Pentecost: Beyond History

Armodoxy for Today: From History to Sermon

The sermon begins “Today is Pentecost” followed by a story from the pages of the Book of Acts. We hear the story of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Disciples, turning them into the evangelists for Christ’s Holy Church. What’s our take-away from this sermon? There was an event, on the 50th day after the Resurrection – pente, 50 – and with the reception of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles embarked on their sacred mission to evangelize the world.

This is what’s known as a history lesson in the guise of a sermon. The purpose of a sermon, unlike a history lesson, is to preach a lesson to the listener, a lesson which applies to their lives today. It was for this reason that Jesus promised the Disciples to send the Holy Spirit, so that they would not merely present Jesus as a figure of history, but as the Living God that affects and interacts with His children in their lives today, as He did 2000 years ago. Pentecost is the event that invites us to the holiness of the Church. It is in His Sacred Church, where that message is revealed.

When Jesus began his ministry, he invited the Disciple to “Come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) At the end of his ministry on Earth he said to them, “Go and make disciple of all…” (Matthew 28:16-20) “Come” says Jesus to learn as my Disciples, “Go” says Christ to teach as my Apostles.

A simple but powerful prayer by St. Nersess Shnorhali reminds that the Holy Spirit has touched the Disciples and purified us by working and acting within us all. Today is a day to be receptive to the joy that fills our lives with godliness.

Spirit of God, true God, who descended on the river Jordan, and into the Upper Room; who enlightened me by the baptism of the Holy Font, I have sinned against heaven and before you. Purify me again with your divine fire, as the fiery tongues purified the Holy Apostles.
Have mercy upon your creatures, and on me, a sinner. Amen.

Pentecost: Non Denominationalism Up Close

Pentecost, Non Denominational, Bible & Church

As a kid I remember a commercial on television featuring a nice looking building. A voice asks, “Nice building, huh?” Then the camera zooms in to reveal cracks and chips that were painted over, and without skipping a beat the voice would divulge the truth, “…until you look up closely!” The body of the voice would then come on screen to plug some kind of texture coating that hid the scars of the building.

Usually things look nice from a distance, but upon a closer look the cracks start showing. The same holds true for religion. We will confine our discussion today to the Christian religion. One of the popular designations of Christianity that needs to receive a closer look is the term “non-denomination.” It is fairly popular these days because it is presented as a free-spirited version of Christianity. “Generally, non-denominational churches believe that the Bible is the sole authority that dictates every aspect of the church, with scripture shaping their beliefs and philosophies.” (source:

Now, before taking a closer look, let’s remember the course we have travelled to get to this point. We went through a period of preparation called Lent. We celebrated the Resurrection, and then continued with the formation of the first Christian communities. Currently we are in that period between Ascension (40 days after Easter) and the Pentecost (50 days after Easter).

There is a reason the Church asks you to take this journey. When Jesus was crucified, there was no Bible. When he resurrected, there was no Bible. When he ascended, there was no Bible. In fact, there was no formal Bible for a few hundred years! However, at all those same events – crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and on into the formation of the communities –there was the Church!

Those who claim to be non-denominational say that they accept the Bible as the sole authority in matters of their faith. By their own admission, they have excluded themselves from major events of Christian history and development. History shows that everything we know about Jesus Christ has arrived to us because of His Holy Church.

God’s greatest gift to humanity was not the Bible. Much more important than the Bible is Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God the Father. Jesus’ gift to humanity was not the Bible, rather it was his holy and precious Body, namely the Church. And it was the Church that compiled the books together to give us what we refer to as the Bible.

The Armenian word for the Bible is Asdvadzashunch, which literally means the Breath of God. The Armenian Church refers to it as the “breath” because it guides us as spirit, not as a book of laws and regulations, along the path of Truth, Hope and Love.

The appeal of non-denominationalism is understandable in our world today, where everyone is given a platform to interpret. Often those interpretations create a derivative of Christ’s holy and sacred message. In other words, within the non-denominational category, you can have several hundred or thousand derivatives of the faith, which means, there is no such thing as non-denominational. Everyone’s reading creates a new denomination.  This is why when we speak of the Armenian Apostolic Church, we are grounding ourselves in a Tradition that dates back to the time of Jesus Christ himself, that is, before there was a Bible.

At this feast of Pentecost – the Coming of the Holy Spirit and therefore the birthday of the Church – it is important to understand that the Armenian Church is not a Bible-centered community of believers; we are Christ centered.  We make this proclamation unapologetically. Non-denominationalism is very nice looking, and appealing, but when you look up closely you notice the chips and the holes. Jesus set up his Church and it is guided by the Holy Spirit. In his unfailing words Jesus says, “The gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church!” (Matthew 16:18)

We conclude with a prayer from the Holy Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church: We thank you, Father almighty, who did prepare for us the holy Church as a haven, a temple of holiness, where the name of the holy Trinity is glorified. Alleluia. We thank you, Spirit of Truth, who renewed the holy Church. Keep her without blemish through the faith in the Trinity forevermore. Amen.

