The Bridge: A Haunting Story of Love

The Bridge: A Haunting Story of Love
Train whistle howling, his son crying out for help, Gus,was eye to eye with a horrifying decision? Gus was the proud operator of a draw bridge over a busy river.
Each day he'd yank the levers that would elevate the old railroad bridge to allow passage of ships below.
One Saturday several years ago Gus invited his 10-year-old son Peter to spend the day with him at the bridge. Peter whooped with excitement. He'd always marveled at the bridge and its levers and big gears. His dad had the best job in the whole world, he figured.
As an old fishing boat eased up the river toward the bridge, Gus showed his son how the levers performed. With a grinding hum and a few creaks the old bridge separated and rose toward the autumn sky. Peter gasped and chortled while the boat crept upriver and out of sight.
Gus began watching his gauges and jotting notes in his report book. Then came the unmistakable sound that sent Gus back to his levers. The piercing whistle of the 10:05 southbound train. The 10:05 was a little early and a little late in blowing the warning whistle. Gus knew he must lower the bridge quickly to avoid a tragedy.
Gus' big gloved hands grasped the shiny levers and pulled. He looked over his shoulder for Peter. Where was the boy? "Peter!" Gus' stomach knotted as his eyes nervously darted up and down the bridge.
"Peter!!!" The bridge began its descent.
"Daddy! Daddy!" Frantic with worry, Gus peered over the edge and saw his son atop the huge bridge gears. The giant teeth of the rotating machinery had consumed the boy's jacket. Now his hand and arm were being devoured, slowly pulling his entire body into the grinding gears.
Gus reached for the levers. But there came the 10:05 loaded with passengers, whistle howling, roaring toward the bridge.
"DADDY! HELP ME!" The terror of the boy's voice seemed to pound within every muscle of his father's body.
Gus glanced at the train, then at his helpless son. In that split second, Gus was faced with deciding between the life of his son, or the hundreds of lives aboard the rushing train.
Gus held firm on the levers. The bridge continued its bow of mercy for the passengers aboard the train.
Gus wept as the machinery squeezed the life from his son. As the boy's shrieks melted into echoes, the 10:05 sped across the old bridge. The vacationing passengers had no idea what had just transpired below the bridge.
In air-conditioned comfort, they waved and smiled at Gus as they whizzed past.
Two thousand years ago a similar situation faced a loving Father. Much more was at stake back then. But, confronted with that awesome decision, the Father chose to allow His Son to die so that we could live.
Now we are faced with some haunting questions. How will we demonstrate to God that the life of His Son means more to us than waving and smiling as we go by? Are we willing to step out of our air-conditioned comfort and reflect God's love to those around us? What will it take to get our attention?


Origins of SAIN - Why? How? When?

SAIN was established in 1988 as a public service of the St. Andrew Armenian Church, Silicon Valley, USA. It was setup as the first Armenian Electronic Bulletin Board and subsequently became the first Armenian cyber-domain, registered as www.sain.org. SAIN is the St. Andrew Information Network

SAIN dedicated providing a virtual Armenian community where information is shared and used by users without regard to geographic boundaries. SAIN is dedicated to the first disciple of Jesus Christ, St. Andrew the Apostle.

History of SAIN
(written in 1995)
SAIN: The sharing of information with a virtual community
by Fr. Vazken Movsesian

In a time long ago, before cyberspace and before 56K modems, before the popularity of the internet and before Pentiums and Mac System 8, before WWW, Mosaic and Net Cruisers and Explorer, when system software resided on a single floppy, there was born the idea of an Armenian information network.

On the night of December 7, 1988 we were following the evening news when we heard about the tragedy in Armenia. The information coming to us in California was sketchy: a major earthquake in Armenia; thousands of causalities; the country in ruins; Gorbachev ending short his visit to the U.S. to return and assess the situation.

That night, I logged into my GEnie and AppleLink accounts (the big services of the day) and scanned the news services. The details were beginning to fill the gaps. With the information at our finger tips, we worked into the night preparing press releases, background information so by morning, our parish, the St. Andrew Armenian Church in Cupertino became the center for Armenian earthquake relief in the South Bay area.

