Tag Archive for: Prayer

Tomorrow’s worries: Lent Day 33

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 33: Grilled Red Pepper and Eggplant Sandwiches

Lenten Journey Day 33 – Worrying about Tomorrow 

We end this fifth week of Lent with a meditation about apprehension, anxiety and worry about the future. Certainly anxiety comes into play when we are confronted with uncertainty. Even more, this coming Sunday is the Sunday of Advent, when we reflect on the second coming, which in its turn produces new anxieties and new worries of tomorrow.

Jesus warns us not to be anxious. He speaks directly against anxiety and against worrying about tomorrow. Anxiety and the fear that causes it are the opposites of faith. If we have faith we have trust. If we have trust then we diminish the power of anxiety and completely submit to God, so that “Thy will be done” will be done in our lives. Of course this is much easier said than done.

Let us look directly at the instruction that is given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. Herein is the greatest lesson that we have regarding faith. It comes to us from the Sermon on the Mount, from the Gospel of St. Matthew, quoting Jesus:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Our Lord Jesus Christ plainly explains that trusting God means to completely submit to His will. It means to allow Him to be God. It means to enjoy the life that He gives us and to fly with the birds, and be clothed like the lilies of the field. Enjoy all that God has given us. It requires us to have complete and total faith in Him, by allowing Him to be Father. Remember, in the old covenant God was known as Lord, but Jesus set up a new relationship, unlike any other, so that we dare to call God, “Father.” Our Father who art in heaven… If we believe He is our Father then as a heavenly Father, He takes care of every single part and aspect of that universe.

Certainly we will always have fears and apprehensions of tomorrow, but we need to diminish them and the only way, the only cure for that is faith. To strengthen our faith, to really look at the examples that He gives us, let us look for all of the examples that are plainly around us. Alongside the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields are the simple smiles of our children, the warm embraces of our loved ones, the monumental signs of the mountains, the crashing waves, the moon and stars, each of them telling us, as Albert Einstein says, “God does not play dice with the universe.” Life has not haphazardly come into being. We are not here by accident. God loves us and takes care of us.

Reduce your anxiety, eliminate your fears and trust in God.

Today we conclude with a prayer from Russian writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn:

How easy it is for me to live with you, Lord! 
How easy it is for me to believe in You! 
When my mind is distraught 
and my reason fails, 
when the cleverest people do not see further 
than this evening and do not know 
what must be done tomorrow – 

You grant me the clear confidence, 
that You exist, and that You will take care 
that not all the ways of goodness are stopped. 
At the height of earthly fame I gaze 
with wonder at that path 
through hopelessness – 
to this point, from which even I have been able to convey 
to men some reflection of the light which comes from You. 

And you will enable me to go on doing 
as much as needs to be done. 
And in so far as I do not manage it – 
that means that You have allotted the task to others. 

God’s Way – Lent Day 29

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 29: Mediterranean Bean Salad

Lenten Journey Day 29 – God’s Way 

The Lenten journey is much like a set of stairs. As we ascent upward, we acknowledge the foundation built by each step. Each stair is dependent upon the previous steps we have taken and the success of our climb relies on us placing a firm foot on the stair before.

Yesterday’s step introduced the parable of the Unrighteous Judge. Through it Jesus taught about the nature of prayer. Because our Heavenly Father already knows our needs we therefore understand prayer not only as a conversation with God but a conversation with the self. As we climb the steps, we come to understand God as a caring and compassionate Father who works with and within us, not outside of us. Many times our prayers are based an expectation that God, like Superman, will come swooping down from the heavens and rectify the situation that we’re in. When we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we should not expect something outside of us to take control; that is, a “Superman” effect by God. Our understanding of prayer today is that we are open to the possibility of God’s will being done. Not to merely sit back and say, “Thy will be done,” and expect some power from outside to overtake us, but now we are open to the possibility of God working through us. That means we open our hands and embrace those who need love. That means we put one step in front of the other and we walk in the paths of righteousness. That means we open our eyes and open our ears to God’s justice. That means we become the instruments to do God’s will here on earth. This is quite different from a lazy man’s prayer wishing that God swoop down from the heavens and take care of his every need.

