Spring 2016 Volume 2/ Number 2
Fasting Are You Giving It Up? Bet You Didn’t Know Advice from Khosrov Antsevatsi Unity in Diversity in Christ and more…
Volume 2 Number 2
The Treasury Features 3
Spiritual Advice Wise spiritual words from a great Armenian theologian still apply to us today. by Bishop Khosrov Antsevatsi
Giving It Up? Fasting During Great Lent in the Armenian Church Have you given something up for Lent? Or have you given up on fasting altogether? Either way, you may be surprised by what the Armenian Church has to say about the venerable but waning Lenten practice. by V. Rev. Fr. Michael Daniel Findikyan
Unity in Diversity Is unity really possible in a world of such vast pluralism? See how only the power of the Living Christ can achieve lasting unity in diversity. by Ari Nalbandian
Zartik! Wake Up! It’s Lent! Awaken to the journey of Great Lent and discover the joy of a refreshed life in Christ. by Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian
From the Editor’s Desk A Life of Service
Words and THE WAY
Bet You Didn’t know
Գաղջ * kaghch * lukewarm
Keeping Lent: Practical wisdom for meeting the challenges of Great Lent.
Think you’ve heard it all? This new feature of The Treasury will stretch your view of the Armenian Church.
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE FELLOWSHIP OF ST. VOSKI
Vo l u m e 2 N u m b e r 2
of St. Voski
Photo Credits Front Cover The Loaf of Bread by Alexa - flickr.com Front Inside Cover Desert - www.wallpaperscraft.com Page 2: Armenian Fresco of Saints unidentified source Page 3: Stumble - www.daveconnolly.org Page 4: Detox - www.bornfitness.com Page 6: Lenten Choices - unidentified source Page 10: No Meat - www.youbeauty.com Page 11: Reflection by Sako Tchilingirian flickr.com Page 13: Berries - unidentified source Page 14: Steam - www.icelandtravel.is Page 15: Diversity - gsb.stanford.edu Page 17: The Theophany www.houshamadyan.org Page 18: The Womam Washing Christ’s Feet www.christianitymalaysia.com Page 19: Monks Dining Room www.slowtraincomingsalandrich.blogspot.com Back Inside Cover The Silver Ladder - www.calebcharland.com Back Cover Fragments of Frescos from Saghmosavank Monastery - www.peopleofar.com
Publisher: The Fellowship of St. Voski Editor-in-Chief Dr. André Markarian Editorial Board Rev. Fr. Ghevond Ajamian Dr. Roberta Ervine V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan Eric Vozzy Text Editor Nicole Whittlesey Publication Designer Hasmik Ajamian All Bible verses are from the 1805 Zohrab Bible (Armenian) or the Revised Standard Version (English, RSV) unless otherwise specified.
Nor Voskiank/Նոր Ոսկեանք is a fellowship of men and women working toward the revival and restoration of Armenian Orthodox theology and life within the Armenian Church at large. The fellowship is named after St. Voski and his companions (the Voskians) who were a group of Christian martyrs and monastics from the first century, many of whom who were students of St. Thaddeus. According to tradition, St. Thaddeus ordained as their leader a priest called Chrysos (Greek for “gold,” Armenian “voski”), and thereafter the group came to be known as the Voskians. In the spirit of the Voskians, Nor Voskiank seeks to support the cultivation of a thriving, united, worldwide Armenian Christian communit y through prayer, fellowship, and the publication of practical educational resources covering the entire breadth of Christian life as lived, interpreted and testified to by the Armenian Church since ancient times. The Treasury/Գանձարան is published quarterly and subscriptions are available by request. To contact us or donate, please visit us at
www.StVoski.org Nor Voskiank is a tax-exempt not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization that depends entirely on your generous support for its ministry. For a one-year subscription to The Treasury, please send a tax-deductible gift of $30 payable to Fellowship of St. Voski, P.O. Box 377, Sutton MA 01590. Bulk subscriptions also available by request. Every issue of The Treasury is also available for free on our website. You can also visit us on Facebook at Fellowship of St. Voski.
Volume 2/ Number 2
From the Editor’s Desk
A Life Of Service
s of the release of this latest edition of Kantsaran, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia has declared 2016 the “Year of Service.” The Christian idea of service reaches far beyond occasional “helping out” or doing “good deeds,” commendable as those actions are. As Aram Vehapar pointed out in his message on the subject, “true Christians are those who choose to serve others as the meaningful and leading purpose of their lives.” The quintessential model of service was provided by Jesus Christ himself, who left the comforts of his heavenly throne to demonstrate to humankind a life of authentic, God-pleasing service. He taught the masses, healed the sick, fed the hungry, raised the dead, and expected nothing in return. He even washed his disciple’s feet, and then taking upon himself the sins of the world on the cross, completed his ministry of service. What image of service can we glean from Christ’s model? A few defining features come to mind. Christ-like service is deliberate, humble, loving, unselfish, and totally life-encompassing. Service is not a passing thought, an occasional superficial act of kindness to satisfy the ego. Christian service is purposeful, a road that we choose to take, not occasionally but for the rest of our lives. It is a path of continually seeking to put others’ needs before our own, where we actively search for opportunities to make a diﬀerence in each other’s lives. To quote His Holiness again, 2 The Treasury / Spring 2016
a life of service will “re-establish the image of God in humankind and guide humankind toward God and the road to salvation.” Of course, designating 2016 as the “Year of Service” (or any other Christian virtue for that matter) does not imply that after the year is completed, service can assume a lesser role in the life of the believer. Rather, the designation is a call-to-action for the reinvigoration of a fundamental Christian principle in our lives. In response to this call, Nor Voskiank will be publishing more articles on practical Christian living to help the faithful strengthen their commitment to a life of service to their families, communities and churches. In addition, as a service to promote sacred artwork and composition, Nor Voskiank is now welcoming the submission of original works of Christian Armenian art and poetry for publication in The Treasury. Submissions should be emailed to StVoski@gmail.com, and for every work chosen for publication, a small monetary gift will be awarded. May our collective re-commitment to a life of continual, authentic, Christ-like service become a blessing to all our communities and bring us closer to Him who knows each of us by name.
