Tag Archive for: Resurrection

Day after Crucifixion

Armodoxy for Today: After the day

If you were in Jerusalem in the early Spring of the year 33, and you happened to see the persecution, mock trial, torture and eventual execution of Jesus of Nazareth, you’d most definitely be confused, as were the people of the time.

The year is 33. Jesus began his ministry only three years earlier. He spoke of love. He healed the sick and miraculously cured the people of their many social and physical ills. He spoke out against the establishment, which got him into trouble with the religious authorities. They persecuted him and finally arranged for his crucifixion. It was Friday afternoon. Word had gotten around that he was, in fact, the Son of God, and so they mocked him, saying, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:42-43)

If on that Friday evening you left town, after witnessing the life beaten out him you would have only been privy to half of the Jesus story. If you witnessed the crucifixion and left, you would understandably believe that the Jesus story ended there and then. You would believe evil has won and the promise of God was merely, words with no action.

Fortunately, we know the story didn’t end of Friday with the crucifixion. That is why we have the audacity and courage to refer to that day as “Good” Friday. We know that on Sunday, Jesus resurrected from the dead.

The Christian has the unique perspective of viewing life through the looking glass of the Resurrection. In other words, we’ve seen the Crucifixion but we know the Resurrection awaits! Viewed from Easter Sunday, from the vantage point of the Resurrection, we can proclaim along with St. Paul, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting.” (I Corinthians 15:55)

Today we stand in witness of the Crucifixion of the Artsakh. As the Armenian Church, we are the witness to the Resurrection. We were there in the year 33 on that Sunday morning at the Empty Tomb. We were there at the end of St. Gregory’s imprisonment at Khor Virap in the 4th century. We were there at Avarayr with St. Vartan in the 5th century. We were there during the persecutions of barbarians through the centuries. We were there in 1915 and in 1918. We mourned the loss of our martyrs and also rang the bells of Sardarabad. We were there through communism and there when communism fell. We are there today, proclaiming the same Truth we have for centuries. The Crucifixion is not the end because there is Resurrection. Good overcomes evil, life is what is lasting over than death. Darkness can never overcome the Light. And Love is always more powerful than evil.

If at all we feel hopeless, we only open our hearts to the message of Resurrection from the Holy Church.

Today’s meditation is from the Resurrection account of St. Luke,
Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’

Epilogue

Epilogue

The Gospel of St. John ends with the words, And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.” (21:25)

I have always assumed that this was hyperbole, an exaggerated statement not meant to be taken literally. After all, the Gospel narrative accounts for three years of Jesus’ life, from baptism to resurrection. And technically, St. John’s account can be spread over a single year. Even if there was an event or miracle recorded every minute of his wake life, the recording process would not be prohibited by the amount of space on the planet.

St. John writes these words after his account of the Resurrection and during the time that the Christian community was organizing, and the Church was placing roots as it expanded. After the Resurrection of Christ, the message was spreading like wildfire, as more and more people were experiencing a new mindset, where death was no longer to be feared and God’s love was readily available to all.

Over the last several weeks (since Easter), I have presented the work of the Armenian Church Youth Ministries Center from 2003 on. The series, called “It was 20 years ago today,” chronicled miracles and events that took place from a small church which was built on a faith in the power of resurrection over crucifixion, light over darkness, love over hatred. As I wrote the last entry, I realized there was so much more that I could have recorded, so much more that should be shared, so much more, that perhaps there might not be enough space or time to write it down. No, these words are not hyperbole, rather they reflect a genuine understanding of the impact the Christian message has had on the lives of people. One person who moves from hurt to healing, is multiplied by the number of people he or she affects in and with his or her life.

Now, in the case of Christ, the Son of God, manifesting the Divine Spirit in our world, can we possibly even fathom the effect the Incarnation had on the world. The passage we read above is the epilogue to St. John’s Gospel. It is the ending to a Gospel that started off, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

The Light is all consuming, all revealing, and with the Light, there can be no darkness.

We pray the prayer of St. Nersess Shnorhali from the 21st hour.
O Christ, True Light, make my soul worthy to behold with joy the light of Your glory, in that day when You call me, to rest in the hope of good things in the mansions of the just until the day of Your glorious coming. Have mercy upon Your Creatures and upon me, a great sinner. 

