Tag Archive for: Love

Melting Love

Armodoxy for Today: Melting Love

When we were kids, one of our favorite fairy tales was “The Frog Prince,” rendered by the Brothers Grimm. My sister and I would listen to an old phonograph record which told the story of a spoiled princess who reluctantly befriended a frog. The friendship was the frog’s request as his reward for retrieving her golden ball. She was irritated that she, a beautiful princess, would have to hold, or just be in close proximity, of this old repulsive waddler. But the frog kept pushing his friendship on the princess. Little did she know that he was a prince who had a spell cast upon him and was trapped in the body of the frog.

Our phonograph record would play with the pops and hisses that we were accustomed to hear when playing the black vinyl, and we’d listen to the old froggy voice beg for the princess’ love. In his reptilian voice, he spelled it out, “Love could melt the heart of stone!”

As children those words were very powerful. A stone heart melting through the power of love! It was many years later that as a seminarian I heard similar words, not from the raspy mouth of a frog but from the golden hymn of Nersess Shnorhali, “Jesus, by name love, may your love crush my heart of stone.” Ser anoun Hisus, sirov kov jmlya sir dim kareghen. Yes, indeed, the power of love is so great that it can crush the heart of stone.

There are many images that are exaggerated as a matter of romantic reflection, whether in a fairy tale, or in a hymn. Heaven knows how many poems and songs have been penned with images touting the magical powers of love.

And certainly, the entire Gospel message, is one of Jesus instructing us to repay evil with love and he even demonstrates this on the Cross. The Resurrection itself is the victory of Love over the ultimate evil.

So today we ask, at what point did we stop believing in the power of love? When did we lose the faith in love’s power to melt or crush a heart of stone? When did we give up on love? When did we stop answering evil with the power of love?

As children we tend to take things literally. When the coach says, “Keep your eye on the ball, we may awkwardly walk up to the ball and place it under our eye until we realize that it is merely an expression to pay attention. There is a naivete that is characteristic of childhood and as we grow older we come to understand expressions in place of the literal meanings.

In the case of Jesus and his expression of love, he took it to the end exactly as he expressed it throughout his ministry. The Creed of the Armenian Church saw, “Jesus Christ, yesterday and today, the same for eternity.” Armodoxy attests that Jesus is Love incarnate, and therefore love, is the same yesterday, today and for eternity.

So we must conclude that Love has always been powerful. Love can indeed melt or crush the heart of stone. It is us that need to retrain and revert to our initial understanding of Love, literally as the means by which we overcome evil. It is on us, then, to seek and find, Love and as it was given to us through the Babe in a manger, to bring peace on earth and good will toward one another.

We pray today, “Lord Jesus Christ. God is love. Your name is love. Love exists in the eternal present. Rekindle in me the flames of love that were present in my childhood, when I believed the power of love could overcome the worst of the worst. Direct my path in the direction of my childhood dreams, where goodness and love are my strengths and my protection. Amen.”

Revolution: Evolving Love

Armodoxy for Today: Evolving Love

When political systems do not work there is a call for revolution. The word itself comes from revolve – that is to turn around. In Christianity we use the word “repentance” which means to turn direction and aim toward God.

From early apostolic days, the term repent was used to imply a change in direction toward God. The Apostle Peter urged people to “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38)

Repentance or repenting is a necessary part of the Christian life. What is often forgotten is that repentance takes place after self-evaluation. The necessity to repent is part of the human condition because we are not perfect.

One of the prayers offered by the priest in the Armenian Church is a prayer that you will never hear read over you, and if you do hear it read over you may want to check our surroundings. It is from the funeral service of the Church where the priest asks God, in His Mercy, to forgive the person of his sins, “because who is it that lives, and does not sin?” And in an explanation (if not to God then to all who hear this prayer) the priest confesses that “Only You (God) are sinless and to You belong the kingdom of all eternities.”

In fact, “sin” is merely an acknowledgement of our human condition. It means we are not perfect and we miss the mark of perfection. Think of a dart board, it is a target with a bull’s eye in the middle. Now imagine tossing darts at the board. For every dart that misses the center, that dart is said to be in sin. The dart that misses the bull’s eye by one ring and the dart that misses by three rings, as well as the dart that misses the entire board, have sinned; they have missed the mark.

