Tag Archive for: Fasting

Fasting as a Tool

Armodoxy for Today: Fasting

In the Gospel of Matthew (17:13-21) we read,

A man came to Jesus, kneeling down to Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”

Then Jesus said, “Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”

So Jesus said to them, “… This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

In this short story from the life of our Lord, he mentions fasting, perhaps only as an addendum to prayer, but we understand that it is a powerful tool for the Christian.

Yesterday, His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the Primate of the Western Diocese announced a 24 hour fast for solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Artsakh. For the last year, the Azerbaijan government and people have blocked food and medical supplies from reaching the Armenian population of Artsakh. They have targeted the Armenians for annihilation, in other words, they are in the process of committing the second Armenian Genocide.

Like prayer, fasting is one more necessary element in the life of the Christian. In Matthew 6, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks about the necessity of fasting. Not only did he teach it, he practiced fasting, most notably during his 40 day period of seclusion in the wilderness following his baptism and prior to beginning his ministry.

Fasting strengthens the will and resolve of an individual. During a fast, an individual feels hunger, sometimes accompanied by pain. It is at those moments of physical yearning that we understand the words of Jesus during his 40 day fast, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

A call to fast and prayer is a call to learn about your strengths and limits. It is necessary to prepare and strengthen your inner self for spiritual warfare. Behind all the physical wars out there, there are even bigger spiritual wars that cannot be escaped. Often, people look outside of themselves for the solutions to their fears and problems. Let us not forget that the Christian is called to personal responsibility. We may look at the current situation, whether in Armenia, in the Ukraine or in Sudan, and look for answers from others, especially large governments but that excludes us from the solution. Each of us have it within ourselves to rebel and be a part of the solution. Fasting aligns in the proper modality, and in the case of a nationwide fast, as the one called for by the archbishop, we align with others of similar goals. We begin to form a block in the spiritual warfare we wage.

Today’s meditation is a reading of Jesus’ temptations while fasting for 40 days and nights,

When He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.  Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.


Armodoxy for Today: Goals

The entrepreneurial spirit was defined yesterday by risk. The parable of the talents, offered by Jesus (Matthew 25), illustrated the importance of risking talents and resources with which God has entrusted you. We ended yesterday by pointing to the prize, which was the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not enough to work or labor unless the goal is worthy of that toil and effort.  The goal of our efforts must always be in our focus.

Goals may be devious. In the parable of the talents, it is easy to assume that the monetary riches are the goal of their managerial skills, but on closer inspection, it is obvious that the monetary amount is the reward, and not the goal itself.

With the world in turmoil and with fighting close to home, it is imperative that we zoom in on the goal that sits before us. Jesus sets it as the “Kingdom of Heaven.” This is not a place or a time to come, but in Orthodox understanding, it was enacted with Jesus. It is a state of mind. It is, within and without us. It is, as Jesus says, “…Like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)

When our efforts and actions have purpose beyond the temporal plane, meaning comes to our life.

Today, there is a blockade of food and medical supplies to the Armenian population of Artsakh. The government of Azerbaijan has targeted the Armenians for annihilation, in other words, they are in the  process of committing the second Armenian Genocide. Like the expressive monkeys – see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – the world has closed its eyes, ears and mouth to the plight of the Armenians.

So, what now?

Today, His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the Primate of the Western Diocese will announce a 24 hour fast for solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Artsakh. This is a simple effort by which a huge goal can be accomplished by a small group of people. It is an effort in which everyone can participate. Most importantly, the goal of the effort benefits others. Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13) It is in sacrifice that love is revealed and the Cross as the symbol of suffering transforms to the symbol of Love. Make the connection with the Parable of the Talents and now we understand that if the end goal is the Kingdom of Heaven, then it is expressed by the love we have for one another.

Tomorrow we will look at the power of fasting to overcome the worst evil. For today, accept the challenge to fast. (*The fast will be announced at 5PM PDT, at the Azerbaijan consulate in West Los Angeles.) Obstain from eating for 24 hours. It’s hopeful to expect that the Azeris will have a change of heart because of your fasting, but have no worries, because something remarkable will happen as a result of your fasting. You will have a change of heart. You will understand the power that is within you to bring about change. You will not need to look elsewhere for solutions that are within you. The Kingdom has been enacted!

We pray the prayer that the Lord Jesus taught us,

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours in the kingdom and the power and the glory. Amen.

