The Pure in Heart Matthew 5:8-12

Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Matthew 5:8-12

By Fr. Shnork Souin, Pastor of

Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Armenian Church

During Lent, I was invited by a local Presbyterian Church to present a talk to their senior citizens about any unique aspect of orthodox theology that may be unknown by most Protestants and western Christians. I decided to speak to them about the little known but distinctive theological doctrine that came about predominantly through a controversy in the 14th century[1] which was centered in the surpassing intention of mankind, the beatific vision promised to the pure in heart.
As Lent is the prescribed period through which we corporately and personally examine ourselves and in repentance, seek that which was lost and turning from the darkness of sin, toward a renewed vision and union with God in the newness of life through Christ, I chose to base my presentation from our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, where He says, in the Gospel of St. Matthew 5:8; “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”
To see God, to live in his light, to apprehend true and ultimate wisdom, to have union with the divine! This has been humanity’s ultimate and primordial desire. The restoration of what humanity lost in the Fall—the Beatific Vision.
But, as bishops, priests, deacons, as theologians, as pastors who recognize the challenge with which Satan daily tries to deceive us making this promise seemingly impossible, we may ask ourselves, “who, after all, is pure in heart and who thus can see God?”
On one hand we question the possibility given our human weakness and while on the other hand we are challenged by theological principles which seem to prohibit any such vision. In the biblical tradition, no one could view God’s divine face and live, and no one but a permitted few like Moses ever got to view and talk to God in His divine glory, for as it is written “Never will man see My face and live”[2].
The answer lies in the “little known but distinctive” theology which I referred to. It has been expressed throughout the history of the church from its inception having its roots in the biblical revelation and unpacked theologically by the church fathers. It is our understanding of the distinction between the energy and the essence of God. While some may at first say, “what is the difference and why does it matter?”, the crucial feature of the theology is that some denied and today still deny, that the energies or “supernatural activities” of God manifested in Creation have their origin in creation whereas in orthodox thought we confess that God is manifest through his good pleasure, even in His uncreated energies.
God in spite of being essentially, absolute transcendence, is not alienated from creation. God remains therefore essentially“unchangeable, incomprehensible, unknowable, unsearchable and unfathomable”,truly beyond history and creation spoken of in only apophatic terminology, yet immanent in His uncreated energies. It is through His interaction with humanity and in creation therefore, that there is the possibility and potentiality of divine human union.
The distinction between God’s uncreated essence and energy lies at the root of theological perspectives in East and West. In the East, obviously, we have a deeply entrenched notion of the absolute and concrete historical reality of God’s very Incarnation and thorough union with His creation through the birth, death and resurrection of God the Second person of the Holy Trinity. Through Jesus Christ, complete union, for mankind, with God is made possible. Two perceived incompatibilities, material and spirit, divine and human are made whole and thoroughly united in the Person of Jesus God, our Lord.
Contrasting two spokesmen from east and west, John Calvin, rejecting the apostolic tradition says; Finitude non est capax infiniti –the finite is incapable of the infinite, or in other words, that which is created in time cannot have intimate or indissoluble union with the infinite or the divine. His theory is that the divine and created are like oil and water unable to share in each other’s properties without change and yet, St. Paul making a startling assertion says; “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen.”[3]
When I was a child, visiting my Nene, I was intrigued by this open socket at the corner of the living room. One day growing bolder and my curiosity getting the better of me, I reached into it. The shock sent me across the room. I didn’t weigh 230lbs at the time but it was still a jolt! Being typical Armenians, seeing that I was still alive and no worse for the wear, my mom and grandmother yelled at me, “Khent!”[4] I learned that day that you don’t have to see the essential character or power of something very real and present to apprehend its energy. This analogy should give pause to our understanding of the experience of Moses on the holy mount before the burning bush, or the apostles Peter, John and James, who hit the deck and cowered before the Transfigured Christ on Mt. Tabor[5]. It is as if Jesus showed them a vision that was a distinct message and privilege- a partial glimpse of His true messianic glory as the God-Man and a foretaste of the heavenly Beatific Vision. Like the Apostles and prophets, we need also to likewise approach God with humility and never arrogantly.
