“The eyes of the Armenians speak long before the lips move and long after they cease to.”
– Arshile Gorky (Vostanik Manoug Adoian, 1904-48)
What do your eyes say? What language does your life speak? In the world of visual art, Gorky was the masterful painter of Armenian ancestry who created a language on canvas that served to bridge European Surrealism and American Abstract Expressionism.
Have you ever experienced a time and place where you did not know the language? Were you able to bridge the disconnect? Subject to translation, your eyes reflect more than you realize and the language your actions speak have the capability to build bridges.
THE GOOD NEWS
Centuries ago, our spiritual ancestors were compelled to translate the language of the Good News of the Holy Gospel. Beyond a message of words, the essence of the Gospel is to communicate the benevolence of God in the person and presence of Jesus Christ the Word.
From The Father of Light: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” – Saint John, Chapter One
Our God and our Lord has appeared to us. Full of grace, this eternal truth is perpetually proclaimed in the liturgical hymns and prayers of the Armenian Church.
GOD IS WITH US. «զի Աստուած ընդ մեզ է»:
The presence of Jesus – God’s Word – is, was, and always will be with the afflicted, the downtrodden, and the meek; true to His name, Emmanuel is with us all. As heirs of this Good News of Peace, we are gifted beneficiaries called personally by name to be attuned to the unfailing promise of His ever-loving presence and to reflect God’s goodness, mercy, and peace among all.
THE PRINCE OF PEACE
Our Lord’s princely presence is magnificently experienced each time we attentively gather to be renewed and transformed into the Body of Christ. As we celebrate from all and for all the holy gift of Soorp Badarak, we communicate with God and His people through collective expressions of thanksgiving and pious prayers for a personal reunion that reignites the baptismal promises empowering us to be bearers of His healing light in this world. Notably we look directly to Saint Mary – the Dawn of Peace – whose picture adorns every altar of the Armenian Church as a visible and reverent reminder of our ultimate model.
In today’s world of pain and suffering, how do we as an honored household of God bear the countenance of God’s light and “translate” our experienced reality of His powerful and protective presence? If we had no words to utter, how would anyone know we harbor the eternal presence of the quiet, resounding Word within our heart?
For the spiritual well-being of a nation and its neighbors, our ancestors embodied a holy responsibility to communicate the Wisdom of God and the healing presence of Christ. Strengthening an identity rooted in faith, Saint Sahag Bartev and Saint Mesrob Mashdots ushered in the Golden Age of the 5th century with the establishment of a unique alphabet of the Armenian language and the translations of biblical, historical, and literary texts noted for their beauty and accuracy. According to our ancient yet timeless church calendar, this week we remember the Holy Translators (Thursday, June 21st, 2018). More than mere historical recollections, our liturgical commemorations are invitational in the here and now with a relevant call to action. As we recall the lives of our Holy Translators, may their devotion serve to encourage us to further recognize, consider, and creatively “translate” the ever-present Word in our daily lives.
ENCOUNTER WITH THE WORD
Unequivocally, Jesus Christ preserves and strengthens us. “THIS is life…” the priest declares as the chalice of consecrated bread and wine is elevated for all communicants to witness. Prior to the blessed privilege and reception of Holy Communion, we melodically share in communicating our collective awareness that Christ is present among us in the ritualized Kiss of Peace as a visible sign of unity. The deacon’s bid instructs: “With awe and in faith, draw near and communicate in holiness…” while the faithful’s responsorial hymn rejoices: “Draw near to the Lord and receive the light. Alleluia.” In the Holy Gifts upon the consecrated altar, it is the Prince of Peace who offers and is offered as the bridge restoring us in harmony with the source of light and distributor of grace.
Week by week, nourished by Jesus Christ in Holy Communion, illumined by the Light of the indivisible Holy Trinity, comforted with the Psalms, strengthened for just deeds, we are emboldened day by day – as holy citizens with holy responsibilities – to be messengers of the quiet, resounding Word.
“Through the intercession of the holy Mother of God and all of God’s saints, we collectively pray for the continuous renewal of our baptismal sanctification of our souls, our minds, and our bodies so that we may serve God and others in holiness all the days of our lives.”
“All good gifts and all perfect bounties are from the Father of Light.”
– Divine Liturgy declaration
To reflect the radiant light of God’s goodness, there is a diversity of gifts from the same spirit with different kinds of service “for the common good.” [I Corinthians – Chapter 12]
Consider how you are expressly gifted to “translate” the Good News in today’s age. As faith-filled representatives of the Prince of Peace, we are each uniquely equipped to serve as “translators” of a profound compassion to the most vulnerable among us. In the most seemingly simple ways – even without a murmur – a sincere smile, a glance of acknowledgment, or a gesture of support by quietly standing next to someone facing a challenge can convey much more grace than words.
THE QUIET, RESOUNDING WORD
In a time of increasing isolation, a greater awareness and experience of the eternal presence of the Prince of Peace is vital. Instead of contributing to a malady of despair, we are called to be modern-day “translators” bridging a spirit of compassion with the true Word of hope.
Today more than ever, surrounded by an excess of “clanging cymbals”, we may heed the centuries-old counsel from Tatoul to Thomas: “Speak little; use your deeds as a sermon.” (5th century)
In stewardship of our baptismal calling, the quiet, resounding Word speaks through us each time we offer a listening ear, share tears of unity with someone’s sorrow or joy, stand with the vulnerable and oppressed, reach out to a neighbor, make strides toward restorative justice, uplift wounded hearts by visits with the sick, grieved, and imprisoned, clothe those in need, feed those who are hungry, or exhibit temperate and modest behavior marked by integrity.
DIGNITY and BENEVOLENCE FOR ALL
At all times in all places, may our eyes be a reflection of the Word’s eternal light speaking the language of DIGNITY, and may our humble actions build bridges with the quiet yet resounding language of BENEVOLENCE for the Glory of God and for the betterment of all.