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.

A Tempting Offer

Armodoxy for Today: A Tempting Offer

Of the thousands of books written about Jesus, I often opt to read works that challenge me to view things from a different, perhaps new, perspective. One such book is a work of fiction by Nicholas Kazantzakis, called The Last Temptation of Christ. It was written in 1955, stirring up controversy and then in 1988 it was produced into a film stirring up objections from conservative and orthodox Christians.*

The story by Kazantzakis is well researched and thought out. He lays out the plot as follows: The crucified Messiah is given His “last temptation” on the cross. He is given the opportunity to see life beyond the cross, to know the joys of a family life, share memories with friends and live to a ripe old age. He is given the opportunity to have the same dreams as do all men and to be as all men. Yet he resists temptation. He says “no” to all the trappings of this world and opts to do His Father’s Will instead.

The gift of free-will, that is, to choose to do otherwise, is one of the greatest gifts given to us by God. In this novel, we are given a “what-if” scenario, and an opportunity to work-through the natural temptation to live without suffering, and to die a peaceful death. It gives us an opportunity to view the story from yet another perspective.

Jesus chose the Cross. In that choice we find how tightly Love and the Cross are tied together.

Today’s prayer is from the Gospel of John, chapter 12, the words of Jesus, which say, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.


*When the film The Last Temptation of Christ debuted in 1988, I was asked to write an op-ed for the San Jose Mercury News. You may read it here.
– Fr. Vazken

Practical Recognition (Magdalene Continued)

Armodoxy for Today: Practical Recognition (Magdalene continued)

Facial recognition has become a popular means by which you can access your electronics. Modern technology allows inanimate objects to recognize you with a remarkable degree of accuracy.

Yesterday we read from the Gospel of John chapter 20 the moment at which Mary Magdalene met with Jesus following His Resurrection. Mary did not recognize Jesus, until Jesus first recognized her and called her, by name. Let us continue from where we left off. Verse 17 reads,

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Mary Magdalene is often referred to as the “Apostle to the Apostles” because of this passage. The word apostle means one who is sent. It is the same in the Armenian language, Arakyal. Mary was sent by Jesus to share the Good News with the rest of the disciples, His “brothers.”

Through the centuries, Mary has attracted the attention of many artists, who have been intrigued by her closeness to the Lord. They have depicted her in different forms whether in paintings, songs or written word. This points to one of our greatest shortcomings as human beings. We’re consumed by the mundane rather than the spectacular.

Of the few important facts that we do know, the most important might be considered that Mary Magdalene’s love for the Lord was so great that she did not abandon Him during His suffering; She was at the foot of the cross. And in return, Jesus revealed Himself to her and asked her to be the Apostle to the Apostles: the first Apostle who spread the word of the Risen Lord.

Here is a prayer offered to the Saint:

O lamp of the world and gleaming pearl, who by announcing Christ’s resurrection merited to become the “Apostle of the Apostles,” Mary Magdalen, be ever our loving advocate with God who has chosen you.

Cover photo: Luna & Gregory Beylerian

Recognition – Magdalene

Armodoxy for Today: Recognition

Following the Resurrection of our Lord, a group of women went to the Grave to anoint Jesus’ Body. Among them was Mary Magdalene, a disciple of Jesus.

We read in the Gospel of John:

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Mary did not recognize Jesus, until Jesus first recognized her and called her, by name. As we reflect upon the Resurrection, we are reminded that the characters around Jesus were people with daily cares, who found themselves in the greatest story ever told. Reflect on your identity and those who you may or may not recognize and those who call you out by name. How does that affect your life? It certainly did for Mary Magdalene as we will come to find out.

A Prayer to St Mary Magdalene

O Glorious St. Magdalene, “model of penitents,” obtain for me the grace of perseverance in the practices of self-denial according to the Spirit of my vows; pray to God for me that I may appear before Jesus Our Lord and Master, at the moment of my death, with my lamp filled with the oil of faith and hope, and burning with the pure flame of charity; and thus merit to be received with thee into His eternal Kingdom. Amen.

Cover Photo: Luna & Gregory Beylerian, 2023