Tag Archive for: Advent

Last Days: Lent Day 35

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 35: Roasted Eggplant with Cashews

 Lenten Journey Day 35- Last Days

Today’s Lenten meditation is a riddle of sorts. It begins with the very basic question; how can we be prepared for the return of Jesus Christ? As it unfolds, we find a very unique message with the instructions we need, with the exact steps we need to go through in preparation for a cataclysmic event. Spoiler alert: These instructions, however, have more to do with today than with tomorrow. This last Sunday of the Lent is called referred to as the Sunday of Advent in the Armenian Church. 

In the Creed of Nicaea, which we recite every Sunday during the Divine Liturgy, we confess the Second Coming. We say, Jesus is to return to judge the living and the dead. In scripture there are references to the “signs of the times.” Specifically, earthquakes, famines and wars are named as the events that will precede the coming of the end. Unfortunately, curiosity often gets the better of us, and rather than preparing for those last days we consume ourselves with questions of where, when, and how these last days will come about.

Our Lord Jesus tells us that no one knows the answer to those questions, not the angels in heaven, not even the son, but only the Father. But curiosity is powerful. The book of Revelation is often consulted to quench the thirst of curiosity. Revelation is a book of prophecy, and few can understand prophecy, many times the message is distorted by conjecture. The Church does not even prescribe reading this book (it is not in the lectionary of weekly readings) nevertheless, people read it and read into it. They point to hurricanes, famines and wars as signs of the times and then speculate that the end times are here. Jesus warned us against such misinterpretation of prophecies. In fact, a quick read of history shows that every time period has had hurricanes, famines and wars,

When then should we do? How do we prepare for the second coming? What is the Church’s prescription for preparedness?

The Gospel reading for this day has the answer. Instead of turning to a book of prophecy, the Church turns to something much greater, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel reading for this day comes from the 22nd chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew. The narrative begins with the Pharisees approaching Jesus to trick him with a question as to which is the “greatest” commandment. Thinking that Jesus may pick one, they will then have an opportunity to show him the error in his ways. Jesus answers, “The greatest commandment is that you love your Lord your God with all your heart, your mind and your soul and the second commandment is that you love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments, Jesus tells us, the rest of the laws and the prophets are all based. In other words, love for God, love for neighbor supersedes all other commandments.

Because this passage is placed as the lectionary reading for this Advent Sunday, it is understood the instruction for preparedness for the second coming of Christ! The riddle has been answered. The best preparation for the second coming is to accept and live the message of the first coming. Love with all your mind, body, soul and heart the Lord your God and your neighbor.

During this Lenten journey you have meditated about many different forces that effect you. You have accepted concepts and ideas that improve you self, that bring your life back down to the bare minimum. Answering the question, what is essential for you to survive? What is really necessary for that happiness that comes not from without, but from within.

Today’s message, today’s instruction is at the heart of it. It brings you even closer to understanding the essence of life. When you love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul, that is, with everything that you have, you cannot help but love your neighbor, you cannot help but love yourself, you cannot help but to reach out to others in need, be they friends, families, be they people you do not know or even people who wish you ill. In other words, you rise for your humanity and take a different look, from God’s vantage point, realizing that everyone around you is truly related to us. They are your brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, your children. In this sense you become united with the Grand Will, with the Great Will of the universe, with God’s Will, who from the beginning of time willed this existence into being because of His Love, His infinite love.

Today you are given this unique perspective. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your soul tells us to be prepared, not for some future date but for today. The Christian is called to always be prepared by always loving. It is God’s way. He always loves.

The best way to prepare for the Second Coming is to practice the teaching of the First Coming!

Today’s prayer comes to us from the gospels of Matthew chapter 25. It is the prayer of the last day. It is offered to us as a parable by our Lord Jesus Christ.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Cover Photo: Luna & Gregory Beylerian, 2023

Advent 47-50: Non-Violent Revolutionary

Advent Day 47 of 50: Non-Violent Revolutionary

On the Feast of Theophany, January 6, we celebrate the Revelation of God. The Armenian word for it is a compound word of Asdvadz (God) + haydnutiun (revelation) = Asdvadzahaydnutiun. The English word is a direct translation of the Armenian. Theo (God) + Epiphany (revelation) = Theophany. The Feast was and still is celebrated on January 6 by the Armenian Church. We described the mechanics of the date change earlier in this series, but add this sidenote so as not to confuse the Armenian Celebration of Theophany with what is sometimes referred to as the Orthodox Christmas on January 7. That date is merely December 25th transposed from the Gregorian calendar to the older Julian calendar, which has a difference of 13 days. Hence, on the Julian calendar the Baptism of Christ is celebrated on January 19.  The Armenians Church is the only Church that celebrates Theophany and remembers the events in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the Nativity to His Baptism, on January 6.