“Thy will be done” is a prayer of us engaging – being in fellowship with God, allowing God to work through us. Allowing God to be a partner with us in this lifetime. This is the mature prayer of the Christian. This is the new step that we take today. We understand God through the conversation that we are having with Him. Prayer is this new conversation with God and it is not a one-way street. It is not a request list that we hand out and expect to be filled like a Santa Claus does who comes down a chimney and delivers according to who’s been “naughty or nice.” The dreams that we have may be wild ones, but to actualize those dreams, God works through us. He becomes a partner with us so that we become the legs, the hands, the mouth, the strength of God here on Earth.

St. Paul likens the Church to the Body of Christ specifically talking about the members of the body in terms of hands, feet, legs. Why? Because the only way Christ can work in this world is through a physical presence and a body. And here is the next step upwards… You’ve arrived at day 29, stepping on the previous steps and moving forward. You’ve made the transition in understanding. Prayer is your a partnership with God.

Yes, the Lenten journey has brought us here. What began as a solo venture is now a partnership between you and God, between you and others. You are not alone. There is a reason that Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there shall I be.” He does not say, “Where one is gathered, “ for there cannot be one Christian. Christianity implies a community. It implies working together. Faith without works is meaningless says the apostle.

On this day of Lent, we understand that prayer will have a different meaning for us. The words, “Thy will be done,” will be a call for action for us to open our hearts, open our senses to the possibility of the Eternal God of the Universe to work through us and not outside of us.

But what of problems that are beyond us such as earthquakes, hurricanes, illnesses and disease? We’ll take a look at those problems tomorrow as we continue on this thread, as we take the next step up the staircase of Lent.

Accordingly, for our prayer today, let us pray the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
And where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love.
For it is giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”

Steady and Consistent – Lent Day 28

Lenten Recipe

Recipe 28: Broiled Lemon-garlic Mushrooms

Lenten Journey Day 28 – Perseverance

Of the Lenten Sundays, three of them are named after parables which spotlight questionable character. During the last two Sundays we met the Prodigal Son and the Dishonest Steward. Completing the trilogy of Parables-Sundays is the dedication for this 28th day of Lent to the Unrighteous Judge. All three parables come to us from our Lord and are found in the Gospel of Luke, chapters 16, 17 & 18, respectively.

The Unrighteous Judge is a man who, as Jesus explains, did not fear anyone – not even God, nor was he ashamed of any person. In the town where he served as judge a widow kept coming to him and pleading with him, begging that he hear her case. For some time he refused, but finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God, nor do I care about men, but because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so she won’t eventually wear me out!” Jesus concludes his parable with an interesting statement. He says, “Listen to what the unjust judge says and will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night. Will he keep putting them off? I tell you He will see that they get justice, and quickly.”

Indeed, this is an odd story. At first reading you might think that Jesus compares God to this unrighteous, unjust judge. The parable creates this image of a god who can be worn out or worn down. It is as if, should we keep persevering, if we continue to pray over and over again, God will eventually wear down and He will say yes to our needs and to our desires. So keep praying, keep being persistent. Persevere like the old lady! And in the end God will wear down and will give you what you want.

On closer inspection of the parable, that is, when we read it in its entirety, we see that the evangelist, St. Luke, writes a few words of explanation as a preface to the parable. He says, “Jesus told His disciples this parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” So yes, this is a story of perseverance, but it is not to wear God down, it is to keep in mind that must continually be in communion with God. St. Luke’s preface to the parable suggests that during his time, as is the case today, there is a misconception about the nature of prayer.

When Jesus teaches us the “Lord’s Prayer” he warns, “Do not heap up extra words. Your heavenly Father already knows what you need. Therefore when you pray, pray like this. Our Father, which art in heaven … ” Let’s think about that for a moment. If our Heavenly Father knows what we need, why then should we pray?

God knows our needs, so obviously, we have a very real misunderstanding about the nature of prayer.

Prayer is not merely a conversation with God. We pray because we need a conversation with ourselves. God already knows the desires of our heart. He knows our needs and wants, most probably, better than we know them. God knows where we are going. The real question is, do we? It may sound strange, but unless you have a true focus on your life, it is questionable whether or not you know what your needs are.

