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.

Discovery of the Holy Cross

Which Cross will You Carry? You Have to Pick One.

According to ancient church history the true Cross of Christ was discovered in the year 327AD by the loyal and faithful soldiers of Queen Helena the pious and God fearing Saint, Queen Helena mother of Saint Constantine the emperor who declared the edict of Milan stating Christianity as the official state religion of his empire.

  • Previously, Christians along with Jews, were severely chastised, victimized and persecuted by the Romans by the former Caesar Hadrian. Naturally, Christians, seen as a sect of the Jews, were often more horribly treated in Jerusalem itself and saw the destruction of Jerusalem, including the temple in the year 70 A.D. then renamed Aelia Capitolina. In his zeal to destroy the sacred places of Judaism and Christianity he unwittingly ended up preserving the sacred Christian centers by razing it to the ground wear today stands the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s old city.
  • It was in Jerusalem, after the destruction and time of more relative peace under the rule of Constantine and the rising of Christian centers and greater gentile conversions, that Queen Helena gave her monetary and moral support and the building up the church in Jerusalem.
  • To this day the icon of the saint, depicts her holding the cross as the one who was given the special and humble privilege to discover The True Cross of Christ in Christian posterity.
  • Fragments of the True Cross are preserved in many of the ancient Christian centers including the Armenian Church. It is exalted with great pomp and ceremony for the edification and the spiritual enlightenment of the faithful on the Feasts of the Holy Cross. While the historical evidence of the discovery of the True Cross is overwhelming and universally excepted it has very deep personal importance for Christians especially ancient orthodox Christians whose Armenians have some of the most significant history of recorded Christian antiquity.
  • The personal ramifications are that in fact the Cross is never truly hidden but revealed always in the mind, soul and body of every Christian with churches themselves often being built in cruciform architecture. With our baptism we are literally immersed in the blood of Christ, born again and take on a spiritual life of cruciform eternity. It is for this very simple yet profound reason that Christians throughout history have always blessed and sealed their bodies and the bodies of their loved ones with the sign of the holy Cross in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
  • Everyone of us is challenged in life to see their cross plainly marking their life either as a blessing or curse. The cross is unavoidable and is carried by all of Adam’s offspring and not just Christians. However, the Cross is either a sign of death or a sign of life. For the Christian it is the sign of life and the path through which we passed from this life to the resurrection. For those who have no hope, it is folly and a curse. These reject the gift of the Cross and inherit only death and curse. With great exaltation and humility like Queen Helena herself we receive our prophetic role, become the Christopher (Christ-bearers) and recognize in glorious discovery that we are redeemed Cross-bearers of the true and precious Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, being saved it is the power of God, Amen.
  • “While in this life suffering is necessary with the glory of the resurrection, misery is optional” A quote by my mom, Diramayr Jacqueline Souin the night before she passed away.

    For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

    inspired by 1 Corinthians 1:18

    He is our “Forever Priest” Hebrews 7:11-25.

    11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. 13 He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”[a]
    18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
    20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’” 22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant. Heb. 7:11-25

