Tag Archive for: Down Syndrome

Sincerity and Purity

Armodoxy for Today: Sincerity & Purity

Throughout his ministry, Jesus associated with a wide variety of people. You could say that his circle of acquaintances – friends, associates – was diverse. Jesus was often criticized by the religious community of the day for this association with sinners. We read in scripture, (Luke 5) that the Pharisee rebuked Jesus for eating with sinners, to which Jesus responds, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

In fact, Jesus tolerated and associated with everyone. Most notably many remember that he forgave the adulterous (John 8) and included the tax collector (Matthew 9) in his inner circle. The tax collector, we should remember, was considered among the lowest of the low because he was a Jew collecting taxes for the oppressive Roman government. Yes, he accepted them all, but for one. The one person for whom Jesus showed contempt and criticized was the hypocrite. The hypocrite was the one who said one thing with his mouth and lived another way with his life. The Pharisees were the teachers and keepers of the law. They knew scriptures backwards and forward, they gave a tenth of their income to the Temple, but Jesus called them out as “blind guides.” (Matthew 23) He said, 27 “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

For Jesus, sincerity and the pureness of heart is central to being in the Kingdom of God. His invitation to become as children (Matthew 18) was an invitation to sincerity and purity of heart.

(For the last couple of days we’ve been looking at the phenomena of Arev Children in Yerevan.) Fr. Gregor, who founded the Arev Children after his child was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, works with these children daily. He has formed a theatre, where the Arev Children perform by reciting poetry, playing music and dancing. But their greatest asset is their sincerity.

According to Fr. Gregor, “It is not possible to be next to the Arev-children and not learn from them to love and see only the good in people.”

As we spent time with the Arev children, Fr. Gregor’s words resonated with more and more meaning. The children are pure and sincere. They laugh, they smile and they hug, and there is nothing insincere about any of their expressions. Every bit of the love they share comes for the deepest depth of their soul.

In these children we see only good. We realize how superficial our lives have become because we identify people by what we observe on the outside. God, looks into the depth of our heart and sees what is real. We refer to a child as having Down Syndrome while God identifies them as the ones who love, laugh, smile and hug with complete sincerity. Fr. Gregor’s Arev Children give us a chance to see beauty that comes from the soul. We understand the value of sincerity and how it is missing in the world. We now understand the words of our Lord Jesus as we read in Matthew chapter 18:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.… See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

Learn more about the Arev Children at their Facebook page


Armodoxy for Today: Knowledge

When Fr. Gregor found out his son had Down Syndrome he searched for information. It caught him off guard, as it did and does for thousands of parents who come face to face with this reality. Fortunately, in America and in several other countries, there are support groups for parents and families of Down Syndrome children, and ultimately, for the child him or herself. But in Armenia, Fr. Gregor and his wife found themselves alone. Not only was there no support, no one was talking about Down Syndrome.

In my own personal experience, a few years back I was called by one of our parish families to officiate at their child’s funeral. I was shocked! I knew this family well. I had been to their home on a few occasions. I had shared many conversations with the father of the family whom I considered a close friend, and yet, when they called to let me know their daughter of 40 years had passed, I had no idea – zero! – that they had a daughter. She had Down Syndrome and they never spoke of her, nor brought around to the church or community events. I came to find out that in Armenia – as well as many other countries – there is stigma and shame that accompanies having a child with Down Syndrome. And so, parents hid their Down Syndrome child. At least, in this particular case, I know first-hand that that’s what they had done.

Fr. Gregor wouldn’t stand for it. This was his son and he was proud of him! He educated himself about Down Syndrome, about the extra copy of the chromosome that causes this, and about the care of children. But that wasn’t enough for Fr. Gregor, because he knew other parents must be struggling with the same situation and so he rounded up the children with Down Syndrome and their parents. He named them “Arev” Children which means “Sun” Children and he allowed them to shine.

The Catholicos of All Armenians allocated space through the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin for these children. In the middle of Yerevan you’ll find the Arev Children’s center where scores of children receive counseling and education. There are some 200 children who avail themselves of this center. We visited them at the center. They recited poetry, danced, played music for us and most importantly gave us the gift of God – in the form of hugs and smiles.

Fr. Gregor searched for information and educated himself about these children – which have become his children – and in so doing, he broke the bonds that kept these children shackled, the ignorance of old-thinking, freeing them and their families to enjoy the fullness of life. He shared that knowledge with others. He moved from the darkness of ignorance into the light of knowledge.

Jesus came into this world to bring the knowledge of God to us all. Up until Christ, people lived in darkness because they were scared to live. They thought God’s Kingdom belong only to a select group of people. Jesus broke the bonds that kept people shackled to the old-thinking, and freed them to “live life, and live it abundantly.” (John 10:10). He brought the knowledge of God to everyone, without exception, by revealing his Divinity, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)  Knowledge of God is gained by knowing Jesus Christ.

The Arev Children are born in the Light and they share light. Tomorrow, when we continue, they’ll share that light with us.

Let us pray, Lord Jesus, you are the Light of the World. In that light we have a chance to know you. You have taught us that if we live in the Light the Dark will never overcome us. Shine your Light upon us so we can know you and the wonders that surround us. Amen.