In the weeks that followed, we witnessed the disfunctionality of the general Armenian community in organizing a united relief effort to the homeland. It was only obvious that given computer technology and the speed of information transfer we had a tool that could help us achieve a united front. If information and news was readily available through electronic forums, why not share this information with Armenians and Armenian organizations to increase our effectiveness as a community? The idea was simple: Armenian organizations with a goal of helping the greater community would share information in an electronic forum. It was fast, convenient and available. We could be cognizant of each others efforts, avoid duplication of those efforts and share ideas for assistance. And so, in January 1989 SAIN, the St. Andrew Information Network was launched.

SAIN began with an Apple IIe computer, a 1200 baud modem ("fast" according to the standards of the day), and a bbs program written in Apple BASIC sitting on a 5MB hard drive (yes, that's five!). The bbs would operate during non-business hours, making use of the church's phone line. The system included local e-mail, messaging and file areas. By August of that year, there were enough users sharing information that the church agreed to dedicate a phone line and SAIN operated for 24 hour/day and has continued since being on-line 365 days of the year.
Since those early years, SAIN has grown as has the entire world of telecommunications. Today it runs on a PC, with 500 MB of file area, sporting internet connectivity and a host of other features which make it uniquely an Armenian bulletin board system. More than an exercise in technology, the SAIN experience has presented challenges which need addressing by our community. I wish to share with the readers a few thoughts on the use of technology particularly for the Armenian community.

The concept of SAIN has not changed over the past seven years. It continues to operate free of charge, as a community service of the St. Andrew Armenian Church, for the free and unrestricted flow of information of all things Armenian. It is a reservoir of Armenian information. SAIN carries Groong and Hayastan mailing lists, usenet groups but unlike these services, SAIN has the advantage of archiving. It maintains static files which can be retrieved via the internet through the archive server (remote ftp). Whereas an article on a mailing list may be valuable to the person reading it, it is lost in the abyss of cyberspace if it is not captured. SAIN allows for the preservation of documents. Articles and publications of Armenian interest are stored on SAIN and can be retrieved by the student, the researcher, or anyone who has access to a phone line. In essence, SAIN can be seen as a remote hard drive filled with Armenian information.

The vision for SAIN is a singular one: creating and maintaining a virtual Armenian community where information is shared and used by users without regard to geographic boundaries. One of the early users of SAIN was a man from Louisiana, who, isolated from Armenians, found SAIN as his only means of interfacing and communicating with fellow Armenians. Users have logged on from as far away as Armenia, Norway, Germany, Italy and Turkey. Today, SAIN is used heavily as a tool by the St. Andrew parish in organizing its activities. The newsletter is gathered from sources on line, arrangements for weddings and baptisms are made via SAIN. Parish organizations such as the ACYO, Homenetmen and Parish Council communicate through this medium. Two years ago, the Armenian School students at the church initiated a "e-pals" program whereby they would communicate with other Armenian students throughout the world.

The SAIN experience has not been without its hang-ups (no pun intended). Soon after SAIN began operating, we learned the concept of "sharing" was foreign to Armenians. In fact, we struggled to find the Armenian word for "share," for use in our Armenian language promotions and found it non existent. (The Armenian words are descriptive of "share" but far from the equal give-and-take as implied in the word.) When we began posting articles and information on SAIN two questions surfaces: why? and who's? Why were we willing to share information? Who's information is it, i.e., who's name was going to be attached to the information? The second question is a vital one, particularly in light of evolving information technologies and worthy of serious discussion for a maturing on-line community.

The issue of information ownership surfaced early on during our work at SAIN and could explain an unwillingness to share. To maintain a professional standard, we go to great extents to document information and respect authorship. Admittedly, one of the problems SAIN had was inherent in its name and association with a church. In the early days when the name SAIN surfaced, immediately flags went up as to the motives and credibility of such an enterprise. Information is power and the name which appears on the information holds the power. In a brief analysis, we can surmise that the reluctance to share comes from our collective consciousness as a community. It seems that by giving away information we lose a hold on power and we fall short of assisting the goals and aspirations of the community at large. With the popularity of on-line services and electronic publications, the threat of sharing is not as great today.