How often do we give time to hear ourselves, to hear the inner self speak? Part of this Lenten journey has been to open the ears of our heart, to be able to listen attentively. The Psalmist says, “Be still! And know that I am God.” Lent is giving us the opportunity to sit still and listen, hear, absorb and thereby grow spiritually. Lent is not merely to cut down on food, but it is to come down to the bare essentials: What is necessary to survive? Or in Jesus’ words (to the tempter), “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the Lord.”

When teaching us to pray, Jesus directs us to go into a small room and pray without any distractions so that we understand what our needs are. Because when we pray for the good things, God already wants us to have the good things, but how are they going to arrive to us? We need to find the strength. We need to find the patience, the devotion. We need to find the correct values. We need to wake up, put our dreams aside and put on the new garment of hope to walk forward. This all comes from the person – you and me – taking action. When we accept that we are God’s children and that He is our Father, then we know that He will take care of us in all circumstances. Just as He takes care of the birds in the air, as He takes care of the lilies of the field who are here today and gone tomorrow, so too, He will take care of us. Jesus tells us, “How much more are you worth than those lilies of the field, than those birds of the air? Your Heavenly Father takes care of them. How much more He will take care of you.”

Do you have that faith? It is an unquestioning faith and is difficult to achieve, hence the need to discipline ourselves. What remains for us is to continue to pray. Persistence! Persevere! Consistency! Like the woman in the story, never doubt that in the end, you will get what you need, because in that persistence, it is not God the Judge listening, it is you listening to yourself. In your persistence you’ll find that these prayers turn into mantras. They turn into guidelines by which you start living, by which you start accepting responsibility in your life. And much as your life has changed during this Lenten season, your prayer life will begin to mature, and your prayers become real mantras toward action, to realize the dreams that are set deep in your heart and not the desires based on the whims of today.

We conclude today’s Lenten journey with the prayer that our Lord, Jesus Christ, taught us,
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. Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

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.  

The Secret Journey – Lent Day 1

Day 1: The  Lenten Journey

 “From the east to the west and throughout the entire Christian world, wherever people call on the name of the Lord in holiness, by their prayers and intercession, may the Lord have mercy upon us.”

Lenten Recipe

These are the first words of the Prayer of Sunrise from the service of the same name, Arevakal, in the Armenian Orthodox Church.  We are reminded today that just as the Sun rises from the East and travels to the West, shining its light, radiating its heat, so too we find God everywhere.  We find the presence of God everywhere and anywhere where there is life, where there is love.

On this first day of Lent, our Church Fathers direct us to the Gospel of St. Matthew asking us to keep in mind our three main obligations during the Lenten journey: Giving, prayer and fasting.  While fasting is more formulated, in other words, keeping away from meat with dietary restrictions, and while prayer gives us an opportunity for conversation, giving is the action element to the Lenten cycle. 
We will be looking at all three of these elements – giving, prayer and fasting – in  detail in the next few days. For today, as a primer, we will look at all three of them in the context we find in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, specifically from the Sermon on the Mount. 
Matthew Chapter 6: And Jesus says Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.  For whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may be praised by others.  Truly, I tell you, they have received their reward.  For when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your alms may be done in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 
Secondly, Jesus talks about prayer: And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on 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 who is in secret.  And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
And regarding fasting, Jesus says, And whenever you fast, do not look dismal like the hypocrites for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting.  Truly I tell you they have received their reward.  For 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 sees in secret, will reward you.
The first day of Lent is a time for a fresh start. Do not approach Lent as an obligation but approach it as an opportunity to grow. This 40 day period is an opportunity not a responsibility. In the Scriptural passages above we see that giving, prayer and fasting are private opportunities to build on your relationship with God. The Lenten Journey is between you and God. It is a time for reflection and introspection.
During the next 40 days you will see what is really important in your life. Remember, after Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness he was tempted to change the stones into bread to feed his physical hunger. His answer, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from God” is the cornerstone to the Lenten Journey. We are reminded that there is so much more to life than our physical existence. There is a soul which has spiritual hunger. These next 40 days will give you the opportunity to see what is necessary in your life. You will find that prayer, fasting and giving, will connect you to a higher reality.  Remember, it is between you and God, and God is “From the East to the West…”, that is, He is everywhere, within and without you. St. Nectarous says, “Seek God within your heart and not outside of it.”  It is just between you and God. Lent is between you and all of life.  Take advantage!  Here’s an opportunity like no other.
Let us now pray the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali (the Graceful): 
Oh Christ, Guardian of All, let your right hand guard and shelter me by day and by night; while home and while away; while sleeping and while awake that I may never fall.  Have mercy upon all your creatures, and upon me, a great sinner.
Cover Photo: Gregory Beylerian, 2014

Advent 25-50: Meditation

Advent Day 25 of 50: Meditation

Meditation is a vital part of the Christian experience and a practice that is alluded to by Jesus in today’s teaching.

