Tag Archive for: Jesus

Post Theophany: Mary’s Yes

Armodoxy for Today: Mary’s Yes

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the first of all the saints in the Church. In the Armenian Church she is referred to the Asdvadzadzin (= Bearer of God) or Asdvadzamayr (= Mother of God). These titles tell us more about the primacy of Jesus Christ in our Faith, than they do about Mary, but they point to the reverence with which we must approach the Blessed Mother.

Unique in the Christian story, Mary is chosen by God to bear the Christ Child. We encounter Mary in the Scriptures at the Conception, the Birth, in the adolescent period of Jesus and finally at the Crucifixion, at the foot of the Cross watching as her child is beaten, tortured and killed by the same humanity for which he came to save. Mary is the only witness, according to Scripture, of Jesus’ life from “cradle to grave.” Though it may be possible that Joseph lived as long, there are no details of his life beyond the story of Jesus at age 12. (Luke 2:41-49).

While much has been said and written throughout the centuries about Mother Mary, her story is a simple one which takes place in the first two chapters of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. Even more, the simplicity of Mary’s story can be summarized in one word: Yes! Mary, the Holy Mother of God, is revered and set apart from all the saints because of a simple and courageous “Yes” that she said to God’s invitation.

The story of that “Yes” cannot be more eloquently expressed than it is in the Gospel of St. Luke (chapter 1),

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.  Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you…” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Mary’s “Yes” to the angel is simple, yet powerful. It seems to have flowed off of her tongue, yet took the courage of a lifetime to utter. Mind you, we’re talking about 2000 years ago, in the Middle East. This story is not in 21st century USA. The sentence for unwedded pregnancy was death, not to mention the humiliation, dishonor and stigma it cast on your family. The pressure, both real and psychological to say “No” was great, and so the value of that “Yes” was beyond measure. And so it was that her “Yes” changed the course of human history, for unto her a child was born who is the Son of God.

Now, invite Mary’s action to your 21st century. Every day and every moment we are asked to bring Christ into this world. Christ is the incarnation of love. By loving, caring, being empathetic to the needs of others, we are bringing Christ into this world, we are saying “Yes” to God. It’s as simple as that and the level of difficulty to do so, is up to us. Armodoxy is a testament to a people who have chosen to bear Christ to the world. It has not been easy, but the reward has been great. Every Armenian Church altar bears the image of St. Mary presenting, offering, Jesus Christ, Love to the world. Every altar is a reminder that this “Yes” changes human history.

We pray, “Lord, Jesus Christ, your holy mother said yes to the invitation to bear you and present you to the world. You came into a world of darkness and brought light, into a world of hate and preached love. I say Yes today, to bring light and love to a hurting world. Shine in my life, move me in the paths of your love, always. Amen.”

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Advent 17-50: Resist Not Evil

Advent Day 17 of 50: Resist Not Evil

On this Advent Journey we reach a major hurdle which will also be a milestone for us. Jesus’ command to not resist evil is one of the most difficult statements to digest because inherently we wish to fight and eliminate evil. For this reason, it is a hurdle, and it is a milestone in our journey because so much rests on our acceptance of this commandment.

Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”

Before placing this into the category of weakness, pull out your Advent journals and refer to the lessons on harnessed energy, the discipline that turns our inner strength into focused power. The night that Jesus was born the heavenly hosts proclaimed, “Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.” (Luke 2:14) The Will of God is proclaimed for all of humanity with the birth of Jesus Christ. For there to be peace, the Prince of Peace advocates for nonviolent resistance to evil. It is the only solution and the only means of bringing about Peace.

The common misconception then, in the time of Jesus, as well as now, is that violence and more evil brings about peace. Mathematically we can formulate this as a + a = -a. It is just as absurd in theory as it is in practice.

Thinkers have pondered these words of Jesus for centuries and have argued pro and con to the subject. Heavyweights like Tolstoy have written volumes on the subject, as well as non-Christians, such as Gandhi have patterned the plan for liberation on nonviolent resistance. Third world countries, liberation theology and of course the Civil Rights movement in America have used Jesus’ teaching as a foundation and model on the path to equality and justice. According to Gandhi, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” to which Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. added, “If we do an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we will be a blind and toothless nation.”

We’re not through with the topic. It is the foundation for Jesus’ life and ministry. For today, let us pray a prayer offered by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.: O God, make us willing to do your will, come what may. Increase the number of persons of good will and moral sensitivity. Give us renewed confidence in nonviolence and the way of love as taught by Christ. Amen.

Processing Knowledge

Armodoxy for Today: Processing Experiences

There is an old adage that says with age comes wisdom. It’s based on the supposition that through life experiences we acquire knowledge, and we process that knowledge into wisdom. But the process of processing that knowledge is not consistent across the vast variety of people, that is not every one’s processing of knowledge leads to wisdom.