Nevertheless, it is still a concern for the Armenian community. The Armenian community, electronic and otherwise, is rising to a point where common goals can (and should) outweigh parochial aspirations. This maturation process is a slow one, but vital for the effective operations of any communal work.

Furthermore, the added value of electronic communications is that it opens the world to the Armenian community and visa versa. Some of the most enduring contributions made to SAIN come from the non-Armenian community. For instance, one congressional aid in Washington D.C., hearing of SAIN, called in a with volumes of articles about the Armenian Genocide resolution. That information is stored and archived for others to use. There is a wealth of information which is calling to be used and shared. In sharing we broaden our horizons as an Armenian community. Through modern technology we have an opportunity to reach beyond the Armenian world and become part of the larger community, offering history and a unique insight into the world from an Armenian perspective. But first comes our willingness to move beyond our ethnocentricity.

Information has to be pure and unadulterated to maintain an intrinsic value for the end user. Today, there are volumes written about Armenians in electronic format. What appears on Groong is of obvious value, but beyond it there is the college student who prepares a term paper, the programmer who creates a font or an Armenian game, there is the poet who reflects feelings, there is the scribe who translates a song, all of which should be archived and shared by the greater Armenian community. SAIN is that opportunity. SAIN invites all these electronic creations to be part of the SAIN library of files. At the same time, SAIN invites users to log on and access these files. Today we have the technology to bring people together, to share ideas and opinions, not only for the sake of exchange, but also to produce.

During the seven years of SAIN operations we have hit many stumbling blocks and reasons to abandon the project. The details are not within the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, that each obstacle has presented us with a new challenge. As the Armenian on-line community expands, there will be new challenges which will call for innovative solutions. We don't make any grand claims about SAIN. All in all, SAIN is an electronic bulletin board system, with a focused agenda of all matters pertaining to Armenians. SAIN has never been more than a tool for achieving a goal-- providing information. At the same time, SAIN is a vision. It strives to bring Armenians together through an electronic forum. Thanks to a supportive church community, and by virtue of being in America's Silicon Valley, it has pioneered avenues of information sharing. Plans are underway to broaden the scope of SAIN, but resources and funding are its a biggest handicap.

Today, SAIN no longer operates as a bulletin board. It resides on a server and can be accessed via the web. The invitation is always open. The best way to experience SAIN is to simply log in or to use the archive-server to up/download a file. The possibilities are as endless as our creativity. We hope that people will avail themselves of this service.

VITAL STATS SAIN: St. Andrew Information Network Registered Domain: sain.org
Founder: Fr. Vazken Movsesian; Sysop: Roupen Nahabedian

(article written in 1995 for a journal of Armenian information technologies)


Theophany in light of Armenian Earthquake

Copyright 1989, San Jose Mercury News

DATE: Saturday, January 7, 1989
PAGE: 9B EDITION: Morning Final
SECTION: Religion & Ethics LENGTH: 22 in. Medium
SOURCE: By THE REV. VAZKEN MOVSESIAN, Special to the Mercury News
MEMO: Commentary


EDITOR'S NOTE: On Friday, Orthodox Christians observed the Feast of the Theophany, one of the holiest days of their liturgical year. Also known as Epiphany, this is the Orthodox Christmas, a solemn celebration of the revelation of God. Normally a festive event, it is a bitter holiday for the Armenian Orthodox, whose country was devastated by an earthquake Dec. 7.

Apart from the physical devastation, the earthquake has shattered many Armenians' faith. Sunday, as he faces a congregation of 700 families, 20 percent of whom have lost loved ones in the quake, the Rev. Vazken Movsesian, pastor of St. Andrew Armenian Church in Cupertino, will address those issues at a special service. Here is an edited excerpt of his Theophany message.

THE most difficult questions people ask a priest have to do with evil. If God is good and God is all-powerful, why is there evil in the world?

And when evil comes in the form of a natural disaster, such as the Armenian earthquake, it seems that there is no one to blame but God.

Far from a feast, this year's celebration of Theophany will be different for Armenians. Still fresh in our minds is the tragedy in which we lost more than 50,000 people.

