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Posted 15 February 2001 - 02:19 PM

PERMISSION IS GRANTED TO USE OR REPRODUCED THIS ESSAY
PROVIDED THAT PROPER CREDIT IS GIVEN AS FOLLOWS: Hratch
Tchilingirian, The Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church (www.sain.org)
1996. Copyright 1996.

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THE ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ORTHODOX
CHURCH

By Hratch Tchilingirian


CONTENTS
n History
n The Faith of the Armenian Church
n The Armenian Catholic Church
n The Armenian Evangelical Church
n Functional Structure of the Armenian Church
n The Hierarchical Structure of the Church

HISTORY

The Church was founded by Jesus Christ (cf. Matthew 16:18; 28:19-20).
According to tradition, two of His Apostles--St. Thaddeus and St.
Bartholomew--preached His Gospel in Armenia as early as the second half
of the first century. Then in 314 , St. Gregory the Illuminator formally
established the Church in Armenia, when King Tiridates III was baptized
and declared Christianity as the state religion. St. Gregory (c. 240-325 AD)
was a descendant of a noble house in Parthia, who was brought up as a
Christian in Cappadocia. He was consecrated a bishop by Leontius, the
metropolitan of Caesarea, as the first Bishop of Armenia. The origin of the
Armenian liturgical and sacramental tradition is ascribed to him. He began
his missionary work in Armenia during the first decade of the 4th century,
while a layman, and upon is consecration as Bishop he established the
Armenian nation's Holy See in Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin) . He is called
Illuminator because he "enlightened the nation with the light of the gospel"
through baptism.

The Christianization of Armenia "determined the entire future course of
Armenian history" . The Armenian nation embraced Christ in its own land
where God himself "descended". Etchmiadzin, literally, means "the only
begotten descended.” According to tradition, St. Gregory saw Christ in a
vision who indicated to him where to build His Church, the first Armenian
Church. As the new Faith took roots in the life of the nation, the invention of
an Armenian alphabet was necessitated. Realizing the needs of the
Armenian faithful, in 406, St. Mesrob Mashdotz (ca. 355-439) created the
Armenian alphabet, under the auspices of Catholicos Sahag (ca. 348-438 ) ,
in order to make the Christian faith accessible to the people in a written
form. Greek and Syriac were the languages used in the church services.
Soon after the invention of the alphabet, St. Mesrob together with St. Sahag
and a group of associates--known as Holy Translators--translated the Holy
Scriptures into Armenian, followed by the biblical, theological and liturgical
writings of eminent church fathers. This most important era is known as the
Golden Age of Armenian history. "The missionary and literary labours [of
this period] shaped the destiny of the Armenian people and Church for
succeeding generations. … [St. Mesrob and St. Sahag, their disciples and
co-workers] spearheaded the creation of the Armenian Christian culture
under the patronage of the King Vramshapuh (ca 389-415). This period was
one of intense activity and rapid development for the Church and was
decisive in its consolidation and nationalization."

One of the most significant events in Armenian Christianity is the battle of
Avarair. Toward the middle of the fifth century, Armenia faced growing
pressures from the Persian King Yazdegert II, who had issued an edict bidding
the Armenians to renounce Christ and embrace Zoroastrianism . The
Armenians remained loyal to their faith, repeatedly refused to disavow
Christ. In 451, headed by the commander-in-chief Vartan Mamikonian,
Armenians fought against the Persians to preserve their faith. Yeghishe, the
historian who wrote The History of Vartan and the Armenian War, in a
dialogue between the Persian Tenshabuh (ambassador) and the Priest
Ghevont, expresses the profundity of this faith, "Christ, the living and life-
giving true God, by His beneficent will became the healer of souls and
bodies and Himself first suffered tortures and pains to cure the entire human
race. …He granted us second birth in health without pains and
afflications." St. Vartan fell in the battle field of Avarair and Armenians
were physically defeated. For the next thirty years oppression and resistance
followed, until 484 A.D., when under the leadership of Vahan Mamikonian,
Vartan’s nephew, the Persian King Peroz reversed course and declared full
toleration of Christian faith and the formal recognition and establishment of
the Church, in the treaty of Nuarsak.

The following centuries were difficult periods for the Armenian nation--
Persian rule (430-634) and later Arab domination (c. 654-851). In the 9th
century (c. 885) there was an independent kingdom of the Bagratids in
Armenia, however it ended in 1079. In the medieval Kingdom of Cilicia or
Lesser Armenia, there was an independent entity from the end of the 12th
century to 1375. Persecution and martyrdom had become common
occurrences in the life of the Armenian nation. A larger proportion of
Armenians were massacred by the Turks in the Ottoman Empire starting in
the late 19th century to early 20th century. Armenians also suffered under
the Russians starting in 1893 until the early 1980s.

In assessing history and the role of the Armenian Church in the life of the
Armenian nation, Abp. Aram Keshishian writes: "Confessing Christ has
become the quintessence of our history. The history of the Armenian Church
in all its manifestations and achievements, conflicts and struggles, is in the
fullest sense of the term the history of confessing Christ in action. …All the
spheres of our life were touched by the transforming power of Christ. The
Armenian culture in particular with its spiritual depth and transcendent
dynamism has provided the Church with creative insights and new
perspectives and horizons in terms of integrating Christ into the ethos of the
Nation."


THE FAITH OF THE ARMENIAN CHURCH

The Faith of the Armenian Church is transmitted through the church's Holy
Tradition, i.e., the ongoing life of the church from the time of Christ to our
times. The Bible, liturgy and worship, writings of the church fathers, church
councils, saints, canons, religious art and rituals--organically linked together-
-formulate the Holy Tradition of the Church.

This Faith is articulated in the Creed of the Armenian Church, which in
turn defines the church's raison d'etre and sets the parameters of its modus
operandi.

The Armenian Church professes her faith in the context of her worship.
Theologically, whatever the church believes, the church prays . Therefore,
the Armenian Church's worship and liturgy constitute a prime source for
teaching her faith. History, i.e., Tradition, on the other hand, defines and
formulates the "articles of faith" and transmits them from generation to
generation.

The Armenian Church believes in One God, the Father Almighty who is the
Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible & invisible. Humanity
(male and female) is created in the image and likeness of God, and as
such is a special creature. However, because of the Fall of man, sin
entered the world.

The Church believes in Jesus Christ, "the only begotten Son of God…who
came down from heaven, was incarnate, was born of the Virgin Mary, by
the Holy Spirit. He became man, was crucified for us and suffered and was
buried. He rose again from the dead on the third day and ascended into
heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with
glory to judge the living and the dead.

The Armenian Church believes in the Holy Spirit - uncreated and perfect,
who proceeds from the Father– and together with the Father and the Son is
worshipped and glorified. The Holy Spirit spoke to the prophets and
apostles and descended into the Jordan, witnessing Christ's Baptism.

The Armenian Church is One, Holy, Apostolic, Catholic, Church.

She believes in one Baptism with repentance for the remission and
forgiveness of sins. On judgment day, Christ will call all men and women
who have repented to eternal life in His Heavenly Kingdom, which has no
end. Christ overcame the power of death with His own and gave salvation
to all mankind.

The dogmas of the Armenian Church are based on these "articles of faith."

The Armenian Church belongs to the Orthodox family of churches, known as
the Oriental Orthodox, or Non-Chalcedonian, Churches, i.e., the Armenian,
Coptic, Syrian, Ethiopian and Indian Malabar churches.

Generally, Christianity is divided mainly between Eastern and Western
churches. The relationship between Byzantium (East) and Rome (West)
deteriorated gradually. In the ninth century a schism between the Byzantine
Church and the Church of Rome started to shape during the time of Patriarch
Photius. Then in 1054, anathemas were declared by both sides (Patriarch
Michael and Cardinal Humbert), which lasted for centuries. By 1204, when
the Crusaders captured Constantinople, the schism had became final. In
1965, following the Vatican II Council, the anathemas were lifted by both
sides in a spirit of ecumenism and understanding among the churches.

The main theological differences and disagreements between the Eastern
(including the Armenians) and the Church of Rome (Catholics) are in the
following issues:

Filioque: according to the teachings of the Church of Rome, the Holy Spirit,
the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, proceeds from the Father and the Son,
while the Orthodox teach that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only;

Papal Supremacy: the Roman Catholics consider the Pope the “Vicar of
Christ”, while the Orthodox churches consider him only as “first in honor”
and in pastoral diakonia.

Papal Infallibility: The Catholics follow a "monarchical” model of
ecclesial polity, while the Orthodox follow a “conciliar” model, i.e., church
councils determine church dogma, canons and policies.

There are also other minor differences among these two branches of
churches, such as the rules of fasting; unleavened bread at Eucharist (West);
manner of conferring confirmation; celibacy of clergy; divorce (not
sanctioned in Roman Catholicism); purgatory (East doesn't teach it); West
has "scholastic' approach, East has "mystical" approach to theological issues.

The main difference between the Byzantine tradition, also known as
Chalcedonian churches, and the Armenian Church, (together with other non-
Chalcedonian churches) has been on the issue of Christology, i.e., the dogma
related to Christ’s Divine and Human natures.

Abp. A. Keshishian writes, "the Christology of the Armenian Church is
fundamentally in line with the Alexandrian Theological School. In fact, the
Cyrillian formula of 'One Nature of the Incarnate Word' consititutes the
foundation stone of her Christology. [It should be noted that] first, 'One
Nature' is never interpreted in the Armenian Christology as a numerical one,
but always a united one. This point is of crucial importance [for the
Armenian Church] particularly in its anti-Eutychian and anti-Chalcedonian
aspects. Second the term 'nature' (ousia, in Armeian bnut'iun) is used in
Armenian theological literature in three different senses: (a) as essence, an
abstract notion, (b) as substance, a concrete reality, © as person. In the
context of anti-Chalcedonian Christology 'one nature' is used in a sense of
'one person' composed of two natures."

The Christological controversy continued for centuries, often becoming a
matter of political influence and expediency. However, in 1990, the
theologians and official representatives of both Eastern and Oriental
Orthodox Churches--after years of dialogue and consultations--agreed in a
formal statement that their theological understanding, especially their
Christology, is "orthodox." The statement called for unity and communion
among the Eastern and Oriental Churches and as such, the document was
sent to the respective leaders of the participating churches for formal
approval.


While the overwhelming majority of Armenians are members of the
Armenian Church (also known as the “Mother Church”), a number of
Armenians belong to the Armenian Catholic and Protestant (Evangelical)
churches.

The Armenian Catholic Church

Beginning in the 12th century, Armenians came into contact with the Roman
Church through their ties with the Crusaders in Cilicia. Later in the 14th
century, through the missionary activities of the Franciscan and Dominican
orders, a "latinizing movement" gained ground among "liberal elements in
the Armenian Church." However, it was only in the 19th century, during the
Ottoman period, that the Armenian Catholics became a millet--an
autonomous Church affiliated with Roman Catholicism. In 1831, when a
new constitution for Christians living in the Ottoman Empire was instituted, "
'the (Armenian) Catholic Church Community" was created and legally
recognized to form the Armenian Rite Catholic segment of the Roman
Church, with its own hierarchy and its own Catholicos-Patriarch." In the
early 18th century, two Mekhitarist monastic congregations were established
in Venice and Vienna, which have "rendered inestimable service to
Armenian letters and scholarship fostering and enriching the religious and
cultural heritage of Armenians."

The Evangelical Armenians

The Armenian Evangelical community was formally recognized in 1846 by
the Ottoman government, after "paiful clashes" between church authorities
and the "reformers"-- those within the Mother Church who wished to
“reestablished” the church’s true evangelical mission. The beginning of
Armenian Protestantism is traced back to the 19th century missionary
activities of the American Board of Missions, which expanded an aggressive
mission throughout Asia Minor. As a result of the continued affiliation of
the Armenian Evangelicals with American missionary organizations, many
schools and colleges were established during the second half of the 19th
century, which benefited thousands Armenians living in the Ottoman
Empire.


THE FUNCTIONAL STRUCTURE OF THE ARMENIAN CHURCH

The functional structure of the Armenian Church is primarily based on the
canons and established traditions of the Armenian Church which were
formulated over the centuries. One of the most important aspects of the
Armenian Church administration is its Conciliar System; i.e., the
administrative, as well as doctrinal, liturgical, and canonical norms are set
and approved by a council--collective and participatory decision making
process. The Council of Bishops (or the Synod) is the highest religious
authority in the Church.

