Tag Archive for: Lenten Journey

Lenten Journey Day 9 – Listening

Day 9: Listening

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 9: Stuffed Egglplants

Lenten Journey Day 9 – Listening

Day 9 is a turning point in your Lenten Journey. Many of the toxins in your system have been eliminated by this point. Be sure to nourish your organs with plenty of water.

Day 9 is also an appropriate time to begin taking inventory of the your Lenten Journey itself. Up until now, we have been inventorying habits, emotions, relationships and those things related to the journey. Now turn your attention to the journey itself – to these days we have spent together. Even though we are still toward the beginning of the journey we are realizing that it is a trip that will change us powerfully. Inventorying will create a map of the journey and remind you of the details, of the turns and twists in the road.
As we reflect on the Lenten Journey, we find that the changes we experiencing, physically, emotionally and in our relationships are good changes. They are patterns and habits that we’d like to carry with us beyond the 40 day period of Lent.
Because we know there is light at the end of the tunnel, we know this journey has a purpose and a goal. The destination is the goal, but we’re beginning to figure out that this Lenten journey prescribed to us by our forefathers, is not about a 40 day expedition. Rather, it is about a lifetime of being connected with the One, with the Ultimate which brings us happiness, peace and the true meaning of life.
The Psalmist reminds us, “Be still, and know that I am God.” In that stillness our hearing abilities are sharpened. In that stillness we hear sounds with our ears and also with our hearts.
Hearing with your heart? What does that mean? Today, you might understand it only as a possibility, but it’s exactly for that reason that I ask you take a Lenten inventory. Just think how strange “listening with your heart” would have sounded ten days ago. But today you understand that it is a possibility. You understand that there is a possibility to see with your heart and to sense with your heart. You know that the heart is not merely a pump or a mechanical device, but it is something which has receiving and giving capabilities. The heart is a receptor, it responds to outside stimuli and at the same time it is provider, that is, a place from which our feelings sprout.
Hearing from the heart, implies listening. Begin with the receptor called the ear. Do we listen? Do we listen enough? Do we listen too much? Are there things that we should not listen to? What about times to listen? Are there times when we should shut down and not listen to anything? And in shutting down, will that allow the soul or the heart to listen?
In the Gospels we read of Jesus the incredible orator. He always has the right words. He is never at a loss for words in and at any occasion. He is always speaking to the times and events. He is bringing people together, charismatically drawing them to his message of love, his message of hope and his message of faith.  He is never at a loss for words and even finds words where no one could have been imaged.
In the Gospel of John, Nicodemus says to Jesus, “Teacher, we know you are sent from God because no one can do the things that you do unless God is with him.”  What a nice statement. You or I would have either blushed or thanked Nicodemus for the compliment. But Jesus, rather than acknowledging the compliment or thanking him, turns it around. He pulls, from what may seem like nowhere, the reply, “Unless one is born from above – born again – he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3) Jesus heard with his heart and answered accordingly. Nicodemus’ statement was not one for the ear, but had underlying meaning which Jesus perceived with his heart.
Jesus was never at a loss for words. In fact, the people of the time marveled and acknowledged that no one had ever spoken the way he had.  And when we listen from the heart, we too will marvel that no one can capture us the way Christ can.
Yet, when the time came when it was necessary for Jesus to speak, he didn’t. He shut down. During his trial, Jesus is silent. The Evangelist Matthew writes, “… he gave no answer, not even to a single charge.” (27:14).
There are times to listen, times to talk, times when we shouldn’t talk, and times when we should not listen. Much of the difficulty that we endure in life is because we place importance on things that do not matter. We are hurt by words that should not matter in our lives. An insult or a put-down can devastate us, but only if we allow it.
Jesus, standing in front of his accusers, heard many things with his ears. But he was listening with his heart, and that type of listening allowed him to understandthe people around him.  He looked at his accusers and saw his children. Likewise, when we listen with our heart, we begin to understand others.
Although we aren’t God and find it very difficult to stand in the way of these insults, through understanding we will not allow those verbal abuses and hurtful cursing to devastate us, nor will we allow them to destroy us. We understand those sounds as coming from places where there is no harmony. And in so doing we pray, for those who persecute us, and for those who are out of harmony. We pray that they may find the fullness of God, the love that He gives each of us, that same love that is in our heart.  
We pray the prayer of St. Nersess Shnorhali,
O Christ, True Light, make my soul worthy to behold with joy the light of Your glory, in that day when You call me and to rest in the hope of good things in the mansions of the just until the day of Your glorious coming. Have mercy upon Your Creatures and upon me, a great sinner. (I Confess with Faith 21/24)

Lenten Journey Day 3 – Prayer

Day 3: Prayer

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.  

Lenten Beauty

Next Step #662: Celebrating Beauty even and especially during Lent. Beyond the cosmetic and superficial, finding beauty and the challenge for Lent: Far from a basics and gloom. Fibonacci, Pi, Primes and beauty: Time for Christian celebration.
Lenten Journey 2021 with Fr. Vazken
Vartanantz Sermon
Join Fr. Vazken this Sunday at St. Gregory
WD168 this week: the can is gone!
Sirach chapter 43
Divine Proportion by Priya Hemenway
Vartanantz Concert
Guy Chookoorian Tribute
Rosemary Clooney “Come on a my house
Guy Chookoorian Music
Engineered by Ken Nalik
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
Look for The Next Step on blubrry.com
Listen via Stitcher Radio on demand!
Listen on Apple Podcasts.