“O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord: ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you will live! I will lay muscles on you, and will cause flesh to grow on you, and cover you with skin, and put breath into you. You will live; and then you will know that I am the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 37:3-6)
On the western wall of St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, soaring forty feet high, a stained glass window depicts an awe-inspiring scene from the Bible. The image itself comes from the dramatic vision in the book of Ezekiel, known as “The Valley of Dry Bones.”
But to the late artist Bogdan Grom who designed the cathedral window—and to those who first viewed it fifty years ago, on the cathedral’s consecration day—that vision encapsulated the story of the Armenian people, especially in the wake of the 1915 Genocide. It is the story of a nation seemingly written out of history—reduced to bones in arid, desolate places like the desert of Der Zor—but who were somehow brought back to life.
Who else but almighty God could have effected such a miracle? Yet the miracle of Armenian survival would never have occurred, were it not for another miracle: the miracle we celebrate every Easter.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is our greatest promise that God will not forsake His faithful children. It is our greatest assurance that the power of Evil will not triumph over Good; the greatest source of Hope in our lives.
Centuries before the birth of His Son, God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel, to convey this hope in the most dramatic terms. Remember the words of God as He led Ezekiel through the Valley of Dry Bones: “Son of man, can these bones live?”
“Only you know, Lord,” answered Ezekiel. And with that, God raised the dead bones, covering them in flesh and muscle, imbuing them with the breath of life. Ezekiel had been terrified by the vision of death and destruction. But he saw the power of God draw life out of death. And having witnessed the miracle of Life, he knew the miracle of Hope.
The same hope was revealed on the first Easter Sunday, when three women visited the tomb of Christ. They, too, were walking in a “valley of death”—a cemetery—and they approached the tomb with fear and despair, for they had witnessed the crucifixion of their Lord Jesus, and seen his dead body only days earlier.
What greeted them, however, was not a vision of death, but a promise of life: an empty tomb. The mere sight of it was enough to dispel all fear, and fill those women with hope: a hope that would change the world.
In time, our ancestors awakened to this hope. The Armenians embraced the hope of the Resurrection, first as individuals, and eventually as an entire nation. It became the vital nerve of our civilization, the secret of our survival. How often have our people walked through the valley of death? And how could we have endured, how could we have overcome adversity, were it not for this precious gift of hope?
Yet our hope in the Resurrection is not a relic of the past. It is not just a pleasing story to help us through the hard times. It is a fact of existence, which is brought home to us in unexpected ways, in the unlikeliest of places.
This is the message of hope from which we need to draw strength, as we face our own trials. We live in a time of great disruptions to patterns of life that have prevailed for centuries. Some of the changes we are witnessing are arguably for the good. But others fill us with uncertainty—even fear—for the world our children will inherit. Public opinion seems demoralized, apprehensive, and doubtful about the future.
These are causes for concern, prayer, and reflection. But not for despair. For we are not strangers to the valley of death. Through Christ, we have been there before. For our sake, he experienced its terrors, accepted its wounds—and emerged victorious. And so we must never lose faith as we walk through our own trials.
For we have witnessed the miracle of Life—and we know the miracle of Hope.