The “norms” of the administrative structure of the church go back to the
Apostolic times. A point could be made by the fact that there was a quasi-
organizational structure in Christ’s group of twelve apostles. Perhaps not as
clearly defined, but nevertheless, it was an organizational subsystem that
was endowed with a specific task and purpose. While the Scriptures do not
record the organizational aspect of the “apostolic college,” their activities
and interaction underline the existence of certain “norms.” For example, the
group of the twelve had a treasurer (Judas Iscariot) and a “natural” division
of labor based on the talents or the personality of each apostles. Matthew
was a tax collector (a “government employee”) and had certain familiarity
with management practices of the time. In fact, Matthew was “sitting in his
office,” when Christ met him and asked him to “follow” him (Matthew 9:9).
Then we read that “Jesus called his twelve disciples together and gave them
authority...” (Matthew 10:1) to carry out their mission. We also find certain
“rules” for carrying out Jesus’s instructions: “The twelve men were sent
out...with instructions,” (Matthew 10:5ff). One could even see traces of
“bureaucracy” (as defined by Max Weber) as early as Christ’s time – i.e., a)
recruitment and hierarchy, b) division of labor, c) set of rules.

After Jesus had “left” the twelve, the mission had to continue by the
apostles. The first thing that the apostles did was to elect a replacement for
Judas. “...A few days later there was a meeting of the believers...so they
proposed two men…then they drew lots to choose between the two men,
and the one chosen was Matthias, who was added to the group of eleven
apostles (Acts 1;15ff). Interestingly, this “democratic” election and the
proposal process, is indicative of yet anther bureaucratic norm, namely
“promotion based on merit and qualification.” Eventually, as the church
progressed from being a persecuted entity of believers to an institutionalized
organization, the rules and admonitions of "the apostles and the elders" (Acts
15:6) were integrated in the canon books of Christian churches, including the
Armenian Church. A significant aspect in Acts 15 is the "conciliarity" of the
decision making process.


THE HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURE OF THE ARMENIAN
CHURCH CONSISTS OF THE FOLLOWING:

- Clerical Hierarchy
Catholicos
Bishop
Priest

- Lay Representation
National Ecclesiastical Assembly
Diocesan Assembly
Parish Assembly


The Catholicos

First on the hierarchical ladder is the Catholicos, as the Chief Bishop and
Supreme head of the Armenian Church. The Catholicos is elected by a
National Ecclesiastical Assembly (NEA), consisting of lay and clergy
representatives of the Armenian Churches from around the world. Working
closely with the Catholicos is the Supreme Ecclesiastical Council, (the
administrative arm of the NEA) which carries out the overall administration
of the Armenian Church throughout the world.

The Bishop

Second on the hierarchical ladder is the bishop, who is “elected” by the
people and consecrated by the Catholicos with the aid of two other bishops
(according to current practice, the Catholiocs has exclusive right to
consacrate bishops). A bishop in a given diocese is the “chief executive
officer” of the region, who works in cooperation with a Diocesan Council
(consisting of clergy and lay members), who in turn are elected by the
Diocesan Assembly of the region. The Bishop is the ex-officio president of
each and every Diocesan organization.

The Priest

Third on the hierarchical ladder is the priest, who is appointed by the Bishop
and accepted by the Parish Assembly of a given parish. The parish priest is
the ex-officio president of each and every Parish organization. (In the case of
"monastic priests," as it is the case in Etchmiadzin, Antelias, Jerusalem and
Constaninople, they are under the jurisdiction of the Catholicos or the
Patriarch of the given See).

The National Ecclesiastical Assembly

The National Ecclesiastical Assembly (NEA) consists of lay and clergy
delegates elected by the diocesan Assemblies of the dioceses of the
Armenian Church around the world. Every bishop in the Armenian Church
is automatically a member of the Assembly. The Catholicos–or in his
absence the Locum Tenens–is ex-officio president of the NEA. The primary
function of the NEA is to elect a successor to a deceased Catholicos. The
last NEA was convened in April 1995, when it elected His Holiness Karekin
I as Catholicos of All Armenians in Etchmiadzin.

The Diocesan Assembly

The Diocesan Assembly consists of lay delegates elected by the Parish
Assemblies. Every diocesan clergy is automatically a member of the
Assembly. The Diocesan Primate is ex-officio president of the Diocesan
Assembly.

The Parish Assembly

The Parish Assembly consists of all baptized and/or dues paying members of
a given parish in a given diocese. The Pastor is the ex-officio president of the
Parish Assembly.

On each level on the hierarchical structure of the Armenian Church, clergy
and lay cooperation is central to the overall administration and ministry of
the church. While the Church is governed according to the standards set
forth in the Canons, there are complementary By-Laws in most dioceses that
further define the role and relationship of each functionary in the church
within a given region.

There are four hierarchical Sees in the Armenian Church:

The Catholicosate of All Armenians in Etchmiadzin (established by St.
Gregory the Illuminator in the fourth century).

The Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia (established in Antelias,
Lebanon in 1930. Its roots go back to the 13th century).

The Patriarchate of Jersualem (the St. James Brotherhood established the
Patriarchate at the beginning of the 14th century).

The Patriarchate of Constantinople (established in 1461 by Sultan Mehmet
II).

Each See has its own brotherhood, ecclesiastical jurisdiction and internal
administrative by-laws. They are not separate churches, but are part of the
One, Holy, Apostolic Church--the Armenian Church--and are one in dogma,
theology, liturgy and in their service to the Armenian nation.
. Church, Yegheghetzi in Armenian (from Greek Ekklesia) literally means assembly, gathering–
coming together for a common purpose, i.e., to worship God and hear His words. Cf. Nor Baragirk
Haygazian Lezvi, Vol. 1, Yerevan 1979, p. 651; also Abp. Khoren Narbey, A Catechism of Christian
Instruction According to the Doctrine of the Armenian Church, (New York: Diocese of the
Armenian Church, 1964), p 75.

. Although 301 has been traditionally accepted to be the date of conversion, recent critical
studies by notable scholars (H. Manandian, G. Garitte and B. Ananian) have shown that 314 is
the actual date; cf. Tiran Abp. Nersoyan, Summary Topics of Armenian Church History (New
Rochelle: St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, 1986), p. 3.

. See Agathangelos, History of Armenians, [in Armenian] (Tblisi, 1914), p. 782.

. According to archaeological findings, the present Cathedral of Etchmiadzin is where St. Gregory
built an edifice over a pagan sanctuary. Before that, St. Gregory founded a Christian sanctuary
at Ashtishat in Taron.

. Malachia Ormanian, The Church of Armenia, (London, 1910) p. 10.

. David Marshal Lang, The Armenians, (London: Unwin Paperbacks, 1988), p. 47.

. St. Mesrob Mashdotz (ca 355-439) was born in the village of Hatzegyats in Daron, Armenia.
After formal education in Armenia, he studied in Antioch, where he learned Greek, Syriac and
Persian. Upon his return, he worked as a secretary in the Royal Court. In 394, he left the palace
and became a monk and was eventually ordained a priest. St. Mesrob is also credited for
assisting in the formulation of the Georgian and Albanian alphabets.

. St. Sahag (ca 348-438) was born in Caesarea. He was the only son of Catholicos Nersess the
Great, whom he succeeded in 386. He was educated in Caesarea and Byzantium. Besides his
important role in the invention of the Armenian alphabet, St. Sahag is also famous for organizing
the Church and establishing learning centers, where the development of a rich Tradition became
possible.


. op. cit., Nersoyan, p. 8.

. Zorastrianism was the dominant religion of Persia, especially during the Sassania dynasty
(211-640 A.D). It is a system of religious doctrine ascribed to Zoroaster. He taught that the world
was made by one "Wise Lord" with the help of his Spirit and six other divine spirits or attributes of
god. These spirits work against the Evil spirit, who is also helped by six other spirits and tempts
man to wrong.

. Yeshisheh, History of Vartan and the Armenian War, Trans. Dikran Boyajian, (New York: The
Delphic Press, 1952), p. 110.

. Aram Keshishian, The Witness of the Armenian Church in a Diaspora Situation (New York:
Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, 1978), p. 53

. The Creed of the Church is the formal declaration of her faith and belief – as expressed in the
Constantinopolitan formulary. The dogmas and teachings of the Armenian Church are based on
the declarations of the first three Ecumenical Councils of the Church – Nicea, in 325 A.D.,
defined the divinity of the Son of God; Constantinople, in 381, defined the divinity of the Holy
Spirit; Ephesus, in 431, defined Christ as the Incarnate Word of God and Mary was declared
Theotokos (Astoua‘a‘in). Subsequent "Ecumenical" Councils, which are accepted by the
Byzantine and Roman churches, defined other theological issues – Chalcedon 451,
Constantinople II 555, Constantinople III 680, Nicea II 787 – however, they are not formally
recognized by the Armenian Church. Nevertheless, the decision of Council of Nicea II (787) to
uphold the veneration of the holy icons is in conformity with the Armenian tradition already
articulated by Catholicos Vrtanes Kertogh in the seventh century.

. Lex orandi est Lex credendi et agendi, (Latin) "the rule of prayer is the rule of belief and of
action." This simple rule is the essence of liturgical theology. According to the patristic
understanding, "the man of prayer is the true theologian; the true theologian is the man of prayer."

. The word Ish and Ishah in Hebrew are the masculine and feminine of the same word human.
An exhaustive discussion of this topic is found in Claus Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A
Commentary, (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1987), pp. 201-208. S. Verhovskoy
writes, "The profound thought of Genesis lies in the indissolubility of man and woman…in the very
moment of creation. God created not one man but two, in combination and mutual dependence."
For a theological discussion of this topic see Serge Verhovskoy, "Creation of man and the
Establishment of the Family in the Light of the Book of Genesis," St. Valdimir's Theological
Quarterly 8:1/64, pp. 5-30.

. Theologically, in the image of God means sharing the spiritual attributes of divinity. Likeness is
the potential of humans to become Godlike, through His grace. From a theological point of view,
human development and growth is a continuous process in life.

. Sin in the original Greek (hamarthia) means "missing the mark," failure to be what one should
be and to do what one should do.

. ONE--the Church is one because Christ founded one church. There can only be one Church
and not many, as such the Church is indivisible. HOLY--the holiness of the Church comes from
God. "The members of the Church are holy to the extent that they live in communion with God….
Within the earthly Church, people participate in God’s holiness. Sin and error separate them from
this divine holiness as it does from the divine unity. Thus the earthly members and institutions of
the Church cannot be identified as such with the Church as holy." CATHOLIC--the catholicity of
the Church is understood in terms of the Church’s universality throughout time and space. Also,
the term catholic should not be confused with the Roman Catholic Church. APOSTOLIC--the
term apostolic, traditionally, affirms the establishment of the Armenian Church by Sts. Thaddeus
and Bartholomew. However, the fact that the word apostolic describes that which has a mission,
that which has “been sent” to accomplish a task should not be overlooked. "As Christ was sent
from God, so Christ Himself chose and sent His apostles." He said, "as the Father has sent me,
even so I send you… receive ye the Holy Spirit.” Just as the apostles were sent by Christ to
preach the word of God, the Church, i.e., its earthly members, is also sent by God to bear witness
to His Kingdom, to keep His word and to do His will and His works in this world. cf. Thomas
Hopko, Doctrine (New York: OCA, 1981), pp. 123-128.

The major sacraments of the Armenian Church are: Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Holy
Communion, Matrimony, Holy Orders, Unction with Oil. Sacrament (Khorhoort) means mystery,
i.e., something that cannot be explained in "human terms." St. Paul uses the word mystery to
explain God's desire to save, renew and unite all things in Christ. Jesus is mystically present in all
the sacraments of the church and is Himself the officiant through the person of the priest. The
sacraments are outward signs that give grace and blessings to the person receiving the
sacrament. For a more detailed discussion of sacraments in the Armenian Church, see Garabed
Kochakian, The Sacraments: The Symbols of our Faith, (New York: Diocese of the Armenian
Church, DRE, 1983); Bp. S. Kaloustian, Saints and Sacraments, (New York: Diocese of the
Armenian Church, ACYOA, 1964), pp. 37-58. Also op. cit. Ormanian, The Church of Armenia, pp.
114-117. For a historical survey and study of the Armenian Church's sacraments, see F. C.
Conybeare, Rituale Armenorum, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905).

op. cit., Keshishian, pp. 58-59n.

For the text of the Joint Statement see Window Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 3, 1992, pp. 21-24.

op. cit., Nersoyan, p. 25-26.

For an extensive discussion of Evangelical Armenians, see Leon Arpee, A Century of Armenian
Protestantism (New York: The Armenian Missionary Association, 1946).

. Most other traditional churches are also governed by the same principles, e.g., the Eastern
Orthodox Churches).

. For further discussion of this issue, see Hratch Tchilingirian, The Administrative Structure of the
Armenian Church (Thesis at California State University, Northridge, 1991), pp. 9-11. For a
historical survey of the Armenian Church's canonical tradition, see Tiran Nersoyan, "A Brief
Outline of the Armenian Liber Canonum and its Status in Modern Times." Kanon (Jahrbuch der geselischaft für das Recht der Ostkirchen), Vienna 1973, pp. 76-86.
http://www.sain.org/...hurch/intro.txt






[This message has been edited by MJ (edited February 15, 2001).]

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 02:24 PM

The Bible
in
The Armenian Church



Fr. Vazken Movsesian


The Bible in the Armenian Church


First edition: October 1980
Second edition: October 1984
Third edition: April 1993


Published at:
St. Andrew Armenian Church
11370 S. Stelling Road
Cupertino, CA 95014
U.S.A.