The Book of Proverbs, found in the Old Testament, is about wisdom. The first few lines of the Book of Proverbs explain why the book is written:

To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity;
To give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion—
A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
To understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

When the Armenian Church monk Mesrob Mashdots invented the Armenian alphabet at the beginning of the 5th century, the first bit of text that he translated were these words of preface of the Book of Proverbs. It is said that he did so to test the discovered letters before embarking on the translation of the entirety of Holy Scripture.

It is worth re-reading this passage with the knowledge that for the Armenian Church, this quest for wisdom was a priority of mission. Armodoxy attests to this. Most religious traditions share a quest for wisdom. Today, in an age where knowledge is a google-search away from anyone with a keyboard and processor – desktop, laptop or phone – the mechanism for processing that knowledge into wisdom is lost.

An anecdote which illustrates that process of knowledge to wisdom, is a beautiful story which has a counter part in many different traditions. In Buddhism it is told of a master and a student, in Armodoxy we tell it of an elderly priest and the young seminarian. In an effort to trick the master, the young student comes up with a scheme that will certainly prove that the wisdom of the elderly priest was not processed knowledge. The student placed a small bird in his hand and hid it behind his back. He turned to his teacher and said, “I am holding a bird in my hand, can you tell me if it is dead or alive?”

The scheme was rather clever. If the master said the bird was alive, then the student would crush it in his hand and reveal a dead bird. If the master said the bird was dead, then the student would merely open his hand and the bird would fly away. In both instances, the master would be wrong.

With bird in hand tucked behind his back, the young man approaches the elderly priest and asks, “Tell me master, is the bird I am holding in my hand, dead or alive?”

The priest, with a smile on his face, responds, “The answer is in your hand.”

The wisdom from this short story is profound, as most wisdom is. We are living in a time and space where we are quick to spew out bits and pieces of knowledge, and we now even have computer assisted means by which we can gather more and more knowledge. Wisdom is the necessary processing of knowledge. Jesus, processed knowledge into wisdom when he allowed for the stoning of the adulterer, but only by those who had no sin (John 8), or answered the question of taxation by saying “Render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s and unto God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22) In fact, on closer look we find that Jesus is wisdom. St. Nersess Shnorhali refers to him as “Wisdom of the Father.” Our survival as a people and species depends on finding wisdom. That wisdom is within our reach.

We pray, from St. Nersess Shnorhali’s 11th hour, Jesus, Wisdom of the Father, grant me your wisdom that I may speak, think, and do that which is good in your sight. Save me from evil thoughts, words and deeds. Amen.  

Cover photo: Courtesy Gregory Beylerian

18th Century Prayer Book from Soviet Union to the Church

Nersess Shnorhali’s “Jesus, Son” – gifted to the Western Diocese

Presentation at Reclaim 2023 by Fr. Vazken Movsesian

We often speak about the Armenian Genocide and it’s lasting impact on the Armenian soul and psyche. We must never forget what followed, that is, the 70 years of communism that swallowed up Armenia in the Soviet Union. Those were very difficult years for Armenians caught up in the Soviet State as it spewed its narrative of atheism and anti-nationalism.

In 1977 – 1978, I had a unique chance of a lifetime to study in Armenia at the seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin. It was there and then that I met Archbishop Hovnan, who was a seminarian at the monastery. For most people who viewed from the outside, studying at a seminary in a country which professed atheism, sounded like an oxymoron. But that was the magic that we experienced at Holy Etchmiadzin, under the leadership of Catholicos Vazken I. From the Holy shrine of Etchmiadzin, the Light of Christ was shining.
On weekends, as a break from classes, we sometimes ventured off to Yerevan where local bookstore were always a special stop for us. One Saturday, while browsing through books I came across a tattered and old-looking book of prayers. The cover page was torn, but I made out that it was St. Nersess Shnorhali’s “Jesus, Son” (Յիսուս, Որդի). It was at the bottom of a pile of “throw-aways” and after paying only a few kopeks, I took possession.

When I got back to the Seminary, I looked up the book in the seminary’s library. The earliest edition of this book was listed as 1643, with a possibility of a later printing by 1785. I was so excited. I had a treasure. Later on I would realize the treasure was what was written on those page.

I mentioned my acquisition to a few of the seminarians who were quick to notify me that anything that pre-dated the Bolshevik Revolution (1917) was to remain in the country. It was interest that everyone knew this bit of the law. Nothing with a day before 1917 could be taken out of the USSR. Of course, I now had a challenge before me, a challenge which was accented by the fact that books of this genre in the Soviet Union could have the fate of “Fahrenheit 451” in Bradbury’s America.