We began the 50 day cycle of Advent with a promise that when we arrived at the Theophany, saying Merry Christmas would be an inadequate expression considering the awesome event that takes place on that day. The God of the Universe, that which put everything in motion, takes on human form and teaches us to love and embrace one another as an expression of our Faith.

We read the entire Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5 through 7) and the essential teachings of Jesus were disclosed to us. It is a novel message which insists on taking personal responsibility, articulating our Faith as a course of action, to strive for the perfect by exercising Love.

Very simply, Jesus Christ led a revolution, and he did so in a non-violent manner. The Armenian Church’s celebration of Theophany is in recognition of that revolution. It is not connected to all the trappings that come with Christmas celebrations in the West, and yes, even in the East. Theophany is the great mystery, the un-understandable – that which Created life has humbled Himself and taken human form to reveal the wonder of Eternity.

We end with a prayer that comes to us by way of an Armenian hymn on the Feast of Theophany A great and sublime mystery is revealed on this day: the shepherds sing with the angels and give good tidings to the world. A new King is born in the city of Bethlehem, sons of men, praise Him because He became flesh for us.

Cover photo: Luna & Gregory Beylerian, 2023

Advent 11-50: Sincerity and Fidelity

Advent Day 11 of 50: Sincerity and Fidelity

The second of the “But I say to you” instructions addresses adultery. As in the case of murder, once again, Jesus moves the sin from action to thought. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Jesus’ wish for sincerity is even more accented this time around with this commandment. It is the thought that gives way to action. We see this played out in our lives as well as on the world stage all the time, whether the prejudicial ideas that lead to racism or the unbridled hatred that leads to war, Jesus calls to nip the diseased flower at the bud. However, in context, Jesus was reacting to the hypocrisy that was displayed by the religious elite. Very plainly, he was calling out those who said one thing but lived by another standard. Now, in our hearing, we join the group of “those” and understand he speaks to us all.

After he spoke the Sermon on the Mount, we read the following incident takes place:

… Jesus saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’… ” (Matthew 9:9-12)

Jesus demands mercy as a condition of love. He reminds us that God is a God of mercy and compassion: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6) Sacrifice is an action, a show-thing, mercy comes from our innermost self. And now the turn is ours, to push ourselves to a higher consciousness where our thoughts are controlled to thereby thwart evil actions.

As we move further on the Advent journey, your journal becomes a referencing tool for the teachings of Jesus. Without this first step of mercy, compassion is not sincere. Without sincerity of heart, love and loving is merely an act and lacks fidelity.

Today’s prayer comes from our Eastern Orthodox tradition. As I read it, contemplate the number of times the phrase “Have mercy” is said. Consider it as the fundamental and most basic prayer that we, as humans, may offer.

Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us; for laying aside all excuse, we sinners offer to Thee, as to our Master, this supplication: Have mercy on us. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. O Lord, have mercy on us, for in Thee have we put our trust.

Cover: Luna & Gregory Beylerian 2023

Advent 6/7:The Fool’s Ego

Advent Days 6 & 7 of 50: The Fool

The Parable of the Rich Fool is the scriptural passage of this day of Advent. In our quest to learn the Essential Teachings of Christ as expressed in the Sermon on the Mount, the Armenian Church asks us to meditate on this parable. In it, Jesus’ refers to a man as a fool, in contrast to what he teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount, against calling anyone a fool. (Matthew 5:22)

A man, Jesus tells us, marvels in the abundance of his harvest and builds bigger storage units, saying to himself, “I will take it easy; eat, drink, and be merry.” But that night, Jesus continues, the man’s soul was demanded of him.

As we read the parable in Luke 12 the message unfolds clearly, that the life we live is temporary as are the goodness and wealth we enjoy in this life. For whom or for what purpose did he amass this wealth? He didn’t consider anything but himself and his wealth. That’s why he was a fool. The lesson against materialism is clear. The lesson we may miss, however, is the underlying root of our greed and skewed priorities, which betray us to foolishness.

Jesus provides an insight into the psyche of the fool by mouthing the fool’s argument. As I read it, listen carefully how the man’s ego is undermining his ethics. One third of his speech is consumed with self-recognition and self-glorification. Jesus tells us that the man, after contemplating his wealth, said to himself, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’”

Ego is the biggest obstacle to our happiness. We live thanks to the Grace of God. We are a collection of the prayers of our grandparents, the care of our parents, the companionship of friends, the movements of our teachers, the love and care of people who we have touched with our love. A journal activity for this week is to record all that you are, because of whom? The lesson of the Rich Fool, on this first week of Advent, provides the necessary key to understanding and accepting the Essential Teachings of Christ.