Spiritual Counsel Bishop Khosrov Antsevatsi
f you are just, hear the commandments of God, and you will be even more established in justice. If you are guilty, hear the warnings of God. Say like David, “I have sinned against God,” and you shall hear the same answer [that David heard], “And the Lord has taken away your sins.” Strive not to anger God. Then, if you err, let it be as medicine for your daily trespasses to hear always the rebuke of God, and to say, “I have sinned,” and to remain in awe of Him, rather than wholly to rebel and to distance yourself from Him. He is your Father; tell Him the trouble that the evil one brings upon you and uses to deceive you, and you will receive from Him counsel and help as from a merciful Father. He is a physician of souls; make known your hurts to Him and you will find from Him medicine and healing. He does not become angry when you fall before Him, even if you have transgressed His counsel countless times. Let Him see only that you have come to Him and are showing Him your wounds; He is not a doctor who is a stranger to you and might disregard your injuries! He is your Father; He will be sorely pained when you weep because of a spiritual illness, and immediately He will make ready to heal you. Because He knows that our nature is prone to stumble, He has prepared multiple remedies suitable to our frequent ills - humility, confession, tranquility, forgiveness for the one who transgresses [against us], mercy, fasting, prayer, gifts, remembrance of the saints, hospitality, care for orphans and widows, compassion towards our brethren, and other good works similar to these. Such things it is possible to obtain through the divine counsels, on a daily basis, for the healing of our souls.
This translation, by Dr. Roberta Ervine, was made on the basis of the Armenian published text of Khosrov Antsevatsi’s Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, Venice 1869, p11.
Giving It Up? Fasting During Great Lent in the Armenian Church by Very Rev. Fr. Michael Daniel Findikyan
oxic cleanses and detox fasts are all the rage nowadays. Google “detox” or “cleanse” and legions of websites virtually leap out of the screen breathlessly trumpeting this or that program that is guaranteed to rid the body of dangerous (but unnamed) toxins, to restore health and vitality, improve circulation, stimulate proper functioning of the liver, kidneys and other organs, reset the body’s metabolism, and make you a happier, healthier, more beautiful and successful person. All of these programs involve temporarily restricting one’s diet to water, juice, cabbage, grapefruit or to a scoop-a-day of some worldrenowned concoction that you never heard of, invented by the world-renowned doctor that you never heard of, available for a limited time only for $79.95 plus shipping and handling…
With all the buzz, it is certainly curious that the Armenian Church’s ancient program of regular toxic cleansing has largely fallen out of use, especially in the United States. Even though fasting was practiced and advocated by Jesus himself and has always been an important part of Armenian Church life, today many don’t see any use for it. During Great Lent, the church’s great fasting season, some wonder what harm there could possibly be in enjoying a nice steak or a glass of wine. Does God really keep track of the daily diet of his billions of children? Others who try to follow the church’s Lenten discipline by “giving up” meat, chocolate, alcohol or other treats, often do so more to lose weight or to trim unhealthy habits than out of more properly Christian concerns. Surely Jesus didn’t fast in the desert for 40 days because he was worried about his waistline or cholesterol levels.
Armenian history to fasting by the great heroes of the Armenian Church including St. Gregory the Illuminator, Sts. Hripsimé, Gayané and Nooné, St. Mesrob Mashdots, St. Sahag Bartev, Sts. Vartan and Ghevont and their martyred companions, and all the rest. And yet the diversity in perspectives and approaches to fasting from one Armenian Church teacher to another is dizzying. Beyond a basic agreement that meat should be avoided during the Lenten fast, hardly two authorities can agree on the list of permitted and forbidden Lenten foods. Even the exact days when we should and should not fast will be debated by Armenian Church fathers. This diversity—not to say disparity—in what would seem to be the essential “rules” of fasting complicates the task of the Christian Armenian who simply wants to follow “the tradition of the Armenian Church.” Simply put, there
Simply put, there is no single, oﬃcial rule or canon that instructs us when to fast, how to fast, and exactly what foods to cut out. Whatever you’re “giving up” for Lent—or if you’ve already “given up” on the Lenten fast itself—you may be surprised to learn the Armenian Church’s traditional understanding of fasting: how our ancestors fasted and why. As is so often the case, if we probe just beneath the surface, the Treasury of the Armenian Church’s historical and theological legacy provides clarity and sensible, timehonored insights on Christian life. It would require a thick chapter to trace the history of Christian fasting in Armenia. Actually that chapter was written more than a hundred years ago in Venice by the Armenian scholar Fr. Vartan Hatsuni. His remarkable book, Meals and Feasts in Ancient Armenia [Ճաշեր եւ խնճոյք հին Հայաստանի մէջ] shows that the earliest writings in the Armenian language already mention fasting as an established ingredient of Christian life in the homeland, a reverent practice that will captivate Armenians through modern times. Countless are the incidental references in
is no single, oﬃcial rule or canon that instructs us when to fast, how to fast, and exactly what foods to cut out. This inconsistency contrasts with the relative clarity in this regard that we find in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and other churches. Yet if the Armenian Church does not have concise, universally applicable rules governing fasting, it is above all because neither Jesus, nor the earliest Christians rigidly regulated the fast either. For them there is no one right way to fast. Fasting is not a fundamental, right-or-wrong exercise that must be enforced by strict rules in order for it to be eﬀective. One can no more mandate one way to fast than one could define one way to pray. To be sure, there are some generally accepted norms concerning fasting, but within that framework there is broad flexibility and variation in specifics. St. Paul’s famous discourse on fasting illustrates the sober and tolerant attitude of the early church toward fasting. www.StVoski.org
As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand. One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. [Romans 14:1-6] For the earliest Christians, fasting was not an end in itself. It was a discipline that Jesus’ followers adopted willingly, not out of blind obedience. It is very clear from St. Paul’s words that some Christians fasted or abstained from certain foods, and some did not. Neither group was to be condemned. Above all, all were obliged to tolerate the various fasting practices of others. Under no circumstances should they permit fasting to become a cause for dissension. St. Paul continues— If your brother is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. [Romans 14:15-19] For the Apostle, fasting is but a means to the higher goals of the Christian faith: “walking in love…righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…mutual upbuilding.” Understood this way, fasting can never be reduced to a blind act of compliance with a law. Not only is forced, legalized fasting ineﬀective, it runs counter to the essential 6 The Treasury / Spring 2016
