Tag Archive for: Theophany

Post-Theophany: Structure

Armodoxy for Today: Structure

The Armenian Church has unique readings for every day of the calendar year. These are daily prescriptions for the soul and mind, to be taken with plenty of fresh air and fresh thoughts. The fact that the Nativity stories of Jesus Christ as prescribed after the Theophany, and not before, is enough to tell us that Scripture is not meant as a history lesson, or a chronology, rather it is a means of bringing structure to our lives.

Structures are built upon foundations that are multifaceted. The fresh air blows and you start understanding in new ways that your spiritual side is living, it is evolving, it is being challenged and at the same time it is challenging to you.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and Mary, his mother, “Wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6) A manger is a feeding trough for animals. It is small enough for an infant baby and secure enough to make for a cozy crib. The fact that mangers are found in barns and stables, makes us believe that the first witnesses to the Birth of Christ were barn animals. These assumptions and deductions are nice ways of developing a story and contributing to a history. These are only one of the foundations found in Christianity, but not enough to sustain the structure of our spiritual life. The structure will crumble on only this foundation.

The fresh air that blows gives us fresh thoughts. For most, January 6 is referred to as “Armenian Christmas” because the Armenians are the only ones who continue to celebrate the Nativity on January 6. A spiritual life cannot be sustained on this alone. As we learned during our meditations throughout the Advent season, the feast of Theophany is an overwhelming, life-changing and life-building event. It is the acknowledgment that the God of the Universe is revealed to humanity. Thus, the foundation for our spiritual life is much deeper and sounder than a birthday celebration.

The understanding of Theophany juxtaposed next to the narrative of “no-vacancy at the inn,” now challenges us to think beyond the historical facts. Where are the mangers located in our lives? Where can God rest comfortably and cozily? Can our lives – our hearts – function as mangers and if so, how do we anticipate God growing with our lives? What kind (manner) of power would we possess? In a personal manger, where God is snuggly and cozily situated can there be room for hatred, intolerance, bigotry or racism? And thus the hear Armodoxy difference, it’s our responsibility to prepare the room, the manger, the heart, so that God can reside within.

Let us pray, O Lord our God, you are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Today, I invite you into the coziest spot in my life, dwell in me as you dwelt in the saints and keep me from temptation so I may be delivered from evil. Amen.

Music: “Purpose” by Jonny Easton 

Advent 50: Theophany

Advent Day 50: Theophany

Singularity is an expression made popular with the study of Black holes. It is a one-dimensional point where gravity and density become infinite, so powerful that everything is pulled in, and the laws of physics break down.

Theophany is a singular event in human history where the Holy Trinity was Revealed. The laws of convention break down at that point and there is only one force is so intense that it pulls us in. It is the force caused by an immense and powerful love that goes beyond understanding.

The Gospel of Matthew records, Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.  And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

At this one moment Father, Son and Holy Spirit are revealed and in that revelation heaven and earth are united, light and darkness are reflections of each other, and the incomprehensible nature of Love is apparent. Jesus Christ comes to live among us, to bring us the message of hope. It comes from the beginning of time. It is the message that triggered the chain reaction of evolution.

This then is the celebration of Theophany: Christ is born and revealed. Christos dzunav yev haydnetsav.

St. Nersess Shnorhali, the great theologian and head of the Armenian Church, gave us the primer with which to understand that the Name of Love is Jesus.

In Jesus we see the perfection of the Father and are called to strive for that perfection. He gives us the example to love without limits, to sacrifice, care, share, offer kindness in response to hatred, to forgive not only 7 times but 7 times 77 times, to put human understanding – understanding one another, before everything else, tolerating difference, seeing the face of God in everyone we meet, not judging, having compassion for the hurting and poor and realize that poverty and hurt in all of us.

You have arrived at the Theophany. All laws break down and the only one left is Love. which is the light of the world, the Way, the Truth and the Life, the only way to the Father, the Bread of Life, the Living Water, you will never hunger and you will never thirst. Love, never dies. Love is with us to the end of the ages.

In awe, with open heart and in love we proclaim, Christ is Born and Revealed! Blessed be the Revelation of Jesus Christ!

