Category Archives: Christian – Orthodox

Armenian Genocide International Remembrance Day

Editor’s note: This post did not get posted on Tuesday (April 24) because of edits to this site.

Christine Moughamian

By Blogger Christine Moughamian
One Yogini, Many Paths

Today, April 24, 2012 is the International Day of Remembrance for the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923, when the Muslim Ottoman Empire systematically killed an estimated 1-1.5 million Christian Armenians.

The commemoration is marked in the United States by David Godine’s

release of Franz Werfel’s novel ‘The Forty Days of Musa Dagh.’ The new, expanded translation by James Reidel demands recognition as a major literary and cultural event.

Although a work of fiction, the 1933 novel is based on historical events. In his introduction to the book, Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York, writes:

“…I had read ‘The Forty Days of Musa Dagh’ in Armenian, when I was a teenager, and it had made quite an impression on me…I believed – and still do – that ‘The Forty Days of Musa Dagh’ saved the Armenian genocide from being neglect and gave a literary symbol of survival and renewal to the Armenians.”

The novel centers on the struggle of a small Armenian community in a mountainous region of the former Ottoman Empire as they are deported and exterminated by a totalitarian regime. First published in Austria in November 1933, it achieved international success.

Gregorian says:

“To Armenians, Franz Werfel still embodies the conscience of European literature and its commitment to universal justice and the dignity of man.”

Moreover, it foreshadows the Jewish Holocaust by the Nazis during WWII.


BRIEF: Temple of Israel plans an “Invite your neighbor” service

The Temple of Israel is planning its first Invite Your Neighbor Shabbat service at 8 p.m. on May 4 at 1 S. 4th St. The service will include explanations of Jewish prayers and customs and a “Torah Roll” (a close-up look at and explanation of the Torah scroll).

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky, courtesy StarNews file photo by Paul Stephen

“Many people are curious about Judaism and often aren’t sure if they are even allowed to enter a Temple or attend a service,” said Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky, spiritual leader of Temple of Israel, Wilmington’s reform Jewish house of worship. “Of course they are always welcome, and this is a great chance to reach out to people, both unaffiliated Jews and those who are not Jewish.”

Details: 910-762-0000.

– Amanda Greene

‘The Voice’: New Bible translation focuses on dialogue

Bruce Boling, holds a Bible open while participating in a Bible study group in Gallatin, Tenn., Sunday, April 1, 2012. RNS photo by Jeff Adkins/USA Today

c. 2012 USA Today
Reprinted with permission

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) The name Jesus Christ doesn’t appear in “The Voice,” a new translation of the Bible.

Nor do words such as angel or apostle. Instead, angel is rendered as “messenger” and apostle as “emissary.” Jesus Christ is “Jesus the Anointed One” or the “liberating king.”

That’s a more accurate translation for modern American readers, said David Capes, lead scholar for “The Voice,” a complete edition released this month by publishing company Thomas Nelson. Capes says that many people, even those who’ve gone to church for years, don’t realize that the word “Christ” is a title.

“They think that Jesus is his first name and Christ is his last name,” says Capes, who teaches the New Testament at Houston Baptist University in Texas.

Seven years in the making, “The Voice” is the latest entry into the crowded field of English Bible translations.

Unlike the updated New International Version or the Common English Bible — both released last year — much of “The Voice” is formatted like a screenplay or novel. Translators cut out the “he said” and “they said” and focused on dialogue.

So in Matthew 15, when Jesus walks on the water, scaring his followers, their reaction is immediate:

Disciple: “It’s a ghost!”

Another Disciple: “A ghost? What will we do?”

Jesus: “Be still. It is I; you have nothing to fear.”

“I hope we get people to see the Bible — not as an ancient text that’s worn out — but as a story that they participate in and find their lives in,” Capes said.

The title for “The Voice” came from the New Testament Gospel of John and from the Greek word logos. It’s usually translated as “word” in verses such as John 1:1, which reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” in the New International Version, one of the most popular English translations.

In “The Voice,” that passage reads: “Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God.” Frank Couch, the executive editor and publisher of “The Voice,” said that translation better captures what logos means.

Mike Norris of Franklin Road Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., disagrees. His congregation follows the belief that the King James Bible is the most accurate translation in English. Other translations, he says, don’t stick to a word-for-word translation.

“They say the other translations are easier to read and more accurate,” he said. “We disagree.”

(Smietana also reports for The Tennessean in Nashville. Heidi Hall of The Tennessean also contributed to this story.)


An Armenian family tradition passed on for Orthodox Easter

Christine Moughamian kneading dough for her Armenian Easter breads. Photo by Jim Downer.

By Blogger Christine Moughamian
One Yogini, Many Paths

April 13 was Armenian Good Friday.

It also was the day my mother in France received the Armenian breads I’d baked here last week on our Good Friday. She had passed on to me my grandmother’s recipe that she had mastered over the years. In turn, I used it to bake from scratch Armenian breads for the first time in my life.

