Thursday – Worked at the Ascencia homeless shelter. In the process of food distribution, thought about the place of responsibility. Sixteen kids lived in the shelter, seven of them from one family. Where’s the conversation about birth control and the need for personal responsibility?
As I walk out, I’m confronted by an ex-heroin addict. He tells me he’s cured by Jesus. In the same town, Glendale, on TV, the Church, clergy and Christ are being degraded and humiliated. People listen and applaud. People listen and support.
Meanwhile, a priest, his church and the love in the heart of the congregation has not asked any questions, only fed the hungry based on Christ’s message to help and have compassion.
Friday – I’m dealing all day with a woman victimized by her husband in an overt case of domestic abuse. We’re careful not to call it “violence” because she has not been beaten, but she has endured the wounds of words and neglect on her psyche and soul.
We reach out with wings. It’s “Datev” Outreach. A couple of us offer help and support. All of sudden she’s been given the greatest of all gifts, she has hope. She believes that things can get better. Her brows ease up and a smile appears on her face.
At what point do the husbands stop beating their wives? When do we identify problems of anger, lust, addictions and address the issues before those issues destroy lives? Where and when does the true “manliness” conversation begin to the responsibility to love?
And all the while, it’s a small group of the Church. It is the Body of Christ that is in motion.
Saturday – Funeral service. She’s lived for 89 years, married for 66 of those years. This woman radiated beauty. She was in church every Sunday until her dying day. She brought her children up in the Church. Some of the grandkids don’t speak Armenian, but no one would dare to question their ethnicity. They are Armenian all the way through – mind and soul without a question, without a doubt.
We’re a long way from Glendale: Fifty miles to the South, light years in mentality. This woman raised her family in the Armenian Church. There was no compromise when it came to the Armenian Church. It was the place where she lived. The same Armenian Church that today is passed up for the soccer field and the Armenian clubs on Sunday mornings.
Sunday – Divine Liturgy. We’re in another parish. It’s a brand new building. The priest’s voice is beautiful. Is there more to say? Some 20, maybe 30, people show up for worship. What do they get from the service? What is redeeming about it? It’s very difficult to sit through one of these. Here’s the question – why would anyone want to sit through a terrible opera?
We have a good thing in Glendale. It’s taken us several years to get it to that point. It’s a different understanding of spirituality at our church. It’s a process. It’s singing. It’s participating. But what do we find on the outside? Is this a unique reality? Or are we just seeing a smaller version of the norm throughout the Armenian Church world?
It’s depressing. It makes us depressed. We’ve done everything to make the Church accessible. It’s not being accessed and in other parishes, even that little access is denied. When do we reach critical mass to effectuate change?
We talk about the Church as the “Body of Christ.” Where else do you find or see this understanding of the Sacred Institution, the House of God?
I get it. I’m on another page. That’s why the need for Armodoxy. The Church if not there. It’s traditions and liturgy are beautiful. They speak to the angels. But to us mortals? The connection is lost. So before it’s too late we have to make sure we are there. The need for relevancy is ever more accented this day.
Before going to sleep that night I read a sorry story of ANOTHER loss. How many of these will it take before we say enough? Here we find a young woman who is unable to connect with her Church. She’s in a stand-off and rather than fight and expelling the people who don’t belong there, she jumps ship and finds expression elsewhere. How many more of these will it take?
I go to sleep, but I can’t. It’s a toss and turn night until a dot wakes me to consciousness.
Monday – We have a meeting to organize our work. It requires putting the pure entity into a box. The box gives it structure and also boundaries. That’s OK for an organization, a club or a fraternity, even for a hospital. What about the Body of Christ? Can that be put into a box? We can’t. You see, I just got word that another 130 people were killed in Darfur and the Genocide continues. It’s been the enough moment too long. While the Armenians are going to commemorate 100 years of Genocide, the evil continues. There’s only one answer to evil. I know it. We have it.
The box is there. It’s the structure that gives form. It’s the structure that fools us into believing the building is the church. It makes us lose sight of the mission that defines the Church. The box is the structure that gives the awards and accolades to people, while ignoring those who give a hand and those who need a hand. The box makes us believe that the Institution is corrupt, and even prevents us from supporting the sacredness of Church, i.e., the Body and its Mission. Yes, support is withheld in the guise of thoughtful giving.
And so… when someone criticizes the Church and shies away from using the name of Jesus Christ, I have to think it’s due to a fundamental misunderstanding of terms and function. But I also feel it is due to our betrayal of the fundamental foundation of our Faith.
I’m done. It will not be a stand-off this time.
The name of Love is Jesus. Crush my cold and stony heart with your love. -St. Neress Shnorhali