Sometimes repentance is described with the phrase turning 180 degrees, that is, turning completely around. Not so. Sometime smaller adjustments are necessary, and the only judge of the degree of adjustment is you yourself. That is why self-evaluation is so important in the life of the Christian, and for this reason the Armenian Church gives opportunities, through days of prayer and fasting, for self-evaluation.

Each of us is in need of correcting our courses in various degrees. This is the revolution that is the beginning of living with heightened awareness. Inside of the word revolution is the word evolution and in reverse form the word love. The true call to Repentance is the call to turn around the LOVE that is missing from our lives so that we can evolve. All living forms evolve. Evolution is part of the living process. Things that are dead, decay. They do not evolve. And rightly so, they do not have the capacity to love.

The God-gift that is inside each of us is the capacity to love. Revolutions that do not accent the love within them are doomed to failure. Revolutions that have turned around the love within them are of the type that Jesus Christ ushered in with the Kingdom of Heaven. And so he instructs us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all else will fall into place. (Matthew 6:33)

We pray a prayer from the Book of Hours of the Armenian Church, “O God, Merciful, Compassionate and Patient, who pains for the sufferings of His creation. Console and grace us the reason for repentance so that we may enter Your Holy Church with spiritual enrichment, confession and repentance and along with your saints praise and glorify You, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirt. Amen.”

Lenten Journey Day 35 – Last Days

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 35: Roasted Eggplant with Cashews

 Lenten Journey Day 35- Last Days Today’s Lenten meditation is a riddle of sorts. It begins with the very basic question, how can we be prepared for the return of Jesus Christ? As it unfolds we find a very unique message with the instruction we need, with the exact steps we need to go through in preparation for a cataclysmic event. These instructions, however, have more to do with today than with tomorrow. This last Sunday of the Lent is called referred to as the Sunday of Advent in the Armenian Church. 
In the Creed of Nicaea, which we recite every Sunday during the Divine Liturgy, we confess the second coming. We say, Jesus is to return to judge the living and the dead. In scripture there are references to the “signs of the times.” Specifically earthquakes, famines and wars are named as the events that will precede the coming of the end. Unfortunately curiosity often gets the better of us, and rather than preparing for those last days we consume ourselves with questions of where, when, and how these last days will come about.

Our Lord Jesus tells us that no one knows the answer to those questions, not the angels in heaven, not even the son, but only the Father. But curiosity is powerful. The book of Revelation is often consulted to quench the thirst of curiosity. Revelation is a book of prophecy and few can understand prophecy, many times the message is distorted by conjecture. The Church does not even prescribe reading this book (it is not in the lectionary of weekly readings) nevertheless, people read it and read into it. They point to hurricanes, famines and wars as signs of the times and then speculate that the end times are here. Jesus warned us against such misinterpretation of prophecies. When then should we do? How do we prepare for the second coming? What is the Church’s prescription for the preparation?

The Gospel reading for this day has the answer to preparedness. It comes from the 22nd chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew. The narrative begins with the Pharisees approaching Jesus to trick him with a question as to which is the “greatest” commandment. Thinking that Jesus may pick one, they will then have an opportunity to show him the error in his ways. Jesus answers, “The greatest commandment is that you love your Lord your God with all your heart, your mind and your soul and the second commandment is that you love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments, Jesus tells us, the rest of the laws and the prophets are all based. In other words love for God, love for neighbor supersedes all other commandments.

Because this passage is placed as the lectionary reading for this Advent Sunday, it is therefore the instruction for preparedness for the second coming of Christ! The riddle has been answered! The best preparation for the second coming is to accept and live the message of the first coming. Love with all your mind, body, soul and heart the Lord your God and your neighbor.

During this Lenten journey we have meditated about many different forces that effect us. We have accepted concepts and ideas that improve our selves, that bring our lives back down to the bare minimum. What is essential for us to survive? What is really necessary for that happiness that comes not from without, but from within.

Today’s message, today’s instruction is at the heart of it brings us yet even closer to understanding the essence of life. When we love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul, that is with everything that we have, we cannot help but love our neighbor, we cannot help but love ourselves, we cannot help but to reach out to help people in need, be they friends, families, be they people we do not know or even people who wish ill for us. In other words we rise for our humanity and take a different look, from God’s vantage point, realizing that everyone around us is truly related to us. They are our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, our children and in this sense we become united with the grand will, with the great will of the universe, with God’s will, who from the beginning of time willed this existence because of His Love, His infinite love.

