Armodoxy for Today: Knowledge
When Fr. Gregor found out his son had Down Syndrome he searched for information. It caught him off guard, as it did and does for thousands of parents who come face to face with this reality. Fortunately, in America and in several other countries, there are support groups for parents and families of Down Syndrome children, and ultimately, for the child him or herself. But in Armenia, Fr. Gregor and his wife found themselves alone. Not only was there no support, no one was talking about Down Syndrome.
In my own personal experience, a few years back I was called by one of our parish families to officiate at their child’s funeral. I was shocked! I knew this family well. I had been to their home on a few occasions. I had shared many conversations with the father of the family whom I considered a close friend, and yet, when they called to let me know their daughter of 40 years had passed, I had no idea – zero! – that they had a daughter. She had Down Syndrome and they never spoke of her, nor brought around to the church or community events. I came to find out that in Armenia – as well as many other countries – there is stigma and shame that accompanies having a child with Down Syndrome. And so, parents hid their Down Syndrome child. At least, in this particular case, I know first-hand that that’s what they had done.
Fr. Gregor wouldn’t stand for it. This was his son and he was proud of him! He educated himself about Down Syndrome, about the extra copy of the chromosome that causes this, and about the care of children. But that wasn’t enough for Fr. Gregor, because he knew other parents must be struggling with the same situation and so he rounded up the children with Down Syndrome and their parents. He named them “Arev” Children which means “Sun” Children and he allowed them to shine.
The Catholicos of All Armenians allocated space through the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin for these children. In the middle of Yerevan you’ll find the Arev Children’s center where scores of children receive counseling and education. There are some 200 children who avail themselves of this center. We visited them at the center. They recited poetry, danced, played music for us and most importantly gave us the gift of God – in the form of hugs and smiles.
Fr. Gregor searched for information and educated himself about these children – which have become his children – and in so doing, he broke the bonds that kept these children shackled, the ignorance of old-thinking, freeing them and their families to enjoy the fullness of life. He shared that knowledge with others. He moved from the darkness of ignorance into the light of knowledge.
Jesus came into this world to bring the knowledge of God to us all. Up until Christ, people lived in darkness because they were scared to live. They thought God’s Kingdom belong only to a select group of people. Jesus broke the bonds that kept people shackled to the old-thinking, and freed them to “live life, and live it abundantly.” (John 10:10). He brought the knowledge of God to everyone, without exception, by revealing his Divinity, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) Knowledge of God is gained by knowing Jesus Christ.
The Arev Children are born in the Light and they share light. Tomorrow, when we continue, they’ll share that light with us.
Let us pray, Lord Jesus, you are the Light of the World. In that light we have a chance to know you. You have taught us that if we live in the Light the Dark will never overcome us. Shine your Light upon us so we can know you and the wonders that surround us. Amen.