THE SUNDAY MESSENGER
December 24, 2023
Fifth Sunday of Advent
A Very Merry Christmas to One and All
Before Others or Before God?
We go to Church, we’re involved, we fast during Great Lent. During Badarak we confess our sins, we bow down to the ground, we even beat our chests when we say “Վա՛յ ինձ, վայ ինձ, վայ ինձ”. Throughout our liturgical services we sing the prayer of the tax collector, “Lord, have mercy” (Der voghormya) over and over. In fact, it is his prayer that serves as the foundation of the refrain “Lord have mercy” that permeates our liturgical and personal prayer.
But before whom do we do these things? The Pharisee stood before other people around him, and comparing himself with them, he was able to pridefully read his spiritual resume. In contrast, the tax collector bowed down before a holy and righteous God, not before other people, and was therefore compelled to humbly utter the words, “Lord, have mercy” (Տէր ողորմեայ). When we do the same, we can’t help but to see the urgency of our situation and our humble dependence on God for the cure.
The point is not to criticize pious activity, customs, rituals, and righteous deeds. They are good and even essential. They are a response to God, acts of worship born from our faith. But without a heart of true repentance, one of humility, these things will only lead to judgment of others, pride, and arrogance. The downfall of the Pharisee is that his heart was in the wrong place. Instead of God, he used other people as his measure of spiritual success. The tax collector, on the other hand, like St. Gregory of Narek, contrasted his ailing and infirmed soul with the holiness of God.
In one of his sermons, Archbishop Norayr Bogharian† (1904-1996) from Jerusalem encourages us to examine our own sins rather than point out the sins of others:
Everyone must be his own judge…Let us examine ourselves well; let us turn on our ourselves – on our own souls – that magnifying glass through which we view the transgressions of others, and we will see the sooty footprints of Satan are revealed in our soul’s dark corners…Instead of the Pharisee’s pride, let us clothe ourselves in the tax collector’s humility. (trans. Roberta Ervine)
A story from one of the Desert Fathers, a saying from an early Christian monk helps us understand humility and how we should view ourselves in comparison to others:
A hermit was asked, ‘What is humility?’ He answered, ‘Humility is a great work, and a work of God. The way of humility is to undertake bodily labour, and believe yourself a sinner, and make yourself the servant of all.’ A brother said, ‘What does it mean, to be the servant of all?’ He answered, ‘To be the servant of all is not to look at the sins of others, always to look at your own sins, and to pray to God without ceasing.’ (trans. Benedicta Ward)
God sees our heart, so it’s a good idea to be as honest as possible with him when we pray. And when we are honest with who we really are in his sight, can we really attempt to impress him by reading off our accomplishments, bragging about how we are better than others? Or will we, like the tax collector, feebly bow before our Creator, our Great Physician, barely able to utter the words, “Der voghormya, Der voghormya, Der voghormya.”
TODAY’S BIBLE READINGS:
Hebrews 4:16-5:10 We can confidently approach God in prayer because Jesus understands our struggles and intercedes for us. Jesus’ suffering and obedience make Him uniquely qualified to be our High Priest. Through his sacrifice and intercession, we can receive mercy, grace, and help in times of need.
This passage offers comfort and encouragement to believers, reminding them that they are not alone in their struggles and that they have a powerful advocate in Jesus Christ.
Luke 18:9-14 These verses teach us several important lessons:
- The importance of humility: God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
- The danger of self-righteousness: Comparing ourselves to others and feeling superior can hinder our relationship with God.
- The power of repentance: God is merciful and forgiving to those who sincerely acknowledge their sin and seek his mercy.
Isaiah 40:18-31 In Isaiah the prophet delivers a powerful message of hope and encouragement to the people of Israel. Overall, this passage offers a message of comfort and assurance to those experiencing hardship or doubt. It encourages them to find strength and hope by placing their trust in the ever-present and powerful God.
REQUIEM SERVICES: Hokehankist today will be for:
Susan Okoorian-Moyer on the 40th day of her eternal request, requested in loving memory by her uncle Jacob Okoorian, Sr.
