Tag Archive for: Church

Saints and the Power Within

Armodoxy for Today: Saints

All Saints Day in the Armenian Apostolic Church is celebrated on a Saturday in November. Saints are perhaps the most misunderstood features of our Church. Protestants criticize the intercession of the saints on several grounds, one of which being that the saints are dead people. We in the Armenian Church do not believe life ends at the grave, in fact, we believe that the soul is eternal. Just as we ask a friend or a family member to pray for us, we may also turn to the saints to pray for us, with the assurance that they live with us. This is why during the Liturgy we remember several saints, the Apostles, the Martyrs, the teachers and some of the saints we remember by name, for instance the Kings Abgar, Constantine, Tirtads or the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew, and of course the Holy Mother of God, the Asdvadzadzin. We ask that they pray with and for us.

By rejecting the saints, we miss a very real opportunity to connect with the Divine. As a Christian, I hold as my highest ideal Jesus Christ. When, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48) it is a standard that is very difficult, perhaps even impossible to achieve. We hold Jesus as the primary example of that perfection; however, we must remember that he is God. But the saints are people like you and me. Every one of them has a will, desires, wants, has dealt with envy, pride and all that define us as humans. Every one of them has been challenged with the realities of everyday life and, somehow, they have managed to rise above the situation. They have risen to a place of goodness that inspires us. This, then, is the power of the saints in our lives. They are people just like us. Not gods, but people. They have faults. And with their faults they have overcome life’s challenges. In other words, they are realistic examples for us. Looking at their lives, we know that we too can rise from our human nature and our situation. So how did they do it? By having Christ, the Christ-force, inside them and by tapping into that power.

I’d like to talk to you about that power especially today as we realize what we all have known and have now rediscovered: We Armenians are alone! The attack on Artsakh is not a border skirmish, it’s a backdoor entry by our enemy to finish what they attempted in 1915. They are ready to finish us off. This is the existential threat – the threat to end Armenia and the existence of Armenians. And when we look around us, we see ourselves alone on the world stage.

We have heard the story of Khirimian Hayrik in Berlin. In the mid 1800’s he went there to participate in a conference with other nations. He writes a poignant letter to the Armenian people, describing the meeting as nations huddled around a pot of heriseh (a porridge made with meat and grains, its thickness being its noted attribute). Khirimian writes that all the other nations came to the table with the clanging swords and dug deep into the heriseh with “iron ladles” and pulled out their portion. However, then the turn came to Khirimyan to pull out the portion for the Armenians, he had no swords or guns, but a letter in his hand. He called this the paper ladle, which easily flopped by the weight of the heriseh. He tells the Armenian people, when you return to Armenia arm yourself with weapons, weapons and more weapons. “People, understand above all else that you must put the hope of your freedom upon yourself, on your brains, the might of your fist…  Man, for himself, must work for his deliverance.”

That Berlin story is over 150 years old. And here we are, once again in 2020, standing on the world stage with our hands stretched out asking for others to assist us. Why have we forgotten the words of Khirimian Hayrik? Even more important, why have we forgotten from where his strength came? And our Primate, Abp. Hovnan, expressed it so concisely the other day, “Armenia cannot stand with the crumbs given by foreigners.”

Khirimyan was a priest of the Armenian Church. He became Catholicos. He was so loved that they referred to him as hayrik, yet under all the titles and layers, he was a priest, a priest of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just like, when we speak of the composer and musician Gomidas, we speak of his musical prowess or his genius, but we forget that first and foremost he was a priest of the Armenian Church, he was Fr. Gomidas, a priest of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And today, in our world with all of our materialism and egocentric culture – with all the things we buy and sell – things that we claim to have “value,” we have forgotten, we have laid to one side, the strength that we have within us. We have forgotten that we were born of the font of baptism and drink from the fountain of immortality – connecting us to Jesus Christ. As the Apostle says, If God is with us, who can be against us? (Rm 8) When we think of Artsakh and the threat to Armenia and to our being, we look for strength, for assistance, and ultimately to be saved. Why are we looking outside of ourselves? Why are we not looking within? Khirimian Hayrig, Gomidas Vartabed were the beginning of a long line of clergy – church leaders – from Mourapekian, Gevork Catholicos, Chorekjian and in our times the greats such as Vazken Vehapar, and in his shadow the bishops that we have today, from our Catholicos to our Primate who were his students. Against all the odds and with huge obstacles before them, they took us from the Yeghern of 1915 to Sardarabad, through the communist era, to the Karabaghian-sharzhum, to the independence of Armenia, with the Gospel message: Unless a grain of wheat falls and dies it remains a single seed, but by dying it produces a harvest. (Jn 12) All the time, they connected us to the power of Jesus Christ!

