Physical Blessing

Kristos Haryav i merelots, Christ is Risen from the Dead!

During the pandemic of last year, one of the most devastating realities was not only the loss of life but as well as, the social and physical distancing and isolation of families and loved ones from one another. More and more individuals today, are coming out of the pandemic and the lock-downs with feelings of abandonment and loneliness. But I can’t imagine how painful and difficult it must have been for those

who witnessed their parents, children, spouse, friends, parishioners, neighbors, loved ones lying and dying in a hospital bed all alone. The physical connection of person to person is so powerful and healing that even during the pandemic, doctors and nurses broke down emotionally seeing that loved ones could not hold the hands of each other in that desperate time of need. In an attempt to comfort isolated patients, to bring emotional and mental healing, nurses in Brazil filled two disposable gloves with warm water and tied them around the hand of the dying patients, as they tried to simulate holding hands, to tell the patient you’re not alone, keep fighting.

We as humans are communal creators, and even the most introverted person benefits from some sort of human connection. Whether it is coming together, hugging, holding hands, placing a hand on each other’s shoulder, looking into each other’s eyes, all of these have healing and uplifting qualities. Often during times of trouble, war, distress, pain, or disaster, one of the key and life preserving elements is this idea of coming to each other, being in a community. When a loved one is dying or suffering, clergy and medical professionals always say, be there for the person, such as when someone is in a coma, doctors say keep talking to them. During 9/11 it was this communal strength that aided in the saving of so many lives as volunteers rushed into the rubble to save people. As the Church, we believe in the coming together as the body of Christ – which is what the word Church actually means, “Ekklesia” in Greek or Yegeghetsi in Armenian to come together. Physically gatherings and physically greeting one another is very powerful and deeply rooted in our theology. That is why every time in the Badarak we say “Voghchuyn dook meemyants, i hampoor srpootyan – Let us Greet One another with a Holy Kiss.” Again this idea of physically and tangibly coming together.

My dear brothers and sisters, God saw that Adam was alone in the garden and so He created for him a helper and an equal partner.  God saw humanity was alone and said, it is not good for humanity to be this way and so we were commanded to grow, flourish, give life, love each other, be with each other – to be physically present. That is also the reason that Christ Jesus, the Word, the Logos, God the Son, had to become human – “The Word became flesh and lived among us” Why? Because our God is not a God of physical or social distancing; Our God is not a God of isolation and separation; Our God is a God of love who physically became like us in order to live like us, hold our hand, cry with us, be with us and die like us. However, God the Son, Christ Jesus did not remain dead, for we proclaim a resurrected Lord – who destroyed death by death. Holding our hand, He pulled us out of death, out of Hades, out of sin! God lowered Himself and became human in order to lift humanity up and make us like Him. And God commands us to do likewise.

This does not mean don’t follow the rules of government in the climate we live in. Rather, it means we must learn to be the resurrected body of Christ, in a different way. Call one another on the phone and genuinely care about the needs of the other. Walk by each other’s homes and greet each other! Cook extra food and share it with one another or even better with those who are homeless and live in the streets. Pray for each other by name! My dears brothers and sisters, real isolation is not that we are physically distant from each other, but rather, that we have distanced our hearts, we have cut ourselves off from each other spiritually and so we have cut ourselves off ultimately from God. For we cannot love God, be close to God, be in Communion with God, unless we first love each other.

Yes, today we are in the pandemic and must physically keep some distance. Whether we agree with it or not, these are the rules and we pray for the health of everyone. But let us not allow this pandemic to be an excuse to distance ourselves from God, from each other’s hearts and minds. Christ Jesus, knowing He came to die, did not distance Himself but became like us because of His love. A love that will heal this world, a love that conquered death and a love that will strengthen each and every one of us who chooses to accept it. Therefore, let us examine and ask ourselves, how far have we distanced ourselves from God, how disconnected have we become from one another and how can we rebuild? The pandemic will be done and gone soon, will our love also go with it or will it remain with each other? Let us always strive to build each other up and love one another at all times; let us be present with each other. And if we don’t know how, let us come to God, speak to our priest, open our scriptures and ask that our minds be illuminated. So that when we have passed from this pandemic, we can gather and Greet each other with a Holy Kiss proclaiming that the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ is among us! Krisdos Haryav i Merelots, Christ is Risen, Blessed is the Resurrection of Christ!

Easter?

