Today is a new beginning, the first day of Advent. Each year the Church guides us through various liturgical times, which correspondents to the five major feasts of the Armenian Church. The first Time is Christmas preceded by Advent. After Christmas time begins the Great Lenten, which leads to Paschal Time. The third time we begin with the Transfiguration in July, then the Assumption of Holy Mother-of-God in August and finally we resume the liturgical year with the time of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Each of these Liturgical Times has its meaning, and also its particular characteristics: there are the appropriate Scripture readings of the Divine Liturgy, which are related to certain themes. There are special days, celebrations, and traditions. There are even specific colors.
All this makes the Liturgical Times as a spiritual journey. The Church is our guide. The stopovers planned by the Church are all the major events in the history of the Salvation; from the creation, remembered during the Christmas Vigil, until the coming of the Lord in glory, highlighted on this First Sunday of Advent.
Why does the Church insist that we participate in this journey every year through the history of our salvation? Why do we always visit the same stopovers, participate in the same celebrations of the same Liturgical Times each year? Is it a mere custom, or is there a valid reason for that? We should remember that The Armenian Church is a wise spiritual mother, guided by the Holy Spirit, and liturgical times are an expression of this wisdom.
There are at least two important reasons that explain the liturgical calendar, and the more clearly we understand them, the more we can profit from it.
The first reason is that the Church wants us to be focused on the essential realities. Life is full of preoccupations, complex relationships, emergencies and suffering: in short, we always have a lot to do. It has always been like that, but the rhythm and the cacophony have not stopped increasing since the invention of mass media.
Absorbed by these daily emergencies of our over-occupied life very often we forget the urgency of what God wants to do for the Eternity. By taking us on a journey every year through the Liturgical Times, the Church wants us to be detached from all these activities in which the world leads us and which divert us from the essential, from the eternal realities.
The second reason for the existence of the Liturgical Times is, that these particular Times are there to help us grow in faith. God characterized the seasons of the created world by conditions of light, temperature, and humidity that allow plants and animals to grow, flourish and bear fruit and reproduce. We can, for example, determine the age of a tree by counting rings on a trunk cross-section. Each ring represents a year, that is, a succession of ordered seasons. That's the way the Lord organized creation.
In the same way, He organized the supernatural world, the spiritual life. At every liturgical time, when we turn our gaze to the various truths of our Christian faith and the events of the life of Christ, we receive on time the food, the proper and balanced light. Liturgical Times allow us to grow spiritually in a healthy way, avoiding the sedentary, immobility, which is harmful to our spiritual as well as physical health.
As we move forward in life, the divine truths never change, but we change. Every time we revisit them, we discover new aspects. For example, when a child celebrates Christmas is one thing, but when an adult who has become a dad or mom contemplates God as a little child, it is something else. It is the same mystery of the Love of God, but seen and appreciated with another look.
God always has something new to tell us, and He speaks to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. Each event in the life of Christ, celebrated during Liturgical Times, is a source of wisdom, and each time we return to this source, we are quenched, refreshed and strengthened; And this is how we grow in faith.
God alone knows how he will go about allowing us to grow during this Advent Time. For us, the best way to discover God’s gifts all around us is to cooperate with him, to have an open heart to receive Christ—God’s greatest gift of all!
Advent means “coming”—the coming of Christ. In Armenian, it is called Hisnag from the word for “fifty. ” Our Church fathers established this 50-day period during which we prepare to celebrate the Nativity and Theophany of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Advent is an invitation to a Journey, to rededicate ourselves to Christ through our actions, thoughts, and prayers. Something must change in our priorities and in our way of thinking for the next 50 days.
At the first stopover of the journey, at the Christmas Jesus will come to us, to enter our life, exactly as he entered the world at the first Christmas. What is the place we are going to give Him and what is the gift that we are going to offer Him?