calling of the church and can even “destroy the work of God.” The same tolerant attitude is found in early Christian Jerusalem, which was the most important source of the newborn Armenian Church’s liturgical and devotional practices. Just a few decades after the Christian conversion of Armenia, a Spanish nun named Egeria traveled to the Holy Land and took notes on the details of Christian life in Jerusalem. One of her diary entries describes how the early Christians of Jerusalem fasted during Lent: These are their customs of fasting in Lent. There are some who eat nothing during the whole week between their meal after the Sunday service, and the one they have after the service on Saturday in the [Church of the Holy Resurrection in the Holy Sepulcher]…The people known here as apotactites [monks] as a rule have only one meal a day not only during Lent, but also during the rest of the year. Apotactites who cannot fast for a whole week in the way I have described eat a dinner half way through Thursday. Those who in Lent cannot manage this eat on two days of the week, and those who cannot manage this have a meal every evening. No one lays down how much is to be done, but each person does what he can; those who keep the full rule are not praised, and those who do less are not criticized. That is how things are done here. [Diary of Egeria 28]
…fasting can never be reduced to a blind act of compliance with a law. Egeria observed a tolerant attitude in fourth-century Jerusalem as regards the Lenten fast, fully in the spirit of St. Paul’s interpretation. Along with much of the Armenian Church’s worship tradition—church services, hymns, prayers, rituals, and feast days—this original, broad-minded understanding of fasting makes its way to Armenia. The fifth-century manual of Christian life known as Hajakhabadoom/Յաճախապատում, traditionally attributed to St. Gregory the Illuminator, recommends fasting as a valuable Christian discipline, while it maintains a relatively lenient stance as to particulars. Somewhat later, in the year 719ad, we find the same spirit in the Armenian Synod of Dvin, convened by the great pastor and reformer, Catholicos Hovhannes Otsnetsi. Canon 7 of this Synod sought to reconcile a dispute in Armenia that concerned the Lenten fast. Some people were fasting continuously for the entire forty days, while others moderated their fast or lifted it completely on Saturdays and Sundays of Lent, following the ancient and universal tradition of the church. And as for observing and breaking [the fast] on Saturdays and Sundays during the forty-day fast, this shall be left to each one's will, as long as [each] gives thanks to God without scruple and adversity, and without speaking ill of the companion who desires to eat in moderation. Both are acceptable to God and are in the tradition of Christ's church.
Catholicos Hovhannes’ tolerant approach to the Lenten fast is a master stroke of wisdom and prudence. It is also entirely in keeping with the early church’s original understanding of fasting. History shows that with some prominent exceptions, the Armenian Church generally remained faithful to this spirit throughout the first Christian millennium. Beginning around the turn of the millennium, for reasons that are not entirely clear, a much more rigorous and legalistic attitude toward Christian life in general, and toward fasting practices in particular, emerges in some northern Armenian monasteries. Advocates of this extremist view forgo St. Paul’s spirit of tolerance and his insistence that fasting is always at the service of higher Christian ideals. Instead, the extremists will turn to the Old Testament’s more black-and-white approach to fasting. For the Jews, fasting was simply an article of the Law. Failure to fast according to well-defined rules was tantamount to rejecting God, case closed. The Armenian extremists likewise insisted upon very severe fasting rules, which, they claimed, applied to everyone without exception. The most militant of them prohibited meat, fish, wine, and dairy, and sometimes even honey, nuts, and anything that comes from the grapevine including raisins, vinegar, and even grape seeds and skins. Not surprisingly, much of this list is excerpted from the Old Testament book of Numbers 6:1-4. It is in this same era that we also encounter increasingly strident Armenian intolerance of the fasting practices of neighboring Christians, especially Greek-speaking Orthodox. By the 12th century, there is a concerted eﬀort to rectify these exaggerations, especially in the writings of St. Nersess “the Gracious” Shnorhali (†1173) and St. Nersess Lambronatsi (†1198). These wise teachers will passionately defend the early church’s traditional view of fasting as a precious, yet ancillary practice that always serves toward the attainment of even higher Christian goals. But their best eﬀorts at restoring the ancient, apostolic function of the fast will have only limited success. Which brings us to the hodgepodge situation we find today. Some people approach Lenten fasting meticulously, abstaining from meat, dairy, fish, and other foods for the duration of Lent. Others choose to “give up” a particular food for Lent without necessarily realizing what they are doing or why. Meanwhile, most people do not fast at all, writing it oﬀ as an archaic exercise of religious fanatics. Yet leafing through the vast literature that our saintly ancestors have left us, beneath the controversies and disagreements, a few essential principles emerge regarding fasting, which can be of use to us today.
Fasting is not about “giving up” anything
Fasting is not a sacrifice or an exercise in selfdeprivation. Those who think that God is pleased when we abstain from this or that food, or when we fast from all food for a period of time do not know the Bible. Already in the Old Testament, the Prophet King David understood that God has no use for our sacrifices. In one of the most frequently used Psalms in the Armenian Church’s worship services, the Psalmist admits that God has “no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt oﬀering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” [Psalm 50(51): 16-17] Turning to the New Testament, we recall the scribe who declared that to love God with all the heart, and with all understanding, and with all strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, was much more important to God than our rituals and sacrifices. Jesus commended him for this insight, saying, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” [Mark 12:33]. No, God is not interested in our petty oﬀerings, and he surely takes no satisfaction in people depriving themselves, much less hurting themselves. What God wants is us. If there is any sacrifice that God desires from me it is not this or that oﬀering or ritual, but the complete consecration of my entire life to God. “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,” St. Paul challenges us [Romans 12:1]. The only sacrifice that really matters is the one sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus Christ on the Cross at Golgotha some 2000 years ago. Compared to that one unsurpassed demonstration of love, any subsequent sacrifice by us mortal humans is meaningless and pointless. God sacrificed his only Son, his beloved Son, as a sign of his undying and unconditional love for his human creatures. What could my forsaking a candy bar during Great Lent possibly add to that?
