Tag Archive for: St. Mary

Love Conquers

Armodoxy for Today: Love Conquers

St. Mary, who’s assumption is remembered in the month of August, is referred to with many titles that are also descriptors. Blessed Mother, Asadvadzadzin, the Bearer of God, Our Lady and Queen of Heaven, are among some of the more conventional names. They all point to the unique place she occupies in human history.

She said “Yes” to God and thereby Christ was made incarnate. She bore and delivered Pure Love to the world.

A few years ago, while serving as a parish priest in Glendale, I became aware of the problem of domestic violence within the local community. Like many other places, denial was widespread. Some even shunned me for daring to voice a concern about domestic violence.

As priests we often become the first point of contact for people in need. One night, after a violent scene between a husband and wife, and after hours of counseling and finding a safe haven for a young mother and her children, I asked her if we could pray together before I turned her over to the shelter. Of course, she wanted that bit of solace in her upside-down world. Instinctively, she reached out her hand so I would hold it during prayer, and instinctively I did. She screamed! I let go only to find her hands were crushed and disfigured by the act of her husband.

The domestic violence problem grew with very little mention of it by community leaders. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back came one night when a lady who had been on the receiving end of domestic violence for 20 years finally had the nerve and the strength to escape from her husband’s tortures and left the house, knocking on the doors of neighbors, asking – begging – for help. She was told by neighbors that “amot eh!” as in, “Don’t bring shame to the family… Go back home before you bring disgrace to your family… This is not something we Armenians do…”  From home to home this continued for 15 minutes until she finally reached a house that did not close the door on her and took her in. She was an African American woman who recognized the seriousness of the situation and immediately called the police. That night we met with her in a sanctuary area.

That was the marking moment when as a community we could no longer stay quiet. We established a grass-roots organization called, “Datev Outreach.” Datev is the name of a celebrated saint in the Armenian Church, it also was a play on words, da-tev, that is, to “give wings.”

During the short-lived life of Datev Outreach we heightened awareness tremendously within the Glendale area. We organized walks through the streets of Glendale where we received the support of many families who came out to voice their oneness with us and the scorn of others who heckled us as we walked by: “There’s no such thing! You’re making it up!” Datev Outreach organized classes for women, gave women opportunities to educate and self-determine their lives. It was a powerful program in the community.

Like many good things, politics got into the way and we closed up our offices after two years, but not before establishing firm ties with the YWCA and ensuring that victims would have a place to find sanctuary.

One of the remaining treasures of Datev Outreach is the beautiful icon of the Blessed Mother. Artist Gregory Beylerian created this icon which cried out to the world the double message that Violence Hurts – there’s no denying it – and Love Conquers – providing the solution! The icon, with the Asdvadzadzin and the Baby Jesus, is a new icon for the contemporary world. It is an icon of Armodoxy because it has a double message boldly proclaiming the horror of violence and articulating the solution in reference to St. Mary, the bearer of Love.

Saints are living today. They are active in our lives today. While many descriptors are ascribed to the Blessed Mother, we must never forget that she takes away pain (cf. Gyumri’s Yot Verk Church) and answers with solace in her capacity to bring Love to the world.

Let us pray, the prayer of intercession of the Armenian Church, Christ, our God, who chose and embraced those who witnessed You and partakers in Your passion. We ask for the intercession of all saints in order that through their fervent prayers and mediation You may grant us peace and protect us from enemies both visible and invisible. Grant us, O Lord, the vision to follow in their path. Amen.

Connection to Tragedy

Armodoxy for Today: Connection

We just celebrated the Assumption of the Holy Asdvadzadzin. In our last message, I spoke about the connection between the grapes and the Blessed Mother. Even more, we cited the passage from the Gospel of St. John about the Jesus being the vine, the Father the vinedresser and we, the branches, are called to bear fruit.

In traditional churches such as the Armenian Church, it is easy to lose the connection between these celebrations and the purpose of these celebrations. Every celebration, every feast, every event, in the Armenian Church has to point to Jesus Christ. Without Christ, these stories are only a part of a history which may be interesting but bear no connection to “the vine.”  In other words, they are irrelevant to the lives we lead.

This past week, the blockade in Artsakh continued. Here in Southern California hundreds of protesters took to the Los Angeles freeways, stopping traffic, demanding attention to the plight of the Armenians in the Artsakh, who are now facing another genocide. Meanwhile, the Armenian Churches celebrated the Assumption of St. Mary, with grape blessing ceremonies and people flocked to those churches to taste the fruit of the vine, without understanding the implications such as ceremony and story have on their lives.

