Positive Steps

Armodoxy for Today
Positive Steps

We started our Advent Journey meeting the “Rich Fool,” a character in one of Jesus’ parables (Luke 12). In a sense, he is what we may call a negative hero, in other words, he’s the main character of the story who teaches us what not to be. Negative heroes are all too common in religious stories as well as in real life. In politics, some may vote for a candidate because s/he is not the other candidate. In business, some may choose to trade with one firm because it is not the other company. In so doing, we focus more on the negative attributes of one, instead of the positive attributes of another and in turn, we start seeing our religious obligations and responsibilities in terms of what not to do, rather than what to do.

The Advent Journey is a time for us to prepare ourselves for the message of Christmas. At the end of the journey is waiting Christ, as Gift, as Light, as Savior. The extreme and most positive expression in life will be waiting for us and we will react to that gift. That reaction is a movement, it’s a step forward in our life.

Over the past few days we looked at the Parable of the Rich Fool from a few different vantage points. At the end, if we are truthful with ourselves, we will discover that the Rich Fool is, in fact, us. Like the Rich Fool, we are each consumed by the riches and possessions which are polished by our ego, by our wants and desires. And all of these prevent us from experiencing the fullness of God and, therefore, the beauty of life.

Jesus prefaces the parable with the warning, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Taking this to heart, the first part of the Advent Journey is to inventory those things that matter and are important in your life and proactively, that is, take an action to celebrate the abundance of those things that matter in your life, such as your relationships, your love for others, the beauty of life that surrounds you. These are simple treasures that are accessible by all.

For today’s prayer I’d like to share with you a variation of Shnorhali’s prayer of the 9th hour, with an accent on doing: All provident Lord, give me the clearness of vision to look at the beauty around me, the sharpness of hearing to listen to the music of nature, the courage to speak words of truth, the clarity of heart to think goodness, strength to my hands to work toward justice and to my feet to walk in paths of righteousness. Guide my motions that they may be according to all your commandments. Amen.

And there I was…

Armodoxy for Today

And there I was…

Our Advent Journey continues with the parable of the ‘Rich Fool,’ as told by Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12. The last couple of days we have looked at this parable as the starting point for the Advent season. If you remember, on our first day of examining this parable I asked you to pay particular attention to the words expressed by, whom we now understand as, the Rich Fool.

The entire parable is all of 120 words uttered by Jesus himself. Of that count, 62 of the words, that is over 50% of the words are those attributed to the Rich Fool. And of those 50%, every one of them was about himself and articulated with I-s and My-s!

… ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?… I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’

In fact, the Fool has no regard for anyone or anything beside himself. The great minister of the Gospel and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. once answered the Fool by suggesting that he could have stored the extra food, the abundance of crops, in the bellies of starving children! But any hope of extending the bounty to others is wiped out by the abundance of the I-s and My-s in the Fool’s vocabulary.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cautions against calling anyone a fool, yet he has no problem designating this man with the adjective, for in fact a person who doesn’t see life beyond themselves is a fool.

Armenian Orthodoxy grew in a world where sharing the abundance of the land was a rule of life. When we see beyond ourselves, we then mimic God because we begin to speak the language of love. “Love does not seek its own,” says the Apostle (I Corinthians 13:5). We understand the beauty of the Christmas message that God so loved the world, so much so that He gave His very best. (John 3:16). When we remove the I-s and My-s from our vocabulary, we make room for so much more, especially for words such as We and Us.

Let us pray a prayer that comes from the Wedding ceremony of the Armenian Church, a ceremony that ties two into one. It is a simple prayer, “Lord, plant me as a fruitful olive tree in the House of God.”

We continue the Advent Journey tomorrow. I look forward to having you join us.

 

Staying on Track

Armodoxy for Today

Staying on Track

Our Advent Journey continues and our first stop is confronting the parable of the ‘Rich Fool,’ as told by Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12.

