To Know Who You Are Is Divine

Passages: Acts 20:17-38; I John 3:2-6; John 9:39-10:10
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Գործք. Ի 17-38; Ա Յով. Գ 2-6; Յով. Թ 39- Ժ 10

Krisdos Haryav I merelots! Christ is Risen!

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

There is a Spanish Proverb which teaches, “Self-knowledge is the beginning of self-improvement.” Basic behavior psychology would argue that without understanding the basic levels of ones strengths and weaknesses, without setting goals, human development would be impossible. Knowing who we are provides us with the insight as to how we can better ourselves and define ultimately what our purpose is.

For example, as Armenian’s who are descendants of Genocide survivors, living here in America, we define ourselves by examining our choice of religion, music, cuisine, poetry, language, literature or even look to our roots; where did our families come from? As refugees or immigrants, or as 1st, 2nd, 3rd generations, we look at our families and our upbringing, our life experiences to define who we are. We seek self-knowledge to understand who is it that we are in order to understand our purpose. However, self-knowledge is not a philosophical or psychological teaching only. It is part of our Christian faith. St. Anthony the Great, one of the desert fathers, teaches us that the key to knowing God is to first know ourselves. For this Church father, self-knowledge is the road to an intimate understanding of God – Holy Communion. After all, Christ in John 6:56 says, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” Meaning, being created in the image of God, and being baptized and communicants of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ Jesus, we understand that we are a revelation of God; God reveals Himself to us, through us. Therefore, as self-knowledge is key to knowing God and our purpose, let us ask, who are we?

In 1 John 3 we read, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (vv. 2-3) We are God’s children, and we are to be like him. To be like God therefore, to be a revelation of God to ourselves and to those around us is our purpose, but this purpose and how this is done begins from self-knowledge which leads to self-improvement. In the same way as, behavioral psychology teaches us that once we identify our weaknesses, we set goals and develop, learn, and advance, likewise, this is true for our faith.

Our weakness, is our sin, our improvement however, is different. We don’t self-improve, rather we must be transformed through Christ Jesus. We learn what is good vs. evil from a young age. We learn right and wrong and we work, we strive to do good. Additionally, we try to self-improve through prayer, fasting, charity, forgiveness, and many other ways of choosing to do the good, which in turn strengthens our faith and by the grace of God we are changed or improved. We cannot say we are Christian, we cannot identify as a child of God and live a life contrary to Him. That is why, for example, in the letters to the Corinthians, St. Paul tells the faithful there to “flee sexual immorality” and to be a new standard of integrity in their communities. Why? Because knowing that they are God’s children, their self-knowledge, God revealed to them, reminds them that they are temples of the Holy Spirit and they must bring glory to God in all ways, words and deeds. The Gospel, St. Paul, St. John, St. Anthony and the Church are teaching all of us this same clear message – the message of Christ Jesus. Know that you are God’s and know what that means.

We are the children of God; we are the revelation of God to ourselves and to others. In Acts today we read “You yourselves know how I lived among you all the time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which befell me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” “You yourselves know how I lived…I did not shrink from declaring Christ Jesus.” My dears, our purpose is that we are the revelation of God to this world. That we teach about our faith to all those around us; to our children, our neighbors, our friends, our spouse, our family members, our communities, etc. regardless, of our title or age. So many times I hear, that I am the priest and it is my “job” to teach about God. My dears, it is my calling as it is the calling of each one of us to teach about God, to live and reveal God to one another but in different capacities. To light this darkened world and heal its brokenness. Yes, as a priest I have certain responsibilities that come from me recognizing who I am and we must all recognize who we are – we are children of God.

Once we recognize this fundamental truth, just like in psychology, we can move towards transformation and our true purpose. How is this done, therefore? We look and examine ourselves. Like the tax-collector in the parable, we acknowledge that we are sinners, and we need saving. From priest to poet, lawyer, doctor, political leader to beggar; black, white, Asian, American, Armenian; no matter what language we pray, cry or sing in! We all need saving, we all need healing! Only then can we truly begin to be transformed and be healed by coming to God. In the same way, when we realize we are sick, we seek medication and a doctor, likewise, when we realize we are grave sinners, will we begin the process of healing by coming to God. Self-knowledge thereby must lead us towards repentance, towards turning to God and therefore, love for God and a transformation. The more we turn towards God, the more of God is revealed to us. The more of God is revealed to us, the more we know His love. The more of His love we know, the more we understand ourselves. The more we understand ourselves, the more we love our neighbor. And the more we love our neighbor, the more we turn towards God. It is a circle; an indivisible chain. That is why in Christ says in today’s Gospel (v.9) “I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

To enter my dears, we must know who we are, recognize our sinfulness and our need for God who will transform us into who we are meant to be. His children, called to love and reveal God’s love to the world. Who are we? God asks us to examine ourselves, to grow in our self-knowledge, to turn to Him and become fully who He created us to be. God calls us to turn to Him, purify ourselves, be as He is by being in Communion with Him. Let us put aside our hatred, our ego, our arrogance, and our pride. Let us recognize our brokenness and need for God. Let us recognize His love for each one of us, no matter who we are, how we identify, what struggles we have. And the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, with our Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit will transform us, Amen!

Food of the God’s

Passages: Acts 9:23-31; I Peter 2:1-10; John 2:23-3:12
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Գործք. Թ 23-31; Ա Պետր. Բ 1-10; Յով. Բ 23 – Գ 12

Krisdos Haryav i merelots. Orhnyal e Harootyunn Krisdosi
Christ is Risen from the Dead!

