Tag Archive for: Lent

Pingo Gave it Away: Lent Day 6

Armodoxy for Today: Pingo gave it away (Lent Day 6)

If it’s too good to be true… well, you know the rest. But I saw this antique-looking poster in shrink wrap at the store and thought, there has to be an exception to the rule. This looked authentic, and it was selling for a few dollars. It was a poster, with a vintage look from the 1960s. There they were, the Fab Four in all their splendor, with the smiles that melted the heart of the nation in what would be called Beatlemania.

Here was a poster of the Beatles. It was them, for sure. Images collaged on 16×20 poster; it was ready for framing. I had heard about things like this. People finding artwork at garage sales, others discovering a rare coin in their change, and some lucky ones who stumble on antiquity so great in value that collectors or Sotheby’s will beat a path to their door to acquire it. Yes, every so often it happened and this time it was my turn.

This, I thought, was authentic, the real deal. The pictures were of John, Paul, George and Ringo, their trademark collarless jackets, enthusiasm reflected in their faces. I remember that February evening, in 1964, now 60+ years since they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. My parents had the show on TV I, like most 8-year-olds, would normally avoid watching a variety show on Sunday night with my parents. But that night, I was glued to the set. My dad had gone outside to talk with the neighbors. I remember Sullivan swinging his hand and pointing to the four with the words, “The Beatles.” The crowd roared and sitting on the other side of the television set I was swept in the sea of emotions. Beatlemania had hit America and definitely my home. It was only three months earlier that our president had been shot in broad daylight. From the gloom of assassination, we needed this bit of cheer.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 60 years since we first heard them. It was a mark in time in history for me. And now, I stood in front of this poster and for a few bucks, I was not going to miss the opportunity to own a piece of that history. I picked up the poster, reached in my pocket for the few dollars it would cost me to walk out of this store, and then I took a moment to read the handwritten signature next to the portrait of each Beatle. Ah! You knew this moment had to arrive… George’s signature was on John’s and John’s on George’s portrait. And so, a closer look at the drummer… meet Pingo! What a difference a line makes: Ringo had signed his picture as Pingo! Yes, it was a cheap imitation poster made to look like an antique. Yes, indeed, it was too good to be true.

During Lent, we zealously enter the groove of heightened spirituality, so much so that sometimes we overlook or miss marks of authenticity. Imagine, it has only been six decades since the Beatles came to America and these knock-off posters have swapped and misspelled proper names. Imagine what Christianity has gone through in the two millennia! Lent is a time for introspection. We have arrived at the end of the first week. I pray and hope that you do not rush through this period. Take time to look and test the messages in and against your life. Lent is your time to look closely at the signatures that line up against the portraits of your life.

Tomorrow, we continue this Lenten Journey as we enter the second week of Lent. I look forward to greeting you here on Epostle.net.

Armodoxy for Today: Beatles at 60

If it’s too good to be true… well, you know the rest. But I saw this antique-looking poster in shrink wrap at the store and thought, there has to be an exception to the rule. This looked authentic, and it was selling for a few dollars. It was a poster, with a vintage look from the 1960s. There they were, the Fab Four in all their splendor, with the smiles that melted the heart of the nation in what would be called Beatlemania.

Here was a poster of the Beatles. It was them, for sure. Images collaged on 16×20 poster; it was ready for framing. I had heard about things like this. People finding artwork at garage sales, others discovering a rare coin in their change, and some lucky ones who stumble on antiquity so great in value that collectors or Sotheby’s will beat a path to their door to acquire it. Yes, every so often it happened and this time it was my turn.

This, I thought, was authentic, the real deal. The pictures were of John, Paul, George and Ringo, their trademark collarless jackets, enthusiasm reflected in their faces. I remember that February evening, in 1964, now 60+ years since they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. My parents had the show on TV I, like most 8-year-olds, would normally avoid watching a variety show on Sunday night with my parents. But that night, I was glued to the set. My dad had gone outside to talk with the neighbors. I remember Sullivan swinging his hand and pointing to the four with the words, “The Beatles.” The crowd roared and sitting on the other side of the television set I was swept in the sea of emotions. Beatlemania had hit America and definitely my home. It was only three months earlier that our president had been shot in broad daylight. From the gloom of assassination, we needed this bit of cheer.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 60 years since we first heard them. It was a mark in time in history for me. And now, I stood in front of this poster and for a few bucks, I was not going to miss the opportunity to own a piece of that history. I picked up the poster, reached in my pocket for the few dollars it would cost me to walk out of this store, and then I took a moment to read the handwritten signature next to the portrait of each Beatle. Ah! You knew this moment had to arrive… George’s signature was on John’s and John’s on George’s portrait. And so, a closer look at the drummer… meet Pingo! What a difference a line makes: Ringo had signed his picture as Pingo! Yes, it was a cheap imitation poster made to look like an antique. Yes, indeed, it was too good to be true.