Jesus Christ was the first non-violent revolutionary. I am convinced that Tirdat the King, who was the king of Armenia in the 4th century, who had armies (plural!) under his command, who understood strength and diplomacy, who understand military strategy… I am convinced that Tirdat accepted Christianity because he saw it as power for victory and not for surrender. He saw the strength of Faith, based on the message of Jesus Christ, was about overcoming the evil with the power of love. He understood the power of resurrection over death!

This is the basic Faith that we have had throughout the centuries, that our Church has preached through its priests before we came to America and were filled with distorted understandings of religion that are tied with material wealth. This is the faith the Church preached whether Khirimian or Gomidas, Shnorhali or Datevatsi, or today in the trenches of Artsakh where our soldiers make the sign of the cross, are baptized and go into battle to defend the lives of their loved one.

This then is the power and the message of the Saints. It’s the connection with the Source of Life, connecting not with the manger in Bethlehem but with all of eternity – In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God! … He came to his own and his own did not accept him, but to those who believe he gave the power to be Sons of God. (John 1)

Yes, WE are the children of God. We are the people of God. The SAINTS understood this. This is why and how they accomplished their miracles. This is how we have stood up and won against every enemy. …To those who believe he gave the power to be Children of God.

Israel is not a piece of land in the Middle East, nor is it a country with ethnically same people – it literally means “Triumphant with God!” the People of God!  It isn’t enough that the Garden of Eden is in Armenia (Gen 2:10) and Noah’s Ark lands in Armenia (Gen 8:4), it isn’t enough that we were the First Christian Nation, but each of us who is baptized of the Holy Font of the Armenian Church, each of us who is born again from our Holy Mother, as we come out of the water of Baptism, and the confirmation of the Holy Miuron – the priest sings, “We are called the New Israel! In Christ and we are a portion and joint heirs of Christ! (Նոր Իսրայէլ կոչեցաք ի Քրիստոս, եղաք բաժին Տեառն և ժառանքակից Քրիստոսի)

What power!!! We are connected to the Revolution that Christ started! Do you understand now? Every story in which Jesus give the sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and life to the dead, he caps with the words, “Do not be afraid.”

The Saints, are the connection to the Divine. They have been through this path. They have reached out of their humanity and have been able to tap into Divine because Jesus Christ has been at the center of their being and the expression of their being. With all due respect to our brothers and sisters who have come and created new denominations, that reject and find little to no value in the saints, they have kept you away from the source of life. They have kept you from the HOLY MIURON! From that life-energy that ties you with all the SAINTS. That ties you to Christ, who is there from the beginning, and lives in the saints, Asdvadzadzin, Thaddeus and Bartholomew, Hripsime and Gayane, Loosavorich and Tirtad, 40 Martyrs of Sebatia, Shoushan and Santoukh, Datevatzi, Naregatzi, Shnorhali, in the Holy Martyrs of the Genocide, and on the front line in Artsakh and in all of us! The New Israel.

Let’s not look elsewhere. Return to the Church that connects us to the power of Christ. The Church with its Miuron from the time of St. Gregory the Illuminator and spread on the foreheads of the soldier on the front line in Artsakh. We are called to march with the saints. We are called to come to Armenia’s defense with the weapons that we have always had. You are the new TRIUMPHANT in God! Pack with you the weapons of thought, speech, writing, aid, business, and money. Jesus Christ ushered in the Revolution and we have been connected to it. Today is the day to realize that the invitation is there for you to answer. Christ is in each of us. If you write, write, If you cook, cook, if you sew, sew, if you pray, pray, if you are a doctor, heal, if you are a person, have compassion, share that compassion and just see how, you can tap into the Divine. The Saints did it. So can we.

