Tag Archive for: John 3:16

Love Defined

Armodoxy for Today: Love Defined

The statement made by Christ is John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave his only Son” has been referred to as the “Gospel in brief.” It is recited and re-recited by the young and old so frequently that many would be pressed to explain its meaning.

God sending His Son is the reason given as a demonstration of His love for the world. The statement presupposes that we know how the story is going to pan out, namely that Jesus will be Crucified. It is the Crucifixion that gives meaning to the statement, “God so loved the world that He gave his only Son.” The fact that God gives up and sacrifices His Son is the qualifier for His love. In other words, we understand that God must love us so much that He sacrifices His very best. Without this sacrificial act, the statement is empty.

In Armenian Orthodoxy the symbol of love is the cross. Quite different from the Western symbol of the red-heart made popular by Hallmark and candy companies vying for your dollars on Valentine’s Day, the Cross is true romance because in the symbol there is pain and suffering that is voluntarily given out of love.

Reflect on your own circumstance, on your own life… Who are the people that sacrificed for you? If you can think of a person then you are also thinking of the person who loves you. Love is painful because sacrifice hurts. Love is beautiful because sacrificing is the ultimate expression of beauty. The Cross is set apart as a symbol of magnificence because in it we understand, albeit only partially but still enough, that God’s love for us is the ultimate expression of caring, compassion and affection for us, because He gave His very best.

The Greeks use many words to describe Love, but three of them have been popularized in the Christianity, namely eros, philia and agape. Eros is the physical or sexual love. Think of the word erotic. Philia is the love between siblings, between friends. Think of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. Agape is the God-love. It is unconditional. It is sacrificial and therefore, sacrificial love, as in “God so love the world…” is unconditional.

Armodoxy goes one step further. In the Armenian language, there is only one word for love, “սէր” (pronounced sehr) In this one word, the erotic, brotherly, and unconditional elements of love all come together, remarkably, but not surprisingly. Join me tomorrow as we continue with Armodoxy for today.

Let us pray, the prayer of St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, All the greatest pains become sweet for whoever looks at Jesus Christ on the Cross. Amen.


Armodoxy for Today: Caduceus

The Gospel of John begins with a “nativity” narrative that traces Jesus’ origins to the beginning of time. “In the beginning was the Word,” says the evangelist, from where he brings Jesus to the first century Middle East. Within the first few chapters we are introduced to Jesus, the Lamb of God, the one who changes water to wine, and who speaks about transformation by being born from above, or more commonly expressed as “born again.” Following a dialogue between him and a religious ruler, Jesus makes the proclamation that, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Within Jesus’ statement he references a story that was all too familiar by his audience, referring to Moses, a serpent and the wilderness. It comes from the Biblical book Numbers, with the people of God walking and complaining. “And the people spoke against God and against Moses: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.’ So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.  Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” (21:4-8)

Looking at the staff with the serpent on it was their means of salvation from the venomous snakes. When Jesus says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life,” he is referring to this story of the poisonous snakes but is also cautiously alluding to his own Crucifixion. In fact, he was “lifted up” for everyone to see and witness. Remember, that when this Gospel was written in the latter part of the first century, the Crucifixion of Jesus was an event known by the community of believers. So, with this statement Jesus is inviting the listener to focus on the Crucifixion as a means of salvation.

The Crucifixion is what gives meaning to the statement “God so loved the world that He gave his only Son.” We will see how, as we continue tomorrow on Armodoxy today.

Let us pray with the words of St. Paul, who says, “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Amen (Galatians 6:14)


Armodoxy for Today: 3:16

We see the numbers here and there, at football games, on the bottom of soft-drink cups, on keychains, on graffiti and bumper stickers: John 3:16. It is so well known in pop culture that just the numbers “3:16” are enough to trigger a response, and act as a suffix on names of people, places and groups. Some call John 3:16 the Gospel in brief. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Indeed, it summarizes the purpose and intent of the Gospel, but thank God, we’ve been given so much more.

During the annual cycle of the Armenian Church, there is only one day on which this passage is read as the Gospel selection of the Divine Liturgy. It falls on this, the third Sunday after Theophany.

The Gospel of John, as you will remember, presented a Nativity narrative different from the traditional narratives that include the virgin birth, visits from angels, the manger, stars, kings, the inn, and the sort. St. John connects us to the very beginning of time. Today we find the other side time continuum, namely the connection to eternity. Listen attentively to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:

No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:13-21)

This passage is, in fact, the continuation of the Nativity narrative offered to us by St. John. The message here is timeless. It applies to all times. During the next couple of days we will explore these words in depth. For today, let us pray the prayer of the 16th hour by St. Nersess Shnorhali, “O my God, who opens Your hand and fills all things living with Your bounty, to You I commit my soul. Do care for me and provide for the needs of my body and soul forever. Amen.