During Lent, we zealously enter the groove of heightened spirituality, so much so that sometimes we overlook or miss marks of authenticity. Imagine, it has only been six decades since the Beatles came to America and these knock-off posters have swapped and misspelled proper names. Imagine what Christianity has gone through in the two millennia! Lent is a time for introspection. We have arrived at the end of the first week. I pray and hope that you do not rush through this period. Take time to look and test the messages in and against your life. Lent is your time to look closely at the signatures that line up against the portraits of your life.

Tomorrow, we continue this Lenten Journey as we enter the second week of Lent. I look forward to greeting you here on Epostle.net.

Fasting Beyond Food: Lent Day 5

Day 5: Intense Fasting

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 5: Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries and Pecans!

 
As we approach the end of our first week in Lent, remind yourself that your accomplishments as well as your failures are behind you.  If you are fasting, and your prayer and giving cycles have increased, then these are accomplishments which should encourage you to continue and be even stronger in the weeks to come. If you have strayed from your goals, then regard this time as a catalyst for change. Challenge yourself to re-focus and be determined to take on the next few weeks with optimism.
Today we will talk about intense fasting, that is, fasting beyond food. In scripture we read a passage from the Gospel of St. Luke which says, “Jesus called the crowd to Him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.’”
The message here is a strong one. So many times, and especially during the Lenten period, we are consumed with all of the laws and the regulations of life, the dos and don’ts of life. Do abstain from meat. Don’t drink milk. etc. We spend time asking the wrong questions: Do we abstain from this type of meat? Or that type of food? Rather than the rules and regulations, we should investigate the reasons for those rules. That is, we should be navigating ourselves to the true true intention of the Lenten period.
Lent, as we have learned, is a time to simplify, to bring it down to the bare basics, to find out what is necessary to live. We abstain from certain foods – meat and animal products – to help us simplify. Today we will crank it up a notch as we start to abstain from the bigger foods. We will focus on the things that defile us, or as Jesus says, “… not what goes into our system but what goes out of our system.”
What are those things that come out of our system and are they defiling us? Are there words, are there emotions that are destroying us, that are literally killing us and the people around us? I am talking about those expressions of anger, those expressions of hatred. How about discouragement and discontent? These are all emotions that tear us apart. They rip apart the relationships from people that we love. They defile us. They pollute our systems and our lives. They prevent us from becoming all that we can and should be.
As we know, the words that we speak can destroy us. There is an expression among Armenians that the wound created by a sword will heal, but the wound caused by the tongue never heals.
Think about the words that you have used in haste, perhaps in anger. Think about those expressions that have divided you from friends, or perhaps from family. Some words have even destroyed others, Willingly or maybe unwillingly, those small words have come out of your mouth and you have hurt others. Unfortunately,  more often than not, you end up hurting the ones you love most. Perhaps it’s because we think that those who love us will tolerance us, put up with us. Whatever the case or the reason, when we hurt others, we destroy relationships and in so doing, we destroy our relationship with God.
In fact in the Gospel of Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus specifically makes this point, “You have heard that you shall not murder, but  I tell you if you have anger toward your brother you are guilty of that murder!” That’s it! Christ tells us in no uncertain terms that there is no place in the life of a Christian for anger, for hatred, for  divisive conversations, and even the thoughts that are the basis for those actions. 
Now, when you rid yourself of the evil thoughts which lead to the evil actions, you must replace them with the only thought powerful enough to keep those thoughts away. That power comes from love. Love is the one ingredient of life that can overcome those thoughts and words that divide and devastate us.
Without love, what meaning or what purpose can our existence have? Love is the necessary component of life. While it is a natural element of our existence, that is, it exists in us all, nevertheless, it needs to be cultivated and nurtured. During this Lenten period we have a golden opportunity to do exactly that. By cultivating and nurturing the feelings of love in our life, we build the necessary habit to overcome the difficulties of life beyond this period of Lent. While abstinence and restrictions are one part of the Lenten journey, the greater task for the believer is to exercise love and to be in harmony family, friends, with nature, with surroundings, the world and ultimately, all of the universe, namely God. 
Let us pray:
All provident Lord place your holy fear as a guard before my eyes, so they may not look lustfully, before my ears so they may not delight in hearing evil words, before my mouth so it may not speak any falsehoods, before my heart so that it may not think evil, before my hands so that they may not do injustice, before my feet that they may not walk in the paths of injustice. But so direct them that they may always be according to all your commandments. Have mercy upon your creatures and upon me a great sinner. Amen. (St. Nersess Shnorhali’s Havadov Khosdovanim 9/24)

Prayer-Selftalk – Lent Day 3

Prayer-Selftalk – Lent Day 3

Lenten RecipeRecipe 3: Spicy Peanut Noodles

 

Today we will discuss prayer in the life of the Christian and its importance during the Lenten period.
 