“The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.  But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then who’s will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” – Jesus (Luke 12)

Remember, Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas, to understand the holiness of the holy day. Right off, Jesus tells us the preparation is about laying treasures and uses this parable to illustrate the importance of not losing sight of the prize. We are on a journey to Christmas when we proclaim that Christ is born and revealed among us. Along the way, it will be easy to be sidetracked. The rich man of the parable begins as an entrepreneur who uses his wisdom and knowledge to bring him profit. When his work yields a bumper crop, he loses sight of the purpose of his labor and falls into the trap of losing sight of the destination. Further, Jesus gives him the designation of a “fool” because he had labored and not set aside treasures beyond himself.

St. Paul refers to the love of money as the root of all evil. Money itself is merely a tool. It has value when it is used, otherwise it is merely a figure of lines, circles, dots and dollar signs on a ledger somewhere. When money is used, an in particular to the aid and benefit of others – your children, your parents, your loved ones, your community, your church, and yes, to those who you don’t know – it picks up value because now, it can be measured by the terms that are understood by others beside yourself.

It always amazes me when I hear someone boast of himself or of his child, proudly proclaiming that they “know the value of a dollar.” In fact, a drug dealer knows the value of a dollar. So what? The parable is about finding true value for money which translates to the value of life.

We pray the prayer of St. Nersess the Gracefilled, from the 23 hour: All-merciful Lord, have mercy upon all Your faithful, on those who are mine and on those who are strangers; on those whom I know and on those whom I know not; on the living and on the dead; and forgive all my enemies, and those who hate me, the trespasses that they have committed against me; turn them from the malice which they bear towards me, that they may be worthy of Your mercy. Amen.

We continue tomorrow, on the Advent Journey. I look forward to being together to take the next steps.

Advent Cue

Armodoxy for Today – Advent
Advent Cue

Advent, means “coming.” The coming of the Lord was foretold centuries before his birth. His coming was announced by the angel of the Lord, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11). And for the last two thousand years we celebrate his coming as the Nativity, as the Revelation of God and of course, as Christmas.

Christmas is much more than the celebration we know of today. To better appreciate the celebration of Christmas, the Church has set up a period of preparation, which uses the name “Advent.” In other words, in preparing for Christmas, we focus on Christ’s coming to us in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, and into our lives today.

The first Sunday of Advent with its unique Gospel reading sets the pace and cues up the general tone for the days ahead. We find this parable which Jesus spoke in the Gospel of St. Luke (12)

“The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.  But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

This then is the starting point of the Advent journey. If necessary, read the parable again, paying attention to the words of the man. This is the starting point of our Advent Journey. We return tomorrow to continue.

Advent: Preparation

Armodoxy for Today: Advent
Advent: Preparation

Preparation is important to the success of any life event. From something as common as your next meal, to milestones such as graduating school, preparation is fundamental to the success and enjoyment of that event. Likewise for events we commemorate in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church offers us times for preparation so that we can come to better appreciate, and thereby enjoy, the message of the Gospel in our lives.

Christmas comes and goes as an event of the Winter. Noting the commercialization or the secularization of the Christmas holiday is only tied to our lack of being prepared for the Mystery we proclaim on Christmas: Christ is born and revealed.

The Church has given a period of times, called “Advent” which means “Coming.” In the Armenian Church this period is called hisnag designating a 50-day time period before Christmas. Prior to Easter we count of 50 days as well (he 40 days of Lent along with the Day of Good Living and Holy Week, add up to 50 days). And that period, commonly referred to as Lent, has a certain notoriety which is missing from the pre-Christmas season. The Advent season is equally important in preparing ourselves to fully participate in the Christmas joy.

The Advent preparation is one of tuning the body, soul and mind to wonders that await us in the manger, under the tree and at our church service.