While Jean Calvin’s theological premise was intended to deny Catholic sacramental theology and the doctrine of Transubstantiation, ostensibly, he denied the Incarnation! The infinite God can have no union with the finite, man!
Our champion of orthodox incarnation theology, on the other hand, St. Athanasius confessing the hypostatic union of God with created humanity and the communicatio idiomatum[6] says; in bald contradiction to any Calvinistic notion of ultimate separation between heaven and earth, God and man, finite and infinite says of God’s Incarnation, birth, death and resurrection; “God became man so that man can become god.” Of course this assertion seems preposterous to the Protestant mindset, embarrassing and as foolish an assertion as the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist, or even blasphemous and audacious as the trisagial[7] hymn where we confess in profoundly cataphatic language the death of “Holy God, Holy and mighty, holy and immortal God.” These things are absurd to most people and yet, from the very beginning of time, man seeks the vision of and union with God! What is more absurd, a desire for the impossible or the rejection of Christ’s promise, “Blessedare the pure in heart, for they shall see God”?
A couple of years ago, I made a trip to meet a friend with whom I’d become acquainted. Over pizza, our conversation turned to God. I began sensing that her experience of God was a class apart and that she was always in God’s presence. I asked her to describe what her relationship with God felt like, and she whispered in awe-struck amazement, “It feels . . . like there’s no difference between us!”
What was it that she had? I asked her. Her answer was as amazing as the initial assertion. She said that she made a willing effort to fill all her hours, both when she was busy doing her work, when she was with friends, doing charity work in the hospital or in quiet and restful times, with the practice of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”. She went on to say, “I ask Him to replace with Himself the stuff that sours my relation with him, to place His Heart in me!”
How can we become like God or to attain theosis, union with God and the beatific vision? Is it in me accomplish this, is it in the will of the flesh? No.
Who after all, can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”?[8]
If I examine myself, I come back with one conclusion, like our fathers and saints of the church, “I am a wretched sinner, the greatest of sinners[9],“For out of my heart proceeds evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, blasphemy.”[10] Anything I do or accomplish dependent on my own ability is fruitless, for as says the psalmist,“Surely in vain have I kept my heartpure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.”[11]
The fact is that we are challenged however by a number of things which bind and blind us. Many are the obstacles which blemish the purity of heart distracting our attention to the light of our life. The pressures and concerns for the day. Disorientation, a focus on the material pleasures of life where the devil always tries to divert our focus from God. A withdrawal from God’s time and from his Presence—focusing on the chronos[12] rather than the kairos[13].
The fathers of the church teach us that through a disciplined, modest, ordered and religious life we are able to perfect quietude of body and mind and to arrive at a vision of the Uncreated Light of the Godhead. Within a life of humble prayer, they teach us also that the true theologian is the one who prays and the one who prays is the true theologian.[14] Repentance springs forth from a broken heart which is replaced in Baptism and kept beating through Communion with Christ’s. Jesus through His sacraments and in prayer, can and will “Create in us a pure heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within us.”[15] Jesus listens to the prayers of the broken hearted.
In repentance and dependence on Christ my brothers, is the divine light and the beatific vision made manifest. In a humble reorientation to the life in Christ, who Himself is the icon, the Divine Image in whom “dwells all the fullness of God”[16]. Not so much in seeking to have Jesus in your heart, like many of our evangelical friends prescribe, but desiring for Jesus to BE our heart, because Jesus IS the Heart of God. He is both the Pure Heart and the Beatific Vision.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus possesses the vision of God. His human intellect was perfected, not only by virtue of the personal union, but by the attainment of the purpose of every human being — to see God and to love him. He tells His followers that this vision is available to them also through fellowship with him, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”[17]
My fathers and brothers, we are privileged beyond comprehension with an ineffable divine promise. Our Lord has come to us in the flesh and continually comes to us in His Holy Eucharist, even revealing himself to us as he did to Cleopas and another disciple on the Road to Emmaus, when “He took bread, and blessed it, and broke, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.”[18] Let us pray that He create in each of us a new heart, and to make His dwelling with us that we might together “taste and see how sweet is the Lord”[19].
The LORD make his face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you all,”[20]“and may the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, now and always and unto the ages of ages, Amen.”[21]