    There is a great movement afoot in the “modern” churches that demean or render useless the importance of not only the Birth, but the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is one of the great heresies that small and almost insignificant churches like the Armenian Church struggle against, as they continue to be the light of Orthodoxy and the true and right faith. While the modernist churches strive to be relevant they have become irrelevant, while the true church of the holy tradition of the Apostles safeguarded by the bishops, seem insignificant but remain relevant.
    Modernism is not atheist or anti-Christian. It is much worse and much more dangerous. It does not try to eliminate Jesus from history, it tries to sublimate Him, rendering Him insignificant-His Incarnation (God’s real Birth in Human flesh), His Person (The Eternal Second person of the Holy Trinity equal to and co-essential with God the Father and His Work (Redemption of a Fallen and morbid humanity). In a word, trying to fit in and become relevant to a secular and ever anthropocentric society, what they have done is removed from history and theology the “priesthood” and sacrificial ministry of Christ. The very center of His earthly ministry!
    The work that Jesus came to do was primarily sacrificial and thus He is none other than the High Priest. The difference between His priesthood and the pre-figurative priesthood before Him is two—fold and as such, is a fulfilment and accomplishment of any and all other priesthood. First, He is Eternal High Priest. His offering IS holy and acceptable, because he is offering to his True Father on behalf of all humanity, being by nature truly God and having Himself become truly man, the anti-type and fulfillment of Adam, He is both Priest and sacrifice. He did not use any animal or vicarious entity to accomplish Redemption, but Himself was offered to His Father. His sacrifice has eternal value and thus makes any future sacrifice invalid impotent and unnecessary. It is his Blood that was offered once and for all. His sacrifice, the Passion, Crucifixion and death, unlike all others, by the spilling of His own Blood, cancels the debt for sin and eternal condemnation for those who believe and trust in Him.
    He is “both debtor and debt, immolation and anointed, Lamb and heavenly bread, high priest and sacrifice; for He Himself is distributed always in our midst without ever being consumed.” (pg. 30 – pew book). What connects us to Him and to His Work, is faith. We must however define “faith”. Faith is not merely recognition of the “existence” of a god, nor even the belief that the God of scripture is real nor even that Jesus might actually be God! Faiths “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) It is an explicit trust and dependency on Christ, the “forever Priest”, who alone can forgive sins, redeem, renew, enlighten, strengthen, grant resurrection from the dead, and ultimately share with us His divine nature, so that we can become by grace what He is by nature.

    By Whom and By What Authority? Where Does the Church and the Episcopacy Get it’s Authority? Mark 11:27-33

    O Lord, who wills that which is good, and are the director of the will,   let me not follow the inclinations of my heart, but lead me to live always according to Your good will. Have mercy upon Your Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.
    With Faith I Confess – St. Nerses the Grace-filled – 2nd Stanza

    The church, and with her the bishops and priests, has authority. It has the authority to speak on behalf of God, to bind and loose sins, to carefully distribute the sacraments to those she deems worthy of reception, to teach and determine the course of her future, and to decipher the Word of God while rejecting as anathema any teaching not approved, and is guided by the Holy Spirit. The church is not a fractured and fragmented collection of diverse denominations. The true church is ONE, HOLY, APOSTOLIC and UNIVERSAL (catholicou-coming from whole or universal). She lives by the Word of God and is guided by her Holy Tradition which is the evidence of the ever reforming and life-giving Holy Spirit, the fountain of life and well-spring of truth. Her authority is vouchsafed by her teachings because they are true and planted firmly on Jesus’ own unfailing word. It is not a mere collection of words but is founded on THE WORD, not a book, but a Person-Jesus.
    While there may be some slight doctrinal issues and variations of liturgical style, among her many parts, her foundation is perfect and is only in need of humble reconciliation through adjustment of an imperfection in the human ability to articulate eternal truths. In humility and love the church can and will overcome those differences. Among the broader denominational churches which are loosely associated, there are much greater differences some of which are so divisive that any conciliation or possibility of Communion cannot happen without, repentance, and submission to the “church of the bishops”. Her authority and therefore that of the Apostlic successors, the bishops, comes from Christ.
    This type of authority is not simply a right to enact the powers of the church but more plainly because she and with her, we, believe them to be so. The dogmatic tradition too, follows a critical criterion often referred to as the Vincentian Canon: Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est” (That Faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all).  The Commonitory (ch. 2) Vincent of Lérins.

