Archive for November, 2013

Advent Reflection

November 30th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read Matthew 9:35-10:7

Have you ever worked on a farm before? If you have, you know that the process of planting, nurturing, and harvesting crops is a tedious and time-consuming one. The lovely, lush patterns in a growing crop field do not just happen on their own; someone must tend to them with meticulous care for the end harvest to be fruitful. Like the crops of the field, human beings reach their fullest potential as children of God when loving and gracious leaders minister to them. Christ knew the vital work of cultivating growth in people. He told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” Jesus asked his disciples to take up the difficult yet rewarding task of planting the seed of Christ in people and nurturing that seed until it grew into a fruitful crop. As disciples ourselves, it is imperative that each of us take up the important work of tending to the abundant crop of God’s children.

Lord, you tend to us so faithfully in order to make us a full and beautiful crop. Please give us the strength, patience, and endurance to be your faithful harvesters here on earth.

Advent Reflection

November 28th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read Philippians 4:1-7

What would it look like to rejoice in the Lord always? St. Paul makes a point to tell us to rejoice twice in the same verse – he truly wants us to rejoice! Even in hardships, Christians have the privilege of expressing grateful joy because the Lord is always with us. Paul urges that we should not be worried about anything; rather, we should bring every situation we face to God in prayer. There is not a request, worry, or question that is too big for the Lord to handle. His peace, “which transcends all understanding,” will free us from the anger, hurt, and anxiety that burdens us. He might not give us a clear answer, but he will always meet us in the quietness of our hearts. And to that we can say, “Rejoice!”

Lord, thank you for always being present in our lives. That alone is reason to rejoice! Help us to be honest and sincere when we bring our prayers to you, and grant us your peace when we simply cannot understand.

Advent Reflection

November 27th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Like the care of a mother who loves fiercely and guides gently, so must our witness as Christians be to those who do not yet know Christ. St. Paul tells us that we have been “entrusted with the gospel” and must be careful in how we present its beautiful message so that it can be heard and understood by all. A mother does not harshly nurse her child; she does not insensitively tend to that which is most precious to her. On the contrary, she nourishes her child affectionately, wanting it to grow up healthy and well, made stronger and wiser with abundant love. Like mothers, we must work “night and day . . . encouraging, comforting, and urging [people] to live lives worthy of God.” Through gentle words and the witness of one’s own life, the lost will be found.

Lord, help us share our lives with others and spread the gospel with patience and love. Let us be like mothers who nurture, guide, and protect those who are finding their way to your kingdom.

Advent Reflection

November 26th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

Have you ever thought of Christ as a scent? Indeed, Christ is the best perfume you could ever wear. Like the deeply aromatic incense that curls around us during the Divine Liturgy, Christ is the fragrant essence that sweetens our lives. As we come to know him better, his fragrance begins to fill us and pervades every area of our lives. We then become “the aroma of Christ,” giving off his scent to everyone we encounter. It is our call to sweeten the lives of believers and non-believers alike. With Christ within us, we have the ability to exude his lovely fragrance and refresh everyone surrounding us.

Lord, thank you for filling us with your sweet fragrance. We ask that you use us to refresh those to whom we speak and leave them with the most pleasant scent of all – your own empowering essence.

Advent Reflection

November 24th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read Luke 12:13-31

Can you remember a time you looked out of the window of an airplane and saw the brilliant patchwork landscape below? There are countless shades of green, trees of great stature and age, and fields of flowers that strike you with their vibrant color. The land looks as if it is tenderly painted and intimately cultivated. God’s love for his fields and for the birds that soar over them is limitless. Both are provided with all they need in order to thrive by their loving creator and caretaker. As beings made in the very image of God, we can expect that same care tenfold. We needn’t worry about food, clothing, and shelter because God is a God who provides what is essential or his beloved creations. Storing up anxiety for earthly needs will not add a day to our lives, but storing up hope for the heavenly kingdom will give us abundant blessings.

Lord, thank you for providing us with what we need exactly when we need it. Whether it be food, shelter, or an encouraging word, You are the great Caretaker who meets His children’s needs.

Advent Reflection

November 23rd, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read 1 Peter 5:107 and John 10:11-16

It is easy to become overwhelmed by the worries of today. What we see on the news or what anxieties we face in our jobs or our families can truly make us feel like we are lost and abandoned. As Christians, however, we hold onto the promise that God is our good shepherd, that he will not let even one of us go astray. We are called to “cast all our anxiety on him” because he deeply and genuinely cares for us. Even as we face the wolves in our lives, God is there, laying down his life for the safety of his sheep. The Lord does not promise us that there will be no wolves, but he does promise us that he will be ever-present when they appear. As we face whatever it is that threatens to harm us, let us remember that the Good Shepherd is working to keep his flock of sheep united and secure.

Lord, we are so thankful that you know us and that we know you. Help us to remember this intimate relationship when we are struggling or afraid, and be our Good Shepherd when we need protection.

Advent Reflection

November 22nd, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read Colossians 4:5-18.