8 The Treasury / Spring 2016
If there is any sacrifice that God desires from me it is not this or that oﬀering or ritual, but the complete consecration of my entire life to God.
Fasting Alone Will Not Make Me A Better Christian In our corporate, profit-driven and productivity-obsessed culture, many people believe that fasting, praying, attending the liturgy, reading the Bible, and financially supporting the church are all steps in a grand religious staircase that eventually elevates us to heaven. Like a young boy ticking oﬀ his merit badges in pursuit of the rank of Eagle Scout, we think (and we have sometimes been mistakenly taught) that by following the traditions of the church, we earn our way toward salvation. Many assume, consequently, that fasting will automatically make us better people in God’s eyes. But the notion that any paltry achievement of our own could earn us a ticket to heaven is fatally misguided.
gratefully through faith. And there is the catch. Starting with Adam and Eve, we fickle human beings have a nasty tendency to get caught up in our own vain amusements. Instead of opening our eyes to God in faith; instead of seeking to know God more deeply; instead of following Jesus’ example and becoming radically loving and forgiving people, we make our own rules. We invest our time and money in other temporary diversions. We play with our gadgets. We buy shoes. We try to fill spiritual voids with material things. In a word, instead of recognizing the eternal gift of God’s love in Jesus Christ and grabbing it, we turn away from it through our actions, words, and daily decisions.
Anything and everything we do in the church is a celebration of salvation already achieved by Jesus Christ. The church condemned that idea as a heresy long ago. We cannot save ourselves. No magic pill, no donation, no pious tradition, no devotional act, nothing apart from Jesus Christ can save us. Long ago God stretched out his divine and healing hand to rescue humanity by sending his only Son into this world and into our fallen humanity. When the Son of God entered this world he brought salvation with him. Heaven and earth were reunited. He bridged the gap between God and us. As we repeat every Sunday in the Eucharistic Prayer of our Badarak, when God became man and was born of the holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, “this earth became heaven.” That is salvation. God is here with us. Heaven is here on Earth. Salvation is available for the taking. It is a pure gift of God. All we can do is extend our hands and receive it gratefully, or rather, receive Him
God will never impose his love upon us. We are free to take it or leave it. But to pull away from the embrace of the Creator spells death and damnation. So we do not fast in order to achieve salvation. We do not study the Bible to earn brownie points. We do not celebrate the Badarak to reach out to God. It’s the other way around. God has already reached out to us. Salvation has already been handed to us long ago in the person of Jesus Christ the Son of God. Anything and everything we do in the church is a celebration of salvation already achieved by Jesus Christ. Fasting and other devotional practices remind us of who we really are—God’s beloved children. Fasting refocuses our eyes of faith. It recalibrates our lives, allowing us to recognize the divine gift of God’s life-giving love, and to seize it gleefully and gratefully. www.StVoski.org
Fasting Is About Reducing Excess To Make Room For God From a purely Christian perspective there is nothing inherently sinister about meat. Sure, today we know that too much red meat can lead to heart disease and other serious illnesses. And today many people of various religions (or no religion) avoid meat for moral, economic and environmental reasons. But the reason that Christians do not eat meat during Lent and other fasting periods has little to do with any of this. Christians avoid meat because it is generally an indicator of excess. Today many Americans eat meat three times a day or more. Yet in most of the world, meat is but an occasional luxury. The goal of fasting is to trim from our lives all manner of excess—not just food—so that we may focus on what is truly important and life-giving and rededicate ourselves to that. The foods that our church fathers avoided during the Lenten fast—meat, fish, alcohol, dairy items, sweets—were for most people of the times occasional, extravagant indulgences. There is great wisdom in the old adage, “You are what you eat.” In our aﬄuent society many are those who battle obesity; who use food as a source of solace, and yes, as their friend in the brutally competitive and often unjust and lonely world in which we live. Others find their refuge in alcohol, in shopping, gambling, and other diversions. And that is the point. Such excesses and diversions divert us away from God. They cloud our perception of our Creator and Sustainer by crowding our lives with non-essentials, be they food, chemicals, amusements, addictions, neurotic busyness, or chronic self-absorption. Fasting removes such clutter from our lives so that we may more plainly recognize God in the world around us, in people around us, and in our very own lives. Fasting helps us to simplify our lives, to find the courage to put aside the crutches and vanities that can only provide us fleeting consolation. Fasting helps us to face our own reality, bitter though it may be, so that we may appeal to the only source of lasting peace and healing, Jesus Christ. Thoughtful, prayerful fasting helps us to reestablish, in the words of St. Paul, “undivided devotion to the Lord” [1Corinthians 7:35].
10 The Treasury / Spring 2016
Fasting removes such clutter from our lives so that we may more plainly recognize God in the world around us, in people around us, and in our very own lives.
An Effective Fast Must Be A Thoughtful, Prayerful fast Few of us in the United States today would consider meat loaf, sirloin steak, or a chicken salad sandwich as lavish selfindulgences. For better or worse, in our aﬄuent society, these are items on the menu of every corner diner. So what have I really accomplished during Lent by forgoing prime rib in favor of shrimp? Or by lightening my coﬀee with soy milk instead of half-and-half? Or for that matter, by going strictly vegan for forty days while I restock my wardrobe in time for Easter? “Excess” is a relative term. Most Armenian monks steered clear of meat and wine all the time, or at least during Lent. Yet they recognized meat as an important nutrient, and they acknowledged certain medicinal qualities of wine. Many therefore allowed the sick and aged to partake of them in moderation, as needed. When pondering the Lenten fast, the question is not, “What shall I give up this year?” It is rather, What is holding me back from devoting myself more wholeheartedly to the Lord? What am I overindulging in? What is sucking up time that I could better use for the sake of more Christian pursuits? How am I spending my money? What can I relinquish to simplify my life and make it more Christ-like? Thoughtful, prayerful answers to these questions will lead one to the true meaning of Lenten fasting. Yet what is the benefit in devoting myself through fasting to the true spirit and intent of Great Lent, only to dive headlong back into my former carefree ways come Easter Sunday? Great Lent should not be our annual excursion into Christian virtue. It should challenge and shape the way we live our lives every day of the year.