Jesus says, “When you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore, do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”  (Matthew 6:5-8)

Once again, Jesus asks us to practice our piety in private. The religious experience is between you and God and not a demonstration for others. Jesus, in authority, tells us that our Father knows our needs before we ask Him. Therefore, prayer is contemplative and meditative, that is, prayer is a conversation with our inner self. God already knows your needs, now you must realize them. Meditation is an opportunity to “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) It is a quiet time with God, who is inside of you. Pray with the knowledge that God knows your needs and feel His love. That knowledge is given to us by the One who was begotten of the Father, that is, from Love Incarnate.

For your Lenten journal, make note of the adversary, the hypocrite. For today, we will conclude with the prayer from the tenth hour of St. Nersess Shnorhali’s Confession of Faith, Christ, the living fire, inflame my soul with the fire of your love which you sent forth over the earth, so that it may burn the stains of my soul; sanctify my conscience and purge my body from sin, and kindle the light of your knowledge in my heart. Have mercy upon your creatures and on me, a sinner. Amen.

Cover: Luna & Gregory Beylerian, 2023

Words for Prayer

Armodoxy for Today: Words for Prayer (for Artsakh)

Ever since Nagorna Karabagh, Artsakh, was violently taken over by the Azeris, Armenians the world over have been searching for words and expressions to share with others, and with God, their frustration, disappointment, anger, and acceptance of the hideous crime on the road to genocide.

The Armenian Law Students Association organized a vigil at the Loyola Law School here in Los Angeles to honor the lives lost during the Artsakh Genocide. An open invitation was sent to the student body as well as the entire community. They assembled, with candles they prayed. I wish to share their prayer here, for those searching for words, especially in a world that keeps adding wars and new sufferings on people. This, they adapted from a prayer written for Armenia and Artsakh in the Eastern Diocese (November 13, 2020).

Blessed are you, O Lord we come to you in a supremely difficult time for the Armenian people. With broken hearts and tears filling our eyes, we are united in grief over the loss of the ancestral holy lands of Artsakh. The Armenian people are forced to leave behind their sacred temples of worship and silence their joyful prayers within their glorious churches. In this state of unbearable pain, we appeal to you, O Lord, to hasten to their aid in your divine mercy and love. 

Dispel their deep sorrow; heal their wounded spirits; pull them back from the error of hopelessness and despair. Help them to find strength and refuge in your loving arms, and to unite the Armenian nation under the warm and caring wings of your Holy Church. Grant us the humility and wisdom to accept the things we can no longer change; and give us courage to effect needful change where we still can.

 In a time of unrest and turmoil in Armenia, give the people the peace you granted to all your followers: breathe into them, too, your life-giving Holy Spirit, so that they too may find peace from worldly commotion, worry, and fear. Help them to work together in love, directing their sincere efforts toward the recovery of our society. Guide them in rebuilding their broken homes, and heal their wounded families who lost loved ones during these bitter days of war.  

Remember with love, Lord, as our Creator, the souls of the heroic soldiers and brave civilians who sacrificed their lives in your name. For those who have now lost their lifelong homes and must flee to safety. Remember them, bless them, and receive them into your Kingdom. Comfort their loved ones by the grace of your Holy Spirit. 

Lord, today we are overwhelmed by the sense of loss and tragedy that has come upon the Armenian people. But we know that you are always near to the brokenhearted, and you rescue those who are crushed in spirit [cf. Psl. 34:18 2]. We trust that all things are possible through you [cf. Philip. 4:13 3]. Help us realize that even when matters lie beyond our understanding, you still know the plans you have for us—plans to help us prosper and not come to harm; plans to give us hope for the future [cf. Jer. 29:11]. We cast our anxiety to you, lean not on our mortal understanding, and trust in you with all our heart [cf. Prov. 3:5]. For we have faith that in all things, you work for the good of all who love and honor you [cf. Rom. 8:28].  

