At the Table of Our Priest, Prophet and King, the Fulfillment of All and in All. By Fr. Shnork Souin

Hebrews 9:11-15 11But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! 15For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
Don’t you know that with the Birth of Christ and in the completion and consummation of his redemptive work, by his suffering, death and resurrection, we live in the age that he has inaugurated–the prophetic and yet sacramentally veiled “last days”!
As Christians and inheritors of the apostolic truths granted and revealed by the very life, and from the very Hand of Christ our God himself, we have just celebrated and are now living in the glorious days of the season of the Holy Cross. We are reminded in this season especially with the smell of the Basil still lingering in the sanctuaries of our churches that our Lord Jesus, the king of heaven and earth, has come and completed his earthly work by having “become man truly and without illusion and having become incarnate in unity without confusion from the Mother-of-God and holy Virgin Mary”, becoming furthermore both “debtor and debt, immolation and anointed, lamb and bread from heaven, high-priest and sacrifice,” who in fulfillment of all prophecy came “willingly to the world-saving Cross, which was the occasion of our redemption.” (see the Anamnesis of the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church.)
This remembrance is most perfectly and substantially illuminated and experienced by Christians in the reception of our Lord’s supper, in Holy Communion, in which only can we have personal union with him not only in spirit but in his truly present holy and precious Body, and Blood!
Many have and do say, I can pray at home as if being Christian is a personal spiritual exercise. Nothing can be further from the Truth, nay further form Christ himself! Jesus came so that we might believe in him and be united in him, comprising by the Holy Spirit the Body of Christ! Christianity is a religion of collectivity and unity in the One Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church.
In Matthew 28 just before his ascension to the right hand of his Father, he uttered his “Great Commission”, 16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Notice that our Lord says, “making disciples of all nations”. One cannot be a disciple without the action of being disciplined in not only following the Lord but doing that which the Lord commands. As a disciple, therefore we must take heed unto his invitation, remain at his side, worship him among his believers and to receive what he gives us, a fellowship at the holy and eternal table of Communion, that is the reception of Holy Communion.
Only through the worthy and frequent reception of his Body and Blood can we be sure of our gracious inclusion in his Body. Worthiness is not of our own doing but by his cleansing activity pronounced in absolution upon the confession of our contrite heart’s outpouring. In Communion therefore, we who are unworthy, become worthy in the blood of Christ with which we are sprinkled, receiving the forgiveness of our sins. We are made holy because e he is holy, he lives in us and we live in him as St. Nerses of Lambron (Lambronatsi) exclaimed, “For our sake you became earthly that we may become heavenly. For our sake you became bread that we, by partaking of you, may be sanctified.”
A very recent study, The Pew study, issued Aug. 5, “showed that 69 percent of all self-identified Catholics said they believed the bread and wine used at Mass are not Jesus, but instead “symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.” The other 31 percent believed in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist…” This is and ought to be frightening and perhaps even more so for all Orthodox Christians including Armenians. Notice that “belief in God” does not equate with a belief or subscription to the most basic and essential tenet of all Christian teaching, that Holy Communion is the real and very present Body and Blood of Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it should be as extremely disconcerting to you as it is to me that these statistic exist in spite of the magnificent and incontrovertible body of overwhelming biblical evidence, confessional and universal writings of the early church, our holy fathers, the great Councils and the historical experience and testimony of our diverse liturgical expressions which resound universally and in unison among ALL churches of the apostolic tradition.
Of course, I can never articulate just how joyful it makes me when I share in the most precious celebration of our Lord’s life-giving supper, receiving “the holy things with holy people” in the Body of Christ. Yet, so many have fallen away and find themselves isolated and cut off from the common union with Christ in his Church. My prayer and my call is for a greater stirring of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our faithful and especially in my heart that we might grow in our fervor and our duty to discipleship in the Body of Christ.

Pentecost -The Birth of the Body of Christ and the Giving of Divine Gifts!

Pentecost – Acts 2:1-21 The Coming of the Holy Spirit

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

This section of the New Testament, in describing the beginnings of the early church after the Ascension of our Lord, describes the inauguration of the Holy Church, the Body of Christ comprised by the Holy Spirit’s descent, indwelling, inspiration, charisms and the works and missions of the early Church and the Acts of the Apostles. This watershed moment in the history of humanity is known as the Pentecost.