Www.stsahmes.org
[1] The Palamite controversy between Barlaam and Gregory Palamas raged in the early 14th century. Barlaam saw education as a higher virtue than prayer and mocked the monks of Mt. Athos who led a life of disciplined and contemplative prayer calling them “Navel Gazers”. Gregory victorious and vindicated for his orthodoxy proved that the “light” of the beatific vision seen by some monks, was the same uncreated light as witnessed by the apostles at Christ’s metamorphosis on Mt. Tabor.

[2] Exod. 33:20

[3] Romans 1:20

[4] fool

[5] Matthew 17:1-6; Mark 9:1-8; Luke 9:28-36.

[6] A technical expression in the theologyof the Incarnation. It means that the properties of the Divine Word can be ascribed to the man Christ, and that the properties of the man Christ can be predicated of the Word.

[7] Thrice Holy

[8] Proverbs 20:9

[9] 1 Timothy 1:15

[10] Matthew 15:19

[11] Psalm 73:13

[12] created, temporal time

[13] Divine, eternal or sacred time.

[14] Evagrius of Pontus, From The Armenian Writings of the Desert Fathers.

[15] Psalm 51:10

[16] Collosians 2:9-10

[17] John 14:7-8 7

[18] Luke 24:30-31

[19] Psalm 34:8

[20] Numbers 6:25

[21] Philippians 4:10

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The Unrighteous Judge vs. The Persistent Widow . The Fifth Sunday of Great LentJudgement vs. Mercy.

We often think of this parable, which is an important part of our Armenian Lenten tradition, in terms of the Unrighteous Judge. This the fifth Sunday of Great Lent and is in fact called the Sunday of the Judge. What I would like to do is to focus rather on the second very important figure in the parable. This person is the Persistent Widow. The widow would’ve been considered a marginalized and an unimportant person in the community.

While the Widow according to the rabbinic law was unable to inherit the wealth of her deceased husband, the scriptures state that there should be communal care for “the orphan, and the widow (Deuteronomy 26:12).” There is also a warning not to oppress a widow or an orphan. “You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan. If you do mistreat them, I will heed their cry as soon as they cry out to Me, and My anger shall blaze forth and I will put you to the sword, and your own wives shall become widows and your children orphans (Exodus 22:21-23).”

In the parable the widow urges the judge to avenge her against her adversary. The judge who is not interested in what he considered her petty plea ignored her and her petition. He neither feared God nor did he regard the people. This shows his arrogance, lack of mercy, and his disregard for God’s word and authority.

What the widow does is very enlightening for us and is the basis of the benefit of this parable for our own spiritual piety. She persistently badgers the judge to hear her case. It gets to the point where the judge is so fed up with her persistent please that he decides that he’ll hear her case so that he might be done with her. Our Lord contrasts the evil and selfish desire of the unrighteous judge with the loving and merciful desire for salvation of God’s people, Saved through the redeeming blood of our Lord.

God, is singularly the Righteous Judge and is quick to hear the pleas of His only begotten on behalf of the people for whom he offers his life and sacrifice. It is interesting to note that the ancient Hebrew text of the Old Testament scriptures refer to the throne of God as Ha Kapporett, which is translated into English as the judgment seat (Ezekiel 43:13-15).

The Greek translation known as the Septuagint uses the word hilastarion, which translates into the mercy seat. The word mercy, captures in its context atonement, sacrifice, propitiation and forgiveness. Saint Paul in the letter to the Romans expounds on the meaning of God’s mercy by stating for the believer and the one who trusts in Christ as “… being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Whom God Himself hath set forth to be an expiation through faith in His blood” (Romans 3.24-25).

What a contrast between judgement and mercy!

As we know, Lent is a time for strict preparation in order to receive the great benefits of the revelation of Christ our risen Lord who died on our behalf and rose from the dead. So too does the church invite us into a deeper relationship with God being more vigilant in the persistence of our prayers and petitions for His mercy, Through Christ our Lord to whom is befitting glory, dominion and Honor, together with His Father and the Holy Spirit now and always and onto the ages of ages, Amen.

An Amazing Faith is an Unexpected Faith

Fr. Shnork Souin

Psalm 77:14

You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples.

Luke 7:1-10

When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum. 2 And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him; 5 for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.” 6 Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; 7 for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” 9 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

This very well-known account from Jesus’ public ministry, starting in Capernaum, clearly identifies faith with obedience. Jesus shows that the centurion sees Jesus as having the authority over all matters and can command obedience to His Word over all things. He is quick to compare the absolute authority by which he is himself commanded and the authority with which he commands the forces under him with divine, Eternal and heavenly authority that Christ commands.

