Saint John wasn’t just seeing things. The feast of the Transfiguration.

In the prologue of his Gospel, John the Beloved Apostle de- scribes his experience in having a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, with the words “we have seen his glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of God!” (Jn. 1:14)

There is no question that John often experienced the dynamic and divine power of Christ’s Word and Work throughout Jesus’ 3 year ministry, culminating in His glorious victory of death and burial, but, the denouement however, could easily be seen as the extraordinary and supernatural experience, of beholding Christ’s glory revealed on Mt. Tabor at His Trans guration where “the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a ash of lightning.” This was an ominous wake up call for John and the 2 other disciples who had grown weary of climbing the mountain following a very taxing ministry in the Galilean countryside, feeding the hungry, healing the sick and proclaiming the Lord’s favor to the broken hearted. No doubt, this personal encounter with Christ’s glory was truly an awesome and transformative experience!

While John, along with Peter and James, overcome with the experience and vision of Christ’s Trans guration would have stayed up on the mountain, mesmerized by Jesus’ glory, they were in fact themselves transformed in the power of that experience and enabled to apprehend the commission to go and become the Lord’s witnesses. Dear beloved, we are all Christ’s disciples and are all recipients of the same wake up call. We have seen his glory!

Every Sunday is a confrontation with the glory of Christ, the manifestation of His power and the experience of a personal relationship with Him. Gaze upon His radiance, receive His light, be transformed by His gifts. Come see, “the glory as of the Only Begotten of God, full of grace and truth.

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Sunday of the Unjust Judge

                God is long suffering and patient.  He seeks our salvation.  It is for this reason that He is not always quick to answer our prayers or even to necessarily answer them the way we’d like.  This does not always seem clear to us.  How many people have lost heart and grown unsure of God’s concern for their welfare?

                It is so important that we learn to be not only persistent, but faithful in our prayers.   We must never lose heart.  The widow in the parable stands as a symbol of humanity which feels itself weak and appeals to God for comfort.  The difference, of course is that while the widow incessantly pleads for justice from the unrighteous judge, the sinner pleads for mercy from the Righteous Judge.  

                We too, like the widow, must be persistent not only in our prayers but in believing that out of His infinite love for us and in His eternal mercy, God will vindicate our trust in Him.  

                In the parable, even the impious, unfaithful and impudent judge submits, eventually, to the persistence of the widow!  How much more will our Righteous Judge avenge His servants who call upon Him day and night?  This does not mean that we merely must remain vigilant in prayer, but to be expectant and to trust our God with perfect faith, and to remain in our service to Him. 

                What an encouragement for us sinners, the parable is, especially those who are suffering or persecuted or held in fear, to look with certainty and with expectation upon the day of God’s mercy and His infinite love for us.  

The Renovation and Reopening of Christ’s Tomb

 

After a nine-month period of restoration, the Holy Edicule in which is the very Tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ, an official reopening took place with a very solemn, spiritual and impressive service respite with resounding chant of both the Armenian and Greek orthodox patriarchates, monks and faithful. Of course, the many and various other denominations were well represented and also contributed to the beauty and significance of the historical event.

Only a year ago, it would be hard to imagine that the various groups would be able to work together in harmony to realize the renovation that was so badly needed.  It was even feared that the aedicule itself would eventually collapse form the weight of decay and the passage of so many centuries without reinforcement. There was even a time when pilgrims would chip pieces of the rock and take them away as souvenirs of their pilgrimage.

With the Greek, Armenian and Latin (Roman Catholic) churches working together and in a miraculous feat of solidarity, they were able to celebrate the culmination of efforts on Wednesday March 22nd.

In making the excavations and renovations, a type of miraculous event has occurred which has not been so widely reported. Excavation beneath the layer of concrete over the original slab of Christ’s Tomb, unseen by a human eye for over 700 years, a slab of granite was found, very well worn with a unique and beautiful Cross etched in the middle. This proves that in spite of many doubters who say that the site is not authentic and could not possibly be the site of Christ’s original and authentic tomb, with the passage of time, wars, fires and devastations of many other kinds, this spot was clearly a place of great devotion much earlier than some of the catastrophic events that people site to prove that the location of the site within the Holy Sepulchre (sorry about my Canadian spelling) is questionable.

Having been a pilgrim and having prostrated myself before the Tomb and burial place of Christ, I can assure you that no human words of wisdom or scientific explanation can describe the tremendously profound humility with which you are drawn to your knees on this amazing and sacred site. There is something inexplicable about the very fact that thousands upon thousands of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and various geographical locations have travelled thousands of miles over many centuries, risking life and limb and every kind of danger to become witnesses of the burial place of Christ.