Pentecost is the annual celebration of the fiftieth day following the Resurrection and 10 days following the Ascension of the Lord. Following His glorious resurrection, our Lord appeared to his apostles and disciples for 40 days when He ascended in great glory[1] to receive His Kingdom established before the creation of the world.

The book of Acts describes in some surprising detail the miraculous events that marked the “birth” of the church. Written by St. Luke, his meticulous record of the church’s early history describes the descent of the Holy Spirit, the accompanying phenomena, St. Peter’s speech, and tells of the effects produced by this event and how it transformed the group of frightened disciples, who were filled with sadness , remorse, regret, uncertainty and fear, and filled them with the Holy Spirit who empowered them to fearlessly and confidently establish the beginnings of the Body of Christ! This event, known as Pentecost, a Hellenic version of the Jewish Feast of Weeks, is very much a fulfillment of the promises that Israel looked toward in the Messianic age, where “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. 29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants, I will pour out My Spirit in those days.[2]

On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were gathered together, rather “assembled[3]”, as both commanded by Jesus and also, not coincidently, fulfilling that which was prophesied in the prescription by the law of God given to Israel in the Pentecost (Feast of Weeks) of the Old Covenant, where they too were called to “assemble” before God and gathered where “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”[4]

The church’s establishment is therefore very much the story the church’s birthday. It is the establishment of the supernatural assembly[5] of God’s people, comprised of those who believe in Christ.

From the day of the Pentecost, her work has remained unchanged and continues to our day, as she’s moved along by the Holy Spirit[6], and will persist until the coming again of our Lord. As in the time of the Apostlic church, the Body of Christ assembles on the Lord’s day and is devoted simply to the “apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”[7] Pentecost therefore always falling on a Sunday, 50 days following Easter, is another foreshadowing of the New Creation and the expectation of the ultimate Second Coming and our eternal salvation!

No other “practice”, especially staying away from church, replacing it with other activities, “false” spiritual practices, philosophy searching for “wisdom” outside or apart from the Divine Revelation of God in Christ, or avoiding the assembly of the faithful, disregarding its spiritual benefits, can possibly replace the “gathering” of the faithful on the Lord’s Day. A Christian cannot remain or imagine that they can remain in a state of grace and be saved apart from their presence at and in the assembly of the Body of Christ. A person can only remain in the gracious Communion of the church in the Holy Spirit and in the apostolic practice of the church where the Holy Spirit, “the fountain of life and source of mercy”[8]  is confirmed.  Like our souls, and our redeemed flesh, it is equally true also that our “mind is taught by the Spirit”[9], which is given to the church, and to each of the baptized individually through Baptism and Chrismation. Each is given the promise of the divine sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit who is sealed mysteriously in our person, body and soul and places us in communion with the divine, filled with all the grace sufficient for salvation. Like the consummation of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we too are grafted into the living Body of Christ and given all the spiritual fruits as a precious and eternal gift. This gift is 9-fold comprised of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. While the gift is manifest in these nine, they are all only made possible and present only through constantly returning to the body in repentance and a desire for renewal within the life in Christ, by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love.[10]

The gift of baptism comes with the promise of such constant renewal through a sacramental gift of God’s love applied by the Word of Jesus, through his chosen means and empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

This “gift “upon and among her faithful is confirmed and maintained through the regular participation and presence in the sacred mysteries. While salvation is objectively achieved by Christ in his sacrifice, it can only be comprehended and apprehended subjectively by a continued fidelity to Christ and his Body, the supernatural assembly of believers, where one receives the very real presence and participation in the mysteries of the church.

It is important to note that our church fathers in choosing the words of the Divine Liturgy, refer also to the Holy Spirit as “co-eternal and consubstantial”[11]. “Descending from heaven, (he) accomplishes through the mystery of him who is glorified with you, by the shedding of his blood”[12] the “fulfillment of the Holy Spirit”[13].

