Tag Archive for: Christianity


Armodoxy for Today: Opium

The words of Karl Marx are often quoted by people trying to discredit religion. “Religion is the opium of the masses (or people),” wrote Marx.

The first time I read this statement, I was a student in college, and, honestly, I was not offended. I was somewhat sympathetic to what Marx was saying because so many people lean upon religion to deal with their pain and suffering. But I also saw the power of a turn-to-God in the life of people. The opium is not in religion, as much as the false security that is granted by religion.

We each have different tolerance levels for pain. For some that pain can be alleviated by a couple of aspirin, Tylenol or Motrin, as their preference may be. These are temporary fixes, as the instruction label tells you on the pill bottles that if the pain persists beyond a time limit of (usually) two weeks, then consult with a physician. Of course, greater pain levels require more potent solutions and under the care of a physician, we have laws and rules as a society that allow for those drugs. Again, these are temporary fixes. Opium adds another dimension to pain relief in that it is habit-forming. Drug dependency no longer recognizes the drug for its medicinal value.

I believe this is why I was not upset or offended by Marx’s statement. In context, his entire statement reads, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” There are people who become religion-dependent and the religion is no long recognized for its redeeming value.

Our journey through Armodoxy these few last weeks has taken us through a maze of mystery and supernatural phenomena, to making and understanding that within us, the supernatural can become natural and normal. Religion should not discount personal responsibility. Just the opposite, by demanding personal accountability for actions, it empowers the individual to take control of his/her life. The original gospel, that is the good news, was heralded at the Nativity and Revelation of Jesus Christ: Peace on Earth, Goodwill among all people. Pure and simple. Everything beyond this earthly life is in the domain of the Divine. The goal of religion, and most especially Christianity, is to make this life – the one we have been graced and gifted with – a better place, by teaching us to love, respect and forgive one another. This is why we pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray that God give us the strength, patience and tools in this world. When religion loses its focus and pushes us to be consumed with end times, and qualifications for entering the afterlife, then it has lost its main direction, just as a drug which loses its function and becomes the substance of addiction.

The second time I came across Marx’s statement about religion was when I was a student in the seminary at Holy Etchmiadzin. The country of Armenia was occupied by communists and Marx, Engels, and Lenin were quoted on billboards and posterboards throughout the country. The communists tried to dissuade the Armenians from their religion. To the degree they succeeded, it was not on philosophical grounds, rather it was because of the number of churches they closed, their anti-church propaganda and the destruction of the priesthood.

Today, the words of Marx seem to be echoed beyond communists in various fields and environments. We spoke earlier about the prejudice, the pre-judgement of people toward Christianity. And so it is important to study and learn the early understanding of Christ’s message. This is Armenian Orthodoxy connected to today, or what we call Armodoxy. The more we learn about the ancient traditions as expressed through the Armenian Church, the easier we can debunk myths and understand Christianity not as an opium, but as salvific, a means of surviving and living in the world God has given us.

Let us pray, Psalm 27, The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.

Cover photo: EnvatoElements


Roots of Armodoxy: Editor

Jesus’ words are very harsh and frankly, very scary, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:6)

The Church has assigned this reading to the feast of the Holy Translators, among which are also the translators of the Holy Scriptures. The passage is strategically placed on the church calendar on this day to remind us of sanctity of Scripture and as a caution against those who might take the Scriptures and render a translation or explanation of these holy words.

It has always amazed me how people would never, in a million years, consider having their car brakes repaired by someone who read a book about brakes. Or watched a video explaining brake repair. You’d be a fool to trust your car’s braking system and your safety to someone with minimum to no knowledge of car repair. Or even worse, you can’t imagine someone suffering from heart disease or cancer, trusting their medical care to someone who read an article about staying healthy in AARP magazine. Yet, when it comes to spiritual care, the wellness of your immortal soul… many people are not only fine but will argue for the thoughts of someone who’s knowledge comes from a casual read of the book, even if that book may be the Bible.

