On Sunday, September 20, Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate, presided over the Divine Liturgy at St. Gregory Church in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts. Rev. Fr. Bedros Shetilian, Pastor, celebrated the Divine Liturgy. You can read the Prelate’s sermon below:
Today is the first Sunday following the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and, likewise, it is the Sunday that precedes the fasting-week in preparation for the upcoming Feast of the Holy Cross of Varak. Thus, we may call this Sunday a bridge between two Feasts of the Holy Cross. I would like to share my thoughts on the scriptural readings by bridging a common message which is intertwined in the readings of St. Paul and Isaiah the Prophet, and by establishing a wonderful pedestal by which we may better understand the mystery and power of the Holy Cross.
Saint Paul addresses the Corinthians by saying, “It is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends” (2 Cor 10:18). Our ego is the root of boasting as we strive to be regarded always as righteous, upright, and a super person, etc. Since God created us in His image and likeness, all these feelings may be justifiable, in a way, for the healthy growth of our self-esteem. However, as with every planted seed that usually has a side weed which grows, and which may have an impact on the plant itself, likewise our ego, this wonderful mark of our individuality, when it becomes self-centered, boasts and divinizes itself as the absolute power, deviates from its ultimate good goal of finding our fullness in God.
Now let us hear the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon; I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High!” (Is 14:12-14). Any reader of this passage, being familiar with the Scriptures, surely will identify the self-centered creature, the son of Dawn, as the fallen Lucifer.
A short review of what we have presented in our former reflections will remind us that God created everything good and endowed the celestial and rational beings with free will. One of the most stunning and amazing features of God’s infinite love is that He was ready to pay the unparalleled consequence, the price of His decision for Creation, knowing that freedom could lead to denial and rebellion. This quotation from Isaiah is the basic manual to understanding the source of all perils starting from the Creation to the Parousia, the Second Coming of Christ. The Good Lord bestowed upon us the Grace of holy freedom so that with Him and like Him we could always beautify this Creation as the eternal sanctuary. By producing good we could always be commended by our loving Father, share with Him all the glories as promised through His Incarnated Son, but alas! We have been paying the deplorable price of the temptation deviating from the ever-good matrix. The Old and New Testaments, as well as the entire course of our History and even our contemporary daily life, step by step, remind us, on the one hand, of the terrible price of divinization in each and every aspect of our existence: the Self, the Race, the Ideology, the Philosophy, the Politics, the Money, etc. On the other hand, it assures us with the unimaginable reward and ratification manifested through the God-centered believers such as Noah, Abraham, the Holy Virgin Mary, St. Gregory the Illuminator, Mother Teresa, and others. Indeed, “It is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends.”
The motivation power to realize good—this godly ordinance—is the Holy Cross, which symbolizes the Eternal Love Crucified for the world. As we acknowledge that every day, whether it is cloudy or shiny, we are constantly reenergized by the sun. Likewise when we live each and every beating of our hearts with the eternal Energizer our Heavenly Father, manifested in the Incarnated Son and working though the Holy Spirit, then we will enjoy the echoing, the actualization and the benefits of the Living Word, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’?” (Jn 10:34, Ps 82:6).
Having this most precious promise, today when the Prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Paul greet each other and caution us against the cardinal sin of pride, boasting, and self-centeredness, and instead lead us to rely on God, the source of all good, let us live every dawn and sunset of our life with the Life Giver and praise Him and be worthy to be commended by Him. Amen.