As we discussed in our previous sessions, during the Lenten period we are called to a discipline of fasting, of giving and of heightened awareness in our prayer life. Usually when we think of prayer we define it as a conversation with God. While this is an acceptable understanding of prayer, we must also admit that conversation is a two way street and so, if we are to talk, we must also listen.
 
Let us begin by listening to the words of Christ regarding prayer. We read from the Sermon on the Mount, (Matthew chapter 6): “And whenever you pray,” Jesus says, “Do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you they have received their reward. But whenever you pray go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father in secret. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you are praying do not heap up empty phrases, as the gentiles do for they think they will be heard because of their words. Do not be like them for your Father knows what you need before you ask.”
 
Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms that God knows the wants and needs of our hearts. He knows our deepest desires. Therefore, the question comes up, if God knows what we need and want, why pray? Prayer, therefore must be more than a conversation with God and it is.
 
As much as prayer is a conversation with God, more importantly, it is a conversation with the self. It may sound strange that the self would not know its own needs, but think about it for a moment. The needs and desire of your heart are within your grasp, and the prayer that you make to God can only be to awaken and strengthen your resolve to actualize your dreams.
 
The self needs to be awakened and that is what this Lenten journey is all about. Lent is that windshield wiper that drives away the dirt, the grime and the rain that is blurring our vision. It allows us to see the clear picture, to see the life that is in front of us.
 
During the Lenten Journey, we are streamline and minimize. We find what is truly necessary to survive and live. We fast and in our prayer life we have a conversation with our self to find the true desires of our heart. In so doing, we discover that we can actualize our desires with the tools that God has given us, namely with faith, hope and love our deepest dreams can come true. Through the Lenten Journey, we wash away the toxins in our system and eliminate the excesses only to uncover and find the true treasures in our life. They are not the things and stuff that consume our daily existence. No, we find the real treasures of faith, hope and love.
 
During Lent we have a beautiful opportunity to communicate with God and with our selves. We understand that God and self exist in a unique relationship that brings them into close proximity and connection.  
 
St. Gregory of Nareg (Gregor Narekatzi) reminds us that prayer is a conversation that originates from the depth of our heart, that is, from the center of our being.
 
For today’s lesson, I ask that you find a place where you can be alone. It should be where you are not easily distracted. You may wish to burn some incense to keep focused. By looking at the smoke that rises to heaven, you will be reminded that your prayers must also rise beyond yourself and the temporal plain. As you smell the fragrance of the incense, it awakens your senses, much like the Zen master that paddles his students who have lost focus and fallen asleep. While in prayer we need that awakening, that jarring, that says stay focused and listen to the sound of God.
 
When you are alone, awake and in prayer, be concise and precise in articulating your heart’s message. As our Lord says, your Father already knows what you need. Jesus, therefore, instructs us with a model prayer: “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 is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory. Forever and ever!”
 
As you say, “Amen” at the end of the prayer, let it be! Release yourself to God. Submit. Let it be! Give it all to God and then sit back and listen. Give some time to listening in your prayer life. Away from distractions with a clear focus, listen to how is God responding to you? What is God saying to the depths of your heart?  You may not hear an answer right away, but trust me, in the next few weeks, as we travel this Lenten Journey together, your senses will become more aware. You will be more conscious of your surroundings and to the voices that do not talk to ears but to the heart. Yes, you will be hearing with your heart!
 
Let us pray…
Heavenly King, grant me Your kingdom, which You have promised to Your beloved; strengthen my heart to hate sin, and to love You alone, and to do Your will. Have mercy upon Your Creatures and upon me, a great sinner. (I confess with Faith by St. Nersess Shnorhali, vs. 13/24)
 
On this third day of Lent, I invite you to begin journaling. Write the wishes of your heart and write the responses you receive. You will find this a helpful practice during the Lenten season. Especially as we begin this Lenten Journey, it may be tempting to stray.  