Why did not God spare the good Armenian people? Why did He not intervene? Armenia was the first nation to accept Christianity. They were the ones who have piously observed the faith for centuries, the ones who defended the faith to death. Why them?

When the history of a people is plagued by such devastation and tragedy, the questioning goes deeper: Why believe in a God who cannot save us from these dangers?

These are questions that I am confronted with daily.

Some people believe God has abandoned the Armenians for some divine purpose and plan. Some doomsday forecasters say the earthquake was part of the ''signs of the times'' that the world will soon end. How quickly we are willing to thrust aside reason and logic when hit by calamity.

I do not shy away from the scientific and logical approach.

Why did the earthquake happen? Because the earth shifts.

Why did people die? Because they were trapped in the rubble of buildings that were constructed poorly.

Why didn't God step in and save the Armenian people? I don't know. But I venture to say that things just don't work that way.

In times of crisis, our mental image of God transforms Him into a kind of superman. God is omnipotent, after all. But the order of nature is such that that there is an imperfection built into this world. Lightning causes fires. Drought causes crops to wither. The shifting and settling of the earth causes earthquakes. And sometimes people die.

Other, larger questions loom. Why believe in a god that cannot save you from the perils of this world? Why celebrate the revelation and birth of a God who is powerless against nature?

God is not some kind of superman. God is not there to prevent an earthquake. Where was God when the earthquake happened? He was weeping and hurt like all of us. But the real power of God is seen in the aftermath: in the love and support He provides us.

When we see people throughout the world coming together to aid the Armenians, that is God working. God gives us the capacity to love. We give to others because of that ability to love.

We must stop thinking of God as a great puppeteer who sends disaster to this world to test our reaction. Disaster, pain and suffering are part of an imperfect world. We find God in the peace and love that only He can provide in answer to that disaster.

The Feast of Theophany is the celebration of God becoming man so that man can know God. He took our form and went through all the motions of man. He suffered and died. He did not exempt Himself from this great suffering, for no one is exempt.

When the earthquake hit, we were all hurt. Where was God? We saw Him in the love and support from the four corners of the Earth. We saw a world come together. We saw ''enemies'' helping ''enemies.''

God is revealed: a God who understands us; a God who suffers with us; a God who helps and gives us strength during our darkest hour.

This is God being revealed. This is the celebration of Theophany.
St. Andrew Armenian Church does not have a church building of its own. The congregation will celebrate the Feast of Theophany at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at St. Sava Orthodox Church Hall, 7781 Orion, Cupertino.

Copyright 1989, San Jose Mercury News


On the Ordination of a Woman Acolyte

The following article was submitted to "Side by Side" a publication
concerned with the ordination of women in the Armenian Church. c.
1988 Fr. Vazken Movsesian
On the Ordination of a Woman Acolyte

A few years ago, during a discussion session at an ACYO
Religious Retreat a question was asked concerning the role of women
in the Armenian Church. Little did I suspect at the time that a
wonderful growing experience would unfold for our congregation at
the St. Andrew Armenian Church in Cupertino, California.

In response to the question, scriptural and canonical
refrences to women in the Church were sited and the Armenian
deaconesses in Turkey, Iran and Georgia were remembered. It was at
that moment that a young college student named Seta Simonian asked
if she could join the deacon's training program at our parish. I
welcomed her.

She trained for eight months with other candidates, all men.
After completing the regular course of study, in December 1984 His
Eminence Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, Primate of the Armenian
Church Western Diocese found her to be worthy and ordained her as
an acolyte of the Church. To our knowledge, Seta became the first
woman in America to receive the 4 minor orders of the Armenian
Church. Following her ordination Seta executed her duties along
with male counterparts at the Holy Altar.

As other young Armenian women, Seta had sang in the choir and
served in the ACYO. However, she wanted to express her love for
Christ and His Holy Church in a different manner.

From the very beginning of her training Seta understood that
it would be different for her. As her ordination neared we were
apprehensive. Would the people accept a woman at the altar? If
so, how? Especially considerring the complexion of our particular
parish (mostly foreign-born Armenians, who are somtimes thought to
be more "traditional"), what would their reaction be?

