Hripsimé, the spark

Armodoxy for Today: The Road to the Center of Light – a five-part mini series of daily messages dedicated to this special week in the life of the Armenian Church. Five days, five inspirations, five sparks that connect to shine the Christ Light.

Day 1, Hripsimé. “The longest journey begins with a single step,” said Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu and I would imagine every culture has some parallel statement that expresses the  sentiment that the biggest and most complicated tasks begin with an initial spark. Hripsime is the spark that ignited the Christian revolution in Armenia in the early 4th century.

Hripsimé was a young girl, we are told, of remarkable beauty. In the late 3rd century, she entered a Roman convent, dedicating her life to Jesus Christ. Her beauty caught the eye of the Roman emperor Diocletian and he was determined to marry her. Hripsime and the other sister fled Rome to escape his hounding, and after some time ended up settling in the town of Vagharshapat, Armenia.

Emperor Diocletian sends word to the Armenian King Tirtad to have her captured and returned to Rome. What happens next seems almost too predictable, Tirtad is taken by Hripsimés beauty and wants her for himself. He offered her his kingdom if she would be his queen, but she refused to marry him, a pagan, and give up her Lord Jesus Christ.

Hripsimé refusal, and her faithfulness to Jesus Christ was the first step on the road to the Christianization of Armenia. Her short answer “No,” was a tiny little step that had huge repercussions. But at the time she refused the king, the only thing that was certain for her was, at the least, persecution, at the most, death.

Rev. Martin Luther King once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Hripsimé took that first step uncertain of where it would lead. Most definitely she did not know, nor did it cross her mind, that this “No” to the king would be the spark to the conversion of Armenia to Christianity. The only certainty she had was that her action, or non-action, was in line with her core beliefs as a Christian.

Hripsimé is a saint whose story inspires us to do that which is right. Hripsimé knew well the parable of the “10 Maidens” (Matthew 25) and as a Christian she had heard the words of Jesus, who said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36) “Queen Hripsimé” was guaranteed a beautiful and pleasant life, “Sister Hripsimé” was marked to death. But her strength came from Jesus Christ, in his words, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Hripsimé followed her heart. It was the place of her treasure. She teaches us to walk in faith and do that which is right. The wealth and beauty of this world … that’s tomorrow: Gayane.

Today is the feast of St. Hripsimé. Let us pray, Christ our God, you crown your saints with triumph and do the will of all who love you, looking after your creatures with love and kindness. Hear us from your holy and heavenly realm by the intercession of the Holy Mother of God and by the prayers of all your saints, especially the holy martyr St. Hripsimé. Hear us Lord, and show us your mercy. Forgive, redeem and pardon our sins. Make us worthy thankfully to glorify you with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. Now and always and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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