Today we are given this unique perspective. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your soul tells us to be prepared, not for some future date but for today. The Christian is called to always be prepared by always loving. It is God’s way. He always loves.

Today’s prayer comes to us from the gospels of Matthew chapter 25. It is the prayer of the last day. It is offered to us as a parable by our Lord Jesus Christ.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Lenten Journey Day 31 – God’s Power

Lenten Recipe

Recipe #31 – Tomato & Bread Soup

Lenten Journey Day 31 – God’s Power

Today we continue with the lessons of the Unrighteous Judge, to understand God’s response to our prayer. Does God answer prayer? How? Is prayer as powerful as they say it is? Does it change God’s mind?

Yesterday we looked at the Problem of Evil. Certainly we all pray for the good and against evil – whether for ourselves, or for others, this prayer is a familiar one. At the very least we have said the phrase, “Peace on Earth” as a prayer of humankind through the ages. Yet evil is very real in the world. In fact, we see such a great presence of evil in this world. If God is all powerful why does He not eliminate evil? If God is all loving, why does He allow evil to exist? Why does He tolerate hatred? Why is there prejudice? Why is there war? Why is there illness? Why evil?

Our church fathers have pondered this question and as an answer have directed our attention to the cross of Christ. In fact, on that original Good Friday – not evil Friday, but good Friday – we find the Son of God himself is not exempt from evil. God did not stop evil from touching His Son. If God allows this evil, does that make Him powerless? Does that diminish His power. We say that He is omnipotent, we say that He is all powerful, so why does He not stop evil? Perhaps it is because we fail to understand the true nature of God.

St. John the Evangelist tells us that God is love. In a very straightforward mathematical equation (a=b; b=a) he allows us to see that God is Love and therefore, Love is God. Pure love is that manifestation of God. But we are talking concepts: God, Love, what do these things mean? St. Nerses Shnorhali in his theologically rich hymn, “Aradov Looso,” (=morning light), offers us the primer, that is, the key to unlock the giant mystery of Life, Love and God. In this hymn, which he offers to light and the source of light, Shnorhali writes, “The name of love is Jesus.” When we understand that God is love, and love’s name is Jesus, we now begin to understand that the crucifixion is part of the equation but is not the end. Jesus rose. He conquered death; He conquered evil, so in God’s eyes, it is only a platform. It is only one step – and a necessary step to understanding true love.

Each of us that has had the fortune of experiencing love knows that there is a cost to it. There are certain pains that go along with love. Does that exempt us from being all that we can be? Does that in any way hinder us, expressing and experiencing true love? Quite the opposite. In fact it enhances the love experience. So much so that if we look at the empty tomb on Easter, it is only valuable, it is only truly an empty tomb of victory in the context of the crucifixion. That is, without a crucifixion you can never experience a resurrection. And herein lies the key to evil.

The answer to the question, Is God powerless over evil? is, certainly not! God is love! And that is the power of power, that is the light of light. That is the true God of true God. That is real power, isn’t it? For He lights up the darkness; He gives strength to the weak. It allows us to stand in the face of crucifixion and know that we are never alone and that there is an empty tomb for each of us. There is victory for each of us. There is a resurrection for every crucifixion.

From the beginning of this Lenten Journey we have been challenged to move our thought process from our minds to our hearts. As St. Nerses Shnorhali reminds us, “Put a guard upon my heart, so that it may think no evil.” Not “upon my brain,” but “upon my heart.” It is from that point that we start developing our love. From our heart. Now, mind you, the heart does get broken. That heart is not rational, but neither is love. Love is true. Love goes beyond rationality. It gives us the endless possibility to be in union with God. You cannot rationalize a crucifixion, but you can understand that a father, in love for his creation, would give everything – even His Son – knowing that in the end, His creation too, shares in the possibility of resurrection, in complete victory over all the dreaded evil in this world. Herein, God answers the ultimate prayer.