How many of us would depend on Christ’s authority with such conviction and place such great faith in our hope in Him? While it’s easy to say, “yes, I believe in Jesus”, but be tempted by doubt, and easier yet to say, “Jesus is my Lord,” the possibility of placing such faith is staggering but yet we see evidence from the scripture and proof in our lives. In his treatise De Principiis, the early church philosopher, the blessed Origen says; True faith implies and necessitates, trust. This kind of faith is an amazing faith and the kind that makes even Jesus marvel! In verse 9 of the Gospel, it says, despite the fact that Jesus never met him face to face, that when Jesus heard of the centurion’s faith he “marveled”. This amazing faith is also an unexpected “faith”, recalling that Jesus spent most of his ministry with the poor, the afflicted, the marginalized, here he is summoned by the centurion, the officer of the Roman guard and a natural enemy of the Jews. Despite or maybe because of this remarkable contrast to the norm, the faith of the centurion is all the more spectacular. Naturally we expect to hear a happy conclusion in the gospel, and we do! This miracle is even more memorable and amazing in that not only is the centurion’s slave miraculously healed but the centurion never doubted but believed that Jesus only had to command the servant to be well and he would be well. How does a centurion, who is not of Israel and at the time presumably a pagan recognize that Jesus is a man of authority and able to command nature and heal an unimportant servant of some pagan centurion?

Jesus says that he has not seen such faith in all of Israel, yet the faith of this centurion apprehends Jesus as the One through whom “all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities.” (Colossians 1:16) My prayer is that Jesus increase our faith and inspire us to trust Him and place our hope in Him, with the same faith and trust of the centurion, without doubt but always calling on Him with both hope and expectation and offering glory to Him together with His Father and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever, world without end, Amen.

2017 Pastor’s Report- Fr. Shnork Souin

It gives me great joy to welcome you for this year‘s annual assembly. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be out of the hospital and back with my parish family. Because I have spent the past five months in a hospital I have not had an opportunity to prepare a report as I normally would for an annual assembly. This year I am requesting a bye and thankful for your indulgence in this matter. It has been a tumultuous year for me personally as I had major surgery and spent almost 5 months between hospitals and rehabilitation. It is so good to be home and to have returned to church on the Sunday of Good Living Poon Paregentan.

I’m getting stronger every day and I look forward to resuming to my full schedule of pastoral activities.

While in the hospital, except for while I was in an induced coma for over one month, I maintained regular contact with Fran in the office and with Joyce. I also communicated with parish council members and also made many calls to most of our elderly parishioners. I called newlyweds and those who have been given the great gift of parenthood over the past year or two. In addition to this I also communicated with many parishioners either through phone calls for social ministry. I was able to update our parishioners through Facebook, in the church Lighthouse bulletin when there were important milestones that were being met in my recovery. For those who are not aware, I have been battling with a genetic disease called cardiomyopathy for the past nine years. This is a progressive disease and typically leads to end stage heart failure. I reached that point in around July and in August and was hospitalized for three days then finally on the feast of the Holy Cross on September 17 was hospitalized where they eventually removed 50 pounds of retained water then after being transferred to Tufts University hospital the advanced heart failure team installed two ventricular assist devices on my heart. The surgeries took quite a toll on me and on my family. They had quite a scare and lived through a difficult time full of uncertainty. he likely reason for the challenges was the deteriorated condition of my body and organs.

I am now feeling much better than I have over the past four years and I’m on a heart transplant list. My conditioning is getting better every day after a long bed stay. My kidneys and liver have miraculously fully recovered, and I am hopeful and prayerful that when the call comes as a gift from Almighty God, I will be physically prepared to undergo the next surgery and continue a new life with a new heart to the glory of God.

I want to thank Joyce Avedisian for going out of her way not only as Parish Council Chairman filling in the void that Was left by my absence and also being an incredible support in the office and administration. In addition to her many acts of selfless sacrifice she has also been an incredible friend and support to me and my family. The parish council has worked tirelessly and all members have contributed in immeasurable ways in making the year all that it was.