    If anyone rejects any of the teachings of the One Holy Apostolic Catholic Church, he may as well reject the whole thing, with Christ included. This is what happened at the Reformation when with the desire of some fine tuning and tinkering, others came along and quite literally turned the dogmatic and doctrinal foundations of the church upside down, throwing the “`baby’ out with the bathwater”. Such examples are a rejection of the redemptive and divinizing effects of Holy Baptism, the renewal of the old man and an actual rebirth, a work not of man or his “decision” but a true redemptive work of God. Another example is the Reformation rejection of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, seeing it only as a sign and thus as a type of memorial of the Last Supper rather than as an actual transposition of the elements of bread and wine into the very living and life-giving Body and Blood of Christ through which we receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. For this reason, the church has always practiced a “closed” Communion where only believing orthodox Christians, obedient to the Christ given teaching, are eligible for reception of it. There are many more examples, too many to mention, where man’s disobedience to Christ and his church has led to division and denominationalism and fatal errors leading to great heresies and impious doctrines which the church cannot tolerate.
    The ultimate source of authority is God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The will of God is communicated to us authoritatively by the Word Incarnate-our Lord Jesus. Questioning him and his authority is a rejection of God. Jesus, who is true God, when questioned about his authority responded by asking a question which he knew would entrap the scribes and elders and separate the wheat from the chaff, the pious believer from the unbeliever. The scribes, damned if they do and damned if the don’t, don’t answer Jesus as to by what authority John baptized, but unwittingly intensified the power of Jesus’s authority by being foiled, rendered powerless before Jesus’ majesty. We must be so careful to remain firm in our obedience to the Apostolic Orthodox faith and not be led astray by the wisdom of this world and those who speak against or apart from the One Holy Church, because “He who speaks on his own accord seeks glory and honor for himself. But He who seeks the glory and the honor of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness or deception in Him,” (John 7:18) and as the sheep of his flock, hear only his voice. (John 10:27)
    “When we speak of an official as having authority, we mean that he holds a warrant or commission issued by some higher power. When we speak of a writer or teacher as having authority, or as being “an authority,” we mean that he has knowledge, or powers of judgment, superior to our own.” Jesus’ authority likewise demonstrates his knowledge, power of judgement, and superiority being not only God’s Son himself, but having been sent by his Father to establish his kingdom among men. After all Jesus said to his enemies, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.” (John 8:42)
    This authority to speak on Jesus’ behalf is given to the Apostles and, through succession, to the bishops of the Church as Jesus at his Ascension spoke his parting words, saying “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21) This authority is likewise vouchsafed through the perseverance and unerring guidance of the Holy Spirit. Humans may err but the One Holy Apostolic Church is unerring because it has the seal and guiding presence of God the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father (John 14:26). . Speaking to the church in Ephesus, Paul says “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13) The Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father, in the name of and promised to the Church, by Jesus, guides and directs the church universally. He teaches and confirms the truth in the Word of God and “remind(s) you (the Church) of everything I (Jesus) have said to you. (John 14:26) Among the twelve apostles, Peter confessing in the Holy Spirit and on the Church’s behalf said “to whom shall we turn for you have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) In him there is no falsehood. He is the truth and the life, as he said, “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” (John 7:18)
    Of course, the church today and at all times is and has been rife with accusations of extraordinarily damaging claims against her, immorality, injustice, fraud, impiety, heresy, incompetency and so on. It is true that people, whether they are bishops, priests or choir boys, are sinful and broken human beings bearing on them the character of sinful Adam, but the Church is and always remains One, Holy, Apostolic and Universal and perfect. She is the Body and Bride of Christ and the “Gates of hell will not prevail against her.” (Matthew 16:17-19)
    The early church left us a very thorough treatment of what ecclesiastical authority means and how the children of the church ought to be obedient to the apostolic authority handed down to the bishops. Let us look at the words of two great very early church father, Sts. Ignatius of Antioch (The Fire-bearer [35-105AD]) and Irenaeus of Lyons [130-202AD].
    “Take care, therefore, to be confirmed in the decrees of the Lord and of the apostles, in order that in everything you do, you may prosper in body and soul, in faith and love, in Son and in Father and in Spirit, in beginning and in end, together with your most reverend bishop; and with that fittingly woven spiritual crown, the presbytery (priests); and with the deacons, men of God. Be subject to the bishop and to one another, as Jesus Christ was subject to the Father, and the apostles were subject to Christ and to the Father, so that there may be unity in both body and spirit” (St. Ignatius – Epistle to the Magnesians 13:1-2 [A.D. 110]). And again, St. Irenaeus of Lyons writes, “It is necessary to obey those who are the presbyters in the Church, those who, as we have shown, have succession from the apostles; those who have received, with the succession of the episcopate, the sure charism of truth according to the good pleasure of the Father. But the rest, who have no part in the primitive succession and assemble wheresoever they will, must be held in suspicion” (St. Ignatius – Against Heresies 4:26 [A.D. 180])

