He Gave His Life for Us

by Fr. Yeprem Kelegian

From time to time, there are “glimmers” of the Holy in my ministry. These come not because I am an effective or talented priest, but rather because God chooses to enlighten me from time to time through other people and through circumstances in my ministry.

While I was in Armenia in the winter of 1992, I had the fortune to stay at the home of an Armenian fedayeen (freedom fighter) for a few nights. The fedayeen’s name was Hratchig Tanielian and he had been killed in action in Karabagh, April 29, 1992. He left behind his mother, father, wife and three small children, who lived in the same small house as eight other relatives in the village of Aghavnatzor, near Hrazdan.

It was a heart-wrenching time for me. This man had heroically died (in Armenia they say, he was sacrificed, zohvetzav). Before joining the fedayeen, he had taken an oath in church, as all fedayeen in that area do, to fight bravely to defend the Armenian soil. I was moved by his heroism, but I was also moved to tears over his family. His mother still saw visions of him in her waking hours; his wife was “broken” by the experience of his death; his oldest son, Garen, 6 years old, knew his father was never coming back; his daughter, Vartouhi, 5 years old, asked every day when her father would come home; and his son, Arman, 2 years old, would never know his father.

Two days later I was talking to a group of Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan who, I found out, knew Hratchig. They all regarded him as a beloved hero of their village because, as one lady said, “He gave his life for our village and for us.” When I left the building, I was moved to tears. This father, this son, this husband had given his life for the Armenian soil…and now his family grieves.

Suddenly another thing struck me! The Gospel of John, chapter 3, verse 16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Yes, I was moved to tears over Hratchig’s sacrifice (and who would not be?). But how often have I been moved to tears over the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’? Christ died for all of mankind, for all times. He died especially for me because I personally am a sinner. Two thousand years ago, he died for me, a sinner. Do I shed a tear over my sinfulness and his sacrifice?