Lenten Journey Day 6 – Facilitating the Vision

Day 6: Facilitating the Vision

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 6: Roasted Veggies

Saints are remembered on the Church calendar during the Lenten Season, as they are throughout the year. On the first Saturday of Lent this year the Church remembers St. Theodore the Warrior, a personality from the 4th Century.
In Orthodox tradition we look to the saints as examples of living life with purpose and in the path of Christ. Saints are never worshiped. Each of them are people just like us. In their humanity, they were able to rise to the occasion, usually through selfless sacrifice, and express their love in unique ways. One such saint that the Church remembers is St. Sahag Barthev. He was a saint who used his God given talents and spread the Gospel of love and hope to the world.
St. Sahag lived in the 5th century. His story begins a hundred years yearly, when the Armenian people accepted Christianity in 301AD. Immediately, the move to educate the people in the ways of Christ was underway. Quickly it became obvious that first and foremost in the education of the people, it was necessary to translate the Holy Scriptures into Armenian. An Armenian monk by the name of Mesrobe (St. Mesrobe Mashdots)  had the vision to invent an Armenian alphabet with the sole purpose of bringing the Christian message to his people. He found a partner in making that vision a reality in the person of the Chief Bishop, or Catholicos, Sahag Barthev. As the head of the Armenian Church, St. Sahag commissioned and underwrote the project. It was in 431 AD that the translation of Bible into Armenian was completed.
In Armenian Orthodox tradition, the Bible is precious and sacred that is has a unique name. It is called the Breath of God, or Asdvadzashoonch.  The vision became a reality. The Armenian people were able to read and understand scriptures in their native language.
Each and every one of us has our own dreams. We have our own visions of what our life and communities should be. We dream of goals for our family and ourselves. Each of us walking through the Lenten Journey should seize the opportunity to inventory those dreams. During Lent we have reviewed and altered our diet and inspected our relationships. Today, we look at our dreams closely. What dreams do we have for ourselves, as well as our families and our communities? What dreams to our family and friends have that can use our support? Today’s lesson is about turning dreams into reality and to freely give the encouragement and support that you possess to others. Mesrobe Mashdotz realizing he could not actualize his dream alone, plugged into a larger community of people who shared his vision. Sahag Barthev realizing he had a desire to do good, needed to find the means by which to make his dream come true. Together, they make the dream come true.
Let us find strength in our relationships with family and friends. Find people who share your same vision. Encourage the little steps others take to make the big strides, and eventually the goal, possible. And now push yourself to think bigger…
As we heighten our prayer life during Lent and as we turn inward in meditation, let us keep in mind that Jesus also has a dream. It is a dream for peace. His dream involves love, kindness and charity to all of His children. He’s counting on us to be the Sahag Barthev that will encourage and support His Dream. He looks to us, His Holy body the Church, to become the facilitators, the means by which peace can come. We become the arms, the legs and the mouth to do His work here in this world.
Let us pray the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali:
Oh Jesus, Wisdom of the Father, Grant me wisdom so that I may think, speak and do that which is good in your sight. Save me from evil thoughts, words and deeds. Have mercy on your creatures and upon me a great sinner. (I Confess with Faith 11/24)

St. Sarkis

There are a few saints that stand out above others and are revered specially by the Armenian people. One of them is St. Sarkis, who has a unique following among the Armenians. Parents name their boys Sarkis, and as a family name, it is among the most common. Sarkis is a 4th century saint, a Roman by birth and was appointed by Constantine the Great as Prince of Cappadocia, (next to Armenia, today’s Kayseri).

While his story contains unpleasant and gruesome details, I offer it today for a reason.

With the conversion of Constantine to Christianity and the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire, Sarkis went throughout the kingdom tearing down pagan altars and constructing Christian churches. When he arrived in Persia he served as a Captain in King Shaboo’s military. When the king learned that Sarkis was converting his soldiers, he demanded that Sarkis worship before a statue of his pagan god and fire. Sarkis’ reply was definite, “I believe in one God, the All Holy Trinity, who has created heaven and earth. As a man, who is made of the earth, I can destroy your pagan statues and the fire you worship.”

This proclamation against the religion of the day infuriated the people and they began beating Sarkis with stones and clubs. They finally imprisoned him in the hopes that he would deny Christ, but he remained loyal to his faith. His punishment for converting people to Christianity was beheading. As he was about to be executed, he prayed a prayer for his followers, “O Lord, Christ our God, all those who remember my name during their trials and tribulations, and who remember this event with prayers and fasting, hear their prayers and grant to them all their desires.”

A voice was heard from heaven saying, “I will give you what you have requested, as for you, come home to enjoy the goodness that has been prepared for you.”