    Today, the cultural evolution of the West is becoming increasingly individualistic. This is a great concern especially in the spiritual realm. People are losing the sense of social responsibility within the context of community and there is a great lack of respect among peers, and even among people against in authority over civil matters much less a despisal of the divine. Our interactions and social intercourse are becoming more rude, harsh and usually moved by a sense of self-importance and self-righteousness. Courtesy and humility, two great virtues of the Christians have been replaced by pride and vanity. Following the news, one cannot help but be thoroughly disgusted by the headline events of the day. Americans are divided, the church is divided. As I said last week, these are frightening signs of the encroachment and growing stronghold of the antichrist.
    We Orthodox Christians, especially those of us of an Armenian cultural heritage ought to be mortified by this behavior infecting even our own families and children. We ought to be of all people more genuinely and authentically Christian having been born of a culture so deeply immersed in the Love and Presence of Christ, both in our outstanding achievements and contributions to Christian history but also in our deepest tragedies, where our suffering has given form to our redemption being martyred and crowned by God. How many nations can say that a majority of their ancestors are saints in heaven? This is no boast nor should it be seen as a reason to be filled with pride, but to drive us in humility to a deeper love of God and a more intense love for his kindness and the truth of his promises. Christians aftercall are called to follow him, by taking up their cross. The cross we take up is not our own but his. He is the victorious one and in him is no falsehood. Our obedience is not so much commanded as offered by a thankful and redeemed humanity. Like Peter said, “”Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” John 6:68. Today in the face of the pride
    We live in the culture of “we want what we want.” The other day a family in St. Louis, Missouri sued Ladue school because their son was cut form the soccer team. This may not seem so newsworthy but, most of us grew up in a culture that was competitive. We didn’t get “participation” trophies. One time, getting cut form a AAA hockey tryout, I asked the coach why I didn’t make the team hoping to find what areas I might refine for the following year’s tryout and he replied, “Souin, you’re big, but you can’t skate, stick handle, hit, pass, or shoot”. He didn’t give me a “Thanks for Participating Trophy.” He gave me the motivation to work and train harder. I never made the Triple A after that but I sure improved my game and wasn’t going to ever question the coach much less sue him.
    Last Sunday visiting the Coptic Orthodox Church for their annual festival, I was so impressed by a the t-shirts that all workers were wearing. It had the logo of the church on the front over the heart and on the back a very simple word written in bold print. SERVANT! These folks get what it means to be Christian. We are called to serve, we are called to ask what we can give, what we can do, not what we can get “if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus.” Ephesians 4:21 But, do hear him, and the church is teaching us and we can be his servant people acting in humble obedience to him.
    As Christians, loving our Lord, trusting in him, we pay our greatest tribute by being obedient to him and living by his unfailing words which are eternal life. Questioning him or thinking we have a better way or an alternative to gain eternal life, practicing what the devil fools us into thinking is an appropriate spirituality, makes us unworthy for fellowship in the Holy Church. What pride does it show if we assume to have a better way than the way prescribed by our church? What sort of conclusion would that be? Humility is the virtue that the Holy Spirit will deliver. Our contrite heart seeking the Lord’s forgiveness for our sins is the means to fellowship. Like the publican, on our bended knee we prostrate our broken bodies and offer our souls to God and beg him to “have mercy” (Luke 18:13), Amen”

    Let us pray, Dear Lord, help us to be more humble and to seek your mercy. Teach us and open our hearts and minds to hear your eternal truths, to be taught and nourished by your word, through your holy church and her clergy. Fill us with your Holy Spirit and enable us to remain firm in the solid rock of our faith as once and for all delivered to your saints and vouchsafed by the Holy Tradition of our fathers. Sanctify our minds and soften our hearts and allow us to always glorify you in all that we think, say, and do and to glorify you together with your Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always and unto the ages of ages, Amen

    ARMENIA – Illuminated by the Presence of God


    By Vahan Tekeyan

    The Armenian Church is the birthplace of my soul.

    Like a vast grotto it is simple and profound, dark and light –

    With its hospitable court, ample tribune, and hushed altar

    Standing in the distance as though it were a ship afloat.

    The Armenian Church I see with my eyes closed.