When we speak of women in the Armenian Church or any idea
which is uncommon for our Church we make two fundamental mistakes
in our thinking. First, even though we know better, we limit our
Church traditions to our immediate circumstances. That is to say,
if something or some expression does not exist in our church today,
such as women serving as deacons, then that it is not traditional.
The converse then becomes true: the admission of these ideas into
our church is going against tradition. Upon studying scripture,
Holy Traditions and Church history, it becomes evident that women
have always been active participants in the worship life of the
Church. Therefore, a church with women serving as acolytes and/or
deaconesses can only be considered "traditional". The second
mistake we make is that we do not give enough credit to our
Armenian faithful. Our true communicants are open to instruction.
So it was at our parish after the traditions were explained through
articles and sermons.

Seta was accepted from the first day of her ordination. The
people applauded and encouraged this young servant of God in her
Christian journey. Some even recalled deaconesses they had seen
oversees. Some relayed lost dreams they had of serving the Church.
In every case the comments were supportive. Along with the
compliments, Seta would also receive constructive crticism and
suggestions as did her male counterparts. It told us that the
congregation accepted her in her new role.

Seta's ordination was a special event not only in her life but
in the life of our entire community as well. We thank our Primate
Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian for giving our community this
opportunity to grow. It is a step toward one day realizing a woman
deacon. It is the Church who benefits, which means we all do.

Fr. Vazken Movsesian
Cupertino, California

c. 1988 Fr. Vazken Movsesian


Last Temptation of Christ

Thoughts on "The Last Temptation of Christ"

1987 Message of Fr. Vazken Movsesian,parish priest of St. Andrew Armenian Church, Cupertino, from the Nakhagoch Newsletter.

