Tag Archive for: 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

24i23

Symbols

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
Listen via Stitcher Radio on demand!
Listen on Apple Podcasts

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

Authenticated Faith

 

Next Step #676: Faith authenticated by questioning God. Liberation Theology and its message today. Discovering our ethics from an authenticated faith. Camel, water and murder. Blacks to McKinley/Armenians to Biden, across a hundred years.
The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone
Letter to President McKinley
James Cone and Black Liberation Theology 
In Search of An Armenian Theology of Liberation (Window)
WD168 this week 
Roberta Flack 
Cover photo: Stained glass from 16th St. Baptist Church, Birmingham
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
Listen via Stitcher Radio on demand!
Listen on Apple Podcasts

Crossless Protest

 

Crossless Protest
Next Step #510 – March 15, 2018 – Protests against gun violence in the modern era of social media and convenience (read no inconvenience, read no cross). Social media gone awry, cf. Supermarket Tabloids. Apostolic Brothers Thaddeus & Thomas today: Meeting with the Indian Orthodox community and the loss of the Cross at MidLent. More on Pingo. Digitizing 30+years of media and the future for Armodoxy.

Bubble Wrap

Next Step #465: The Message of the Cross is not an easy one, but a necessary message to follow. In an interview with Dr. Yvette Hovsepian Bearce, she passionately talks about unity, vision and escaping comfort levels to follow Christ and the Gospel. Genocide commemoration as metaphors for the larger issues of refugees and care. The Koranic Jesus, learning from the past to define the future and more. A bit from the National Day of Prayer in Los Angeles.
Song: Datevik from Ballads from the Black Sea
Dr. Yvette Hovsepian Bearce
National Day of Prayer “I am America” Song
Predator is Moving: https://predatorcycling.com/
Days of Solidarity Stream
Cover: “Chihuly peaks in Seattle” by Fr. Vazken 2016
Engineered by Ken Nalik
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
Subscribe to In His Shoes » Next Step with Fr. Vazken by Email
Look for The Next Step on blubrry.com
Listen via Stitcher Radio on demand!

Happy Produce

Next Step #428: On the St. Mary “Asdvadzadzin” factor, grapes and the call to production. Loss for words and finding them in metaphor. Flash back: Jack LaLanne’s tips from the 60’s to today, still an element of happiness to be found. A chance to swap-out with the Mother, and tolerance at the foot of the Cross. And much more.
Song: Vardan Ovsepian from Aragast
Jack LaLanne “Anything is Possible
On Happiness
AC101 – GrapeBlessing
Engineered by Ken Nalik
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
Subscribe to In His Shoes » Next Step with Fr. Vazken by Email
Look for The Next Step on blubrry.com
Listen via Stitcher Radio on demand!