Fast Food Fasting – Lent Day 2

Day 2: Fasting: Abstaining from Food and Drink

And whenever you fast do not look dismal like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces to show the others that they are fasting.  Truly, I tell you, they have received their reward.  When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face so that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who is in secret will reward you.” ~Jesus (Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6)

Lenten Recipe 2: Mushroom Fried Rice

Yesterday we took a general look at the Lenten period and noted the instruction given to us in Holy Scripture regarding almsgiving, prayer and fasting. Of these three, fasting is the most pronounced when it comes to Lent.
Often, people understand that Lent is a period of time when we “give up” something.  We are familiar with Mardi Gras, which means “Fat Tuesday.” It is the day before Lent where anything goes because the on the following day, Ash Wednesday, the period of deprivation begins. For us in the Armenian Orthodox tradition, we are already in the Lenten cycle – two days before Ash Wednesday. Lent begins on Monday, so “Fat Tuesday” is actually Fat Sunday. In Armenian we refer to last Sunday, the day before Lent as Poon Paregentan.  It is a compound word meaning “Good” (pari) and “Living” (gentan) = the day of Good Living
As for dietary habits, the Armenian Orthodox Church clearly pronounces a menu. For us, we abstain from all animal and animal products.  That is, no meats, no poultry, no fish as well as their products.  No milk, cheese and dairy products.  Basically, we bring it down to a vegan diet.  It is a beautiful opportunity to clean our systems during Lent.  But be careful.  Sometimes people look at Lent, especially the fasting rituals, as an opportunity to drop some pounds or to lower cholesterol.  That is not what it’s about.  You do not fast to lose weight.  You do not fast to drop your cholesterol levels.
The purpose of these dietary restrictions is to reminds us of what is essential in our lives.  During Lent we strip away all the excesses, we purge our system of the toxins and we find what we need to live.  Think of Jesus in the wilderness.  For 40 days and 40 nights he fasted and then he was tempted.  “Change theses stones into bread,” said the Tempter.  “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the Lord,” response Jesus. These words must guide us in our fasting and dietary discipline.  What do we need in our lives? What is essential for us to live? What is being spoken to us?
John Jesus says, “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.” That abundant life should reflect a life filled with passion, victories, love and happiness. I’m not talking about superficial happiness, but the one that comes from within, when we live a life of purpose and full of meaning.
When we fast, we stay away from certain foods. We clean out our systems, yes, but at the same time we are reminded of the necessities of life, that is, what is necessary to life? If you take a personal inventory of your life, you’ll find that most everything that you have falls into the “excess” category.  There is so little that you really need to survive.  But that too is a challenge.  God does not call us to live a life without those excesses.
In the Armenian Church there is a practice to bless the homes. A family invites the priest into their home, and place bread, water and salt on a table, for this blessing. The bread is blessed for the physical needs of the family. We bless water for the spiritual fidelity of the family. And equally important, we bless salt, to remind us that life has to have flavor. Life is beautiful and it is meant to be lived in excess – to love in excess, to smile in excess, to care in excess. Lent is not about forgoing the excess but to inspect and find what are the excesses that we can live without and what are those things – the smile, love, care – that we need to increase, fill our lives and live the abundant life.
Today with this lesson on fasting, I invite you to really take an inventory of your life.  What is really necessary to get through?  What is necessary to survive? And what is really necessary in your life to enjoy?  You will find that taking an inventory gives you a unique insight into your life and living practices. You will find that the necessities of life are in the acts of love, kindness and charity. These are what define us as people and make us truly worthy to be called children of God.
We conclude with one of the prayers of St. Nerses Shnorhali, (Verse 16 from Havadov Khosdovaneemk):
Oh my God, who opens your hands 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 soul and body forever.  Have mercy upon all your creatures and upon me, a great sinner. Amen.
Cover Image

Jesus: Get him?

Armodoxy for Today: Get Jesus?

Are you going to tune into the Superbowl this Sunday? If you’ll be watching on TV you’ll have an advantage over those attending the game, because the head of our Church will have a commercial spot during one of the breaks.

The Super Bowl is an event unparalleled in the United States. It attracts a wide variety of people to an annual display of athletics and dramatics. Much more than a football game, the Super Bowl has become a phenomenon with its high-priced tickets and astronomical advertising fees. Let’s get the statistics out of the way first. The average price of a ticket is about $9,000, the stadium holds 65,000+ people, the cost of advertising is $7,000,000 for 30 seconds (yes, that’s a half-a-minute) of airtime, and an estimated 113,000,000 people will view the game on TV and live streams.

The theatrics of the Super Bowl are not limited only to the half-time-show. Actors and celebrities are commissioned to sell everything from alcoholic drinks to food products, from invisible wireless services to very visible luxury vehicles. Of course, it’s all calculated on the returns. If an advertiser is going to spend $7Million for 30 seconds, be sure that they’ve calculated the return will be many times over. That’s good business and has been the business of Super Bowl advertising, until now.

The product? Jesus!

Last year, a Christian website, He Gets Us, set up a beautifully orchestrated campaign of pictures and sayings of Jesus to bring the point home that He gets us! And there’s a good chance they’re going to do it again this year. On a week where Jesus is celebrated by the actions of the warrior and the priest, Saints Vartan and Leon, these commercials make it clear that Jesus is alive and well and talking to the world today. And people are listening! I know because last year, immediately after the ad aired, both sides of the political spectrum – the left and the right – criticized the advertising of Jesus in this manner. Yes, just as he did 2000 years ago, so too now, Jesus is shaking up the establishment.