It was a good year in that we had a very successful bazaar, Golf Outing and picnic, three of our greatest fundraisers. We also had, thanks to the leadership of Marc Janigian and a dedicated crew of hard workers, an outstanding banner year in hall rentals and Memorial meals. We can’t say enough in thanking Marc Janigian for the tireless an outstanding job that he does on behalf of our church in securing rentals and overseeing the Memorial meals at funerals. He also chaired the very successful Bazaar as well as the golf outing. Laurie Onanian Once again did a terrific job in creating a very successful Bazaar booklet this year.

We were able to purchase the property across the street from the church adjacent our parking lot which was razed and gives us full ownership of the properties on Jefferson Street. I want to thank Joyce and the parish council for seeing this through.

YOUTH

The ACYOA had a good year and held a couple of very successful events and sent Co-chairpersons Christina Parnagian and Greta Janigian to the leadership conference. We also had a number of members attend St. Nersess summer conferences deacon’s training as well as going to serve as counselors at St. Vartan Camp. We had a number of young campers attending St. Vartan Camp and we hope that these numbers continue to grow.

Unfortunately due to my continuing illness and the cancellation of four of our campers I had to cancel our summer camp at Husenig Grove. I am hopeful to resume it next summer by God’s will.

I’m so happy to announce that three new people have taken leadership for the ACYOA juniors. They are Sonya Taraian Linda Salas and Ellen Ferrara. Steve Megurdichian continues to add incredible support in making this one of the most important valuable ministries of our church.

The Armenian school has continued to grow and has been putting on wonderful functions and activities for the whole parish and have become involved in the bazaar and various other church events. This has been a wonderful boon to our parish and it’s great to have an injection of new life into our youth ministry.

Our Nazeli dance group and junior choir had a good year and we even traveled to the nursing home in Jamaica Plains where a wonderful performance was put on for the residents under the direction of Maestro Konstantin and Janna Petrossian and with the direction of Narine Lemme and Narine Amroyan. The junior choir saying during the Badarak on a couple of occasions throughout the year also.

In April I participated in the annual youth day where I did a class for a group of the older children.

EXTRA PAROCHIAL ACTIVITIES

I visited a number of Orthodox parishes in Rhode Island Throughout the year. I attended most Rhode Island orthodox clergy fellowship meetings and hosted the annual retreat at HuSenik Grove.

I was invited to preach at St. Mary Church in put Tuckett Rhode Island during one of their inter Orthodox Lenten services.

I attended the Regional clergy Lenten retreat in Hartford, the annual clergy conference as well as, the diocesan assembly in Florida, Hosted by St. Hagop church.

I was able to attend a number of functions hosted by the nights of Vartan including their men’s pizza nights at the evangelical church a number of services and events at Saints Vartanants church as well as the annual Husenig Grove picnic.

