Tag Archive for: Crucifixion

Day after Crucifixion

Armodoxy for Today: After the day

If you were in Jerusalem in the early Spring of the year 33, and you happened to see the persecution, mock trial, torture and eventual execution of Jesus of Nazareth, you’d most definitely be confused, as were the people of the time.

The year is 33. Jesus began his ministry only three years earlier. He spoke of love. He healed the sick and miraculously cured the people of their many social and physical ills. He spoke out against the establishment, which got him into trouble with the religious authorities. They persecuted him and finally arranged for his crucifixion. It was Friday afternoon. Word had gotten around that he was, in fact, the Son of God, and so they mocked him, saying, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:42-43)

If on that Friday evening you left town, after witnessing the life beaten out him you would have only been privy to half of the Jesus story. If you witnessed the crucifixion and left, you would understandably believe that the Jesus story ended there and then. You would believe evil has won and the promise of God was merely, words with no action.

Fortunately, we know the story didn’t end of Friday with the crucifixion. That is why we have the audacity and courage to refer to that day as “Good” Friday. We know that on Sunday, Jesus resurrected from the dead.

The Christian has the unique perspective of viewing life through the looking glass of the Resurrection. In other words, we’ve seen the Crucifixion but we know the Resurrection awaits! Viewed from Easter Sunday, from the vantage point of the Resurrection, we can proclaim along with St. Paul, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting.” (I Corinthians 15:55)

Today we stand in witness of the Crucifixion of the Artsakh. As the Armenian Church, we are the witness to the Resurrection. We were there in the year 33 on that Sunday morning at the Empty Tomb. We were there at the end of St. Gregory’s imprisonment at Khor Virap in the 4th century. We were there at Avarayr with St. Vartan in the 5th century. We were there during the persecutions of barbarians through the centuries. We were there in 1915 and in 1918. We mourned the loss of our martyrs and also rang the bells of Sardarabad. We were there through communism and there when communism fell. We are there today, proclaiming the same Truth we have for centuries. The Crucifixion is not the end because there is Resurrection. Good overcomes evil, life is what is lasting over than death. Darkness can never overcome the Light. And Love is always more powerful than evil.

If at all we feel hopeless, we only open our hearts to the message of Resurrection from the Holy Church.

Today’s meditation is from the Resurrection account of St. Luke,
Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’

War Crime?

Armodoxy for Today: Oxymoron not

Warning: The following message may contain content that is graphic and/or disturbing intended for historical purposes.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech that juxtaposes concepts with opposite meanings within a word or in a phrase that is a self-contradiction. For instance, “act naturally,” is an oxymoron because if you’re acting, you’re not natural. Awfully good, is often used to describe something of excellent quality, even though if it’s awful, it certainly can’t be good. There are many oxymorons that are part of our daily conversations. Jumbo shrimp, Civil war, Old news, Bittersweet, are all examples of the pairing of opposite meaning words.

I have found a set of words with the same or similar meaning that are paired together to give the illusion that they are opposites. And although they’ve creeped into our daily conversation, their pairing doesn’t fool me. I’m talking about the words “War crimes.” We talk about people being guilty of war crimes, as if war is not a crime in itself; as if you can have a war without committing a crime. Digging a bit deeper we find that there are rules and regulations that govern war. Because we have classified our society as civilized, we have contrived rules for war. A soldier is fair game to be shot while a civilian is not. It sounds crazy, but a young man who dons the uniform of a soldier is no longer presumed to belong to a mother or father who will be devastated at his death.

It’s bizarre and even sickening, when we try to convince ourselves that we are civilized, that our conflicts are resolved by the shooting, maiming, injuring and killing those who oppose us. In Kigali, Rwanda I stood at the genocide museum. There, they had exhibits of all the genocides of the 20th century. I stood as the child of survivors of the first genocide of the 20th century at the scene of the last genocide of the 20th century. With one foot in Armenia and one in Rwanda, I was looking at the spans of 100 years and all the genocides that occurred in between. The Holocaust, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Bosnia were all there along with others that were somehow left off of the 6 o’clock news. It’s sobering when you look at them all and think is this the best we can do to resolve conflicts?