    I breathe and hear it through the clouds of incense

    Which rise towards the feet of the Infant Jesus,

    And through the fervent prayers vibrating its walls.

    The Armenian Church is the mighty fortress of my forefather’s faith.

    Raised by them from the earth stone by stone,

    And descended from heaven, a dewdrop and a cloud at a time.

    In it they unfolded themselves peacefully and humbly.

    The Armenian Church is a great embroidered tapestry

    Behind which the Lord descends into the chalice, and

    Before which all my people stand with bowed heads

    To commune with the past through life-giving bread and wine.

    The Armenian Church is a peaceful haven across turbulent seas.

    It is fire and light in the cold of night;

    It is shady forest in the scorching midday sun

    Where lilies bloom by the River of Hymns.

    The Armenian Church, beneath every stone in its floor.

    Holds a secret passage leading up to Heaven.

    The Armenian Church is the shining armor of Armenia’s soul and body.

    Her crosses rise to protect her;

    Her bells ring forth and her song is always Victory.

    The prologue of the Gospel of St. John opens with the words, “In the beginning was the Word…” and is contextualized in verse 18, “and the Word became flesh.” This is for humanity a transformative revelation about the very understanding of who God is and illuminates the ancient understanding of the Monotheistic God known but yet mysteriously hidden in the ancient sacred scriptures of the Old Testament. The Incarnation of God, who remains unchanged according to his eternal essence, makes himself known by revelation to and from the mouths of the prophets and the history of Israel, always remaining transcendent, but reveals himself in the imminent realm of creation. When we see and know Jesus, we have seen the image and likeness of the Father as he told Phillip, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9)

    God chose to transcend his creation by immersing Himself into it, sending his son into the world and personally uniting his uncreated divinity to his creation in the conception of Jesus from the womb of the blessed Virgin. St. Athanasius teaches us that “God became man so that man can become god.” The goal of life is to become god, not in an essential sense but, by becoming by grace what he is by  nature through baptism and divinization.

    As baptized followers of Christ we are therefore in fact children of God and imbued with communion with Christ from our baptism. Ours eyes are opened, sealed with the Divine author’s hand, to see the divine image impressed upon all of creation and more specifically in those in whom God’s Spirit dwells in the seal of Holy Chrismation, anointed with the life-giving energies of divinity.

    Christian tradition reveals this deeply rooted and mysterious premise in everything that the church is, and does. What we believe, we pray (Lex Orandi est Lex Credandi) , what we believe we write, what we believe we draw, what we believe we build and so on.

    Our repository of Christian “art” is a testament of this living faith and our communion with the divine. Our fathers didn’t just write books, they illuminated them. They didn’t just write hymns, they adorned their prayers with the mysterious voice of the seraphim. They didn’t just build meeting halls, they built stone structures reaching up to God under whose majestic dome is cradled “a great embroidered tapestry behind which the Lord descends into the chalice.” (Vahan Tekeyan, The Armenian Church).

    The signs of God’s living presence in the Church, is ever present in all that the Church has created, in her art, music, architecture, literature and liturgy. This is true of the ancient Eastern Churches and especially in the Armenian Church, the heavenly treasures given to our people by the very hand of God, as my father used to always say.

    A new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was opened and blessed by the presence of His Holiness, KAREKIN II and many high-ranking clergy of the Armenian Church including the primate of the Eastern Diocese, Fr. Daniel Findikyan.  Armenia! The exhibition explores “the remarkable artistic and cultural achievements of the Armenian people in a global context over fourteen centuries—from the fourth century, when the Armenians converted to Christianity in their homeland at the base of Mount Ararat.” (

    I would encourage everyone to make every effort to visit and attend the exhibition which is now open and will run until January 13, 2019.

    Our diocese too has been making every effort to bring this tradition of incarnate Christian faith through illumination. Our church has many beautiful and very educational resources which are for our use and available now in digital and emerging formats, using modern technology to present the same ancient apostolic and orthodox faith in living color, not to replace our icons, but to compliment them for a new and sophisticated society.  The diocesan department of public relations and those who work so hard to bring the gospel message to life in living color through the various means that we have whether it is video, literature, art, illustration or social media, is to be commended. I encourage everybody to make great use of these wonderful resources that will illuminate our minds and peak the interest of all the children of our church both old and young alike. Please visit the site and watch the many educational illuminations of faith and stories from our church’s glorious past and her prophetic message for the present.  Also, download the vemkar application on your smart phones and follow the daily calendar of the church year, the liturgical feasts, the lives of the saints and may God bless and illuminate our hearts souls and minds, Amen.