Want something more? Try: Pentecost: Language after Asphyxiation

Cover Photo: Luna & Gregory Beylerian, 2023

Coming of the Spirit

Armodoxy for Today: Pentecost

A young girl in a parking lot
Was preaching to a crowd
Singing sacred songs and reading from the Bible
Well, I told her I was lost
And she told me all about the Pentecost
And I seen that girl as the road to my survival…
~Paul Simon (Duncan)

The Pentecost is a turning point event in the life of the post-Resurrection Christian Community. While the word Pentecost alludes to the 50th day after Easter, let us refer to it by its Armenian names Hokegalust as it is more descriptive and, therefore, more meaningful for the Christian. Translated, Hokegalust means the coming of the Spirit. Jesus promised the Great Comforter. On this day, the promise is fulfilled. We read the story in the Book of Acts, chapter 2.

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they [the Disciples] were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? …we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”

The first and most important take-away from this story is that the Uncreated Essence, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the One that was floating above the Earth before time, the Holy Spirit, had landed upon this group of individuals – each from a different background – and was transforming them into a Community, which would eventually change the world. This is a sacred mission of the Church. It transforms the world because it has an understanding of peace, harmony among people, and the golden key that turns the locks to every door, namely, love. And it learned this from Love Incarnate, namely, Jesus Christ.

The Disciples were ordered to go to the world and spread the message of faith, hope and love. Thus, the Disciples turned into Apostles, meaning one who is sent. In Armenian, the word Arakyal (apostle = one who is sent) comes from the verb Arakel (to send).

The revolution starts now. Jesus came and he touched the Disciples and the people with his message, but it was on this day that his message was given the feet with which to walk and change the world.

From the 5th hour of St. Nersess Shnorhali’s prayer, we pray, Spirit of God, true God Who descended on the river Jordan and the Upper Room. Cleanse me once more with your divine fire, as the tongues of flame cleansed the Holy Apostles. Have mercy upon your creation, and on me, a sinner. Amen.

Ascension: The Jesus POV

Armodoxy for Today: Ascension from the Other Side

FORTY days after Easter, today, is the celebration of Ascension. Jesus gives the Great Commission to the disciples, telling them to baptize and keep the commandments he had taught them. Before Ascending to Heaven Jesus reminds us, “I am with you to the close of the ages,” (Matt. 28:20). He is with us forever!

We are comforted by these words, because we have come to know him – we have  broken bread with him, laughed with him, cried with him, he has cared for us, healed us, tended to our problems. He has supported us in our vulnerability and our loneliness. We certainly receive much assurance and comfort from a pronouncement that he will always be with us. This is a nice reading from the point of view of the Disciples.

But what about the point of view of Jesus Christ? Have you considered that it was difficult for Jesus to leave us, and what assurance did he have from us?  He was about to leave the children he had cared for. Would they stick to the game plan? Would they take on life the way he thought they would? Would they be safe? Would they stay faithful to all they had learned?

Perhaps the closest parallel might be with parents whose children leave home to start their life? You have cared for them, cleaned their wounds, helped them through the difficulties of childhood and adolescence and offered unconditional love. You’ve been a friend in their loneliness and let them lean on you during their most challenging moments. But there comes a time when they have to break off. It is the order of life. Every beginning has an end. Unless a mother bird backs off and allows her young to fall out of the nest, their wings will never spread to fly. And yes, there is chance that the young bird will fall onto the ground, but it will never test its capability of flight until it tries to catch the wind.

A parent who gives their child in marriage may worry; will my child make it? Or, a parent may believe that their upbringing, the foundation they laid, will give the child the ground from where the family tree will grow and blossom. I suspect, this is the feeling Jesus had when he left his children on that Ascension Day, knowing that they were going to meet all kinds of challenges in life, but confident that his prayers, his love and his connection to God gave his children the necessary tools to take on life.

“Lo, I am with you to the end of the ages.” Of course. We have no doubt. And neither did he.

Today, I share a prayer by Yeretsgin Susan on the occasion of our son’s wedding:

Lord, we thank You for Your heavenly benediction in joining our son, and now daughter, in the sacrament of marriage.

Bless and enrich their marriage in love, companionship, mutual support, oneness of heart and progress in faith and life.

Protect their holy wedlock from sin, evil and danger. Foster between them the spirit of understanding, the spirit of forgiveness, and the spirit of peace, that no resentment, quarrel or other problems may cause them to stumble and fall.

