2016 – Year of Service
To: Prelates of Prelacies of the Catholicosate of Cilicia, Clergy, National Representative Assemblies, Executive Councils, and the Faithful of the Armenian nation,
During this blessed season of the manifestation of the Son of God and the New Year, we greet you with fatherly blessings and warm Christian love from the Catholicosate of Cilicia in Antelias. We pray to all-benevolent God to bestow upon the community life of our beloved people—our families and our greater family—with abundant heavenly goodness and continuous achievements.
Continuing the beautiful tradition of many years, with a Pontifical Encyclical we proclaimed 2015 as the Year devoted to our claims.
Therefore, with this fervent spirit and filled with active promise for the enrichment and strength of our church, people, and homeland, we proclaim the year 2016,
“THE YEAR OF SERVICE”
A. Service in the Bible
What does the Bible say about service?
The prophets and the leaders of the Hebrew people who devoted their lives to God and to the service of the people are considered to be servants of God.
Service is the foundation of the New Testament, because the Son of God, the pivotal figure of the New Testament, considered Himself to be a servant, and lived His earthly life and achieved his mission as a servant to the people and God. As the Gospel attests, “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” (Mark 10:45; Mathew 20:28). In a distinct way through His teachings, miracles, and parables, Christ emphasized the vital importance of service in the life of the people.
Christ considers service to be the most authentic road to re-establish the image of God in humankind and to guide humankind toward God and the road to salvation. Christ showed the way to this road through His mission and life. Christ said, “If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also,” (John 12:26)
B. Service in the Teachings of the Church Fathers
During the first century, service became a pivotal presence in the life of the church. Inspired by Christ’s example, the apostles and the faithful made their daily lives worthy filled with many different types of service. The more the church flourished, spread, and became established, the more service became one of the significant aspects of Christian faith and the life of the church. All of that service made the first century Christianity’s most vital and one of its most significant centuries in the history of the church.
In their sermons and messages the Church Fathers put special emphasis on service, reminding us that service must become a Christian person’s guide of life and the impetus for work. As the Universal Church Father, John Chrysostom, says, “When we serve the poor with our hands, our hands are blessed. And when we raise our hands towards heaven after serving the poor, God immediately gives us mercy and grants us our request.”
Augustine, by the example of his life, attests, “When you serve God, it is not God who becomes great; you become great.”
Hovhaness Mandakuni says, “When you serve the sick you are serving Christ… Those who serve themselves cannot be faithful servants of God.”
Anania Naregatzi says, “We are considered humble when we don’t make others our servants, but rather we serve them.”
C. Service is the Essence of the Christian Faith
Taking into consideration the teachings of the Old and New Testaments, as well as the witness of our Church Fathers and the insight of their expertise about service in their lives, it is necessary for us to note the following points:
1. Service is the quality of life Life is not just a particular form, and service is not simply a style of life. Service is the expression of the love, honor, and dedication we have for others. Therefore, service must be firmly mixed with our entire life and our thoughts and work. When service becomes superficial, accidental, and speculative, it loses its true meaning. A person’s life becomes meaningful and is enriched only through service. A person becomes great by service and becomes worthy of honor and appreciation.
2. Service is the road of life When service becomes a part of our life, and is inseparable, it becomes the sole road of our life. For Christians, following the example of the Good Samaritan in tending to the sick, helping those in need must become the only road of life, away from the limelight and expectations. The noted French writer Victor Hugo reminds us that, “The mind is enriched by what it receives; the heart by what it gives.”
3. Service is the purpose of life Service is life’s fortress and true road; it must also become the purpose of our life. Woe to the life that is self-centered and self-purposeful. Woe to those who keep their composite spiritual-intellectual values to themselves. Woe to the wealthy who keep their accumulated wealth in reserve for their own pleasure and glory.
Let us never forget that the Son of God did not only give what he possessed, but He gave Himself. The true Christians are those who choose to serve others as the meaningful and leading purpose of their lives, far away from effusive and ostentatious appearances.
D. Service is the Church’s Vocation
Service became the foundation, road, and purpose of Christ’s life and mission, journey, and purpose. The Son of God accomplished his salvific mission through service. In the same way, the life and mission of the Church who is called to continue the salvific plan of Christ. Therefore, the Church, through its essence and vocation, is service. At the end of Christ’s earthly mission, He sent His disciples into the world to serve by spreading the values and principles that Christ brought to the world, and to become the messengers of God’s kingdom.