The Bible is the product of the Church. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, it was the one, universal, apostolic and holy Church that put together the different books that constitute the Bible. Think of the Church as the editor – the one who goes through the material and decides what stays in and what is left out. Each of the Evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were the original editors of the life of Christ. In fact, St. John final words to his gospel are, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (21:25)

The books of the Bible were written in ancient Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew. So everyone who encounters the Scriptures is forced to read a translated, i.e., an edited version. Furthermore, among the Protestant branch of Christianity, Scripture is the only authority, yet everyone is free to interpret as they wish. This is why there are hundreds of Protestant denominations. (For clarity we should mention that most of those denomination can be categorized under a few headings, such as Adventists, Anabaptists, Anglicans/Episcopalians, Baptists, Calvinist/Reformed, Lutherans, Methodists, Moravians, Plymouth Brethren, Presbyterians, and Quakers.)

To get to the original intent of Scriptures you have to appeal to the oldest of all traditions, namely the one, universal, apostolic Church. Herein lies the strength of the message of Armodoxy, it comes from the most ancient of all Christian traditions, namely the Armenian Apostolic Church, a body that was there at the Time of Christ, in the person of the Apostles. The Apostles and the generations that came after them made up the Church. The Church was there at the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, at the Ascension and received the tools to evangelize at the Pentecost. The Church speaks from Holy Tradition, which includes the Scriptures, but is so much more.

This is why St. John Chrysostom says that children “Should be a diligent hearer of the divine Scriptures.” The Word of God is not the black text on a white page, but it is the expression that comes from Christ’s Sacred Body, the Church. Remember, God gave us something much more sacred and precious than the Bible. He gave us His Only Begotten, and in turn Jesus gave us His Holy Body, the Church, which, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gave us the Bible. So when the Church speaks of and from Holy Scripture, it is talking from a Tradition that includes the Bible, but is not comprised only of it. The Church gives equal access to the Divine realm and doesn’t limit it only the literate.

Today’s prayer is prayed by Jesus himself, to His Father (John 17:20-26)

“I pray for those who will believe in Me through their word;  that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:  I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.  O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