St. Mary, who is revered as the Queen of Saints, and whose icon adorns the altars of Armenian Churches from Armenia to Los Angeles, to New Zealand and India, is an example of humanity elevating to godliness. St. Mary’s greatest action in life was that she said, “Yes” to God. “I am the servant of the Lord.” With that yes, she took on bearing Christ in this world.

The sad reality was too unnerving this past weekend and church after church offered commemorations of the Assumption and performed grape blessings without a connection to the reality that is unspeakable – a reality, Armenians have promised, “never again” and today find themselves begging others to the resolve for them.

The “Yes” that St. Mary said to the Lord is the example she lays for each of us. We read in the Luke chapter 1 that she is asked to bear Jesus. The consequences for pregnancy without marriage in those days was death by stoning. She asks, “How can this be, she has never known a man.” And the reply is, “Nothing is impossible for God.” She said Yes to God in the face of the death.

Today, the struggle in Artsakh requires extra ordinary, supernatural resolution. We know this, and yet we continue to appeal to governments that could care less about a group called Armenians. The only people who will care about this group is the Armenians and we have the power to do something. God has asked us to bear Christ, just as He asked St. Mary. We have not tried this option, if we had we would not be blocking freeways and protesting in foreign lands. The protest would take place in Azerbaijan.

In Yerevan, Zinvori Tun (the Soldiers’ Home), stands as a testament to the ugliness of war. Soldiers in the 2020 war were young children. They were killed and those who lived are in immense need of physical and psychological recovery. Our In His Shoes ministry has been supportive of these recovery efforts. Earlier this summer we visited the Home and saw first-hand the recovery effort. At the entrance of Zinvori Tun is a room which houses a khatchkar (Armenian Cross Stone). The president of the home, Haykuhi Minasyan, explained that the work they are doing for these “soldiers” is beyond human powers, and the khatchkar is placed as a reminder that their work is possible only with a prayer and God’s assistance.

This is the connection that we must receive from the Church, and if we don’t, then all of our efforts are futile and in vain. History shows us that we have to rely on our own resources and those resources accented by God are a powerhouse. Our smallest efforts are magnified with God.

This week, in the shadow of the Assumption, I’ll be sharing the connection of St. Mary’s Yes, and the grapeblessing to our real world problems. Join me, on these Armodoxy for Today sessions.

The reading today is from Luke chapter 1, the annunciation, “Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest.

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. For with God nothing will be impossible.

Then Mary said, “Behold the servant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Cover Photo: khatchkar at Zivori Tun

St. Mary and the Grape Connection

Armodoxy for Today: St. Mary and the Grape Connection

My grandmother was one of four sisters. She was the oldest. Her name was Marie, a derivative of Mary. Her sister’s names were Lousaper (the Light-bearer), Srpuhi (the Holy One) and Diruhi (The Lady, as in the feminine of Lord). These names were names attributed to St. Mary. No other saint is revered as much as St. Mary by Armenians, and the fact that in one family, four daughters are named after the blessed Mother is a testament to the respect and devotion she has had among the people.

St. Mary is referred to as the Asdvadzadzin which means the bearer of God, referring to her unique position of giving birth to Jesus, the Son of God. While the traditional churches celebrate the Assumption of St. Mary, only the Armenian Church has the unique tradition of the blessings grapes on that day.

My grandmother would recall how the first-fruits, the best fruits, were taken to the church on that day for a special blessing. The offering of the fruits was a gesture of thanksgiving, thanking God for the blessings He has bestowed upon the people, the temperance of weather, the fertility of the soil and the abundance of sunshine which yield the grapes. In fact, she would add that the townspeople would not eat the fruit of the vine until they were blessed on this day.

One of the reasons given for the connection between St. Mary and the grapes is that grapes can be propagated without seed, alluding to the virgin birth. But the best reason comes from Christ himself who sets up this analogy, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:1-4)

As always, Christ’s metaphors are simple and to the point. In this case the metaphor points to productivity. It is impossible to bear fruit without being connected to the vine. The life of a Christian is completely dependent on an unfaltering connection to Christ himself. Jesus presents the picture of the vine, the branches, and the fruit. And the operative is God the Father who prunes the branches. Just as the soil, weather and sunlight are necessary for delicious and juicy grapes, so too, our connection to Jesus the Vine is necessary for our lives to be flavorful and beautiful.

The grape blessing service is a call to productivity. God gives us a world and we are the stewards of this beautiful life. Armodoxy attests that Christianity is not an escape from this world to another, but the importance being the agents that make Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Let us pray. This is from the grape blessing prayer that is offered on the feast of Assumption,  Bless, O Lord, the grapes. May we enjoy that which You have created in this world and grant that we may be worthy to eat and drink with You from the bounty of Your most fruitful vine at the table of Your Father’s Kingdom, according to the just promise which You made, to the honor and glory of Your coexisting Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the most Holy Spirit to whom is due glory, power, and honor, now and forever. Amen.

