Kristos Haryav i merelots, Christ is Risen from the Dead!
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Why does the Church say, we have to fast before Easter? Why does the Church teach woman must cover their heads in Church? Why does our priest say we should confess our sins to him? Many of us, my dears, have asked these simple questions and perhaps even others like them. If we haven’t asked them, perhaps we have heard others ask them or argue that these rules make no sense, and the Church is trying to control people. The misunderstanding and often times misrepresentation of these “rules” has deterred some of us from truly becoming members of our Church – we say the Church has too many rules!
Someone once told me, that if only the Armenian Church would be more modernized with its music, language and services, then more people would attend. Sadly, we know this is not true because there are plenty of “modern” Churches, whose services are more like concerts, about 20 mins. to an hour and the language is plain and simple for people to understand. Yet, increasingly their numbers are also in decline, as young and old turn away from God. So why does the Armenian Church even maintain these rules? And what is their purpose?
My dear brothers and sisters, every rule, teaching, practice, approach, service, language, scripture, sermon, etc. everything we do as a Church is based off of one rule, one barometer of measurement – Christ Jesus. Confession, covering up our heads, fasting, Badarak, all of it, as Orthodox Christian’s we believe guides us to Christ Jesus, God the Son and ultimately God the Father and Holy Spirit as well. In fact, Jesus himself was asked the same “why’s” we are asking of our Church? The Jews and Pharisees wondered by what authority Jesus did what he did and especially, where did he learn everything. “Then Jesus answered them, ‘My teaching is not mine but his who sent me.Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.’” (John 7:16-18) Christ Jesus teaches us that his teachings, his practice, which we as the Church live by today come directly from God and serve God, not personal glory. This of course is not to say that Jesus Christ has a separate will contrary to God the Father – No! Rather, Christ here is teaching us that what the Holy Scriptures teach us, from Moses, Daniel, David, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Paul and Peter – all of it is the teachings of God given to us for instruction and communion with Him. And everything else the Church teaches or our priests preach must and is founded in Christ Jesus because the Church is not here to enforce its agendas or seek personal glory.
When the priest tells us to fast he is not telling us to diet or when we are told to confess, its not so that he can hear the latest gossip. Nor are these rules made to control society or morality. The life we live through the Church is to bring us into communion with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; to cleanse us from our sins, to help heal us from our afflictions and to illuminate our hearts and minds to see God. For this reason, John writes in his letter today, “…that which we [the Church, priests, etc.] have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us [the Church]; and our fellowship [or communion] is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we so are writing this so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we [the Church, priests, etc.] have heard from him [Jesus] and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all…If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1)
Remember the words of Christ at His Ascension, we all are sent out in the same way Christ Jesus was sent out into the world. We are commissioned to preach, teach, heal and baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What we teach, how we heal comes not from personal opinions, current politics or culture, the latest and greatest, but rather from God Himself. And in order for us to know who God is, what His will is, we must first come to Him through the Church, which is His bride, our home, the temple, upper room, a hospital, a resting place, and much-much more.
Today, the Armenian Church celebrates the Apparition of the Holy Cross while the Eastern Orthodox celebrate Easter. In both cases, we are celebrating a vision we see with illuminated eyes, a victorious cross upon which Christ Jesus died and resurrecting giving us life. However, this vision will remain unattainable, misrepresented and opaque to us if we do not first come to God with reverence, love and humility. With a thirst and desire to learn and grow through the teachings of Holy Scripture, the words of the Church Fathers, the rules of the Church and the practice of our faith.
Therefore my dears, let us ask the “why’s” and “how’s” about our faith but with a desire to grow. Let us use the tools God has given us through His Church to approach Him and come into communion with Him. Let us do the will of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit through love, humility and compassion. So that bringing glory to God, our eyes will be illuminated to see and declare, in all languages, the resurrected Christ Jesus upon this earth, through our words and actions.
Kristos Haryav i merelots; Քրիստոս Յարեաւ ի մեռելոց; Christ is Risen from the Dead; Christos Anesti (“Χριστός ἀνέστη”); Khristos voskrese! (Христос воскресе)…Blessed is the Resurrection of Christ, Օրհնեալ է Յարութիւնը Քրիստոսի: