Tag Archive for: Faith

Advent 34-50: Worry

Advent Day 34 of 50: Worry

Jesus’ statement regarding worry seems childish, naïve and, well, unrealistic. What does it mean don’t worry about tomorrow? In a world that’s defined by long-term strategies, investments, and future payouts, the idea of living for today is absurd. With homelessness on the rise in every major metropolitan city, the idea of not worrying about what to eat, drink or clothing seems to contribute to the ever-growing problem.

At the beginning of this Advent journey, I suggested that you keep a journal of your travel toward Theophany. Reflect on the earlier teachings from the Sermon on the Mount. This statement on trusting our Heavenly Father is merely the logical follow up and conclusion to what Jesus taught earlier. Yes, if God feeds the birds of the air and clothes the flowers of the field which today are and tomorrow are gone, how much more will he take care of you?

But there is more to this than just not worrying. Anxiety, and the fear that causes it, are the opposites of faith. Fear is the biggest obstacle to your living a productive life. Fear is the opposite of faith. If you have faith you have trust. If you have trust then you diminish the power of anxiety because you completely submit to God. Of course, this all comes together when applied on the foundation established by Jesus earlier in the Sermon on the Mount. For instance, understanding that true treasures are not those on earth or discovering the true blessing in humility, these are the foundations upon which you escape the worry and the fear of this world.

Trusting God means to completely submit to His will. It means to allow God to be Father and for you to be His child. It means to enjoy the life that He gives you, to fly with the birds and to be clothed like the lilies of the field. Remember, in the old covenant God was known as Lord, but Jesus set up a new relationship, unlike any other, so that we dare to call God, “Father.” And not only my Father or your Father, but Our Father who art in heaven… Believe He is our Father. He takes care of every single part and aspect of the universe.

Certainly, you will always have fears and apprehensions of tomorrow, but you need to diminish them and the only way, the only cure for that is faith. To strengthen your faith, to really look at the examples that He gives us, look also at all of the examples that are plainly around you. Alongside the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields are the simple smiles of your children, the warm embraces of your loved ones, the monumental signs of the mountains, the crashing waves, the moon and stars, each of them telling you, as Albert Einstein says, “God does not play dice with the universe.” Life has not haphazardly been caused by an accident. God loves us and takes care of us.

Today we pray Psalm 37 (vs 3-5), Trust in the Lord, and do good, dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. Amen

Cover: Envato Elements

Coronation charge

Armodoxy for Today: Coronation

Like so many

people, I watched the Coronation of King Charles III Saturday morning, here on the West Coast of America. Yes, I said many people. An estimated 19.3 million tuned in via BBC One and 11.7 million on ITV at home, while global audience figures are said to have reached 2.5 billion. That’s about a third of the earth’s population. Obviously, the Monarchy is of interest to many more than the citizens of the United Kingdom. Watching the Coronation will give you an ideas as to why.

It was almost 70 years to the day that the coronation of King Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II took place (June 2, 1953). King Charle’s Coronation was the first view most of the world’s population had of this ceremony, and in splendid color at 4K and 8K definition, with opportunities to rewind vows, still the frame over jewels and zoom in on background expressions. For me, the excitement was with all of it, especially over the words that shared this service with the common man.

I was taken by the similarities between the Coronation and the ordination of the priest in the Armenian Church. From the vestments, to the prayers over the vestments to the holy oil dripping from the golden dove, I kept thinking who’s taking from who? Who’s adopting or adapting from who?
The opening declaration set the tone for the Coronation and hooked me, ”Your Majesty,” said two youngsters dressed in royal attire, “As children of the kingdom of God we welcome you in the name of the King of kings.”

The emphasis throughout the ceremony was on service, that King Charles had come to serve, not to be served. The Scriptural reading came from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 4, where Jesus proclaims his own mission. It is read at the consecration of every priest in the Armenian Church, it has been the cornerstone of my ministry and now I was hearing it along with the King and the millions listening:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

To serve others. Authority. Structure. Beauty. Splendor. Magnificence. Solemnity. Sacredness. Holy. Set apart from our daily experience. All things that came to my mind as to why this scene, which was being broadcast into our homes and across phones and tablets, was so appealing to me and so many others. But let’s not fool ourselves. It comes with a price, a price defined by the relationship of church and state.

The Archbishop of Canterbury installed the King of England. In turn the King is the head of the Church of England. In the Armenian Church we’ve had these close ties between church and state, especially within the conversion story, with St. Gregory the Illuminator and King Tirtad in the 4th century. Today, in the West, especially here in the United States, the separation of church and state are part of our constitution. That separation too, comes with a price, a price that we often are willing to pay, by abandoning the sanctity of freedom.