Lenten Journey Day 13 – Foundation

Day 13: Foundation

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 13: Stir -Fried Asparagus 

Lenten Journey Day 13: Foundation

The Saturdays of Lent give us a chance to contemplate faith in action by celebrating the lives of the saints. As we learned last week, Orthodox tradition, and therefore the Armenian Church, looks to the saints as examples of living life with purpose and in the path of Christ. Saints are never worship. Each of them are people just like us. In their humanity, they were able to rise to the occasion, usually through selfless sacrifice, and they express their love in unique ways.
A group of saints are remembered as the Armenian Church remembers the Church Fathers of the Council of Constantinople. Modern day Istanbul was once named after the great Emperor Constantine who had convened the original council of Nicea, known for the formulation of the Creed which formalized and gave a foundation to the Christian Faith. During the early centuries, the exact definition of Christianity was under dispute.  Groups were raising questions about the Nature of Christ and Person of Jesus. The Council of Constantinople was called in the year 381 to address these issues. At this Council the definition of the Holy Spirit as preceding from the Father and being equal to the Father was articulated.
The early Church Councils gave structure to the Church and the Christian Faith. We are mindful that today we are in this Lenten Journey. While the history and the teachings of these Councils fill volumes and speak to generations, today we will look at the Councils by way of reflection. How do they talk to us today? What do they tell us that fills another footstep in our Lenten Journey?  Remembering the Councils reminds us that there needs to be a solid foundation on which to build life and that life itself has structure. Our life is made up of our actions and those actions are triggered and motivated by our faith. The stronger the foundation, the more structure we find in our life.
The Apostle James writes that faith without works is useless. So many times we are challenged to really put our faith into action. At those moments we realize that only by virtue of our actions does our faith have meaning. That is, our faith has value and structure by because of our actions. Conversely, works without faith lead to a nebulous understanding of our purpose within the entire framework of life.
This balancing act between faith and works is usually defined in logical terms. Now, let us understand the same by grasping it with our heart.  St. Neress Shnorhali in the 9th hour of his prayer, “In Confess with Faith” places the center of our thought in the heart and nowhere else. When we think and act according to the principles set forth in our brain, we are acting by reason, based on the wisdom that we have acquired through life. While this is very important in practical life, the Christian needs to excel in the area of dreaming – to dream of the impossible dreams.
When you think and act according to your heart, then and  there you understand that your movements and actions are based on the passions you have inside of you. This is the faith that can move mountains. Think with your heart and not with your brain when it comes to doing the impossible.
On Calvary Jesus did the impossible. He forgave of people who had betrayed and handed Him over to death. He forgave the people who were nailing Him to the tree. He forgave the generations of people that had ignored the pleas for peace, disregarded the expressions of love and were paying back love with hatred. Jesus did the impossible. He forgave with His Heart. Likewise, when we think of all the actions that are demanded of us as Christians, rise to the higher occasion. Push yourself, particularly during this Lenten Season, to look for those opportunities to find the truth that is beyond reason.  Pay back everyone with love. To offer kindness to those who are kind to you, is only human. To pay back evil and hatred with kindness and love is surely divine. In this state, we come to find that our actions are built on a solid and strong foundation.
Our Faith is built on the same Foundation on which the Early Church structured itself. The Foundation is Jesus Christ, that is Love incarnate. When faith is based on love, we  have the ability to open our heart to impossible possibilities. They are all around us.
God is calling you during this Lenten Season to do the impossible and build your actions on Christ. Pay back hatred with kindness and evil with love. If you think about it, whatever your goals may be you can reach those goals – you can make impossible goals possible – when you put love as the center piece of your heart, your life and all of the actions that you take.
Let us now offer a prayer from St. Nerses Shnorhali:(Dedicated to the Holy Spirit)
Spirit of God, true God, who descended into the Jordan and into the upper chamber and who enlightened me by baptism in the Holy font, I have sinned before Heaven and before You. Cleanse me with Your Divine Fire as You purified the Holy Apostle with fiery tongues. Have mercy upon me and a great sinner. Amen.


Armodoxy for Today: Punctuation

One of the ways that knowledge is passed along from teacher to students, from generation to generation is through by the written word. The Bible evolved from an oral tradition to the written word, to the printed collection we carry today. It was written in Greek, Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Aramaic. The printing press was not invented until the 15th century. Up until then, it was transferred to new audiences by scribes who painstakingly copied words from one manuscript onto new parchment and arduously inspected the words, to avoid mistakes, and those words became the stories of the Faith.

Interestingly enough many of the texts, especially the Greek text in the New Testament were written in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS with no spaces and probably no punctuation.

Punctuation is necessary to give meaning to the words strung in a sentence. Take for instance the sentence, “Women without her man is nothing.” Now hold off, before you decide to stop following this post, or even worst, if now you’ve become a fan of this post, I want you to realize that the sentence is void of punctuation. Again: Women without her man is nothing. Now, let’s add some punctuation: Woman, without her, man is nothing. The same words, with added punctuation, reveal a sentence that expresses a thought quite the opposite of the original one.

Imagine now, the tremendous task that was before the Church in deciphering the sentences and the sentence structures. When Jesus turns to the thief on with me the cross and says, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise,” there is a certainly that life continues after death immediately. But if a comma were to move over by one word “Truly I tell you today, you will bein paradise” the immediacy of the moment is lost opening up speculation about the next step.

Fortunately, the Church was there from the beginning and knew the meaning of the words before they were written in a sentence.

Punctuation – a dot, a line, a squiggle – is more than a pause or an accent. It’s a way of passing along a message.

We pray today, “Lord, open my heart to your word. I hear with my ears and read with my eyes, but it is my heart that I commit to you. Amen.”

Earthquake Theodicy

Armodoxy for Today
Earthquake Theodicy

On this date the earth shook in the town of Spitak, Armenia. The year was 1988, the Soviet Union was still intact. It’s president, Michael Gorbachev was visiting the United States, engaging in high level talks with then President Ronald Reagan promoting Glasnost and Perestroika. He cut his trip short and returned home and to Armenia to assess the damages. Anywhere from 25,000 – 50,000 people were presumed dead and thousand more injured.