Remind them of the lessons they have learned from their loved ones, especially those who have returned to their Maker. Grant them to see their own faults and to not judge each other. Keep their bond of love always new.  May they feel Your presence in their lives through the joy of marriage, that with one heart they may praise and glorify You forever.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

Cover: Water color, The Ascension from the Jesus  POV

Negate the Negative

Armodoxy for Today: Negate the Negative

Immediately after the Resurrection of Christ, Scripture tells us that Jesus appeared to the disciples “Over a period of forty days and spoke about the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 1)

The Kingdom of God is often thought of as something or some place that is accessible only after we pass from this life. Jesus refers to the Kingdom as something accessible in the here and now. “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” was a message John the Baptist heralded even before Christ’s baptism. It was enacted by Christ and the active Church today.

Access to the Kingdom is available for everyone. The condition is to live a life of love demonstrated by action. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus speaks of the Kingdom predicated on our actions of readiness and good deeds. Standards of goodness have no limits for Jesus, as is demonstrated in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). Even more, non-action is grounds for expulsion from the Kingdom.

We read: Then the King will say to those on His left…, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed… for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’  Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ … He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

The world we live in is real. The problems that plague it are under our control. We are the agents of Christ. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, happens with our involvement. You can’t close yourself off from the suffering in the world.

We pray, St. Nersess Shnorhali’s 9th hour of prayer, All-provident Lord, place a guard before my eyes, so that I may not look lustfully, before my ears, not to delight in hearing evil discourses, before my mouth, not to speak falsehood,  before my heart, not to think of wickedness, before my hands, not to commit injustice, before my feet, not to walk on the paths of righteousness;  rather, guide my motives, that they may be according to all your commandments. Amen.

Cover: Once you see it, it’s impossible to not see it. (Quite literally too!)

Opportunity Lost

Armodoxy for Today: Opportunity Lost

Every Sunday, during the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church, the celebrant priest, descends from the altar area and processes around the inner circumference of the church.  As he walks by the congregants, he holds a cross in one hand and censes fragrant incense with the other.

There are a variety of reactions to his presence in the congregation. Some lower their head to ask for a blessing, while others kiss the cross in the priest’s hand out of reverence. Others smile and acknowledge his presence. Still, others watch as he goes by, not interested in engaging in any manner. And of course, for those who are not there at that moment, the opportunity to interact is lost because the priest processes through the church and ascends back to the altar area to continue the Liturgy.

This part of the Divine Liturgy, symbolizes Christ’s descent from the comfort of heaven to live, walk and be among us, after which he ascended back to heaven. During Jesus’ life, there were people who sought him for miracles and healings, while others engaged with him for a blessing and merely to touch his garment. And, of course, for many, the opportunity to be made whole was there and they let him pass by.

In life, there are moments that are singular and they demand our interplay at that moment, otherwise, they go by. Sometimes, events demand that we interact.

Today a genocide takes place. Ethnic cleansing is the plot. To stay quiet and/or to ignore the horror, is an opportunity lost.

We pray, Heavenly Father, I see pain and suffering in this world. I have walked that path in the past. I said, Never Again. Today, grant me the courage to speak out against evil everywhere, so that I may have the moral authority to voice myself whenever evil confronts me. Amen.

Want More? Try this week’s Next Step “War Protest: Opportunity Eclipsed” 

Cover Photo: Lunabelle Beylerian, 2023

Deck Chairs

Armodoxy for Today: The Deck Chairs

On Sunday, the Eastern Orthodox Church, e.g. the Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Georgian churches, celebrated Easter. These are the churches that adhere to the canons of what is traditionally referred to as the seven ecumenical councils. The Armenian Church has celebrated Easter with the Western world since 1923.

The date of Easter is calculated as being on the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox. March 21 is the date of the equinox, giving you an idea of the range in which Easter can fall. The calculation formula for the Eastern Orthodox Easter date includes the Jewish Passover feast date. The Armenian Church chose to see the Resurrection – the Easter feast – as something separate from the Old covenant and opted for the Western date.

Every four or five years, the dates coincide, and the world celebrates Easter on the same date. On the other years, Easter is either one, three or five weeks apart.

There are those who contend that there should be a unity in celebrating Easter in the Christian world. There are others who argue the validity of one date over the other.

Armodoxy looks at the message of Easter – the power to Resurrection over Crucifixion – as the defining force of Easter. For Christians, every day must be celebrated as Easter as a Resurrection. Christos Anesti, Christos haryav, Christ has risen, is the greeting that is valid every day of our life as a Christian.

There is an expression that is worth remembering: “Arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” When the Titanic was sinking, it was futile to arrange the deck chairs. With wars, genocide, intolerance, hatred hitting us from all sides, it’s important to keep the message of the day in focus and prioritized.

We pray, Lord, you conquered death through Your Resurrection. Evil lost its hold and was destroyed in the presence of Good. Keep your Resurrection ever before my eyes as the power that overcomes hopelessness and is the generation of Life. Keep me focused on the Empty Tomb that is found every day that I choose to live, hope, and love. Amen.