Today, is Pentecost, it is the Birthday of the Church. You are invited to the party, the Communion of the Lord Jesus’ Body and Blood. As with all birthdays, universally and practically in all places and at all times it too is celebrated with the giving of gifts– gifts given of a divine nature and not as the world gives, “where neither moth nor rust destroys”[14]. These gifts include the “fruits” of the Spirit. These gifts were not limited only to the church of the apostles but many and all gifts necessary for salvation are given to all in different measures yet all work in unison through the divinely inspired witness and work of the Body of Christ, through which people will come to know God and call on the name of Jesus and be saved.[15]

Beloved in Christ, in celebration of this ecclesiastical birthday, I pray and ask the Holy Spirit, true God, to grant you the charisms and grace by the filling of the heavenly and spiritual “fruits” so that together we may pray, praise, experience and share in a dynamic way the gifts of the Holy Spirit exercising “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control,”[16]  and may the “God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,[17] Amen.



[1] Acts 1:30 1:3 To the same apostles also, after his suffering, he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God.

[2] Joel 2:28-29

[3] Leviticus 23:15-21 15 “‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. 16 Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord. 17 From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of first fruits to the Lord. 18 Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to the Lord, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings—a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. 19 Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering[a] and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering. 20 The priest is to wave the two lambs before the Lord as a wave offering, together with the bread of the first fruits. They are a sacred offering to the Lord for the priest. 21 On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.

[4] Acts 2:2-4

[5] The word for assembly in Greek being eccleseia became therefore the “name” of the gathering of all Christians everywhere to our present day, like the Apostles, on the first day of the week to celebrate his supper (Surp Patarak).

[6] See 2 Peter 1:21

[7] Acts 2:42

[8] Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church, p 42

[9] St. Anthony the Great

[10] 2 Corinthians 6:6

[11] The orthodox faith of the Armenian Church highlights the confession that the Holy Spirit is eternally generated from the Father without beginning and as a divine and distinct Person of the Holy Trinity, equal in divinity with the Father and the Son, is of the very same divine eternal and unchanging nature of God. This was universally canonized at the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in the year 381AD. The Armenian version of the Creed pertaining to the Holy Spirit confesses, “We believe also in the Holy Spirit, the uncreate and the perfect; who spoke through the Law and through the Prophets and through the Gospels; Who came down upon the Jordan, preached through the apostles and dwelt in the saints.”

[12] Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church, Saint Vartan Press, NY, 1999, Hoki Asdoodsoh… or the hymn of the Epiclesis, p.34

The Epiclesis is the greatest mystery of the Christian faith whereby the Holy Spirit is called “upon all of the assembled faithful and on the gifts of bread and wine, to make them truly the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ..that in the Eucharist the Holy Spirit will unite all the faithful together with each other and with Christ by way of his Body and Blood so that we will truly come to constitute the Church in its fullest sense.” P. 33

[13] These are the priest’s words spoken inaudibly at the very breaking of the Body of Christ and placing it into the sacred chalice of his Blood. P. 45

[14] Matthew 6:20

[15] Acts 2:21

[16] Galatians 5:22-23

[17] Romans 15:13

Epiphany-Theophany -An Icon of God’s Manifestation and Revelation in Creation

The Birth of Christ is a celebration of joy. The fact that God became man and entered into our human life is seen in the Icon of the Nativity. Wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger is the Christ Child. All the details of the Icon relate to His presence in the World. This presence shines radically with the black opening of the cave in which He was born. This contrast is often seen in the Fathers’ writings in terms of the spiritual light of Christ’s birth radiating through the shadows of death encompassing man. The black mouth of the cave then symbolically, is precisely this fallen world in which the “Sun of Righteousness” has dawned, this wilderness which the “Light of Wisdom” has illumined. The Virgin Mother is shown half sitting, supported by a hammock- type bed used by the early Jews in their travels. Striking is the absence of the usual sufferings of childbirth which is iconographically seen to be an indication of the virgin-birth of Christ. As in the Gospel, all mankind is called to this event. The Wise men represent the learned and astute, and the shepherds represent the humble of this world. A multitude of Angels give glory to God and announce this good news to mankind.
In the Icon, several episodes are grouped together and shown simultaneously. In the bottom left corner, Joseph sits in painful thought, while the Satan under the guise of an old and bent shepherd suggests new doubts and suspicions to him. In the opposite corner, two women are seen bathing the New-born infant to show the real humanity of Jesus.
All of Creation takes part in the birth of the Savior. In the cave, the Infant lies guarded by an ox and a donkey. While the Gospels do not speak of them, all icons of the Nativity portray them because of the prophecy of Isaiah, An ox knows its owner and an ass its masters manger. (Is. 1:3) The Mountainside is a backdrop to the event. While it bears little correspondence to the terrain of Bethlehem in Judea, it parallels a line from the prayer of the prophet Habakkuk; “God comes from Teman, the Holy One from Mt. Paran. Covered are the heavens with His glory, and with His praise the earth is filled’ [Hab. 3:3] One final detail is the tree painted across from the image of Joseph included not only in its own right as an offering to Christ, but also as a symbol of the Tree of Jesse. In the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him:’ (Is. 11:1-2]
The icon of the Nativity calls us to praise and glorify the Birth of Christ and to offer unto Him our gifts as He is offered unto us as Gods Greatest Gift. Gazing upon the Miracle and Gift of Gods Incarnation I say, What shall I bring to You, O Christ, Who, for my sake, was born on earth as man? Humanity offers a Virgin Mother and I offer myself. Blessed is the Revelation of Christ.
(Insert Icon)