We are humble, Lord, and you are our glory; your very name is wondrous, triumphant, and holy. Surrounded by the great cloud of our newly martyred witnesses to you, we praise you along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always, and unto the ages and ages. Amen.

Cover: Envato Elements


Armodoxy for Today: Alive

Sunday was proclaimed as a National Day of Prayer for Artsakh and for the Armenian Artsakh. Throughout the world, Armenians especially, got down on bended knees to pray. The prayer was not to a state leader, a diplomat, a politician, a social media personality, musician or celebrity.

In the Western Diocese, we celebrated the Holy Divine Liturgy at the St. Leon Ghevontians Armenian Cathedral. Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the Primate, called on the community to unite in prayer, “turning that prayer into the soil for new life. From that prayer,” he said, “Will come the inner power arising from faith, to manifest good works.”

At a time when the losses of the Armenian people are so great, the call to a life of prayer, has changed the emphasis of finding answers from within, rather than seeking them from without.

As the Archbishop was about to end his sermon, a group of Sunday School students came into the packed sanctuary and lodged themselves at the foot of the altar, in the chancel area of the huge cathedral. They were holding in their hands sheets of paper with crosses drawn on them. Each child had drawn and decorated a cross to bring to church this morning. Archbishop Hovnan announced that the day was dedicated to the Holy Cross of Varak (a small town in the Van region of Armenia, where the Cross of Christ was kept during a time of persecution). The young kids were now the new owners of these crosses.

The Archbishop asked the children to raise their cross drawings up high, so that members of the congregation could see them, as we all sang the Lord’s Prayer together. The kids began buzzing with excitement. They took their papers with ornamental crosses painted on them and they began waving them as we sang the Lord’s Prayer. In that wave, we witnessed energy and vitality. Their enthusiasm was dispensed and transmitted to all of us. We smiled at their naive understanding of faith and realized we were being given the signal from God. The next generation was sharing an enthusiasm that came from deep within each child. We were singing “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and we were being treated to the manifestation of God’s will – the love and life expressed by these children – in our holy sanctuary.

The miracles are always around us. If we are willing to open our hearts to God’s love, we can become witnesses to those miracles. Today, we record a miracle as a first step toward victory. Children living, making noise and waiving the cross, the symbol of resurrection and victory, in the midst of an Armenian church. We understand it as a miracle because it happened before a community that knelt and prayed. And if at any time you doubt that such a small gesture is a true miracle, think of the fact, that only a 100 years ago, the same enemy had proclaimed that there would be only one Armenian left and that Armenian would be found in a museum. Every noise, every prayer, ever raised cross is a miracle pointing to victory. Add to this, it all takes place inside an Armenian Church 12 time zones away from where the Armenian Church began, on the other side of the planet, at Holy Etchmiadzin. Only by the Grace of God does this miracle take place.

We prayer the prayer from the Evening Hour of the Armenian Church. Lord our God, increase within us Faith, Hope and Love. Amen.

Oil to Prayer, Miuron

Armodoxy for Today: Oil to Prayer

One of the sacred traditions of the Armenian Church is the preparation and blessing of the Holy Miuron (Chrism). It is done with much fanfare and grandeur, once every seven years. Holy Miuron was scheduled to be blessed this year, 2023, on October 1.

The process of blessing begins forty days earlier. That special ceremony took place presided by His Holiness, Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. The base of the Miuron is olive oil and the essence of 40 different fragrant flowers. Just as this, the mixture, was absorbing the prayers, hymns, incense and the energy of Holy Etchmiadzin, the spiritual center of the Armenian Church, the Azeris fired on the innocent civilians of Artsakh, prompting the Blessing of Muiron to be postponed.

At the blessing of Holy Miuron, the holy relics of the saints are brought out of their sacred spaces within monasteries, to the altar table of Holy Etchmiadzin, along with the sacred Geghard, the Holy Lance that pierced the side of Our Lord Jesus on the Cross (John 19). The Holy Miuron is mystical and powerful. It unites us to Christ and the History of the Holy Church. It is used to christen individuals into the Church, to consecrate clergy and buildings into the sacred service of the Holy Church. It is the life blood of the Church.