When I spoke to my mother on the phone, she had just opened her package. She enjoyed seeing the breads – golden, shiny braid and spirals – as much as eating them. She kept close to her a photo my boyfriend took when I was kneading the dough.

With emotion in her voice, my mother said: “When I look at your hands, I am happy and proud. Our Armenian family tradition has been passed on.”

Poll shows Christianity good for the poor, bad for sex

c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

WASHINGTON (RNS)Americans feel the “Christian faith” has a positive

Sex & Religion

Sex & Religion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

impact on help for the poor and raising children with good morals, according to a new poll, but it gets a bad rap on its impact on sexuality in society.

In a new study conducted by Grey Matter Research, more than 1,000 American adults were asked if the Christian faith had a positive, negative, or no real impact on 16 different areas of society, such as crime, poverty and the role of women in society.

Strong majorities (72 percent) said Christianity is good for helping the poor and for raising children with good morals. Around half (52 percent) said Christianity helps keep the U.S. as a “strong nation,” and nearly as many (49 percent) said the faith had a positive impact on the role of women in society.

Although Christianity has been criticized for its traditional views on abortion, contraception and gender roles, “Americans aren’t buying into it,” said Ron Sellers, president of the Arizona-based Grey Matter Research.

Sellers said he wasn’t surprised that Americans hold their most negative perception for how Christianity impacts sexuality: 37 percent felt there was a negative impact, compared to only 26 percent who felt it was positive.

In six of the 16 areas, sizable numbers of Americans said Christianity had little or no impact, including the environment, business ethics, civility and substance abuse. Americans were roughly split, at about one-third each, on Christianity’s impact on racism.

“What’s real concerning to me, from the perspective of a religious leader,” Sellers said, “is when people say, ‘Eh, it hasn’t had a real impact.'”

The total sample of 1,011 adults selected at random from all 50 states had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

BRIEF: Three days of Christian music scheduled for Azalea Festival this weekend

Azalea Praise Fest Friday-Sunday (April 13-15) during the 65th N.C. Azalea Festival will be at the Riverfront Park stage on Water Street. The event on Friday (April 13) will begin at 6 p.m. with nine local praise and worship bands.

On Saturday (April 14), the stage there will have a variety of music and dance ranging from area princesses, contemporary Christian choirs, a street dance and fireworks.

Then on Sunday (April 15), there will be contemporary Christian music all day ending with Christian Reggae.

– Amanda Greene

Faith Photo Spotlight: Church of the Servant Episcopal’s Easter sunrise service 2012

Christine Moughamian

Photos by Blogger Christine Moughamian
One Yogini, Many Paths

Church of the Servant Episcopal had its Easter sunrise service on Sunday April 8.

Take a look.

The Rev. Rainey Susan Dankel sprinkles a twig of rosemary in blessed ocean water. Photo by Christine Moughamian.

Revisiting Armenian Easters with breads and eggs

Some of the Armenian breads Christine Moughamian baked for Easter this year. Photo by Christine Moughamian

By Blogger Christine Moughamian
One Yogini, Many Paths

My best Easter memories took place in my Armenian grandparents’ kitchen.

Always filled with the smell of warm cookies and rich coffee, it was the center of our family reunions.

My grandmother, Mémé Vartanouch, and my grandfather, Pépé Hossep, emigrated from Armenia to France after WWI. They were only teenagers then, but they brought with them their cultural heritage, encoded in their genes.

I remember helping Mémé Vartanouch bake Armenian Easter bread, which we called in French: “gâteaux de Pâques.” I’d break eggs and stir flour. Mémé Vartanouch would complete the recipe with butter, sugar and milk. She’d knead the mix into an elastic dough that smelled of baker’s yeast. I’d taste pieces of raw dough before she’d roll it out into snake-like segments.

She’d braid them three by three or coil them into spiral-shaped buns. Then we’d baste them with egg yolk and place them in the oven. When the “gâteaux de Pâques” came out of the oven, they looked like golden braids and spirals.

While the breads baked, Mémé Vartanouch would put dozens of eggs in

The onion-dyed eggs Christine Moughamian made for Easter this year. Photo by Christine Moughamian.

big pots of boiling water and yellow onion skins. When they came out, they were hard-boiled and colored in dark reddish brown. Once they cooled, my siblings and I would play the traditional “egg-game.” The goal was to break the other person’s egg while they protected it, wrapped in their fingers, pointed side up. The winner, whose egg didn’t break, would collect the broken eggs.

Mémé Vartanouch passed away long ago. But over the years, my mother had become an expert at baking “gâteaux de Pâques.” A couple of days ago, I called her in France to ask her about my grandmother’s recipes.

Both my Armenian grandparents are deceased. My father made his transition last August.

