Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan
Justice and Hope: Memorial Day
On Memorial Day, which occurs every year on the last Monday in May, we remember those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces, all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms that we enjoy.
May is a heroic month for Armenians too. Thanks to the ultimate sacrifice of our military men and women, our right to freely practice Christianity was assured at the Battle of Avarayr on May 26, 451; the enemy was destroyed at the Battle of Sardarabad and the First Armenian Republic was established on May 28, 1918; and the Independence of the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh were sealed by the Liberation of Shushi on May 9, 1992.
Indeed, the memory of our fallen soldiers is dear to us. We owe them, and all those who served with them, far more than we will ever realize. And that is why we offer prayers for their souls and also ask their intercession: prayers, which originate in the supreme sacrifice of Christ on the Cross of salvation but also in the bright morning dawn of Easter. For the life of our soldiers, like that of every Christian, "is not destroyed, it is transformed" and became eternal in the glory of the Risen Christ.
Those who died on the battlefields are the honor of our country. Their shedding of blood must remind us that peace is the most precious good of humanity and that our commitment to its defense must be absolute.
The Gospels tell us that Jesus came to bring peace to the world. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives" – says Jesus and then adds, "Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." (John 14:27)
The Peace that Jesus came to bring on earth is not the absence of war. That is the peace, which the world often understands. No, it's much more. The Peace that Jesus brought is the peace and presence of Holy Spirit in the hearts of all and everyone, the possibility of seeing in the other the one who brings me the peace of God.
Of course, we must be realistic. Laboring for peace in the world requires armed forces, not to wage war but to restore and defend peace.
A soldier fights against death to not be dominated by it. But the battle is not won in advance because death uses fear to impose itself. It also uses the spirit of vengeance. And yet, in the hearts of our heroes, death didn’t win. It is profoundly false the word attributed to Stalin: "It is only death that wins.” The Book of Wisdom tells us the opposite, and it is the truth: "God did not make death… and the dominion of Hades is not on earth. For righteousness is immortal.” (Wisdom 1:13-15)
Indeed, we have two weapons in hand to fight against death.
The first is the Justice. A soldier can be killed, but if he fights righteously and dies for justice, his death breaks the power of the death. And here we are talking about sacrifice and immortality for "righteousness is immortal."
And the second is the Hope. "God did not make death, " but He has prepared a glorious life for those who have died in faith. Hope does not make us believe in better days here, on earth. Of course, God invites us to work for happiness on earth, but He also prepares for us a kingdom that is everlasting, a wonderful place of eternal bliss.
Hope makes us embrace the eternal life after death. Jesus Christ died for that building a bridge that allows us not to avoid death but to cross it and enter into the eternity of our Heavenly Father. And He died before our eyes to teach us this paramount truth.
Honor and glory to our departed soldiers who remain just in righteousness and strong in hope, who died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar (cf. Hebrews 11:13).