SCHEDULE

Events for 2017

January

5 Armenian Christmas Eve

6 Armenian Christmas

8 Women’s Guild Luncheon after church

15 Hantess for Armenian School after church

February

12 Soup & Salad Luncheon Women’s Guild

19 Sunday School Luncheon in Egavian

26 Parish Assembly

March

4 Concert

10 Lenten Service & Fellowship

13 Focus Group

15 Bible Study

25 Focus Group

26 Soup & Salad Luncheon

31 Lenten Service & Fellowship

April

5 Bible Study

7 Lenten Service & Fellowship

9 Palm Sunday Dinner

10 Mary House Meal Kitchen

13 Holy Thursday Services

14 Holy Friday Services

15 Easter Eve Sub Shop

16 Easter Sunday

18 Youth Day

21 Movie Night

30 Wedding

May

1 Diocesan Assembly

7 Sunday School closing, Movie

12 Sports Banquet

14 Women’s Guild Cake Sale Mother’s Day

June

3 CC Talent Show

7 Knight of Vartan Graduates Night

11 Armenian School Hantess

14 Movie – Maestro

22 Clergy Retreat at Husenig

25 Blood Drive & Breakfast

26 Golf Tournament & Mary House Meal Kitchen

30 Concert Maestro

August

19 Picnic

20 Assembly (written in but don’t know what it is)

23 Camp (don’t know if it was cancelled)

September

5 Armenian School Open House

10 Sunday School Opening Day & Picnic

13 Movie – Maestro

October

1 Srpazan Visit & Dinner

6 Women’s Guild Dinner Dance

11 Movie – Maestro

22 Spiritual Music Festival

29 Seminarians vosot and Flu Shots

November

4 & 5 Bazaar

8 Knight of the Year Dinner

15 Movie cultural Comm.

19 Parish Council Fellowship

20 Mary House Meal Kitchen

25 ACYOA Dance

December

9 Christmas Concert

17 Armenian School Christmas Party

24 Christmas Eve Day Morning & Evening Services

SACRAMENTS

Weddings – 4

Funerals – 20

Baptisms – 15

I was pleased to be able to attend a number of our soup kitchens at the Mary house under the direction of Joyce Avedisian. I’m so thankful to her and the many volunteers both old and young to come on a regular basis to help at this most important outreach ministry.

LITURGICAL AND EDUCATIONAL

in 2017 we held our regular Lenten services but contacted them on Friday evenings and follow them by a potluck Lenten dinner. This was a very well attended program and we look forward to re-initiating it for next year. I conducted Bible studies for Lent Wednesday nights and hope to initiate The program next year.

My hope and prayer would be that greater numbers of people would make the time to study God’s word. This is a great time fellowship and meditation to get closer to God and to better understand his will for us. Bible studies in the not too distant future.

SUNDAY SCHOOL

Our Sunday school continue to grow in numbers and they have increased their social ministry along with enhancing the educational. I was pleased that the Sunday school join forces with the Armenian school and making the Christmas party in 2017 a great success. We hope that this tradition continues and grows in the future. Sunday school is capably led by the CEAB.

Armenian school conducted Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings continue to grow in 2017 and it’s such a joy to see so many new children being incorporated into life of our church. Armen school conducted a number of fundraising programs which were very successful along with their annual contest and their outings. The Armenian school is led by Shushan Hagopian Hagopian, Lilit Amroyan and Mariam Saripekian.

CULTURAL COMMITTEE

This year we hosted a film festival which has continued into 2018. This has been a successful new endeavor attended by many people.

Hosted Orthodox Church Music Festival

Annual schedule of events

Directed by Maestro Petrossian

CEAB

Directed by Martha Jamgochian

The committee has identified two people to join the committee this year.

ONCD

ONCD continues to meet regularly and has had many workshops where we continue to utilize the input of parishioners from various demographics in order to improve our loving relationships in our parish.

SENIORS

The seniors continued to meet on Monday mornings. I always enjoy my frequent visits with the seniors and I am deeply saddened when our numbers dwindle and I’m always prayerful that new people will come and join our group. I pray that God bless them and keep them healthy and that our precious ministry continues to thrive under the direction of our chairperson Rose Masoian.

ORDINATIONS

Our altar servers have worked extremely hard and I’ve participated in most liturgical services throughout the year. Young man who are studying attended St. Nersess summer conferences and came to many classes and even med not only with me but with V. Rev. Father Odabashian and pass the requirements for ordination to the sub diaconate.

Imagine my disappointment in September when I was unable to be present at the visit of our primate Archbishop Barsamian where he ordained young acolytes as well as two young men to the sub diaconate. Fortunately I was able to watch the proceedings through Internet technology and witness to the ordinations especially the granting of stoles to Sdns. Aren Antranig And Anthony Maldonado. The occasion also saw Dn. Hagop Ghajanian receive the prestigious St.Vartan aWard by the primate. I want to thank Davit Gevorkian and Charles Kalagian for providing the artistic portion of the program

I want to thank Joyce Avedisian for putting the program together and Zita Butler for overseeing the wonderful meal and preparations for the event. I want to especially thank my good friend and the Vicar of our Diocese V. Rev.Simeon Odabashian for being a who pinch-hit in my absence and oversaw all the liturgical arrangements for the day. Fr. Odabashian has been a wonderful friend and went out of his way to help oversee the liturgical needs of the church during my absence. In addition to making himself available to celebrate the divine liturgy, he was able to arrange for visits from the following clergy who I personally thank, V. Rev. Fr’s. Aren Jebejian, AnaniaDzaturyan, and Rev. Fr’s. Mampre Kouzouian, and Dajad Davitian. We were also blessed by a visit by father Mardiros Chevian and

PUBLICATIONS

While there is a great effort to publish our auto’s newsletter on a quarterly basis there’s been some talk in making improvements. There is some discussion started in the parish council to prepare the Paros in color and more professional print production.