©1984, 1993 Fr. Vazken Movsesian

The Bible in the Armenian Church

To understand the Bible, one must first understand the
Church. Just as a psychologist, in studying a child’s
behavior, will examine the environment and the various
circumstances in which that child developed, we too must
review the conditions under which the Bible evolved. In
our quest to understand the Bible, we will study and
examine:
•The Armenian Church’s understanding of the Bible;
•The Church, Tradition, and the Bible;
•The evolution of the Bible.

In Armenian, we refer to the Bible as
Asdvadzashoonch, i.e., the “Breath of God.” The
Armenian Church believes that the Bible is God-inspired.
Even more, as the word Asdvadzashoonch implies, the
Armenian Church attaches great importance to the Bible
and does not view it as just another book. However, the
Armenian Church does not teach that the Bible is the
ultimate authority or voice of God. We cannot merely hold
up the Bible and say this is it! There is Holy Tradition
from which the Bible itself evolved.
Here in America, the constitutional guarantee for
freedom of religion has given rise to many philosophies
under the guise of a “church.” It might be easy to conclude
that one can receive the power and authority to establish a
church from the Bible. In fact, we have heard groups
exclaim that if something is non-Biblical, it is not true or
relevant or does not belong in the Church. Especially
among fundamentalist Christians, the Bible is seen as the
final authority on questions of faith. Unfortunately, people
with this view are operating under the common
misconception that the Church is a creation of the Bible. It
is important to keep in mind that this holy book did not fall
from heaven. God did not give us a Bible to define our
faith. God gave us something far more valuable that printed
words. God gave us His most sacred gift, His Son, Jesus
Christ. In His turn, Christ did not give us the Bible. (As far
as we know, Jesus never authored any written document.)
Christ gave us His most precious Body, the Holy Church. It
was the Church, who after centuries of thought and
development gave us the book we call the Bible.


BIBLICAL ANATOMY
The Bible is made up of two major sections: the Old
Testament and the New Testament. In Orthodox
Christianity, the Old Testament is seen through the New
Testament. That is, for Christians, the New Testament is
the fulfillment of God’s promise as made in the Old
Testament. In the Armenian Church, we sing a special
hymn on the Feast of the Holy Translators of the Bible
called Vork Zartaretzin. The English translation of this
hymn reads: O, You who masterfully bedecked the wisdom
of the living letters to lead the flock of the New Israel…
The key words here are the “New Israel.” For, in fact, the
concept of Israel is from the Old Testament. It is the people
to whom God entrusted His covenant. The New Israel is the
Christian Church, those who have accepted the New
Covenant. The concept of the “New Israel” is further
illustrated in a hymn of the baptism service: We have been
called the New Israel in Christ… Appropriately, this hymn
is sung immediately following a person’s formal
admittance into the Church.
The New Testament or New Covenant is the testimony
about our Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament consists
of four Gospels, the Book of Acts, twenty-one letters and
one apocalyptic book call the Revelation of St. John.

Let us look at a time line, beginning with Pentecost,
when according to the book of Acts (2:1ff) the Holy Spirit
descended upon the Apostles and the Church was born.
The Apostles were the first Christian community, the first
Christian Church. They had no “Bible.” Instruction in the
faith was by word of mouth. First there was the Church and
as yet there was no Bible. The Gospel or the “Good News”
which they preached was that Christ had risen. For
millennia, people had come and gone, yet, no one had ever
conquered death. This was an earth-shaking experience in
the lives of the Apostles. Their mission was to spread the
Good News—Christ had risen giving an opportunity for all
humankind to share in this new life. This was the first
Gospel and it was transmitted orally. We need only read
Acts 1:22 and 1 Corinthians 15:12 ff to see this.



The first Christians felt that Christ’s return would be
imminent. That is, they felt that the Second Coming of
Christ was right around the corner and they lived their lives
accordingly. (See I Thessalonians 4:13-18.)
As time went on, the Apostles expanded their mission
to various parts of the world. New Christian communities
sprouted. Each of these communities had this
understanding of an imminent end. As time went on,
problems arose in the communities—daily problems. The
communities were faced with questions of, “Should we
obey the local authorities if Christ is due back any day?”
Or, “Is it proper for us to marry, if Christ will be returning
soon?” Or, “What will happen to all those who die before
Christ returns?” These are all legitimate questions for a
group of people who harbored a notion of an imminent end.
To address these problems, the Apostles, now scattered
throughout the known world, wrote responses to the
communities, giving specific instructions on how to
conduct their lives until Christ returned. Among the most
popular letters were those of the apostle Paul. The books in
the New Testament which follow the Gospels are nothing
more than the letters St Paul wrote to the Christians in
Rome, Corinth, Thessalonica, Ephesus, and so on. The first
of these letters (I Thessalonians) was written in the 40’s.
The Church existed without a bible. The Church had its
worship services, which included partaking of the Holy
Eucharist, reading psalms or prophetic literature of the Old
Testament, and prayer. The letters they received (e.g. from
the apostle Paul), were read during the gathering of the
faithful. These letters, which eventually became part of the
Bible, were written for the sole use of the Church.
As time went on, and Christ had not yet returned,
further problems developed. For one, all the eyewitnesses
to Christ’s life on Earth were passing away. Who would
covey the stories of Christ’s life to future generations?
Furthermore, the communities and churches were asking
about the details of Christ’s life, i.e. His birth, His
upbringing, whether or not He was baptized, and so on. For
this reason, the Gospels were written.
The Gospels are the narrative account of our Lord’s
life. Again, the point has to be made that they were
written for the sole use of the Christian Church. The
Church demanded it, and, therefore, they were produced.
The Gospels according to St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St.
Luke, including the Book of Acts, (called the synoptic
gospels) were written between 60 and 80 AD. The Gospel
according to St. John was written sometime later. Although
these books were written, they had not yet been put into the
form of a “bible.”

OTHER BOOKS
Toward the end of the second century AD, there were
all sorts of books existing in the Christian communities.
For example, there was the Gospel of Thomas, or, as the
author called his book, The Secret Words Which Jesus the
Living Spoke and Jude Thomas Wrote Down. This book is a
compilation of 118 different sayings attributed to Jesus. It
might be thought of as a more complete Sermon on the
Mount. Some of the passages in this book are also found in
the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke.
There was also a book called the Gospel of the Infancy
of Jesus Christ. It is one of the more fascinating books of
what is called the New Testament “apocrypha” or “hidden
books.” It was received by the Gnostics in the second
century. This book is a compilation of stories relating to the
young Jesus. Many of these stories seem to be derived from
events and occurrences in the synoptic Gospels. One story
relates how Jesus, while still in the cradle looks up at his
mother and says, “Mary, I am the Son of God.” Another
story is generated from the account of the anointing of
Jesus by Mary Magdalene. The story claims an old lady
kept Jesus’ navel string in an alabaster box of old oil of
spikenard. It was out of this box that Mary took the oil to
anoint Jesus. Still another story relates how Jesus and some
other young boys were molding clay figures of animals.
Upon Jesus’ command, the clay figures begin to walk and
fly. The entire book is filled with miraculous stories of this
nature.
Some other books of this genre include, The Gospel of
Nicodemus, The Gospel of Peter, the Epistle of Jesus
Christ and Abgarus the King of Edessa.
So, the early Church Fathers had before them many
books relating in some fashion or form to the Lord Jesus
Christ. After studying these books and sifting through their
content they had to decide which ones were authentic and
which were fictious and/or representative a heretical view.
It was the Church Fathers who decided what was to be
considered “The Bible,” designating them as scriptural
canon. In canon 85 of the Canons of the Holy and
Renowned Apostles there is a list of all the books which
are to be considered sacred and to be read in the Church.
All of the books that are in The Bible as we know it today
are in this list, except the Book of Revelation. It was in 419
AD, at the Regional Council held in Carthage that the Book
of Revelation was accepted as being canonical.

Meanwhile, during the fifth century a monumental task
was underway in Armenia. Until then, the scriptures were
read in Greek in the Armenian churches. Sts. Sahag and
Mesrob embarked upon the task of translating the Bible
into Armenian. St. Mesrob found the necessary tool for
doing this with the invention of the Armenian alphabet.
The Armenian translation of the Bible has been referred to
as the “Queen of Translations,” because of its accuracy
and style of perfection.

PROTESTANT REVISION
A major change in the Bible took place at the time of
the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther, in 1534
published his German Bible which had a number of books
separated from the Bible. These books, which Luther
excluded on his own, he referred to as the Apocrypha. As a
preface to the Apocrypha, Luther wrote, “Apocrypha, that
is, books which are not held equal to the sacred Scriptures,
and nevertheless are useful and good to read.” Of course,
the Orthodox Church, as well as the Roman Catholic
Church, continue to regard these books as canonical.
One of the sections which was separated is from the
third chapter of the Book of Daniel, known as The Song of
the Three. This section is read in the Armenian Church on
Easter Eve and Theophany Eve. Among the books that
were separated is the Book of Maccabees, were we see the
Jews praying over the dead and expounding on life after
death. This can be compared with the Armenian Church’s
requiem service (hokehankist).
These “apocryphal” books are a part of our Tradition
and, unfortunately, are sometimes overlooked.

LEATHER BOUND BIBLES
Today, we have a finished copy of the Bible, all nicely
printed and available virtually anywhere. What is the role
and use of The Bible for us, as members of the Armenian
Church? Where does the Bible fit-in in the life of the
Armenian Church and the Armenian Christian?
Our Armenian Church is often criticized for not
stressing the Bible, or for not emphasizing the Bible
enough. When we hear these complaints, we must always
keep in mind that the Bible is the product of the Church!
Beyond a doubt, our Armenian Church is one of the most
biblical Churches. Every part of our liturgies, hymns, and
services can be paralleled with the Bible. However, the
Bible is not the only article of faith our Church has to offer,
we have Holy Tradition. These are practices of the Church
which were established before the Bible was written. As St.
John writes in his Gospel, “Now Jesus did many other signs
in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in
this book: but these are written that you may believe that
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you
may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)
Moreover, St. Paul writes, “So then, brethren, stand
firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us,
either by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thessalonians
2:15) It is apparent that there was an oral tradition which
was equally as valid as the written one. Where do we learn
about this Tradition? At the same place we learn about the
Bible — at the Church!
If we open the Armenian Church lectionary for the
Feast of the Holy Translators, we find the Gospel reading is
from Matthew 7:6, “Do not give dogs what is holy, do not
throw you pearls before swine; they will only trample on
them and turn and tear you to pieces.”
Perhaps our forefathers had a reason for instructing us
with this passage, and, I suspect, a very good reason. When
we speak of the Bible in the Armenian Church, we speak of
the Breath of God. The early Church Fathers, did not intend
the Bible—the Breath of God—to be an evangelical or
inspirational tool outside the Church. The accessibility of a
Bible to us is a phenomenon of only the past few centuries,
from the time of the printing press. Even today, in our
churches, the Bible, especially the Gospels, is considered
sacred. Be it Deacon or Priest, whoever handles the Gospel
in the Church, never directly touches the Holy Book, but
uses a cloth to hold it.
Because the Church produced the Bible, the Church,
ultimately, is the entity which gives authority to the Bible.
And, in the same light, only in the Church can the Bible be
interpreted with authority.
The Bible is not something which God gave directly to
us. No, it evolved through time. It is the complication of
the writings and oral traditions of year upon year, century
upon century. We as the living Armenian Church today,
should never forget that in terms of historical reality, our
Church, along with its rich Tradition existed long before
the Bible was compiled. This statement does not diminish
the importance of the Bible in the Church, only clarifies its
place within Tradition.
Yes, the Armenian Church does believe the Holy
Scriptures are inspired by God. We even make note of this
every Sunday when in the Creed we recite, “ We believe
also in the Holy Spirit, … who spoke in the law and in the
prophets and in the Gospels.” However, we must keep it in
perspective and view it in accordance with and in
acknowledgment of the Holy Tradition of the Church.

The Bible is a part of the Holy Tradition of the Church.
Although the Bible holds a certain supremacy in this Holy
Tradition, we must remember that if we are to speak about
the Bible, we must also speak about liturgical and
sacramental life, the ecumenical councils, the writings of
the Church Fathers, the lives of the saints, canon law,
music, and architecture. All of these are sources of faith
and very much a part of Holy Tradition. As the living
Armenian Church today, we must not only share in the
Bible, but in the entirety of Holy Tradition.


