Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter and the Armenian Genocide - April 24, 2011

This year, for the very first time, Easter and Armenian Martyrs Day fall on the same date - April 24th. Which are we to recognize? Surely, Easter takes precedence, but can we somehow observe both?

At Easter, we celebrate life, specifically the resurrected life of Christ. On the opposite side of the spectrum, on Armenian Martyrs Day, we commemorate the death of 1.5 million Armenians during the Armenian Genocide enacted in 1915. Can we celebrate both life, and commemorate death on the same day?

What if the life of Christ's resurrection and the death of 1.5 million Armenians are not really on opposite sides of the spectrum? That is, what if life and death, for the Christian, are not so far apart? If not, then perhaps we can connect Easter and Armenian Martyrs Day in a unique way; a way that has never been attempted before.

We can reflect on the idea that death does not exist for the Christian. In the Divine Liturgy, we repeat the words, "You, the unchangeable One, became man and You were crucified, O Christ our God, and You trampled down death by death." The Armenian Christian martyrs who embraced death did so knowing that in death there is life. Today, we can also know that the resurrection of Christ gives meaning to those who kept and died for their faith without compromise.

So, as we reflect on Christ's resurrection this year, let's also reflect on the the death and life of the 1.5 million Armenian martyrs and imagine them echoing the words with us, "Krisdos haryav ee merelotz! Orhnyal eh harootiunun Krisdosee! Christ is risen from the dead! Blessed is the resurrection of Christ!"

"I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die..." - John 11:25-26


For further reading on Easter and the Armenian Genocide, please click the link below to read the 2011 Easter message from Archbishop Khajag Barsamian (from which my post was inspired):

"I have Overcome the World" (Easter 2011)

Krisdos haryav ee merelotz! Orhnyal eh harootiunun Krisdosee!
Christ is risen from the dead! Blessed is the resurrection of Christ!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Stewardship: An act of worship

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” - Matthew 6:21

During Badarak*, the priest, on behalf of the people, brings the Gifts of bread and wine to the altar. In return, God takes the Gifts, sanctifies them, and gives them back to us as His Body and Blood. As the culmination of the Divine Liturgy, this transaction is an act of worship to God. In the Gifts of bread and wine, the utter basics of sustenance, we are symbolically offering to God all of what we have and all of who we are. We bring to God our most basic needs, our whole life, and ask Him to take us, change us, and give Himself to us.

The theological reality of the presentation of the Gifts also applies to spiritual giving outside of Badarak. Just as we give the Gifts of bread and wine during Badarak, we also offer our gifts to God within the community in the form of time, talent, and treasure. God then returns them to us by uniting us to Himself and to each other through the mission and practices of the Church, where the role and services of both the priest and laity are necessary for a thriving worshiping community.

It follows then; that stewardship (giving and care taking) is an act of worship lived out in the context of a worshiping community. As created in God’s image, we are first and foremost worshiping beings, or Eucharistic beings. (Eucharist means “thanksgiving”). Thus, as members of Christ’s Body, the Church, we are fulfilling what it means to be a human being in the fullest sense. As Eucharistic beings part of a Eucharistic community, we worship with our whole selves, thankfully offering ourselves to God, and to each other.

To be a good steward is to recognize that anything we possess comes from God, so when we bring our offerings to God (time, talent, and treasure) we are giving back to Him what He first gave us. In the Incarnation, Christ united Himself with humanity in order to unite us to His divinity. Thus, all worship, including stewardship, is a response to what God has initiated and done for us. Just as we bring God the Gifts during Badarak, let us bring Him our gifts through stewardship, not out of compulsion, but from a pure heart, and love for God, and His Church.

"…for the love in one's heart is made visible by the giving of one's hand." - St. Grigor Tatewac‘i

*Badarak - the name for the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Orthodox Church; literally means 'sacrifice'.