This year, the body of Armenian Church, took a major hit. A large portion of that body, namely Artsakh, was cut off of the Body. Understandably, the life blood, the Holy Miuron, would need to strengthen. With the postponement of this year’s blessing, His Holiness, the Catholicos, has ordered the holy relics of the saints and the Holy Geghard to be brought to Etchmiadzin’s Holy Altar during this most difficult time, to console the people with a special blessing.

This Sunday, October 1, has been designated at an International Day of Prayer for Artsakh and the Artsakh Armenians who now seek refuge as their land is occupied and they are exiled from their homes. A Day of Prayer is a call to the children of the Church to focus on God as their only hope. This is our opportunity to return to our roots and understand the true power of God to work His miracles through each of us.

We at Epostle.net will be simulcasting the ancient Armenian Divine Liturgy from the St. Leon Ghevondyants Armenian Cathedral with English commentary. Please join us for a live stream at 10:30AM Pacific Daylight Time, on October 1, that’s Coordinated Universal Time -7 at Epostle.net.

Today we conclude with Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.

The Unusual

Armodoxy for Today: The Unusual

The Gospels record a very supernatural, what is commonly called miraculous, event. Spotting miracles has become a popular pastime of many people of faith. A blind man sees, a woman’s bleeding stops, the deaf person hears. But today I will read you a story about a large scale miracle and ask that you identify the miracle, and here is a clue: it’s something very unusual.

St. Matthew records Jesus found himself being followed by thousands of people without a logistical game plan to accommodate the masses.  He writes, “When Jesus saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’

Now remember, you’re searching for the miracle, what is truly unusual.

“The disciples said to Him, ‘We have here only five loaves and two fish.’ He said, ‘Bring them here to Me.”  Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.  And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.” (Matthew 14:14-23)

Did you spot the miracle? Did you spot what is truly unusual about the incident described in this story? The obvious answer, that Jesus fed about 20,000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread, sounds like a miracle, but remember this is Jesus doing it. It is not unusual for the Son of God. And yes, we can guesstimate a number between 15,000 to 20,000, considering the 5,000 men were there with their wives and children.

The bigger number is what follows, when it’s recorded that not only were the people fed but they collected 12 baskets of left-overs. This statement lays to rest any the doubt that the food was truly multiplied.

One of the first things that strikes me as unusual is that Jesus turns the matter over to his disciples and says, “You feed them.” In other words, you have the ability to do so: Take care of it! But the truly unusual event occurs afterwards. Jesus withdraws to pray!

Jesus is at the height of his popularity. Thousands are following him. He’s touching and healing the people physically and spiritually. He brings about one of the greatest of his miracles by feeding the mass assembled. And at the end of it, he withdraws and prays. That is unusual! Compare this to us. Do we pray when everything is going right? When we’re at the “top of our game”? Or, is more like when we are in need, hurting and have run out of options? The number of prayers we offer are directly increased in proportion to the difficulties we endure. For Jesus, prayer was a constant in his life, during good and bad times.

He taught us that our “Heavenly Father already knows your needs before you ask.” (Matthew 6:8) If this then is the case, then why do we pray? Jesus is telling us that the conventional definition of prayer, as conversation with God, is only a part of the story, a very small part. God knows our needs, but do we know them? Prayer is a conversation with God and also with our self, or in other words, with God who also lives within us and without us.

Throughout Scripture, we follow the life of Jesus as an example of living. He prays, he fasts, he loves unconditionally, these are all outward manifestations of the disciplined life. Prayer brings into focus those things that are important in our life. Jesus turned to the disciples and say, “You feed them.” We have the capacity within us to do the seemingly impossible. In a world troubled by war and plagued with hatred, solutions often seem impossible. When we turn to God in prayer, we hear His voice telling us, “You feed them.” This is the first step toward realizing and actualizing a plan for ultimate peace.

We pray today from the fourth hour of St. Nersess Shnorhali’s Confession with Faith, “Son of God, true God, who descended from the bosom of the Father, and took on flesh from the holy Virgin Mary for our salvation; crucified, buried, and raised from the dead, ascended in glory to the Father; I have sinned against heaven and before you; remember me the thief on the cross when you come into your kingdom. Amen.