And it doesn’t end here…

Enlightenment at Assumption

Next Step #480: The missing piece to the Asdvadzadzin puzzle – how to put it together based on the Gospels and Scriptural passages given by the Church Fathers. More puzzle pieces found: Clarification on Australia: Apples and Grapes. Back route details en route to the Eclipse, parked in Reno.
Morning has Broken by Cat Stevens
Australia Holy Resurrection Church
Yettem Pictures
Bible Studies and YouTube Armodoxy Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/armodoxy
Total Eclipse of the Sun
Engineered by Ken Nalik
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Boldness in Flavor and Action

Next Step #479: A wrong grave site and a wrong head stone lead into a discussion on faith and religion – the non-science of the day. Grapeblessing and the Asdvadzadzin – Fr. Vazken reveals a message that is lost in the vines: revealed through the passages of the day.
“We Used to Bach” Ian Anderson www.JethroTull.com
We Used to Know 29 Years Later” blog by Fr. Vazken
AC101 on Grapeblessing
Bible Study on productivity (8/7/17)
Engineered by Ken Nalik
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Happy Produce

Next Step #428: On the St. Mary “Asdvadzadzin” factor, grapes and the call to production. Loss for words and finding them in metaphor. Flash back: Jack LaLanne’s tips from the 60’s to today, still an element of happiness to be found. A chance to swap-out with the Mother, and tolerance at the foot of the Cross. And much more.
Song: Vardan Ovsepian from Aragast
Jack LaLanne “Anything is Possible
On Happiness
AC101 – GrapeBlessing
Engineered by Ken Nalik
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org
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Love: A challenge to excellence

Next Step #427: The passing of Blake Krikorian: From silence to learning the lesson of life and love. Olympic Gold – from the knob to the button, technology for split-second judgement of the “also-ran.”  St. Mary Asdvadzadzin, bearing Love in the face of a missing God. The tradition of grapeblessing – giving it all, to others and therefore God… the challenge of excellence. Changes at In His Shoes and the ministry.
Song – Davigh – Avedis Khatchadourian
With the Krikorians
St. Mary the Birthgiver of Love
Adam Krikorian Coach of USA Water Polo Team
Blake Krikorian
Identity in Christ” say divers
Cover photo: Asdvadzadzin at Shushi by Fr. Vazken (2014)
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Gender Equalizer through the Grapevine

Next Step #375: Gender equality issues that you didn’t hear through the grapevine! Fr. Vazken connects the dots between St. Mary, the Asdvadzadzin, grapes and our work – our mission – the rhyme and reason for life, in a unique manner – Gender equality is achievable in a most personal way. Putting the St. Mary history lesson to one side, we find the answer to the mystery question of: “If God created everything, then who created God?” And the great Burger King/McDonalds caper.
Song: “Havoun Havoun” by students of Vazkenian Seminary
St. Mary the Birthgiver of Love
Blog by Dr. Harry Hagopian
Blog by Dr. Anna Harmandarian
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The Virgin at Woodstock: What we learn from grapes

Next Step #62 August 12, 2009

It’s the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock and the FEAST of Assumption of St. Mary. Two events separated by millennium, held together by Armodoxy. Fr. Vazken delves into the notion of goodness and saints, by explaining that St. Mary – as the “Mother of God” is moreover the “Bearer of Love.” St. Mary’s life offers reflections on life lived with principles and a challenge to the listener to become today’s Mary. And what about the Grapes? Did you hear it through the grapevine? Here is a quick primer about the grape blessing service with notations from John 15 – Jesus is the vine, the Father is the vinedresser and we are the branches! The bearer of love, indeed! And was Jesus a member of the Counter Culture? Find out in this podcast that ties in the Virgin and Woodstock, Grapes and productive living. Also, the new and energized Fr. Vazken offers “Post-Sabbatical thoughts” and reflects on the necessary evils of church life. Putting all the circuits in place, here are some healthy tips of Christian living within the confines of Church structure.
Musical Selection: “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell

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Grapes, Vines and Robustness


Next Step #9 – August 17, 2008

The feast of the Assumption of St. Mary – the Holy Mother of God reminds us to be the bearers of Love. Fr. Vazken explores John 15 and Jesus’ directive to stay connected to him – the true vine. Also in the broadcast, an update on Ossetia and Darfur. The two songs that are featured in the podcast are Gor Mkhitarian’s rendition of Gomidas’ “Shogher jan” and Lucine Zakarian singing “Diramayr.”
An exploration of Armenian Orthodoxy and the focus on Love.
Recorded on 13 August 2008

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