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

If we survey everyone in this room and asked, what is your favorite food or what is your go to comfort food, each one of us would say something different. For some it is sweet, for other’s it is savory. To some our favorite food has a special meaning or memory – it represents something important in our life, like mom’s home cooked meal.

We eat food because we enjoy its taste and for its nutritional benefit. There is one food that many of us enjoy, though we may not always consider as nutritious especially with the processing that it goes through today – chocolate. Pure, real chocolate, has great benefits. Chocolate can be sweet and savory. Dark chocolate for example, can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of clotting and increase blood circulation to the heart,  lowering the risks of stroke, coronary heart disease and death from heart disease. It’s good for cholesterol, cognitive thinking, and many other things, when eaten in moderation of course. Today the word chocolate may conjure up images of sweet candy bars and especially after Easter, chocolate eggs and bunnies. But the chocolate of today is little like the chocolate of the past. Chocolate has always been seen as a vital part of many cultures and even religions. For example, for the Mayan’s, and even earlier to the ancient Olmecs of southern Mexico, and many others, chocolate had a divine quality. In fact, who knows the scientific word for chocolate? Theobroma which means in Greek “food of the gods.” But what does chocolate have to do with our faith? What does the food of the gods of the pagans teach us about our communion with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

Today, my dears, the Armenian Church celebrates the “Sunday of the World Church” (Աշխարհամատրամ Կիրակի). Though its origins are unclear, from the Holy Scripture readings, we see 3 distinct characteristics of the Holy Church. We see the physical Church, the invisible Church and finally how the 2 come together. First, in the Book of Acts, we read of Saul (St. Paul) who is beginning his ministry of Evangelization, even though the original disciples of Christ were skeptical of him because Paul was originally a persecutor of the Church. But we read the when the disciples saw how he preached against the Hellenist’s or Pagan’s, they began trusting him, “the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samar′ia had peace and was built up; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it was multiplied.”

Next, we have the words of St. Peter enforcing the image that, as children of God, we must see ourselves as infants only striving for pure milk, to grow and mature in faith. Not because other food’s are not good for us, but because in order to receive milk, we as the child need to go to our Mother.  And coming to our mother which is the Holy Church, we drink the milk, we begin to grow and understand that we are called to be something greater, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Finally, in the Gospel we read about the conversation between Nicodemus and Christ, the passage read at our baptisms, where direct from Christ we receive the command that we must be born spiritually of water and the Holy Spirit. Without this birth, without baptism through the Holy Church, Christ clearly teaches “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” So how do we understand the Church and Chocolate?

My dears, regardless, if our favorite food is chocolate, choreg, pizza, or chukufté, all the food and more we enjoy at our tables and in life is a blessing given to us by God because of His love. That is why when we pray before a meal we say, “Let us in peace eat this food which the Lord has provided for us. Blessed be the Lord in all His gifts. Amen.” We don’t specify that only one of our foods is from God, or that God only blesses us with food. Rather, along with our meal, we thank God for all His blessings and gifts. The greatest gift, the greatest source of nutrition that we have received from God is His Holy Church. In the Church, we come together and gather around a banquet table. In the Church, we consume God, like children drinking milk. In the Church, we receive the real food of God, the Holy Communion from the moment we are baptized through the body and blood, the bread and wine. That is why the words of the hymn after Holy Communion reflect very much the prayer of a meal. “We give thanks to you O Lord, who has fed us from your table.”

My dears, God in His divine love and infinite wisdom has given the Holy Church, as our Mother, our place of gathering, and teaches us that when we are part of that body, then we are the Holy Church. God has physically given us a place to gather, has physically fed us and invisibly united us as a body with Christ Jesus as the head. Doing so God has ordained us to be the Church, be the herald that calls others to gather as well. What we fail to recognize however, is our place in this body, our importance to it and how we must grow in it. What we fail to realize is that we must come to her to receive the pure milk that gives nutrition to our faith. And because of that, much like processed chocolate today which has no real benefits, we in the church have become a processed, and filtered expression of political, emotional, philosophical ideas or beliefs. We have become a place where faith does not grow, and we do not always see God. However, the Church is our home, hospital, and family.

We come to her not to fill our stomachs with what we want, but to be filled by what God has ordained for us, created and blessed us with. We come to learn what God did and what we must do. My dears, we fill the streets, we protest, yell and scream and this only causes disunity and destruction. Rather, then screaming in the streets, come and lift our voice up to God and He will give us strength and hope, He will feed us. Sometimes what we receive is sweet, and sometimes it is savory, but because we know it comes from God our Heavenly Father and our Mother the Church, we know it is for our benefit. In Luke 11:11-13 we read, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

My dears, the Church is a visible and invisible reality, a physical and eternal place, which ultimately serves as the means by which we consume and commune with God. When we begin to trust God and pray for each other and with each other, than the Church will grow. When we come to her, read scripture, ask questions, participate in confession and the life of the Church, we will like infants drink the milk and receive the nutrients that will help our faith grow. When we live a life of repentance in action and word, giving our life to Christ Jesus daily, each moment we will be reborn and brought back into communion with God, where we will not receive merely the earthly definition of the food for gods but we will receive the divine food of God, the bread of life, the manna of heaven, the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which is the forgiveness, remission of sins, the healing of body, soul and mind, the source of all virtue and as the priest prays, the faith, hope, and resurrection. Let us therefore, come to Church; let us not keep distant from each other, the physical and eternal Church; let us come eat and drink the heavenly and divine food prepared for us. Come to Church, become the Church and take the Church to others! Thereby we will be the nation of Holy priests and the love for all the world to see the glory of God, Amen!