So they spent $20Million on a minute-and-a-half of advertising and what is their return? In proclaiming that Jesus “Gets us” the purpose (or the calculated return) is to challenge us to “Get Him!”

This coming Sunday is Super Sunday, not because two football teams will carry, throw and kick a football from one side of the field to the other. It’s Super Sunday because God loved us so much that he wanted to get us and so He sent His very best, His only Begotten Son. This Sunday is the “Day of Good Living” followed by the Lenten Season which begins on Monday. Lent is about how we “Get Him.” Yes, God understands us. Yes, “Jesus gets us.” Now the challenge is ours: do we get Him?

The forty-day period of Lent begins with an invitation to “Get Him.” The Armodox practice of abstaining from animal products in our diet and increasing our time in private prayer and acts of charity sets us on a course to meet the Resurrected Lord, at Easter and to take Him with us into our lives. In other words, 40 days of Lent prepares and arms for the 325 days of the year that follow. Get it? If you do, then you’ll be challenged to “Get Him.”

Let us pray, “Lord, I thank you for hearing my prayer and understanding me. As I prepare for the Lenten Season, open my heart to Your love, so that I may grow spiritually, to hear your answers and how Your Word touches my life every day. In Your name, Jesus, I pray. Amen”

Cover: 2023 Luna & Gregory Beylerian

Lenten Journey Day 40 – Worship


Lenten Journey Day 40 – Worship

What a beautiful day today is. It is day 40 – forty days ago we began this Lenten Journey. We feel a sense of accomplishment. It is a good feeling. It has been 40 days of fasting – abstaining from certain foods. It has been 40 days of intensifying our prayer life. It has been 40 days of charitable giving, not merely by writing out checks but giving pieces of ourselves. We have counted our blessings and our talents, contemplating our purpose and function within life and our world. It has been a time of reflection.

It is perfectly natural for us to look back today, perhaps even revisit some of the themes that we explored during this Season. In looking back, though, we must be honest. If not, we will be betrayed by our attitudes and actions.

Today as we gather on this 40th day of Lent we arrive as new creatures. We have been transformed. We have changed, perhaps not to the exact place we would like to be, but the change is noticeable. In particular we have a new outlook. We see ourselves differently, as individuals and within the structure of our communities and the world.

The one topic that follows, naturally is “Worship.” It is the one area that we have not explored. It is the most extraordinary and natural. It is the final step we need to take during this Lenten Season.

In worship we understand ourselves in relationship with God in a rather unique manner. Worship is not prayer . It is praise. Worship is not asking. Worship is giving. It is giving ourselves and humbling ourselves before that which is greater than ours self. And so, Worship is the final step in the Lenten period.

It has been a beautiful journey this year because we have grown, both individually and together. By listening, by talking, by sharing, by extending ourselves, that is, by Loving! Think of it for a moment. The Love that we share with others defines who we are in, for and around life itself. And we have a new definition today. We have a new lease on life today! We have opportunity to come face-to-face with this holy season, to look at the resurrection with new eyes. Our eyes are focusing beyond crucifixion and we see the empty tomb. We witness and become part of the Tomb.

Imagine that…. Sitting in the Tomb of Jesus. Imagine waking up after the torture of crucifixion. Imagine waking up after a burial. We can now share properly what we were intended to share from the very beginning – to become participants in the salvation process. It is not a question of being saved, but one of being a participant. And that is where worship grants us a perfect model.

Worship in the Armenian Church is participation. It is an act of participation. It is not witnessing, but throwing yourself into it holistically with all your senses. To visually see what is around you – the visual delights, the colors, the candles, the flowers. To smell the aroma of the flowers at the altar as well as the incense that takes our prayers to heaven. To be able to hear the beautiful tones and tonalities of the angels. Not saying I don’t understand so let the angels come to me, but rather asking, how can I fly with the angels. How can I participant? Our sense of touch is also important in the Worship services. We have to touch each another. We have to physically love one another. We have to kiss each other to say “You are important in my life just as I would like to be important in yours.” In that touching process we begin to understand what it means to put our feet in the shoes of others. In the shoes of our brothers and sisters, of our people, of others who are struggling. We place our feet in the shoes of others and we understand their difficulties. Perhaps the loss of a job? The loss of a loved one? Perhaps they have an inability to process the spirituality, to process the love that God has put in our heart. And so we reach out to one another physically.

