Tag Archive for: Nagorna Karabakh

Saints and the Power Within

Armodoxy for Today: Saints

All Saints Day in the Armenian Apostolic Church is celebrated on a Saturday in November. Saints are perhaps the most misunderstood features of our Church. Protestants criticize the intercession of the saints on several grounds, one of which being that the saints are dead people. We in the Armenian Church do not believe life ends at the grave, in fact, we believe that the soul is eternal. Just as we ask a friend or a family member to pray for us, we may also turn to the saints to pray for us, with the assurance that they live with us. This is why during the Liturgy we remember several saints, the Apostles, the Martyrs, the teachers and some of the saints we remember by name, for instance the Kings Abgar, Constantine, Tirtads or the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew, and of course the Holy Mother of God, the Asdvadzadzin. We ask that they pray with and for us.

By rejecting the saints, we miss a very real opportunity to connect with the Divine. As a Christian, I hold as my highest ideal Jesus Christ. When, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48) it is a standard that is very difficult, perhaps even impossible to achieve. We hold Jesus as the primary example of that perfection; however, we must remember that he is God. But the saints are people like you and me. Every one of them has a will, desires, wants, has dealt with envy, pride and all that define us as humans. Every one of them has been challenged with the realities of everyday life and, somehow, they have managed to rise above the situation. They have risen to a place of goodness that inspires us. This, then, is the power of the saints in our lives. They are people just like us. Not gods, but people. They have faults. And with their faults they have overcome life’s challenges. In other words, they are realistic examples for us. Looking at their lives, we know that we too can rise from our human nature and our situation. So how did they do it? By having Christ, the Christ-force, inside them and by tapping into that power.

I’d like to talk to you about that power especially today as we realize what we all have known and have now rediscovered: We Armenians are alone! The attack on Artsakh is not a border skirmish, it’s a backdoor entry by our enemy to finish what they attempted in 1915. They are ready to finish us off. This is the existential threat – the threat to end Armenia and the existence of Armenians. And when we look around us, we see ourselves alone on the world stage.

We have heard the story of Khirimian Hayrik in Berlin. In the mid 1800’s he went there to participate in a conference with other nations. He writes a poignant letter to the Armenian people, describing the meeting as nations huddled around a pot of heriseh (a porridge made with meat and grains, its thickness being its noted attribute). Khirimian writes that all the other nations came to the table with the clanging swords and dug deep into the heriseh with “iron ladles” and pulled out their portion. However, then the turn came to Khirimyan to pull out the portion for the Armenians, he had no swords or guns, but a letter in his hand. He called this the paper ladle, which easily flopped by the weight of the heriseh. He tells the Armenian people, when you return to Armenia arm yourself with weapons, weapons and more weapons. “People, understand above all else that you must put the hope of your freedom upon yourself, on your brains, the might of your fist…  Man, for himself, must work for his deliverance.”

That Berlin story is over 150 years old. And here we are, once again in 2020, standing on the world stage with our hands stretched out asking for others to assist us. Why have we forgotten the words of Khirimian Hayrik? Even more important, why have we forgotten from where his strength came? And our Primate, Abp. Hovnan, expressed it so concisely the other day, “Armenia cannot stand with the crumbs given by foreigners.”

Khirimyan was a priest of the Armenian Church. He became Catholicos. He was so loved that they referred to him as hayrik, yet under all the titles and layers, he was a priest, a priest of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just like, when we speak of the composer and musician Gomidas, we speak of his musical prowess or his genius, but we forget that first and foremost he was a priest of the Armenian Church, he was Fr. Gomidas, a priest of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And today, in our world with all of our materialism and egocentric culture – with all the things we buy and sell – things that we claim to have “value,” we have forgotten, we have laid to one side, the strength that we have within us. We have forgotten that we were born of the font of baptism and drink from the fountain of immortality – connecting us to Jesus Christ. As the Apostle says, If God is with us, who can be against us? (Rm 8) When we think of Artsakh and the threat to Armenia and to our being, we look for strength, for assistance, and ultimately to be saved. Why are we looking outside of ourselves? Why are we not looking within? Khirimian Hayrig, Gomidas Vartabed were the beginning of a long line of clergy – church leaders – from Mourapekian, Gevork Catholicos, Chorekjian and in our times the greats such as Vazken Vehapar, and in his shadow the bishops that we have today, from our Catholicos to our Primate who were his students. Against all the odds and with huge obstacles before them, they took us from the Yeghern of 1915 to Sardarabad, through the communist era, to the Karabaghian-sharzhum, to the independence of Armenia, with the Gospel message: Unless a grain of wheat falls and dies it remains a single seed, but by dying it produces a harvest. (Jn 12) All the time, they connected us to the power of Jesus Christ!

