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.