Tag Archive for: Cross

A Tempting Offer

Armodoxy for Today: A Tempting Offer

Of the thousands of books written about Jesus, I often opt to read works that challenge me to view things from a different, perhaps new, perspective. One such book is a work of fiction by Nicholas Kazantzakis, called The Last Temptation of Christ. It was written in 1955, stirring up controversy and then in 1988 it was produced into a film stirring up objections from conservative and orthodox Christians.*

The story by Kazantzakis is well researched and thought out. He lays out the plot as follows: The crucified Messiah is given His “last temptation” on the cross. He is given the opportunity to see life beyond the cross, to know the joys of a family life, share memories with friends and live to a ripe old age. He is given the opportunity to have the same dreams as do all men and to be as all men. Yet he resists temptation. He says “no” to all the trappings of this world and opts to do His Father’s Will instead.

The gift of free-will, that is, to choose to do otherwise, is one of the greatest gifts given to us by God. In this novel, we are given a “what-if” scenario, and an opportunity to work-through the natural temptation to live without suffering, and to die a peaceful death. It gives us an opportunity to view the story from yet another perspective.

Jesus chose the Cross. In that choice we find how tightly Love and the Cross are tied together.

Today’s prayer is from the Gospel of John, chapter 12, the words of Jesus, which say, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.


*When the film The Last Temptation of Christ debuted in 1988, I was asked to write an op-ed for the San Jose Mercury News. You may read it here.
– Fr. Vazken

Heaviness Explored

Armodoxy for Today: Heaviness Explored

On Holy Friday, you meditated on the cross, that is, suffering for a greater purpose. You looked at the crosses in your life along side the Cross of Christ. You heard Christ’s challenging invitation,  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

The Cross on Friday is quite different from the Cross on Sunday. For one thing, there is no body on the cross. He who was Crucified has come out victorious over the Cross. For another, the Cross has proven not to be an end in itself, but rather, a path to the greater good, and the Victory.

The invite we have received from Jesus has always been after the Resurrection. The only Cross we have known is the conquered Cross. Feel the weight of the crosses in your life today. If they feel lighter and manageable, you have found the balance of Armodoxy.

O Christ, protect and guard me under the shadow of your Holy Cross in peace. Deliver me from enemies visible and invisible. I will glorify you along with the Father and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Cover Photo: Luna & Gregory Beylerian, 2023

The Cross: Holy Friday (Question 7)

The Cross: Holy Friday

Each day of Holy Week, on the road to Resurrection, we have been confronted by a question which only you, and you alone, can answer. On this Holy Friday, we come up against the Cross, which in itself is an enigma. It is an instrument of torture. It is the instrument upon which the Son of God, was tortured and killed and yet, within our faith, it is the symbol of Christianity, and therefore the symbol of love.

Within the course of one night, Jesus was accused, stood trial on false charges, was taken back and forth between the chief priests, the councils, the Jewish king and the Roman procurator and was sentenced to death. The means of death was crucifixion – a slow, painfully agonizing means of torture by which an individual hangs from nails through his hands and feet while he suffocates to death over the course of a few hours. Meanwhile, crowds gather to watch the spectacle, mock and chastise him. All four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John record this event in their Gospels, with graphic detail.

Jesus willingly accepts the path of the Cross, because it is there that He sacrifices for the salvation of the world. In so doing, Jesus transforms that cross from an instrument of torture to an means of salvation, just as he transforms the reality of the day, from a truly Bad and Evil Friday to “Good Friday.”

During His ministry, Jesus calls on us and challenges us, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

As we stand before the Cross of Christ, on this Good Friday, let us listen to the words of our Lord carefully. Let us absorb the events of this day. The question on this Friday, on the Road to Resurrection asks, “Are you picking up your cross and following Him?”

Tomorrow: The Day After

Cover photo: Luna & Gregory Beylerian

Crucifix by Chris Brown, for In His Shoes:


Expression of Love: Holy Thursday (Question 6)

The expression of Love: Holy Thursday

Each day of Holy Week, on the road to Resurrection, we are presented with a question which only you, and you alone, can answer.

During the Last Supper, Jesus speaks openly to his beloved and seated disciples.

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15)

Jesus tells his disciples that by love they will be identified as his followers, that is, Christianity is defined by love. Love begins with God and is expressed through sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice being the offering of life, the greatest of all the gifts of God.

Following the Supper, Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me, nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”

It is there that a mob arrives, led by one of the 12 disciples named Judas Iscariot. Judas kisses the Lord to betray him to the mob. Jesus is captured as a common criminal, then taken before the religious elite to stand trial for conjured-up charges. The passion, that is the suffering of the Lord, continues through the night. From mock trials to the religious leaders, to the government officials, He is humiliated, beaten, mocked, and sentenced to death by crucifixion.