We conclude today with a prayer, by St. Patrick who lived during the 4th and 5th centuries. This is called St. Patrick’s Breastplate because it seeks God’s protection in a world of both tangible and invisible dangers.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgment Day.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

Lenten Journey Day 13 – Foundation

Day 13: Foundation

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 13: Stir -Fried Asparagus 

Lenten Journey Day 13: Foundation

The Saturdays of Lent give us a chance to contemplate faith in action by celebrating the lives of the saints. As we learned last week, Orthodox tradition, and therefore the Armenian Church, looks to the saints as examples of living life with purpose and in the path of Christ. Saints are never worship. Each of them are people just like us. In their humanity, they were able to rise to the occasion, usually through selfless sacrifice, and they express their love in unique ways.
A group of saints are remembered as the Armenian Church remembers the Church Fathers of the Council of Constantinople. Modern day Istanbul was once named after the great Emperor Constantine who had convened the original council of Nicea, known for the formulation of the Creed which formalized and gave a foundation to the Christian Faith. During the early centuries, the exact definition of Christianity was under dispute.  Groups were raising questions about the Nature of Christ and Person of Jesus. The Council of Constantinople was called in the year 381 to address these issues. At this Council the definition of the Holy Spirit as preceding from the Father and being equal to the Father was articulated.
The early Church Councils gave structure to the Church and the Christian Faith. We are mindful that today we are in this Lenten Journey. While the history and the teachings of these Councils fill volumes and speak to generations, today we will look at the Councils by way of reflection. How do they talk to us today? What do they tell us that fills another footstep in our Lenten Journey?  Remembering the Councils reminds us that there needs to be a solid foundation on which to build life and that life itself has structure. Our life is made up of our actions and those actions are triggered and motivated by our faith. The stronger the foundation, the more structure we find in our life.
The Apostle James writes that faith without works is useless. So many times we are challenged to really put our faith into action. At those moments we realize that only by virtue of our actions does our faith have meaning. That is, our faith has value and structure by because of our actions. Conversely, works without faith lead to a nebulous understanding of our purpose within the entire framework of life.
This balancing act between faith and works is usually defined in logical terms. Now, let us understand the same by grasping it with our heart.  St. Neress Shnorhali in the 9th hour of his prayer, “In Confess with Faith” places the center of our thought in the heart and nowhere else. When we think and act according to the principles set forth in our brain, we are acting by reason, based on the wisdom that we have acquired through life. While this is very important in practical life, the Christian needs to excel in the area of dreaming – to dream of the impossible dreams.
When you think and act according to your heart, then and  there you understand that your movements and actions are based on the passions you have inside of you. This is the faith that can move mountains. Think with your heart and not with your brain when it comes to doing the impossible.
On Calvary Jesus did the impossible. He forgave of people who had betrayed and handed Him over to death. He forgave the people who were nailing Him to the tree. He forgave the generations of people that had ignored the pleas for peace, disregarded the expressions of love and were paying back love with hatred. Jesus did the impossible. He forgave with His Heart. Likewise, when we think of all the actions that are demanded of us as Christians, rise to the higher occasion. Push yourself, particularly during this Lenten Season, to look for those opportunities to find the truth that is beyond reason.  Pay back everyone with love. To offer kindness to those who are kind to you, is only human. To pay back evil and hatred with kindness and love is surely divine. In this state, we come to find that our actions are built on a solid and strong foundation.
Our Faith is built on the same Foundation on which the Early Church structured itself. The Foundation is Jesus Christ, that is Love incarnate. When faith is based on love, we  have the ability to open our heart to impossible possibilities. They are all around us.
God is calling you during this Lenten Season to do the impossible and build your actions on Christ. Pay back hatred with kindness and evil with love. If you think about it, whatever your goals may be you can reach those goals – you can make impossible goals possible – when you put love as the center piece of your heart, your life and all of the actions that you take.
Let us now offer a prayer from St. Nerses Shnorhali:(Dedicated to the Holy Spirit)
Spirit of God, true God, who descended into the Jordan and into the upper chamber and who enlightened me by baptism in the Holy font, I have sinned before Heaven and before You. Cleanse me with Your Divine Fire as You purified the Holy Apostle with fiery tongues. Have mercy upon me and a great sinner. Amen.

Lenten Journey, Day 11: More Important than God

Day 11: More Important than God

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 11: Roasted Potato Fans!

Lenten Journey Day 11 – More Important than God
The eleventh day of Lent is a special one in the journey. Eleven is the first and only prime number of equal proportions. It reminds us of the delicate balance between body, soul and mind. It reminds us of the uniqueness of the primes as well as the uniqueness of our lives. Finding that balance in our lives, of course, is one of the reasons we are taking this journey.