…my fasting aﬀects you and your fasting aﬀects me. www.StVoski.org
Fasting is a personal but not a private matter De-cluttering our lives of foods and behaviors that detach us from God’s love is a highly personal, prayerful commitment. Beginning with Jesus himself (see Matthew 6:16-18 below), and echoing through St. Paul to every corner of early Christendom, is the insistence that we should keep our fasting practices to ourselves. They should not be the topic of discussion, lest they become the root of conceit or criticism of others. “The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God,” St. Paul says in the context of fasting (see above). Yet if fasting is a personal commitment, its objectives are plainly interpersonal: Remember St. Paul’s words: “walking in love…righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…mutual upbuilding.” Fasting is about the healing of the community of God’s people, the church. Good, prayerful fasting should lead to an outgoing, compassionate spirit of reconciliation among the members of the church, which mends and strengthens that community and fosters communion with one another and thereby with Jesus Christ. So while the details of my Lenten fast should be between God and me, my fasting is the business of the church. To put it another way, my fasting aﬀects you and your fasting aﬀects me.
That is also why fasting and charity (loving your neighbor) always go together. Thoughtful, prayerful, mindful fasting obliterates the myth that I am in control of my destiny or that I am self-suﬃcient. It exposes the shameless lie of modernism, that I can achieve happiness and fulfillment by looking within and tapping my own inner potential. It smashes the idol of unbridled consumerism, which contends that all of my longings can be acquired in the marketplace; that my perceived shortcomings can be fixed for a price. Mindful fasting reminds me that I am not my own; I belong to another, to God who purchased me at the price of His Son’s life [1Corinthians 6:19]. When I fast and feel a yearning for meat, wine, chocolate, or my iPhone, I am gently reminded that my life really is dependent on others and my real nourishment can only come from God.
Happy fasting The Lord Jesus spoke relatively little about fasting. His most eloquent message was perhaps his own example. Jesus began his ministry with a forty-day fast. [Matthew 4:2] As for specific instructions regarding fasting, they amount to two general directives. In the first one, Jesus associates fasting with bereavement, the sorrow that we feel when we lose the company of a loved one. Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your dis-
Thoughtful, prayerful, mindful fasting obliterates the myth that I am in control of my destiny or that I am self-suﬃcient. This is why the church fathers may have disagreed on the details of fasting but they never backed down from the conviction that every Christian should join the church in the Lenten fast—not because it is a law or sacred tradition, not because it pleases God, but because it builds up the church and that is what pleases God. Everything we say about fasting is negotiable and contingent upon that ultimate goal. As my teacher and mentor Fr. Robert Taft used to growl, “The Lord does not care one whit about what kind of oil you put on your salad. But he will take you to task on whether you loved your neighbor.” 12 The Treasury / Spring 2016
ciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. And no one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” [Matthew 9:14-17]
From this analogy, the Armenian and other ancient churches concluded that fasting is incompatible with the Divine Liturgy because when we celebrate the Divine Liturgy, we eat at the Lord’s table, “the bridegroom is with us,” and we share in Holy Communion with Him. The oldest tradition of the Armenian Church is therefore never to fast on Sundays, or on any day when the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, including Saturdays when the Divine Liturgy is traditionally celebrated for the commemoration of the saints. The very same principle holds for Saturdays and Sundays of Great Lent, and so traditionally the Lenten fast is moderated, if not lifted entirely on those days. As we have seen, however, this original clarity became tarnished by the more stringent practice of some medieval Armenian monasteries, which upheld a strict fast even on Saturdays, Sundays and feast days, when the Badarak was celebrated, even if this is contrary to the unanimous practice of the early Armenian Church. This has resulted in confusion that lasts until today. Perhaps even more relevant for our times is another decree that Jesus makes concerning fasting, this time within his Sermon on the Mount, the veritable Constitution of Christian Life. There, at the epicenter of his Sermon, right after he teaches his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says this:
Even if elsewhere Jesus had compared fasting to mourning, his point was not that fasting is associated with sadness, per se, but with longing—an instinctive yearning for our Creator, that is coded into the fabric of every human being created in God’s image. In this passage, which is read every year in the Armenian Church on the day before Great Lent, Jesus makes it clear that fasting is an established and wholesome Christian institution. More than that, inasmuch as it leads to the strengthening of the Body of Christ, fasting should make us happy. It should fill us with hopeful, joyful expectation. “Anoint your head and wash your face,” in the language and imagery of Jesus’ times means to take a shower, get dressed in your nicest clothes and put on cologne or perfume. Prepare yourselves, in other words, for a celebration. It is a wedding, really, where we, together with all the members of Christ’s Body, the Church, eagerly compose ourselves to see the Lord. This is the reward of fasting. Don’t give it up!
Very Rev. Fr. Michael Daniel Findikyan, PhD, is Professor of Liturgical Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary.
“And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” [Matthew 6:16-18]
For further reading: Vartan Hatsuni, Meals and Feasts in Ancient Armenia [Ճաշեր եւ խնճոյք հին Հայաստանի մէջ]. Venice, 1912. For another reference to this remarkable book see “Bet You Didn’t Know…” in this issue. John Wilkinson, Egeria’s Travels. London: S.P.C.K., 1971. Abraham Terian, “Mandakuni’s ‘Encyclical’ on Fasting,” in Roberta R. Ervine, ed. Worship Traditions in Armenia and the Neighboring Christian East. An International Symposium in Honor of the 40th Anniversary of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary (Avant 1). New Rochelle and Crestwood, NY: St. Nersess Armenian Seminary and St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2006, pp. 187-196.
Words and The Way
ԳԱՂՋ = kaghch lukewarm By Rev. Fr. Ghevond Ajamian
e do not hear the word գաղջ/lukewarm very often in our daily lives, except when dealing with water or food – and usually then, it is referred to as “room temperature.” Most of the time գաղջ/lukewarm water is used when we cook or take medicine, but it is also a word that can be used to describe people. In the Book of Revelation, a letter is sent to the Church of Laodicea which condemns it for being գաղջ/ lukewarm: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” [Revelation 3:15-16] The community of Laodicea and its members were not physically գաղջ/lukewarm, but spiritually. When it came to believing in Christ and following His commandments, they were neither for nor against, but rather indiﬀerent, and thereby believing that they would be spared. Those that are գաղջ/lukewarm toward Christ are just as guilty as those that are actively against Christ. Sometimes we think that if we don’t hinder Christ and His Church, and thus are not actively against Him, then we will be considered Christians and saved by Christ. We who are գաղջ/lukewarm in our faith are usually called “passive” Christians.