BOOKS OF THE BIBLE
IN CANONICAL ORDER OF THE ARMENIAN CHURCH


OLD TESTAMENT
Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
I Samuel
II Samuel
I Kings
II Kings
I Chronicles
II Chronicles
Ezra
Nehemiah
I Esdras*
II Esdras*
Tobit*
Judith*
Esther (& addtn.*)
I Maccabees*
II Maccabees*
III Maccabees*
Job
Psalms (to 151)
Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
Song of Songs
Wisdom of Solomon*


Ecclesiasticus
(Sirach)*
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Lamentations
Baruch*
Letter of Jermiah*
Ezekiel
Daniel:
Song of Three*
Susanna*
Bel & the Dragon*
Hosea
Joel
Amos
Obadiah
Jonah
Micah
Nahum
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi
Prayer of Manasseh

*considered by
some as
apocryphal

NEW TESTAMENT
Matthew
Mark
Luke
John
Acts
Romans
I Corinthians
II Corinthians
Galatians
Ephesians
Philippians
Colossians
I Thessalonians
II
Thessalonians
I Timothy
II Timothy
Titus
Philemon
Hebrews
James
I Peter
II Peter
I John
II John
III John
Jude
Revelation
http://www.sain.org/...hurch/Bible.txt

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 02:26 PM

THE SACRAMENTS OF THE
ARMENIAN CHURCH

by Fr. Garabed Kochakian


SACRAMENTS AS SYMBOL

One of the most satisfying definitions of the sacraments is
that they are signs of God's love. The sacraments of our
faith are essentially symbols which show the plan of God
as he designed it for all humanity.

Signs and symbols are all around us. Things, events and
people have the capacity to be symbols. For example, the
American Flag is a symbol of freedom and independence
and the person of Abraham Lincoln is a symbol of equality
and freedom from slavery.

By association, we see a symbol as something concrete
that represents something else. Thus, things, events, and
people all have the capacity to make present a reality
greater than ourselves.

We may consider symbols in three types. First is the
conventional symbol which is something that people in a
particular society agree: it means one thing and not
another. Second is the accidental symbol which is
something that has a special meaning for us as
individuals, but may have very little meaning to someone
else. And the third is the universal symbol which pretty
much conveys the same meaning to all men and women at
all times and in all places.

It is this universal symbol that the church has effectively
used in the celebrations of the seven sacraments. They
speak in a language common to Christians in all
countries.


THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS IN THE ARMENIAN
CHURCH ARE

1. Baptism
2. Chrismation
3. Confession
4. Holy Communion
5. Marriage
6. Ordination
7. Extreme Unction


WHAT IS A SACRAMENT?

Saint Paul provides us our first definition of sacraments.
In the Latin Bible sacramentum is used to translate the
Armenian word KHORHOORT which in English means
mystery. Mystery is the word Saint Paul used as he
referred to God's plan of always wanting to save, renew
and unite all things in Christ. Saint Paul also teaches us
that it is through Christ Our Savior that the sacraments
are most perfectly revealed. Jesus is mystically present
in these seven sacramental blessings and is Himself the
officiant through the person of the priest. Because Jesus
Christ is the author of these sacred signs of life, he points
to the reality that sin and death have been conquered and
life restored once again.

Another way to understand the meaning of the word
sacrament is to look at it as a way of living our lives in
the eyes of God. Even in our daily lives, the things we do
and say in a sense are sacrament. As we awake daily,
wash ourselves and nourish our bodies, we develop a
certain plan, routine, or habit.

The sacraments of the Church are precisely this: they are
the sacred symbols of a Divine plan for humanity that one
must follow to attain salvation in God's Heavenly
Kingdom. They are His way of living a life inspired and
sanctified by God's presence through Jesus Christ.

This same Jesus is present today in the seven sacraments
or blessings of the church. He comes to us in such visible
signs as words, wine and bread, water and oil. He comes
to heal us and make us whole and to take us to His loving
Father. All that is necessary is that we turn in faith to
our Lord who is visible to us in these symbols of the
sacraments and allow Him to touch us today.

THE SACRAMENTS

Orthodox Armenian Christians think of the seven rituals
when they hear the word sacrament. Also they
understand the sacraments as outward signs instituted
by Christ to bestow Grace.

The seven ritual sacraments are particular signs that
represent particular actions and values of Jesus. In a
sense they re-enact and re-present what has taken place
in the past.

As we noted earlier, the sacraments were instituted by
Jesus Christ who is Himself the bestower of these
blessings from God which we call graces. But what is it
we receive by these graces? Very simply, we receive
Jesus Christ for HE IS GRACE. Grace is the gift of God's
friendship with us. It is also the story of God's constant
love for us and, finally, it is God's invitation to us to live
in union with Him.

WHAT DOES A SACRAMENT DO?

1. The sacraments relive what has happened in the past.
2. The sacraments demonstrate in the present that Jesus
Christ lives.
3. The sacraments prefigure our glorious future with
Christ at the end of time.

------------------------------------------------------
Source: Fr. Garabed Kochakian, The Sacraments: The
Symbols of our Faith. New York: St. Vartan Press, 1983.
http://www.sain.org/.../Sacraments.txt

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 02:26 PM

THE GROUPINGS OF THE FEASTS
IN THE ARMENIAN CHURCH

by Fr. Zaven Arzoumanian


By virtue of their nature the feasts and their observance in
the Armenian Church are grouped into three categories:

(a) Dominical Feasts: to commemorate the life and the
ordinances of Jesus Christ, and to venerate the memory of
the Mother-of-God St. Mary.

(b) Saints Days: to commemorate the lives of the Biblical and
historical saints. The latter have reached the level of
sainthood by canonization.

© Fasting Days: to repent and pray for our own souls and for
those departed in Christ.


A. DOMINICAL FEASTS

1. Pertaining to Jesus Christ:

a. Epiphany:
- Nativity
- Naming
- Presentation
- Baptism

b. Transfiguration (Vartavar)
- All Sundays of the year
- Raising of Lazarus
- Palm Sunday

c. Resurrection:
- Holy Week
- EASTER
- Ascension
- Second Palm Sunday
- Pentecost

2. Dedicated to the Mother-of-God, Virgin Mary

- Birth
- Presentation
- Annunciation
- Assumption
- Discovery of belt and box

3. Dominical Commemorations:

a. Feasts of Cross:
- Discovery
- Apparition
- Exaltation
- Cross of Varak

b. Feasts dedicated to the establishment of the
Church
- New Sunday
- World Church Sunday
- Four days during the Exaltation week
- Holy Etchmiadzin
- Shoghagat


B. SAINTS DAYS

In the Armenian Church saints are observed on weekdays:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Sundays are
dominical days and are dedicated to the Resurrection.
Wednesdays and Fridays are fasting days.

Eighty-nine saints are derived from the Bible and are known
as Biblical Saints. The rest are from the first five centuries of
Christianity. They represent the Apostolic Fathers of the
second century and the church Fathers of the three
ecumenical councils to the end of the fifth century.

The Armenian Church later added more saints through the
fifth and fourteenth centuries mainly from Fathers of the
Armenian Church.


C. FASTING DAYS

1. All Wednesdays and Fridays, except for those during
the fifty days following Easter.

2. Weekdays preceding major feasts as follows:
a. Nativity (6 days)
b. Easter (Holy Week, 6 days)
c. Transfiguration (5 days)
d. Assumption (5 days)
e. Exaltation (5 days)
f. Great Lent
(48 days including Palm Sunday and Holy
Week)
g. Fast of Catechumens (5 days)
h. Fast of Elijah (5 days, seasonal: before
Summer)
i. Fast of St. Gregory (5 days)
j. Fast of the Cross of Varak (5 days, seasonal:
before Fall)
k. Fast of Advent (5 days)
l. Fast of St. James of Nisibis (5 days, seasonal,
before Winter)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
---------------------

Literature

1. Tonats'oyts' (Calendar of Feasts of the Armenian Church),
2 vols. Jerusalem, 1915 (in Armenian).

2. Ormanian, Malachia Patriarch, Dzisakan Barraran
(Dictionary Antelias, 1957, pp. 7–65 (in Armenian).

3. Koushagian, Torkom Patriarch, Sourbk; ew Tonk' (Saints
and Feasts of the Armenian Church), Jerusalem, 1957. (in
Armenian).

4. Kaloustian, Shnorhk Patriarch, Asdvatsashnchakan
Sourber (Biblical Saints) Istanbul, 1977 (in Armenian).

5. Nersoyan, Tiran Archbishop, Divine Liturgy of the
Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, New York, 1950, pp.
212-229.

6. Cross, F. L. (ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian
Church, London, 1961.

7. Boyajian, Dickran H., The Pillars of the Armenian Church,
Watertown, 1962.

http://www.sain.org/...urch/feasts.txt

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 02:28 PM

THE FIRST PRINTED ARMENIAN BIBLE

A BRIEF OUTLOOK ON VOSKAN’S BIBLE*

Efforts of printing the complete Armenian Bible has started as
early as 1585, by Catholicos Azaria of Julfa. History mentions
of four other unsuccessful attempt until the days of Voskan
Vardapet of Erevan, through whose endeavor and sacrifice the
first Armenian Bible was printed in Amsterdam. Voskan and
his aids started this great work on March 1666 and, after long
months of tribulations and ever increasing debts, were able to
complete the printing on October 1668.

The Bible contains close to 1470 pages. The paper is of best
Quality on which the printing is set in double columns. Over
150 illustrations augment the Book’s aesthetic appearance.
Even though the illustrations are not of Armenian origin, most
of them being bought from European artists or even borrowed
from other books, but the final accomplishment can undoubtedly
be classified as a masterpiece of printing in its time.

Voskan Vardapet obviously used many different manuscript
copies of the Armenian Bible for his source, but he also accepts
to have benefited from the Latin version, commonly known as
the Vulgate.

[T]here are differences in the canon (i.e. the list of books)
comprising the Old Testament of Voskan’s Bible, and the canons
of Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and the authorized
versions of Protestantism.

All but eight books of the total list shown in the tabulation are
taken from the Jewish Canon and are called “protocanical”
books. The remaining eight books; Ezra I, Tobit, Judith,
Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Baruch,
I Machabees and II Machabees, are taken from the Greek
Septuagint Canon and are called “deuterocanonical” books. The
Protestant Church prefers to call them the “apocrypha.”

It is important to note that the canon of Voskan’s Bible does not
list the Third Book of Machabees, even though this book is
accepted to be canonical by the Armenian Church and is
included in most copies. This particular omission might be an
attribution to the indirect influence of the Latin Vulgate or
perhaps the Roman Catholic environment he had to work in.

In comparing all twenty seven books comprising the canon of the
New Testament, one could see no difference in the nomenclature
or their order of listing.

Two additional books are inserted as ‘addenda’ in the content of
Voskan’s Bible. These are: the Prayer of Manasseh and the
Books of Ezra IV, both of which are given in the same manner
(i.e. as addenda) in the Latin version.

Compiled by G.K.M.


AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Voskan Vardapet’s ‘Autobiography’ is taken from the 1669, first
printed edition of a book called ‘“History“ by Father Arakel of
Davrij.

The ‘Autobiography’ does not appear in the earlier manuscript
copies, nor in the book’s later publications. As mentioned in the
‘Autobiography,’ Voskan Vardapet undertook its first printing,
which he, “not only did print, but also corrected the distortions
and the grammatical errors, which were made by inexperienced
copyists...” These remarks could account for his motivation for
inserting his autobiography in Father Arakel’s book, or for
writing it as an essay in the third person, and for his various
historical diversions from the subject matter.

He writes:

Here, the translator has attempted to keep intact the style,
structure and the idiom of the original Armenian script, without
rendering a word by word translation.

He was an Armenian, the son of pious parents Toros and
Koharaziz, who during the persecutions of Shah Abbas, with the
other inhabitants of Erevan were deported to Isbahan, where
they grew up and were married. Their son Voskan was born in
January of 1614.1 When he grew up his parents introduced
him to the study of the Holy Bible. He studied, within his
capabilities, under secular teachers, until the arrival of
Catholicos Movses (then a vardapet)2 to Isbahan. Movses
Vardapet was warmly welcomed by the Armenian Christian
community of Isbahan. Meanwhile they elected as their prelate
Khatchadour Vardapet, the benign and pious student of Movses
Vardapet. While in Isbahan, he (the prelate), put many things
in order, established rules and regulations, introduced reforms,
opened schools, which enabled many to study the Holy Bible.
One of these was a youngster named Voskan. Since boyhood he
had desired to join the Cloister and the School, but his parents
had opposed him. Because he was so desirous to become a priest
and study the Holy Bible, he went to Khatchadour Vardapet to
study and prepare for the priesthood without his parents’
knowledge. When his parents learned about this, they went to
bring him back. They tried hard to persuade him but to no
avail. A few times they brought him home on false pretenses
and did not allow him to return to the School.