Cover: Tech festival, Yerevan 2014, Fr. Vazken

20 years ago: Famine to Feast

It was 20 years ago today:

Between the years 2003 and 2016 we ran an experiment in an area of Glendale, California known as “Ground Zero,” a place that Armenian organizations had ignored and forgotten, a place where education, identity and prayer came together. These are the untold stories from the Armenian Church Youth Ministries Center.

Today’s Episode: Famine to Feast

World Vision is an organization that I connected with in the late 1990’s. It has a very simple premise of following the Matthew 25 invitation of seeing Jesus in the “least of my brothers and sisters.” It was only natural that we develop a closer bond between this group and our newly formed “In His Shoes” mission.

One of World Vision’s programs, at the time, was called the “30 hour Famine.” It was a planned famine to give young people (read all of us) an understanding of hunger, study the causes and raise much needed funds to feed the hungry of the world. I had two years of experience organizing this famine while at the St. Gregory Church in Pasadena. The formula was simple, each participant had to find sponsors, for instance $1 an hour, who would donate according to  the participant’s ability to remain hungry. We organized the event inside the church hall.

An organized famine is foreign territory for an Armenian community, especially for a group of people hurting from displacement from wars and political upheavals. We turned over the collected money to World Vision and they in turn used the money to provide for children and families in some of the most impoverished areas on earth. The first year, we had about 25 kids participate. We had to expel (call their parents) three of them who snuck out at night for a bite to eat. When they returned, it was the smell of heavily onion-seasoned Armenian kebab that betrayed them! 30 hours of fasting is no easy feat, but I was proud that the majority of them kept their side of the bargain, and it was a success. We raised funds, but even more, we raised awareness for hunger and our response to others in the world.

Trauma scars people to various degrees. The Armenian Genocide, in a sense the trauma of traumas, has left a very large scar on the psyche of the entire Armenian nation. There are many wounds that have to be healed, or at the very least, addressed. Armenians have been on the receiving end of tragedy, from Genocide to Soviet occupation, to civil wars and political upheavals in their new adopted lands (Middle East). So, it was understandable when we received complaints about sending the money on those outside our Armenian community. Or maybe I read too much into it and it was simply that the money was going outside of controlled boundaries.

Moving from Pasadena and opening the Youth Ministries Center, we started with a clean slate. We invited kids to participate. We had them collect money. While World Vision provided Bible Study material as activities during the “famine,” I took the liberty of tailoring the lessons to our In His Shoes platform, namely, to connect the dots with the Armenian Genocide and the plight of the Armenian people who were labeled in the post-Genocide period as the “Starving Armenians,” by National Geographic, no less (circa 1935).

We held the first “famine” at the Center with a couple of dozen kids. We camped out in the church – sleeping bags on the floors and pews. A few parents came to help my wife Susan and I with chaperoning the younger ones. The participants ranged in age from 13 to 30. We set a buy-in amount, that is, participants would have to raise a minimum amount. I believe it was $50.

I invited friends of the ministry to come and speak about Christian charity. Among them were my sister Anush Avejic, businessman David Mgrublian and attorney Christopher Armen. In between lectures, we had wellness checks, made sure people were drinking water, and moving with mild exercises. In the evening we watched “Lillies of the Field” with 1963 Oscar winner Sidney Poitier, followed by a discussion on the film as well as an assortment of topics.

Hosanna Aroyan was the student leader. She was a natural organizer and articulated herself well. She reported to me that we had collected almost $10,000 in pledges from the community. We had a couple of anonymous donors who said they would match our funds. With those matching funds we started the 30 Hour Famine with about $30,000 in pledges. I was checking World Vision’s website that weekend and reading about matching funds. That night they posted a 6-to-1 and a 5-to-1 grant.

Sunday morning. We woke the kids up in the church. Sleep didn’t help their hunger and they were tired and exhausted. A few were light-headed. The 30 hours was to finish at 12 noon with the reception of the Holy Communion, the sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We were getting ready to start services when I received an acknowledgment from World Vision, our collected funds had been matched with a few different funds and we got creative by offering the matched fund totals to our anonymous donors. We were at half-a-million dollars! I could not control my emotions and shared the news with Hosanna. We both burst into tears.

