Armodoxy for Today: Contact

The 1997 movie, “Contact” may have been pointing to the heavens and composed around a science fiction story line, but it in the end it was more about faith, belief and spiritual sensitivity than might be imagined from all the hype surrounding the movie. “Contact” is based on a book written by astronomer and science communicator Carl Segan, and accordingly fills the screen with images of extraterrestrial hopes and dreams, events and life. Playing simultaneous with the theme of scientific exploration is a parallel search for adequate articulation of the supernatural phenomenon. If and when contact is made with an extraterrestrial life form, how will the novelty of something so spectacular be transmitted and expressed to humanity? That question needs to be asked in our experience with the Divine – how will we express ourselves? How do we express ourselves? What are the forms of expression available to us?

The term “sensory overload” is often ascribed to the generations who have evolved from the 20th to the 21st centuries. Today we have opportunities to engage in a wide range and variety of entertainment. Even news and information arrive to us in packages that are entertaining, all of which make the fantastic and spectacular into the mundane and ordinary. Our senses have become dull to the wonders of the universe and therefore to the beauty of God living within us.

When we see a monastery or a church, such as Holy Etchmiadzin, the oldest Christian Cathedral, or an architectural marvel such as Sanahin or Datevavank, we don’t give ourselves the time or resources to take in those wonders to a level where we are left in awe. We approach them as yet one more attraction that we have visited, touched with our glance and hands, and now we’re ready to walk on to the next marvelous edifice. To understand this desensitization, you can easily run this experiment right now: Think of the last day. Did you pass by a flower or tree, a child or a group of children, your spouse or partner, your parents, the ocean, the heavens with stars and moon, and did you not stop? Did you pass by without a thought of how marvelous each of these creations are? A flower that makes your life beautiful, a child whose smile warms your heart, a loved one’s embrace that gives you hope? If nothing else, take a deep breath and understand the miracle of that breath, as the millions of nerves that send signals around your body, and the oxygen which mixes with your blood to give you life, AND… we do this unconsciously, without thought, thousands of times a day.

Life is the greatest gift given to us by God. Jesus Christ came to point to that gift and its importance, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). The practice of living in the moment, experiencing and appreciating the simplest of life’s beauty and wonders is the starting point of religion. The prayers, hymns and wonders of the Armenian Church are here to be experienced. These lessons in Armodoxy are about our experiential encounters – our contacts – with the Divine realm, with the God of the universe. The challenge is to be ready to fully engage with those encounters.

Today we pray a prayer based on the 9th hour of St. Nersess Shnorhali’s “I confess with faith,” with an twist to the contact with God, All provident Lord, place your radiance before my eyes so that they may see the beauty of your world, before my ears so that I may delight in the hearing of your commands, before my mouth so that I may speak out for truth, before my heart so that it may think of Your goodness, before my hands so that I may work for justice, and before my feet so that they may be directed in the paths of righteousness, always in accord with your commandment to Love. Amen.

Cover photo: Envato

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