But he tried so often to run away from home that his parents
gave up and allowed him to stay at the School. There, in a short
period of time, he studied the Psalms and the hymns of the
Armenian Church, as well as other Books, the Epistles of the
Catholicy3 and Paul, and the Prophecies of Isaiah. During this
same period the Shah called Movses Vardapet to Babylon to
whiten candles4, and assigned him four boys from his
subordinates (subjects), whom he taught the art of whitening
candles and returned them to the Shah. While there he received
orders to become the Grand Sacristan of Etchmiadzin, so he
wrote to Khatchadour Vardapet to come to him to Etchmiadzin,
which the latter did without delay. When he (Khatchadour
Vardapet) arrived at Etchmiadzin they consecrated Movses
Vardapet Catholicos, who after his consecration, appointed
Khatchadour Vardapet as envoy to the Western See, and he
came back to Isbahan to visit and congratulate the new king
Shah Seffi, who had succeeded the late Shah Abbas. The
Catholicos was able to fulfill his request from the king to abolish
the 100 Touman5 tax, which was levied by Shah Abbas at the
time of (the previous) Catholicos Melkiset. In the fall, when the
Catholicos was to return to Etchmiadzin he took Voskan with
him. When Voskan arrived at Etchmiadzin with the Catholicos,
he met Melkiset Vardapet of Vjan, who was a vigorous and
learned man and who in particular knew ‘knowledge’6 well. But
Voskan never thought to follow this ‘knowledge,’ because he was
still too young and especially because no one among the
Armenians knew that ‘knowledge.’ Particularly the prominent
Armenians--who used to pretend possessing all ‘knowledge--
condemned that branch of study.

They hated ‘knowledge’ and reproached that noble man
(Melkiset Vardapet), because they lacked the ability to
comprehend that much of knowledge; so Voskan did not follow
that enlightening and God-given ‘science,’ heeding those
greatest criticizers. Without that ‘knowledge’ it is impossible to
understand facts correctly and to explain the Bible. In the
spring, Melkiset Vardapet went to the Aderbadagan region to
rescue his captive nephew, who was in Ghazb, but could not find
him because of the local disturbances caused by the Ottoman
General Khosrov *****. So he returned to Erevan.

At this time Voskan’s teacher, Khatchadour of Caesaria, came
from Poland with Simon of Julfa who was also a monk and his
student. They were very embarrassed before the local
Christians (of Poland) because they were unskilled in grammar
and the art of philosophy. So when they reached Etchmiadzin
and saw Father Melkiset, they very unwillingly undertook the
study of the science as much as he (Melkiset Vardapet) had
learned by his own efforts. First they studied the “Sahman”
(Boundary) by David of Nerkin7 in the wilderness of Erevan8,
where Voskan also began to study for a certain time. When his
friends and the other monks at Etchmiadzin found out about
this, they protested to Catholicos Movses and said, “Either allow
us to go to Erevan and take lesson or bring Melkiset Vardapet
here to Etchmiadzin so that he may teach us too.” The
Catholicos, having no other choice, ordered Melkiset Vardapet to
come to Etchmiadzin and teach all those monks who wished to
study. When Melkiset went to Etchmiadzin, Khatchadour
Vardapet did not want to accompany him, but desired to stay in
the wilderness of Erevan. It was necessary that either Simon or
Voskan remain with Khatchadour Vardapet since both were his
students from childhood. Simon, who was the elder said to
Voskan, “One of us must stay here with the Priest. This
‘science’ is also very important to us and after we go back to
Isbahan we teach each other. If you wish to study, I will go and
you serve the Vardapet here.” Voskan being inexperienced and
still young, and above all conceding to Simon’s seniority stayed
in Erevan with the priest; and Simon went to Etchmiadzin with
Melkiset Vardapet, where he studied the “Borpure” (Porphyry9 )
and the “Sdorokutiun” (Categories10), and the “Beriarmenia”
(Perihermenias11) up to chapter 14. At this time, delegates
arrived from Isbahan to take Khatchadour Vardapet back.
Simon and Voskan went with him too. In Isbahan, Simon
taught Voskan what he had learned; however they studied the
“Beriarmenia” and the “Grammar” together, he also being very
intelligent. During this period Movses Catholicos passed away
and Philippos was consecrated Catholicos. After becoming
Catholicos, Philippos asked for Voskan in a letter to
Khatchadour Vardapet, who sent Voskan (to Etchmiadzin)
immediately. At Etchmiadzin Voskan met a Latin priest called
Boghos (Paul). He was an Italian by nationality and knew the
philosophical sciences very well.

Talking with him on many occasions, Voskan found him to be
learned and very proficient, though a little weak in Armenian
language; so leaving everything else, he followed him with full
determination and learned some Latin. He also completely
learned the “Grammar” and translated it into Armenian, from
which he arranged a concise grammar. He studied the other
sciences too, such as philosophy, metaphysics as well as
geometry, astronomy and theology; not completely as he had
wished, but rather as much as he needed. Yet he overworked,
and suffered persecutions from the Catholicos, his friends, our
people and even from those plebeian and less literate than
himself, because all of them rose against him as if he were a
foreigner. They denounced him braggingly and vaingloriously;
and debated and disputed on such subjects in which not only
they were uneducated and uninstructed, but had neither studied
nor even heard about. But he, although well aware of the
intolerance and harshness of the Armenians, was learning from
personal experience, the protests of his predecessors, who in
many ways used to complain in their books, such as our
translators and Movses (of Khoren12 ) in his “Voghb”
(Lamentations13 ). Yet, during this flood of persecutions and
misfortunes, seeing no help or consolation from anyone or
anywhere, but always exposed to tribulations and diverse
insults and contempt, he began to translate the grammar he had
learned from Latin to Armenian, then some prayers, glorias and
the “Darerk Dramapanoutian” (Elements of Logic). After being
Catholicos for long years, Philippos passed away and Hagop of
Julfa succeeded him. He also began to deride Voskan for some
time, whilst the latter continued to be patient for the love of
Christ, repeating the words of the Prophet Jeremiah, “that I will
wait for the Lord and will have patience.”

In these days Voskan’s brother Avedis, a religious and pious
man, met Mateos the Tbir (Clerk14 ) in Holland, who had
ventures into printing and had made a group of letters in three
types: lower case, capital and ornamental (dzaghgakeer). He had
begun the printing of “Hissouss Vorti” (Jesus, Son15 ) though
not completed it, but had brought it up to Khosdovanim (We
Confess). He was in debt and had reached the end of his life,
because whatever he had undertaken was on credit basis. The
creditors, having gathered around his deathbed, had demanded
their loans; but he, being unable to repay, had extended his
hand (asked for help) to the brother of the priest, whose name
was Avedis. And this man had given all his belongings to the
creditors and had the printing press mortgaged to them, until
repayment of all debts and interests. After all this he had
written to his brother Voskan Vardapet, to come over to advance
the printing task, and he, on the other hand, had undertaken
the preparation of the lower case letters with (the use of) which
the “Jamakeerk (Book of Hours16 ), the “Sharagnots” (Hymnal),
the Holy Bible and other books were printed. Voskan, upon the
orders and commissions of Hagop of Julfa (the Catholicos),
leaving Etchmiadzin, after innumerable sufferings, reached the
printing press where the Hymnal was being printed by the
orders of the Catholicos. The task was brought up to Hampartzi
(Levavi17 ), by the efforts of Garabed Vardapet, the student of
Voskan.

When Voskan arrived, he undertook the preparation of italics
for the titles of the Bible. When the Hymnal was completed, he
undertook the printing of the Holy Bible. He added many things
that were left out, arranging them according to the Bible in
Latin. He subdivided the Bible into chapters and verses, as seen
in the Bible printed by them (the Latins). Also, he completed
the entire Bible, borrowing form the Latin, in a manner that is
shown in our Gospels only. He translated the complete book of
Joshua the Son of Sira18 , because, even though we had a
translation, it was not complete, but faulty and abridged. He
also translated the Book of Ezra IV19 , our translation being
incomplete and was not included in the Bible. He also
translated the listing of the Latin Bible, so that the reader could
find easily what he was looking for, because everything is
conjoined into two subdivisions, that is, into chapters and
subchapters... arranged alphabetically... He did the same with
the other books of the Bible which are listed therein. Moreover
he had undertaken a translation of a dictionary which they (the
Latins) call Galleppinum and has brought it up to the letter “D.”
If God enable him to complete the translation, it will be a great
storehouse and treasury for all ‘knowledge’ and means toward
true genius and ‘knowledge.’ It is the gate and key to all Noorb
(sublime) and Ardakin (Exterior20 ) books, because it explains
every word with definitions.

He also classified the listings of the lections read at the Jashou
Hour (Midday Hour21 ) inserted in some Bibles which Voskan
had copied, which were hard to find, (for) here and there the
number of the divisions were wrongly placed and in the
“Donatzouytz” (Calendar of feast days) there were copying
errors. They were arranged with one number (i.e. chapters
only). therefore, it was difficult or impossible to find them. But
the one prepared by Voskan was arranged with two numbers
(i.e. chapters and subchapters) by which things were found
faster. Above all, in the earlier printing, the names of the books
and in particular the numbers were mixed up. He, finding the
right number with much difficulty, rearranged them correctly so
as to simplify it for others. He also printed many Armenian
books which had to do with the Christian teaching, select
prayers which he had translated from Latin. Also, the Missal,
Domar and Barzadomar (Almanac). Moses of Khoren’s
Ashkharatzoytz (Atlas22) and Aghouesaguirk (Book of Legends).
For the Gory of the Holy Trinity he printed a New Book of
history written by Arakel Vardapet, which not only did he print,
but also corrected the distortions and the grammatical errors
made by inexperienced copyists and boorist poets. But he
endured and still endures difficulties from rogues and proud
sophists, from the clergy and the laity, from friends and
strangers. And he, enduring all these tribulations says, “If I
become pleasant to men, I am not the servant of God.”

Voskan of Erevan,
“History” by Arakel of Davrij
(1669 publication)

Notes:

1. 1063 according to the Armenian Calendar (1063+551=1614). He died in
1674.
2. A celibate priest.
3. The seven books comprising the epistles: James, I Peter, 2 Peter, I John, 2
John, 3 John and Jude.
4. Whitening or purifying wax for candles was a secret known to few
churchmen.
5. Persian coin.
6. Grammar and philosophy.
7. Also known as David Anhaght (the Invincible) a renowned Armenian
philosopher.
8. Living as hermits.
9. Porphyry: known as a violent opponent of Christianity. For his biography
and works see J.A. Fabricius “Bibliotheca Graeca,” (edit. Hailes 1790-1809).
10. “Categories” by Aristotle: this consists of ten books and is one of his
treatises on logic, known in later times under the title “Organon.”
11.“Perihermenias” (De Interpretatione): a book on grammar by Aristotle
which was translated into Armenian as early as 576 A.D.
12. Moses of Khoren (arm. Movses Khorenatzi), Armenian historian in the
fifth century A.D.
13. See “Badmoutian Hayotz” (the History of Armenians), by Movses of
Khoren (Book Three, Chapter 68).
14. Tbir (Clerk). A lesser order (rank) in the Armenian Church, given to the
recipients of the ‘Minor Orders’.
15. Hissouss Vorti (eng. Jesus, Son) by Catholicos Nerses Shnorhali (the
Grace-filled), 1100-1173. “Jesus, Son” was rendered into English by James
Wingate. (Delphic Press, New York, 1947).
16. Jamakeerk (book of hours): corresponds to the Latin Breviary, the Greek
Horologiaon, and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
17. Levavi (arm. Hampartzi): the last of the order of eight chants (sharagank)
of daily offices.
18. The Greek version of the book is called “The Wisdom of Jesus The Son of
Sirach.”
19. Ezra IV and the Prayer of king Manasseh appear in the Bible of Voskan
as addenda put after the New Testament, even though they pertain to the
Old Tstament.
20. Noorb (sublime) were the religious books and Ardakin (Exterior) were the
non religious books approved and recommended by the Armenian Church.
21. Jashou is the fourth of the Canonical Hours of the Armenian Church.
The Office may also be properly called Synaxis.
22. Since Voskan it has been established that the author of the “Atlas” is
Anania of Sirak and not Moses of Khoren.

