Der Vasken’s Sermon on July 31, 2022

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

Yesterday, the Armenian Church celebrated the feast of a princess—Princess Santookht was her name. She was the daughter of Armenia’s 1st century pagan king, Sanadrook. This sweet princess converted to the Christian faith at a time when no one did such a thing and how this happened is a story that needs to be told.

After the Apostle Thaddeus left Jerusalem, he traveled to Edessa, a city our ancestors once called Urfa and he established Christianity there. From there he traveled to Armenia and lived in the province of Artaz near the palace of King Sanadrook and began to preach the gospel and heal the ill. According to history, because of Thaddeus many people so enthusiastically embraced Christianity that their influence was felt within the palace of the King.

Princess Santookht was one of those influenced and she converted and became one of Thaddeus’ staunchest students. She was fascinated by the stories he shared about the life and teachings and miracles of Jesus of Nazareth. He taught the young princess all about Jesus Christ and all that He had said and done in and around the Holy Land of Jerusalem. He told her about Jesus’ miracles. He told her about the power of faith, hope and love and how placing our trust in God changes our lives for the better.

Through St. Thaddeus, the princess chose to give up her way of life to follow the Son of God. She chose to give up her crown and her title that belonged to Armenia’s pagan kingdom and instead follow the Christian faith into an Eternal Kingdom.

Thaddeus encouraged the princess to reinvest her life with the promises of the Christian faith. It shouldn’t be surprising that King Sanadrook was furious with his daughter. She disobeyed him and probably caused him great embarrassment within his kingdom. So, he reacted immediately and had her put in prison to think over her decision. It is not how we would expect a father to react but that was his reaction and as she went to prison, she went with St. Thaddeus’ words ringing in her ears: “To remain faithful.”

She must have been quite an amazing young woman because it is also known that her faith inspired thirty-three of the prison guards to accept Christianity as their personal religion as well. Eventually, the princess was brought before the king, who tried to convince his daughter that she should return to her old beliefs and disregard her newfound faith. He placed before her—her crown—the symbol of royalty and a privilege life and his sword—the symbol of her execution should she continue following Christ. It was her moment of truth and even though Santookht knew it meant her martyrdom, she chose the sword remaining faithful to her Lord and was sentenced to death.
At the time of her martyrdom, St. Santookht was eighteen years old and this teenager is known as the first Christian martyr of Armenia. Every year during the summer months, her memory is celebrated. So, as we leave here today, let’s ask ourselves:

• As we enjoy the summer months, does faith hold a constant place in our hearts and minds?
• In our daily activities, do we devote enough time focused on where we want to spend eternity?

Yesterday was the feast of a princess and in her moment of truth, she chose the Crown of Heaven. May her faith inspire us.

Amen.

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