Passages: Zech. 3:7-4:9; Heb. 9:1-10; John 10:22-30
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Զաք. Գ 7-Դ 9; Եբրց. Թ 1-10; Յով. Ժ 22-30
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
“Once upon a time there was an old mother pig who had three little pigs [and not enough food to feed them.] So when they were old enough, she sent them out into the world to seek their fortunes. The first little pig was very lazy. He didn’t want to work at all and he built his house out of straw. The second little pig worked a little bit harder but he was somewhat lazy too and he built his house out of sticks. Then, they sang and danced and played together the rest of the day. The third little pig worked hard all day and built his house with bricks. It was a sturdy house complete with a fine fireplace and chimney. It looked like it could withstand the strongest winds…” (https://americanliterature.com/childrens-stories/the-three-little-pigs)
We all know the children’s tale of “the 3 little pigs”, who build three houses of different materials. A Big Bad Wolf who came blew down the first two houses, made of straw and sticks, but is unable to destroy the third house, made of bricks. This fairy tale teaches us and our children many lessons, most importantly about hard work, dedication, and time; to lay down foundations strong enough so that the evil wolf will not blow it down. Though this message is clear enough for all of us to understand and live by, there is also another lesson that needs close attention. The structures, the houses which the 3 little pigs have built up, on the surface, all function as homes. They are shelters, and they have rooms; They protect from the sun, wind, and rain and at the end of the day, each home is a place of refuge. However, clearly not all homes are built equally.
Though the moral of the story speaks about the physical home, a home is not merely a physical structure. A home is not defined by walls, rooms, or material items. A true home also has an invisible presence. As Christian’s where is our home? The Church. Whether it is St. Gregory of Chicago, or St. Gregory in Yerevan; whether it is the Armenian, Greek, Roman Catholic, or Protestant Church, as Christian’s we understand the Church to be our spiritual home. As Vahan Tekeyan poetical describes it in his writing “The Armenian Church” «Եկեղեցին Հայկական» 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…(Եկեղեցին Հայկական ծննդավայրն է հոգւոյս, Ինչպես քարայր մ’ընդարձակ, պարզ ու խորունկ, մութ ու լոյս, Իր գաւիթովն հիւրընկալ, իր լայն բեմով, ու հեռուն Կանգնած իր լուռ խորանով, որ կարծես նաւ մ’ է ծփուն…) The Church is the home from which our soul is born – where we communicate and come into communion with God. This home is a physical home, as we have gathered here and this physical home is very important. As we see in the words of St. Paul, that God from the Old Testament instructed the Israelites to create a sacred place of worship – a physical place. “Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. For a tent was prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence; it is called the Holy Place.” (Heb. 9:1-2) However, my dears, we all know that this home, the Holy Church is not only physical but also invisible and mysterious.
We believe that the Church is the real presence of Heaven on Earth; the throne upon which God is seated; the real body and blood of the Holy Lamb, Christ Jesus; the cloud of witnesses in the saints as we see through the icons; the voices of the angels to whom we join our praise and worship through the hymns. A mysterious and invisible reality present and manifested in the physical structure that we call our Church, our home. However, my dears, how much attention do we pay, how much importance do we give to this home? How often do we come home regularly vs. making excuses as to why we don’t? “I’m working, I’m tired, I’m on vacation, I’m traveling, etc.” In the same way as the 3 little pigs built their homes, what kind of Church and home are we building? The reason these questions are so crucial is because the kind of Church home we build, is also the Church that we build inside of us.
We learned very quickly during the pandemic that each one of us is the Church. That though we could not physically gather for safety concerns, each one of us is called to be the Church, where prayer, communion and the presence of God is felt. However, what kind of Church have we built in us? Is it made of straws, sticks or bricks? Can it withstand the huffs and puffs, the blows of not fictional wolves but real wolves? Wolves such as hatred, bigotry, racism, sexism and narcissism. Is our home a home of prayer and compassion or arrogance, ego and pride? Are we building with straws and sticks? My dears, are we truly a place of peace, love, hope, prayer and healing? Are we a home that invites others and where we ourselves would want to go?
Today as Armenian’s we are commemorating the Feast of Holy Etchmiadzin – the Church that was built as the home for the birthplace of our soul when we as a nation became Christian in 301 AD. Fittingly, we North American’s are also celebrating Father’s Day. The reason it is fitting is because the same day we remember our father’s, we also remember our mother, the Church. A father and mother, 2 individuals that through their presence define a home – a sacred place, a shelter, protection, love, hope, care, and foundation. Sadly, it is no wonder that today’s society is doing everything to disassemble that traditional family unit, that home. Through deception and illusion, the wolves of this world are blowing and knocking down our homes – both the physical traditional home but as well as our Churches and us as individuals. And because of carelessness, laziness and many other sins, our various homes have all been built by sticks and straws and so anytime the bind blows we fall over. However, my dears, the Holy Church, the true Church where God invites us into is built on rock.
Psalm 18 tells us, “I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” My dears, we must first acknowledge that our home, we, are under attack. These attacks come in many forms, and they are internal and external. Thereby, knowing this truth, we have 2 options, remain weak and unprepared or we trust in God and build a home that will protect us from those attacks. Whether it is our spiritual home and family, our physical home and family or even each one of us as individual people, what kind of home are we building?
Our Church is a sacred home for all of us and all are invited to gather here to be strengthened and filled. Here we are saved by our Heavenly Father and Mother. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” Come home to God; build a home with God; be the home of God. And no matter how much the big bad wolves huff and puff, they will not blow our house down. Glory be to God Amen!