*Source: In Commemoration of the Armenian Bible on the
Tricentennial of its Printing. Los Angeles: The Armenian Youth
Cultural Association, Nor Or Press, 1966?), pp. 13-17.
1 1063 according to the Armenian Calendar (1063+551=1614). He died in 1674.
2 A celibate priest.
3 The seven books comprising the epistles: James, I Peter, 2 Peter, I John, 2 John, 3 John
and Jude.
4 Whitening or purifying wax for candles was a secret known to few churchmen.
5 Persian coin.
6 Grammar and philosophy.
7 Also known as David Anhaght (the Invincible) a renowned Armenian philosopher.
8 Living as hermits.
9 Porphyry: known as a violent opponent of Christianity. For his biography and works see
J.A. Fabricius “Bibliotheca Graeca,” (edit. Hailes 1790-1809).
10 “Categories” by Aristotle: this consists of ten books and is one of his treatises on logic,
known in later times under the title “Organon.”
11 “Perihermenias” (De Interpretatione): a book on grmmar by Aristotle which was
translated into Armenian as early as 576 A.D.
12 Moses of Khoren (arm. Movses Khorenatzi), Armenian historian in the fifth century A.D.
13 See “Badmoutian Hayotz” (the History of Armenians), by Movses of Khoren (Book Three,
Chapter 68).
14 Tbir (Clerk). A lesser order (rank) in the Armenian Church, given to the recipients of the
‘Minor Orders’.
15 Hissouss Vorti (eng. Jesus, Son) by Catholicos Nerses Shnorhali (the Grace-filled), 1100-
1173. “Jesus, Son” was rendered into English by James Wingate. (Delphic Press, New York,
1947).
16 Jamakeerk (book of hours): correponds to the Latin Breviary, the Greek Horologiaon, and
the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
17 Levavi (arm. Hampartzi): the last of the order of eight chants (sharagank) of daily offices.
18 The Greek version of the book is called “The Wisdom of Jesus The Son of Sirach.”
19 Ezra IV and the Prayer of king Manasseh appear in the Bible of Voskan as addenda put
after the New Testament, even though they pertain to the Old Tstament.
20 Noorb (sublime) were the religious books and Ardakin (Exterior) were the non religious
books approved and recommended by the Armenian Church.
21 Jashou is the fourth of the Canonical Hours of the Armenian Church. The Office may also
be properly called Synaxis.
22 Since Voskan it has been established that the author of the “Atlas” is Anania of Sirak and
not Moses of Khoren.
http://www.sain.org/...urch/vosgan.txt

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 02:29 PM

ARMENIAN CHRISTMAS
Why Armenians Celebrate Christmas on January 6th?
by Hratch Tchilingirian

"Armenian Christmas," as it is popularly called, is a culmination of
celebrations of events related to Christ's Incarnation. Theophany or
Epiphany (or Astvadz-a-haytnootyoon in Armenian) means
"revelation of God," which is the central theme of the Christmas
Season in the Armenian Church. During the "Armenian Christmas"
season, the major events that are celebrated are the Nativity of
Christ in Bethlehem and His Baptism in the River Jordan. The day
of this major feast in the Armenian Church is January 6th. A
ceremony called “Blessing of Water” is conducted in the
Armenian Church to commemorate Christ’s Baptism.
It is frequently asked as to why Armenians do not celebrate
Christmas on December 25th with the rest of the world. Obviously,
the exact date of Christ's birth has not been historically
established—it is neither recorded in the Gospels. However,
historically, all Christian churches celebrated Christ's birth on
January 6th until the fourth century. According to Roman Catholic
sources, the date was changed from January 6th to December 25th
in order to override a pagan feast dedicated to the birth of the Sun
which was celebrated on December 25th. At the time Christians
used to continue their observance of these pagan festivities. In
order to undermine and subdue this pagan practice, the church
hierarchy designated December 25th as the official date of
Christmas and January 6th as the feast of Epiphany. However,
Armenia was not effected by this change for the simple fact that
there were no such pagan practices in Armenia, on that date, and
the fact that the Armenian Church was not a satellite of the Roman
Church. Thus, remaining faithful to the traditions of their
forefathers, Armenians have continued to celebrate Christmas on
January 6th until today.
In the Holy Land: January 18th
In the Holy Land, the Orthodox churches use the old calendar
(which has a difference of twelve days) to determine the date of
the religious feasts. Accordingly, the Armenians celebrate
Christmas on January 18th and the Greek Orthodox celebrate on
January 6th.
On the day before Armenian Christmas, January 17th, the
Armenian Patriarch together with the clergy and the faithful,
travels from Jerusalem to the city of Bethlehem, to the Church of
Nativity of Christ, were elaborate and colorful ceremonies take
place. Outside, in the large square of the Church of Nativity, the
Patriarch and his entourage are greeted by the Mayor of Bethlehem
and City officials. A procession led by Armenian scouts and their
band, advance the Patriarch into the Church of Nativity, while
priests, seminarians and the faithful join in the sing of Armenian
hymns. Afterwards, church services and ceremonies are conducted
in the Cathedral of Nativity all night long and until the next day,
January 18th.
http://www.sain.org/...Church/xmas.txt

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 02:30 PM

LAW OF THE REPUBLIC OF ARMENIA
ON THE FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE AND ON
RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS

Issued on June 17, 1991


Being governed by the proclamation of Armenia's independence,
considering the spiritual revival of the Armenian people, its centuries old
experience and traditions;

Being cognizant of the Armenian Apostolic Church as the national
Church of the Armenian people and as an important bulwark for the
edification of its spiritual life and national preservation;

Being guided by human rights and basic principles of freedom defined
through international norms and being faithful to article 18 of the
international Treaty regarding civil and political rights;

The Supreme Council of Armenia's Republic adopts this law about the
Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Organizations.

1. General Principles

Section 1
In the Republic of Armenia the citizens' freedom of conscience and
profession of faith are guaranteed. Each citizen decides freely his
position toward religion, has the right to profess a desired religion or not
to profess any religion, to engage in religious rites individually or
together with other citizens.

Section 2
The citizens of the Republic of Armenia are equal before the law in all
realms of life: civil, political, economical and cultural, irrespective of
their religious beliefs or religious affiliation.

Those responsible for causing direct or indirect restrictions on the right of
citizens to practice their faith, persecution or other restrictions on
religious grounds, fomenting religious strife shall be held accountable
before the law.

Section 3
It is forbidden to coerce or compel a citizen to make a decision to
participate or not to participate in services, religious rites and
ceremonies, and religious education.

The right of freedom of conscience is subject only to such restrictions
which are necessary to insure public safety, law and order, the health and
morality of the citizens and for the defense of the rights and freedom of
other citizens.

2. The Definition of Religious Organizations

Section 4
A Religious organization is an association of citizens established for
professing a common faith as well as for fulfilling other religious needs.

The Religious organizations are: ecclesiastical and religious
communities, dioceses, monasteries, religious brotherhoods, educational
and publishing institutions affiliated with these organizations and other
religious-ecclesiastical foundations.

Section 5
A citizens' association is recognized as a Religious organization if it
satisfies the following criteria:

a) It is not contrary to the provisions of Section 3 of this law
b) It is based on a historically recognized holy scriptures.
c) Its doctrines forms part of the international contemporary religious-
ecclesiastical communities.
d) It is free from materialism and is intended for purely spiritual goals.
e) It has at least 50 members.

These conditions (except for subsection 5 (a), are not applicable to
religious organizations of ethnic minorities with their national doctrine.

Section 6
In the Republic of Armenia the following Religious Organizations
operate: the Armenian Apostolic Church ("Armenian Church") with her
traditional organizations; other religious organizations which are
established and function within the circle of their respective faithful in
accordance with private ownership and bylaws.

3. The Rights of Religious Organizations

Section 7
The spiritual and religious activities of Religious Organizations shall be
carried out within the following clearly prescribed rights:

a) To rally their faithful around them.
b) To satisfy the religious-spiritual needs of their faithful.
c) To perform religious services, rites, and ceremonies in sanctuaries and
buildings belonging to them, in places of pilgrimage, in religious
institutions, as well as cemeteries, houses and residences of citizens,
hospitals, in homes for the mentally retarded and the handicapped,
detainment centers, military camps at the request of citizens living there
and being members of a given religious organization. In other cases,
public services, religious rites and ceremonies are conducted for
meetings, rallies, demonstrations and marches within approved
guidelines.
d) To establish groups for religious instruction aimed at training members
and their children with the consent of parents, utilizing facilities
belonging to them or set aside for them.
e) To engage in theological, religious and historical and cultural studies.
f) To train members for clergy or for scientific and pedagogical purposes
for the educational institutions.
g) To obtain and utilize religious significance objects and vessels.
h) To make use of news media in accordance with the law.
i) To establish ties with religious organizations of other countries
regardless of their national and credal belonging, to send their faithful
abroad to participate in pilgrimages, meetings and other religious events
as well as for educational purposes.
j) To get involved in charity.

The publishing activities of Religious Organizations is regulated by the
applicable law of the Republic of Armenia.

Section 8
Proselytism within the Republic of Armenia is forbidden. Any activity
mentioned under section 7 within the framework of rights shall not be
considered proselytism.

4. Property of Religious Organizations

Section 9
The right of Religious Organizations to private ownership of property
shall be regulated by the "Law of the Republic of Armenia on Private
Ownership."

Section 10
The historical monuments and liturgical objects of the Armenian
Apostolic Church and of other Religious Organizations shall be utilized
in accordance with their traditional customs of the organization.

Section 11
Religious Organizations have the obligation of maintaining the buildings,
properties and other possessions given to them by the government and
shall maintain and make appropriate use of the historical monuments
belonging to them.

Section 12
Religious Organizations may appeal to their faithful for voluntary
contributions of money and other gifts, and to receive and administer the
same.

Religious Organizations shall pay no tax on the monetary and other gifts
that they may receive.

Section 13
Religious Organizations whose spiritual centers are outside the Republic
of Armenia cannot be financed by those centers nor by political
organizations from abroad.

5. Registration of Religious Organizations

Section 14
A Religious Community or Organization is recognized as a judicial
person after being registered by the Committee of Religious Affairs of
the council of ministers. To be registered, a Religious Organization must
present its bylaws along with documents fulfilling the conditions
enumerate in Section 5 of this Law.

Section 15
The Bylaws of a Religious Organization shall provide information on the
following: the nature and areas of activities; administrative structure;
houses of worship and ritual objects; initiation of activities; intention of
establishing educational and publishing facilities; disposition of assets in
case of dissolution and make further provisions for any special needs of
the Organization.

Section 16
Within one month of the application to register, an application shall be
approved or rejected and returned to the applicant with an explanation of
the grounds for the rejection.

Registration may be rejected if the application is contrary to the laws in
effect. Applicant whose registration has been rejected or no decision is
rendered within the deadline, may seek judicial remedy.

A Religious Organization may dissolve and cease its activities by its own
decision or by judicial decree for violating the laws of the Republic of
Armenia.

6. Relation between Religious Organizations and the State

Section 17
In the Republic of Armenia, Church and State are separate. On the basis
of this separation the State:

a) Shall not force a citizen to adhere to any religion.
b) Shall not interfere in the activities and internal affairs of church and
Religious Organizations as long as they operate in accordance with the
law, no state agency or person acting on behalf of such agency shall
operate within a Religious Organization.
c) Prohibits the participation of the Church in governing the State and
shall not impose any governmental functions on the Church or Religious
Organization.

The State shall not obstruct the efforts of the Armenian Church in
pursuing the following activities which we expressly reserved to be her
privilege solely:

• To preach and disseminate her faith freely throughout the Republic of
Armenia.
• To re-create her historical traditions, structure, organizations, dioceses
and communities.
• To construct new churches, make historical (monument-churches)
belonging to her functional whether at the request of the faithful or on its
own initiative.
• To contribute to the spiritual edification of the Armenian people and to
carry out the same in the state educational institutions within the law.
• To take practical measures which enhance the moral standards of the
Armenian people.
• To expand benevolent and charitable activities.

At the same time, the Armenian Apostolic Church as the national Church
of Armenians, which also operates outside the Republic, shall enjoy the
protection of the Republic of Armenia, within the framework of
international legal norms.

Section 18
The State shall finance neither the activity of Religious Organizations nor
of atheistic propaganda. At the same time, the state guarantees the right
of the members or employees of Religious Organizations to take part in
the civil and political life on an equal basis with other citizens.

Section 19
Obligations imposed on the citizens by the law in effect shall be binding
upon the members of Religious Organizations as to any other citizen.

In the event of a conflict between civic duties and the religious
convictions, the issue of carrying out civic duties may be resolved by
virtue of the principle of alternative choice, through mutual agreement
between the given Religious Organization and the corresponding State
entity in the procedure contemplated by the law.

Section 20
Registration maintained by the Church in accordance with a mutual
agreement shall be accepted as legally binding and shall be given full
effect.

Section 21
The State shall assume the responsibility for the preservation of historical
monuments of religious significance regardless of their ownership.

Section 22
The person elected Catholicos of All Armenians shall become a citizen of
the Republic of Armenia.

Section 23
A special entity shall be created within the council of ministers of the
Republic of Armenia which shall regulate the relations between the State
and Religious Organizations. This committee shall:

a) Record the bylaws of Religious Organizations and shall seek technical
dissolution of Religious Organizations violating the law.
b) Shall respond to requests for assistance from Religious Organizations
in resolving disputes with any government entity;
c) On behalf of the government shall mediate between Religious
Organizations registered in the Republic of Armenia.

All relations between the State and Religious Organizations not governed
by this law shall be regulated through mutual agreements of the State and
the Religious Organizations.

[signed]

Levon Ter Petrosian
President of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia

A. Sahagian
Secretary of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia

June 17, 1991
Yerevan


====================================================
========


DECREE OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF
ARMENIA
ON MEASURES LEGALIZING THE RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES IN
THE REPUBLIC OF ARMENIA
(December 21, 1993)


Lately a number of foreign religious organizations and some religious
sects which are not registered in Armenia have become active in the
territory of the Republic of Armenia. The activities of registered religious
organizations often contradict the Republic of Armenia Law on the
Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations. They affect the
moral and psychological atmosphere in the republic, sometimes fostering
a lack of respect toward military service, and hinder the smooth work of
registered religious organizations, thus arousing their justified
complaints.