War Crimes! We even have rules that govern executions, that is state approved killings. In the time of Christ, we know that crucifixion was the manner in which criminals were executed. What we may not know is that the cause of death of the crucified was asphyxiation. The crucified person would die a slow death, gasping for air, and with each gasp getting less and less oxygen into his system. It was cruel and unusual. That was the process of execution two millennia ago. We evolved, and now we kill humanely. Did you catch that oxymoron. A quick bullet by a firing squad, electrocution, gas chamber and lethal injection. And then in 2020 we learned of George Floyd, neither tried nor convicted, died of asphyxiation, as he was deprived of oxygen on the streets of Minneapolis.

In the time of Jesus they had rules and regulations governing execution. But it wasn’t about humane methods, rather it was about man-made laws. In the Gospel of St. John we read that after Jesus had given up His spirit on the Cross, (19:31-35) “… Because it was the Preparation Day, the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.”

Very much like the modern day expression of war crimes, the Jews had rules and regulations that allowed for death – even cruel death – so long as the rules were adhered to.

That spear, known as the Holy Lance, is now kept by the Armenian Church. In Armenian it is called the Holy Geghart, and one of our monasteries where it was housed bears the name of that instrument. It is used during the blessing of the Holy Miuron, to stir and bless the Sacred oil. When that Lance entered the breathless body of our Lord Jesus on the Cross it was sanctified in the same manner in which the Cross of Torture became the Cross of Salvation following the Crucifixion.

There is no such thing as war crimes. All wars are crimes. We need to stop fooling ourselves. Conflicts need to be resolved civilly. If Christ transformed the tools of murder into instruments of life, we can do the same in our language and expressions. We can transform war crimes into peace actions.

Let us pray, from the Book of Hours of the Armenian Church, Beneficent and abundantly merciful God, through Your forgiveness and infinite love of humankind be mindful of all that believe in You and have mercy on all. Help us and deliver us from our several perils and trials. Make us worthy to give You thanks and glorify You, the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, now and always. Amen.   

The Same Cross

Armodoxy for Today: Elevating the Cross

The Cross is the symbol of Christ and Christianity. This devise of torture became the expression of victory over suffering and death. In the symbol of the Cross we find the expression 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.

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross refers to an event which takes place in history. But Armodoxy demands that we take ownership of the events we celebrate. In traditional churches, such as the Armenian, Catholic or Orthodox Church, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the beauty of the event and lose sight of the purpose. The Exaltation of the Holy Cross points to the Cross of Christ.

In the town of Gyumri, Armenia, there is a church dedicated to the Holy Asdvadzadzin St. Mary. It is called Yot Verk, that is, “Seven Wounds” of St. Mary. One of those wounds refers to the Blessed Mother learning that her son is Crucified. Today, we are invited to stand as a witness to the Crucifixion, a witness to the awful and painful Cross.

Jesus is not an abstract figure in history. To St. Mary, he was her Son and Savior. In the Gospel of St. John we read that the Holy Mother was a witness to the Crucifixion from the foot of the Cross. (19:25) The excruciating pain of a mother watching her son being tortured along with criminals, is only a part of the story. Jesus was tried on trumped up charges; he became a scapegoat for humanity. The exercise today is to walk in the shoes of Jesus’ Mother, Mary. Can we sit at the foot of the Cross and look up. Against the backdrop of heaven, we imagine our brother, our sister, our mother, our father, our friend, our enemy, our son… who is being tortured, having life slowly drained from his body. The cries of Jesus are directed to all of us, “I thirst.” “Why have you forsaken me?” “Where is my mother?” Listen very carefully, and you’ll hear the same cries from Artsakh, the Congo, Darfur, from your back street, wherever injustice has taken charge. “I thirst.” “Why have you forsaken me?” “Where is my mother?”