Meaning of Epiphany-Theophany
The Feast of the Holy Theophany (Epiphany) of our Lord is celebrated each year on January 6. The Feast commemorates both the Birth and the Baptism of Christ and the divine revelation of the Holy Trinity. At the Baptism of Christ, all three Persons of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—were made manifest. Thus, the name of the Feast is Epiphany, meaning manifestation, or Theophany, meaning manifestation of God.

The origins of the two feasts –Theophany and Epiphany – lie in the time of the Byzantine Empire, as evidenced by the Greek words that are used to describe them. The word “Theophany” (Theos – God; phainomai – to manifest) means “Manifestation of God”. The meaning of “Epiphany” (Epi – above; phainomai – to manifest) is “Manifestation from above”.

There was much confusion among Early Christians of East and West about when and how to acknowledge the various manifestations of God. The Early Church recognized four such manifestations, called The Four Manifestations, where the Lord appeared to mankind in glory and divinity. They are 1) The Nativity of Our Lord; 2) The Visit of the Magi; 3) The Baptism of Christ, and 4) The Miracle of the Wedding Feast of Cana (1).
Early, the Nativity and the Baptism of Christ were celebrated on January 6. Later the Nativity was moved to December 25 in an effort to accommodate and eventually replace the heathen festivals centered on the winter solstice. The Armenians still celebrate the Nativity and the Baptism of Christ on January 6 according to the ancient custom, while both East and West settled on December 25 as the date for the Nativity.

Fr. Shnork Souin

Feast of St. Sarkis (Sergius) the Warrior

Who is St. Sarkis?
Captain St. Sarkis is one of the most beloved saints among the Armenian nation. Together with his 14 soldiers/companions, he was martyred for the sake of the Christian faith. During the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great (285-337) St. Sarkis, being very courageous, was appointed the Prince and General in Chief of the region of Cappadocia bordering Armenia. When, during the period of reign of the king Julianos the Betrayer (360-363) ,the persecutions against Christians started by God’s will, St. Sarkis and his only son, Martyros, came to live in Armenia. The Armenian king Tiran, grandson of Trdat, received them very well.
From Armenia, St. Sarkis and his son went to Persia and started serving in the army of the Persian king Shapouh as the captain of regiments. Become aware of the fact that Sarkis was Christian, the king Shapouh ordered him to worship fire and offer sacrifice to the heathen gods. But the captain immediately refused to obey the order saying, “We should worship one God – the Holy Trinity – which has created the earth and the heaven. Whereas fire or idols are not gods and the human being may destroy them.” After these words the saint destroyed the temple. The annoyed crowd fell on the saint and his son. First the son of the saint was martyred. The saint was put into prison and, remaining unshaken in his faith, was beheaded after the martyrdom of the saint light appeared over his body. 14 soldiers/companions of the saint also were martyred for the sake of the Christian faith. Later, St. Mesrop Mashtots brought the relics of the saint to the village Ushi and the Church of St. Sarkis was built over his relics. Captain St. Sarkis is one of the most beloved saints among the Armenian nation.
According to one of the folk stories, upon return of their victorious battle Captain St. Sarkis and his 39 soldiers/companions celebrated their victory in the royal palace. When all of them were drunk and went to sleep, the king ordered 40 young women to kill the brave soldiers. 39 of the women obeyed the order and killed the soldiers, whereas one of them seeing the handsome and peaceful face of sleeping Sarkis fell in love with him and instead of killing, kissed him. Getting up and seeing what had happened St. Sarkis straddled his white horse and, taking the young woman with him, smashed the gates of the city, brought up a violent snow-storm and left the city. It is because of this folk story that people in love started to consider St. Sarkis their intercessor and protector. St. Sarkis always helps and supports all young people asking his help and support.
If you know anyone named Sarkis, call them (even if it’s a day late) and say “Anoonovut abriss!” or “May you Live with your name!”
Fr. Shnork Souin

