Armodoxy for Today: The Road to the Center of Light – a five-part mini-series of daily messages dedicated to this special week in the life of the Armenian Church. Five days, five inspirations, five sparks that connect to shine the Christ Light.
Day 5: Holy Etchmiadzin. The final day of the week-long celebration of Armenia’s Conversion is the Feast of Holy Etchmiadzin. The hymn of Holy Etchmiadzin, includes the phrase, “Come, let us build the altar of Light.”
With the Conversion of Armenia, “The true Light which gives light to every man,” (John 1:9) lit up Armenia. Gregory and Tirtad, hand-in-hand, church-and-state, came together to spread the Gospel among the people. In a vision, Gregory saw Jesus Christ descend from heaven, pointing to four points, defining an area with a golden hammer. This is where the first Cathedral in all of Christendom was constructed. The word “Etchmiadzin” defines his vision, literally meaning the “Descent of the Only Begotten.
The week-long celebration, with the feasts of Saints Hripsimé, Gayané and Gregory, is capped with the proclamation that the Only Begotten Son of God, descended from heaven and became the Light which enlightened the Armenian soul. Throughout Armenia today, thousands of pilgrims converge on the monasteries of Hripsimé, Gayané and Khor-Virab, to commune with the essence of this story. But early on in Armenian Church history, the pattern of celebration was instilled because the Christ Light had transformed the people. It was only 100 years later that the Church in Armenia commission the translation of the Holy Scriptures. For this task, a monk named Mesrob Mashdots invented the Armenian alphabet. With that alphabet the entire Bible was translated in a manner that is considered the “Queen of Translations” by Biblical Scholars. And subsequently the Armenian nation enjoyed a golden age of literature. Culture and education was the hallmark of this period, thanks to the Church.
Only 150 years after the Conversion, Armenia was forced into a war because of their commitment to Jesus Christ. The Battle of Vartanants is considered the first battle for the freedom of worship of Christianity in history. As a result, Christianity spread like wildfire. It wasn’t the last time Armenians stood up for their faith. They have been persecuted to the point of even Genocide and continue to be, because they carried the label, “Christian.” Jesus invited us saying, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” That cross has been a heavy one for the Armenian people, but it has been its salvation. Abp. Hovnan Derderian has said, “Because of Holy Etchmiadzin, our presence as a nation and as a people is secure.”
Many try to dispose of the cross opting for the comforts of this world. Tragically, what they sacrifice is the fullness of life and the luster that comes from the Light.
His Holiness Karekin I, of blessed memory, once proclaimed “Etchmiadzin is Mission” and in that simple statement set a direction for us, every one of us, who comes in contact with the story. Like all of the history we communicate through Epostle, the story you heard in the mini-series, Etchmiadzin finds its true value when we connect to it with our life. The mission is ours, to proclaim the importance of Light amid the darkness. With wars, hatred, intolerance all around us, the Armenian story of Etchmiadzin gives the world a spark of hope, kindled by strength, fanned by difficulties, but grounded and lit in Jesus Christ.
This Sunday is the feast of Holy Etchmiadzin. Let us pray, O Lord, Jesus Christ, you touched us with the humblest of your messengers, a young girl who said, “No” to the great and powerful. In returned a nation and people discovered the True Light. You came into darkness, into the lives of people who weaved a tapestry of love, compassion, tolerance, patience, healing and resurrection. May we be a reflection of that Light, in all that we do. Guide us, O Lord, in the paths that promote love, compassion, tolerance and healing, so that we may be worthy of the blessing of the Peacemaker. In all things we thank and glorify you, along with the Father and Holy Spirit. Amen.