Jesus Christ was the first non-violent revolutionary. I am convinced that Tirdat the King, who was the king of Armenia in the 4th century, who had armies (plural!) under his command, who understood strength and diplomacy, who understand military strategy… I am convinced that Tirdat accepted Christianity because he saw it as power for victory and not for surrender. He saw the strength of Faith, based on the message of Jesus Christ, was about overcoming the evil with the power of love. He understood the power of resurrection over death!

This is the basic Faith that we have had throughout the centuries, that our Church has preached through its priests before we came to America and were filled with distorted understandings of religion that are tied with material wealth. This is the faith the Church preached whether Khirimian or Gomidas, Shnorhali or Datevatsi, or today in the trenches of Artsakh where our soldiers make the sign of the cross, are baptized and go into battle to defend the lives of their loved one.

This then is the power and the message of the Saints. It’s the connection with the Source of Life, connecting not with the manger in Bethlehem but with all of eternity – In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God! … He came to his own and his own did not accept him, but to those who believe he gave the power to be Sons of God. (John 1)

Yes, WE are the children of God. We are the people of God. The SAINTS understood this. This is why and how they accomplished their miracles. This is how we have stood up and won against every enemy. …To those who believe he gave the power to be Children of God.

Israel is not a piece of land in the Middle East, nor is it a country with ethnically same people – it literally means “Triumphant with God!” the People of God!  It isn’t enough that the Garden of Eden is in Armenia (Gen 2:10) and Noah’s Ark lands in Armenia (Gen 8:4), it isn’t enough that we were the First Christian Nation, but each of us who is baptized of the Holy Font of the Armenian Church, each of us who is born again from our Holy Mother, as we come out of the water of Baptism, and the confirmation of the Holy Miuron – the priest sings, “We are called the New Israel! In Christ and we are a portion and joint heirs of Christ! (Նոր Իսրայէլ կոչեցաք ի Քրիստոս, եղաք բաժին Տեառն և ժառանքակից Քրիստոսի)

What power!!! We are connected to the Revolution that Christ started! Do you understand now? Every story in which Jesus give the sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and life to the dead, he caps with the words, “Do not be afraid.”

The Saints, are the connection to the Divine. They have been through this path. They have reached out of their humanity and have been able to tap into Divine because Jesus Christ has been at the center of their being and the expression of their being. With all due respect to our brothers and sisters who have come and created new denominations, that reject and find little to no value in the saints, they have kept you away from the source of life. They have kept you from the HOLY MIURON! From that life-energy that ties you with all the SAINTS. That ties you to Christ, who is there from the beginning, and lives in the saints, Asdvadzadzin, Thaddeus and Bartholomew, Hripsime and Gayane, Loosavorich and Tirtad, 40 Martyrs of Sebatia, Shoushan and Santoukh, Datevatzi, Naregatzi, Shnorhali, in the Holy Martyrs of the Genocide, and on the front line in Artsakh and in all of us! The New Israel.

Let’s not look elsewhere. Return to the Church that connects us to the power of Christ. The Church with its Miuron from the time of St. Gregory the Illuminator and spread on the foreheads of the soldier on the front line in Artsakh. We are called to march with the saints. We are called to come to Armenia’s defense with the weapons that we have always had. You are the new TRIUMPHANT in God! Pack with you the weapons of thought, speech, writing, aid, business, and money. Jesus Christ ushered in the Revolution and we have been connected to it. Today is the day to realize that the invitation is there for you to answer. Christ is in each of us. If you write, write, If you cook, cook, if you sew, sew, if you pray, pray, if you are a doctor, heal, if you are a person, have compassion, share that compassion and just see how, you can tap into the Divine. The Saints did it. So can we.

God bless you, the Armenian People, the Armenian nation and Armenia. Amen.

Missing Steps

Missing Steps

Next Step #782 – October 20, 2023 – Forget Armageddon, listen to this and then act. Here are the “missing steps” in moving forward. A month after the loss of Nagorna Karabakh, Fr. Vazken comes with a response to the collective disappointment plaguing the Armenian community. Victim mentality returns with a loss of self-worth. Now Israel and war, without an alternative, why Bibles are not the answer. Jesus as revolutionary and the loss of that revolution. Fighting fire with water instead with fire. In His Shoes toward peace.
Freeway Blocked – Armenia & Karabakh
Who would Jesus bomb?
Mr. Smith goes to Washington
Leveraging Love
Lucy Yeghiazarian
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for http://Epostle.net
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War Speak

Armodoxy for Today: War Speak

Warning: The following message may contain content that is graphic and/or disturbing intended for historical purposes.