If we were to take a general glance at church history, we would see that even under the most difficult circumstances the church’s sole road has been service; its most powerful weapon has been service. Wherever the church has remained distant from service, it has not been faithful to its calling. Wherever the church has made service its axle and purpose, the church has become strong and vital. Where the Church has placed its authority in other places other than service, the people have withdrawn from the church. Where the Church has identified itself with people’s pain and suffering and became a serving presence in the life of the people, the people have firmly held onto the Church.
The Armenian Church has always remained faithful to its Christian calling. Look at the road of our church from Armenia to Cilicia and later the Diaspora. On the dark roads our church has spread the light of the Gospel by serving our people. During the most difficult times in our history, our church has always been beside our people, serving the people.
E. Service is the Obligation of the Community and Government Structures
Service is not solely a religious or benevolent obligation. It is a universal indispensable human value. Beginning from the early centuries, civilizations and cultures, thinkers and artists have in different ways emphasized the importance of service in community life. And in current days, international declarations and various organizations have emphasized the imperative of service in their bylaws. Humanitarian organizations, connected to each other by mutual obligations, are the sum total of individuals, groups, and structures, and the power that directs them toward success and progress in service.
It is the same for our nation. Many vital organizations work within our community life with various purposes. The basic purpose of these organizations is to serve our people. With this foresight it is necessary to appreciate the work of our organizations and associations. Any structure that does not consider service to our people as its raison d’être and only guide and purpose of its activities, without doubt, has no right to exist in our community life.
It is necessary to say the same about our government. The purpose of our government, as for any government, is to serve the people. A government is neither self-existent nor self-purposeful. The leaders of the government are elected by the people to serve the people responsibly with accountability. Any government leadership that fails to serve the people through executive, legislative, and judicial initiatives promotes resentment and reaction in the people. It is our expectation that serving our people in our homeland with complete dedication remains the primary obligation of our homeland’s responsible leadership.
Today also the Armenian Church must make service the only road of her life, the only purpose of her mission. Christ established His authority through service. Our church, just as in the past, must today also evaluate herself by remaining faithful to her vocation, only through service.
F. Service is the duty and honor of every Armenian
For any religion or nation serving people, be it family, neighbor, community, faith, nation or homeland, is a moral obligation; it is a necessary imperative, an unbargainable duty. Every person living in the world has his or her own identity. Identity surmises belonging; belonging signifies loyalty, and loyalty requires service. It is God’s expectation that human beings use their talents and benevolence for others beyond their narrow sphere.
During history’s toughest conditions, our people remained faithful to the principles and values of the Christian faith, even at the cost of their blood. There have been individuals in our lifetime, who with a high level of dedication and faithfulness served our people, homeland, and church. Some with their spiritual and intellectual creativity, others with their monetary benevolence, and still others who shed their blood and became saints and heroes, benefactors, and immortals who built their greatness through service.
* * *
Therefore, declaring the current year as the Year of Service, first and foremost I pray for the souls of all our children who in various ways and conditions served our people.
By declaring the current year The Year of Service, we want to remind our people that it is necessary to participate with great dedication in our nation’s noble work, with the brave knowledge that God will bless our service, and history will remember and honor not what we had, but that which we gave, not our beautiful words, but our good deeds.
Declaring 2016 as the Year of Service we call on all of our Prelates, the National Representative Assemblies, Executive Councils, community, political, national, benevolent, educational, athletic, and cultural organizations and associations, to put the vital importance of service in our life in the spotlight through various events that,
- Recognize those who have served the community,
- Remind everyone, especially the youth, the imperative of serving our nation through active participation in the collective life of the community,
- Ask faithful individuals who are endowed with the ability and possibility to be helpful in the growth of the community, enhance the church, strengthen the homeland, and create programs and events that would promote the advancement of our nation.
With these thoughts and expectations, once again we bless the beloved children of our nation, and pray to Almighty God to enrich the life of our people with good health, success, and happiness.
With warm fatherly love,
Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia
January 1, 2016