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.