Partners in mission, Leon (Ghevont) and Vartan, are noted for bringing the light to the darkness. Following on yesterday’s theme of Spirit and Flesh, today we look at the body with its soul. Of the two friends, brothers in Christ, Vartan was the warrior. He was the body with soul, a spirit that was grounded in his beliefs. The story of Vartan gets told and retold from generation to generation, from 451AD to today.
Armodoxy asserts that you cannot impose your beliefs on anyone else. Armenians have never pushed their faith on others. This is not a sign of apathy, sloth or weakness, it is an expression of tolerance and understanding. However, when it came to the practice of their faith, the Armenians would not give it up, even if the consequence was death.
To the Persians who were imposing their faith on Armenians, Vartan and the Armenian forces responded, “From this faith [Christianity] no one can separate us, neither sword, nor fire, nor any other force.” Armenians make the point of remembering that they were outnumbered on the battle field by a ratio of 3:1. With over a thousand Armenian casualties, Vartan fell.
I don’t believe there is another group of people on the planet that celebrates a military defeat. This was the first time anywhere that a battle was fought for the defense of Christianity. And the mere fact that the Armenian Church exists today and is the center of the Christian tradition of the Armenian people, is proof that the battle was lost but the war was won.
The historian Yeghishe records that Vartan and his soldiers took an oath, We are ready for persecution and death and every affliction and torture for the sake of the holy churches which our forefathers entrusted to us by the power of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby we were reborn ourselves by torments and blood. For we recognize the Holy Gospel as our Father, and the apostolic universal church as our Mother. Let no evil partition come between us to separate us from her.
Remembrance of the saints Vartan, Ghevont and those who sacrificed their lives as an act of defiance, is a reminder that our faith in Christ cannot be compromised. In a sense, the Battle of Vartan, 451AD is a page of history that has a comma at the end of it, to be decided in the Battle of Vartan in the 21st century. For we recognize the Holy Gospel as our Father, and the apostolic universal church as our Mother. Let no evil partition come between us to separate us from her.
Let us pray, “Lord, our God, through the intercession, memory and prayers St. Vartan and St. Leon, who lived and died for Jesus and the Fatherland and whom we commemorate today, grant us the gift of peace and of your great mercy. Amen.”