In 1860, a French naturalist Henry Mouroh was cutting his way through the Cambodian jungle in search of exotic insects. What he discovered was much bigger. He came across the last thing he was expecting: a massive complex of magnificent temples, rising one on top of another as if trying to reach the skies. The news of this finding shook the world. Soon the cover of every major newspaper featured a story about the discovery of a majestic and mysterious temple complex of Angkor Wat, the largest cathedral in the world and one of the greatest structures ever created. The questions on everyone’s mind were – who, what civilization created it? How could they build such a monumental and complex structure that would be challenging to recreate even with modern technology? Why did they create it in the middle of the jungle?
Without any historical records and references, no one knew anything about the civilization that gave birth to such an astonishing creation. But the mere fact that the temple was their only surviving legacy was enough to realize what really mattered to them in life. With its sheer size, stunning beauty, and architectural complexity, the temple was a living testimony of the importance of faith for this ancient civilization.
When we visit our fatherland – Armenia, we realize that every historical place we visit, everything we see, hear, and learn about, is profoundly linked with the Christian faith of our ancestors. The jewel of every trip to Armenia is probably the trip to the Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin. It is a marvelous ancient historical sight for a foreign tourist, but for us, it is so much more than an ancient structure. In fact, it is so important that the Armenian Church dedicated a Sunday feast day to it, which we celebrated last Sunday. Etchmiadzin is the oldest cathedral in the world. It is the only cathedral with a claim to be founded by Christ himself. It is the beacon of hope, resurrection and faith for our nation that empowered and showed us the way during our darkest days in history. But more than anything, Etchmiadzin, the countless monasteries, churches and khachkars that our ancestors carved and created out of stone, are the brilliant and bright reflection of Armenian identity and the importance of faith in life.
What nations and civilizations created and are remembered by today gives us a glimpse into their souls and helps us understand who they were and what in life was important for them. And this is true for the life of an individual too. What we build today, the legacy by which our children, friends and this community will remember us by, is the only true indicator of who we really are.
This year we had two stewardship testimonials in this sanctuary, shared by two very different individuals. And if you recall, both of them referred to the very same person who inspired, formed and shaped their connection to this community and church. That person was Siran Mardirosian. I never had the opportunity to meet or get to know Siran. Yet, these two testimonials alone were enough for me to see the beautiful legacy that she left behind and how important faith, church and community were to her. Clearly, it was a way of life that transcended into the realm of a faithful ministry that continues to touch lives today.
Where are we investing our time, effort and energy? What are we building? What is the story, structure and legacy we are carving today? What role do faith and life in Christ play in all these? And how will we be remembered? These are the questions that the feast of our Holy Etchmiadzin and the spiritual legacy of our Christian ancestors invite us to reflect on today.