God bless you, the Armenian People, the Armenian nation and Armenia. Amen.


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.”

Non Denominational Closeup

Non-Denominational Closeup

As a kid I remember a commercial on television featuring a nice looking building. A voice asks, “Nice building, huh?” Then the camera zooms in to reveal cracks and chips that were painted over, and without skipping a beat the voice would divulge the truth, “…until you look up closely!” The body of the voice would then come on screen to plug some kind of texture coating that hid the scars of the building.

Usually things look nice from a distance, but upon a closer look the cracks start showing. Religion is also included in this rule. We will stick our discussion today to the Christian religion. One of the popular designations of Christianity that needs to receive a closer look is the term “non-denomination.” It is fairly popular these days because it is presented as a free-spirited version of Christianity. “Generally, non-denominational churches believe that the Bible is the sole authority that dictates every aspect of the church, with scripture shaping their beliefs and philosophies. They are also self-governing entities, with elders often overseeing the church’s organization, structure, and traditions.” (source: https://christianministryedu.org)

Before we take a closer look, let’s remember the course we have travelled to get to this point in Armodoxy for Today. We went through a period of preparation called Lent. We celebrated the Resurrection, and then continued with the formation of the first Christian communities. Currently we are in that period between Ascension (40 days after Easter) and the Pentecost (50 days after Easter).

There is a reason the Church asks you to take this journey. The Bible does not exist as a Book unto itself. When Jesus was crucified, there was no Bible. When he resurrected, there was no Bible. When he ascended, there was no Bible. In fact, there was no formal Bible for a few hundred years! However, at all those same events – crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and on into the formation of the communities –there was the Church!

Those who claim to be non-denominational say that they accept the Bible as the sole authority in matters of their faith. By their own admission, they have exclude themselves from a major part of Christian history and development.

God’s greatest gift to humanity was not the Bible. Much more important than the Bible is Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God the Father. Jesus’ gift to humanity was not the Bible, rather it was his holy and precious Body, namely the Church. And it was the Church that compiled the books together to give us what we refer to as the Bible.

The Armenian word for Bible is Asdvadzashunch, which literally means the Breath of God. The Armenian Church refers to it as the “breath” because it guides us as spirit, not as a book of laws and regulations, along the paths of Truth, Hope and Love.

I understand the appeal of non-denominationalism, especially in our world today when everyone is given a platform to interpret, or even worse, to create a derivative of Christ’s holy and sacred message. In other words, within the non-denominational category, you can have a few million or billion derivatives of the faith. This is why when we speak of the Armenian Apostolic Church, we are grounding ourselves in a Tradition that dates back to the time of Christ, that is, before there was a Bible. We are not a Bible-centered community of believers, we are Christ centered.  Non-denominationalism is very nice looking, and appealing, but when you look up closely you notice the chips and the holes. Jesus set up his Church and it is guided by the Holy Spirit. In his unfailing words Jesus says, “The gates of Hell will not prevail against it!” (Matthew 16:18)

We conclude with a prayer from the Holy Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church: We thank you, Father almighty, who did prepare for us the holy Church as a haven, a temple of holiness, where the name of the holy Trinity is glorified. Alleluia. We thank you, Spirit of Truth, who have renewed the holy Church. Keep her without blemish through the faith in the Trinity forevermore. Amen.

Church Born of Fear

Stories from the Body then and now…

According to Holy Scripture, the first witnesses to the Empty Tomb of Christ, “Fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16) Fear, was the first expression of the post-Resurrection Church, and it was that fear that turned into Faith, the Faith of the Christian Church.

