Stone Angels

Roots of Armodoxy: Stone Angels

Messages come in different forms and in different formats. The text gets wrapped in SMS code, a letter in an envelope, lessons by books or lectures, and words from God are communicated by angels.

A quick scan of Armenian reveals messages in stone, known as khatchkars. The word literally means “cross-stones.” Some of these khatchkars represent the work of a lifetime. Monk of the past, would dedicate their life to preparing and presenting a khatchkar in intricate detail.  They are beautifully and delicately carved out of stone. The hard rock is unforgiving, leaving no room for mistake.

At the St. Leon Ghevondyants Armenian Cathedral in Burbank, khatchkars decorate the walkways and outer walls. I have watched the master carver work on these khatchkars and have wondered if they carve the image into the stone? Or is it possible that the stone already contains this spiritual gem inside, and the craft of the artist is to unveil it?

The khatchkars in Armenia are found surrounding monasteries and churches. Most are several hundred years old and some are from the early centuries of the Christian Church in Armenia. Most of the older ones tell a story and there is an art to reading the stones. From the top of the khatchkars we might see a glimpse of heaven in the decoration, followed by a large cross, connecting the bottom quarter of the stone with images earth. Hence, the stone reads as a message of human existence. The cross – the centerpiece of the khatchkar – is the bridge between heaven and earth.

Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily.” – Luke 9:23

The cross is the bridge between heaven and earth. It is the symbol of suffering and ultimate love. The centerpiece of the khatchkar is the eternal symbol of love, the cross and it unites heaven and earth.

The inanimate stone has spoken. To the early Christian community, these khatchkars were like books with encoded messages which were easily deciphered by the people. In as much as the khatchkars provided this means of message transfer, they are the stone angels of Armodoxy. The question, then, is, do and can stone fly? Angels are messengers. Angels have no physical form. They are spiritual beings, communicating love, hope and faith, from God to people. These stone-angels transmit the divine message to the world. And so, yes, these stone can and do fly!

Often, like the khatchkar, the messages are all around us, waiting to be discovered. Take time to listen, to read the writing, and see the glory of goodness that is communicating something very beautiful and unique to a hurting world. It is a call to sacrifice and to love.

From St. Nersess Shnorhali’s 14th hour we pray, Upholder of all creatures, protect by the sign of your cross, my soul and body, from the allure of sin, from the temptation of evil, from unjust people, and from all dangers physical and spiritual. Amen.

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