At the time I was serving at the Armenian Church in Cupertino, California. We immediately went into disaster aid mode and became the collection center for humanitarian aid in the Bay Area, shipping much needed medical supplies and survival goods and services on a weekly basis.

The season was Advent. Christmas was approaching, but everyone was so overwhelmed by the enormity of the disaster that normal celebrations and gift giving was severely curtailed. Yet, on January 6, we would be celebrating Christmas – the joy of the Christ Child coming into the world – and greeting one another, “Christ is revealed among us!”

I was approached by the San Jose Mercury News to write a piece focusing on my sermon for Christmas: “God is Revealed, but where was He when we needed Him?” Here then, is what I offered and was printed January 5, 1989:

One of the most difficult questions asked of a priest is the question of evil. The problem is this: If God is good, and God is all powerful, why is there evil in the world? Since evil is a reality in this world, then it follows that either God is not all-powerful, or God does not will the good, or God does not exist. The search for an answer is more troubling when evil occurs in the form of a natural disaster, such as the Armenian earthquake. It seems that there is no one to blame but God.

This year, on January 6th the Armenian Church will celebrate Theophany (sometimes called Armenian Christmas). More than Christmas, we celebrate the Revelation of God to the world through His Son, Jesus Christ. Theophany is one of the major feast days of the Church. Far from a feast, this year will be different for Armenians. Still fresh in our minds is the tragedy of December 7, 1988 when we lost over 50,000 people to a natural disaster. Although this number is great by any standard, it is particularly significant for a small group of people such as the Armenians because it represents about 1% of the total world population of Armenians and approximately 2% of the population in Armenia. In comparison, if an earthquake in the United States killed 2% of the population, we would lose five million people! One third of Armenia was leveled. Imagine one third of the United States leveled – from the Rocky Mountains to the Western coast!

When facing such devastation, it is only natural to ask why? Even more, why did not God spare the good Armenian people?  Why did He not intervene? Why the Armenian people? The same ones who were the first to accept Christianity, the ones who have so piously observed the faith for centuries, the ones who defended the faith to death, why them? When the history of a people, such as the Armenian’s, is plagued by devastation and tragedy, the questioning goes deeper: Why believe in a God who cannot save us from these dangers? I am confronted with questions such as these almost daily.

I also hear some answers. Some feel God has abandoned the Armenians for some divine purpose and plan. Even some doomsday forecasters claim the earthquake was part of the “signs of the times.” It is interesting to note, how quickly we are willing to thrust aside reason and logic when hit by calamity.

For me, I do not shy away from the scientific and logical approach. Why did the earthquake happen? Because the earth shifts. Why did people die? Because people were trapped under the rubble of buildings which were constructed poorly. Why didn’t God step in and save the Armenian people? I don’t know, but I venture to say that things just don’t work that way.

In times of crisis, our mental image of God transforms Him into a kind of superman. After all, He is omnipotent.  But the order of nature is such that that there is an imperfection built into this world. Lightning causes fires. Drought causes crops to wither and brings famine. The shifting and settling of the earth causes earthquakes. And sometimes, unfortunately, people die.

So, the more important question becomes, why believe in a god that cannot save you from the perils and dangers of this world? Why celebrate the revelation and birth of a god who is powerless against nature? We begin by answering that God is not some kind of superman. God is not there to prevent an earthquake. Disasters will happen, but God is found in the reaction to the disaster. Where was God when the earthquake happened? Most probably He was weeping and hurt like all of us. But the real power of God is seen in the aftermath. We see God in the reaction to the earthquake–in the love and support He provides us.

When we see people throughout the world coming together to aid the Armenians, it is God working. God gives us the capacity to love. We give to others because of that ability to love. We must stop thinking of God as this great puppeteer who sends disaster to this world to see our reaction. No!  Disaster, pain and suffering are part of an imperfect world. Where we do find God is in the peace and love that only He can give in answer to that disaster.

