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  • Writer's pictureBishop Mesrop Parsamyan

Labor Day

I recall a vivid childhood memory where my parents and I would walk to Republic Square in Yerevan, flags in hand, to participate in Labor Day festivities. Celebrated on May 1 in Armenia, the event was awash in the praises of work; the hammer and sickle were everywhere, and the Soviet film studios frequently depicted the industrious man and woman on screen. "Praises to Labor!" was the chant on every street corner.

Indeed, work is indispensable. It is how we acquire life's necessities—food, clothing, shelter, education, etc. But the astonishing fact is that an isolated truth can become a distraction that jeopardizes entire generations. Initially a means to various ends, work can become an end in itself and be erroneously glorified.

I am from Yerevan, from its First District, traditionally a working-class area. During the Soviet era, the district was industrialized with numerous factories. Even the local subway stop was named "Factories." In keeping with this theme, a statue of a factory worker stood in the district—a grim figure whose dark gaze was the stuff of childhood nightmares. Work had become a necessity and an idol, a religion unto itself.

Fast forward to today, and the landscape of the First District has dramatically changed. The statue of the worker has disintegrated, replaced by shopping malls and endless markets. Consumerism has toppled the idol of work. Instead of glorifying labor and workers, we extol shopping and market relations—a shift that might be even more perilous. When we neglect to engage our hearts and minds in God's work, substituting faith with material pursuits, labor, and consumerism supplant true worship.

Jesus Christ, our Lord, exhortes us to not solely labor for perishable goods but to exert ourselves in gaining the things that hold eternal value: "Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” (John 6:27). This eternal sustenance is gifted to us by our Lord through the sacrament of His body and blood—a promise of our union with God, not just in this life but also in the life to come.

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