The Prelate’s Sermon, December 5, 2021
Yesterday, according to the Armenian Church calendar, we celebrated the feast of Saints Thaddeus and Bartholomew, the Holy Apostles and the first Illuminators and founding fathers of the Armenian Church.
There is no doubt that while the two Apostles were enthusiastic in fulfilling our Lord’s commission by spreading the Good News of the Mankind’s Salvation, their heart was full of an inner joy which destined them to preach to the people of the country that hosted Noah’s Ark, which by Divine Ordinance had been the device for the physical salvation of Creation during the Flood and is the prefigurative symbol of the Redemption of all Mankind.
The preaching and martyrdom of the two Apostles are recorded in the Armenian vitae sanctorum, “Vark Srpots.” I would like to share three thoughts on this occasion.
- The Apostles gradually understood the mission and the teaching of our Lord while they journeyed with Him during His three-year ministry, and after His Ascension and the imbuing with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they fully recognized the essence of their Master’s doctrine. They felt themselves closer to the Lord than ever. Everything which He taught them in parables was now so transparent to them that they needed no further explanations (Lk 8:9).
This blissful communion with their Master is such a source of solid conviction for the disciples of all ages of our Lord Jesus Christ that they can enjoy His presence regardless of time and space. His promise given to His Apostles that “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20), is as true yesterday as it is today and shall be tomorrow.
- The Apostles crossed deserts, cities, countries and seas joyfully, and preached with great zeal. Nothing could stop the enthusiasm of their love toward their Master, and the zeal to share the Good News was beyond all understanding. In the very words of the Apostle Paul, “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come… shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39). From the arrest in Gethsemane to the persecution in the public arenas, the martyrdom of Christian witnesses drenched the earth with blood to the blossoming of the Incarnate Lord’s promise that He would overcome all of the tribulations of this world (Jn 16:33).
This Divine mission commissioned by the Living Word of God and activated by the Holy Spirit was not the privilege of the Apostles only, but rather to all those who are born anew in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We are all entitled to be part of this sacred mission ordered by God, which does not denote missionary work abroad only, but even within our inner circle –family, friends, neighbors, etc. – where there is a hunger and a thirst which may only be satisfied through the proclamation of the Living Word. When a mission is fueled with joy and zeal, its success is guaranteed. All human obstacles disappear, for the Divine Light and the Grace of the Holy Spirit dispel the power of darkness.
- The Apostles carried their mission fearlessly. They did not yield to threats, neither to persecutions nor even unto death. They witnessed the power of committing the soul into the hands of God in the example of their Crucified Master who, before He breathed the last, said, “Father into Your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46). Hence joyfully they greeted their martyrdom as a blessing to be welcomed into the Kingdom of God.
As the carriers not only the name but also the sacred mission of our Savior Jesus Christ, we are all invited like the apostles and the disciples, without reservation or fear, to spread and to live out the Good News. We may pay a high price by being misunderstood, rebuked and even persecuted, but this is actually a positive sign that we are on the right path, as foretold by our Lord in the Beatitudes (Mt 5:10-12). Nevertheless, our commitment is not in vain, for the Apostle Paul clearly says, “Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Gal 1:10).
Upon celebrating the feast of our first Illuminators, whose light was kindled from the Light of the World (Jn 8:12), let us all, being enlightened with the Light, and revealed in the Cradle of Mankind by Saints Thaddeus and Bartholomew, share the Good News with those who are walking in darkness, enlighten them in the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn 14:16), and thankfully praise the All-Holy Trinity. Amen.