“My country ‘tis of thee,” a song we learn here in the States is the “America” hymn, set to the words of “God save the King.” As I heard it song at the Coronation, I must admit I was moved and swelled with emotions, don’t ask me why. But still, it’s a reminder that there was a reason why the American Revolution took place. There was a reason why independence was declared, and it had to do with the basic freedom to choose, yes, to choose your own fate and destiny.

I can’t even imagine having a head-of-state who de facto is the head of the Church. A President or a Prime Minister who is the head of the church? In the case of the Conversion of Armenia, it’s a beautiful and poetic story: Armenia became the first Christian nation.

Faith, never has, nor can it ever be mandated or legislated.

20 years ago: We Care for Youth

It was 20 years ago today: The untold story of the Armenian Church Youth Ministries Center.
Between the years 2003 and 2016 we ran an experiment in an area of Glendale, California known as “Ground Zero,” a place that Armenian organizations have ignored and forgotten, a place where education, identity and prayer came together.
This is a series about the miracles that we witnessed at this small church on the corner with a worldwide ministry. This is part of the Armodoxy for Today podcast series about the Armenian Church now, patterned after the ancient Apostolic Church, then.

Today: We Care for Youth ~ Linda Maxwell and Jose Quintanar

The doors of the Youth Ministries Center opened to three schools across the street, Keppel Elementary, Toll Middle and Hoover High School. When we arrived there was a surprising atmosphere of welcome and joy by the school administrators. It was surprising to find openness from a public school, perhaps it was because of the groundwork laid by two amazing people.
Inside of Hoover High School, Linda Maxwell and Jose Quintanar had set up shop under the name “We Care for Youth” working with youth, to give them a sense of belonging and teaching them life-skills to function within society. Those kids that were helped by We Care for Youth, to this day, think of both Linda and Jose as people who saved them from a life that might have been marred by dysfunctionality and tragedy.
I met Linda Maxwell a few years earlier, circa 1998, when she called me out of the blue. We Care for Youth had opened up a store in the Glendale Mall and hire young people to work and manage the shop. There these young wannabe business people learned skills, basic business practices, that would become the cornerstones for success. Many of the kids she was working with were ethnically Armenian.
I remember my first conversation with Linda. She called and said, “You have a problem!”
She explained that the many of these young Armenian people wore crosses around their necks. Part of Linda’s methodology is to promote open dialog, to get young people to articulate themselves. She had asked them, why they wore crosses? They mentioned they go to the Armenian Church, she told me. When she asked what they do there, they answered that they “Light candles” without much more to say about the ritual or the faith. That, Linda told me, was my problem. I’m a priest of the Armenian Church, did I care about these kids.
At the time I was the priest in Pasadena. These kids were in Glendale. I mentioned to Linda that there was an Armenian Church within proximity to the store and the kids and that maybe she should call the priest in Glendale. The answer was too common and too true: The priests there can’t related to the children, and don’t even speak to the kids. She told me that those were not her words, but the words of the kids. She had seen me on Vatché Mangasarian’s TV show and gave me a call.
I went down to the store and met with both Linda and Jose and many of the kids. We had a good conversation about the crosses, the rituals of candles and other movements, and most importantly we spoke about the meaning of the cross and rituals for the Christian. We spoke about Jesus Christ.
Linda Maxwell is a Buddhist by practice. She could have easily seized the moment to proselytize and/ or the capitalize on the weakness of the Armenian Church in delivering the faith to its youth. Instead she called me and asked that I do my duty to these children. You have to respect someone who is so confident in her faith that she is not fearful of other ideas. Her action that day was the beginning of a relationship that has continued for the last quarter of a century. It is built on mutual respect, respecting our differences and celebrating our oneness as people. Both Linda and Jose were regular fixtures at the Youth Ministries Center. We have had several opportunities to collaborate and work together. We’ve done conferences on violence, on forgiveness and prejudice together. I’ve asked to them to speak at many programs and events we’ve organized including a Reclaim conference at the Western Diocese.
Being sure of your faith is not articulated by arrogance, rather it is demonstrated by confidence in your faith. Linda and Jose, in their humble and sacrificial lifestyle, have aided and assisted more youth than can be imaged. They truly “Care for Youth” as the name of their organization claims. They facilitated many miracles that can only be counted in the lives they saved.
As we share the story from “20 years ago today,” I want you to meet some of the players that were part and parcel of the miracles at the church on the corner.
Join me tomorrow, as we continue the journey which began 20 years ago today.
If you missed earlier episodes, you can catch up by listening to them on your favorite podcatcher or at Epostle.net under the “Armodoxy for Today” tab. Remember to leave a comment and/or write us at feedback@epostle.net.