Poon Paregentan – Sunday of Great Lent

Poon Paregentan – Sunday of Great Lent

Quiz – You have 2 seconds to answer. Go.


5 Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul?
Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the Lord?
6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are [b]cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?  Isaiah 58:5-7

The period of Lent is a time of preparation for the full expression of the Gospel in the Resurrection of Christ. It is easy to see that the event is so great and of such eternal value, that to fully understand its value requires the great attention and sincere piety of the faithful. Because it is unnatural for mankind to turn away from himself naturally and focus rather on the here and now, the period of Lent guides and directs our steps into a proper posture of humility, love and obedience to Christ who loves us and gains for us His Father’s favor and eternal victory.
The Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, chapter 13-14 reminds us of that and encourages the proper mindset and posture that we must be armed with in order to apprehend so great a victory and so rich a gift. In it, St. Paul teaches us that the time is now for us to be alert and to stay vigilant with the expectation of the day of salvation. Being fully aware of its proximity, we should put aside worldly ways and be armed with light, conducting our lives in an appropriate way as the inheritance of Christ and the Gospel’s offspring.
It is fundamentally important, yea imperative, to be reconciled to one another and to be communed in the Body and Blood of Christ on the Great Day of Paregentan, in order to boldly endure the period of fasting and abstention that comes with Lent.
Being so filled with Christ, in the Holy Communion of His Flesh and Blood, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, putting no thought to the flesh and the gratification of its desires, we begin the Lenten fast by which we “mortify” the flesh and bring it into submission. Beginning the Lenten fast without Holy Communion therefore makes no sense at all and robs it of its meaning.
Let what you are denied be to the benefit of others. The fast of the proud man, the one who points the finger at another or judges his actions as being unworthy of faith is not humble and his fast is not pleasing to God. Judge not the piety or the fast of others. Let your fast be done in humility1. The humble man does not pass judgement on what others do (v.14:4), but focuses rather on his place before God in the practice of piety.
May you have a joyful Lent.
Fr. Shnork Souin, Pastor

1 Matthew 6:16-18
16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Sunday of the Expulsion 2013

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me — now let me rejoice. 9 Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. 11 Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. 13 Then I will teach your ways to sinners, and they will return to you. 14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. 15 Unseal my lips, O Lord, that I may praise you. 16 You would not be pleased with sacrifices, or I would bring them. If I brought you a burnt offering, you would not accept it. 17 The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51)

Didn’t last Sunday’s snow covered ground look absolutely stunning? What a contrast. Everything that we knew, everything we were expecting to see was gone!
It was for me a stunning reminder of Baptism and how with that washing, everything old is gone and everything is Carte Blanche, a clean slate. The great penitential Psalm 51, even uses snow as the analogy of the purity that comes with baptism. Lent therefore is the sacred time set out to yearn for and return to the grace and the purity of Baptism.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me,
and I will be whiter than snow.

Today, is the Sunday of the Expulsion reminding us of Adam and Eve’s disobedience and their deserved expulsion from Paradise and excommunication from the Tree of Life, in accord with God’s Righteousness.
Next week is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son.

Please attend Wednesday evening services from 6:30-7:30 followed by Bible Study.
Wednesday evening at Bible Study following our offering of prayers in the evening.
Fr. Shnork Souin

Sunday of 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, flowing 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.