For three hours, we sit and watch, only to note the innocent blood dripping next to us. We hear humiliating mockery from people that don’t even know us or our loved one. “He had it coming to him!” “He freed others, let him free himself.” “He said he believed in God, well where is his God now?” Finally, we hear the final gasp for breath and the words, “It is finished! Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.” A silence which later will be referred to as deafening encircles us, forcing us to come to terms with the tremendous magnitude of our loss and the loss for humanity.

And now we open our eyes wide and understand that Jesus is not abstract. He does not belong to history but to all time. The refugee, the poor, the lame and blind, the weak, the downtrodden, the suffering and the oppressed are on the cross today and with our eyes wide open, we look up against the backdrop of heaven to see it is the same Christ on the Cross.

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross is a Feast of the Armenian Church because it pulls us in and connects us to Jesus and His Mission of caring for the lost, the lonely, the lame, the broken hearted and the suffering.

Let us pray, O Christ, You conquered the Cross and turned the instrument of torture into the symbol of our Salvation. You invited us to pick up the Cross and follow you. May we be inspired by the love and life you gave to all of us on the Cross, and in turn may we share the gift of life with others.  

Great Friday – Crucifixion & Burial

Holy Week Day #7 – Great Friday – a mediation as this Lenten and Holy Week Journey culminates, at the foot of the cross with Christ, Mary and St. Nersess. The Cross is Unavoidable.
Prayer: “Lord Have Mercy”;
Music: Rendition of Der Voghormya by System of a Down; “Stairway to Heaven” (Led Zepplin) Symphonic Kashmir; “John Nineteen Forty One,” Jesus Christ Superstar, Andrew Lloyd Webber;
Cover: Holy Apostles Armenian Church in Kars, now converted to Mosque. 2014 Fr. Vazken
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for ePostle.net

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Lenten Journey Day 40 – Worship

Lenten Journey Day 40 – Worship

What a beautiful day today is. It is day 40 – forty days ago we began this Lenten Journey. We feel a sense of accomplishment. It is a good feeling. It has been 40 days of fasting – abstaining from certain foods. It has been 40 days of intensifying our prayer life. It has been 40 days of charitable giving, not merely by writing out checks but giving pieces of ourselves. We have counted our blessings and our talents, contemplating our purpose and function within life and our world. It has been a time of reflection.

It is perfectly natural for us to look back today, perhaps even revisit some of the themes that we explored during this Season. In looking back, though, we must be honest. If not, we will be betrayed by our attitudes and actions.

Today as we gather on this 40th day of Lent we arrive as new creatures. We have been transformed. We have changed, perhaps not to the exact place we would like to be, but the change is noticeable. In particular we have a new outlook. We see ourselves differently, as individuals and within the structure of our communities and the world.

The one topic that follows, naturally is “Worship.” It is the one area that we have not explored. It is the most extraordinary and natural. It is the final step we need to take during this Lenten Season.

In worship we understand ourselves in relationship with God in a rather unique manner. Worship is not prayer . It is praise. Worship is not asking. Worship is giving. It is giving ourselves and humbling ourselves before that which is greater than ours self. And so, Worship is the final step in the Lenten period.

It has been a beautiful journey this year because we have grown, both individually and together. By listening, by talking, by sharing, by extending ourselves, that is, by Loving! Think of it for a moment. The Love that we share with others defines who we are in, for and around life itself. And we have a new definition today. We have a new lease on life today! We have opportunity to come face-to-face with this holy season, to look at the resurrection with new eyes. Our eyes are focusing beyond crucifixion and we see the empty tomb. We witness and become part of the Tomb.

Imagine that…. Sitting in the Tomb of Jesus. Imagine waking up after the torture of crucifixion. Imagine waking up after a burial. We can now share properly what we were intended to share from the very beginning – to become participants in the salvation process. It is not a question of being saved, but one of being a participant. And that is where worship grants us a perfect model.

