The Prelate’s Message, March 21
According to the Calendar of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Sixth Sunday of the Great Lenten Fast is known as the Sunday of the Coming or Advent Sunday, based upon two predictions about our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Angels while Jesus was ascending to Heaven.
The first prediction is comparatively short and is derived from the Acts of the Apostles where we read: “While He [Jesus] was going [up] and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, whom has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10-11).
The second prediction is more elaborate in detail and is told by Jesus Christ to His Disciples. First, He describes cosmological changes, followed by a statement that “people will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:25-28). Saint Matthew has enriched this description by Saint Luke, and has presented it in two chapters narrating the coming of Christ and the Judgment to be followed (see Mt 24:29-25:46). I would like to quote only subtle details described by Christ Himself: “The sign of the Son of God [which is to say, the Cross] will appear in heaven… He will send out His angel with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
There is no doubt that such a topic cannot be covered within the limits of a sermon, yet let us get enough food to nourish ourselves as we faithfully and anxiously look forward to embrace His Coming.
- In recent years, under the impression of fiction and the movie world of science, there is a tendency to identify Jesus as an alien or a superman. Very interestingly this description of Luke “that while He was going up” somehow reminds us of these characters who are used to rising up into the sky and flying away. With all these similarities, though, let us not confuse the Creator with the creature, the Maker with the object. In Isaiah 6:3, the Seraphs described with six wings clearly teach us that Celestials are empowered to move in any direction: vertically as well as horizontally. As souls, they can be embodied like us as messengers of God to bring us His Good News. Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Seraphs as well as of all human beings and the entire creation, revealed His Divinity concurrently with His perfect humanity through many signs and miracles. His lifegiving teachings and works are far beyond any comparison with an alien, super person or power for He is the Life and the Truth. To accredit or compare Him with imaginary heroes is to debase our fuller appreciation that Jesus Christ is the Lord of All.
- The heavenly Ascension of our Lord is the culmination of His earthly Incarnation. The crowning of His sacrificial love, which was revealed on the Cross, is His coming again to complete that ultimate sacred mission designed by the Creator and our heavenly Father. His coming again is not in silence nor in humility but in His awesome glory. His coming again is to bring the Good News not of Mercy but of Righteousness, which is described as the Day of Judgment.
The coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ followed by the Judgment is the gravity of His teaching and the hope of all the believers in Him. The fertile Beatitudes will blossom at that time when those who were persecuted on His account will rejoice, those who have mourned will be comforted, those who were pure in heart will see God (Mt 5:4, 5:8). On the other hand as much as God is merciful, He is also a righteous God, who will judge us according to our thoughts, words, and deeds. To deny this fact and as a good wish to present Him only as a loving God assumes that most of the Teaching of Jesus as well as His Apostles should be omitted. Hence the entrapment of a human-inspired Bible written to please men and not God. St. Paul warns us by saying, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10).
In the second coming scene there are two elements that I would like describe:
- The angels are heaven-sent messengers who heralded the Birth of Christ to the shepherds; verified the Resurrection to the myrrh-bearer women; foretold the coming of Jesus again to the Apostles on Mount Olive. The angels are active participants proclaiming the Second Coming of Christ as well as “gathering the elect.” The role of the angels in the Divine Economy is very particular. They are present from the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation as the agents of the Beneficent Lord. There is good news on a personal note: according to our Lord “the angels of the little ones see the face of the heavenly Father” (Mt 18.10). This means that each of us has a guardian angel, as Jacob recognized: “The angel who has delivered me from all harm” (Gen 48:16). Therefore, being protected by our guardian angel and walking with him or her, we may eventually enjoy the presence of God.
- The Cross, historically being a simple piece of wood, in the Teaching of our Lord has become the powerful symbol by which we are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. In the description of the Second Coming, a new dimension is added. The Holy Cross will appear in heaven as the victorious Sign sanctified with the sacred Blood of the unblemished Lamb. Thus, the reverence toward the Cross throughout the Church history is not superstition, but is hallowed by the Crucified One.
With these few thoughts for the benefit of our souls, and being instructed last week not to lose heart but to diligently pray, let us all be thankful to the Almighty Lord for the good example of all those who lived in the Past, for the blessings of this Present time which are showered upon us, and always looking with unshakable faith and hope to His Second Coming to enjoy all of the promises in Heavenly Kingdom and praise Him forever. Amen.