It is my urgent prayer that as many who desire to travel to the Holy Land and seek to become “mahdesi (one who has seen death)”, have the God given opportunity to do so and to make the pilgrimage. Not only as a Christian but more specifically as an Armenian Christian so that the importance and centrality of our presence in the Holy Land, the Holy Sepulchre, Mount Zion and the Holy Convent within the Armenian Quarter of the Old City, will be a memory and experience that will change your life and your understanding of what you are forever. An Armenian without Christ is lost.

If you would like to make a much-needed donation toward the renovation costs incurred by the Armenian Patriarchate, please go to www.savethetomb.org or call 508-233-2091. savethetomb.org is a mission of the Armenian Church-Eastern Diocese

 

What’s that Bread they hand out at the end of church? The Meaning of Mahs in the Armenian Church

From the establishment of the Church. the faithful who would gather on Sunday, the day of the Lord’s resurrection, would participate in the “gifts” which are the life giving Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the life eternal.
As is still the case today, many who may have been sick, unable to attend the Sunday Divine Liturgy or, who were penitent, unbaptized or for many reasons not in communion with the recognized church body, would not receive the ‘gifts’ of the Eucharist. In this way, the gifts and outpouring of love and the collection for the common good is represented in the distribution of mahs. The mahs (antidoron in the Greek) is therefore a great symbol of the church’s outreach and social ministry as well as the care for souls both in and outside the church body.
In preparation, before the Eucharist, the priest or deacons would separate a portion of the unleavened bread from the actual Host which would be offered in the Eucharist. The portion offered to God, in the Armenian Church is called the Host (nushkhark). The other portion which would be blessed but not consecrated is called the mahs or portion. Those who were unable to partake of the Eucharist would receive the mahs in place of the gifts. Today, the priest separates the part for the host ahead of time preparing it, with prayers of the Nocturn (keesherayin jham) and stamping it, most commonly, with the icon of the crucifixion. Today as in the early days, the faithful in attendance at the Divine Liturgy, are invited ‘in fear and faithfulness’ (yergiogiiiv yev havadov) to come and truly commune in the Lord’s Body and Blood offered to us in the Divine Liturgy by the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s own Word where He said “Take eat this is my Body, Take drink this is my Blood…”.
At the end of the Divine Liturgy, the faithful who are sent “blessed by the Holy Spirit, depart in peace,” take the mahs with them to their homes to give it to those friends and family who were unable to receive the “Holy Things” (srpootiunk) the Eucharist.

How do I receive the mahs?

The one giving it says “May this be a portion from the Holy Sacrifice.

The one receiving it, receives it on the back of their hand, kisses it and says “My portion is God forever”

It is is usually placed in little packages so that it is easier to transport away from church, sort of a “to go” bag!

 

Lent is the School of Repentance

            Lent is the “school of repentance.” Although a man is baptized but once for the forgiveness of sins, there necessarily follows the daily conversion, since: in this life we have received only the first fruits of the Spirit, and regeneration is not as yet perfect but has only begun in us.  The conflict and warfare of the flesh against the Spirit continues in this life even among those truly reborn in Baptism.  This sort of continued conversion, whereby regenerate, Christians, feel the “daily need to turn with a contrite heart from unbelief and its evil fruits to the free grace of God for the remission of their sins and the renewal of their lives.”

            This is nothing but daily repentance, and daily conversion.  Lent is officially therefore the  demarcated period where “the church enters into her annual period of recollection, sorrow, and mourning,”  for the sake of her children who might be aided in their “effort” and “co-operation” with the grace of the Holy Spirit, to turn from their sinful life.

This second Sunday of Lent, in consideration of the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, we are corporately and individually reminded not only spiritually but also in the flesh, how sin has dissociated us with eternal life and communion with the Holy Things. The on-going Lenten prohibition from the Altar and the fruit of immortality more vividly demonstrates the need for conversion and the completion of the journey that leads to the fulfillment of Christ’s sacrifice and victory at the dawn of the Paschal morning.

So there are 4 Dates for Christmas? I just want to know which one Jesus was born on.

Throughout my ministry as a priest, many have asked the question; “If Jesus was born on December 25th, then why do we celebrate on January 6th?”

For some, today, the date is December 25th, others January 7th, others January 6th and again for others January 19th. So, are there 4 dates for the celebration of Christmas? What gives?

The answer to this question is not as plain nor as obvious as one might at rst presume. Yes, while it’s true that we really don’t know when exactly Jesus was born, the fact remains that He was born, although God’s self-revelation in human history makes the actual date of this glorious celebration moot and quite actually besides the point. In fact, during the very early years of the Christian church His birthday was not celebrated at all!! Many early church fathers omit it entirely from their lists of feasts.