Beginning today, we will be journeying together toward the day we greet one another with the merriest of Christmas messages, “Christ is born and revealed.” I invite you to join along and follow us in that journey, with our daily messages under the banner, Armodoxy for Today: ADVENT. It will be a different Christmas for sure. Preparing to meet Jesus at his nativity, you’ll come to understand how God interacted with our world in a manger in Bethlehem then, but even more important, how He interacts at the places of our lives today, wherever they may be. We will journey through the 50 days along with the special “12 days of Christmas” at the end.

I look forward to taking this journey with you.

We pray, Heavenly Father, as we begin this season of Advent, open our hearts and our souls to the wonders you have shared with us. As we prepare for the blessed Birth and Revelation of your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ, we ask that you keep us focused on the opportunity to prepare, so that we can fully participate and enjoy the celebration of Christmas. May we be led by the Holy Spirit and begin this day on this journey in faith. Amen.

Thanksgiving Expressed

In the United States we have a beautiful tradition holiday called Thanksgiving. It recollects the gratitude of the first pilgrims in America. In the Church, the tradition of Thanksgiving is as old as Christianity itself. Here is a special Thanksgiving presentation of AC101, an episode where the Thanksgiving service of the Armenian Church – the Eucharist or Badarak – is shown to parallel the traditional holiday outing and dinner. Happy Thanksgiving to all….

No Thanks

Armodoxy for Today

No Thanks

In our series of messages leading to the celebration of Thanksgiving, we discussed the joys of gratitude and a joyful spirit.

Given the state of the world, some may argue that there is very little for which to be thankful. Regardless of current circumstances, there are those who do not see the purpose of giving thanks. Even during more tranquil and prosperous times there are many who suffer unbearable pain, are held as prisoners, are caught in the crossfire of wars and terror, others who are abused or who have been condemned to horrendous illnesses both physical and emotional. Suggesting to raise a word of thanks might be as if putting salt on a wound.

One of the most important precepts of religion is that how a person comes to terms with their god is their personal business.

In all things we are instructed to give thanks. We have learned the importance of gratitude but this understanding is in the context of a mature Christian faith, where even in our struggles and sufferings we can find a moment to be thankful for the breath we take, the smile on a loved one’s face, the spray of the ocean or the beauty of a small flower bud. Still, that decision to give thanks is in the domain of the individual. Ours is not to inspect neither the method nor quality of another’s thanksgiving prayer.

Christianity in Armenia has survived many different political assaults and wars and still remained faithful to the love, hope and faith in Jesus Christ. Armenian Orthodoxy has not evangelized nor converted through force nor by philosophical debate. Instead, Armodoxy’s witness has been silent but effective.

Thanksgiving affords us an opportunity to evangelize in a quiet manner. In thanking God for the blessings we have, others will take note. Even when blessings may seem spread thin and few, the thankful heart becomes a source of hope and inspiration to those struggling with in their daily lives.

We pray, Lord our God, we come to you in a spirit of gratitude, thanking you for the many blessings we enjoy. Accept from us our offerings of thanks on behalf of ourselves and on behalf of our brothers and sisters who may have lost hope and find it difficult to look up in thanks. May we be conscious of the pain of others, so that our prayers resound the voice of those stand in silence. Thank you, Lord. Amen

 

Worship to Celebration

Armodoxy for today
Worship to Celebration

The act of giving thanks, we have learned, is the greatest expression of humility and love. Gratitude becomes the first step on the path toward selflessness and true love. Worship is the formal act of thanksgiving. The Divine Liturgy, or Badarak of the Armenian Church is the main act of worship which is celebrated every week. It is the oldest community worship in all of Christianity. Each celebration of the Divine Liturgy is an opportunity to travel back to the time of Christ himself and an chance to add to the celebration.