Having just celebrated Easter – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – we find ourselves in the period time (from Easter to Pentecost) dedicated to the birth and growth of the Church. The Church is not an accessory or an after-thought to Christianity. Contrary to the popular understanding of Christianity, it was the Church – the Body of Christ – which transferred the stories of Jesus to us. That is, everything we know about Jesus Christ we have received via the Church. You may hear popular formula of reading the Bible and therefore understanding Jesus, but in fact, Jesus gave us the gift of His Body the Church. Yes, “God so loved the world that He gave his Only Begotten Son” (John 3:16), and in turn, Jesus so loved us that he gave, established his Church so that we should not orphaned. (John 14-17)

According to Jesus, the Church is established and built on the proclamation of Christ’s divinity. In the 16th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

That “rock” is the proclamation made by Peter, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. Upon this proclamation the Church is built. And as we see, in the Apostolic era, that is, days after the Resurrection, there was no Bible, but there definitely was a Church. It was “raw” Church built on the gospel message that Jesus has risen. The Armenian Apostolic Church is a continuation of that original Church. The fear the Disciples experienced at the Empty Tomb was transformed into Faith through Christ. It is the same transformation of fear to Faith that the Armenian Church has witnessed as its people survived and flourished against all the odds.

As we look at the early post-Resurrection Church, we are reminded of the necessity of the Church for a complete celebration of the Christian faith, and that the cornerstone of that Church is the proclamation that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God.

We pray, O Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, as we celebrate your glorious Resurrection at this Easter time, may we be worthy to be members of your Holy Church, your sacred body, to be your hands, legs and mouth here on Earth. Dispel the fears and gloom that consumes our lives by helping us find the Faith that others have found throughout the centuries, so that we may better serve humanity and in so doing, serve you and your Holy Body. Amen.

Only the Beginning

And now it begins…

The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the beginning of the Christian story. Not Christmas, but Easter is where it all begins. It is a singular event in human history. Whereas everyone has been born, and everyone has and/or will die, only one has returned from death. That is the celebration of Easter.

In Armodoxy we approach Easter with preparation. We have been through a 40-day preparatory period called Great Lent, and a week of intense focus on the Mystery of the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, referred to as Holy Week. So, it would seem that Easter is the culmination of the period, instead we discover it is only the beginning.

The message “Christ is Risen” was the first Gospel of the Christian Church. The word Gospel means “good news.” In Armenian, good news is avetis from which the word avetaran is derived for Gospel. The Christian community was built on the good news that Jesus did not die but resurrected from the dead and lives on. The Resurrection takes place in the eternal present, it is not, “He rose” or “He has risen” but “He is Risen!” The message is current, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

In Jesus’ farewell discourse, recorded in the Gospel of St. John, he makes it clear that life will continue after the Resurrection. He does not leave us orphaned, but rather establishes and commissions His Church – His Holy Body – to continue the mission for which he came.

During the next 40 days, to the day of Ascension, we read the Book of Acts of the Apostles in the Armenian Church, thereby focusing on the development of the Church. During the next 50 days, to the day of Pentecost, we will look at the stories that come to us from Apostolic times juxtaposed next to stories that come from our experience, that is, stories of inspiration from our lives today. Join me on this next period of the Christian journey,

Let us pray, Heavenly Father, we thank you for your unconditional love, for looking after us, as the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Through Your love as our Creator, you gave us your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, so we may have life and have it abundantly. And now, as we are reminded of Jesus’ Resurrection, we remember once again, you did not abandon us but set up the Holy Church, to guide and direct us through the Holy Spirit. May we be worthy of the Love you so abundantly bless us with. Amen.

Cover photo: TonyTheTigersSon (Envato Elements)

Bible Origins

Armodoxy for Today: Bible Origins

We are in a four-day period on the Armenian Church calendar called the Fast of the Catechumens. This fast is unique to the Armenian Church. To follow on our lesson from yesterday, regarding the lack of specific scriptural readings for these four days, today we will look at the structure and make-up of the Bible.

On Pentecost, 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ, (Acts 2:1ff) the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and the Church was born. The Apostles were the first Christian community, the first Christian Church.  They had no “Bible.” The Gospel or the “Good News” which they preached was that Christ had risen – resurrected! This was an earth-shaking experience in the lives of the Apostles, and their mission was to spread the Good News—Christ had risen, giving an opportunity for all humankind to share in this new life.  This was the first Gospel and it was transmitted orally.

The first Christians felt that Christ’s return would be imminent. In fact, throughout the first century, they were living with the expectation that the Second Coming of Christ was right around the corner. They lived their lives accordingly.  (See I Thessalonians 4:13-18.)