In addition, all this obstructs implementation of measures directed at the
strengthening of internal stability in the republic, as well as efforts of the
Armenian Apostolic Church to build and strengthen the religious
consciousness of the Armenian people.

In order to settle the current situation, which is largely the result of
activities of these organizations and legalize religious activities, I resolve:

1. The Government of Armenia and appropriate state agencies should
review the by-laws of (non-religious) public and other organizations and
enterprises operating in the republic. In case their by-laws provide for
religious activities, the registration should be annulled. These
organizations should be told to reconsider their by-laws in order to
present them for future registration as public, religious or other
organization (enterprises) in accordance with the legislation.

2. The Armenian State Council on Religious Affairs should:

— examine the activities of religious organizations and, if necessary, re-
register them. In case violations of the legislation are revealed, measures
should be undertaken to dissolve these organizations;
— terminate activities of representatives of foreign religious
organizations who, visiting Armenia at invitation, carry out activities not
sanctioned by their status;
— establish proper oversight on the publication of religious literature and
production of ritual articles as well as their sale.

3. Only religious organizations registered in Armenia can conduct
religious propaganda in Armenia through state media, necessarily
notifying the Religious Affairs Council.

4. Armenian state bodies, enterprises, institutions and organizations can
provide halls, including concert, sport, cinema, and theater halls, or other
rooms for religious ceremonies only to registered religious organizations,
notifying the Religious Affairs Council in advance.

5. Religious organizations registered in Armenia and other organizations
or officials can invite representatives of foreign religious organizations
only through the Religious Affairs Council by notifying in advance about
the mission of those invited.

6. Religious ceremonies at state educational institutions and camps
should be coordinated with the Religious Affairs Council in advance.
Teaching religion at state educational institutions can be allowed only by
officials of relevant state agencies and the Religious Affairs Council. The
teaching should be based on the Armenian Apostolic Church.

7. The Religious Affairs Council should be notified about the departure,
at the invitation of religious organization, of Armenian citizens abroad to
study, rest or for any other purpose.

8. I will propose to the Armenian Procurator General to undertake
measures providing for the legality of religious activities in the territory
of the Republic of Armenia.

9. The Government of Armenia should, within two months:
— prepare proposals on changes and amendments relating to
responsibility for violating the provisions of the legislation on religious
activities;
— examine the Religious Affairs Council's report on its work and create
preconditions to increase the efficiency of the Council's work.

10. This resolution is in effect immediately upon publication.

President Levon Ter-Petrossian
December 22, 1993

http://www.sain.org/....Church/law.txt

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 02:37 PM

General form of Confession of the Armenian Holy Apostolic and Orthodox Church

Edited and translated by Fr. Shenork Souin

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Priest/father confessor: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Penitent/confessor: I have sinned before the Most-Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I have sinned before God. I confess before God, the Holy Mother of God and before you Reverend Father, all the sins that I have committed because I have sinned by thought, word and work, willingly and unwillingly, consciously and unconsciously. I have sinned before God.

Priest: God grant you forgiveness.

Penitent: I have sinned by the power of my spirit, namely by malice, by wickedness, by rash audacity, and by cowardice, by wastefulness and by stinginess, by indecency, and by injustice, by disharmony, by hopelessness and by foolishness. I have sinned before God.

Priest: God grant you forgiveness.

Penitent: I have sinned by my evil thoughts. I have sinned according to the desires of my body. I have sinned by my slanderous tongue, by lying, baring false testimony, not keeping my word, being quarrelsome, being argumentative, being defamatory, by flattery, slanderous vain deceit, cursing, complaining, by discontent, gossiping and swearing. I have sinned before God.

Priest: God grant you forgiveness.

Penitent: I have sinned by the thievery of my hands. I have sinned in all that I have accomplished with all the members of my body, with my five senses, and my six movements, deviating right and left, sinning against those ahead of me and being an evil example to those following me. I have sinned before God.

Priest: God grant you forgiveness.

Penitent: I have also sinned by the seven-fold transgressions of the deadly sins and all their forms; Pride, Envy, Anger, Laziness, Covetousness, Gluttony and Lust. I have sinned before God.

Priest: God grant you forgiveness.

Penitent: I have also sinned against all the commandments of God, both against the affirmative ones and the restrictive ones, because I have neither done what was expected nor have I stayed away from what is forbidden. I accepted the laws of God but I was lazy in keeping them. I was called to the ranks of Christianity, but have been unworthy of it by my works. Even knowing the evil, I gave way to it and I intentionally stayed away from good works; misery, grief and anguish. Which of my sins can I recount? Which ones shall I confess? For, my sins are indeed countless. I have sinned before God.

Priest: God grant you forgiveness.

Plea of the Confessor

Penitent: Reverend Father, in you I have a mediator and an intercessor with the Only-Begotten Son of God. With the authority given to you as an ordained priest, I plead that you absolve me from the bonds of my sins.

Absolution

Priest: Lord have mercy; Lord have mercy; Lord have mercy.

May God who loves humankind, in His mercy, grant you forgiveness for all your sins, both those which you have confessed as well as those that you have forgotten. Now, with the priestly authority bestowed on me and by the divine command, of our Lord Jesus to His apostles, that:

"Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Jn. 21) With those same words, I absolve you of all the sins that you have committed in thought, in word and in deed,

(†) In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

and I reinstate you into full sacramental communion for participation in the life of the Holy Church, so that whatever good works you may do, may be for your benefit and the glory of life eternal, Amen.

http://www.geocities...confession.html

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 02:40 PM

January 6th
The Ancient Date of the
Celebration of the Theophany

by Fr. Shenork Souin www.geocities.com/dershnork

for the St. Catharines Weekly News


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Firstly, before you either go on reading or decide to ignore this article, let me say that this is NOT another dressing down of the over secularization of Christmas, nor its commercialization, nor is it another let's "put Christ back into Christmas" sermon. You will undoubtedly therefore ask why someone would write or even publish an article about Christmas after the fact. After all, many have made their annual pilgrimage to the local church of their persuasion to pay homage to the porcelain Nativity creche that has by now, in most cases, been stuffed back into its box until next year. At home, Christmas is already a memory. The gifts are unwrapped, the tree has dried out and has already been ushered to the curb in a less then ceremonial funeral procession. Dad's (and some Mom's) have won or lost their Bowl game picks, while Mom's (and some Dad's) are glad that their Mother-in-laws won't be back to criticize the turkey stuffing until Easter. Yet, in all this "winding down," there are some for whom the "Holy"-day Season is just beginning. There are many in the Niagara region for whom Christmas is not merely an end in itself--a time for family, food and fun, but rather an observance of a holistic re-presentation of God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ. For many of these, the celebration is just starting!! They are the "ones" who celebrate Christmas in January.

Throughout my ministry as an Armenian Orthodox priest, many have asked the question; "If Jesus was born on December 25th, then why do we celebrate on January 6th?" For some, today, the date is December 25th, others January 7th, others January 6th and again for others January 19th. So, are there 4 dates for the celebration of Christmas? What gives?

The answer to this question is not as plain nor as obvious as one might at first presume. Yes, while it's true that we really don't know when exactly Jesus was born, the fact remains that He was born, although God's self-revelation in human history makes the actual date of this glorious celebration moot and quite actually besides the point. In fact, during the very early years of the Christian church His birthday was not celebrated at all!! Many early church fathers omit it entirely from their lists of feasts.

Without going into the history of all the pagan window dressing associated with the modern yuletide season, the true celebrations, according to the ancient tradition of the church, was a culmination of events related to God's Incarnation. This was not called "Christmas" but rather Theophany which means "revelation of God," and was universally celebrated on January 6th by all Christendom, hi-lighted by the remembrance of Jesus' Baptism. Although, ironically today, Christmas is a celebration of Jesus' birthday, it wasn't until later that the Nativity was incorporated into the January 6th celebrations of the Theophany.

The question about dates must be answered in 2 parts. There are actually only 2 dates for the observance of Jesus' birth and not 4. They are December 25th and January 6th. The confusion of the other 2 dates, January 7th and 18th are due to the use of 2 calendars, the Gregorian and the Julian. While most of the known world, such as Canada, is on the Gregorian calendar (named after Pope Gregory of Rome), some Orthodox Christians maintain their liturgical calendars according to the ancient Julian calendar. Thus, the January 7th date actually corresponds with December 25th on the "old" Julian Calendar while January 19th corresponds to January 6th on the Gregorian calendar. Those who observe January 7th which is actually December 25th on the Julian calendar are referred to as "old calendarists." Despite the calendar usage, all these churches observe the Epiphany or the Baptism of Jesus 12 days following the Nativity.

Secondly, the Armenians, who observe the Gregorian calendar except in Jerusalem, maintain to this day the ancient date of January 6th as the dual celebration of Jesus' birth and baptism, where all the major events related to the Theophany are recalled, from the revelation of Jesus as the "Son of Man" the Incarnate Word, to His revelation as the "Son of God" the Prince of Peace and the King of Heaven. Therefore, this celebration includes everything from the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem, the visitation of the Magi who came to "witness" Him as the Divine Revelation, the infancy narrative...His naming, His presentation in the temple, His circumcision and finally the Epiphany or His Baptism in the River Jordan whereby His formal ministry of redemption was inaugurated by the opening of the heavens, the descent of God the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, and the Voice of God the Father proclaiming that "This is my beloved Son." The dual Theophany/Epiphany was celebrated on January 6th until the 5th century when the Council of Chalcedon (451 ad) formally declared December 25th as the date for the celebration of "Christmas" separating the Nativity from the Baptism of Christ by the "12 days of Christmas" remembered today in the popular Carol.

Although there are many compelling theories as to the reason for moving the celebration of the Nativity to December 25th, suffice to say that it is generally believed that the date was changed in order to override and subdue pagan feasts and practices dedicated to The Winter Solstice, because at the time Christians also used to continue their observance of these pagan festivities. The pagans called this celebration Saturnalia, in honour of their god Saturn, a festival lasting from the 17th to the 25th of December culminating with the "Birth of the Unconquerable Sun," as the days began to lengthen, because among pagans it was generally believed that the sun who dies during the winter solstice rises from death thereafter. Since the date of the Epiphany or Baptism was more ancient, and was of primary importance as a liturgical feast, it was not possible to move it while the secondary and later addition of the nativity could be moved without great offence.

Armenia however, whose Christianity is of ancient Apostolic origins, did not adopt this change for the simple fact that there were no such pagan practices left in Armenia in the 5th century allowing them to remain faithful to the traditions of their forefathers. To this day, Armenians have continued to celebrate the Nativity on January 6th along with the Epiphany which is crowned, as with other Orthodox Church's, in the observance of Christ's Baptism, with a glorious "Blessing of the Waters" in whose climax a Cross is plunged into the water as a sign of God's Saving mystery in Christ's life from Womb to Tomb. The blessed water is offered to all as a sign of God's manifestation in the glorious waters of the Jordan from which the Savior was revealed and it becomes possible for humanity to be born again to new life.

St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church, in St. Catharines will be observing the Nativity celebrations on January 5th at 5:00pm and January 6th at 6:00pm at 49 Carlton Street

http://www.geocities.../theophany.html

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 02:43 PM

Armenian Church History and Doctrine
by Fr. Shenork Souin.

The Christological Controversies/Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches

The Armenian Apostolic Church is an ancient Church of apostolic origin and thus comprises a fibre of the fabric that makes up the one holy apostolic and catholic church. It did in its history however reject the Fourth Ecumenical Council of AD 451 which is known as the Council of Chalcedon (modern Kadikoy in Turkey near Constantinople). This council was summoned by the bishops not to define Christology, but to fine tune it and to examine the extreme "monophysite" heresy of the Alexandrian Eutyches who took the Christology of St. Cyril to an extreme seeing in Christ a humanity which was lost, swallowed up in a see of divinity.
The Armenian Church along with the Syrian, Ethiopian, Coptic (See of Alexandria) and the Indian-Malabar Church or Church of the Apostle St. Thomas, comprise the 5 churches that rejected not only Eutyches, but also the definitions and acts of Chalcedon due primarily to the Tome of Leo, which "separated' the pactivities of Christ according to human or divine, thus tending strongly toward the dangers and errors of Nestorius.

These 5 churches maintain, until today, the linguistic heritage of the Third Ecumenical Council, known as the Council of Ephesus, (even today, the ancient town of Ephesus, one of the 7 churches of the Book of Revelation, known as Efes (Turkish) remains a sacred site of pilgrimmage, as the home of the Virgin Mother of God who lived with John the Apostle, according to the command of the Lord who in John 19:26 , "When he saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved (John) standing by, said to his mother,"Woman, behold your son," and there took her Dormition from whence her body was Assumed into heaven, celebrated by the Armenian Church on the Third Sunday of August, the Feast of the Assumption of the Most Holy Asdvadsadzin).which condemned the arch-heretic Nestorius who denied that St. Mary was Theotokos, or Mother of God, saying rather that she was only Christotokos or Mother of Christ, since in his thought she gave birth not to God, but only to the human nature of Jesus. He denied that in Christ dwelt bodily all the fullness of God. He spoke of two natures, one human and one divine, joined not personally but by "good pleasure" so as seeing in the Incarnation both the Son of God and the Son of Mary, a horrible confusion of the divine person hood of the Incarnate Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.