You have the power to represent the Gospel in your daily life. Your words, your actions, and your love for others may be the only chance people have to get to know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In a few simple sentences, St. Paul instructs us on this immense privilege in representing Christ to those outside of our Church family. He tells us to “be wise” – do not say things hastily or without prudence. We must “make the most of every opportunity” – every single moment in our lives can be used to live out the Gospel. Let all of our conversations with those who don’t know Christ yet “be full of grace, seasoned with salt” – we should leave people more encouraged and more joyful than when we found them. As followers of Christ, it is our job to be diligent listeners, graceful speakers, and confidence-givers.

Lord, help us to be full of life and light when we speak to those who don’t know You. Give us the words we need to encourage others and lead them to You.

Advent Reflection

November 21st, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read Luke 1:39-56

We may one day face an incredible and terrifying call from God – the question is: how will we react? Do we shrink back in fear and try to ignore the pull towards what God has planned for us, or do we embrace it fully, refusing to let our insecurities and fears get in the way of his bigger picture? Luckily, as Christians, we can look to the Mother of God for inspiration. Mary, most likely a teenager at the time, is told that she will bear the Son of God, despite being an unmarried virgin at the time of her call. Rather than let fear overtake her, Mary reacts with a song of praise. She proclaims, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior . . . the Mighty One has done great things for me.” We can all learn from Mary’s powerful example of unwavering willingness to serve the Lord in whatever capacity, regardless of how small we think we are.

Lord, help us to be more like Mary. Please give us the strength and courage to be ready and faithful servants of your will.

Advent Reflection

November 20th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read Colossians 1:24 – 2:7

When was the last time you rejoiced in your sufferings? A deceptive lie that permeates our spiritual lives today is that faith is meant to be comfortable. This lie tells us that as long as we love God, love others, and go to church on Sundays, Jesus will provide us with a beautiful and happy life, free of any pain, isolation, or worry.

St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians simply shatters this fairytale faith. He tells his readers that he delights in his sufferings for the sake of Christ’s body, the Church. His unshakable faith would allow him to go through anything, even persecution and imprisonment, if it meant that he could share the name of Christ with people. To him, there is no amount of struggle in life that could diminish the incredible fact that Christ is within us. It is St. Paul’s hope that our faith stands strong through periods of trial so that we may come to know all the treasures of Christ’s wisdom and knowledge.

Lord, we ask for patience, endurance, and joy during periods of suffering so that we may deepen our faith and bring glory to Your name.

Seven Score and Ten Years Ago…

November 19th, 2013    |    No Comments »

November 19, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the delivery of the Gettysburg Address by President Abraham Lincoln: almost certainly the greatest speech ever to emerge from American civilization, which deserves a place alongside the funeral oration of Pericles and other time-honored utterances of the Western heritage.

Mr. Lincoln delivered his brief speech—only 271 words—at the height of the Civil War, during the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The new cemetery grounds overlooked a field where, four months earlier, a terrible and climactic battle had taken place, with total losses of some 6,500 men, including dead and wounded, Union and Confederate, common soldiers and commanders alike.

In the presence of such specters of death and suffering, with the country still divided and in the throes of war, Lincoln offered his great speech:

Delivered Thursday, November 19, 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln’s solemn words speak for themselves, and they leave nothing to add. We can only learn from them. As a people, Armenian Christians have been privileged to marry our destiny to this nation “conceived in liberty,” and we have been among the countless beneficiaries of its “new birth of freedom.” The Gettysburg Address speaks to us, even as it speaks to the ages.

It reminds us that we are not the only people to have suffered affliction, or to have been called to sacrifice. As we approach a significant milestone of our own in a little over a year, Lincoln teaches us how to address our own spectacle of death: Not as an occasion to inflate our spirits with public self-affirmation; not as an excuse to lapse into an easy sense of victimhood; certainly not as an opportunity for the living to flatter themselves over their remote association with the courage and sacrifice enacted by others.

Lincoln drew attention to the ease with which words—even the noblest words—could be expressed without cost or consequence to the speaker. But death, especially sacrificial death, bears with it the ultimate consequence, as the final “expression” of a human life—beyond which there is only silence. For the living, the task must surely be to remember—to make the prior deeds of sacrifice “speak” in times to come. But the greater task is to dedicate our own lives, so that the cause in which those sacrifices were made “shall not perish from the earth.”

In a time of civil war 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln was able, in a few, immortal words, to distill that greater cause from the experiences of pain and suffering endured by his fellow countrymen.

As we approach the milestone year of 2015, how should we identify the cause for which our own brave forebears gave the last full measure?

Cemetery Ridge at sunset, overlooking the field of Picket’s Charge in Gettysburg, Pa. The monument is dedicated to the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry.  Photo by Hagop K. Zakian.

Cemetery Ridge at sunset, overlooking the field of Picket’s Charge in Gettysburg, Pa. The monument is dedicated to the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry. Photo by Hagop K. Zakian.

One of hundreds of canons on display at Gettysburg National Military Park. Photo by Hagop K. Zakian.

One of hundreds of canons on display at Gettysburg National Military Park. Photo by Hagop K. Zakian.