Tag Archive for: eucharist

The Supernatural Within

Armodoxy for Today: The Supernatural Within

Continuing our journey through Armodoxy, we bring the supernatural home today. If we put away our prejudices, and keep the ego in check, we find it easier to see the supernatural in daily occurrences, whether in the pollination of a flower, the amazing structure a duckling’s tail feather, or the supernatural occurrence healing of the physical.

When we look at the metaphor of the Vine and the branches which Jesus articulates, “I am the vine and you are the branches… you cannot bear fruit without being connected to the vine,” we find a natural progression of events. A branch cannot bear fruit if it is not connected to the vine! Yes, obviously. It’s so natural that it is a given, not even necessary to mention. But our “dull faculties” (Einstein’s words) have become conditioned to the point that we doubt the obvious, and so we must repeat it for clarity. Jesus should not have had to give this lesson in agricultural botany to a group of people who cultivated the land for their livelihood, but he did. Now imagine how much more we need to, and must, reiterate matters with which we are not familiar.

In the last century (and those of you following this series will know why I place the time as such), in my first parish I had a young lady named Leslie, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The diagnosis was devastating enough, without learning of the many horrible and frightening treatments she would endure to fight this disease and with no certainty of winning that battle. Within our parish community the word spread quickly, and we were all in various degrees of anguish. She was a mother of a beautiful daughter who was too young to realize what lurked ahead for mom. Her husband, stoic at the news, but ever so supportive and determined to overcome the cancer. We braced for the worst with members of our church even discussing how to take care of the little child in her mother’s absence.

That Sunday, as all Sundays, we celebrated the Divine Liturgy and distributed the Holy Eucharist. After church services, Leslie approached me. She told me – not asked me – “I received Holy Communion today. It is the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ.” I nodded my head, yes, you did. She continued, “Well, if Jesus Christ is within me, what cancer can survive inside of me? There is no place for that cancer!”

She said this with such conviction and strength. I picture her face saying this to me to this day and my eyes water as I swell up with emotion thinking about it. If Jesus Christ is inside of me, what business does cancer have within me? Yes! That’s exactly what she said.

Leslie went on to live. She and her husband brought two more beautiful daughters to this world and through the years, we stay in touch, even if only for a Christmas card, with pictures of the family growing and flowering. Even more, she is forever connected to me through the “Vine” that connects us all. Her story has helped me through some of my worst days, and I share it with others, not only to offer hope, but to change our perception of the supernatural to natural.

What we call Supernatural is natural, normal, for those who exist in a different plane of understanding. That plane is not that far away. It is no different than perceiving heaven here on earth. The exercise of losing ego and the dropping of the prejudices we harbor against the miracles of life bring us closer to that reality.

We pray today from St. Nersess Shnorhali’s prayer of the evening hours, “Gracious Lord, commit me to a good angel, who may guide my soul in peace, and carry it undisturbed through the wickedness of evil to heavenly places. Amen.”

Escorted Out

Armodoxy for Today: Escorted Out

We are in the midst of a period called the Fast of the Catechumens. A catechumen is a recent convert to Christianity who is under instruction before baptism. The Armenian Church accommodated this group during the Divine Liturgy. This accommodations has fallen out of practice in recent times, but the form – the “order” – is still a loud one on Sunday mornings.

During the Holy Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church, following the Scriptural readings of the day, the deacons let out a chant, “Mi vok herakhayits…” which translates, “Let none of the catechumens, none of little faith and none of the penitents or the unclean draw near to this divine mystery.” In earlier times, at that point, the church building was cleared out of all the catechumens. They were escorted to the front of the church building where instruction in the faith was offered to them. You might think of it as a Sunday School program. It is hard to imagine something like that happening in our churches today. We tend to think of the Church as an open arena for us to come in and out of. How dare anyone escort us out of the church! we think. After all, we argue, Jesus never put restrictions on those who approached him.

Quite true, but this is not about being unwelcomed in the church, as being escorted out the sanctuary may suggest. Instead, think of the serious with which the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Communion, was understood by the Christians of earlier times. It was so holy and sacred, that those who were not baptized could not participate. And to be baptized, implied knowledge of the teachings of Christ and the Church.