Lenten Journey Day 13 – Foundation

Day 13: Foundation

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 13: Stir -Fried Asparagus 

Lenten Journey Day 13: Foundation

The Saturdays of Lent give us a chance to contemplate faith in action by celebrating the lives of the saints. As we learned last week, Orthodox tradition, and therefore the Armenian Church, looks to the saints as examples of living life with purpose and in the path of Christ. Saints are never worship. Each of them are people just like us. In their humanity, they were able to rise to the occasion, usually through selfless sacrifice, and they express their love in unique ways.
A group of saints are remembered as the Armenian Church remembers the Church Fathers of the Council of Constantinople. Modern day Istanbul was once named after the great Emperor Constantine who had convened the original council of Nicea, known for the formulation of the Creed which formalized and gave a foundation to the Christian Faith. During the early centuries, the exact definition of Christianity was under dispute.  Groups were raising questions about the Nature of Christ and Person of Jesus. The Council of Constantinople was called in the year 381 to address these issues. At this Council the definition of the Holy Spirit as preceding from the Father and being equal to the Father was articulated.
The early Church Councils gave structure to the Church and the Christian Faith. We are mindful that today we are in this Lenten Journey. While the history and the teachings of these Councils fill volumes and speak to generations, today we will look at the Councils by way of reflection. How do they talk to us today? What do they tell us that fills another footstep in our Lenten Journey?  Remembering the Councils reminds us that there needs to be a solid foundation on which to build life and that life itself has structure. Our life is made up of our actions and those actions are triggered and motivated by our faith. The stronger the foundation, the more structure we find in our life.
The Apostle James writes that faith without works is useless. So many times we are challenged to really put our faith into action. At those moments we realize that only by virtue of our actions does our faith have meaning. That is, our faith has value and structure by because of our actions. Conversely, works without faith lead to a nebulous understanding of our purpose within the entire framework of life.
This balancing act between faith and works is usually defined in logical terms. Now, let us understand the same by grasping it with our heart.  St. Neress Shnorhali in the 9th hour of his prayer, “In Confess with Faith” places the center of our thought in the heart and nowhere else. When we think and act according to the principles set forth in our brain, we are acting by reason, based on the wisdom that we have acquired through life. While this is very important in practical life, the Christian needs to excel in the area of dreaming – to dream of the impossible dreams.
When you think and act according to your heart, then and  there you understand that your movements and actions are based on the passions you have inside of you. This is the faith that can move mountains. Think with your heart and not with your brain when it comes to doing the impossible.
On Calvary Jesus did the impossible. He forgave of people who had betrayed and handed Him over to death. He forgave the people who were nailing Him to the tree. He forgave the generations of people that had ignored the pleas for peace, disregarded the expressions of love and were paying back love with hatred. Jesus did the impossible. He forgave with His Heart. Likewise, when we think of all the actions that are demanded of us as Christians, rise to the higher occasion. Push yourself, particularly during this Lenten Season, to look for those opportunities to find the truth that is beyond reason.  Pay back everyone with love. To offer kindness to those who are kind to you, is only human. To pay back evil and hatred with kindness and love is surely divine. In this state, we come to find that our actions are built on a solid and strong foundation.
Our Faith is built on the same Foundation on which the Early Church structured itself. The Foundation is Jesus Christ, that is Love incarnate. When faith is based on love, we  have the ability to open our heart to impossible possibilities. They are all around us.
God is calling you during this Lenten Season to do the impossible and build your actions on Christ. Pay back hatred with kindness and evil with love. If you think about it, whatever your goals may be you can reach those goals – you can make impossible goals possible – when you put love as the center piece of your heart, your life and all of the actions that you take.
Let us now offer a prayer from St. Nerses Shnorhali:(Dedicated to the Holy Spirit)
Spirit of God, true God, who descended into the Jordan and into the upper chamber and who enlightened me by baptism in the Holy font, I have sinned before Heaven and before You. Cleanse me with Your Divine Fire as You purified the Holy Apostle with fiery tongues. Have mercy upon me and a great sinner. Amen.


Armodoxy for Today: Location

Every good real estate agent can tell you that the number one rule in real estate is location, location, location. Repeating it three times emphasizes its importance. Identical homes can increase or decrease in value due to their location.. So choose location wisely when purchasing.

The same rule holds true in life with the exception that in life only one of the three locations is chosen by us, the client, while the other two are more of chance landings. We are all born into this world – into this life – without our consent. We have no choice as to when or where we are born. On the other end, we may feel we have more to say about our death, but often it takes place without our consent. The only location that we have control over is the third one, which is the life spent between birth and death.