Without going into the history of all the pagan window dressing associated with the modern yuletide season, the true celebrations, according to the ancient tradition of the church, was a culmination of events related to God’s Incarnation. This was not called “Christmas” but rather Theophany which means “revelation of God,” and was universally celebrated on January 6th by all Christendom, hi-lighted by the remembrance of Jesus’ Baptism. Although, ironically today, Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, it wasn’t until later that the Nativity was incorporated into the January 6th celebrations of the Theophany.

The question about dates must be answered in 2 parts. There are actually only 2 dates for the observance of Jesus’ birth and not 4. They are December 25th and January 6th. The confusion of the other 2 dates, January 7th and 18th are due to the use of two calendars, the Gregorian and the Julian. While most of the known world, such as Canada, is on the Gregorian calendar (named after Pope Gregory of Rome), some Orthodox Christians maintain their liturgical calendars according to the ancient Julian calendar. Thus, the January 7th date actually corresponds with December 25th on the “old” Julian Calendar while January 19th corresponds to January 6th on the Gregorian calendar. Those who observe January 7th which is actually December 25th on the Julian calendar are referred to as “old calendarists.” Despite the calendar usage, all these churches observe the Epiphany or the Baptism of Jesus twelve days following the Nativity.

Secondly, the Armenians, who observe the Gregorian calendar except in Jerusalem, maintain to this day the ancient date of January 6th as the dual celebration of Jesus’ birth and baptism, where all the major events related to the Theophany are recalled, from the revelation of Jesus as the “Son of Man” the Incarnate Word, to His revelation as the “Son of God” the Prince of Peace and the King of Heaven. Therefore, this celebration includes everything from the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem, the visitation of the Magi who came to “witness” Him as the Divine Revelation, the infancy narrative…His naming, His presentation in the temple, His circumcision and nally the Epiphany or His Baptism in the River Jordan whereby His formal ministry of redemption was inaugurated by the opening of the heavens, the descent of God the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, and the Voice of God the Father proclaiming that “This is my beloved Son.” The dual Theophany/Epiphany was celebrated on January 6th until the 5th century when the Council of Chalcedon (451 ad) formally declared December 25th as the date for the celebration of “Christmas” separating the Nativity from the Baptism of Christ by the “12 days of Christmas” remembered today in the popular Carol.

Although there are many compelling theories as to the reason for moving the celebration of the Nativity to December 25th, suf ce to say that it is generally believed that the date was changed in order to override and subdue pagan feasts and practices dedicated to The Winter Solstice, because at the time Christians also used to continue their observance of these pagan festivities. The pagans called this celebration Saturnalia, in honor of their god Saturn, a festival lasting from the 17th to the 25th of December culminating with the “Birth of the Unconquerable Sun,” as the days began to lengthen, because among pagans it was generally believed that the sun who dies during the winter solstice rises from death thereafter. Since the date of the Epiphany or Baptism was more ancient, and was of primary importance as a liturgical feast, it was not possible to move it while the secondary and later addition of the nativity could be moved without great offense.

Armenia however, whose Christianity is of ancient Apostolic origins, did not adopt this change for the simple fact that there were no such pagan practices left in Armenia in the 5th century allowing them to remain faithful to the traditions of their forefathers. To this day, Armenians have continued to celebrate the Nativity on January 6th along with the Epiphany which is crowned, as with other Orthodox Church’s, in the observance of Christ’s Baptism, with a glorious “Blessing of the Waters” in whose climax a Cross is plunged into the water as a sign of God’s Saving mystery in Christ’s life from Womb to Tomb. The blessed water is offered

to all as a sign of God’s manifestation in the glorious waters of the Jordan from which the Savior was revealed and it becomes possible for humanity to be born again to new life.

Prayerfully,
Fr. Shnork Souin

Now Trending: Research Shows that The Celebration of Christmas has Healing Properties!

Luke 4:14-20
14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Isaiah 61:1-2) 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Your anointing oil is consolation.
From the lamentations of St. Gregory of Narek