    Do the Orthodox Believe in the Rapture?

    I was recently asked if the Armenians believe in the Rapture, a belief held by certain evangelical Christians that at Christ’s Second Coming, the “faithful” would be taken up to the sky and join Jesus before the climactic and tumultuous events of the Judgement. I simply answered, neither yes or no, but that “we believe in the Parousia (yergrort kalust). The Parousia, a Greek word refers to Christ’s Second Coming when he will come with glory of the Father to raise the dead and to judge all mankind, both the living and the dead, with those who have done evil, rejecting the Son of God to the resurrection of judgement and eternal separation from God and those who have done good, bearing the fruits of faith in Christ to the resurrection of eternal life in the enjoyment of God’s presence on the new earth in the “day without end”. (see John 5:29) The study of such things is referred to in theology as eschatology or verchnapanutiun, the study of the last things.

    The heresies concerning the Last Things and Christ’s Second Coming have splintered churches into many groups simply due to an irreverence toward our Lord and his teaching together with a terrible practice of picking texts to fit a theology.

    The Last Day will be ripe with mourning, and the weeping and gnashing of teeth.  The dread Judgement will see God’s wrath poured out on all unrepentant sin (Colossians 3:6).  Our present age is already showing the intensification of the growing pains of the Last Day, with gross sin being manifest not only in the realm of the secular but also in the church of God. The world is already seeing and experiencing the “birth-pangs” (Matthew 24:8) an escalation in war, natural disasters, famine, pestilence, while in the spiritual realm, we see spiraling sexual immorality, the breakdown of the family, massive increases in abortion (Ireland a Catholic nation, recently legalized the procurement of abortion changing and rending apart segments of their constitution protecting the life of the unborn), anti-Christian governmental persecution of Christendom both abroad and now even in America where religion is supposed to be free and unfettered from any government meddling.

    To help better understand the premise under which our Orthodox Eschatology is refined regarding the Parousia or Second Coming, we have a few Scriptural Signs and the witness of the Church fathers to rely on and as summarized in the Nicene Creed. The gospel of St. Matthew chapter 24 contains in it the capstone of our eschatology and is known as the Olivet Discourse.

    The Parousia will see the Judgement against all iniquity and with-it catastrophic occurrences, preceded by wars and rumors of war, and a general diabolical and deliberate rejection of a communion with God. The only means that scripture and the patristic testimony convey to avert such destruction is from a genuine repentance and turning away and from all sinfulness, chiefly infidelity to God which can even be demonstrated by indifference (see New Age movement and Process Theology if not all out hatred and in so doing rewriting the script of morality.)

    The other signs will be the preaching of the Gospel throughout the whole world (Mat. 24:14) The Parousia is not the proof of God’s anger and hatred of sin so much as proof of his love and concern for his creation which he deemed “very good” from the beginning.  The Parousia will bring the promised finality to the evidence of God’s love for us in that he will “forgive all sins and heal all diseases (Ps. 103:3), unveiling the very heart of God in Christ who desires that man should live eternally with him God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked but would rather that “he turn from his ways and live” (Ezekiel 18:23).

    These are the days to turn to Christ. NOW is the time. The dual feasts of the Exaltation and the Holy Cross of Varak ought to be harbingers of the days to come and a summoning of the wise to repentance from sin and every evil.  They are wonderful vehicles in which we should buckle up in order to prepare for the coming days, with a profound outpouring of contrition, repentance and seeking the mercy of All-mighty God, yearning for his absolution, thankful for his long-suffering and grateful for his love and the gift of gracious forgiveness for the sake of Christ found and sacramentally given only in and through the clergy and in the church those God given means and mysteries of his promise.

    Before your Holy Cross we humble ourselves and bow down, O Lord Jesus Christ. Come Lord Jesus.