I can never forget that day. The church was filled with the parents and the curious. What were we going to announce? To the amazement of the congregation and the participants I announced that our collection exceeded a $500,000!

It was Easter Season, and the sermon just flowed. Here we were, children of the those labeled as “Starving Armenians” now we were feeding the starving of the world! We could not find a more profound expression of resurrection following crucifixion, than what was given to us that morning. We demonstrated Jesus’ challenge, “if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:10)

We continued to hold the “30 hour Famine” annually and it became a standing program of the In His Shoes ministry. It became more popular through the years, and eventually we were given space at Glendale Community College to hold the event and sleepover there. But that first year will always be special. We made a video that was shared with other youth groups at Armenian churches, but unfortunately the idea of a planned famine intruded on the comfort level of too many.

In 2009, while visiting the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin in Armenia with my son Varoujan, we were using backpacks that were given to us by World Vision. Someone spotted the logo on the packs and they pointed us to a seminar that was being held for Sunday School teachers, in a building adjacent to the Cathedral. It was organized by World Vision at the invitation of the Catholicos of All Armenian, His Holiness Karekin II. There they were, World Vision, at the Center of our Armenian Church. We went in and introduced ourselves and couldn’t feel prouder that goodness was spreading.

We continue tomorrow with more untold stories and miracles from 20 years ago today. I invite you to join us. If you missed earlier episodes, you can hear them on your favorite podcatcher or at Epostle.net under the “Armodoxy for Today” tab. Remember to leave a comment and/or write us at feedback@epostle.net.

Note: The image which appears on the cover, “Peacock with ‘eh'” was created at the Famine under the direction of Anush Avejic. Years later it was donated to the St. Mark Episcopal Church in Glendale and hangs prominently in their sanctuary to this day.

Church Born of Fear

Stories from the Body then and now…

According to Holy Scripture, the first witnesses to the Empty Tomb of Christ, “Fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16) Fear, was the first expression of the post-Resurrection Church, and it was that fear that turned into Faith, the Faith of the Christian Church.

Having just celebrated Easter – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – we find ourselves in the period time (from Easter to Pentecost) dedicated to the birth and growth of the Church. The Church is not an accessory or an after-thought to Christianity. Contrary to the popular understanding of Christianity, it was the Church – the Body of Christ – which transferred the stories of Jesus to us. That is, everything we know about Jesus Christ we have received via the Church. You may hear popular formula of reading the Bible and therefore understanding Jesus, but in fact, Jesus gave us the gift of His Body the Church. Yes, “God so loved the world that He gave his Only Begotten Son” (John 3:16), and in turn, Jesus so loved us that he gave, established his Church so that we should not orphaned. (John 14-17)

According to Jesus, the Church is established and built on the proclamation of Christ’s divinity. In the 16th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

That “rock” is the proclamation made by Peter, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. Upon this proclamation the Church is built. And as we see, in the Apostolic era, that is, days after the Resurrection, there was no Bible, but there definitely was a Church. It was “raw” Church built on the gospel message that Jesus has risen. The Armenian Apostolic Church is a continuation of that original Church. The fear the Disciples experienced at the Empty Tomb was transformed into Faith through Christ. It is the same transformation of fear to Faith that the Armenian Church has witnessed as its people survived and flourished against all the odds.

As we look at the early post-Resurrection Church, we are reminded of the necessity of the Church for a complete celebration of the Christian faith, and that the cornerstone of that Church is the proclamation that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God.

We pray, O Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, as we celebrate your glorious Resurrection at this Easter time, may we be worthy to be members of your Holy Church, your sacred body, to be your hands, legs and mouth here on Earth. Dispel the fears and gloom that consumes our lives by helping us find the Faith that others have found throughout the centuries, so that we may better serve humanity and in so doing, serve you and your Holy Body. Amen.

Only the Beginning

And now it begins…

The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the beginning of the Christian story. Not Christmas, but Easter is where it all begins. It is a singular event in human history. Whereas everyone has been born, and everyone has and/or will die, only one has returned from death. That is the celebration of Easter.