Yes Lord, Let be done unto me according to your will. Luke 1:26-28

Pastor’s Points of Light: The Annunciation and Conception of our Lord Jesus Christ ~ April 7, 2019
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
Every year during Great Lent as we make our penitential journey to the foot of the Cross on Golgotha and then to the Empty Tomb announcing the glorious victory of our Lord who trampled death under foot by his triumphant resurrection on the Paschal day of our Redemption an unexpected thing happens in the liturgical life of the church and her faithful. The journey is interrupted for a day. This day typically falls on a week day where most people might not even be aware of it but occasionally every few years, it falls on a Sunday where one can’t help to notice it. It is the Feast of the Annunciation which is the celebration of the occasion of our Lord Jesus’ conception in the womb of Mary! The reason that this “interruption of FEAST overarching the Great Fast, is that it marks the day none months before the yearly celebration of the Nativity of Christ, that is to say the gestational period where GOD truly grew to term in the womb of Mary.
Lent is a very solemn season that contrasts both joy and sorrow and calls for deep reflection in the great mystery of God’s Incarnation, redemption and Love for humanity by sharing in it fully, being born, suffering, dying and rising from the dead. following the journey to the empty tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Paschal morning.
The Annunciation is a great and important feast in the life of the church and ought to be so in the life of every Christian. This event is of such great significance that The Annunciation is recorded in the gospel of St. Luke and has inspired the naming of many churches throughout time. It is the moment at which the Creation, in time, has been interrupted eternally after which nothing can ever be the same. God didn’t tangentially “scrape” the edges of the atmosphere, to give us a mere glimpse into his magnitude, but plunged himself entirely into his own creation, becoming man. He who is the eternally divine Son of God, unites himself personally, to the flesh offered by Mary, body, blood, and soul, without confusion, without change, without division nor separation. One Holy Human and Divine Nature of the Word Incarnate.
The mystery has been well expounded but at the same time calls us to such a sense of awe and wonder and shows us both the trust, faith and courage of Joseph and Mary. St. Joseph himself, St. Mary’s betrothed and the adoptive father of Jesus, at the news, is struck silent. Nowhere in the scriptures do we hear a word uttered and recorded by him. This shows his humility, and trust in God’s call and his willingness to reorient what seems to be a worldly solution, adapt to the difficulty of the interruption into his daily life and plans, only to seek to follow God’s will and invitation. His silence is not the silence as practiced by pagan religion such as that practiced in Yoga, TM or Zen Buddhism, with a concentration on the self, the ego or id, but a profound concentration on God from which grew the great monastic practice of Hesychia or devotional silence and meditation on God the merciful saying only Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. In silence, therefore, Christians in following Joseph’s example, seek God’s glorious presence and his desire for communion with us according to not only his essence, seeing him face to face in the light of his divine continence manifest in the very person of our Lord Jesus the eternal Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
To compliment Joseph’s trust and love of God, St. Mary “Blessed among women”, “full of grace,” too, by her obedience and trust in the Archangel Gabriel’s call, submits to God’s will and becomes the one “Blessed among Women,” the new Eve, greater than the Seraphim and more precious even than the Cherubim, the Queen of Heaven and the Mother of God!
Imagine her surprise at this interruption into her life! An “unplanned pregnancy”! She asks the angel, “why me?” Asking “who am I that the Lord should choose me?” She is after all a young teenage, unwed girl, covenanted to a life of chastity, who as a result of this “divine vocation” would be forced to leave with her betrothed to live as an “illegal” immigrant in a foreign country, Egypt, one that was never know for its fondness for the children of Israel.
What if she said “no” to God? What if she thought better of it after the momentary ascent to God’s will? What if she decided to exercise her so-called “rights” and to seek to terminate the pregnancy? Thanks be to God, that she didn’t do any of these things, but in the face of every challenge, inconvenience and reason, recognized the sanctity and eternal value of a child conceived in the womb, determined to Choose Life, saying “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Beloved in Christ, as each of us prepares to celebrate the magnificent and lifesaving Paschal mystery and Resurrection of Christ, may the Holy Spirit come upon you and overshadow you empowering you to serve him and follow him according to his will, laying aside all things in humility and offering yourself sacrificially and with praise and worship glorify God Almighty, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Thanksgiving is Stewardship