From the point of his arrest to the sentencing, Jesus has been abandoned by all of his friends and followers. One of his friends betrayed him (with a kiss) while another, Peter, denied him three times, when asked if he knew Jesus. Yet all the while, Jesus does not abandon anyone – neither his friends, his followers, nor His accusers, nor any one of us, for that matter. He stands as a testament to the power of Love. He accepts the sentence and makes his way to the Cross. It is here that we understand that the Cross, therefore, is the ultimate expression of Love within Armenian Orthodox theology.

The sixth question on this road to the Resurrection, comes in a form first asked to Judas, “Do you betray the Son of God with a kiss?” and then asked of Peter, “Are you with Jesus?” They are one in the same question: Love is what defines us as Christians according to Jesus and He himself, in a gesture of Love is sacrificing his life. Are you with him? Or have you betrayed him? Certainly a very heavy questions for a very heavy night. The night of the Passion of our Lord.

Tomorrow: The Cross

Staff to Cross: The Caduceus Myth

Armodoxy for Today: Caduceus

The Gospel of John begins with a “nativity” narrative that traces Jesus’ origins to the beginning of time. “In the beginning was the Word,” says the evangelist, from where he brings Jesus to the first century Middle East. Within the first few chapters we are introduced to Jesus, the Lamb of God, the one who changes water to wine, and who speaks about transformation by being born from above, or more commonly expressed as “born again.” Following a dialogue between him and a religious ruler, Jesus makes the proclamation that, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Within Jesus’ statement he references a story that was all too familiar by his audience, referring to Moses, a serpent and the wilderness. It comes from the Biblical book Numbers, with the people of God walking and complaining. “And the people spoke against God and against Moses: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.’ So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.  Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” (21:4-8)

Looking at the staff with the serpent on it was their means of salvation from the venomous snakes. When Jesus says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life,” he is referring to this story of the poisonous snakes but is also cautiously alluding to his own Crucifixion. In fact, he was “lifted up” for everyone to see and witness. Remember, that when this Gospel was written in the latter part of the first century, the Crucifixion of Jesus was an event known by the community of believers. So, with this statement Jesus is inviting the listener to focus on the Crucifixion as a means of salvation.

The Crucifixion is what gives meaning to the statement “God so loved the world that He gave his only Son.” We will see how, as we continue tomorrow on Armodoxy today.

Let us pray with the words of St. Paul, who says, “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Amen (Galatians 6:14)

Cover: Envato Elements



Armodoxy for Today: Symbols

As humans we search for meaning. Alongside survival and reproduction, the human animal has a need to find meaning in life. Religion helps facilitate the search. In that search, sooner or later, we come to a point where our faculties cannot comprehend the vastness of life with all its intricacies.

In the Book of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus, the author begins with a preface to his search (1:1-8):

All wisdom is from the Lord, and with him it remains for ever.
The sand of the sea, the drops of rain, and the days of eternity—who can count them?
The height of heaven, the breadth of the earth, the abyss, and wisdom—who can search them out?
Wisdom was created before all other things, and prudent understanding from eternity.
The root of wisdom—to whom has it been revealed? Her subtleties—who knows them?
There is but one who is wise, greatly to be feared, seated upon his throne—the Lord.

After 43 chapters of intense descriptions of the wonders of the Lord and the heavens and earth, he comes to very simple conclusion:

We could say more but could never say enough;let the final word be: ‘He is the all.’
Where can we find the strength to praise him? For he is greater than all his works. (43:27-28)

Symbols help us understand that which cannot be expressed with words. Symbols can be presented to us in a variety of ways. Their meaning is ascribed by the person who confronts them.

Red, white and blue string are merely dyed fibers. Sewn together in stripes and stars, they take on a new meaning. They are the symbol of a country and all that it represents. Before the strings are sewn, they may be cut, torn, destroyed or thrown in the trash. But once they come together to make a flag, those dyed fibers represent something huge and great. To destroy or desecrate the flag is an expression of disrespect. The meaning of a symbol also changes with the times and the circumstance of the people. On the days following 9/11 in 2001, the flag flying over the rubble of the Twin Towers came to represent the unity and resolve of a nation against evil. The backdrop of the towers and the collective experience of the citizens brought further meaning to the flag.

The main symbol of Christianity is the cross. Two planks, placed perpendicular to one another, joined together, with a short headspace, longer leg area, and the horizontal plank dissected in its center constituting a left and right arm. Two planks of wood can be cut, whittled, and used as kindling in a fire, but create them in the shape of a cross, they now have a deeper meaning.

This Sunday, the Armenian Church celebrates the fifth and last feast day of the year: The Exaltation of the Holy Cross. After the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the cross became an object of veneration.

The story of Exaltation can be found in all major Christian traditions. The Armenian Church celebrates four different feasts associated with the Holy Cross of Jesus, the main one being this Sunday’s Exaltation (or elevation) of the Holy Cross. The others are the Discovery (or finding) of the Cross, the Apparition of the Cross and the Holy Cross of Varak. This last one, the Cross of Varak, is unique to the Armenian Church and is celebrated two weeks following the Exaltation.