14 The Treasury / Spring 2016
However, this is not what Christ wants from us. He does not want us to be “passive” Christians, but rather “active” ones. Being an “active” Christian does not mean we can believe in Christ and sit back for the ride. An “active” Christian is aflame with the fire of the Holy Spirit; vibrant and productive, always boiling with faith, hope and love. We as Christians must not be գաղջ/lukewarm in our Christian calling and faith, but steaming hot. Those around us should be able to see the steam (love of the Holy Spirit) emanating from us like a boiling pot of water. Those that see us should know that if they come in contact with us, like a hot cup of tea, they will be burned; but rather than leaving a blister or burn on their skin, their hearts will be kindled with the love and comfort of the Holy Spirit. Let us therefore go out into the world and not be գաղջ/lukewarm in our Christian calling and faith, but be hot and ablaze with the love of Christ and blessings of the Holy Spirit.
Rev. Fr. Ghevond Ajamian is the pastor of St. Sarkis Armenian Orthodox Church in Dallas, Texas.
Unity in Diversity in Christ by Ari Nalbandian
“Everyone strives to keep his individuality as apart as possible, wishes to secure the greatest possible fullness of life for himself; but meantime all his eﬀorts result not in attaining fullness of life…but complete solitude. All mankind in our age have split up into units; they all keep apart, each in his own groove; each one holds aloof…accustomed to rely upon himself alone and to cut himself oﬀ from the whole; he has trained himself not to believe in the help of others, in men and in humanity…Everywhere in these days men have, in their mockery, ceased to understand that the true security is to be found in social solidarity rather than in isolated individual eﬀort. But this terrible individualism must inevitably come to an end, and will suddenly understand how unnaturally they are separated from one another. For, you see, we are all responsible to all for all.” The Brothers Karamazov, p286
hese words were spoken by Fr. Zosima, the monastery elder in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Even though the book was published in 1880 in Russia, it very eloquently and accurately captures the rampant individualism that has a choke-hold on modern American society and thought. We are told that we are responsible for no one but ourselves, and that we are free to essentially do whatever we want as long as it doesn’t interfere with others’ ability to do what they want. How far has this gotten us? Again Fr. Zosima tells us, “Instead of gaining freedom, [we] have sunk into slavery, and…the cause of brotherly love and the union of humanity has fallen into dissension and isolation.”
I’m sure we are all familiar with the story of Cain, who murdered his brother Abel and snapped back at God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” [Genesis 4:9] We too ask ourselves, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And like Cain, we tell ourselves, “No.” Like Cain, at times we all feel like aimless wanderers, free-floating in a world that doesn’t care about us. As Ronald Rolheiser points out in his book, The Holy Longing, this is our disease: a constant “dis-ease,” suﬀering from a sort of spiritual insomnia, always tossing and turning, unable to find peace. The question is, does this state cause us to become isolated, competitive, and only concerned for ourselves, or does it drive us to look outside of ourselves to others for help, support, and relationship? The truth is, this emphasis on individualism is the opposite of the true intent and purpose we were created for. Being alienated from God and from each other does not show how strong and independent and capable we are. Instead, it is a symptom of our broken humanity: our constant rebellion against God, constantly insisting that we don’t need Him. If we look back at Genesis 1, God says, “Let us make man[kind] in our image, after our likeness.”[v26] We see that God did not create the individual, but humanity as a whole, which God intended to share a common existence. In fact, the first thing that God proclaims to be “not good” is found in Genesis 2: “It is not good for man to be alone.” Our existence is communal. We were created to be in relationship, and it is within a community that we find our fulfillment. But the true Christian community is not just a group of people that gets along and meets up once a week. It is not a social club or a support group, but the ChristBody, the Church. This is what we are called to take part in, and it is truly a way of life, or to put it in other words, a way to life. Today Christianity is considered to be one lifestyle choice among many. Some people like to go to the gym, some people hang out with their friends from work, and then there are those who like to go to church once in a while. Christians living centuries ago definitely would not have seen it that way. Living in a world where one could be persecuted and killed for being a Christian, they saw it as a choice between life and death itself: to belong to Christ was true existence and life, and to live outside of that was to slip into non-existence and death. In fact, some Christians today still live in that type of hostile environment! Although we are fortunate enough not to have to live through anything like that here in America, at the same time I think we have 16 The Treasury / Spring 2016
lost the sense of importance that belonging to the church community had for Christians who came before us. This is a favorite topic of St. Paul, who makes clear what being part of the church community means. The community is not just a bunch of friendly people who get together once a week. It is literally the Body of Christ. Think of your own body. You have diﬀerent types of cells that do diﬀerent things in order to make sure your body runs smoothly. Muscle cells relax and contract so you can move. Eye cells capture light so you can see. Stomach cells digest your food. Nerve cells send signals out from your brain, and so on. Your body is one unified whole, but at the same time it is also extremely diverse, and our bodies work so well because of this diversity of types and functions. The body of Christ, the church community, works the same way. Christ is the head, and we are the rest of the body. [Colossians 1:18] Each member is important and has a role to play. As St. Paul explains, “Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor…God has put the body together…so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” [1 Corinthians 12:22-26]
Our challenge is to look to Christ to find ourselves and realize our true identity and our true humanity in Him.
