V. Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian
Sometimes we have to ask ourselves, what drives us to participate in the Sunday Divine Liturgy? Is it a special occasion or a “Hokehankisd”? Is it just an opportunity for us to say a prayer and leave?
During Divine Liturgy, the Deacons and the Priest chant the Diptychs. The Diptychs commemorate the saints and martyrs who sleep with faith and devotion in Christ. They nourished the church and the Lord’s teachings, with their lives, words, and deeds. They built a strong foundation upon which the universal Church stands firm.
In the Diptychs, we also remember the Holy patriarchs, separated from us by many centuries. Do they need our prayers and commemorations? Did our Lord raise them after His holy resurrection? If so, why do we commemorate them? Let us examine the Diptychs.
In a previous article, Intercession of the Saints, I explained that the celebrant starts the Diptychs after each hymn dedicated to a Person of the Holy Trinity. He asks for the intercession of the Holy Mother of God, St. John the Baptist, and the protomartyr St. Stephen. The deacons follow by commemorating the rest of the saints. We remember numerous people who sacrificed their lives for the Church and the Holy Gospel by name. We ask for them to pray for us, but we remember them in our prayers because they are alive. We become one in God, and so come into communication through prayer. We are part of a family called the Church, consisting of the heavenly, or triumphant, church, and the earthly, or militant, church. Through the Diptychs we show that our union with God unites us on earth with those in the Heavenly Kingdom.
I want to reflect on an important aspect that we should contemplate on. God has given us an important gift that we often take for granted, the gift of memory. Sometimes, memories are bad. On the other hand, when we see people around us who suffer with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, we realize to appreciate our gift of memory. What does that mean? Let us reflect on God’s memory of us.
God has a gigantic memory. He does not forget any moment of our lives. He knows every detail of our thoughts, feelings, memories, past, present, and even future. Moreover, He knows every sin that we have committed, especially those that we did them secretly. Above all, He chooses to forgive our sins and remember us with mercy. For the sake of our salvation, He appreciates our good and choses to forgive all of our sins, especially if we ask His forgiveness for them. None of the saints that we remember in the Diptychs, or those that we celebrate during the year, are sinless! Saint does not mean sinless. On the contrary, the saints fought their sins to bring God’s glory to the world. Our Lord remembers that they fought their weaknesses and suffered for the sake of Christ’s name. Even though we learn from the Bible that we cannot stand before God because of our sinful nature, we remember that God is merciful.
When we are called to be like our Heavenly Father, we must learn to have His kind of memory. We should look at people’s positives. When we think about the people in our lives who have hurt us, we should remember that God remembers us through our good words and deeds. When we depart from this life, God will accept the good that we did for Him and His glory. How can we look at people and focus on their sins, when God does not do the same to us?
If God has given to you the gift of memory, who did you bring with you to the Divine Liturgy with that gift? In other words, who will you remember in your prayers on Sunday? Will you remember your family members and those who you hold dear? Will you remember those who hurt you? As easy as it is to remember our loved ones in our prayers, we are also called to remember those who you feel disconnected from, or who we may feel have hurt us. Moreover, they may be the ones who need your prayers the most. How long will you remember them in the context of an ugly memory, rather than remembering them with a smile and comfort? Use the gift of memory that God gives you and bless them with your prayers. If Jesus came from Heaven to die for those who sin against Him, we can pray and bless those with whom we have broken relationships. We must remember people in our prayers in the same the way that our Lord remembers us in His glory.
When we remember the saints in the Diptychs, we should also remember those who need to be on the same path. We should employ the gift of memory for God’s glory while we can. We do not know when life will take our memory from us. We will lose the chance to remember those who we did not reconcile with. God will unfold our unreconciled past that we avoided because of our egos. We should pray for the opportunity to make peace with our painful memories before we meet our Lord at the last judgment.