The Cross is a symbol. It means more than the two planks of wood which compose it. It is a symbol of victory over defeat, life over death and the power of love to overcome hate. It is the symbol of Christianity because in Jesus Christ we see and understand the same, that is, victory over defeat, life over death and the power of love to overcome hate.

Let us pray, O Christ, protector of the people, protect and shelter me under the shadow of your holy and precious Cross in peace. Delivery me from enemies invisible and visible so I may always glorify you with the Father and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Cover photo: How Thomas E. Franklin took the iconic 9/11 photo of firefighters (northjersey.com)

Voices that Lead

Roots of Armodoxy: Voices that lead

Most people would not want to admit they have been hearing voices in their head. Not so with Fr. Grigor, the priest at one of the local parishes inside of Yerevan. He’s very open about hearing the voices now, but not when he first heard them. It scared him. He thought he should seek psychiatric help. It was a voice he heard when he was using one of the hand crosses during services in his church.

In Armenian Church tradition, a small (4 to 6 inch) ornate cross is held by the priest during services and is referred to as a hand cross. It is used to bless items, objects and especially sacraments, such as baptisms, weddings and of course the Holy Eucharist. The cross itself is attached to a short rod which is how the priest holds the cross.

This particular cross that Fr. Grigor held was in the church when he took over the pastorate. On the four points of the cross – two on the vertical member, top and bottom, and two on the horizontal, sometimes referred to as the arms of the cross – are four translucent stones. And in the center, where the vertical and horizontal members intersect, there is the fifth stone. He shared with us that every time he used this cross to offer a blessing, he would hear a voice saying that the cross belonged in one of the side altars and that he should place it there. Just as he had resigned himself to the fact of seeking some professional help, the small company of the archeologists were sent over the church to the inventory and study some of the ancient artifacts. The Matendaran in Yerevan houses the largest collection of ancient Armenian manuscripts is interested in artifacts and relics from antiquity.

The experts examined the cross and carefully removed the translucent stones to discover under the arms and the top and bottom stones, there were small relics from four different saints, along with notations. The holy relics of saints are venerated in the Armenian Church, as they are charged with the energy of the saints. But still, the voices persisted with Fr. Grigor until the team removed the center stone under which was the unexpected: a piece of Christ’s Cross!

In the center of this cross which had blessed and energized people, protected the poor, the sick and the lonely, and swabbed the merriment of families, the Cross of Jesus Christ lay flat, and untouched and undisturbed. Fr. Grigor admitted that the cross had been used during baptisms and were certainly exposed the elements, at the very least water. Yet, the wood was intact, along with the inscription left there by pious members of the church centuries ago.

The voices stopped. The experts authenticated the Cross and now its blessing had been discovered. Fr. Grigor placed it, as the voice had instructed him, in a place of honor, inside the side altar. Once a year, on the celebration of the Discovery of the Cross (in October) the Cross is removed from its place and processed through the faith people. The church is the Asdvadzadzin (=Holy Mother of God) but referred to as Zoravor (the might one) because of the awesome power which emanates from this simple church.

It should be noted that in the Armenian Church, the Cross is the symbol of Love. Unlike the heart made popular in the West, for the Armenian Church, Love is expressed by sacrifice. The Cross represents that sacrifice. And so, when a blessing is given by the cross, an exchange of love takes place, with Jesus Christ as the author and incarnation of Love.

Today we pray, Holy Mother of God, you are most powerful, zoravor, because you have given the world Love through Jesus Christ. May we be protected under the shadow of His Holy and Precious Cross in peace, delivered from enemies visible and invisible. May we always glorify the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Discovery of Cross (Sermon Excerpt)

October 26 – Daily Message

Today’s Daily Message is from last Sunday’s (October 23) sermon, “Discovery of the Cross,” offered at St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church, Pasadena, California. This is an excerpt, the entire sermon can be viewed at https://youtu.be/f-4rsLZzvw0

Footprints at Calvary

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #723: Finding the missing step and the next step at the foot of the Cross and at the Empty Tomb. A look at some of the traditions that cheapen spiritual discovery. The amended Creed: passing blame and guilt for the Crucifixion? A special Easter reflection and edition of the Next Step.
St. Basil Liturgical Texts
Cheap Grace
Divine Liturgy CD
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Before Refrigeration

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #699: Adopting the Cross and Jesus from Biblical times and now: clues to the adoption process. The danger of Revelation and the nonsense of non-denominationalism. Gorbachev’s revelation. Halloween, death, and afterlife before and after refrigeration units. Beginning the process of extracting media from SM. And… answering the questions should Uma have been Yvonne?
Loving as your son: St. Joseph’s example
Purgatory Concept from Maccabees
In Step with Christ: Halloween, Masks and Saints
Few Minutes with Der Hayr (1994): Halloween and Fear
Vernacular Verbose Special ed. 
Vitamin String Quartet
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
Listen via Stitcher Radio on demand!
Listen on Apple Podcasts