Often the word “Eucharist” is used to express the act of the Divine Liturgy namely the preparation and transformation of the wine and bread into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The word, eucharist, comes from the Greek word meaning grateful or thankful. The Holy Eucharist, the Holy Divine Liturgy, is the central act of worship of the Church and is the ultimate act of thanksgiving. It is the acknowledgement of God so loving the world that He gives His Only-begotten for the salvation of the world. (John 3:16). After acknowledging God’s love, we thank God, or worship Him, and then partake in the celebration, that is, we receive the Holy Body and Blood, the Holy Eucharist, the Holy “Thanksgiving.” For this reason, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, and never performed. Performance is reserved to scripted plays, concerts, ballets, operas and the like. The Divine Liturgy, the Holy Badarak, is worship and each celebration is unique and brings in new elements from the participants, the priests, deacons, singers, congregants, adults and children, each adding to the celebration with a unique whisper or a shout. And Armodoxy is the assurance that everyone brings his or her own flavor to the mix, their own gestures of thankfulness, so that each Liturgy is a celebration and never a performance.

Is it any wonder that we celebrate Thanksgiving and wish one another, a “Happy” Thanksgiving?

We pray from the hymn of thanksgiving in our Divine Liturgy, “We have been filled with your good things, O Lord, by tasting of your Body and Blood. You who continually feed us, send down upon us your spiritual blessing. Glory in the highest to you who have fed us at your table of immortal life; distributing your Body and your Blood for the salvation of the world and for life to our souls.” Amen.

Thanksgiving and Worship

Armodoxy for Today
Thanksgiving and Love

In the spirit of the times, just as retailers have extended Black Friday to the entirety of the month of November, we have extending thanksgiving beyond the traditional one-day commemoration to a series of thoughts on the subject. Over the last several days we’ve spoken about the need to be unashamedly thankful, to avoid comparison shopping and optimizing our thankfulness. We even spoke about thanksgiving as a remedy to ego inflation. Today we will look at the receiver of our thankfulness, God.

Thanksgiving is not prayer. Thanksgiving is an acknowledgement of something greater than yourself. As such, it falls into the category of worship. In the Armenian Church, worship takes place seven times a day. From the early morning hours to the moments before restful sleep, there are seven hours of worship. For a people who have known very little peace and prosperity, that have been attacked, raped and murdered, it is extremely unusual to this group of people offer so much thanksgiving. It is unusual, unless viewed under through the lens of Armodoxy. Thanksgiving, and therefore worship, is not about stroking God’s Ego. The Evangelist John tells us God is love. Accordingly, love has no ego-issue. Love is giving and sacrificing. When we worship and give thanks, we are acknowledging the power of love. The words of the apostle (I Corinthians 13) come to life, “Love is patient; love is kind,” and we are forced to come to terms with the power of love, as St. Paul writes, “Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Love is God, God is Love. Thanksgiving is, in fact, about acknowledging God, and therefore acknowledging the power of love.

Let us pray, Bless us with Love, O Merciful God; that we may Love as you Love. That we may show patience, tolerance, kindness, caring and love to all. Amen.

Ego Remedy

Armodoxy for Today

Ego Remedy

Throughout the gospels, our Lord Jesus calls us to a life of selfless living demonstrated by giving and doing unto others. It may seem like this call is an extra difficult challenge given the pressures of the day, but mastery of the discipline of selflessness – losing one’s ego – has always been the end game of true religion. Given the harsh conditions of life in which Armodoxy developed, discipline of body, soul and mind was, and is, essential for survival.

Selflessness yields inner peace and spiritual contentment.

Thanksgiving prayers are the true prayers of selflessness. The act of giving thanks implies that there is something greater than our self, and in fact, thanksgiving is the first step in losing ego, and understanding the self as part of a community, a community where we share our talents in an expression of love and care. It is us, following in the example given to us by Jesus Christ, himself.

This entire week, as a prelude to the Thanksgiving holiday, our “Daily Messages” looked at the joy of thanksgiving from different angles, and today see it opening a path to peace, one which is in our grasp and for us to create.

We pray for the strength and courage to thank God for the bounty, for the life, and the joy we enjoy. Amen.