In that same bookstore, I found a book written in Armenian, “Marx, Engels and Lenin on Religion” (Մարքս, Էնգելս, Լենին Կրոնի Մասին) which sold for a few kopeks as well. There were stacks of these books, priced to sell and move into the hands of the public! I purchased one, and I also purchased a flag, the one which flew over Armenia during that period. It was red with a blue stripe, and in the corner the hammer & sickle were prominently situated. I took these books from the opposing camps – Shnorhali’s “Jesus, Son” and the Marx, Engels and Lenin’s “Religion” – and wrapped them up in the communist flag and mailed them to myself, hoping that the postal or custom inspector would view this packet as communist propaganda and allow it through the system. And, I guess it worked. When I returned back to the States the box was waiting for me. It had been opened, but all of the content was there.

It was only later that I understood the magnitude of the blessing that Shnorhali’s “Jesus, Son” was bringing. I painfully read through the classical Armenian and later discovered translations. It has been a cornerstone of my Bible Study classes and only a few years ago I did an entire season of Bible Studies on this Holy Text.

Today, as we offer “Reclaim a Voice” I’d like to present this book to His Eminence Archbishop Hovan, as a custodian of sacred texts. This book is a voice that the Soviets tried to suppress. It is no different than the countless Christian voices that have been attacked through the centuries and the voices that are held back today. This book belongs within the safety of our Diocesan Library, as an inspiration to others. I thank Archbishop Hovnan for placing such a high value on the written word creating a safe sanctuary for these classics and a place where we know that generations to come will be blessed with the sacred words of Shnorhali and “Jesus, Son.”

Lenten Journey Day 39 – Light and Salt

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 39: Tropical Sweet Potatoes

Lenten Journey Day 39 – Light and Salt 

Change. We have changed through the Lenten Season. In fact, our Lord Jesus Christ is the author of change. He advocated our need to change. He taught us a path to get back home through repentance. He expressed through words and his life, that through simplicity we can find happiness and inner peace.

Christ has the ability to change evil into good. Certainly, at the Cross, he transformed the evil Crucifixion into a “Good” Friday event, by the power of the Resurrection. Jesus also changes word and concepts. For instance he took the words of condemnation and turned them into words of salvation. The first man heard the words, “Take and eat this will make you like God,” and was condemned. Jesus took those same words and made them into words of salvation, “Take and eat,” this will make you like God, for this is my body and this is my blood.

Jesus is the one who transforms us and in him we see a transfiguration. A renewal for our lives. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gives us a formula for happiness. In the Beatitudes we are told what is really important in life. In giving us hope and belief in tomorrow, he concludes the Beatitudes by once again changing us by giving an opportunity for us to partake in the Divine Nature. The same one who once said, “I am the light of the world,” now turns to us and says, “You are the light of the world,” giving us an opportunity, much like the disciples who witnessed the transfiguration, who saw His radiance, an opportunity to see the fullness of God.

According to the Old Testament, the first thing that God willed was light, “Let there be light.” This is independent of any celestial body. It is pure light. It is radiating light. It is healing light. It is the light that is from the beginning of time and continues forever.

Jesus gives us an opportunity to be that light. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

Using something as small and seemingly insignificant as a grain of salt, Jesus emphasizes how important our life is in the big picture. The Lord proclaims that you are important because you are that salt of the earth. That salt is used to flavor life, to give life its meaning and to give it content, that is, inner happiness, inner strength, inner peace.

In Armenian Church tradition a priest blesses the homes of his parishioners and part of that ritual involves blessing water for the spiritual needs of the family and blessing the bread for the physical needs of the family. Equally as important, the priest blesses salt because flavor is necessary in life. We are called to the happiness of life , to share in God’s love, in God’s kingdom, in the goodness that is all around us. Imagine, “You are the salt of the earth” because you give meaning to what we know as life.

Jesus continues, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

There is a responsibility that comes with being light. Light needs to shine. Ours is to light the world. We do not have the right to hide light.

Today we find more opportunities of expressing our responsibility in God’s Creation. You are called to a unique responsibility of being salt, the flavor of life. You are the light which illuminates the darkness and illuminates the path to your heavenly Father. As night falls on the Lenten Season, we are given the responsibility to shine light on a world that is in need of illumination.

The sun goes down daily over our lives, but for many lives, the glimmer of hope for a new sun rise is nonexistent. Imagine leaving a room, turning off the lights and the room becomes so dark that those people in it cannot see the light switch. They don’t know where to turn. They don’t know where to reach to turn on the light. You are the light of the world. Shine. Turn on the switch. Provide hope, faith and love. 