In early August, as the movie "The Last Temptation of Christ" was
about to be released, our community experienced one of our
greatest losses. A young, innocent girl was taken away from us by
cancer. The following article was written just prior to
the release of the movie and in the aftermath of the suffering and
pain that came with the tragedy of losing a dear and lovely child
of God. I offer it here for our readers as a priest's struggle
with a cross and as a meditation on the Cross which
we will celebrate September 11.
Early Sunday morning I was awakened by the call of a
parishioner. Her daughter, 25, who was suffering from cancer was
breathing her last at the hospital. As I raced on to Santa Teresa
Hospital many thoughts raced through my head, as they
usually do at these moments.
At the hospital, a young, frail and tired girl looked at me
with a last look of hope. She squeezed my hand to acknowledge my
presence. The nurses asked me to leave the ICU ward as they
placed more tubes into her nostrils. I came back into
the room but now she was unconscious. The hand that only a few
minutes ago had shown signs of life was now limp and cold. I
offered some prayers and read scripture into her ear, not certain
whether or not she heard. A few moments later it did not
matter anymore. It was over. A young life, which had not
experienced much of that life, had ended.
And so begin the questions. Why? Why her? Why now? Why
cancer at all? An injustice had been played out. It wasn't
fair. The wrong person was robbed. The deeper questions begin to
surface: What is life all about? Did God take her life?
Does God hear our prayers? And for me, as a priest, the role and
purpose of my ministry is questioned. Is it fate? Is our destiny
written out for us? If so, then what is my ministry all about?
These are questions I have asked and continue to
ponder. Philosophies have been written about these questions. I
imagine today many a rational being questions the nature and
purpose of life. Many have rebelled against a seemingly silent
God. Some have turned against God in this questioning,
while for the most part, the questioning has been the vehicle by
which many have come to know God. It is a real-life temptation.
Living through the last-minutes of a human being's life
awakens your senses which have become so dull from mundane day to
day experiences. As you focus in on how delicate and fragile life
is, it becomes difficult to justify or be concerned
with trivialities.
Over the past few months, much controversy has revolved
around the film "The Last Temptation of Christ." The cries and
worries of Christians increase as does my intolerance for their
illogical and petty thinking. It is difficult for me to
sympathize with these protesters. I do plan to see it. Not
because of all the controversy, nor because I am a proponent of
First Amendment rights, nor because of the pre-opening hype by
Universal; rather, my reasons for wanting to see the film are
purely personal. The novel, by Kazantzakis, on which the film is
based was influential in my life and my decision to enter into the
priesthood. I am interested to see how this imaginative, yet
powerful story has been adapted to film.
We somehow very easily play into the traps of promoters. It
is comparable to the man who assissinates to gain publicity. We
know that that is his motive, yet we continue to broadcast the
news. We make him the hero he set out to be. In the
same manner, Universal seeks publicity for a movie. So why pay
for it? Allow a select few to preview it. Provide sketchy script
sheets to fuel the fires of controversy. Instant publicity! We
know we are falling into their trap, but we do it
The story by Kazantzakis is researched well and thought out.
The crucified Messiah is given His last temptation on the cross.
He is given the opportunity to see life beyond the cross, to know
the joys of a family life, share memories with
friends and live to a ripe old age. He is given the opportunity
to have the same dreams as do all men and be as all men. Yet he
resists temptation, says no to all the trappings of this world and
opts to do His Father's will instead. I do not know
how faithful the screen play is to the Kazantzakis novel but the
story line is not offensive to me.
What some are objecting to is the portrayal of Jesus in an
irreverent manner--that possibly He may have felt human feelings.
In the movie, an actor playing Jesus Christ, is said to do all
manner of things that are unbefitting our image of a
saviour. He even has a sexual encounter with Mary Magdalene. Why
are human emotions and feelings equated with frailty and signs of
Underlying these protests is the fear of the freedom of
expression and thought, not for the novelist but for ourselves.
We are afraid to think and use the mind God has given us.
Religion has become more or less an accept/reject proposition.
"The Bible tells me so!" "My preacher says it, I believe it!" "I
accepted the Lord!" We want to order and receive our religion and
god as fast as we receive our Big Mac, with the same smiling
service and even some change back for our efforts.
Unfortunately, life is not that easy and neither are the answers
religion supplies.
Marx is correct in his assessment of religion being the opium
of the people, not because it is, but because people use it as
such. It is easier and quicker to grab that Big Mac than it is to
sit at a nice restaurant, wait, order, wait and be
served. But few would compare the quality of the meal. It is the
same with religion. It is easier to grab a religion because of
it's convenience value, but of what quality will it be? Will it
survive tests and temptation? Jesus' religion did.
There is no sin in thinking. Questions must be asked. It is
our one way of coming to terms with in inconsistencies in life.
Questioning is a means of spiritual growth. Jesus, in the
Gospels, does not force us to follow Him. He gives us
alternatives. He gives us food for thought. He allows us to
think, to question and make the decision to follow Him.
A young man dies on a cross. A young girl dies in my arms on
a bed in a cancer ward. A young man asks that the cup pass away.
A young girl asks for another cup of water. We must ask, why the
cross? I must ask, why cancer? Why her? These
questions do not alienate us from God, but grant us a closer
relationship. We struggle and suffer for those answers but the
solutions are there, and their enduring power is ever so
heightened when reached through struggle. Jesus is tempted with
life beyond the cross, we are tempted daily with life beyond our
crosses. The difference is that we succumb to temptation. We opt
for the better life. We want better houses, bigger cars. We chose
to pollute our environment with the threat of
unhealthy life. We continue to kill for the sake of peace. We do
not say no to the trappings of life.
With the problems and pains in this world, it seems trivial
and a waste of energy for so many Christians to be protesting a
movie. Are they truly scared that in questioning, some may lose
their faith? Rather than direct their protests toward
the idea of God living as man, perhaps some of that energy can be
spent in protesting man living as God. Where are the protests
when the shoot-em-up Rambo movies are released? Where are the
protesters when the environment is polluted? Where are
the cries of protest as we escalate military spending and allow
our homeless to rot in the streets? Yes, there are protesters,
but I doubt they are the same ones who protest this movie.
#The movie, "The Last Temptation of Christ" is a temptation f
or all of us. Some may resist, some may seek it. If it grants us
the opportunity to think then it has done enough. It has raised
us from the levels of acceptance to thought, which is the role and
true use of religion.
--Fr. Vazken
c. 1987 Fr. Vazken Movsesian