Armodoxy for Today: Spirit & Flesh
Angels are flying and hovering all around us on Valentine’s day, and mostly of the chubby little cherub variety. With arrow drawn, Cupid takes aim at the heart twixt lovers. As for the other variety of angels, they’re called seraphim, they’re flying with their six wings in service to God.
We have developed quite an imagery of angels. Interestingly enough, angels are spiritual beings, that is, they do not have physical attributes. Go ahead, look it up. Angels are spiritual beings. They are the messengers of God. We ascribe physical traits to them for convenience so that we can form an idea of what a spiritual being may look like.
It is the human being, who above angels, has been gifted with both spirit and body. Often, it is the struggle between spirit and flesh that is highlighted in many religious stories, especially in the Bible. Today we will look at the power found in bringing spirit and flesh together.
Over these two days preceding Great Lent, the Armenian Church commemorates two saints, who were contemporaries, brothers in Christ, and responsible for the continuity of the Armenian Church and therefore the nation. One is St. Leon the Priest (Ghevont Yerets), and the other is St. Vartan Zoravar (the Warrior).
In the 5th Century, the Battle of Avarayr was fought between the Christian Army, under commander Vartan Mamikonian and the Perian army. This was the first time anywhere that a battle was fought for the defense of Christianity. It led to the signing of a treaty in 484 which affirmed Armenia’s right to practice Christianity. This is the single most important and significant event in Armenian history and for this reason, St. Vartan is recognized by the Church but also by the people, as a national hero.
His friend and priest, St. Leon, is often forgotten, though his impact on the Battle and thus the victory, is recognized by all historians, as essential. The Church recognizes the two over the course of this week, and emphasizes the importance of spiritual practices combined with physical prowess to overcome the worst of difficulties. More specifically, for us, we pray to God, but in the end, it is on our physical strength that we count on to stand or walk, to reach out or voice ourselves. In our daily struggles, the example of St. Leon and St. Vartan teach us how to balance the spirit and the flesh to achieve our goals. This then, becomes a prelude to the Lenten Season.
Tomorrow we will look closer at St. Vartan.
One of the more recent manifestations of the Divine presence in our lives was in 1968 when the Cathedral (the headquarters of the Diocese) in New York was consecrated in the name of St. Vartan. Forty-two years later, when the Cathedral in Los Angeles was to be consecrated a philanthropist came forward and asked that it be consecrated using his father’s name, which happened to be Leon, and so it was in 2010. Some may call this coincidence. Others, like me, want to believe it is God’s special messenger letting us know, the Armenian Church in America, is protected from coast to coast by St. Leon and St. Vartan, as they have for centuries.
Let us pray, “Lord, our God, through the intercession, memory and prayers St. Leon and St. Vartan, who lived and died for Jesus and the Fatherland and whom we commemorate today, grant us the gift of peace and of your great mercy. Amen.”