Cover Graphic: The Baptism of Christ, 18th century, St. Garabed Armenian Church, Kayseri

Advent 47-50: Non-Violent Revolutionary

Advent Day 47 of 50: Non-Violent Revolutionary

On the Feast of Theophany, January 6, we celebrate the Revelation of God. The Armenian word for it is a compound word of Asdvadz (God) + haydnutiun (revelation) = Asdvadzahaydnutiun. The English word is a direct translation of the Armenian. Theo (God) + Epiphany (revelation) = Theophany. The Feast was and still is celebrated on January 6 by the Armenian Church. We described the mechanics of the date change earlier in this series, but add this sidenote so as not to confuse the Armenian Celebration of Theophany with what is sometimes referred to as the Orthodox Christmas on January 7. That date is merely December 25th transposed from the Gregorian calendar to the older Julian calendar, which has a difference of 13 days. Hence, on the Julian calendar the Baptism of Christ is celebrated on January 19.  The Armenians Church is the only Church that celebrates Theophany and remembers the events in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the Nativity to His Baptism, on January 6.

We began the 50 day cycle of Advent with a promise that when we arrived at the Theophany, saying Merry Christmas would be an inadequate expression considering the awesome event that takes place on that day. The God of the Universe, that which put everything in motion, takes on human form and teaches us to love and embrace one another as an expression of our Faith.

We read the entire Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5 through 7) and the essential teachings of Jesus were disclosed to us. It is a novel message which insists on taking personal responsibility, articulating our Faith as a course of action, to strive for the perfect by exercising Love.

Very simply, Jesus Christ led a revolution, and he did so in a non-violent manner. The Armenian Church’s celebration of Theophany is in recognition of that revolution. It is not connected to all the trappings that come with Christmas celebrations in the West, and yes, even in the East. Theophany is the great mystery, the un-understandable – that which Created life has humbled Himself and taken human form to reveal the wonder of Eternity.

We end with a prayer that comes to us by way of an Armenian hymn on the Feast of Theophany A great and sublime mystery is revealed on this day: the shepherds sing with the angels and give good tidings to the world. A new King is born in the city of Bethlehem, sons of men, praise Him because He became flesh for us.

Cover photo: Luna & Gregory Beylerian, 2023

Advent 37-50: Christmas

Advent Day 37 of 50: Christmas

On this day of our Advent Journey we encounter Christmas. December 25 is widely accepted as the day of Christmas. For us, we will continue in the period of Advent considering our target is January 6, the Theophany. Tragically, no one can say with certainty what is the feast of Christmas today. For some it is the Birthday of Jesus, for others it is a purely secular holiday with holly leaves and beautiful ornaments. Between the religious and the secular celebration there are many different degrees and categories of the festival. Some agree that it is Jesus’ Birthday but it’s not necessarily tied with any religious significance; Jesus was a good man, nothing more. Others define themselves as Christian because on this day they decorate a tree and attend a Christmas service. Indeed, there are many different degrees and categories of the festival. And every one of those expressions can argue on legitimate grounds that they are celebrating Christmas.

We are content to call today Christmas. In contrast, the name we use to express the holiday is Asdvadzahaydnutiun  which literally means God’s Revelation, or Theophany, explains the position of the Church. It is for the Theophany that we are preparing ourselves on this Advent Journey. The Creator of the Universe and the Author of Life is revealed in our midst! And while we officially recognize the original date – January 6 – as the day to celebrate the Theophany, as Christians we must be ready, willing and able to celebrate the Revelation of God every day, January 6, 7 and 8. February 11, 12 and 13, April 14, 15 and 16 and every day and every opportunity we have to proclaim our joy and thankfulness for the life we enjoy through Jesus Christ.

It is for this reason we are on this Advent Journey, so that when we arrive at January 6, we understand the Essential Teachings of Jesus, and apply them to our life every day we breathe and live.

Merry Christmas, today and tomorrow. Celebrate the Birth, and enter now into the 12 days of Christmas to January 6. Far from pipers pipping, lords a leaping, maidens milking and a partridge in a pear tree, these next 12 days will conclude for you the study of the Essential Teachings of Jesus so that, as promised, on January 6, when you say “Christ is Born and Revealed” the words will have meaning for your life and the world you touch with your love.

A Christmas wish for you and our world…

May the joy of the angels,
the eagerness of the shepherds,
the perseverance of the wise men,
the obedience of Joseph and Mary,
and the peace of the Christ child
be yours this Christmas.
And the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.