Today’s message comes to us from the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 5. Here Jesus is addressing a large crowd in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. In the Sermon Jesus outlines a way of life and living. His message is very clear. He speaks of our relationships with one another. In so doing, he mentions that there is something more important than God.
Matthew 5:21, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said of men of old, you shall not kill and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment, but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment and whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council and whoever says you fool shall be liable to the Hell of fire.”
Christianity is really a very difficult religion to practice, in fact it has been argued that Christianity has never really been practiced because of statements such as what we read. Jesus tells us that it is not enough to say that murder is bad, but when you have evil in your heart, when you harbor that anger towards your brother, you are committing those acts of evil, those acts of murder. He is saying, “If you have anger and act upon that anger and insult your brother, or if you are angry and talk down to your sister you are already committing murder,”
If we’d like to wipe out hatred and anger from our life, then we have to pay attention to this message. It is so necessary to understanding the revolution Jesus brought. And now, if we read further, we find something even more important. In fact, it’s what Jesus says is even more important than God! As hard as that might be to believe, the Holy Scriptures points to Jesus’ words, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you leave your gift, leave your offering, and go! First be reconciled with your brother and then come and offer your gift.”
Reconciling with our brothers! Jesus is telling us it is more important than the worship of God, that is, the celebration of God. Leave your gifts at the altar. Leave God! Go reconcile with your brother and then come back to the altar! He demands that we love one another. To be able to love others is the expression that God demands of us. In that love we begin to understand the unique relationship between us and our heavenly Father.
The Christian message is about people. It’s about harmony and that peaceful existence comes about when we become part of the solution. It’s not about looking up to heaven, but reaching out to one another here on Earth. If there is going to be harmony in our lives, if there is going to be peace in this world, it’s not because I am offering a prayer upwards, but because I am offering a prayer sideways. I am reaching out to my brothers and my sisters and I am going to be the vehicle of love. I’m going to be the one who reaches out and becomes that means of reconciliation. True peace, true harmony, true existence is about us loving with one another.
“You cannot say,” say’s the evangelist John, “that you love God who you do not see when first you do not love the brother who you do see.” It is so critical in the life of the Christian that we understand this very clearly and plainly. God is Love. So let’s repeat that, “You cannot say that you love God who you do not see when first you do not love the brother that you do see.”
Our first obligation is to love one another. By this Jesus tells us we become Christian. By loving, people will know that we are truly His children.
On this eleventh day of Lent as we find harmony and balance, as body soul and mind come together, keep in mind where God wants us to be. The relationships that need to be nurtured, that need to be mended in our lives, this is a perfect time take action on them. The Lenten period is some time to go out and reach out sideways, not only vertically with God, but horizontally with God inside each of us. Reach out to the people around you to say that yes I have faltered, I have sinned. We all make mistakes, but I’m willing to rise above that imperfection and become a child of God.  
By loving one another, put away old habits and problems. Begin each day as a new creation and find that new creation in the loved ones all around me.
Let us conclude with the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali:

Uncreated Essence I have sinned against you in mind, soul and body. Do not remember my former sins, for the sake of Your Holy name, have mercy upon your creatures and upon me a great sinner. Amen (I Confess with Faith 6/24)

My Neighbor

Armodoxy for Today: My Neighbor

“Love your neighbor,” said Jesus, to a man looking for the answers to life. The man responds to Jesus with a question which leads us to one of the most celebrated parables of Christ, yielding the greatest measure and definition of Christian love, compassion and outreach. The man simply asks, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus answers, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise, a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’”

Jesus asks, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” The answer, obviously is the one who showed him mercy. Jesus then says, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25–37).

The story of the Good Samaritan has been heard from Sunday School classrooms to pulpits, from children’s books to movie screenplays, and, most importantly, has certainly stirred many people to action. Perhaps the one point that hasn’t been accented adequately is the definition of a Samaritan. We can deduce that it was a person who lived in Samaria, but the significance of that place, and the people of Samaria is what sets the parable of the Good Samaritan on fire. These were people that were looked down upon, held in very low esteem by the Jews of the time, so much so that they were outcasts from mainstream Jewish society. In John chapter 4, Jesus asks for a drink of water a Samaritan woman who responds, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” And the Gospel evangelist adds, “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.”

Armodoxy demands that we place ourselves in the shoes of others. It challenges us to look at the full impact of Christ’s parables on our lives. And so, I am certain, that if Jesus were speaking to us today, the parable would be adapted to his audience. The spirit of this parable is to understand that the Good Samaritan is the object of our intolerance. Speaking to Armenians, the hero character would be a Turk who pulls out his credit card and covers the hospital expenses until his return. To the Israeli, the hero would be a Palestinian. To the Ukrainian, a Russian. To the white supremist, a black man. And to the self-appointed righteous, perhaps a member of the LBGT community?