Քրիստոս Յարեաւ ի Մեռելոց. Օրհնեալ է Յարութիւնն Քրիստոսի։
Christ is Risen, Truly He is Risen.
Krisdos Haryav i Merelots, Orhnial e Haroutyunn Krisdosi!

Every year on this blessed day of celebration we play the egg tapping game – havgitakhakh. We paint eggs, we buy chocolates, we do Easter egg hunts and many other traditional events take place during Easter. Unfortunately, however, in the busyness of planning, what gets lost is the meaning and the purpose behind all of these traditions. We begin to think that these simple games and traditions go back to paganism rather than to Christian teachings. Even the name Easter, which we say in English comes from paganism and is comes from the name Ishtar – which was the Babylonian goddess of fertility and sex.

In ancient paintings we see that Ishtar was often symbolized as what? A bunny, from where we receive the Easter bunny reference and her celebration was associated with spring time, when life began to bloom after the winter months. If this is the case then, why does the Church celebrate Easter and even more, why do we maintain the traditions of eggs and games?

Firstly, the word Easter is now the word used for what is in fact being celebrated, in the same way December 25th was originally a pagan holiday and was changed to celebrate Christmas. In Armenian, Greek, Russian, and all the ancient languages and Churches today is not Easter it is Pascha or Zadik, which comes from the Hebrew Passover. In fact, in Armenian the Gospel we read during “Zadik” all these events took place. The word zadig means to secluded or to be separated, just as we would say, zadel meaning to separate from. This is what we as Christian’s are celebrating. Through Christ’s glorious resurrection, we are being separated from our old self. All creation is being renewed through the blood of Christ Jesus and separated from sin and coming into communion with God. St. Paul teaches us, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Col. 3:1-4) Therefore, is it wrong to say Happy Easter or to have our children play Easter egg hunts, etc.?

No, my dears! Today the English word is Easter and many of us don’t even know about the connection to Ishtar and paganism. However, when this week, when today we would much rather sit at home and enjoy the weather, or sleep in; if today we are focused on the food and preparations at home; when today becomes like every day, where we stop praying, where we stop attending Church, where we stop reading our scriptures and fasting, where we begin to remove God from our homes more and more, then yes, we are wrong because we are returning to paganism, we are denying God and choosing sin and death. Today is not a celebration of spring, rather today is the Resurrection of our Lord, the crucified and resurrected Christ Jesus. In the same way we have removed the story of the Christ Jesus’ nativity from Christmas and made it a day of consumerism so too Easter and many other holidays and even our every day life – we have removed God from it all and made it about food, games and self desires. Yes my dears, sadly, we have removed the love of God from our marriages, we have removed God’s presence from our children, we have removed ourselves from the foot of the cross and placed our hope in false idols and practices thinking that “it is enough, that I am a good person.”

My dears, our Christian faith is not about being a good person. God the Son, did not die and resurrect for us to be nice to each other because an atheist can be a good person also. Rather, Christ Jesus died and raised us up so that we would live, separated from sin and joined to His Father. This is the new life in Christ Jesus we are called for, to be the children of God.

The practice of colored eggs and these games serve to remind us in the same way all these icons and the physical building of the Church bring our senses to see, smell, taste, hear and feel God in our lives. This egg with its circular shape is our heart and is the world, for which the blood of Christ is spilled. That is why the egg should always and traditionally be colored red. The hard shell is the symbol of the tomb but also of the chains that we are yoked under because of sin. The life within the egg is symbol of the resurrected Christ in the tomb. And when we crack the eggs as a game what we are doing is breaking the eggs, breaking open the tomb, breaking our chains, breaking our pain, hopelessness, sickness, depression, we are breaking free through Christ as He brings us up to life.

But why do we break the eggs playing a game? Why couldn’t we just smash it on the table? Because we play this game with one another and celebrate as a family. This entire week repeatedly the words of scripture remind us, God the Father’s love is what brought God the Son, Christ, to the cross and tomb. A love for us that is only reciprocated when we love each other and come together. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, let us pray; let us bring prayer, love, compassion, back into our lives and homes. Let us come to God and allow Him to separate us from the old, the broken, the hopeless, the pagan, and the countless distractions that blind us to His love. Let us come together and as a family proclaim for the world to hear, Christ is Risen, Քրիստոս Յարեաւ ի Մեռելոց. Blessed is the Resurrection of Christ!