings.  About a decade later the story was made into a motion picture starring Jodi Foster and Matthew Machaney. It was fascinating because the story was written from a science perspective, as would be expect Carl Segan who was an astronomer and planetary scientists, and very eloquently articulated scientific concepts for the average man. He was an advocate of skeptical scientific inquiry and the scientific method. Yet at the end of Contact he concedes that words and the expressions we possess are inadequate in explaining or expressing the events of the first human contact with the extraterrestrial world. In common parlance we can say he choked.

In birthing rooms, homes, and fields throughout the world, parents meeting their child for the first time are overwhelmed with tears and choke on finding the words to express that awesome moment of life. Our Lord Jesus refers to this moment, “When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.  So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” (John 16)

The last few days we’ve been talking about celestial events on the scale of solar eclipses. During one such event, as the Moon covered the Sun and only the solar flares were dancing around the circular disk in the sky, I was moved to sing the Armenian Hymn, sharagan, “Aravod Looso” – a praise to the morning Sunrise and to the Light. Try as I may, words were not coming out of my mouth. I was choking in emotion. Overwhelmed by the event.

Events that are bigger than life – whether exploding in the cosmos or the first glance at new life, humble us. They choke our voice so we speak with our heart, and a tear in our eye. They are subtle reminders of the grandeur of God.

We pray from the Book of Sirach, Because of him each of his messengers succeeds, and by his word all things hold together. We could say more but could never say enough; let the final word be: “He is the all.” Where can we find the strength to praise him?  For he is greater than all his works. Awesome is the Lord and very great, and marvelous is his power. Glorify the Lord and exalt him as much as you can, for he surpasses even that. Amen. (chapter 43)

Celestial Triggers

Armodoxy for Today: Celestial Trigger

Triggers come in all shapes and sizes. On a gun it’s the devices that releases the mechanism to shoot. Flowers or furry animals may trigger allergies in people. And a good actor interpreting his or her parts may trigger emotions that will soften the hardest of hearts.

Celestial events, such as solar or lunar eclipses often trigger discussions of a religious variety. Because the movements of the players, that is the Moon and Sun, have their own rhythms and patterns, some people ascribe mystical explanations to the entire event. On closer look, the only mystical element of these movements is that they are unusually precise and perfect. Dare we say, they point to a designer, who is often noted as God.

At a solar eclipse a person who noted my interest in the event asked, if the eclipse is mentioned in the Bible? Now, if you’ve been a priest long enough you know where this is leading (or misleading) –somehow this is being a precursor to end times. I’ve read in the Bible about darkening-sky events, but in the case of eclipses which last only a few minutes, there is nothing apocalyptic about them. But look at it in another way, MRI’s and Xrays are not mentioned in the Bible either, but we use them to diagnose a wide variety illnesses. Jets aren’t mentioned in the Bible, but they sure help get you around.

Armodoxy challenges you to look at nature as an extension of God’s wonders. They are all around. Rather than allowing the unknown and the un-understood to trigger thoughts of end times, celebrate the majesty of God, and all the beauty of His Creation.

We end with this prayer from the Book of Sirach, “The glory of the stars is the beauty of heaven, a glittering array in the heights of the Lord. On the orders of the Holy One they stand in their appointed places; they never relax in their watches. Look at the rainbow and praise Him who made it; it is exceedingly beautiful in its brightness. It encircles the sky with its glorious arc; the hands of the Most High have stretched it out. (chapter 43)

Celestial Time Table

Armodoxy for Today: Celestial Timetable

I stood looking up at the heavens, waiting for the Moon to eclipse the Sun. We were in Texas to witness this unique phenomenon that takes place every year or two when the Moon passes between the Earth and Sun, in such a manner to be referred to as a solar eclipse. What made this one special was that it was accessible to us giving us a chance to view it in real time and real life.

Slowly the Moon made its way in front of the Sun as we viewed through welder’s glasses. We watched as a small sliver was bitten out of the Sun and slowly that sliver became larger and larger, into a shape that resembled a PacMac.

It was 1:30PM when the Sun was totally covered. We took off our glasses and looked straight up. In the darkness, the Moon stood directly over us with solar flares, ninety-three million miles behind the Moon, framing it perfectly, and “perfectly” is the operative word of the celestial event.

Centuries ago, astronomers studying the skies and the motions of the Sun and Moon, pinpointed this eclipse precisely with a time and a location – for us, in the desert of Texas. Trains, planes and automobiles will be delayed, but not so with the movement of these giant worlds. The perfection of Creation is evident in the patterns and paths we observe and measure.

We pray a prayer of praise, from Scripture, from the Book of Sirach, “The sun, when it appears, proclaims as it rises what a marvelous instrument it is, Great is the Lord who made it; at His orders it hurries on its course.” (Chapter 43)

cover: public domain earth-in-sky

More to Jesus than Written

Armodoxy for Today: What More?

Before finishing his Gospel, St. John writes:

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (chapter 20)

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (chapter 21)

Armodoxy maintains that we come to know Jesus through the stories we read but also by the Tradition that has been handed down to us through the centuries from the time of Christ, in other words, “all the things that could not be contained in the books.” These verses are important reminders of the vastness of Christianity and the unique place of the Armenian Orthodox Tradition, and Apostolic Tradition, which was there at the time of Christ and represents the most ancient form of Christianity. It is the calling card of Armodoxy.