We are so pleased that by the efforts especially of Mher Saribekyan we have relaunched a church Website. In addition to enhancements to our communications, I have started a personal Blog where I am able to publish articles thoughts and meditations for not only our procedures but for the education of all.

I want to thank you all for your many kind letters cards calls and visits throughout my illness. I am also overwhelmed by the outpouring of financial support that many if you have given in this difficult time of need for us. Please accept my thanks and thanks for my family for your contributions towards the Father Souin Fund. Your love your support and especially your prayers were so meaningful and provide a great strength to me in these most difficult times. I pray that God return the favor to each and everyone of you and may you all be blessed.

In closing, I want to personally thank Len Arzoomanian for his tireless efforts in compiling and having published the Paros, with the editorial support of David Griego, throughout the year as well as the great efforts he puts in during the preparation of this annual report.

I want to offer special prayer of blessing to Sdn.. Tim Aznavourian who is the top student at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary and a seminarian at St. Nersess seminary. It is so good to have him visit us on various occasions throughout the year. We are hopeful and expectant to see him complete his studies and enter by God’s call into the holy priesthood of the Armenian Church.

I congratulate our parish council, our nominating committee as well as our auditing and budget committees for an outstanding job in putting this year’s assembly together.

We are very saddened to lose an institution of our parish and one very beloved christian or who will never be forgotten and will always remain in our prayers. Shake Arslanian passed away after an illness and her loss will be felt for many years into the future. May God illuminate her soul.

I want to thank Fran for her tireless support and efforts in keeping the office and it ministration in order throughout the year as usual. I want to specially thank God for a very loving and supportive family my patient and always optimistic wife Julie and my four wonderful children Nicholas Susan Conner and Elizabeth. I am especially thankful for you our parishioners and members who make every sacrifice to keep our Church a Holy and faithful Family where together as one we offer worship, glory and honor to Almighty God, the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit now and always not to the age of ages, Amen

I discount my own righteousness but cleave to the Righteousness of Christ through Faith. A Lenten meditation on Romans 1:16.

The righteous shall live by faith.

The apostle St. Paul on two occasions first in his letter to the church in Rome and then again in his letter to the church in Galatia states that “the righteous shall live by faith.”

The simple passages have been the impetus of some of the most profound theological study and debate over particularly the past 500 years. It was Martin Luther who was so moved and transformed by this passage that he was spiritually enabled to battle the forces of Roman popes and kings.

I have personally both prayed and meditated on this verse throughout my life and Ministry. It has clearly occurred to me on numerous occasions that I could do nothing without faith in Jesus Christ, and more specifically the faith of Christ (Pistis Christou). All that I am and all that I believe is grounded in faith. Faith is a gift of God. It is given in Baptism and nurtured in the frequent reception of the sacraments and participation in the life of the church.

What does it mean to be righteous? Is righteousness something that we choose to be? Is it something that we can cultivate by doing good and by being loving? Is it something that is intrinsically an aspect of our character? Clearly righteousness is intimately associated with goodness and with love. But the goodness and the love by which righteousness is apparent in one’s life is God’s own goodness and love. If in baptism the old man is dead to sin and the new man rises with Christ in spiritual rebirth, then righteousness must be understood as the righteousness of Christ in us.

If we count on our own perceived righteousness rather than Christ’s righteousness, then we are deceiving ourselves and fall into the prey of the devil. Let us look carefully at the words of the prophet Isaiah.” All oll of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6)”

See how the prophet tells us that our own works, which we perceive as righteousness, are like filthy rags. Imagine if you left the house on a daily basis dressed in filthy garments. What would people perceive about us? How are they to look at us? Will they want to be near us? Would they look at us as an example of wholesome living? Clearly one who is well groomed, clean and presentable is going to be perceived as much more wholesome and one who others will naturally gravitate toward. The righteousness of Christ has the same effect. When we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, then we live by faith and the goodness, the purity, and the wholesomeness of Christ which becomes an attraction to those who come into contact with us and nurtures and safeguards in us Eternal life found in him.