Finally we appeal to our sense of taste. We participate by communicating, by communing with the Holy Eucharist, with the precious body and blood of Jesus Christ.
So we see that worship really is that final step in the Lenten Journey. It is a step that allows us to go beyond Lent, so that taking what we learned during these 40 days, we can apply it and make it a reality in our life, every single day and every single moment, in our relationships with one another, to draw on what we learned in the past, but not to stay there in the past, and to say that the life before me is so beautiful that I’m ready to walk. I am ready to take on the challenges. I am empowered by God. I have been given a new lease on life with Jesus Christ as my savior.

Jesus Christ. Love incarnate. I have been given a new lease on life through Jesus, through love.

We conclude with a meditation on John chapter 15, Jesus, the True Vine. Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.

Amen.
This concludes the Lenten Journey.

The daily messages continue tomorrow with the Holy Week series at Epostle.net

Lenten Journey Day 38 – Happiness & Blessings

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 38: Peach Salsa

Lenten Journey Day 38 – Happiness & Blessings 

The Declaration of Independence of the United States proclaims that people are endowed by their creator to have the unalienable right to pursue happiness. Striving for happiness can be expensive for many. Some people forget and forsake all else for the sake of happiness. Often we view happiness as an end in itself, forgetting that happiness can serve a greater end, and that end we call life.

In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord Jesus Christ offers a plan for happiness, which many times seems to be at odds with the perspective offered by the world. Rather than focusing on pride, Jesus recommends being humble. Rather than pushing for pleasure or possessions Christ says true joy is found by helping others. Instead of pushing others out of our way, Jesus tells us to minister to them. His prescription for happiness seems to be at odds with the rest of the world.

Today as we are winding down our Lenten journey, taking those final steps on the road toward Holy Week we start putting pieces together. Fragments seem to collide with each other, right before our eyes. We have a new understanding of what that happiness is all about.

You were given this prescription at an early age, you probably read it several times, heard in many times but never made the connection that it was a prescription. It is a special healing for each and every one of us. It is an opportunity for us to connect to something greater than ourselves. It is a prescription for happiness. We call it the “Beatitudes.”

In the Sermon on the Mount (chapter 5 of the Gospel of St. Matthew) Jesus utters these words and speaks to the heart of a hurting people. He speaks to the soul of a people who need healing. These people are not members of any particular ethnic group. In fact, these people are all of us, they are you and me. Through the centuries we have opened these pages and have been inspired and found hope in tomorrow. In the dreams that we dream and surely those dreams being actualized are the happiness that you and I seek.

Today as you and I are finishing this Lenten season let us read the Beatitudes – this prescription for happiness. As you read, take your time to meditate on how these words speak to you. Contemplate the meaning of the words today and how they might have been interpreted before you started the Lenten Journey. We have tried to alienate ourselves from the pace of everyday life, and we have found a life that is full and rich. It is full of sacrifice, as our Lord Jesus Christ says, “He who is going to follow me must pick up his cross and follow me.” Further He sets a beautiful gardening metaphor for growth, by saying, “Unless a grain of wheat falls in the earth and dies it remains a single seed, but when it does die it produces much harvest.” Jesus in talking about His own resurrection, invites us to participate in a life of giving, of loving. It is a life of sharing, which makes it a life of fullness, where real happiness is instilled in our heart and can never be taken away.

The Beatitudes are the hope that Jesus gives us.

You who have gone through 38 days of the Lenten season with heightened prayer, with fasting with giving of charity. You will hear these words for the first time in a new manner as a prescription and formula for sacrifice, love and happiness. Let us pray the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Amen.

Lenten Journey Day 26 – Courage

Lenten Recipe 
Recipe 26: Cold Noodles in Spicy Sesame Sauce

Lenten Journey Day 26 – Courage 

During Lent we have become aware of the curtain drawn across the altar of life. That curtain is the obstacle that prevents us from seeing the wonders and the beauty of God – the obstacles that prevent us from maximizing our potential. That curtain has been lowered because of our fears, and the only way for us to bring it up, the only way for us to open that curtain is to combat our fears with courage.

Because God resides within us we know that the potential for courage is within us. Courage comes from within where God has placed it.

At the Last Supper, Jesus asked his disciples to look within. In the Gospel of John, we read Jesus’ final discourse (Chapter 16 and on). Jesus asks his disciples to act with love and with humility even in the face of the unthinkable, at the most horrid of endings. At the Last Supper he discloses to his disciples that he will suffer an unthinkable death. He will be humiliated before humanity. The same creature that received its life from Christ, will now kill the Christ. The same life that was formed from those hands, will now take those very hands and drive nails through them! And yet, Jesus says, have courage. In no uncertain terms he demands it of each of us who sit across from Him at the table. His words, “Courage! The victory is mine. I have overcome the world,” are words that should resound, should reverberate in the deepest pockets of our souls.