Pastor’s Points of Light
By Fr. Shnork Souin-Baynetian
The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give their food in due season. you open your hand and fill all things living with your bounty.
(Armenian Prayer Before Meals)
In this ancient Armenian prayer of Thanksgiving, said before meals, we see the glorious and creative hand of God providing everything necessary for the good and welfare of mankind.
The implication is that God provides everything necessary for the welfare of all mankind and that we ought to be wanting for nothing more, as the gifts of the divine bounty are sufficient for all. The question we must pose however is: “why is their famine, why is their starvation and why is there poverty in our world?” If the problem is not with the amazing realization that our benevolent God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the lover of humankind, then the problem must be with us!
Mankind, that is Adam and Eve, at the Fall, had their eyes wide open and fell into the world of sin out of their pride, envy, anger, laziness, covetousness, gluttony, and lust. Pride, and Envy, because they wanted to be like God and knowing God was in charge and they didn’t feel ready to obey Him, Anger, blaming each other rather than sacrificing and offering themselves for each other, Gluttony and Laziness because they wanted to eat from the” Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” rather than, the “Tree of Life” because they felt what received wasn’t enough and Covetousness because they wanted what did not belong to them – in fact was forbidden them and finally Lust because when they had committed every transgression of the Deadly Sins, where previously they were innocent and saw each other as an extension of each other, they realized that they were naked!
The brokenness of this world, the starvation, famine, poverty, is the selfish greed, pride and every other sin, of a humanity that is out of touch, eyes wide shut with God and His mandate for mankind to be the good stewards of his God- given stewardship over the planet and her ever decreasing resources. We need to return to God, in repentance this Thanksgiving and Advent season. We need to stop and offer back ourselves in humility. We can stop the madness, be kind, be charitable, “take what we need and leave what we don’t.” What will our children’s children say about us if we leave them a desolate, barren planet, polluted, infertile, poisoned and raped of every resource?
Repenting from our “consumerist” behavior, we can by God’s grace, return to a wholesome calling, to make life simpler, live within our means, not burdening ourselves nor our children and their children, but causing no harm to them nor to the environment nor to his entire creation that was given to us and for them. Giving thanks “We offer back all that comes from Him, from all and on behalf of all, Amen.” (From the Divine Liturgy-St. John Chrysostom)
This Thanksgiving, let us give thanks to the Lord for His gracious bounty and realize that if we become the Good Stewards, then there will be plenty for all, and recognizing our Christian spirit of love and stewardship, for our lives, families, church, talents, gifts, resources, and responsibility to future generations.
(Prayer after meals)
“Let us give thanks and glory to the Nourisher of the universe who nourished and filled us.”
Fr. Shnork Souin-Baynetyan, Pastor

The Unrighteousness Judge vs. The Persistent Widow – 5th Sunday of Great Lent

The Unrighteous Judge vs. The Persistent Widow.
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, is in fact therefore called the Sunday of the Judge.

What I would like to do however, 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, concerning the social justice of religious life among God’s chosen people, that there should be both communal care for “the orphan, and the widow (Deuteronomy 26:12) and 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 22:21-3).”
In the parable, one can understand that his very offense must have likely occurred. We learn that the widow urges the judge to avenge her against her adversary. The judge who is not interested in what he considered her petty plea, because we was not concerned with the divine mandate and warning, ignored her and her petition, as “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. One has to imagine that Jesus’ implication is that she is genuine in her plea for justice is suffering the consequence as a real victim of some abuse and or neglect. It gets to the point where the judge is so fed up with her persistent pleas that he decides that he’ll hear her case, not to seek justice, but so that he might once and for all be done with her. Our Lord contrasts the evil and selfish desire of the unrighteous judge with the loving and merciful desire for the salvation of his people.
God, who is the righteous judge, is quick to hear the petition of His people for the sake of His only begotten Son 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 “the judgment seat” (Ezekiel 43:13-15), where the official Greek translation, known as the Septuagint, uses the word “hilastarion”, which translates into the mercy seat. The Greek and therefore also the Armenian translated from the Greek Old Testament, captures in its meaning and context the ideas include atonement, redemption, 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).
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 for our redemption and salvation.

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 Owner together with His Father and the Holy Spirit now and always and onto the ages of ages, Amen.