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Der Samuel's Sermon - February 11, 2024

Today the Armenian Apostolic Church is celebrating the Eve of Great Lent, “Poon Paregentan.” If we want to translate the Armenian word for Eve of Great Lent, Paregentan, it means good living. This feast reminds us about the life of our forefathers, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden and God's presence, where they have nothing to worry about or something to feel pain for. This feast comes before we enter the great Lent and brings joy to us, reminding us of what life used to look like when Adam and Eve lived in one place with God. In the book of Genesis, we read what happens when we obey Satan’s will and try or want to live a life with sin.

I will not tell you the story of Adam and Eve, but I want to speak about it shortly. They were a free man living in the presence of God; nothing had to worry about. They had just one thing to keep in mind: to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge. As we know, after eating the fruit from the forbidden tree, their life was not the same anymore; they were exiled from the Garden of Eden and were supposed to work together to make their life better. I’m sure all of you went through this scene in your childhood when your parents told you not to do, eat, or go, but you didn’t listen to them and did what you were thinking, and most of you maybe ended up in some trouble. The eve of the Great Lent, even though it tells us about a happy life, but we can’t have that happiness when we disobey God’s commandment, and Adam and Eve’s story is a kind of warning, reminder, precaution, whatever word you want to use. It must be clear that when you don’t follow the rules, you must accept the consequences.

If we read the Bible carefully and try to understand the events explicitly, we will realize that throughout the history of humankind, God reconciled with human beings multiple times, and yet, some people turned their back on God and continued to do whatever they were doing. In other words, God extended His light over those in the darkness, but they preferred the darkness over the light.

Starting tomorrow, we are entering the great Lent, a 40-day period where we must test ourselves by the fire of faith, love, and hope. Forty days of being honest to ourselves to overcome our faults and redirect our journey into righteousness. Forty days of self-critic to see where we are as Christians. And finally, 40 days of fasting is not only from eating animal products, because as the Lord told Isaiah, fasting for food doesn’t matter when we are still committing the same sins, living the same old life without praying. And when I say by praying, I’m not talking about the prayer that we say and ask God for something, but I am talking about the actions that can have the same effect as the prayers that we say because those actions might be the answer to the prayers of someone.

If we reread today’s Gospel reading, we will see that it is a direction given to us by our Lord, so by following the given instructions, we can go through this Lent season. You might ask what the purpose of this Lent is. I will highlight some points: if you read today’s gospel reading, you will see almost the same ideas.

1. Lent reminds us of the season when our Lord Jesus Christ, before starting his journey, went to the wilderness and was tempted by Satan for forty days.

2. Lent is the season when we must prepare ourselves for Easter.

3. Lent is the season when we concentrate on our spiritual life; in other words, it is a season for spiritual renewal.

4. Finally, Lent is the season when we must work on repentance.

During these 40 days, let us try to adapt the points that I mentioned and try to replace our bad habits with good ones. Let us try to help others as much as possible. Let us pray and be the answer to the prayers of others. Let us get closer to God. And finally, let us fast by soul, heart, and mind to toss away all the evil thoughts and feelings so we can be cleansed by the fire on the day of the resurrection and welcome our Savior Jesus Christ.

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