Our curtains need to be opened. The obstacles need to be removed. It’s all in our hands. We can do it if we have the courage. So let’s find that courage. It’s easy. Here is a small Lenten exercise for today. Imagine yourself sitting across from our Lord Jesus Christ at the Last Supper. As he spoke to his disciples 2,000 years ago, today he speaks to us, in the same language, knowing that ahead of Him lies the cross, and acknowledges the certainty of the resurrection. Now listen to his words carefully. “Courage! The victory is mine. I have overcome the world!”

It does not matter what difficulties we have ahead of us. It does not matter what kinds of obstacles there are. There may be crosses that are huge and torturous. There may be crosses that we find difficult to raise. There may be crosses that are merely stumbling blocks. It does not matter. With courage, we can carry those crosses. And we can find the resurrections. As we find, they are sitting on the other side of our curtains.
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Open the curtains! Remove the obstacles! Put fear aside. Have courage – a courage that comes from within and without. Understand yourself as a creation of God, standing with Him during his trials and tribulations on the cross because, as you know, He is standing with you at your trials and your tribulations, guaranteeing you a resurrection.

Let us pray now the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali:
You who bring back the wanderers, turn me from my evil ways into good ones and imprint upon my soul the recollection of the dreadful day of death, the fear of hell, and the love of your kingdom that I may repent or my sins and do righteousness. Have mercy upon all your creatures and upon me, a great sinner. Amen. (I Confess with Faith, 17/24)

Lenten Journey Day 25 – Fear

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 25: Curry Butternut Squash

Lenten Journey Day 25 – Fear
By this 25th day of the Lenten Journey we realize many things have changed in our lives. It may seem as if our surroundings have changed when actually we are now perceiving things differently. We have a broader understanding of our prayer life. We communicate with God and with our self. We understand our fasting as a means of discipline, and of course, our giving – reaching out to others with compassion – as an articulation of faith. On this 25th day of Lent, we understand that beyond these 40 days, there is a the journey of life. What we gain from Lent, we will carry for the rest of our life.

These past few days we have studied the story of the Dishonest Steward and contemplated on the theme of stewardship, that is, being entrusted by another to look over assets. We are entrusted by God to look over His greatest gift to us: the life that we live. We are managers of that life.

Remember that in the story of the Dishonest Steward, we find a person who is commended for his shrewdness. Shrewdness is one man’s talent, while others may shy away from such expressions because of fear. That fear, in turn, prevents us from maximizing our potential. The fear of the unknown is high on the list of fears, along with the fear of the self, the fear of being put down. There are so many dimensions to fear, and whatever they may be, we realize that fear prevents us from maximizing our potential.  Fear is the hurdle to overcome. The obstacles to win the race of life are many. Overcoming fear is our first step.  Think about it in your life – all the dreams that you have, all of them are attainable, so what prevents you from reaching those goals if not fear?

In our churches we cover the altar during the Lenten season. That curtain symbolizes sin, the separation between us and God due to sin. Because of our imperfection, we sin. And yet, perhaps that curtain can best be described as fear, as the fear that really prevents us from seeing the beauty that is all around us. Seeing the potential we have within us.
Beyond the parable of the Dishonest Steward, Jesus uses other parables to explain stewardship to us. Among them he speaks of stewards who are fearful; that is, people who are entrusted with life but fear to explore it. One such parable reminds us of three men who are entrusted with different amounts of money. To the first, $10,000 dollars is given; to the second, $5,000; and to the third, $1,000. When an accounting is required – “What did you do with the money that I gave you? – the first one says, “I took the $10,000 and I invested it. And I took some risks with it, but here it is. I have produced an additional $10,000.” The second man did the same thing. He took the $5,000 and he multiplied it and gave back $10,000 – “Here’s $5,000, and here’s $5,000 more that I invested and am giving back to you!” But the third of these stewards was fearful. To him was given $1,000. And he was scared. He was scared of humiliation. He was fearful that he might be condemned if anything happened to that money. Rather than understanding that money as a tool, he took it and kept it in his pocket, as if it had intrinsic worth in itself. When asked for an accounting of his stewardship, he reached into his pocket and gave back the $1,000. Nothing was lost! Not a penny! But he was condemned. He was condemned because what was given to him was kept and not utilized. He was scared to use it. He had that fear that each and every one of us possess: the fear of succeeding.

The reasons for those fears are many. They go back to our childhood and to our relationships with people who have demanded of us. Some of them are because of physical inabilities, handicaps or illnesses. They are all the same, and each of them accordingly prevent us from realizing our dreams, from reaching the goals that we set for ourselves and more importantly, from reaching the goals that God wants us to set for ourselves.

