Bishop Hovakim Manukyan’s Sermon on The Feast of Transfiguration (Vartavar).

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Today the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ (Vartavar, վարդավառ in Armenian), one of the most popular celebrations in our long history of the tradition. The celebration marks when Jesus Christ took His disciples to Mount Tabor, where he was transfigured. Upon His transfiguration, he was conversing with Moses and Elijah when they heard a divine voice “This is my son, listen to him!” (Mt 17:1/8). Our people pour water on one another to mark the occasion, symbolizing the peace that was established in the world following the universal flood, fertility, and the gift of life.

When Jesus foretold of His death and resurrection, and about the agony and suffering to follow, James and John were in disbelief, not believing such feats to be possible, even Peter rebuked Him: “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Mathew 16:22). It is always difficult to believe that your loved ones are suffering or even your heroes are experiencing downfall. It is important to remember that the disciples were themselves human beings, and it is quite natural that they would express disbelief at this foreshadowing, but Jesus took them to the mountain and was glorified, opening the eyes of the disciples. As they too would meet the same fate as their master, but their master also taught them “whoever loses their life for my sake, will again find it” (Mathew 16:25). The transfiguration happened to strengthen the faith of the apostles and to pave the way for future Christian generations, to be transfigured and renewed with the message of Jesus Christ, which is a message of hope, love, and peace. The very peace Jesus promised us: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27). It is not an easy way and the pursuit of peace comes with many tribulations.

This message is all the more important today, with our thoughts and minds returning to our Motherland where the peace on the border of Armenia remains disturbed, with our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in constant fear of shelling and with the lives of our brave serviceman tragically cut short. Here in the streets of London just two days ago, we witnessed the same enemy, when our teenagers, men and women were peacefully protecting their embassy, as was their right. Our messages of peace were answered with scenes of pure hatred, provocation, and aggression. But we also witnessed what was a transfiguration of our community. Our community shone with the warm colours of the Armenian Flag: Red, blue, and orange, which, under the sun, gave us a radiance against the darkness and corruption presented in front of us.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the narrative of Jesus tells us that the death and suffering are not to be the final word of our people, the final word is to peace, creating life and the spreading of love throughout humankind. Especially today, during these difficult times of COVID-19, we need this Love and unity to bind our people together and bring us closer than ever.

Today, during this divine liturgy, I invite you all to pray for our beloved homeland and our brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to live in their ancestral lands, even in the face of such aggressions. May we also pray for our community, and for our lasting unity. Though we are small in numbers, our togetherness has always served to strengthen us.
God bless you all,