When he was beheaded, 14 Persian soldiers who followed Sarkis, tended to his remains, wrapping his body in preparation for burial. The King was infuriated and had them killed as well.

To this day, even among the Persians, Sarkis is referred to as “The invincible witness and grantor of all requests.” Every year, on this day following the Fast of the Catechumens St. Sarkis, his son Mardiros, and the 14 followers are remembered in the Church, and even more, among the people who approach the feast with fasting and prayer. Often, because of the Fast of the Catechumens is just before St. Sarkis’ day, the lessons of the day are forgotten and the physical disciplines (e.g. fasting) have replaced those important reasons for the fasting, namely the message of Jesus Christ. Even today, some folk myths still circulate among the people with seeing St. Sarkis in dreams, eating salt and water (from the fast) as signals for falling in love and betrothal.

The story of St. Sarkis should inspire us to stay firm in our belief. As gruesome as it is, I share it today so we understand that the greatest gift of life has been given for this faith. Also, as a warning that religion can get out of hand. What St. Sarkis did was a sacrifice and true bravery to stand up for his beliefs in the face of physical danger. On the other hand it can, and has for many, turned into a simple exercise to acquire their desires, rather than an opportunity to center their life around Christ, as was the desire of St. Sarkis.

Let us pray, “O Christ, director of life and eternity, as your servant St. Sarkis demonstrated with his life, let your message and glory be reflected in my life. May I honor St. Sarkis, and all the saints, by living with you centered in my life, today and always. Amen.”

Fast for Nativity

Armodoxy for Today: Fast for Nativity

All good things come with discipline. A regular prayer life is essential for the Christian, as is engaging with the Holy Scriptures and regular participatory practice in community worship. Christianity engages the body, soul and mind with its teachings and practices.

Toward the discipline of the body, the Church prescribes fasting. Today, the fasting period for Theophany begins.

Every major event in the Armenian Church, is preceded by a period of fasting. The practice can take different forms. Whether you fast completely or partially, the matter is between you and God, and no one else. Jesus’ instruction for fasting is clear “When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:16-18)

When you fast you only naturally think of food. Hunger brings pain physically and psychology you experience discomfort because you know that food is only a few steps or minutes and yet you are being deprive of food of your own will. In that discomfort you understand Christ’s words, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

The first day of fasting is truly the hardest because your body is acclimating to the hunger. On the second and third days your body begins to understand that there is a change and accepts the hunger and focuses on strengthening the spiritual and psychological senses.

Theophany is in sight. It is the revelation of God, the Creator, Jesus Christ on earth, in our midst. Being ready psychologically and emotionally has been the journey of the last several weeks. This last week, with the addition of fasting, we bring these all elements together to meet and greet Christ in his Incarnation.

If you were to see Christ in your midst, that is, with you and your family and friends, what would be your reaction? Would you say, “Merry Christmas?” Would you say, “Christ is in our midst?” or would your reaction be more profound? Would you be shocked and in awe? Finding that perfect expression of joy in meeting the Christ Child in our midst is the focus of this Advent Journey.

Let us pray, Lord Jesus, you were born and revealed, bringing Light into the world. Fill the darkness that surrounds me with the Light that is you. Fill my heart with your Love, so that there is no room for hatred, disease and evil. And may I meet you with as a disciple of your love. Amen.

Spirit Body Warfare

Next Step #646: Spirit and body working in concert and living in harmony. Fasting: a tool for war. Spiritual awareness through fasting on this, the fourth week of the Artsakh war. The mystery of the missing fasting word – Mark 9:29.
MonaLisa Twins
Torkom Sarayadarian
Purple Tie Award
WD168 this week
Fast for Artsakh
Cover: Flower in Artsakh 2019 Fr. Vazken
Technical Director: Ken Nalik
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Soloing or Together: Branches

Next Step #444: After Castro and before Christ: “A revolution is a fight to death between the future and the past” – a look beyond the Old Testament ties. “Gifts for Jesus” – new found list in the Gospels.  Experience in Portland, OR: Singing it alone/Celebrating together. Fasting myths explained. Part 2 of the “Advent Gospels” (Luke 14:12-24; Luke 17: 1-10; Luke 18:9-14) Discovering a set of Gospel readings that bridge the road to Christmas.
I Believe in Father Christmas” by Greg Lake
Fasting Myth
Pope Francis on Environment
Fidel Castro
Advent Season Opener
Youth Rally & Christian Conference: www.Embracing-faith.com; Subscribe for updates!
In His Shoes: www.InHisShoes.org
Photo: “Autumn Leaves” 2008 Fr. Vazken Movsesian
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!