Today God is calling upon you to become the light of the world, not to hide yourself under a table but to put yourself on the light stand. As someone who has gone through this Lenten season you now have a new responsibility to light the darkness and in so doing, to become an agent of Christ, to become a pillar of hope where there cannot be hope. You are the salt of the Earth to bring flavor to life, you are the light of the world to bring light into the darkness.

Let us pray the prayer of Saint Nerses Shnorhali (Norasdeghdzyal):
In the beginning the Word newly created the heaven and heavens out of nothing, and the celestial hosts: the watchers, the angels and the elements, contrary one to the other, and yet agreeing, by which the indescribable Trinity is ever glorified.

The thrice-holy One, dominion and Godhead in one nature, the light uncreated that creates, commanded that there be created light, which he made to shine on the first Lord’s day that was Sunday, by which the inexpressible Trinity is ever glorified.

O You Love, in love You humbled Yourself and took human form for our salvation, in the same body that was crucified, and laid in the tomb of death, this day You rose as God and the angels proclaimed; come you who are saved, sing with the angel praises to him that is risen.
Amen.

Under Wraps

Next Step #751: From coverups to false narratives, from truth to Truth, a look at how we are being impacted from forces around us. Halloween is only a part of it, and only the beginning. “Celebrating the Schism” leads to a deep dive into some uncomfortable areas for uncomfortable times.
Jesus as a Lunch Date?
The Search
1927 Picnic
Elon Musk, First Day at Twitter
Arcadi Volodos Piano Transcriptions
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for Epostle.net
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Lunch Date

Armodoxy for Today
Lunch Date

Several years ago, I was interviewed by one of the local newspapers here in the Southland. One of the questions they asked me was, given the chance to have lunch with anyone, historic or contemporary, dead or alive, who would I choose?

These types of questions come with some expectations, especially of the clergy. The obvious historical character for clergy is Jesus Christ. Even in secular circles, among non-religious people, the influence of Jesus and Christianity on human history and thought is undeniably tremendous. And so, in a sense, it’s a loaded question when asking a clergy person to pick out a person, from all of time, with whom to spend the lunch hour.

I disappointed the interviewer, and perhaps you, the reader or listener, not because I didn’t want to take the bait but because there’s nothing more that needs to be asked of Christ. At the Crucifixion, Jesus is recorded as saying, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) He had come to the world as a gift from God as the ultimate expression of love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) It is finished. He has given us everything we need to know, everything that is necessary to make “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” He has given us nothing less than what is necessary to enjoy life, live it abundantly.

Part of the joy of life is the wonder, the mystery, the search and discovery for ourselves. Jesus has given us the Truth, which applies across generations and civilizations. As Christians, we all come with our own set of circumstances and are touched by the Truth. We search, make mistakes, mark accomplishments, wonder, marvel, cry, laugh and in the end, we live. It is the process of that gives life meaning. Our prayer is for the wisdom, to live in harmony with all that is around us. St. Nersess’ prayer is, “Jesus, [you are] the wisdom of the Father, grant me your wisdom that I may speak, think and do that which is good in your sight. Save me from evil thoughts, words and deeds. Amen.

And, who would I have liked to have lunch with, dead or alive, historic or contemporary? Well, my father, of course. We lost him at an early age. I would love to see him one more time, share with him the wonders of life, the magic, the music, laughs and sorrows that I have discovered… and perhaps compare notes.  

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.
Links
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.

 

Open Cafe

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #711: Ordering and consuming exactly what you want and need – whether a meal, a matter of faith, a hamburger, a bowl of soup. Vantage points, geography and life circumstances in defining our religious understandings. The scorecard on chosenness.
Samaritan Woman and Jesus
Jesus beyond the three years
Joni Mitchell
Cover: Clifton’s Cafeteria
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Empath’s Christmas

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #705: Interview with Alina Samuelian of FLY – Freedom Loving Youth, after her recent outreach in Gyumri. Hear this energetic empath give her first-hand account of life and living conditions in areas of the world hit by tragedy. From Syria to Lebanon to Armenia, FLY reaches out to those in need. Here’s their story articulated by a front-line worker. All this, in the context of Jesus and the “Great Banquet”
Christian Giving, Luke 14:12-24
Freedom Loving Youth
Armenian Earthquake 30 years later
2021 Toy Drive
Children’s Memorial
Peacemakers – Gabriel & Katie Jay
Earlier interview in Armenian
Isabel Bayrakdarian
Cover: In Gyumri FLY meets with mother and son

Connecting with FLY
Website
Facebook: Freedom Loving Youth-FLY
Instagram: freedom.loving.youth
YouTube
Venmo account: @fly-freedomlovingyouth
Firewood Fundraiser

Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
Listen via Stitcher Radio on demand!
Listen on Apple Podcasts