After the fall of Nagorna Karabakh I shared, in a daily message, the absurdity to the vocabulary we have invented for war. Now that Israel is at war I hear the absurdity reinforces with talk about the killing of women and children being of a different caliber than that of a man. There are rules for humanitarian corridors, as we kindly ask assailants not to bomb areas.

Here is a revisit to the oxymoronic language of war.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech that juxtaposes concepts with opposite meanings within a word or in a phrase that is a self-contradiction. For instance, “act naturally,” is an oxymoron because if you’re acting, you’re not natural. Awfully good, is often used to describe something of excellent quality, even though if it’s awful, it certainly can’t be good. There are many oxymorons that are part of our daily conversations. Deafening Silence, Civil war, Old News are all examples of the pairing of opposite meaning words.

You can say that I’m clearly confused, I truly am, over a set of words with the same or similar meaning that are paired together to give the illusion that they are opposites. And although they’ve creeped into our daily conversation, their pairing doesn’t fool me. I’m talking about the words “War crimes.” We talk about people being guilty of war crimes, as if war is not a crime in itself as if you can have a war without committing a crime. Digging a bit deeper we find that there are rules and regulations that govern war. Because we have classified our society as civilized, we have formulated rules for war. A soldier is fair game to be shot while a civilian is not. It sounds crazy, but a young man who dons the uniform of a soldier is no longer presumed to belong to a mother or father who will be devastated at his death.

It’s bizarre and even sickening, when we try to convince ourselves that we are civilized, that our conflicts are resolved by the shooting, maiming, injuring and killing those who oppose us. In Kigali, Rwanda I stood at the genocide museum. There, they had exhibits of all the genocides of the 20th century. I stood as the child of survivors of the first genocide of the 20th century at the scene of the last genocide of the 20th century. With one foot in Armenia and one in Rwanda, I was looking at the spans of 100 years and all the genocides that occurred in between. The Holocaust, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Bosnia were all there along with others that were somehow left off of the 6 o’clock news. It’s sobering when you look at them all and think is this the best we can do to resolve conflicts?

War Crimes! We even have rules that govern executions, that is state approved killings. In the time of Christ, we know that crucifixion was the manner in which criminals were executed. What we may not know is that the cause of death of the crucified was asphyxiation. The crucified person would die a slow death, gasping for air, and with each gasp getting less and less oxygen into his system. It was cruel and unusual. That was the process of execution two millennia ago. We evolved, and now we kill humanely. Did you catch that oxymoron. A quick bullet by a firing squad, electrocution, gas chamber and lethal injection. And then in 2020 we learned of George Floyd, neither tried nor convicted, died of asphyxiation, as he was deprived of oxygen on the streets of Minneapolis.

In the time of Jesus they had rules and regulations governing execution. But it wasn’t about humane methods, rather it was about man-made laws. In the Gospel of St. John we read that after Jesus had given up His spirit on the Cross, (19:31-35) “… Because it was the Preparation Day, the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.”

Very much like the modern day expression of war crimes, the Jews had rules and regulations that allowed for death – even cruel death – so long as the rules were adhered to, it was acceptable in their society.

That spear, known as the Holy Lance, is now kept by the Armenian Church. In Armenian it is called the Holy Geghart, and one of our monasteries where it was housed bears the name of that instrument. It is used during the blessing of the Holy Miuron, to stir and bless the Sacred oil. When that Lance entered the breathless body of our Lord Jesus on the Cross it was sanctified in the same manner in which the Cross of Torture became the Cross of Salvation following the Crucifixion.

There is no such thing as war crimes. All wars are crimes. We need to stop fooling ourselves. Conflicts need to be resolved civilly. If Christ transformed the tools of murder into instruments of life, we can do the same in our language and expressions. We can transform war crimes into peace actions.

Let us pray, from the Book of Hours of the Armenian Church, Beneficent and abundantly merciful God, through Your forgiveness and infinite love of humankind be mindful of all that believe in You and have mercy on all. Help us and deliver us from our several perils and trials. Make us worthy to give You thanks and glorify You, the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, now and always. Amen.  

Cover: Artsakh Cross, Custodian for an hour

Hours Later

Next Step #781 – September 21, 2023 – Hours after the cease-fire in Artsakh, people deal with the new reality. Fr. Vazken shares thoughts from the 1988 protests to this day.
CBS News Account
CivilNet Account
Amerikatsi Movie
Armodoxy for Today. Today
AP Source
Leveraging Love
CNSY Living with War
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for http://Epostle.net
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