Looking at the structure of the Divine Liturgy reveals that those who were waiting to be baptized, that is the catechumens, were invited to come to church for the instructional portion of the Divine Liturgy, known as the “jashou,” literally meaning, “The meal.” They would hear the scriptures read and then the priest would give a sermon on the readings. This was the spiritual meal of the day, the jashou. The Creed of the Church (Nicaean) was recited, giving a chance to witness and articulate the Faith. Then the catechumens would be taken out to learn and pray.

Often, when we hear about the rules and regulations of the discipline of the Church we are critical of the moves that do not follow our understanding of the Faith. I mention this small little action practiced by the Church of earlier centuries to emphasize reverence and discipline with which they approached the Holy Sacrament. This, then becomes an opportunity for us to question our sense of reverence and discipline toward the Blessed Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. It is a forgotten part of the tradition of our Church, but an important exercise in the Armodox self-evaluating process.

Let us pray the hymn of the Holy Eucharist, “Christ is sacrificed and distributed among us. His Body he gives us for food, and his holy Blood he bedews for us. Draw near to the Lord and take the light. Taste and see that the Lord is sweet. Praise the Lord in the heavens. Praise him in the heights. Praise him, all his angels. Praise him, all his hosts. Alleluia.


Armodoxy for Today: Cleansing

During this week, the Scriptural reading given to us by the Church follows the first miracle – the water into wine – which we encountered yesterday. John 2:12-22, shares the story of Jesus cleaning the temple.

Jesus found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.  When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.  And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” 

In the synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – a story similar to this appears as Jesus makes his final entry into Jerusalem, the day traditionally referred to as Palm Sunday. In the Gospel of John, we read the story at the beginning of his ministry. Building on the topic of “Maturity of Faith” from yesterday’s Armodoxy lesson, we may assume that the cleansing of the temple was not a singular event.

The Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus, is distributed and received every week. The repetitive nature of the Divine Liturgy and Holy Communion is an expression of Jesus coming into our lives, not only once, but always there to remove and cleanse all that does not belong in the sanctity of our lives.

The Gospel continues, So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. “Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body.

The Cleansing of the Temple is a scene right out of the movies. It speaks to people on many levels. It is the man-of-principle going up against the corporate machine. It is the individual versus the institution. Most importantly, it is Jesus Christ entering our temple, our lives. Once there, he is ready to clean house, to remove the hatred, the laziness, the envy and jealousy that are doing business there. It is up to us, as is the case in the story, whether we argue with him, stop him from doing so, or open ourselves to the cleansing he provides.

Let us pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, you enter the Temple in Jerusalem to clean out all who do not belong there. Come into the holiness of my temple and wash me thoroughly from my sin. Rid my life of pride, envy, anger, laziness, gluttony, lust and covetousness, and should they return may your Holy Body and Blood be forever cleansing me, into your Kingdom. Amen.”

Thanksgiving Expressed

In the United States we have a beautiful tradition holiday called Thanksgiving. It recollects the gratitude of the first pilgrims in America. In the Church, the tradition of Thanksgiving is as old as Christianity itself. Here is a special Thanksgiving presentation of AC101, an episode where the Thanksgiving service of the Armenian Church – the Eucharist or Badarak – is shown to parallel the traditional holiday outing and dinner. Happy Thanksgiving to all….

Dimensional Fighting

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #702: Fighting, violence and killings in Armenia: The case of the bad neighborhood. Are there spiritual solutions to political and physical problems? The Holy Eucharist comes into focus as US Catholic Bishop issue a statement.
Azerbaijan attacks Armenia
US Catholic Bishops Vote
John Carr’s analysis
Yerevan to Paris: Jazz-Iz-Christ
Cover: Office of RA Ombudsman, 11/16/21, Armenian Weekly
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Elevator out of Hell: Staying Anonymous

Next Step #486: Fr. Vazken develops the “elevator pitch” of the Armenian Church via Armodoxy, No condemnation here: Defining Hell. The Anonymity of the Eucharist. Reflections on the 35th anniversary of a ministry. Adult humor after high school.
Luys Vocal Quintet
35 Anniversary Photos
Anonymity of the Eucharist
Ordination of Fr. Vazken (1982)
Slide Show
Bible Study “Fruits of the Spirit
Photo credit: “Elevator Out of Hell” by Fr. Vazken at Northridge Hospital
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!