Yes, the message is an uncomfortable one. Jesus was not one to keep us in our comfort zones. The number of Samaritans in the entire world today is under 1,000 individuals, accenting even more that the bottom line of the parable is not aligning ourselves with the Samaritans, but rather answering the question, “And who is my neighbor?”  The one who offers mercy, to which Jesus’ message is addressed to us, “Go and do likewise.” Today, we are invited to seek the “neighbor” in everyone, even a foreigner or a so-called enemy.

Let us pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, you instructed us to not judge, but to live. With all the complexities of life today, open my heart to your love, so I may see my neighbor in everyone and others may see their neighbor in me. Amen.”

The Primer

Armodoxy for Today: The Primer

There is one word for love “սէր” (pronounced sehr) in Armenian and in this one word, the erotic (eros), brotherly (philia), and unconditional (agape) elements of love all come together, remarkably, but not surprisingly.

In science and specifically in the field of physics attempts have been made to describe all the fundamental forces and the relationships between elementary particles in a single theoretical framework. A unified field theory has been the quest of many great physicists. During my youth I was fascinated by the notion that everything might be explained in a unified field theory. I carried my interest and curiosity for an answer with me into seminary. If there exists one explanation, if there is a unified field theory, I thought, why must it be limited to the physical world? A true unified field theory would also pertain to the emotional, psychological, and spiritual world and therefore be explained as a part of religion. From a religious vantage point, particularly a Christian one, the unified field theory would also account for God. The problem there, of course, is that God has to be greater than the words that can contain or describe Him. And so, I thought, is it possible that God is the Unified Field Theory? But, who in the scientific community would entertain such an assertion?

Throughout the years as I contemplated this puzzle, I was fascinated by the work of physicists who pondered the question and came up with theories. I would dive, even if shallow, into experiments with particle accelerators and the latest with Higgs boson or Higgs particle, especially when the term “The God Particle” was assigned to the work.

Something was missing. There was a missing piece to everything I was absorbing. I needed a primer – a piece of the puzzle that would give meaning to everything else. And then it happened! One Sunday morning as we were singing the Hymn “Aravod Louso” a verse that I had sang a thousand times before jumped out at me. St. Nersess Shnorhali writes, in the 36 verse hymn, in the 29th verse, the words, “The name of love is Jesus.”  It clicked! From that moment on, I saw something very clearly, that relied on the truth of pure logic, that is, if A = B and B = C, then A = C. If God = Love and if Love = Jesus, then God = Jesus. In other words, the primer opened the world of understanding by expressions of equality. God, Jesus and Love could be used interchangeably.

I went ahead and tested this discovery. Jesus makes a statement, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” This has caused isolation and rejection of Christianity by people who only had a superficial understanding of the terms. Testing began. I interchanged the word “Love” for Jesus. Can we now agree – everyone agree – that Love is the way. Love is the truth. Love is the life? It works! It was remarkable but not surprising. Jesus Christ, is the fulfillment of the law and the profits, the Alpha and the Omega. The Way is a person, the Truth is a person and Life is a person. They are Jesus Christ. The primer works! It connects the story of Jesus Christ to all of eternity, to the beginning and end of time. Armodoxy makes this bold proclamation, and everything we teach is based on this solid foundation, that there is only one element from the beginning of the universe to the end, and that is love. It is the strongest element in this universe. It is the beginning and the end.

Let us pray, O Lord Jesus Christ, you are the way, the truth and the life. Help me to walk in your path of love. Guild me to proclaim boldly the name of Jesus Christ and inso doing, may I carry this message to the hurting world. Amen.

Banquet Seating

Armodoxy for Today

Banquet Seating

The Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:12-24) ends with the words, “For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.” And now, you find yourself sitting at the table, and the only reason you are here is because you’ve accepted the invitation. You’re at the Banquet which was referenced as “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” You’re blessed. You’re at the feast. And now let’s take a look around.

Up until now we’ve looked at others who have refused the invitation. The Armodoxy challenge is to put yourself in the Parable. It’s easy to look at the characters in a parable and see the fault of others, but the Christian is called to see him or herself in the parable dynamics. This placement is an exercise in self-evaluation. Hence, we find one of the important reasons for the season of Advent: to be prepared emotionally and spiritually to accept the Creator of the Universe in our midst. Christ is born and revealed, is the Christmas message.