In Armodoxy we approach Easter with preparation. We have been through a 40-day preparatory period called Great Lent, and a week of intense focus on the Mystery of the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, referred to as Holy Week. So, it would seem that Easter is the culmination of the period, instead we discover it is only the beginning.

The message “Christ is Risen” was the first Gospel of the Christian Church. The word Gospel means “good news.” In Armenian, good news is avetis from which the word avetaran is derived for Gospel. The Christian community was built on the good news that Jesus did not die but resurrected from the dead and lives on. The Resurrection takes place in the eternal present, it is not, “He rose” or “He has risen” but “He is Risen!” The message is current, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

In Jesus’ farewell discourse, recorded in the Gospel of St. John, he makes it clear that life will continue after the Resurrection. He does not leave us orphaned, but rather establishes and commissions His Church – His Holy Body – to continue the mission for which he came.

During the next 40 days, to the day of Ascension, we read the Book of Acts of the Apostles in the Armenian Church, thereby focusing on the development of the Church. During the next 50 days, to the day of Pentecost, we will look at the stories that come to us from Apostolic times juxtaposed next to stories that come from our experience, that is, stories of inspiration from our lives today. Join me on this next period of the Christian journey,

Let us pray, Heavenly Father, we thank you for your unconditional love, for looking after us, as the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Through Your love as our Creator, you gave us your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, so we may have life and have it abundantly. And now, as we are reminded of Jesus’ Resurrection, we remember once again, you did not abandon us but set up the Holy Church, to guide and direct us through the Holy Spirit. May we be worthy of the Love you so abundantly bless us with. Amen.

Cover photo: TonyTheTigersSon (Envato Elements)

Resurrection and Beginnings

Holy Week Day #9 – Easter Sunday! – You made it through to the end, only to find it’s the beginning. The angels direct us to look at Life and we do – to find it Resurrected! Final directions for the Lenten Journey.
Music: “Govya Yerousghem” by Vazkenian Seminarians at Lake Sevan; Speghani Children’s choir; “Birdsong Medly” by Armen Chakmakian; “About God” by Gor Mkhitarian. Cover: “Rise!” by Gregory Beylerian for In His Shoes Ministry. (available in the Epostle Shop)
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for ePostle.net

Easter Eve – ‘Before the Dawn’

Holy Week Day #8 – Easter Eve – It’s always darkest before the dawn, but the Light cannot be contained. It’s radiating from the Tomb of Christ, as we anticipate the Good News of Resurrection; Matthew 28;
Music: Selections from “Ornyal eh Asdvadz” by Students at the Vazkenian Seminary at Lake Sevan; Cover: Easter Morning at the Hollywood Bowl, 2003.
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for ePostle.net

Direct Link for Download

Holy Week – Lazarus Saturday

Holy Week Day #1 – Reflections on the death and resurrection of Jesus’ friend Lazarus (John 11) and the question: “Do you believe this?”;
Song “At Their Father’s Knee” by Ian Anderson; Cover: Dali-e
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for ePostle.net

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Beat the Odds

Next Step #753: Here the story of beating the odds. While the world’s largest lotto (~$2B) took place this week, the real winner went by unnoticed, in Nashville where the astronomical odds of survival were beaten via a child’s baptism. This is the story of a miracle, bigger than Vegas-winnings and what happens here should not stay here.
Lotto record
National Museum of African American Music 
Armenians on 8th Avenue 
Edwin Hawkins Oh Happy Day
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for Epostle.net
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The Words after Roe

Next Step with Fr. Vazken #734: The Supreme Court overturns Constitutional guarantees of Roe vs. Wade. Here’s a look beyond the usual, as Fr. Vazken begins with a log and finds the speck. A dictionary for the terms and much more. Misled conservatism through the network. Links for this episode
Abortion, Supreme Court decision
Pastor Dave Barnhart on Abortion
San Quentin Prison
Resurrection, Tolstoy
Jack Kevorkian’s first book, the Story of Dissection
Keb Mo’s America the Beautiful
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org and Epostle.net
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