The Prodigal Son

The story of the Prodigal Son is one not only of repentance but of faith. Conversion is dependent on both repentance and faith which together effects regeneration and with it the new life in Christ. Repentance alone is insufficient as it comprehends not the presence and the energy of the Holy Spirit to effect a life oriented and pleasing to God. Aversion to sin must be accompanied with a desire to turn from sin and to seek the Divine Will and the power of the Holy Spirit. “Godly sorrow” (2 Cor. 7:10), is not mere regret but a desire for regeneration, owing from faith.In essence, the Prodigal Son could not have been redeemed from his lost state by a mere aversion to it, but with a desire for a return to his Father’s home and a yearning for his forgiveness. Maybe unexpected, was the generous outpouring of love with which his father greeted him. The scriptures clearly teach that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”(Luke 15:7) The joy in heaven, is expressed by the Father’s welcome and the feast prepared for his returning son, who says, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”(Luke 15:24)
Regeneration, is therefore not only forgiveness but a new life and the power of the Holy Spirit in transforming our will, strengthening us in our resolve and our desire to live a life of blessed comfort in the presence of God in whom we “move and have our being.”(Acts 17:28) The Lenten journey, continuing today, leads our souls along a path redeemed by Christ’s life and the transforming will of the Holy Spirit.

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I’m a survivor by ancestry.

Sometimes you meet someone who says something in a conversation that strikes a chord with you and enlightens the way that you understand yourself.

This morning while getting ready for my day, I was speaking to my nurse who said that she is amazed by how well so many people do who come into rehab with a very positive attitude. She also said that people who tend to be negative and do not see a bright future typically do worse.

I for one have always in all situations been very positive by nature and have always seen the potential for greatness and the possibilities in things that for others may seem impossible. I’ve approached my illness with the same attitude. I went to my first surgery with great hope and great expectation never having any fear. Clearly My body was so weekend that I had many complications in and following the surgery. Having woken up from the surgery and learning that all my muscles had atrophied over the one month of complete sedation and lack of movement, I went about the task of retraining my body and reconditioning my muscles. I was very enthusiastic about the process. I knew and believed that the devices placed in and around my heart, called ventricular assist device, would sustain ume and allow oxygenated blood to flow to my organs thus allowing them to heal and to rest. This is in fact what has happened and I joyfully go to my therapy classes 3 to 4 times a day. I have a goal to complete every one of the prescribed exercises to completion. This is how I’ve always been in everything I’ve ever done. (https://www.biblehub.com/philippians/4-13.htm). This has been how I’ve approached sports, education, marriage, parenting and in my pastoral responsibilities.

I see vast improvements over the course of my rehabilitation and progress is made on a daily basis. I appreciate and love those who are caring for me and we have formed wonderful bonds.

This morning the nurse about whom I was referring, after I described my family history and how my parents were always so positive about everything they ever faced, Said “you are clearly a survivor.”

I told her that this was a very interesting and enlightening way of putting it and I explained to her how all four of my grandparents were in fact truly survivors being orphans and losing their entire family in the Genocide perpetrated against the Armenians. All four of them did in fact survive and went on to build new lives and see the children of their children. I have realized that in fact perhaps that survivor instinct may have been and possibly was passed down to my parents and in turn passed on to me.

I am so pleased to tell my friends and faithful of my church that from the perspective of my heart and my organs, I have healed and I’m responding extremely well. The process of conditioning my muscles and regaining my tone and ability to return home is coming to a close. I’m scheduled to be returning Home in the next couple of weeks. I’m very excited to resume my life and my ministry and I believe that this entire experience, as frightening and as horrific as it was both for me and for my wife and children, was a gift from God. I never once asked God through my entire illness, which was diagnosed nine years ago, “why me why is this happening“.

I don’t believe but know that my Lord Jesus Christ was with me through the entire process and allowed me the privilege to begin to understand the depth of suffering and the grace which he endured during his passion, crucifixion and burial. He did this on my behalf, for my benefit and salvation. I believe that now having shared in the experience of his presence through this ordeal, He has made me a better person, more patient, more loving, more empathetic for those who are suffering, a better husband, a better father, and finally a better pastor.

I want to thank all of you who sent your love supported me and offered prayers on my behalf. Truly our Father in heaven has responded with kindness and granted me the great privilege of healing in order to continue the precious ministry to which He called me.

May God bless you all. Have a blessed Lord‘s day offering prayer and thanksgiving to the Almighty God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to whom is befitting glory dominion and honor, both now and always onto the end of time, amen.

Fr. Shnork Souin

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.

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.