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Finding St. Mary’s Joy in Our Own Lives

In his sermon on the Feast of the Assumption of the Holy Mother-of-God, Bishop Daniel Findikyan urged listeners to search for what brings true joy to life—even amid the restrictions of the ongoing pandemic crisis.

The Diocesan Primate offered his homily in English and Armenian during the Divine Liturgy at New York’s St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, which he celebrated on Sunday, August 16. In the sanctuary, worshippers wore masks and were seated in accordance with distancing protocols.

Bishop Daniel began his sermon by observing that the world was approaching “six months of assault by the deadly pandemic: a half year of being in and out of quarantine, during which we’ve had to adjust to a new and very strange life.”

“So much of our life has changed: our family life, our schools, and work, and church,” he said. He vividly compared the predicament to “being kidnapped from the familiar routines of life” people had formerly taken for granted.

But he went on to say that, in the same period, “many people have been surprised to find something of ‘newness’: something positive and unexpected” emerging from the circumstances.

“The many distractions of life have been taken away. And as a result we have been led to look inward: to look more deeply into our inner selves,” he said.

Bishop Daniel suggested one question that people may have examined from a fresh perspective, namely: “What makes one happy in life?” The Primate drew a distinction between simple “happiness”—which he defined as fleeting and contingent on external circumstances—and “joy,” which he called “a deep conviction that is lasting, and connected to our true identity.”

He noted that the pandemic has given people an opportunity to look beyond momentary distractions and amusements, to search out the “deep, lasting satisfaction” that “leads us to understand the meaning of our lives.”

“Fun is something that helps us to deal with our problems. Joy is something that drives us ahead with a purpose, and hope.”

To illustrate this kind of joy, Bishop Daniel described the Virgin Mary’s response to the angelic announcement that she had been chosen to give birth to God’s son, mankind’s savior. He quoted the great song of exultation that the Gospel ascribes to Mary: “My soul shall magnify the Lord, and my spirit shall rejoice in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-47).

A Paradigm for Every Human Being

Enlarging on the point, the Primate noted that “Mary was filled with joy, and she received that gift of joy by devoting herself fully to God.” Her devotion, he said, was embodied in Mary’s statement of assent to carry and give birth to the Savior: “Let it be according to God’s will.”

“She gave her heart to God,” Bishop Daniel added. “She gave her remaining days of life to God. She gave her spirit and her body to God. Mary is an example for each one of us, a paradigm for every human being. Her very being erupts in the joy of God.”

“God wants our lives to be filled with joy, every minute,” the Bishop declared. In the figure of Mary we see what that joy is like, and learn how to dedicate our lives in order to experience it.

He concluded his sermon with a series of questions for listeners to ponder.

“Today, on the Feast of the Assumption, we ask: What brings joy to you? Have you experienced true joy in your life? Whom is it that we worship? Whom or what is it that our soul magnifies?”

“During this pandemic, for all of its pain and devastation, we are being given the opportunity to assess our lives. To look into the reality of our families, our nation—here in the United States, in Armenia—to look at the world, to look at our church … and to ask ourselves: What are we missing? What is distracting us from giving ourselves fully to our Lord, as Mary did?”

Bishop Daniel’s sermon was watched by some 5,000 viewers who tuned in to the Assumption Day service broadcast over the Facebook pages of St. Vartan Cathedral and the Eastern Diocese. Cathedral Vicar Fr. Davit Karamyan and a host of deacons assisted the Primate throughout the badarak.

Click on the following link to watch a recording of the service (the Primate’s sermon begins about 36 minutes into the program).

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