Cover: Envato Elements

Advent 36-50: Son & Sun Collide

Advent Day 36 of 50: Son and Sun Collide

Armenia was the first nation to accept Christianity. By decree of the King, Tirdat, Christianity became the official religion of Armenia in the year 301. In a pluralistic society such as ours it is difficult to imagine or even conceive of a state mandated religion. That it happened in the 4th century and that it was so well received that it became the dominant force binding and building the people of Armenia since then is what miracles are made of.

Twelve years after Armenia’s acceptance of Christianity, the Emperor Constantine proclaimed Christianity as an acceptable religion in the Roman Empire. From that point on people were allowed to freely practice Christianity one of a handful of religions.

Christians celebrated the Nativity – the Birth of Jesus Christ – on January 6. It was a combined celebration of Jesus’ birth, the Visit of the Magi and the Baptism of Christ. Essentially, January 6 was the date to celebrate all of the events from the Birth of Jesus to his baptism.

Within the Roman Empire there were groups that worshipped the Sun, and the Winter Solstice was a true celebration of the Birth of the Sun. To move people away from Sun worship to the Son worship of the new Christianity religion, Emperor Constantine changed the date of the Nativity to December 25, twelve days prior to January 6. The twelve day period accommodated pilgrims who wanted to celebrate the Birth of Christ in Bethlehem and his Baptism at the River Jordan. It was a 12 day journey between the two pilgrimage sites by foot.

In Armenia there was no need to separate the feasts and January 6 is the date that the Birth and Baptism of Christ are celebrated to this day under the name Theophany, that is, The Revelation of God.

Let us pray from the Morning Hour of Worship of the Armenian Church, We have become joyful after those days when you humbled us, and those years when we saw evil. Look, Lord, upon your servants and upon the work of your hands and lead their sons. May the light of the Lord God be upon us. Justify for us the work of our hands, O Lord, and prosper the work of our hands. Amen.

Cover: Envato Elements

Advent 50: Christ in Christmas

Advent 50: The Christ in Christmas

Have you woken up on December 26th wondering, where did Christmas go? The Christmas carols have stopped playing and the stores are in “Return” mode.

Every year we know that Christmas must be more than the hustle and bustle that drives us to drive the economy. We all know that there is a Christ in Christmas. And if we’re lucky, we have a chance to read a story, watch a movie, or contemplate a carol that takes us away in a manager, where there’s no crib for baby Jesus’ head. But at the end of it all, have we found that Christ in Christmas?

The Advent Season is a time of preparation for Christmas. On Christmas day, we in the Armenian Church proclaim, Christos dzunav yev haytnetsav = “Christ is born and revealed.” Often those words are said mechanically, without a thought about the full impact those words should have on our lives. What does it mean that Christ is born? Or revealed? If the Creator of the Universe, if the One who gave you breath is in our midst, would we give him a courteous node, or would our shock and awe overwhelm us to the point of trembling? For two thousand years people have been questioning the meaning of Christ and answering in ways that have given them spiritual satisfaction or unworldly torment.

The Advent Season in the Armenian Church is 50 days. It culminates on Christmas, January 6. We call this day Theophany which means the Revelation of God. Today I invite you to join me on the journey of advent through the next 50 days. We will be going through the essential teachings of Jesus which He Himself expressed in the Sermon on the Mount. I give you this guarantee, follow the 50-day plan, and Christmas will have new meaning for you this year. You’ll discover the Christ that’s in Christmas. The saying, “Christ is born and revealed” will not be a postcard imprint but something that impacts your life on Christmas and on the 364 days after.

I look forward to having you with us for this journey. For today, accept the challenge of making this Christmas season the one in which you move from Christmas the holiday to Christmas, the Christ within us.

We begin today with a simple prayer, Lord our God, Jesus Christ, you are the center of my life. You have defined time for humanity, as we calculate our dates before Your Revelation and in the Year of our Lord. Yet with all the wonders that we know belong to you, we focus on the worldly glitter and miss the fire with which you light our hearts.  May this Advent Season be one of growth for me and my family. May we be challenged to find you in the true Christmas celebration which adorns our lives. Amen.