The Apostles spread the Gospel to various parts of the world. New Christian communities sprouted. As time went on, problems arose in the communities – daily problems – which were complicated by their expectation of an imminent end. The communities were faced with questions such as, “Should we obey the local authorities if Christ is due back any day?” Or “Is it proper for us to marry, if Christ will be returning soon?” Or, “What will happen to all those who die before Christ returns?”

To address these problems, the Apostles, now scattered throughout the known world, wrote responses to the communities, giving specific instructions on how to conduct their lives until Christ returned. Among the most popular letters were those of the apostle Paul. The books in the New Testament which follow the Gospels are the letters St Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, Corinth, Thessalonica, Ephesus, and so on. The first of these letters (I Thessalonians) was written in the 40’s.

The Church existed without a bible. The Church had its worship services, which included partaking of the Holy Eucharist, reading psalms or prophetic literature of the Old Testament, and prayer. The letters they received such as those from the apostle Paul, were read during the gathering of the faithful, and are regarded as epistles, that is general letters to the community.

As more time went on, and Christ had not yet returned, further problems developed. For one, all the eyewitnesses to Christ’s life on Earth were passing away.  Who would covey the stories of Christ’s life to future generations? Furthermore, the communities and churches were asking about the details of Christ’s life, for example, His birth, His upbringing, whether He was baptized, and so on.  For this reason, the Gospels were written to provide the details of Jesus’ life. Again, the point must be made that they were written for the sole use of the Christian Church.  The Church demanded it, and, therefore, they were produced.

The Gospels according to St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke, including the Book of Acts, (called the synoptic gospels) were written between 60 and 80 AD.  The Gospel according to St. John was written sometime later. Although these books were written, they had not yet been put into the form of a “Bible.”

There were other books about Jesus’ life as well.  For example, there was the Gospel of Thomas, or, as the author called his book, The Secret Words Which Jesus the Living Spoke and Jude Thomas Wrote Down. It might be thought of as a more complete Sermon on the Mount. There was also a book called the Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ.  It is one of the more fascinating books of what is called the New Testament “apocrypha” or “hidden books.” One story relates how Jesus, while still in the cradle looks up at his mother and says, “Mary, I am the Son of God.” Another story is generated from the account of the anointing of Jesus by Mary Magdalene.  The story claims an old lady kept Jesus’ navel string in an alabaster box of old oil of spikenard.  It was out of this box that Mary took the oil to anoint Jesus. Still another story relates how Jesus and some other young boys were molding clay figures of animals. Upon Jesus’ command, the clay figures begin to walk and fly.  The entire book is filled with miraculous stories of this nature. This was one of many books that were circulating in the 2nd Century.

It was the Church that decided which books would be considered “The Bible,” designating them as scriptural canon. All of the books that are in The Bible as we know it today are in a list compiled in the 2nd century, except the Book of Revelation. It was in 419 AD, at the Regional Council held in Carthage that the Book of Revelation was accepted as being canonical. So until the 5th century the Church existed without the Bible that we know.

Tomorrow, we will journey further through the Fast of the Catechumens to learn closer the beauty of Christ and the Christian faith.

Let us pray, a prayer for Catechumens, from the Roman Catholic tradition, “We thank you for these catechumens whom you have called. Strengthen them in faith, that they may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Keep them clean of heart and make them grow in virtue, that they may be worthy to receive baptism and enter into the holy mysteries. Amen.”

No Bible Today

Armodoxy for Today: No Bible Today

Today begins the Fast of the Catechumens. This four day period is unique to the Armenian Church. It takes place a few weeks before Great Lent and offers an opportunity for purification, by restricting diet to bread and salt.

There are no Biblical passages assigned to the four days of the Fast of the Catechumens. The Lectionary is a list or book of portions of the Bible appointed to be read at church services. Every day of the year is assigned with Bible readings that pertain to that day. For instance, the lectionary for Easter includes a narrative of the Resurrection from the Gospel accounts. These four days of the Fast of the Catechumens are the only days with no lectionary assignment, which begs the question, how can you have a Church without a Bible? Actually, the more correct question is, how can you have a Bible without a Church?

We have been conditioned to believe that the Bible is a book that was handed down to us by God. With the Protestant reformation came the proclamation that the Bible alone is the final authority on all matters of belief and practice. And so, hearing that the Church is the seat of authority in Christianity seems against religious conventions for many outside Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions.