Once again, most Americans are going to miss Christmas. Oh, they won’t realize it and they won’t think that they’re missing it. They’ll attend their holiday parties, put on their ugly holiday sweaters, holiday nog, decorate their houses, and some may even sing carols, and exchange the mandatory gifts, but assuredly most Americans will miss Christmas.
As our society grows more secular and engineered in such a way that renders it more generic, neutral and ostensibly anti-christian, Christmas is being unseated and replaced by a more politically palatable winter holiday. Today, Christians are often even made to feel self-conscious about public displays of faith and any exchange of Christian cheer and good will is considered insensitive to unbelievers. The religion of faith, rebirth, and new life devoid of Christ, is replaced by consumerism with the value we place in people measured by the value of what we are willing to spend.
Last year, on September 27th, in the remote town of Etchmiadzin Armenia, the Armenian Church led by Her Catholicos, HH KAREKIN II, consecrated the Holy Anointing Oil. As this batch was blessed in the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, HH proclaimed the chrism, the Victory Muron. As this event culminated, I thought to myself, what can this possibly mean to anyone outside the Orthodox Christian faith? This simple tincture of oil mixed with the previous batch and prepared with over 40 flowers and herbs, and many prayers, becomes the sacred means by which the power of God’s Spirit has illuminated Christians, and vessels from the time of the apostles, becoming conduits of God’s grace.
The oil has always been associated not only with consecration, but with healing and with knowledge. The evangelists invited the infirm to “call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord,” (Mark 6:13) with a promise that anointed with this oil are “cast out many demons and (anointed with oil) many who were sick (were/and) healed. (1 John 2:20)
The oil does not stand alone but is activated by the energy of the Holy Spirit. On January 6th, in celebration of the Lord’s baptism, the water will be blessed and endowed with the chrism of holiness. Its constant yearly reminder of the revelation of God’s anointed one, the messiah who assumed human flesh and thereby seals the offspring of His holy church with the same all holy oil. We are anointed with the Holy Spirit, and the seal of God’s Spirit dwells in us by means of this Victorious Chrism.
While, the days in which we are living are darkened by terrorism, uncertainty, hatred and intolerance, our faith is restored in the manifestation of Christ in His promise, in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.” (Joel 2:28)
As children of the Armenian Church we are blessed to have so rich a tradition that brings us into a wonderful and proper relationship with Christ every Christmas. The celebration highlighted by the Blessing of the Water with the Holy Chrism, brings us back into a right relationship with Christ, it helps us and enlightens us.
This expression of wonder each year, at the font of Christ’s Baptism, where the Cross is plunged into the water, reminding us of how sin is stalled up in salvation by the Creator’s Incarnation, invokes the same wonder with which the hearers of Christ’s sermon were moved by ancient words which came alive in their presence and by their hearing.
In this season of the celebration of Christ’s birth and revelation, we relive once again His messianic self proclamation, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1-11)
This must have been some great and welcome news. It was for them and it is today! The Israelites were living in a protector state under the rule and dominance of the Roman Empire. To a large extent their freedom was restricted and they yearned for a new day to live and worship freely before God. The prophecy of Isaiah where the Messiah would “proclaim good news to the poor” could not come to soon.
Once again, as we live in a time fraught with danger and uncertainty, having lost our trust in our governments’ ability to ensure our safety, we find reasons to blame our problems on their failed policies while at all the same time enduring the bolder attacks on our own lands on on our soil. While this doesn’t parallel what was going on in Israel, we are nevertheless a people in need of some good news.
The problems of the world in which we live should not however mask the greater problem which is our slow but sure estrangement from God and the descent into sin.
Beloved in Christ, there are those today who as we speak feel as though they “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” (Psalm 23:1-6) Are they afraid? Certainly, but armed with their faith, they know that the Lord is with them and that He is their Shepherd, He leads them by still waters and will restore their soul with the promise of Resurrection. They are faithful even in a new age of martyrdom, yet they are anointed with the Holy Spirit and the mind of Christ. This is the true consolation of which St. Gregory of Narek speaks when he says, “Ko yughit odsumu usposank e – Your anointing oil is consolation.”
Our consolation is not a feeling, it is not wishful thinking, it is embodied personally. It is Christ! No one, either from the past or in the present, can personally embody the fulfillment of such a great prophecy and word of comfort and consolation. Only the Lord Jesus, the anointed One of God can unconditionally proclaim the good news, because He is the on whom rests the Spirit of the Lord, who has been sent by His Father, the One who was not only plunged into the waters of baptism at Theophany, but plunged into the belly of the Earth at Golgotha. It is Christ, the anointed One, who began His earthly ministry, anointed and empowered with the Holy Spirit, the One with whom we have fellowship, in baptism, who trampled death under foot and rose again on the third day.
Apart from the Holy Spirit, the “religion” of Christianity is just the same as any other religion It has its laws, its rules, its teachings and traditions, but apart from the Holy Spirit alive and inspiring believers with faith, hope and love it is useless, devoid of life and meaning. “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him,”(1 John 2:27) says the Apostle John. Consolation is derived not in the rules, but in the power of the Christ’s Spirit which abides in us by virtue of the seal of the Holy Chrism of Victory! A power reinvigorated in the forgiveness of sins, in the reception of the Holy Eucharist and in the communion of the saints in the sacred assembly of believers sharing in the common things in Christ’s true and mystical Presence. Let’s not miss our consolation at Christmas this year. We are anointed and consoled with the Holy Spirit, Christ is born and revealed, Amen.
Christ is Born and Revealed, Blessed is the Revelation of Christ.