This three location reality is best understood by glancing at a gravestones. Most of them have three symbols etched on them. The first is the person’s date of birth. We have no control over when or where we are born. The second location is the date of death. The third symbol is the dash that separates the date of birth from the date of death. That dash represents our lives and is the only section of life that is mostly in our control. Some dashes are short others are long, but the real quality of the dash is its thickness.

Life and how we live it is up to us. It is the dash – the life we live – that has meaning

Once a young seminarian in a monastery, in a display of youthful pride, decided to play a trick on the one of the oldest and wisest monks. He held a butterfly in his hand and brought his fingers together to cover the small insect. He asked the monk if the butterfly was dead or alive? He thought to himself, if the elderly man answers alive, I will crush the butterfly and prove him wrong. If he answers dead, I will open my fist and the butterfly will fly out. Either way the monk will be wrong and humiliated because the young student had shown him wrong.

Approaching the monk, the young man held the captive butterfly in his fist behind his back. “Old man, tell me, is the butterfly I am holding, dead or alive?” The old monk, not to be tricked replied, “The answer is in your hand.”

Maturity of Faith, which is the theme of this week, requires us to take responsibility for our lives, to recognize that God has entrusted us with our lives and it’s up to us to be part of the answer to, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” We are the ones who fatten the dash – the life between our birth and life – and we take the responsibility on whether the butterfly flies or is crushed.

Let us pray, Lord help me to understand your love through the trust you have put into our humble efforts.  tremendous trust you have in me and in humanity. Give me the strength to stand responsibly before you as I follow your commandments and do that which is pleasing in your sight. Amen.

Bishop Daniel Interview

Next Step #749: “We are sitting on a treasure” says Bishop Daniel Findikyan, and admits that the value of that treasure is “inconceivable.” Listen in on this interview that goes beyond administrative issues and talks about Faith, Christ, God, and our spiritual life. Discuss: Truth through Jesus, the Prosperity Gospel, Old and New Testaments and Bible in the light, the gender of God, translating beyond language, and much more.
Check out Epostle.net for the latest and daily updates.
Bishop Daniel at St. Leon Cathedral (10/9/22)
The Next Step Interview with Bp. Daniel (2018)
Holy Spirit Building the Church
Cover Photo: Vahe Sargsyan at the 40th anniversary
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for Epostle.net
Subscribe and listen on demand on your favorite pod-catcher!
We’re on StitcherPandora and Apple Podcasts.


Prayer and a Song

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #737: “I confess with faith” in its entirety, as an answer to this week’s issues, presented in a flow of verse and song. “New under the Sun.” Explanations given. About the upcoming Epostle experience.
I confess with Faith
St. Nersess Shnorhali 
Ian Anderson’s Divinities 
Cover: Vintage Spinning clock with infinity time, Envato Elements
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
Listen via Stitcher Radio on demand!
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An Up Reclaimed

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #720: The “here we go again” trigger to depression: Accept or not? Overcoming depression with evolution: Reacting to Ukraine. Reclaiming faith and a conference in its 6th incarnation. Claiming and Reclaiming life from the Gospel Narrative (Luke 2). The family today.
Reclaim 2022 Conference
Armenian Film Foundation & Michael Hagopian
Don & Lorna Miller and “Survivors”
Shoah Foundation at USC
Anush & Inga
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Impacting Hope

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #718: “I love God but I feel God doesn’t love me enough,” says a Ukrainian soldier and analysis leads to paralysis: A look at hope, faith, religion in the face of war. Prayers that won’t “stop the bleeding or ease the hate.” Maternity ward bombing: Why would they possibly kill babies? An answer from Rwanda 25 years ago. The rules of war and the end game. TV was to Vietnam what the Internet can be to Ukraine, and War Games gives a solution. This Lent: A different attitude toward prayer: Adding the first lines to the Lord’s Prayer.
Maternity ward bombed in Ukraine
War Games
Jesus at M*A*S*H* 
Eric Burdon and the Animals
Cover Photo: Peace Shadow, Fr. Vazken 2008
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Why to Steps

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #701: Veteran’s Day is the backdrop for this edition: the cost of freedom, sacrifice and belief. Personal reflection on Fire and devastation, singular or plural, it all burns and then thanksgiving? Up close and personal and finding some answers: beyond “why” to the answer.
Fire report
Toy Drive: tiny.cc/IHS-wishlist
Holiday Outreach Programs
Jethro Tull www.jethrotull.com
Cover: Memorial Park, Sierra Madre, 11.11.2021
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
Listen via Stitcher Radio on demand!
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