The feast of Theophany is the celebration of God becoming man so that man can know God. He took our form and went through all the motions of man. He suffered and died. He did not exempt Himself from this great suffering, for no one is exempt. However, He conquered death and promised the same to those who believe. What He left was His own peace, “not as the world gives.”

When the earthquake hit, we were all hurt. Where was God? We saw Him in the love and support from the four corners of the earth. We saw a world come together. We saw “enemies” helping “enemies.”

God is revealed: a God who understands us; a God who suffers with us; a God who helps and gives us strength during our darkest hour. This is God being revealed. This is the celebration of Theophany.

Beat the Odds

Next Step #753: Here the story of beating the odds. While the world’s largest lotto (~$2B) took place this week, the real winner went by unnoticed, in Nashville where the astronomical odds of survival were beaten via a child’s baptism. This is the story of a miracle, bigger than Vegas-winnings and what happens here should not stay here.
Lotto record
National Museum of African American Music 
Armenians on 8th Avenue 
Edwin Hawkins Oh Happy Day
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for Epostle.net
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Armodoxy for Today

A veteran is a person who has had long experience in a particular field. Generically, we use the word to refer to military personnel, especially those who actively served in the military. The veteran is someone who loves country much more than his or her life. That is, the veteran is willing to lay down his or her life for the country, for something that is greater than the self.

In the Gospel of John (15), Jesus say, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” He is referring to his own sacrifice, and his words define true love as a function of selflessness. He places value on friendship (harmonious living with one another). That value is measured by life itself – a willingness to sacrifice life for the benefit of the greater good. The sacrifice made by veterans has the greatest value of anything or any action, because the measuring “currency” is more precious than silver, gold and even platinum. That’s why we refer to it as paying the ultimate price: life itself.

Veteran’s Day is celebrated today. It is yet another chance for self-evaluation. There is a simple test to take on this day. Ask yourself, What are the things that are most important to me? What are the things for which I would be willing to give up my life. Now ask yourself, if I’m willing to die for it, am I willing to live for it?

If we are willing to die for Christ, then the more important question we must ask ourselves is, am I willing to live for Christ? Armodoxy is the proof that living out Christian principles is much harder than dying for them.

We pray Psalm 27, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shalI I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after, “That I may dwell in the house of the Lord, that will I seek after; That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” Amen.

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Emotional Surrogacy

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #728: Spiritual Surrogacy, from a child’s teddy bear found on the streets of post-war Artsakh, to Christian ideas of transferring responsibility.
Artsakh: Power of Prayer
Marina Mchitarian-Lazaridou, PhD.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Concert for George)
Ashot Aroustamiants Yeg Im Tarus
Leo Tolstoy: Confessions and Other Religious Writings
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Empath’s Christmas

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #705: Interview with Alina Samuelian of FLY – Freedom Loving Youth, after her recent outreach in Gyumri. Hear this energetic empath give her first-hand account of life and living conditions in areas of the world hit by tragedy. From Syria to Lebanon to Armenia, FLY reaches out to those in need. Here’s their story articulated by a front-line worker. All this, in the context of Jesus and the “Great Banquet”
Christian Giving, Luke 14:12-24
Freedom Loving Youth
Armenian Earthquake 30 years later
2021 Toy Drive
Children’s Memorial
Peacemakers – Gabriel & Katie Jay
Earlier interview in Armenian
Isabel Bayrakdarian
Cover: In Gyumri FLY meets with mother and son

Connecting with FLY
Facebook: Freedom Loving Youth-FLY
Instagram: freedom.loving.youth
Venmo account: @fly-freedomlovingyouth
Firewood Fundraiser

Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Apologies Abound

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #693: Apologetics is the intellectual defense of the truth of the Christian religion, usually considered a branch of theology, by definition. Justifying what is beyond understanding and the challenge to communicate ideas, despite differences of opinions, is this next step. Expressions of His Holiness Karekin II to the Conference on Freedom and Peace in Holy Etchmiadzin.
Conference on Freedom and Peace in Etchmiadzin
HH Karekin II address to the Conference on Peace
Text of Address
Christian Apologetics
Tiger and the Donkey story
David Benoit Freedom at Midnight
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Tag Archive for: Christianity

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