Worship in the Armenian Church is participation. It is an act of participation. It is not witnessing, but throwing yourself into it holistically with all your senses. To visually see what is around you – the visual delights, the colors, the candles, the flowers. To smell the aroma of the flowers at the altar as well as the incense that takes our prayers to heaven. To be able to hear the beautiful tones and tonalities of the angels. Not saying I don’t understand so let the angels come to me, but rather asking, how can I fly with the angels. How can I participant? Our sense of touch is also important in the Worship services. We have to touch each another. We have to physically love one another. We have to kiss each other to say “You are important in my life just as I would like to be important in yours.” In that touching process we begin to understand what it means to put our feet in the shoes of others. In the shoes of our brothers and sisters, of our people, of others who are struggling. We place our feet in the shoes of others and we understand their difficulties. Perhaps the loss of a job? The loss of a loved one? Perhaps they have an inability to process the spirituality, to process the love that God has put in our heart. And so we reach out to one another physically.

Finally we appeal to our sense of taste. We participate by communicating, by communing with the Holy Eucharist, with the precious body and blood of Jesus Christ.
So we see that worship really is that final step in the Lenten Journey. It is a step that allows us to go beyond Lent, so that taking what we learned during these 40 days, we can apply it and make it a reality in our life, every single day and every single moment, in our relationships with one another, to draw on what we learned in the past, but not to stay there in the past, and to say that the life before me is so beautiful that I’m ready to walk. I am ready to take on the challenges. I am empowered by God. I have been given a new lease on life with Jesus Christ as my savior.

Jesus Christ. Love incarnate. I have been given a new lease on life through Jesus, through love.

We conclude with a meditation on John chapter 15, Jesus, the True Vine. Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I 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 be 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, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.

This concludes the Lenten Journey.

The daily messages continue tomorrow with the Holy Week series at Epostle.net

Lenten Journey Day 31 – God’s Power

Lenten Recipe

Recipe #31 – Tomato & Bread Soup

Lenten Journey Day 31 – God’s Power

Today we continue with the lessons of the Unrighteous Judge, to understand God’s response to our prayer. Does God answer prayer? How? Is prayer as powerful as they say it is? Does it change God’s mind?

Yesterday we looked at the Problem of Evil. Certainly we all pray for the good and against evil – whether for ourselves, or for others, this prayer is a familiar one. At the very least we have said the phrase, “Peace on Earth” as a prayer of humankind through the ages. Yet evil is very real in the world. In fact, we see such a great presence of evil in this world. If God is all powerful why does He not eliminate evil? If God is all loving, why does He allow evil to exist? Why does He tolerate hatred? Why is there prejudice? Why is there war? Why is there illness? Why evil?

Our church fathers have pondered this question and as an answer have directed our attention to the cross of Christ. In fact, on that original Good Friday – not evil Friday, but good Friday – we find the Son of God himself is not exempt from evil. God did not stop evil from touching His Son. If God allows this evil, does that make Him powerless? Does that diminish His power. We say that He is omnipotent, we say that He is all powerful, so why does He not stop evil? Perhaps it is because we fail to understand the true nature of God.

St. John the Evangelist tells us that God is love. In a very straightforward mathematical equation (a=b; b=a) he allows us to see that God is Love and therefore, Love is God. Pure love is that manifestation of God. But we are talking concepts: God, Love, what do these things mean? St. Nerses Shnorhali in his theologically rich hymn, “Aradov Looso,” (=morning light), offers us the primer, that is, the key to unlock the giant mystery of Life, Love and God. In this hymn, which he offers to light and the source of light, Shnorhali writes, “The name of love is Jesus.” When we understand that God is love, and love’s name is Jesus, we now begin to understand that the crucifixion is part of the equation but is not the end. Jesus rose. He conquered death; He conquered evil, so in God’s eyes, it is only a platform. It is only one step – and a necessary step to understanding true love.

