Archive for April, 2013

Having passed so close to death, we did not die…

April 24th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Ninety-eight years ago, the long history of the Armenian people intersected with the terrible path of human affliction.

There had been tragedies for us prior to that time. But the Genocide of 1915 has come to embody the suffering of our people like no other event in our history.  Indeed, it stands with a very small host of other inhuman episodes, as an embodiment of the affliction of mortal man in general.

It’s fitting therefore that Armenians should mark April 24 by gathering in our sanctuaries—beneath the cross of Christ. For the cross illuminates the meaning of the Genocide.  On the one hand, it is the universal symbol of human suffering—a reminder that the Son of God was placed on a cross to die.

But the cross is not simply a symbol of suffering. Christ did die on the cross.  But more: he is risen. And so the cross must be understood in light of the resurrection of Christ: as a symbol of suffering, surely; but also as a sign of victory over suffering—a victory promised by God to His true and faithful servants.

In this way, too, the cross represents the Armenian martyrs of 1915. Not because our martyrs themselves were resurrected—they remain dead, and we pray for the peace of their souls.  But we must remember that our persecutors contem­plated the destruction of a whole nation, and they came close to succeeding. Our memorials to the Genocide are one way of remembering that every Armenian living in the world today has passed very close to death, through the experience of a parent or grandparent; through the larger experience of our people.

And yet, having passed so close to death, we did not die.  Indeed, in the years following the Genocide, the surviving Armenians rebuilt their lives, raised families, created worthwhile institutions, contributed to a truly great society like the United States—all the while preserving something of our distinctive Armenian Christian identity. The cross, which depicts the miracle of Christ’s Resurrection, reminds us that our very lives are founded on a miracle: the miraculous blossoming of life out of destruction. And that miracle has a name: Hope.

The same hope is the vital nerve of our civilization, the secret of our survival. How often have our people walked through the valley of death?  And how could we have endured, how could we have overcome adversity, were it not for this precious gift of hope?

This is the message of hope we need to draw strength from today, as we face our own trials. It hardly needs saying that our world of today is filled with such trials.  As Armenians, as Americans, as Christians, as individual men and women, we all sense the urgency of the present moment—the fragile quality of the life we have built for ourselves and for our society.

These are causes for concern, for prayer, for reflection.  But not for despair.  For in truth, we are not strangers to the valley of death. Through Christ, we have been there before. For our sake, he experienced its terrors, accepted its wounds—and emerged victorious.  Because of this, our ancestors did not lose hope 98 years ago. They knew that Jesus Christ would always be beside them—as he is always beside us now—giving us hope for our lives.

It is the greatest hope ever offered to mankind.

Another day of darkness

April 16th, 2013    |    No Comments »

So little is known about the grievous act of violence that rocked Boston yesterday. The details are few and heartrending: three precious souls dead, among them a child; 176 injured—some afflicted now for life. And who can say how these matters will change in the days to come?

The event is all the more horrible because it arose at a time of peace and joyful excitement—during a harmless athletic pastime, conceived to bring out the best in people, encouraging them to strive beyond their everyday capacities; inspiring their charitable impulses to help various worthy causes. As with all these acts of terror, there is a feeling of desecration behind it, which is meant to dishearten and discourage us as a society.

In the face of such things, our humanity cries out at the spectacle of destruction and death; at the injustices which will never be completely erased; at the sorrow of families and loved ones who, in the blink of an eye, have felt their worlds stricken and diminished. Our prayers to God—for consolation, for justice, for inner peace—are the least offering we can make. But we make this offering with the faithful conviction that our prayers—and the millions upon millions of others mounting to heaven beside them—will be heard by our loving heavenly Father. May His will be done.

At this time, nothing is known about the hands that crafted, the minds that planned, this outrage. It is not a time to speculate about guilty parties or motives: those will become known, to the extent that they are knowable, in due course. But surely there is one thing for us to acknowledge today. Yesterday, some individual, or some group of individuals, made the decision to become an enemy of peace, an enemy of innocence, an enemy of man. In the days leading up to yesterday, someone deliberately chose to make their own name hated for all time hereafter. Under the delusion of reaping some kind of gain, that person or persons sold their soul for a lie, proffered by the prince of lies, and the enemy of life.

Reflecting on the reality of evil and the darkness in the human soul could draw us down into despair, were it not for our faith in—indeed our knowledge of—a greater light, which pierces the darkness and overcomes it.

“I must do the works of Him that sent me, while it is day,” said our Lord Jesus. “The night will come, when no man can work. But as long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4-5).

Even in the confusion of yesterday’s darkness, we saw a reflection of this light: in acts of mercy, compassion, heroism—and in a thousand other ways. As his church, as the Body of Christ in the world, we are called to take up our Lord’s work: to hold back the encroaching night of darkness with the everlasting Light of Jesus Christ. May our Lord help us to shine that light and so illuminate the world, at this sorrowful moment, and always.

AltarLight

The holy altar at Noravank monastery in Armenia.