Pray then, All benevolent and almighty refuge and hope of the weak and the troubled, my Lord and my God, who created everything from nothingness protecting your creation. Draw closer to me with Your unspeakable mercy and have mercy upon me, a sinner. Amen.

Cover: Luna & Gregory Beylerian, 2023


Advent 50: Christ in Christmas

Advent 50: The Christ in Christmas

Have you woken up on December 26th wondering, where did Christmas go? The Christmas carols have stopped playing and the stores are in “Return” mode.

Every year we know that Christmas must be more than the hustle and bustle that drives us to drive the economy. We all know that there is a Christ in Christmas. And if we’re lucky, we have a chance to read a story, watch a movie, or contemplate a carol that takes us away in a manager, where there’s no crib for baby Jesus’ head. But at the end of it all, have we found that Christ in Christmas?

The Advent Season is a time of preparation for Christmas. On Christmas day, we in the Armenian Church proclaim, Christos dzunav yev haytnetsav = “Christ is born and revealed.” Often those words are said mechanically, without a thought about the full impact those words should have on our lives. What does it mean that Christ is born? Or revealed? If the Creator of the Universe, if the One who gave you breath is in our midst, would we give him a courteous node, or would our shock and awe overwhelm us to the point of trembling? For two thousand years people have been questioning the meaning of Christ and answering in ways that have given them spiritual satisfaction or unworldly torment.

The Advent Season in the Armenian Church is 50 days. It culminates on Christmas, January 6. We call this day Theophany which means the Revelation of God. Today I invite you to join me on the journey of advent through the next 50 days. We will be going through the essential teachings of Jesus which He Himself expressed in the Sermon on the Mount. I give you this guarantee, follow the 50-day plan, and Christmas will have new meaning for you this year. You’ll discover the Christ that’s in Christmas. The saying, “Christ is born and revealed” will not be a postcard imprint but something that impacts your life on Christmas and on the 364 days after.

I look forward to having you with us for this journey. For today, accept the challenge of making this Christmas season the one in which you move from Christmas the holiday to Christmas, the Christ within us.

We begin today with a simple prayer, Lord our God, Jesus Christ, you are the center of my life. You have defined time for humanity, as we calculate our dates before Your Revelation and in the Year of our Lord. Yet with all the wonders that we know belong to you, we focus on the worldly glitter and miss the fire with which you light our hearts.  May this Advent Season be one of growth for me and my family. May we be challenged to find you in the true Christmas celebration which adorns our lives. Amen.

Lenten Journey Day 33 – Worrying about Tomorrow

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 33: Grilled Red Pepper and Eggplant Sandwiches


Lenten Journey Day 33 – Worrying about Tomorrow 

We end this fifth week of Lent with a meditation about apprehension, anxiety and worry about the future. Certainly anxiety comes into play when we are confronted with uncertainty. Even more, this coming Sunday is the Sunday of Advent, when we reflect on the second coming, which in its turn produces new anxieties and new worries of tomorrow.

Jesus warns us not to be anxious. He speaks directly against anxiety and against worrying about tomorrow. Anxiety and the fear that causes it are the opposites of faith. If we have faith we have trust. If we have trust then we diminish the power of anxiety and completely submit to God, so that “Thy will be done” will be done in our lives. Of course this is much easier said than done.

Let us look directly at the instruction that is given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. Herein is the greatest lesson that we have regarding faith. It comes to us from the Sermon on the Mount, from the Gospel of St. Matthew, quoting Jesus:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Our Lord Jesus Christ plainly explains that trusting God means to completely submit to His will. It means to allow Him to be God. It means to enjoy the life that He gives us and to fly with the birds, and be clothed like the lilies of the field. Enjoy all that God has given us. It requires us to have complete and total faith in Him, by allowing Him to be Father. Remember, in the old covenant God was known as Lord, but Jesus set up a new relationship, unlike any other, so that we dare to call God, “Father.” Our Father who art in heaven… If we believe He is our Father then as a heavenly Father, He takes care of every single part and aspect of that universe.

Certainly we will always have fears and apprehensions of tomorrow, but we need to diminish them and the only way, the only cure for that is faith. To strengthen our faith, to really look at the examples that He gives us, let us look for all of the examples that are plainly around us. Alongside the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields are the simple smiles of our children, the warm embraces of our loved ones, the monumental signs of the mountains, the crashing waves, the moon and stars, each of them telling us, as Albert Einstein says, “God does not play dice with the universe.” Life has not haphazardly come into being. We are not here by accident. God loves us and takes care of us.

Reduce your anxiety, eliminate your fears and trust in God.