So how does one become a part of this Body of Christ? St. Paul explains that we are initiated through our Baptism: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body…and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” [1 Corinthians 12:13] It is our common Baptism that unites us, and the Eucharist (Holy Communion) that sustains us. We read in The Acts of the Apostles and throughout St. Paul’s letters how important the Eucharist was for the early Christians, as they would gather every week to partake of Christ’s Body to remain united with God and with each other. Sharing in the Eucharist is actually the whole point of the Divine Liturgy! More than just a priest holding up a piece of bread with wine, Jesus becomes mysteriously yet miraculously present before us, and by eating Him, He literally becomes a part of us. Jesus Himself tells us very specifically, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” [John 6:56] All of this is beautifully illustrated in the hymn Kreesdos Ee Mech Mer Haydnetsav, which is sung during the Divine Liturgy during the Kiss of Peace shortly after the deacon presents the chalice to the celebrant priest. Christ has been revealed in our midst. He who is, God, is here seated. The voice of peace has resounded. Holy greeting has been enjoined. Here the Church has become one soul. This kiss is given for a bond of fullness. The enmity has been removed and love is spread over us all. Now ministers, raising your voice, give blessings with one accord to the consubstantial Godhead, to whom Seraphim give praises. When I hear these words being sung, it reminds me that the sharing of the common life in Christ is what makes us a part of the Church community: things such as attending Badarak, feast and fast days, the Eucharist, and public and private prayer. Orthodox priest Fr. Stephen Freeman summarizes it best: “The truth of our existence is revealed in our life within the Church. The Church is the restoration of humanity to the truth of its existence.” Even if we don’t realize it, our faith has life-changing power, and that power is manifested in how it unites us in ways nothing else can. No matter how diﬀerent we may think we are, Christ can find a way to bring us together. Our challenge is to look to Christ to find ourselves and realize our true identity and our true humanity in Him. “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” [Romans 12:4-5]
‘ It is our common Baptism that unites us, and the Holy Communion that sustains us. ’ Ari Nalbandian is a sub-deacon who serves at St. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church in Providence, RI and is currently completing his fourth year of medical school.
Keeping Lent by Linda Faltaous
very year, we are given the gift of Great Lent, our real chance to draw closer to God, to be at His feet, to oﬀer tears of repentance, and to receive His forgiveness and love. Still, it is with great diﬃculty that I am able to take this forty-day retreat amidst the goings, comings, and doings of everyday life. There are family members to love and care for, chores to be done, friends in need, doctor appointments, funerals, taxes, and now the election. How can I keep Lent first and foremost? I often begin by asking myself how a particular activity in my daily living is aligned with God, if it is Godpleasing, if it builds up His Church in any way, if it brings others to Christ, if it glorifies Him. Limiting those activities that don’t “sync” with Him (like superficial social media or frivolous TV watching), while making more meaningful and spiritual other daily activities (like family meals and hosting guests) can be a good place to start. Keeping my mind uncluttered throughout the day also helps, particularly by filling it with prayer, a lenten treasure. Establishing regular morning and evening prayer times helps me discipline my prayer, but I confess that there are many days which I fail to follow through. I find that keeping a prayer journal is helpful in limiting distractions since the mind, body, and soul are synchronized in speaking and writing to God. Psalms 13 and 51 are my favorite Psalms for Lent. The Lord’s Prayer is a complete prayer, and I can pray it throughout my hectic day, even at the doctor’s oﬃce. In the elevator, I can pray the short, powerful Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Protected time while driving provides additional opportunity to listen to God’s Word (on radio or CD), pray, and sing worship songs (God doesn’t mind my being oﬀ-tune). Our Church also gives us the Lenten Sunday Badaraks and evening services in which St. Nersess Shnorhali’s “In Faith I Confess” is prayed. This beautiful prayer is all-encompassing and petitions God for His mercy on all. Fasting is a church lenten treasure which I find very diﬃcult but spiritually rewarding. There are countless lenten (vegan) recipes online and many are very healthy! I often fail in strict adherence, but even limited participation in fasting can redirect our thoughts away from our physical desires and toward God. 18 The Treasury / Spring 2016
And fasting is not complete without recalling what our Lord said, that when I serve others, I am serving Him. There are food pantries to fill, visitations to the sick, neighbors in need, and alms that can be oﬀered to all sorts of charities.
During Lent, I often think of the sinful woman from Luke 7:36 and ask myself, “How can I, Lord, love You as this woman has?” Surely, she must have had great faith to travel under great duress to seek You. She must have had to put aside her needs and wants for years to purchase the costly oil to anoint Your head. She cried tears of repentance to wash Your feet. She suﬀered ridicule and scorn. And yet, here I am, Lord, holding this image in my heart, longing to be at Your feet, longing to hear Your words, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.”
Linda Faltaous is a long-standing Christian educator and an active member of St. Asdvadzadzin Armenian Church in Whitinsville, MA
Bet You Didn’t Know…
Medieval Armenian monks were jolly and chatty-especially at mealtime! V. Rev. Fr. Michael Daniel Findikyan
he silence is piercing. Hunched over long, wooden tables, black-robed old men with pallid, stony faces sip their gruel and crunch on dry bread shards. The words of sacred Scripture resonate in a distant monotone… In the popular imagination, I think this is how many people would picture dinnertime in a medieval monastery: an austere aﬀair fitting the mysterious lifestyle of a monk. Why should we believe the atmosphere in an Armenian monastery’s dining room should have been any diﬀerent? After all, doesn’t the familiar Armenian mealtime prayer begin, Jashagestsook khaghaghootyamp / Ճաշակեսցուք խաղաղութեամբ, “Let us eat this meal in peace,” that is, in silence? Yet according to the Mkhitarist scholar, Fr. Vartan Hatsuni, “the ancient Armenian tradition rejects silence.” In his remarkable book, Meals and Feasts in Ancient Armenia, Hatsuni cites numerous passages from early Armenian writings that describe Armenian monks sharing their one daily meal, “with cheerful rejoicing,” “with merriment,” and “exuberantly.” According to the famous fifth-century (or perhaps slightly later) historian and theologian Yeghishé, Armenian monks enjoyed their “food of gladness.” There were some monasteries where there was a custom of reading aloud from the Bible or the church fathers while the monks ate in silence. But this was an oddity of a few Armenian monasteries. In any case, silence was not simply for the sake of silence; it simply served to allow everyone to hear the readings. The Armenian Book of Hours (Ժամագիրք / Zhamakeerk)
contains a short Blessing of the Table where we read this instruction: “And if they are monks or hermits, one of the brothers shall sit in the highest place. And taking the divine Scriptures, he shall read. And all shall listen attentively to the readings, eating in absolute silence.” Hatsuni discovers that this instruction is a novelty not found in any Armenian manuscript. It is found for the first time in the 1662 edition of the Book of Hours printed in Amsterdam. Now we know that many early Armenian books that were printed in Amsterdam contained obviously western elements in their illustrations and even in their content. There can be no doubt that the virtually unknown custom of silent monastic meals crept into Armenia from the Roman Catholic Church in Europe, where the custom was typical and wellestablished. So for Armenian monks, silence is golden, but it has its place: in the library, in one’s cell, and perhaps in the church before the services begin. As for mealtime, it too is sacred. As the monks fueled their bodies with the “food of gladness,” they recalled that their daily bread and life itself are gifts from God, a cause for thanksgiving, celebration and loving, joyful camaraderie.