Today, I honored my Armenian heritage. I baked Easter bread and dyed hard-boiled eggs with onion skins. I called my mother and told her in a happy voice: “The house smells of “gateaux de Pâques,” and my boyfriend Jim won the egg-game. Thanks to you, Mémé Vartanouch is alive in me and in my kitchen!”

The egg game. Photo by Christine Moughamian.

What did Jesus do on Holy Saturday?

Jesus in hell. Photo via Religion News Service archives.

c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS) Every Christian knows the story: Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. But what did he do on Saturday?

That question has spurred centuries of debate, perplexed theologians as learned as St. Augustine and prodded some Protestants to advocate editing the Apostles’ Creed, one of Christianity’s oldest confessions of faith.

Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and most mainline Protestant churches teach that Jesus descended to the realm of the dead on Holy Saturday to save righteous souls, such as the Hebrew patriarchs, who died before his crucifixion.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the descent “the last phase of Jesus’ messianic mission,” during which he “opened heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him.”

An ancient homily included in the Catholic readings for Holy Saturday says a “great silence” stilled the earth while Jesus searched for Adam, “our first father, as for a lost sheep.”

Often called “the harrowing of hell,” the dramatic image of Jesus breaking down the doors of Hades has proved almost irresistible to artists, from the painter Hieronymus Bosch to the poet Dante to countless Eastern Orthodox iconographers.

But some Protestants say there is scant scriptural evidence for the hellish detour, and that Jesus’ own words contradict it.

On Good Friday, Jesus told the Good Thief crucified alongside him that “today you will be with me in paradise,” according to Luke’s Gospel. “That’s the only clue we have as to what Jesus was doing between death and resurrection,” John Piper, a prominent evangelical author and pastor from Minnesota, has said. “I don’t think the thief went to hell and that hell is called paradise.”

First-century Jews generally believed that all souls went to a dreary and silent underworld called Sheol after death. To emphasize that Jesus had truly died, and his resurrection was no trick of the tomb, the apostles likely would have insisted that he, too, had sojourned in Sheol, said Robert Krieg, a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame.

“It helps bring home the point that Jesus’ resurrection was not a resuscitation,” Krieg said.

Belief in the descent was widespread in the early church, said Martin Connell, a theology professor at St. John’s School of Theology-Seminary in Collegeville, Minn. But the Bible divulges little about the interlude between Jesus’ death and resurrection. Churches that teach he descended to the realm of the dead most often cite 1 Peter 3:18-20.

“Christ was put to death as a human, but made alive by the Spirit,” Peter writes. “And it was by the Spirit that he went to preach to the spirits in prison.” The incarcerated souls, Peter cryptically adds, were those who were “disobedient” during the time of Noah, the ark-maker.

Augustine, one of the chief architects of Christian theology, argued that Peter’s passage is more allegory than history. That is, Jesus spoke “in spirit” through Noah to the Hebrews, not directly to them in hell. But even Augustine said the question of whom, exactly, Jesus preached to after his death, “disturbs me profoundly.”

The descent might not have become a doctrine if not for a fourth century bishop named Rufinus, who added that Jesus went “ad inferna” — to hell — in his commentary on the Apostles’ Creed. The phrase stuck, and was officially added to the influential creed centuries later.

But changing conceptions of hell only complicated the questions. As layers of limbo and purgatory were added to the afterlife, theologians like Thomas Aquinas labored to understand which realm Jesus visited, and whom he saved.

Other Christian thinkers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin disagreed on whether Christ suffered in hell to fully atone for human sinfulness. That question, raised most recently by the late Swiss theologian Hans ur von Balthasar, stirred a fierce theological donnybrook in the Catholic journal First Things several years ago.

Wayne Grudem, a former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, says the confusion and arguments could be ended by correcting the Apostles’ Creed “once and for all” and excising the line about the descent.

“The single argument in its favor seems to be that it has been around so long,” Grudem, a professor at Phoenix Seminary in Arizona, writes in his “Systematic Theology,” a popular textbook in evangelical colleges. “But an old mistake is still a mistake.”

Grudem, like Piper, has said that he skips the phrase about Jesus’ descent when reciting the Apostles’ Creed.

But the harrowing of hell remains a central tenet of Eastern Orthodox Christians, who place an icon depicting the descent at the front of their churches as Saturday night becomes Easter Sunday. It remains there, venerated and often kissed, for 40 days.

“The icon that represents Easter for us is not the empty cross or tomb,” said Peter Bouteneff, a theology professor at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y. “It’s Christ’s descent into Hades.”

Send us your favorite Easter bonnet photos

An Easter bonnet in a shop window in Conway.

An Easter bonnet in a shop window in Conway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was growing up, maybe we didn’t wear feathered hats to church every Sunday.

But for Easter, we put on our best for God. We’re talking little white bonnet, white shoes and a new flowered dress.

Please share photos of your family’s best Easter finery – hats, bonnets, suits, corsages and fluffy dresses.

Send your photos to

We’ll put together an Easter finery slideshow.

– Amanda Greene