Today we conclude with a prayer from Russian writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn:

How easy it is for me to live with you, Lord! 
How easy it is for me to believe in You! 
When my mind is distraught 
and my reason fails, 
when the cleverest people do not see further 
than this evening and do not know 
what must be done tomorrow – 

You grant me the clear confidence, 
that You exist, and that You will take care 
that not all the ways of goodness are stopped. 
At the height of earthly fame I gaze 
with wonder at that path 
through hopelessness – 
to this point, from which even I have been able to convey 
to men some reflection of the light which comes from You. 

And you will enable me to go on doing 
as much as needs to be done. 
And in so far as I do not manage it – 
that means that You have allotted the task to others. 

Into Place

Next Step #757 – December 8, 2022 – Things falling into place during this Advent Season, on a stream to Peace. Included: Vahagn Setian Grove dedication, the Theodicy and Advent, Cathia Hamparian Children’s Memorial Service, Personal loss as a prelude to ministry, John Lennon 42 years, Armenian Earthquake 34 years, Russian Priest talks about peace: Putin vs. the sermon.
Cover: Armenia Elevator 2019 Fr. Vazk01
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for https://Epostle.net
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Advent Adventures

Next Step #756 – December 1, 2022 – First steps toward the mystery of God’s revelation at Christmas, here is the Advent primer. Einstein mathematics: 50 days hath Easter as does Christmas. Jesus’ warning on the “fool.” New series on Epostle with Dr. Ani exploring monasteries. Armodoxy you won’t find in a museum. Healing at Christmas. Alchemy for Armenia: Jewelry to benefit Etchmiadzin renovation project. In His Shoes: How Jesus sees us. All on this episode.
Cover: Dog with Christmas Tree, EnvatoElements
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for https://Epostle.net
Subscribe and listen on demand on your favorite pod-catcher!
We’re on StitcherPandoraSpotify and Apple Podcasts.

Staying on Track

Armodoxy for Today

Staying on Track

Our Advent Journey continues and our first stop is confronting the parable of the ‘Rich Fool,’ as told by Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12.

“The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.  But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then who’s will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” – Jesus (Luke 12)

Remember, Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas, to understand the holiness of the holy day. Right off, Jesus tells us the preparation is about laying treasures and uses this parable to illustrate the importance of not losing sight of the prize. We are on a journey to Christmas when we proclaim that Christ is born and revealed among us. Along the way, it will be easy to be sidetracked. The rich man of the parable begins as an entrepreneur who uses his wisdom and knowledge to bring him profit. When his work yields a bumper crop, he loses sight of the purpose of his labor and falls into the trap of losing sight of the destination. Further, Jesus gives him the designation of a “fool” because he had labored and not set aside treasures beyond himself.

St. Paul refers to the love of money as the root of all evil. Money itself is merely a tool. It has value when it is used, otherwise it is merely a figure of lines, circles, dots and dollar signs on a ledger somewhere. When money is used, an in particular to the aid and benefit of others – your children, your parents, your loved ones, your community, your church, and yes, to those who you don’t know – it picks up value because now, it can be measured by the terms that are understood by others beside yourself.

It always amazes me when I hear someone boast of himself or of his child, proudly proclaiming that they “know the value of a dollar.” In fact, a drug dealer knows the value of a dollar. So what? The parable is about finding true value for money which translates to the value of life.

We pray the prayer of St. Nersess the Gracefilled, from the 23 hour: All-merciful Lord, have mercy upon all Your faithful, on those who are mine and on those who are strangers; on those whom I know and on those whom I know not; on the living and on the dead; and forgive all my enemies, and those who hate me, the trespasses that they have committed against me; turn them from the malice which they bear towards me, that they may be worthy of Your mercy. Amen.

We continue tomorrow, on the Advent Journey. I look forward to being together to take the next steps.

Advent Cue

Armodoxy for Today – Advent
Advent Cue

Advent, means “coming.” The coming of the Lord was foretold centuries before his birth. His coming was announced by the angel of the Lord, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11). And for the last two thousand years we celebrate his coming as the Nativity, as the Revelation of God and of course, as Christmas.

Christmas is much more than the celebration we know of today. To better appreciate the celebration of Christmas, the Church has set up a period of preparation, which uses the name “Advent.” In other words, in preparing for Christmas, we focus on Christ’s coming to us in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, and into our lives today.

The first Sunday of Advent with its unique Gospel reading sets the pace and cues up the general tone for the days ahead. We find this parable which Jesus spoke in the Gospel of St. Luke (12)

“The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.  But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

This then is the starting point of the Advent journey. If necessary, read the parable again, paying attention to the words of the man. This is the starting point of our Advent Journey. We return tomorrow to continue.