FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT
Third European Ecumenical Assembly
4 – 9 September 2007
Rev. Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan
“For you were once darkness, but know you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light, for the fruit of the light consists
in all goodness, righteousness and truth.”
Many of us here today will witness that in each person’s life there was a time of darkness, when they have rejected God, denied His existence, or simply have lived without the Lord and apart from His presence.
Many of us here today will also have their unique story of conversion, of their pilgrimage from darkness toward light, from death to life, and their meeting with Christ.
Two words which symbolize this third conference of the European Churches – “pilgrimage” and “light”, or perhaps, “pilgrimage toward light”, are among the most important components of spiritual life, which direct the faithful toward heavenly heights.
Following our Bible Study, the organizers of this testimony have entitled this session: “A Living Letter” personal witness. Therefore, I would like to witness about my personal conversion and these two realities of light and pilgrimage in my spiritual life from the mystery of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. I will present my personal testimony, lived through the grace of God – a living letter addressed to my neighbors:
There was a time when I was in darkness, in the frigid cold of a winter night, born in Armenia during the Soviet era, where many lived as though God did not even exist. However, my memory of that day is still vivid, as to the manner in which the light of God illuminated my soul and provided warmth. God spoke to me and enveloped His warm love around the newly free and independent Armenian land liberated from the chains of soviet atheism.
I remember as if it was today – a Saturday morning one summer, when I was still a twelve year-old child. I decided to join my brother athletes on a hike to the Monastery of Khor Virap.
After walking 40 kilometers under the heat of the summer sun, when we finally reached the monastery, night had fallen. We decided to spend the night inside the monastery. It is difficult for me to recall how I slept that night, however, at dawn when the rays of the sun began to slowly emanate in the sky, illuminating biblical Mount Ararat, the sounds of the church bells immediately caused me to stir. I heard the sound of the deacons of the monastery who began singing one of the most beloved medieval hymns of our Church – “Light of morning, Sun of Righteousness, Come forth and bring light into me...”
That morning was completely different than all other daybreaks for me, and will forever remain stamped on my soul. The rises and falls of the melody directed our paths toward the church, where we participated in the Divine Liturgy and communed with our Lord Jesus Christ. The “sun” of justice, with its life-granting rays, provided warmth to our souls and bestowed life to us. It opened the eyes of our souls, to see the risen Savior, Who was being sacrificed for us at the Holy Altar.
It was in this place, on the slopes of Mount Ararat, where according to tradition, Noah prepared a table of grateful sacrifice to the Lord following the great flood. It is also the location where the Illuminator of the Armenians, Saint Gregory, was imprisoned for 13 years. Following his release from this dungeon, he emerged and spread the light of Christ throughout Armenia and to all Armenians, preaching, teaching and baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
That morning, we also presented our first prayer and thanks at the base of Ararat, this time as survivors of the flood of atheism, and with the light from the eternal lamp of the Illuminator, our souls were warmed, returning to the bosom of our Father following a long period of being adrift.
At the end of the liturgy, I felt as though something small yet significant had changed within my soul. Following this first meeting between the Lord and me, I made an oath that all the days of my life hereafter, I should try and live in the presence of the Lord, in His light, and like the children of light.
I offer praise and thanks to God, that nearly fourteen years later, through his providential will, I have the opportunity to be present at this conference as a servant and priest of the Armenian Church, and I can witness to you about the warmest fatherly love God has shown my humble and unworthy self.
We have gathered together in Romania from various European countries to witness in unity to the world that the light of Christ dawns over the entire planet, and that whosoever believes in Him shall not be lost in darkness. We witness so that those who continue to remain in the darkness shall be able to find the path to light, since God “take[s] no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” Ezekiel 33:11
For we Christians living in the 21st century, St. Paul the Apostle speaks to us and exhorts us that “For you were once darkness, but know you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth.”
We Christians are children of light. We do not have the right to live or work in darkness. As children of light, our lives and works founded on the fruits of light – goodness, righteousness and truth - shall prove to the entire world that our Father’s house, the Church of Christ, is One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic, and that it is a house of unceasing prayer.