In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…
Who can tell me how many types of belts there are? Belts to keep our pants on, for design, for weightlifting etc. Each has its purpose correct? But in essence they are all for the same purpose, a belt is meant to support our back, while of course holding our pants up in some cases. There are many style of belts. Belts that have a functional purpose, belts that are needed for safety, belts that are won, belts that show authority, belts that show power. When we as priests are vested and we put on the belt over our stomachs, the prayer we read is, “May the girdle of faith encircle me round about my heart and my mind and quench vile thoughts out of them; and may the power of your grace abide in them at all times, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to whom is befitting glory, dominion and honor…” And this belt that clergy wear is not an Armenian or even Christian idea. Aaron, the brother of Moses also wore a belt as instructed in the OT, “And you shall weave a girdle embroidered with needlework, of blue, purple and scarlet.” This is also reflected in Eph. 6:10-20 in St. Paul’s words of the Armor of God, “Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth,…”
And today, the Armenian Church is celebrating the Feast of the Discovery of the Belt of the Virgin Mary. A story not found in scripture but again in Holy Tradition of the Church. If you want to know why this story is important, read today’s Sunday bulletin. Needless to say for life in general and for us Christian’s belts hold an important place. And it may surprise some of us that today on this feast day our Gospel reading is not about a belt but rather about troubled waters.
“And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”
Yes we all know this story all too well. We have heard it as children, we have read it ourselves, and I believe that we have each experienced this tale in our own lives. Our faith is strong, we feel at peace with life and we are in the presence of God.
Yet, all of a sudden something bad happens, we are hurt, we lose our jobs, we feel the loss of a loved one, we hear a bad diagnosis, or we fall into a temptation we have worked so hard to avoid. And in that moment, when our boat has taken on so much water we are about to sink, we turn to God and say, God do you not care if I perish? One of reasons this passage is dear to me is because we can relate. We have all felt overwhelmed to a point of sinking. In fact often times it is this overwhelming feeling that causes many people to abandon their faith. That is why Christ is asking here, where is our faith?
When life is peaceful and easy, when we are succeeding, it is easy to say Park Astudzo, Glory to God. Yet, with that same mouth in trialing times we say Ur e Astvadz, Where is God? Being a Christian is not easy my dear brothers and sisters. Being a Christian does not equal success according to today’s standards. Being a Christian is about not having to equate ourselves with today’s standards. Because having faith in Christ, being a Christian is about taking on pain, taking on darkness, taking on death in order to rise with Christ. As Christian’s we are called to put on our Armor, to put on our belts to protect us and support us in those times. Only the blind are ignorant of pain. In fact we have a saying ignorance is bliss. Meaning in today’s worldly understanding, to be in peace you need to be STUPID.
Yet, Christ is asking us to open our eyes, to trust in Him and to have faith, not because life is easy, No. Rather, because even from the depths of the sea, even when we have sunk to the bottom, have fallen into temptation, are bruised and beaten and cannot hold on any longer, EVEN THEN, we will rise. For the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) St. Paul emphasis an interesting point here. We who are comforted are called to comfort others as well.
The disciples, who were with Christ day and night, who ate with him, lived with him, they too feared and misunderstood. They too needed comforting. And only after this do we read of them going out in the world and healing and preaching. Meaning, we have been given a tool. Our faith, which has helped us rise, which helps us rise, which will continue to help us rise, is a tool, is a belt by which we are called to be support to others. To help others rise. When I lift heavy weights and I wear this belt, I still have a buddy of mine stand near me for extra support. Likewise us, when our life is with Christ, when we have girdled our selves in truth, we still need each other to help support, because we are the tools that God uses to accomplish His divine will on earth.
My dear brothers and sisters, put on the belt, put on the Armor of God. Girdle yourselves with faith, so that we will be protected from the fiery arrows of the evil one, so that we will remain strong in the face of darkness with the Sword of Righteousness. So that we can protect those around us. Because we are a family, of different heights, weights, occupations, mentalities, skin colors, talents, hopes and dreams, success and failures. Yet what unites us, what binds us is our faith is Christ. A faith not built on shaky ground, but on solid foundation, bound with the belt of truth to support us.
Therefore, as the prayer of priestly vesting says, may the girdle of faith encircle us, around our hearts and minds, to quench vile thoughts, may the power of grace abide in us at all times. May we be strengthened by the Holy Spirit, girdled by truth, by which we will not be afraid of the darkness in our lives, but with Christ will rise above the waters and with us help raise others in the name of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and always, Amen!