Okoorian Family Members who have entered rest request by Jacob Okoorian, Sr and family.
Nikolay Hovhannisyan, Emma and Bagdasar Arzumanyan requested in loving memory by Alla Arzumanyan.
Frank Quinn requested in loving memory by Mary Jamgochian.
Fellowship Today: There will be no coffee hour today or next Sunday. Please use this time to reflect on the true meaning of the season.
Prayer Request – We ask our faithful to continue to pray for Shoghig Terjimanian, the mother of Dn. Armen, who recently suffered a brain bleed at her home in Michigan. Please pray for her return to good health and strength for her family.
Men’s Club News: The latest Men’s Club drawings for the “200 Club” were completed on 11/12 & 12/3. Please visit the church website under “Men’s Club” for details on the lucky winners!
Renovations are Complete: The newly remodeled restrooms are available for use. Each one is now a “Single-Use”, Family-type Restroom and is Handicap accessible. This upgrade means anyone can use either restroom. There is a locking mechanism on each door. Other than just washing your hands, we request that you lock the door after you enter. The status of each restroom is visible on the exterior of the door, either “vacant” or “in use”. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact the church office.
Reminder – According to the Diocesan Bylaws, membership dues are to be paid no later than December 31st each year in order to be a member in “good standing” and to be eligible to vote at the annual assembly. Any monies received after that date will be applied to the new year. For any questions regarding your status, please call the church office.
Humanitarian Support for Artsakh Ongoing From The Knights And Daughters Of Vartan – As the Azeri government still cracks down on the Armenian people in the nation of Artsakh, the people are not giving up! Please consider making a donation to the Knights and Daughters of Vartan Call to Action Committee! Donations will go towards humanitarian aid. For further information please visit the Knights and Daughters of Vartan website @ https://kofv.org/a-call-to-action-from-kdv-for-artsakh/
Mail your donations to Knights of Vartan, Mr. Ronald Nazeley,Treasurer, 558 Kentwood Bluffs Drive, Los Angeles 90045.
Artsakh Support Desperately Needed – Since early this year, we have closely followed the news from and about Artsakh. We prayed often, deeply and fervently. We didn’t know what else to do. Our hearts broke when the unimaginable happened and Artsakh was lost to us. Now is our time to help the thousands of refugees who had to flee to mainland Armenia to seek a safe haven. They left their homes and most of their belongings forever. We are appealing to our faithful to give generously from your heart to help our sisters and brothers who have given their all.
Checks should be made to Holy Trinity Armenian Church, Memo: Artsakh, and brought or mailed to church. Online donations can be made by going to www.holytrinity-pa.org, go to donations, scroll down to Open Donation and enter Artsakh.
Pastor’s Weekly ZOOM Bible Study – Bible study will resume in January 2024. Even though we are not meeting together on ZOOM, please continue to enrich your knowledge by revisiting what we have already learned. Share what you have learned with family and friends.
The Kiss of Peace – After the gifts of the Eucharist are brought to the Altar Table, the deacon proclaims, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” The person giving the greetings says, Kristos ee mech mer Haydnetsav – Christ is revealed amongst us. The recipient would respond, Orhnial eh Haydnootiunun Kristosee – Blessed is the revelation of Christ.
Seeking Part-time Organists – the Choir of Holy Trinity continues to seek multiple talented musicians who would be seriously interested in playing the organ for the Sunday morning Divine Liturgy (Badarak) on a rotating schedule. Organ lessons will be provided to the interested candidates, along with one-on-one direction from a senior choir person. For further information, contact Karinne Andonian @ email@example.com.
A Christmas Prayer
Robert Louis Stevenson
help us to remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the songs of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning
make us happy to be Thy children,
and the Christmas evening bring us
to our beds with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake.
- Dec 25 – Christmas
- Jan 1 – New Years Day
- Jan 5 – Armenian Christmas Eve
- Jan 6 – Armenian Christmas
- Jan 7 – Water Blessing Service – following Badarak And Christmas Pageant