The truth is that the Bible was not given to us by God. God gave us something much greater than the Bible. He gave is His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Even Christ, did not give us the Bible. He did not write anything that we know of, nor did he hand down a book to his disciples. More important, He gave us His Body, the Holy Church and he said with his words which cannot lie “The gates of Hell will not prevail against it!” (Matthew 16:18). It was in turn that the Church produced the Bible, and that Bible was meant as a tool for the Church to evangelize and teach the catechumens.  (A catechumen is a recent convert to Christianity who is under instruction before baptism.)

A quick look at history will lend more to the puzzle of which came first, the Bible or the Church? At the time of Jesus there was no Bible. At his Crucifixion, there was no Bible. At his Resurrection, there was no Bible. The Bible as we know it was finalized by the Church, with the different books in the 5th century. For five centuries, the Church existed and led the Christian community without a Bible.

The authority of the Church is singular: Jesus Christ. The ascription of “Apostolic” to the Holy Church means that it is in direct succession with the Holy Apostles who were commissioned by Jesus Christ himself. The Holy Bible has a unique place in the Armenian Church and referred to as the “Breath of God.”

These next few days, we will journey through the Fast of the Catechumens to learn closer the beauty of the Christ and the Christian faith.

We pray, a prayer of the Catechumens, “O Lord our God, who dwells in the heavens, and looks down upon all Your works, look down upon Your servants, the catechumens, and us, who have bowed our necks before You, and grant us a light yoke. Amen.”

Peter & Paul

Armodoxy for Today: Peter & Paul

During this week, the Church commemorates a group of leaders of the early Christian movement, the Church. The Apostles Peter and Paul are remembered on the same day because they shared in a ministry at Rome, where they were also martyred for their faith.

Peter was one of the disciples chosen by Christ to become a “fisher of men.” He was a member of the original twelve disciples and part of the entourage that accompanied Jesus from town to town. Paul, on the other hand, was a persecutor of Christians in the post-Resurrection era but converted to Christianity following an encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus. Their stories are documented in scripture, in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. This is a continuation of the Gospel of St. Luke. Think of it as a part 2 of the Gospel, where the first part followed Jesus from Birth to Resurrection, the Book of Acts is the story of the post-Resurrection trial of the early Church. Their story is further documented in the epistles and letters which make up the bulk of the New Testament. Most notably, St. Paul wrote letters to the different spawning and growing Christian communities in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica and elsewhere. In his writings he encourages the believes of the new religion, to stay faithful to the person of Jesus Christ, and therefore, to God. He uses stories of his own trials and tribulations, his imprisonment, and his salvation through Christ, to encourage the members of these young communities.

The Epistles of St. Paul are some of the oldest Christian writings, giving us a unique view of the early Church community. By remembering the Apostles Peter and Paul we are called to look at the difference and similarities of these two giants of the Christian Church. They come to Christ in two different ways, they served in the same arena and in the end, they left an indelible mark on the history of the Christian Church and therefore Western Civilization. Their lives and ministries intersected at the point of suffering for the Kingdom. Both were persecuted for their faith and belief in Jesus Christ.

Where is our faith today? As we take the Advent Journey, we should examine the uncomfortable moments in our life, where faith in God might be mocked or challenged? How do we deal with those challenges?

We pray today, Psalm 63, O God, you are my God, early will I seek You, my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your Power and Your Glory. Because your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus, I will bless You while I live, I will lift up my hands in Your name.

Change Searched

Next Step #758: As Google announces its search results, and change followed fear from 2021 to 2022. Christ and his relevance 2000 years ago and today: a lesson for the Church today.
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Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for Epostle.net
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Coinciding Scriptures

Next Step #750: When scripture coincides with life events of a priest, a signal is sent to focus on the mission of Christ, the Church and the minister of the Gospel. A look at Luke 4:16-22: The mystery of importance and centrality for life. What about the “brokenhearted,” why are they overlooked, or just a clerical error? Favorite vs. Importance.
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Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for Epostle.net
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We’re on StitcherPandora and Apple Podcasts.