You’re now at the Table. Take it further by asking yourself, in what ways have I answered the invitation to be seated? The true invitation is to the Kingdom of Heaven. God asks us – invites us – to value life, we value our cars, our homes, our business, to the point we put our children on hold while we go chasing material wealth. God asks us – invites us – to seek peace. We build bigger and better weapons. We eliminate options of working together to find harmony and find only ways of building borders and barriers. God asks us – invites us – to love one another and care for others. We say not everyone. We set our standards so that love is not unconditional.

In other words, the invite to the Banquet is an invite to the Kingdom of God. Responding to the invite is a chance for each of us to truly listen carefully to the answers of our heart.

The Parable is to share God’s love and God’s kingdom with everyone. Everyone has equal access. Today we sit at the Table and look around, thankful that we are here and increase our awareness of the love, tolerance, peace-seeking, life-loving, that has brought us here. God’s grace and mercy have given us access to this beautiful opportunity, tomorrow we’ll look at the price for sitting at this Table. It steep but its also a lot of fun.

Join me in prayer, All benevolent and almighty refuge and hope of the weak and the troubled, my Lord and my God, who created everything from nothingness. Draw closer to me with Your unspeakable mercy, for you show compassion to those who yearn for You and heal them through Your benevolence. Make me worthy of the Table of Immortality, to join in prayer those who adore You, for to You is befitting glory, dominion and honor, now and always, Amen.


Armodoxy for Today

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die,” says the author of Ecclesiastes (chapter 3). Nature has its rules, you are born, and one day you will die. Sometimes, however, time does not play by nature’s rules and children are the casualty. Appropriately, we refer to the death of children as “untimely.” As a priest in the ministry for over forty years, sadly I have had to officiate at too many funerals for children, while their broken families looked on in disbelief and torment. Even one such funeral would be “too many,” but illness, accidents, war and intolerance have taken away lives that were just about to begin, so “too many” is exactly what you understand it to be.

Back in 2006 I was called to officiate the funeral of a 15 year old named Vahagn. Classmates, friends, relatives, and just people who knew him or is family, packed our church in Hollywood. I remember the enormity of the crowd, filling the pews, the balcony, the aisles and even standing outside the windows on Vine Street, to be a part of this service. While most people knew or knew of Vahagn in his life, I had the unique vantage point; I got to know Vahagn through the expressions and tears of his loved ones and friends. Each story that was shared that day expressed the love someone had for this young man. It’s one thing to love, and quite another to be loved. Vahagn was both, he was loved because he loved. In that love, now I have come to know him.

Soon after his death, the family established a charitable foundation in his name with a specific goal to ensure that Vahagn’s passion for music, the arts, laughter and human joy will continue to flourish in the community he loved so dearly. Every year, the Foundation organizes an event such as runs, 5K walks or a tree planting ceremony. This morning in a park in Beverly Hills, Vahagn’s father remembered his son’s words, “There are no big or small stories, they all need to be told.” We planted a tree, and the area was designated as Vahagn Setian Grove. His father continued to explain that the tree will grow and provide shade to people for years to come, many who will never know Vahagn.

And so, a story was told this morning. Time stopped. Vahagn will forever be 15. Time continues, for new generations will enjoy this shade of the tree, the beauty of the grove, and the love of Vahagn.

Through the years, I have attended the annual gatherings. They are early enough on Sunday mornings so that I’ve been able to get in a 5K walk and still make it to church services. At one of the early memorials, they passed out a green rubber bracelet with a simple message from Vahagn, “Live, Love and Laugh.” I have worn that bracelet ever since. It is my daily reminder to live, love and laugh from this young but big life that had a great impact on so many, because he lived, loved and laughed.

This is the period of Advent, a time of preparation for Christmas. We are reminded that on Christmas a baby – the smallest and most humble of all – was born. He came into this world and told a simple story of love, harmony and respect. He too, lost his life early. We celebrate his message by living, loving and laughing, that is, enjoying this life.

We pray, Heavenly Father, you gave us the gift of life and we are grateful. In preparing for Christmas, instill in our hearts the love for the most simple among all of your creation. May we find the message of hope, faith and love in the smallest of stories. Bless our little children. Amen.

We continue the Advent Journey tomorrow and look forward to having you join us.

Tag Archive for: Love

Nothing Found

Sorry, no posts matched your criteria