The Prelate’s Message, April 11
The Sunday following Easter is known in the Armenian Church Calendar as New Sunday, proclaiming the message of renewal in the spirit of the Holy Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel reading is from Saint John, and we read “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him…and the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son…” (Jn 1:1-18).
This passage is one of the most powerful texts in the Scriptures as theology, poetry, and melody. It indeed brings to us the fresh air of new creation and understanding of life, energizing us in our sacred journey from life to Life as immortals.
I would like to focus on the following four points:
- A frequently asked question is: Why we need four Gospels? Is one not enough? Here, even within this passage, we find the response. Each and every Evangelist has a unique approach and interpretation of the dawn of the Sun of Righteousness. Saint Mark starts his Gospel with the proclamation that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and a call to repentance and belief in Him. Saint Matthew starts with the genealogy and the birth of Jesus the Messiah. Saint Luke starts with the conceptions of Elizabeth and Mary, followed respectively by the birth of John the Baptist and the nativity of Jesus. Saint John, whose symbol is the eagle, as a rational eagle soars not only into the heights, but transcending time and space, reaches the Origin of all origins. With their introductory passages, all four evangelists bring to us the richness of different human perspectives regarding the beauty and the variety of the lights emanating from the crystal prism, which is Jesus Christ.
- Jesus Christ is described as the “Word”, which should not be limited within the understanding of grammar as a “unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation that functions as a principal carrier of meaning.” The original language of the New Testament was Greek, and the word “Logos” has a deep connection with “wisdom.” Wisdom teaches us that this complex universe did not come into existence by accident, but rather that it mirrors Divine Wisdom, “the uncaused Cause, the Cause of all causes,” as Aristotle, the Greek Philosopher has stated. Moreover, the incarnate Wisdom, Jesus Christ, teaches us that Love is the essence of that Divine Wisdom; hence, humanity, as rational beings, consciously responds to the Creator’s Love in action.
- In a condensed message, Saint John presents not only the Ancient One without beginning (Dan 7:9), but also the Son of Man, Who is perfect God, and in time became perfect man. When Saint Philip asked Jesus to show us the Father, Jesus answered, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” (Jn 14:8-10). The marvelous description that the Word became body is the most positive statement that the Scriptures and hence the Church believes that the body, as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), is sacred, and as a sanctuary, should be honored respectfully, for on the Day of Resurrection “Jesus Christ will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:20-21).
- Without plunging into a discussion about the confusions of modern sects, it is advisable that our faithful be aware that when Jehovah Witnesses knock on their doors to try to convert them to their sectarian belief, their stealth weapon is to convince us that they preach the “same” Bible that we use. Within the context of this sermon, I would like to quote the one glaring difference that is very appropriate and crucial to our understanding. The Jehovah Witnesses’ Bible reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was a God” [Italics added]. Such a change to the original meaning leads to pantheism and does not reflect at all what Jesus proclaims: “I and the Father are One” (Jn 10:30). This kind of misinterpretation is not new. Thanks to Saint Paul, who had shared his experiences with the faithful of all generations by saying, “Even if we or an angel from Heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse” (Gal 1:8).
The reason why during every Badarak we recite the Creed is to solidify our confession that, “We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of God the Father, only begotten, that is of the substance of the Father. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, Begotten and not made. Himself of the same nature of the Father by whom all things came into being in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.” The Oneness of the nature of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is not negotiable by Christ, the Scriptures or the Church Fathers. Therefore, let it be also by us too, and let us not be misled or deceived by others as our Lord Jesus Christ warned us by saying, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Mt 7:15).
Referring back to point (b) that describes Jesus, the Word/Logos, the Wisdom, I would like to conclude this reflection with the 11th stanza of Catholicos Nerses Shnorhali’s “In Faith I Confess” prayer and say, “Jesus, Wisdom of the Father, grant me wisdom, that I may, at all times, think, speak and do before you that which is good in your sight. And save me from evil thoughts, words and deeds. Have mercy upon your creatures, and upon me, great sinner that I am”, and humbly praise the All-Holy Trinity. Amen.