Let us pray,

O glorious Lord, receive the prayers of your servant; and fulfill my requests that are deemed good. Through the intercession of the Holy Mother of God, and St. John the Baptist, and St. Stephen the first martyr, and St. Gregory our Illuminator, and the Holy Apostles, Prophets, Doctors of the Church, Martyrs, Patriarchs, Hermits, Virgins, and all your saints in heaven and on earth. Unto you, O indivisible Holy Trinity, be glory and worship, forever and ever. Amen. -St. Nersess Shnorhali

God’s Forgiveness: Peter

Armodoxy for Today: Reinstatement of Peter

As part of the Passion narratives, most everyone knows that Simon Peter denied Jesus three times. At the most critical time, as Jesus is being tried, convicted and sentenced to death, Peter, his close friend and disciple, denies that he knows Jesus. Few may know that, after the Resurrection, Peter had an opportunity to show his remorse by expressing his love for the Lord. In the Gospel of John (21) we follow a dialogue between Jesus and his disciple, Simon Peter:

 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”

And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.  

Some refer to this episode as the Reinstatement of Peter, that is, he denied Jesus thrice and now he acknowledges his love thrice, and the sheep metaphor referring to his pastoral position within the Church.  We call it forgiveness, pure and simple, in a manner that only God can give and only God can understand.

Jesus was about forgiveness. The message of forgiveness was taught with words and then he demonstrated the same from the Cross and after the Resurrection when he forgave his friend Peter. Often in life, we hear about horrendous acts committed by people, but their forgiveness is between them and God.

Let us pray, Searcher of secrets, I have sinned against you, willingly and inadvertently, knowingly and unknowingly. Grant forgiveness unto me a sinner; since from my birth through the holy baptism, until this day, I have sinned before you Lord, with all my senses and in all the members of my body. Have mercy upon your creatures, and on me, a sinner. Amen.

Cover: Envato Elements

The Great Fish Story

Armodoxy for Today: The Great Fish Story

The third time Jesus appears to the disciples after the Resurrection was one morning when a group of them were going fishing. They were led by Peter. (John 21)

They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”

They answered Him, “No.”

And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

Acknowledging your needs before the Lord … “Children, have you any food?” “No, we don’t” is the first step toward miracles. He won’t fill your net, but He will point you in the right direction.

Let us pray, God, our great provider, You created everything and every being in this world that we are living in. You have made us in your image and even allow us the privilege of caring for one another. In so doing, we humbly serve You. Keep us safe from harm, so that we may continue to provide and share with one another. Amen.

A Special Meal: Emmaus

Armodoxy for Today: A Special Meal

Following the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to many people, according to the gospel narratives. On one occasion, according to the Gospel of Luke (chapter 24), a couple of Jesus’ followers were on the road to Emmaus, a village about 7 miles out of Jerusalem. Jesus approached them, but they did not recognize him. The Gospel says, their eyes were restrained.

They strike up a conversation with Jesus, who is a stranger in their eyes. During their walk to Emmaus, Jesus speaks of the prophets and the law, beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

In the evening, these men invite Jesus to stay with them. And then something very special happens. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him…

Yes, very early in Christian history, only days after the Resurrection, the breaking of bread – the community meal – was already established as the action of the Christian gathering. Jesus quoted scripture, spoke of the law and prophets, but they did not recognize him until he broke the bread.

That special meal takes place every Sunday in the Armenian Church. It is the sacred Divine Liturgy, which in Armenian is called, Holy Badarak, that is, the Holy Sacrifice.

The Prayer today is a hymn of the Armenian Church Badarak:

Christ is sacrificed and distributed among us. His Body he gives us for food, and his holy Blood he sprinkles as drops of water for us. Draw near to the Lord and take the light. Taste and see that the Lord is sweet. Praise the Lord in the heavens. Praise him in the heights. Praise him, all his angels. Amen.

Cover Photo: 2023 Luna & Gregory Beylerian

Eclipsed! Thomas’ Story

Armodoxy for Today: Eclipsed! (Doubting Thomas)

The Gospel tells us that Jesus appeared to the disciples on several occasions after the Resurrection. During that first week, every time he appeared to the disciples, Thomas, who was called the Twin was not present. In fact, Thomas doubted the others had seen the Resurrected Lord, hence he is referred to as Doubting Thomas. He said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

Thomas was eclipsed from the bearer of Light as a follower of Jesus, to the darkness of disbelief.

We read in John, chapter 21:

And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The eclipse is over! Thomas’ proclamation was complete and total: “My Lord and my God!” And note that he did not put his fingers on the marks of the nail. Thomas was transformed from unbelieving to believing.

Most Christians come to Christ without seeing the physical Jesus, but they come to believe because they have seen his works – the love in the world.

Let us pray, Almighty and ever living God, who strengthen your apostle Thomas with sure and certain faith in Your Son’s Resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in Your sight; through Him who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.