Fr. Vartan Hatsuni’s book, Meals and Feasts in Ancient Armenia (Ճաշեր եւ խնճոյք հին Հայաստանի մէջ) was published in 1912 by the Mkhitarist Monastery’s St. Ghazar Press in Venice. One precious copy of this fascinating but extremely rare book is housed in the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in New York.
Zartik! Wake Up! It’s Lent! by Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian
“Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.” –Rom 13:11 Lent is a very special season. God made all the other natural seasons for all animals and plants. But God made Lent just for people; for you and me. And unlike any other season of the year, which just happen whether we are here or there, Lent is a season which takes our participation to work. We can’t control whether we have a good winter or bad winter, but we can do something to control whether we have a good Lent or bad Lent. As with all things in the life of man, you get out of it what you put into it. If you prepare and apply yourself on the journey of Lent, through prayer, fasting, repentance and charity, you will reach your goal; spiritual peace, strength and conviction in Christ. But even before we talk about applying ourselves to the journey of Lent, we have a more fundamental problem. St. Paul says in this verse, “It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.” Before we embark on the journey of Lent, we have to wake up from our sleep! Wake up Paul says! Zartik, we Armenians say! Keep awake and pray, Jesus says! The truth is we all have a terribly short attention span when it comes to God. We easily fall asleep and forget who we are in the deepest spiritual sense. We are not just physical. We are also spiritual; each one of us. We are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, but He is also within us. So before we “do” the journey of Lent, we must know who is on the journey. As the saying goes, “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.” There is a wonderful old story about waking up to who we are and the treasure we hold within. A man had been teaching in an exclusive high school academy for over twenty years. Every year at Christmas time, the students would give presents to each of their teachers. It was a tradition. Thank you notes were not expected. Well, after only about three years, the man began to realize that most of the gifts would be the same. He could tell what the gift would be just from the size and shape of the box. That was particularly true for the gift that was most often repeated: ties. The teacher would thank the students who brought him those long thin boxes and just keep them in his closet unopened. When he felt like a new tie, he would just open a new box. One day the man 20 The Treasury / Spring 2016
opened a box to get a new tie. To his surprise, in the box he found an expensive antique pocket watch. He possessed that watch for years and did not even know it! “We own a vintage wine cellar, but we never drink from it,” said the medieval spiritual writer Master Eckhart. We Christians possess the most valuable treasure in the world. Jesus Christ wishes to be among us and journey with us in the blessed season of Lent—and beyond—but we must be game for the journey, good to go with him. All of the practices we embrace during Lent enhance the journey of spiritual self-discovery in Christ; let’s keep at them during Lent, and throughout the year! Join a long-term Bible study. Continue your Lenten fast every Wednesday and Friday to help you focus more on God. Commit to exercising and eating well. Up your commitment to your favorite charities. Walk with Christ during His last days through the pageantry and prayer of Holy Week. And let’s not forget to celebrate Christ’s glorious resurrection for 40 days after Holy Week, as fervently as we repented for the 40 days before. Winter and Summer come and go. You’re freezing and then you’re hot, then it repeats. Lent, if you take it seriously, doesn’t change the weather, it changes you. It doesn’t just change your clothes, it changes your heart and brings the Lord present into the World. May this and every Lent be for each of us a journey of discovery, the discovery of the Life of Christ, the antique watch in the box, the wine from the vintage cellar—and let us wake up from sleep, “for our salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone and the day is near,” now and always; Amen. Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian is the pastor of St. Hagop Armenian Orthodox Church in Pinellas Park, Florida.
Opposite page: This poem, written by Tenny C. Arlen, is taken from a collection of her soon-to-be published compositions. Tenny, at 25 years old, went to be with the Lord after a car accident that took her life suddenly, just months after being baptized into the Armenian Orthodox Church.
Արծաթէ Սանդուխը The Silver Ladder Համբերատար, ուշադիր, լռիկ. լուսինը։ Իր կլոր աչքը արծաթէ պարան կը ցաթէ գետին, լիճին, անտառին։ Լուսինը մութ գիշերուան մէջ կը յայտնաբերէ հանդարտ ճամբորդը, մեղմ ծփանքները, քնացող ծառերը։ Յաւիտենական պահապան մը։ Այս գիշեր, անօթի աչքերով կը վազեմ։ Կեանքը կորսուած է անբացատրելի հարցումներու մէջ, փայլուն լոյսերու մէջ, կերպընկալ դղեակներու մէջ։ Այս գիշեր, աչքերս վեր կը նային— երկու լուսիններ որ կը հանդիպին լուսինին— եւ կեանքը կ’աներեւութանայ անտեւականութիւնը կ’իյնայ եւ մնայունը կը փայլի։ Եթէ այս արծաթէ պարանները արծաթէ սանդուխի պէս կարենայի մագլցիլ, պատասխանները պիտի ունենայի՞։
Patient, attentive, taciturn; the moon. Its round eye sends forth silver rope to the ground, to the lake, to the forest. The moon in the dark night reveals the quiet traveler, the gentle ripples, the sleeping trees. An eternal guardian. Tonight, I run with hungry eyes. Life is lost in inexplicable questions, in bright lights, in plastic castles. Tonight my eyes look up— two moons that meet the moon— and life vanishes impermanence falls and the permanent shines. If I could climb these silver ropes like a silver staircase, Would I have the answers?
Fellowship of St. Voski P.O. Box 377 Sutton, MA 01590
Mural from the 13th century Armenian monastery Saghamosavank. The Treasury ÂŠ 2016