Each of us that has had the fortune of experiencing love knows that there is a cost to it. There are certain pains that go along with love. Does that exempt us from being all that we can be? Does that in any way hinder us, expressing and experiencing true love? Quite the opposite. In fact it enhances the love experience. So much so that if we look at the empty tomb on Easter, it is only valuable, it is only truly an empty tomb of victory in the context of the crucifixion. That is, without a crucifixion you can never experience a resurrection. And herein lies the key to evil.

The answer to the question, Is God powerless over evil? is, certainly not! God is love! And that is the power of power, that is the light of light. That is the true God of true God. That is real power, isn’t it? For He lights up the darkness; He gives strength to the weak. It allows us to stand in the face of crucifixion and know that we are never alone and that there is an empty tomb for each of us. There is victory for each of us. There is a resurrection for every crucifixion.

From the beginning of this Lenten Journey we have been challenged to move our thought process from our minds to our hearts. As St. Nerses Shnorhali reminds us, “Put a guard upon my heart, so that it may think no evil.” Not “upon my brain,” but “upon my heart.” It is from that point that we start developing our love. From our heart. Now, mind you, the heart does get broken. That heart is not rational, but neither is love. Love is true. Love goes beyond rationality. It gives us the endless possibility to be in union with God. You cannot rationalize a crucifixion, but you can understand that a father, in love for his creation, would give everything – even His Son – knowing that in the end, His creation too, shares in the possibility of resurrection, in complete victory over all the dreaded evil in this world. Herein, God answers the ultimate prayer.

We conclude today with a prayer, by St. Patrick who lived during the 4th and 5th centuries. This is called St. Patrick’s Breastplate because it seeks God’s protection in a world of both tangible and invisible dangers.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgment Day.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

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


Next Step #672: On the eve of the Armenian Genocide anniversary: Challenges to the necessity or nuisance side of remembrance. Genocide: The voices that matter. George Floyd murder trial. Keith Ellison on “Justice.” Order of events: Resurrection does not precede crucifixion. Abp. Jose Gomez’s voice. South American Armenians. Fr. Levon Apelian, passing noted.
George Floyd, “Language after Asphyxiation
Michael Arlen “Passage to Ararat
Abp Jose Gomez on Social Justice
Keith Ellison and comments on Floyd Murder verdict
WD168 for this week
Haig Yazdjian “Beast on the Moon
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
Listen via Stitcher Radio on demand!
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Easter Respect and Living

Next Step #670: After Easter, how the message “Christ has risen” moves from idea and story to inspire us to action. Primal Scream: Where is my mother? The sacrifice of the grain. Crucifixion: if not for Christ’s sake, then for who? Ken Nalik tribute (NS 2008-2021) Vazgenian Seminarians at Lake Sevan.
Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson
Smoking Cessation through time
WD168 this week
Luys Vocal Quintet
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
Look for The Next Step on blubrry.com
Listen via Stitcher Radio on demand!
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A Tear and a Smile

Next Step #462: The Easter Edition – A journey through Holy Week as only Fr. Vazken can provide. Music and metaphors taking you from the tear Jesus wept at Lazarus’ grave, through the Passion, Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Connecting the dots of our lives today with the events in Jerusalem circa 33.
Jesus wept; Voltaire smiled. From that divine tear and from that human smile is derived the grace of present civilization. -Victor Hugo
Religion & Philosophy – Hugo
John Barleycorn
Sky Pilot
Lazarus’ Resurrection
Songs: John Barleycorn Must Die (Traffic); Sympathy for the Devil (Rolling Stones); Sky Pilot (Eric Burdon & the Animals); Let it Be (Beatles); Where is my Mother (Isabel Bayrakdarian); Kovya Yerousaghem (Hover); Imagine (Jack Johnson)
Alt-Easter Service
Cover Photo: “Moush Barleycorn” (c)2014vhm
Engineered by Ken Nalik
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Look for The Next Step on blubrry.com
Listen via Stitcher Radio on demand!