Each of the stewards in this story are given different amounts to remind us that life deals out different hands to different people. Some may have more, and others may have less, but in each case we have a responsibility to take what is given to you and maximize it. I invite you today to really think about that stewardship that God has entrusted us with – the life that you have – to end the fears that prevent you from really maximizing yourself and the potential that God has placed inside of your heart. There are so many beautiful things all around you, and I invite you to look beyond the material gains. This is not an exercise in prosperity but an exercise in fulfilling the dreams of your heart and of reaching the potential that you have.

During this Lenten Journey we realize that the curtains in front of us need to be drawn, and that we do want to see the beauty in life. Because we want it, we know that God has placed that desire in our hearts. Let us seek the beauty that God has set up all around us and know that with his help those potentials can be realized and actualized.

We now pray the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali
Protector of your Creatures, by the sign of your holy cross, keep my soul and body from the allurement of sin, from the temptation of the devil and unjust people, and from all perils of soul and body. Have mercy upon all your creatures, and upon me, a great sinner. Amen. (I Confess with Faith, 14/24)

Lenten Journey Day 24 – Rock, Paper, Scissors

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 24: “Berry Good Chili”

 

 

Lenten Journey Day 24 – Rock, Paper, Scissors
One of the early games we learn as children is the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Standing across from our opponent we produce one of these symbols as a hand gesture. A flattened hand is the symbol of paper, a clenched fist is a rock, and two fingers extending forward are scissors. Each item in this trinity has its own strength as well as its own weakness. Each has power over another and is overcome by another. Scissor cuts paper but is crushed by the rock. Paper covers the rock but is shredded by the scissor. Rock breaks the scissor but is made invisible by the paper.

Each item in its own right has seeming power and at the same time is betrayed by its own intrinsic weakness.

This week we have been examining our lives in terms of stewardship, that is, what is our responsibility and purpose in life, have been entrusted with the gifts of God, the greatest of which is our life! Being managers of life means we have to coordinate the working of our breath, smile, heartbeat, feelings and actions. We each have, like the rock, paper, and scissors, our own weaknesses and our own strengths. 

In a society that places so much emphasis on outward appearances, unfortunately, it is easy for us to overlook some of our greatest strengths. The Lenten Journey has given us opportunities for introspection and to identify our strengths. By viewing our self as a steward of God’s goodness, we quickly realize how special we are as a unique creation of God. That is, we may be thin and fragile like the paper, but we have unique qualities which can show its strength and tenacity over the hard rocks of life. Individually, we have unique qualities, but in the grand playing field of life, we bring our talents together for the betterment of the team, the whole.

Today we look at the talents that God bestows upon us. How do we use those talents to overcome the difficulties in life? Are we a piece of paper? Can we cover the rocks in our lives? Perhaps we are scissors and we can cut the paper that hide and blanket our progress. And if we are rocks, we must use that mass to crush the scissors that tear us apart. We have these strengths within us. It is just a matter of spreading those unique qualities on field and realizing with so many different people and different talents, we are playing on an even playing field.

God gives us the unique strengths. To drive that power, he gives us freedom, love, and compassion. We are called to explore all the dimensions of life so that we can maximize our potential. As we live life we begin to notice our weakness and that gives way to fear. It is only natural. Now we understand that to overcome those fears, we need not to look without, but to look within. Our strength is within us. Sure, we may be scared. But consider on the even playing field, that it may be something as simple as a piece of paper that is covering us, shadowing us, preventing us from seeing all of the beauty around us. Quickly, we realize that we have within us the scissor to cut apart that paper. We may be scared of those scissors that are tearing us apart, that are leaving us in bits and pieces between family relationships, our work and our love. But we realize that we have the rock within us to crush apart that hatred that divides us from the things that we love. And of course, we may be fearful of some of the rocks that can unexpectedly crush some of our enjoyment. But right away let’s remember that much like the paper there are parts of us that can become the shadow, the umbrella over those rocks, over those difficulties to prevent those rocks from ever surfacing or even getting close to us. We do have that strength within us. Lent gives us this opportunity to inventory those strengths as well as our fears, and realize that we can overcome the bad with the good.

A simple childhood game, “Rock, Paper, Scissors” and the week of the Steward reminds us of our strengths and weaknesses and how we manage them. Life has its ups and downs, with moments of difficulties and moments of happiness and glory. But in all things, we are one with God when we take advantage of the gifts that He has given us. Celebrate the talents that make us who we are.

Let us pray the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali:
Oh Christ, who are the living fire, inflame my soul with the fire of your love which you did set forth upon this Earth that it may burn the stains of my soul, sanctify my conscience, purge the sins of my body and kindle in my heart the light of your knowledge. Have mercy upon all your creatures and upon me, a great sinner. Amen. (I Confess with Faith)