Passages: Isaiah 7:10-16; Gal 3:29-4:7, Luke 2:1-7
Եսայու Է 10-16 ; Գաղ. Գ 29 – Դ 7; Ղուկ. Բ 1-7
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
What do is today? What is it that we as a Church are celebrating? The feast of the Assumption of the Ever Holy Virgin Mary. What do we know about this feast day and where does it come from? According to scripture, at the crucifixion of Christ, Jesus, off of the cross, gave care of his mother to his beloved disciple John. St. John along with the other disciples cared for St. Mary as their own mother until her last days, when she fell asleep. Tradition says that after St. Mary was buried at her family tomb in the garden of Gethsemane, St. Bartholomew, who was absent at the funeral, asked for the tomb to be opened so he could offer his prayers.
When St. Mary’s tomb was opened, her body was gone, and the voices of angels were heard singing and the disciples knew that Jesus had come back and taken her up to heaven. Therefore, we also believe that Christ Jesus, loved his mother so much, that he returned to assume her, take her up, to Heaven. So we know the story and we know that on this feast day, the Armenian Church blesses grapes. Along with the grapes in the prayer service, we also bless the harvest of the year, all fruits, and vegetables. Now looking at these two individual events, today’s feast day and the blessing of the grapes, what on earth do they have to do with each other? Something doesn’t make sense.
Additionally, look at the scripture readings of today, it’s not the story of St. Mary or of her dormition (passing), nor is it about Christ calling himself the grapevine. For those of us who are familiar with the readings in the year, this is the Gospel that we read on Christmas morning and the letter of St. Paul which we read during baptisms. So what does this all have to do with each other?
About a week ago I had the opportunity to be a keynote speaker for a retreat for a group of Indian Orthodox Christian’s. The topic of the retreat was focused on our understanding of who is Christ Jesus. One of the passages I referenced was John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.’” And one of the participants asked what does it mean to say that Jesus is the way, or the path?
My dears in our lives we each face challenges; we face highs and lows, success, and failure; throughout our life journey we may go over hurdles, face adversity, go through darkness; we may fall, get back up only to fall again. Each of us are on a path that is the same but unique to us. Therefore, how we understand the words of Christ is that when we seek out God, eventually our paths cross into and merge with Christ and if we want to grow in our knowledge of God, our journey must continue through Christ Jesus. And this is how all of these things: the assumption of St. Mary, the blessing of grapes and the scripture readings of the day, merge and teach us. It is Christ that unites us and brings us into communion with each other, with Him and with God the Father and Holy Spirit!
St. Mary the Mother of God, the Theotokos, the Holy Virgin, matters to us all, is the mother to us all and is an example to us all because of Christ Jesus. These grapes, as delicious as they are by themselves, through the prayers they are a constant reminder of all the blessings we receive from God and of how Christ Jesus chose these grapes to become the wine for His blood, by which we are saved. Our understanding of the Holy Scriptures, salvation, our wisdom, our renewal, and our rebirth through baptisms and life in the Church ultimately begins from Christ Jesus, who frees us from our sins. Without Christ Jesus, St. Mary would be just like any other mother – beautiful and precious but not the mother of God. Without Christ Jesus, these grapes would be delicious, and the wine would be enjoyable but it would not be the blood of the new covenant. Without Christ Jesus, baptism would just be a public bath.
My dears, all these things matter and are connected through Christ Jesus. Each of us matter and are connected through Christ Jesus. Regardless of our age, our stature, position or title, our skin color, dress, body type, language, or gender; regardless, if we are clergy, altar server, choir member, parish council, or Sunday school student; regardless, if we have failed, continue to fail, if we feel like we don’t matter. My dears, we each matter through Christ Jesus. Yes, He is the way, the truth, and the life. But unless we pray from our heart, repent, and confess our sins, follow the commandments of God, read our scripture, and apply it all to our daily life – that way, truth and life will not be revealed to us because we’re trying to do it without Christ. It is only through Christ Jesus, who is God the Son, who lived and died for our sins, and who through His resurrection also gave us life and purpose; it is only through Him that we begin to see the connections, blessings, and importance of not just the stories of scripture but the stories of our own lives and the lives of those around us.
We all matter because we matter to God; We all are connected because we are connected to God. Therefore, my dears just as these cluster of grapes are connected to the grape vine, through which they receive their nutrition, let us remain connected and in communion with Christ Jesus the true vine. Let us also remain connected to each other through which we grow stronger. By living a life according to God’s commandments, no matter the struggles and darkness we face, our life will bring glory to God just as St. Mary’s life did, just as these grapes do, just as life in the Church does. May our eyes lift up to him, our ears be opened to hear His call and may we with faith, hope and humility approach to receive the Holy body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we are also in communion with God the Father and Holy Spirit. And may the life we live, the path’s we journey on bring glory to God, now and always, Amen!