The Universe is an ordered system of bodies, forces and interactions. The Armenian Church organizes its liturgies and events according to a calendar. The post-Theophany period counts of 40 days to the event of “Dyaruntarch” or the Presentation, described in Luke chapter 2. It may seem a bit odd and backward, but during this post Theophany period, the events leading up to the Theophany are examine in Holy Scripture.

Often the Nativity of Christ, commonly referred to as Christmas, is considered as the first of all celebrations of Jesus Christ’s life. In fact, the Nativity, as well as every other celebration, is defined by the Resurrection, that is, the Easter celebration. In Jesus’ resurrection, death was conquered. “Christ has risen from the grave” was the first “gospel” of the Christian Church. Gospel means, the “Good News.” You might imagine that after the Resurrection, the early Christian community was completely baffled and in shock. They had witnessed the violent death of Jesus, an execution so heinously delivered that nobody would have believed that anyone could have possibly survived that death. And there was no reason to even consider Jesus’ survival because they removed his breathless body from the Cross and placed his body in a tomb. Resurrection was not even considered. But early that morning, Holy Scripture tells us, the visitors to the grave were surprised to find Jesus’ tomb empty.

The Christian Community, which became the Church, was defined by the Resurrection of Christ. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16) finds its meaning because of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. It was because of the Resurrection that people began to inquire about Jesus and his history, that is, who is he? Where did he come from? Who are his parents? And so on…

The Gospel narratives were written to share the Good News. The Good News was contained in the person of Jesus Christ. The Nativity narratives in St. Matthew and St. Luke’s Gospels were presented to answers questions people had about Jesus’ background: What were the circumstances surrounding his birth? Where was he from? What was the connection with Joseph the Carpenter?

As you recall, in preparation for the Theophany (the Advent period we just concluded) we focused on our spiritual growth to accept the power of the Theophany. Now, we too, like the early Christians, will look a back at the stories that come from Jesus’ childhood. For this reason, the Armenian Church assigns the Nativity narratives to the days following Theophany. The stories we are all familiar with peripherally, will be the focus of our next journey on the road to the Presentation or Diaruntarch.

We begin tomorrow with the stories that lead to the Birth of Christ, from the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. Each day, we will read the Scripture and find the threads that tie the Birth of Christ, and to our lives today.

Let us pray, Lord Jesus Christ, we are in the joy celebrating your Nativity and Revelation. We stand in awe of your presence in our life. Open our hearts and our minds to all that is You, as we begin in our Scriptural study of the Nativity narratives. May your holy name be glorified today and always. Amen.


Theophany Sermon 2023

Theophany 2023 – Sermon by Fr. Vazken Movsesian
at the St. Gregory Armenian Church, Pasadena, California
6 January 2023
Sermon delivered in Armenian and English
Fast forward to minute 12:45 for English Sermon
Excerpt from Divine Liturgy in its entirety

Baptism Revelation: Theophany

We have arrived at the Theophany. Advent has prepared us to accept the great news: Christ is Born and Revealed. More than a “Christmas Celebration” we now understand that this is the Revelation of God to the world. “God so love the world that he gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16) says the Scripture that most have learned by heart. Following Advent and this Advent Journey, I trust that these words resonate deep in your spiritual consciousness.

It is not by accident that we haven’t spoken about the virgin birth, the obedience of Joseph, the visit of the Magi or the shepherds’ vigil until now. Today we move to the Baptism of Jesus, which is recorded by all the evangelists in their gospels. It was after his baptism, that Jesus began his ministry. In a very real sense, his baptism was the “birth” of him ministry; it was immediately after his baptism that Jesus went into seclusion and began the period of his life that we read in the Gospels. Reading the account of St. Matthew (chapter 3) we find, “Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’ But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”

At this one moment in history, God is revealed as the Holy Trinity. The Son of God stands next to John the Baptist in the River Jordon, the Holy Spirit of God descends on Jesus in a dovelike manner and the voice of God the Father is heard. The Holy Trinity is revealed at this moment in History. Hence, the name of the Feast is “Theophany” = the Revelation of God: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.  The Armenian word for the feast is Asdvadzahaydnoutiun, which is a literal transition of God is revealed.

In the Armenian Church the Feast of Theophany encompasses all of the events in the life of our Lord Jesus from his Birth to his Baptism. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, water is blessed to symbolize the Baptism of Jesus. Into the water is poured Holy Miuron, that is chrism or “Holy Oil” which is made up of the essence of forty different flowers indigenous to the Arartian plateau in Armenia. It is blessed every seven years by the head of the Armenian Church, who is referred to as the Catholicos, or the chief bishop. During the Blessing of Miuron, some of the previous batch is poured into the new batch. Technically, there are molecules in the miuron from the time of Christ. This is the strength of the Apostolic continuity of the Armenian Church.

Today is a new beginning. It is a new day of celebration. In modern terms, you can think of it as a hard-reset, it is like hitting the reset button on your device and coming back to the original form.

Now that you have arrived at Theophany after an intense period of Advent, I invite you to follow along the daily podcasts, “Armodoxy for Today” where we will explore the intricacies of the Armenian Church and her faith. We’ll learn where do the Christmas narratives of shepherds, wisemen and stars fit into our Faith? What is the mystical and magical quality of Holy Miuron? What is the strength of the Holy Divine Liturgy that is repeated every week? Mostly, Armodoxy for Today will connect the dots between the relationships and aspects of our lives with the beauty of God’s Kingdom and His Love and Kindness for each of us. I look forward to having you join us.

For today, we play the hymn of the synaxis dedicated to the Holy Mother of God. It is meditative and I invite you to be swept away by the melody and this celebration by the Luyse Vocal Quintet.


Armodoxy for Today: Revelation (Eve of Theophany)

It is the eve of Theophany. And you might expect a message about a babe in a mangers or a star in the sky, but instead we take a detour and present a story from the Old Testament with a surprising twist at the end that connects to the Revelation of God that is celebrated on Theophany.

There is a tradition in the Armenian Church to chant “The Song of the Three” from the Book of Daniel (chapter 3) at the Eve of Theophany. Four chanters come before the altar, one narrates the Scripture while the other three sing a song of rebellion against the powers of the world and pledge their loyalty to God.

Many stories from the Old Testament feature royalty, and this one doesn’t disappoint. This about a king who is as unique as his name, Nebuchadnezzar. As the story is read, he has constructed a huge gold statue celebrating himself and his magnificent prowess. He has sent out an order for everyone in his kingdom to come forward, pay homage and worship before the statue. Should anyone refuse to do so, the penalty was death by means of a fiery furnace. Three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, refuse the order of the King. The orders for punishment are carried out and Shadrah, Meshach and Abed-Nego are thrown into the fiery furnace. They go in singing the praises of God and survive the heat and flames.

Their song, “The Song of the Three,”* says, “O Nebuchadnezzar, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

Nebuchadnezzar is furious at their contempt and their rebellious attitude. He has the heat turned up seven fold. The three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, continue to sing the praise of God.

The narrator continues, “Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”

God is revealed! On the Eve of Theophany, the Eve of the Celebration of Jesus Christ being born and revealed, this Scriptural passage is read in all the Armenian Churches as a reminder that during our worst moments, when the heat is on and even exceeding normal expectations of survival, God is revealed and in our midst. He never abandons us. The story of the three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego is retold as a prelude to the greatest story ever told, a prelude to the Birth of the Savior, who stands with us during our most difficult moments and a loving and caring God who never abandons us.

Tonight we greet one another with the great news: Christ is born and revealed, blessed be the revelation of Christ!

Let us pray, “O Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. On this evening you entered the world. The Word was made Incarnate. You stand with us during our trials and tribulations. You are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Keep the freshness of this story ever present in my life. Tonight we finish our Advent Journey and I proclaim the great news that you are born and revealed. May those who hear turn to the Truth and may I never turn away from this connection to Life. In all things I praise you along with the Father and Holy Spirit. Amen.”

*Note: The story of King Nebuchadnezzar and the three men can be found in Daniel 3 and I strongly urge that you read it in its entirety. The Song of the Three is part of the Armenian canon, that is, it is in the Traditional Orthodox and Roman Catholic Bible. Unfortunately, the Protestants (including the Armenian evangelical churches), have removed the Song of the Three from the Holy Scriptures along with several other books, and placed them in a group of books labeled as “Apocrypha (that is, “Hidden”). For the Armenian Church, Holy Scripture cannot be discarded.