Der Vasken’s Sermon on August 13, 2023

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

“By the Intercession of the Holy Mother-of-God, O Lord, accept our prayers and save us.”

These are the opening words of the Divine Liturgy said every week in our church. This most sacred service that we gather for every Sunday begins by calling upon St. Mary to help bring our prayers to her son Jesus Christ as only she can. That sets the stage for who she is within the Christian faith. God chose her to bear His Son. We choose her to help us grow closer to His Son.

Today, the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption of St. Mary—the Mother of God. It is a feast celebrated every year to remind us of the importance of St. Mary’s life. It is a day of respect and honor and it is a day in which the Church focuses on the role St. Mary played in the life of her Son and His Apostles.

The Feast of the Assumption commemorates the burial of St. Mary. At her burial we learn even more how valued and loved she was by God, about who she was, about what role she played and what her priorities were in this world. St. Mary was the one who encouraged the Apostles and loved them as a mother. She was the voice of wisdom in their lives. She was the one who lifted them up when discouraged and supported them when the world wanted nothing to do with them. She was the one who reminded them of their path and purpose in life and kept them focused on all her son taught them which was to stay focused on Heaven and on those things that are eternal.

There is a story I want to share with you that fits beautifully with the message St. Mary spoke of in this world. The story takes place in more modern times and is about a young boy named Thomas. Young Thomas was partially deaf and one day, he was sent home from school early. He brought with him a note from his teacher to be given to his mother. The note suggested that young Tom’s parents take him out of school. The note said that the young boy was simply unable to learn. Understandably, his mother’s heart broke when she read the note but she gathered her emotions and turned to her young son and said, “My son, you aren’t unable to learn. I’ll teach you myself.” So she did and he went on to live a wonderful life.

Thomas died many years later in 1931. On the day of his funeral, the people of the United States paid a very special tribute to him by turning off their lights all across the country from New York to California for one minute. Young Thomas, who was sent home from school because his teacher believed he was unable to learn, invented the light bulb and changed the world forever. Thomas Edison’s mother believed in her son and helped him reach his potential in life. She instilled faith in her son and that faith changed the world forever. It’s a great story.

St. Mary knew that the Apostles were humble men who witnessed great things. She, also, knew that they were as human as everybody else and that they would need encouragement in their lives. So she helped them stay focused on the world beyond this one. In other words, she was their reminder of Heaven and that is what she can be for all of us as well.

St. Mary calls on us to live our lives in this world by looking upward to the Heavens. That is from where our answers will come. That is from where our encouragement will come. That is how we will be able to face all that life sends our way.

On this Feast of the Assumption, let’s ask ourselves:

How often do I look up to the Heavens for my answers?
Do I look up only after I have tried everything else?

Today is the feast of the burial of St. Mary.
May we all find some time every day to look up.
Something for all of us to consider.

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