St. Paul clearly believed and taught that it is the faith of Christ that produces righteousness which is a fruit of Christ’s own Faith. He states for the church of Rome, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, “But the righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17).” It is worth noting that clearly the righteousness of Christ is not nearly based in a historical faith in the Scriptures nor on the other hand and emotional attachment to Christ but also an obedience to Christ and subjugation to his life. Saint Paul boldly confesses “I no longer live but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)” Even if we are found to be weak in our face the face in which we live is Christ only. This means that the week will grow in strength of Faith while those who have a false faith, one based in personal works and “righteousness”, will perish and wither like a leaf.

My personal objective for this lenten season is to repent of any perceived notion of righteousness. I will look to Christ and seek to grow in my obedience to him and his will. I will pray that he will plant in me by his Holy Spirit the fruits of righteousness in faith and that I may become worthy in my unworthiness to reclaim his surpassing glory and eternal life which she one for me on the cross on the holy, Great and Good Friday.

The Oriental Orthodox Church: Keepers of the Alexandrian Christological Tradition.

The Oriental Orthodox Church:

Keepers of the Alexandrian Christological Tradition:

In 451 Pope Leo of Rome sent a delegation of legates into the city of Chalcedon with orders to issue his Tome and allow no compromise regarding its complete acceptance. The council of bishops assembled there had a choice: accept the Tome without debate or face the prospects of a divided Church. Pope Leo knew that the Emperor would accept nothing short of a united Church and an end to the controversy plaguing the empire. The bishops of the Antiochene Christological tradition welcomed Rome’s ultimatum and support. Yet one third of the Church did not buckle under Roman & Imperial pressure.

These Churches were committed to the Alexandrian Christology which was officially endorsed at the Council of Ephesus, the Third Ecumenical Council. The Tome of Leo sought to reconcile and rehabilitate the Antiochene Christology which had been brought into question at Ephesus. The Antiochene school of Christology emphasized a sharp distinction between Christ’s divinity and humaninty. The Alexandrian school taught a Christology which emphasized the complete unity of divinity and humanity, “without confusion, change, separation or division” in the one nature and person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pope Leo’s attempt at a new theological formula was seen as an offense to the Church’s offical Christology as taught by St. Cyril of Alexandria and the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus. Questions also arose due to the fact that Nestorians (& Nestorius himself) were claiming victory as a result of Leo’s Tome and the Chalcedonian definition. Although the next two Councils (Constantinople II and III) attempted to find a middle ground between Ephesus and Chalcedon, this ancient wound to the unity of the Church is only being healed in our day.

The Oriental Orthodox (consisting of the Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Indian and Syrian Churches) did not accept the Council of Chalcedon. These Churches rather upheld the original three Ecumenical Councils and were in turn falsely accused of following the heresy of Monophysitism.

Monophysites taught that Christ is solely Divine: His humanity was “swallowed up” by His Divinity. Oriental Orthodox are Mia-physites -following St. Cyril of Alexandria and, before him, St. Athanasius the Great, who taught the “one nature (mia physis) of the Word of God incarnate.” While the prefix “mono” connotes numerical oneness, “mia” conveys our doctrine of Christ’s composite oneness. We are thus Orthodox Miaphysites rather than heretical Monophysites.

While the Latin Catholic and Byzantine Orthodox Churches upheld the Antiochene Christology, Oriental Orthodox have maintained the historic Alexandrian Christology. Chalcedonians teach Christ is in two natures. Oriental Orthodox teach that Christ’s one composite nature is from two natures.

Modern ecumenical dialogue between our ancient Churches has revealed that the two respective Christologies, Ephesian (i.e., from the Council of Ephesus) and Chalcedonian -if properly understood- are orthodox and compatible. Theologically, this 1500 year old schism has been settled in our day through the offical Christological Statements between the Latin Catholic Church and Oriental Orthodox Churches as well as the landmark Agreed Statement on Christology between the Byzantine and Oriental Orthodox Churches in which we state:

“We have now clearly understood that both families have always loyally maintained the same authentic Orthodox Christological faith, and the unbroken continuity of the apostolic tradition, though they have used Christological terms in diferrent ways. It is this common faith and continuous loyalty to the Apostolic Tradition that should be the basis for our unity and communion.”

This was discovered long ago by the 12th century Armenian Church Patriarch St. Nersess the Gracefilled who wrote in his Pontifical Letter, “If one says ‘one nature’ in the sense of the indissoluble and indivisible union and not in the sense of confusion, and if one says ‘two natures’ as being without confusion, alteration or signifying division, then both positions are within the orbit of orthodoxy.”