Cover Photo: Envato Elements

Want More? Try this week’s Next Step “War Protest: Opportunity Eclipsed” 

Empathy Excercise

Armodoxy for Today: Empathy

On the last evening of a visit to Armenia, I sat staring out the window of my room at sunset. The room was high enough to give me a panoramic view of Yerevan, under the majestic shadow of Mt. Ararat. During my trip, I had met with people doing work on the cutting edge of technology. I spent time with people who were challenging the norms and excelling for the betterment of themselves, their families and their country. There was real hope in the air.

I remember looking out the window and praying for peace. It was simple wish: If this small but potent country could only have peace, miracles could happen. The miracles we would see would not be from any outside source, rather, they would come from within, if only there was peace. It was possible, it had been nearly 30 years that this country, which had known centuries of oppression, massacres and even genocide, was now living in peace. I looked out at the Yerevan skyscape and knew we would see the best of miracles, if only there was peace.

A friend called me from Armenia this morning. At the end of our conversation he said, “If only we have peace, we can do anything, we can aspire to the best and be the best. If only we have peace.” It was as if my prayer from a few years ago was recorded and being played back to me in the voice of my friend. His prayer was more current, though, and had a more urgent tone to it.

It is difficult to understand the pain and suffering of others from a distance. One of the core tenants of Armodoxy is a call to walk in the shoes of others. It is the expression of empathy, that is, to fully understand the pain and suffering of others, we must walk in their shoes. And small exercises can help us place our feet in the correct place.

Those of us living in the United States might not fully understand the prayer for peace in Armenia, but we might begin by imagining a world where we were constantly being attacked by our neighbors in Mexico and Canada, to the point that we live with the uncertainty of maintaining our independence, day-in and day-out. Perhaps the example is not fair considering the size, power and geography of the US. Those of you in Europe, in Africa, or in the Middle East, where countries are so much closer and intertwined with one another, can consider a country such as Switzerland, if its landlocking neighbors, France, Italy, Austria and Germany had only one intention, to annihilate and destroy that relatively small country.

And if still difficult to imagine, sit in your own home, in your house or apartment and picture all of your neighbors – every one of them, next door and across the street – wanting only one thing: to overpower, overcome and rid you from the neighborhood.

Walking in the shoes of others is a call to empathy. It is understanding that the only real and true miracle that we must pray and work for is peace. Walking in the shoes of others gives us the capacity to understand and once in the shoes, we must walk towards resolution.

Appropriately, today we pray 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.

Cover Photo: Lunabelle Beylerian, 2023

From Fear to Faith: The Church’s Cornerstone

Stories from the Body then and now…

According to Holy Scripture, the first witnesses to the Empty Tomb of Christ, “Fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16) Fear, was the first expression of the post-Resurrection Church, and it was that fear that turned into Faith, the Faith of the Christian Church.

Having just celebrated Easter – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – we find ourselves in the period time (from Easter to Pentecost) dedicated to the birth and growth of the Church. The Church is not an accessory or an after-thought to Christianity. Contrary to the popular understanding of Christianity, it was the Church – the Body of Christ – which transferred the stories of Jesus to us. That is, everything we know about Jesus Christ we have received via the Church. You may hear popular formula of reading the Bible and therefore understanding Jesus, but in fact, Jesus gave us the gift of His Body the Church. Yes, “God so loved the world that He gave his Only Begotten Son” (John 3:16), and in turn, Jesus so loved us that he gave, established his Church so that we should not orphaned. (John 14-17)

According to Jesus, the Church is established and built on the proclamation of Christ’s divinity. In the 16th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

That “rock” is the proclamation made by Peter, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. Upon this proclamation the Church is built. And as we see, in the Apostolic era, that is, days after the Resurrection, there was no Bible, but there definitely was a Church. It was “raw” Church built on the gospel message that Jesus has risen. The Armenian Apostolic Church is a continuation of that original Church. The fear the Disciples experienced at the Empty Tomb was transformed into Faith through Christ. It is the same transformation of fear to Faith that the Armenian Church has witnessed as its people survived and flourished against all the odds.

As we look at the early post-Resurrection Church, we are reminded of the necessity of the Church for a complete celebration of the Christian faith, and that the cornerstone of that Church is the proclamation that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God.

We pray, O Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, as we celebrate your glorious Resurrection at this Easter time, may we be worthy to be members of your Holy Church, your sacred body, to be your hands, legs and mouth here on Earth. Dispel the fears and gloom that consumes our lives by helping us find the Faith that others have found throughout the centuries, so that we may better serve humanity and in so doing, serve you and your Holy Body. Amen.


Cover Photo: Lunabelle Beylerian, 2023


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.