Pastor's Message for the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God
“God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!””
These meaningful words of the Apostle Paul resound today in this holy church on the glorious feast day of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God Asdvadzadzin Mariam.
“Abba! Daddy! Hayrig!” Those of us who have had the honor of raising children can attest to the fact that there is no sweeter sound than hearing our small child, in his/her diminutive manner and tiny voice addressing us in such a familiar way as “Mommy” or “Daddy.”
It gives both parent and child a distinct sense of belonging. “This is my daddy.” “This is my baby.” Followed, of course, by the strong feeling of connection that the children feel with their parents, and they with the children.
So what does Paul mean when he says, “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying “Abba! Father!”?” Let’s take a look at this line in the context of today’s scripture reading from the letter to the Galatians:
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:4-6)
What he is saying is that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, sent at an appointed time and born from the Blessed Mother in order to do two things: 1) to save us from sin and condemnation, and 2) to bring us into the family of God the Father as his adopted children.
God in heaven is Father, Jesus Christ (who is also God) is Son, and through baptism and a life of faith lived in him, we become sons of God along with him. The same spirit with which Jesus the Son reveals God as Father is given to us so that we can confess him as “Father” as well.
It’s amazing to think that our Lord in his teachings could have literally told us any name to name God, but the name he used was “Father!”
So, through his grace, we receive adoption as sons, or children, and as his followers we now have the same boldness to address the Creator of the Universe simply as Father.
And not just “Father” in the formal sense. Paul’s use of the term “Abba” shows us the same kind of familiarity and kindred relationship that we talked about earlier… one where we can go to our Father and address him with intimacy, like little children.
Since, as your priest, I am addressed formally very often, with everyone calling me “Der Hayr” or addressing me in writing as “Reverend Father,” I get a feeling of joy in my heart when little Mariam bursts into my room in the morning and exclaims, “Hi, Baba!” before waddling over for her morning hug and kiss from her daddy.
I like to imagine that this is how God feels when we come to him in prayer and cry out “Abba! Father!” to him as well.
Now, today is a day when we contemplate the relationship that Jesus has not only with his Father, but also with his mother. Similarly, because we are adopted into Christ’s family, the Holy Mother Mary becomes like a mother to us.
Just as the Holy Mother gave birth to the Son of God, through the holy baptismal font, the Church constantly gives birth to new children of God.
The Holy Church is really our spiritual mother, and our Lord’s mother Mary is seen by the Church as an archetype or model for the Church: reverent, faithful, caring and pure in heart. These are all the things that we as the people of God – his Church – are called to be in our spiritual lives as well.
Just a few weeks ago, I had come across a very interesting quote by Dr. John Boojamra, Director of the Religious Education Program at my alma mater, St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York.
Writing about the role of Christian education in the lives of your young children, he says, “All we can do is educate our children into the church. We cannot educate them into faith, because that comes as an act of the will and an act of God's grace. There is no way an educational process can give the gift of faith. All we can do is prepare people to receive it, and that happens in the Church and in the home."
What he means by this is adoption as God’s children by grace has to come through faith, and this faith comes directly from God, nurtured by our own personal interaction with him. No amount of Sunday School alone, learning about the scriptures, sacraments and saints can teach a person “faith,” although they certainly can help to inspire it and, as he said, prepare an individual to receive it.
But ultimately a person receives the gift of faith directly from God with a relationship to him as his child. This means that learning about God and spiritual things with some kind of detached scholasticism is not going to cut it in forming a healthy parent-child relationship with God, whether that be true of ourselves of our children’s generation. Only through actual, genuine faith can a person truly join the “family of God.”
Last Sunday at the St. Stephen’s church picnic in Watertown, I bumped in to my brother in Christ, Rev. Janely Pierre, pastor of the Ararat Armenian Congregational Church in Salem. We got around to talking and the subject turned to some of the challenges we have as pastors leading the flock of Christ in today’s modern age.
I mentioned the above quote to him, to which he listened earnestly. He nodded his head and replied, “God does not have any grandchildren.”
Although I had never heard this expression before, it immediately resonated with me. I did some searching on the internet and, it turns out, “God does not have any grandchildren,” is a fairly well-known expression, used to remind people that unless we ourselves, individually and personally, are children of God our heavenly Father, then we have no relationship with him at all.
“My mother used to take me to church by the hand every Sunday morning when we lived in the old country.” “My grandfather was the original godfather of such-and-such church and served for many years.” “My grandmother used to pray every night before bed… she was a very faithful person.” Sound familiar? These are some of the many stories that I’ve heard from various people over the years.
These are all wonderful things, but your grandmother’s faith is not your faith; your parents’ church doesn’t mean anything unless it’s your church! Their relationship with God is not your relationship with God. God is calling you to be his child in faith, not his grandchild with some other person or persons between you. God has to be your Father, not your grandfather’s father. God does not have grandchildren.
So, dearly beloved, we have a very important question to ask ourselves today on this blessed feast day: is the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the spirit of his sonship, in our hearts so that we too cry out to God as Abba! Hayrig! Father? Are we remaining in communion with him through prayer, worship and a life of holiness? Or are we simply riding comfortably on the shirt tails of others, or just “blending in” the background of our church community?
Let’s make no mistake about it, our Father God today wants to call each and every one of you his “son” or “daughter.” He wants to have that kind of relationship with you, but it has to be directly through him… it can’t be through anyone – or anything – else.
There’s never a better time than now to start praying to him. Thank him for adopting you as his son… for giving you the spirit of being his child, by which you can go to him intimately and find comfort in his familiar presence.
Invite him into your life so that he can strengthen you, forgive your sins, help you overcome your shortcomings and set you as part of his family, as an heir to his heavenly Kingdom and eternal life in him.
Beloved brothers and sisters, on the occasion of the glorious Assumption of the Holy Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, I would like to congratulate you all, praying that we would all continue to remain as beloved children of God our heavenly Father and the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church, our Mother.