The council declared that after the conception of Christ in the womb of Mary, by the "Gospel" spoken to her at the Annunciation of the Arch-angel Gabriel and the "overshadowing" of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever, is bothe perfect God and perfect Man in one Divine Person, the Son of God, equal to the Father in His divinity which has no beginning, and equal to us in everything except for sin according to His humanity, which after the Incarnation has NO end.

The Armenians, who in 451AD were fighting a battle in defence of Christianity against the Persians who outnumbered them and desired to bring the Armenians to political submission and also strip them of the Christian faith and with it the HOPE of eternal life, were not present at the council and thus never bowed to the political pressure of the West who abandoned them while they were being persecuted for the very faith about which the West speculated in a war of words. To them, the controversy was settled by confessing in concord with the Ephesian formula that there is in Jesus Christ "One Nature of the Incarnate Word."

This ideological, political, linguistic and theological difference has kept the 5 Oriental Orthodox Churches separate from the rest of Christendom for many centuries since, although the Armenians have had a history of emminent ecuminists, such as St. Nerses the Graceful, St. Nerses of lambron, who while being doctors and confessors of Armenian Orthodoxy, struggled for the unity of the church with a sense of humility and great love for the sister churches of the Chalcedonian Council, even acknowledging the validity and the orthodoxy of the Greek Orthodox in their day.

The Eastern Orthodox condemn the errors of Nestorius and interpret the acts of Chalcedon from the perspective of St. Cyril's Christology (St. Cyril was the holy father that spearheaded the deposition and defeat of Nestorius and his vile heresy) seeing a personal union of two natures, a sharing of natural attributes in the person of Christ and that in the Incarnation, St. Mary is and always will be the All-Holy Mother of God Theotokos (the Armenian word for Theotokos is Asdvadsadzin). The Oriental Orthodox on the other hand reject the Eutychian heresy that sees the in Christ's Incarnation, the humanity of Jesus swallowed up like a "drop of vineger in a sea" of divinity. In the One Nature, both completely and fully human and divine, the properties of both continue to operate in the person of Jesus Christ. Both errors are avoided and rejected, serving as a balance for Orthodox Christology.

The 5 so-called Oriental Orthodox Churches other wise known as the Non-Chalcedonian or Lesser Orthodox Churches, have always acknowledged the "orthodoxy" of not only the 3 preceding Councils, but the 3 Councils that succeded Chalcedon. Happily, in recent years, there has been a rapprochment among the 2 families of Orthodox Churches over the divisions caused by the Fourth Council. There have been numerable dialogues and symposia that have included theologians and fathers of the various orthodox churches that have brought the two churches so close as to declare that in essence, the two families share the one Orthodox faith, with very little but maybe the administrative and jurisdictional issues that still separate us. Today we even see many Non-Chalcedonian Oriental Orthodox gentlemen studying in Orthodox Seminaries, ie. the joint curriculum of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.

Also, church school curriculums can be shared amongst the two branches of Orthodox Churches without fear of "contamination". Today, it is believed that in principle, the Orientals acknowledge the orthodoxy of the Eastern Orthodox, while the Eastern Orthodox acknowledge the orthodoxy of the Oriental Orthodox, paving the way for a joyful return to a reunified Church. We ought all pray that the anathemas of the past one against another be dropped so that an age of one undivided holy and apostolic Orthodox Church can become once again to a world divided, the eschatalogical sign of the witness of Christ's life and resurrection to the world.


Rev. Fr. Shenork Souin


For a greater understanding and clarification regarding the relationship of the Armenian Church with the Church of Rome, in view of the dialogue between the Pope and the Catholicos, see my Press Release.


http://www.geocities...hristology.html

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Posted 15 February 2001 - 02:46 PM

The Diaconate- Recovering An Historical and Biblical Definition

By Fr. Shenork Kahana Souin

Saturday October 2, 1999

Deacon's Retreat

Toronto-Holy Trinity AHAC

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Acts 6:1-8

1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews

among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being

overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be

right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.

3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the

Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them

4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."

5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith

and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas

from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands

on them.

7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased

rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

8 Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and

miraculous signs among the people.

Surpazan Hayr, dear father deacons and brothers in Christ,

This is the first such retreat that we have had in our diocese, bringing together a majority of the diaconate that serves our Canadian Diocese. For my part, I have been asked of His Eminence to explore the biblical view of the diaconate, and to endeavor to seek that which may have been lost over the centuries with the hope of someday recovering the true ministry to which we were all ordained as deacons. Let us remember, that all of us, whether bishop, priest or deacon, have received firstly the grace of the holy order of the Diaconate.

My hope, today, is to prove to you that understood properly, as we shall soon see, "once a deacon always a deacon."

Let me start by telling you a true story. I will never forget when some years ago HOVNAN Surpazan, during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy by a newly ordained priest, when there were no ordained deacons ministering at the altar, got up from His Throne in the chancel and proceeded to the Bema where taking off his

shoes and prostrating deeply before the celebrant, a kahana, and the holy altar, took the poorvar and performed the Greater Entrance , a liturgical function that is the epitome of all diaconal service, symbolizing in spirit and truth all that the deacon is and does. This gesture, by Surpazan Hayr showed once and for all, at least to me, that the spirit of diakonia is in, with and through all the other ministries of the church, whether lay or clerical and furthermore must necessarily remain throughout one's ascension through the hierarchy of the major orders of the church even up to the Catholicos of All-Armenians.

This is not so much of a Bible Study as an overview of a variety of related thoughts on the subject of the Diaconate. I have divided my study into three parts, first, Part 1, "What was Lost"--the understanding of the hierarchical view of Christian ministry, Part 2, "Rediscovery"--the biblical-historical understanding of the diaconate and finally Part 3, "Recovery"--the ministry of the diaconate as prescribed by its very definition.

Part 1, "What was Lost"

We all know that the church is an hierarchical institution. It is this way not as some modern Protestants might suppose, because of the Judeo-Hellenistic culture in which it was born, but by divine providence. In terms of ordained ministry, the hierarchy of the church transcending the influences of human time and space, is "Trinitarian", composed of 3 major orders which, appearing even from apostolic times, serve the church with a unity of purpose continuing God's work of reconciliation . These three offices are firstly, the episcopacy, the source of authority mandated to "oversee" the church , secondly, the presbytery or rank of priesthood, and finally the diaconate, the subject about which I will speak specifically today.

All three of course are given by God to the church as a means of stewardship over his holy chosen people, making Christ's ministry present until His Second Coming. The bishops, as the immediate successors to the 12 apostles are the princes of the church who govern her with wisdom and authority. The priest is known in patristic literature as the "hands" of the episcopos, who, as stewards of the Mysteries of the church, have the commission, by the laying on of hands, to perform sacred rites such as baptism, and the Lord's Supper and also to administrate the bidding and authority of the bishop within a parish in the care of souls.

The diaconate is the last, but by no means the least, of the three major orders in the

hierarchy of the church. It is the rank to which each and every one of us here today were first called and ordained.

While we should all be able to admit that we would be hard pressed to prove it in practical terms today, the fullness of Christian mission and ethics can be discovered in the diaconate. The very word deacon in Greek, diakonos means minister, viz. one who "serves" and "ministers" in and for the church. In this respect, then,

the deacon, whether male or female, has always been regarded as the "right hand man" for the presbytery (see Phil. 1:1).

St. Ignatius says concerning the diaconate, "And everyone should cooperate in every way with the deacons that serve the ministers of the Mysteries of Jesus Christ, for they are not ministers of food and drink (only), but servants of the church of God" (Smyrnians.) ..."all of you should revere the deacons, as a commandment of Jesus Christ." (Traillians)

While ministry is expected from and exemplified in the diaconate, it has overtime lost

some of its lustre and has thus in some cases reduced the deacon to a liturgical

functionary, almost entirely divorced from its original institution. This anti-sacramental anti-liturgical, and I would maintain anti-Orthodox minimalism is completely novel and ahistorical and is unfortunately translated throughout the whole life of the modern church having infected the thought and practice of the whole church. I would maintain with some trepidation, begging your indulgence, that this is in some cases the fault also of many deacons who have not taken their sacramental orders seriously nor have they as St. Paul warned, "fanned into flames the gift that is in (them) by the laying on of hands," but have rather neglected "the gift that is in (them)...with the laying on of hands."

Another problem is that in many cases, our tendency and desire, an ethos unfortunately inherited from an earlier generation, has been to perform church rituals and to create a vigorous social life within the parish assuming that this is the fulfillment of God's will and our vocation. When this occurs and all we do is "above all to preserve our ethnic identity and cultural heritage, then we can only admit that we have betrayed both God and our vocation..."

Part 2, "Rediscovery"

Although the term deacon was not used expressly in the above passage, the first

deacons can be found in the Bible, in the 6th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles written by St. Luke.. Who were they?

They were 7 in number and were chosen by the church in Jerusalem because the church was growing and "widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food" .. They were chosen not for their ability to sing, nor for their ability to navigate the liturgical life of the church, but because they were "full of the Spirit and wisdom." They received the laying on of hands with the approval of all, by the apostles who were themselves overwhelmed with their ministry of the Word and the celebration of the Lord's Supper .

The original raison d'être therefore of an ordained diaconate, as an arm of the apostolic office, was at least threefold, namely;

1)the administration of the social ministry of the church through the collection of

alms and stewardship of church funds,

2)pastoral, visiting the sick and ministering to those in prison ,

3)liturgical, aiding the bishop in the proper conduct of the faithful at the Eucharist.

The function of the deacon was not confined to these three as we see in Stephen's defense of the faith and Philip's work of evangelism. It is here where the historical and original diaconal vocation can and must be the model through which a reformation in the work of the diaconate, and subsequently all humanitarian work might take place.

We must first understand the sacramental gift given in the cheirotonia, literally the "laying on of hands" through which the 7 were ordained to the public ministry of the

diaconate. This ceremony has been used since the Old Testamental times and then

continued into the Christian era except now also as a means to impart the charis (grace) of ministry sealed by the Holy Spirit and to "formally associate deacons with the bishop as a "deputy with the authority to discharge special duties."

It is important to note that the chosen men were already said to be "filled with the Holy Spirit." It would be wise that we should all, as members of the body of Christ, be more vigilant in our selection of formal ministers in God's church. Before giving approval and

stating "arjhani e" about a candidate, he ought to be tested and to be examined in

order to see if he is in the faith and if his life and work reveal the power and fruit of the Holy Spirit, equipped to serve the church in and out of liturgy..

Because of the demands placed on the deacon, he must be of good reputation, worthy of respect, sincere, the husband of but one wife, competent and beyond reproach, not susceptible to weakness in delicate matters where conscience is concerned. He must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith .

The example of the virtuous deacon is St. Stephen, the patron saint of all deacons, "a man full of God's grace and power, (who) did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people" , whose feast is celebrated universally on December 26th and specifically on December 25th. in the Armenian Church.

Part 3, "Recovery"

Having said all this, however, let us finally turn to the very practical ramifications of

ministry and service, the biblical concept of diakonia in the life of the modern church, with the goal of recovering that which was lost. Let us see what it is that we ought to expect of ourselves and our deacons, magnifying and dignifying that which God intended for us by His sacred call to serve His church publicly.

Since the ministry is one of service it is dependent upon our posture and our behavior. As such, it is necessarily concerned with ethics and morality. The paradigm to follow is that which Christ teaches in both the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel chapters. 5-7 and in the Sermon on the Plain found in chapter 6 of St. Luke's Gospel. Both sermons focus on the ministry of LOVE made manifest in the very fact that God gave His own Son as the sacrificial love offering through which the condemnation is removed and we are saved.

Both sermons demonstrate how one might reflect the love of Christ in the world by

reaching out as Jesus did, by meeting the needs of those around us, to embrace people self-sacrificially with love and compassion. This virtuous conduct is possible only through a life of fasting, prayer and alms-giving . Fasting mortifies the flesh and brings about a hunger for spiritual learning and yearning where we are open to perceive the kingdom of heaven on earth within the liturgical Eucharistic celebration. This will bring more meaning to our liturgical worship and a greater piety for those who are in the assembly. With our minds and hearts tuned into the presence of Christ, we will praise God in one accord and with one voice.

Without sacrifice and self denial our service is self gratifying and is not of the church nor of the Spirit of Christ. It is ritualistic at best and is removed from the knowledge and perception of the reality of Christ's presence. Service without love is hypocrisy and is judged to be for self glorification. True faith is emersed in Cross bearing, in sacrifice in love of others and above all, in the love of God.

The sacrifice of fasting leads to a hunger for Christ's life and love, greater spiritual perception and a heightened sense of moral and social conscience, leading to acts of charity and alms-giving, the very ministry to which the deacon was first called. An openness to God's call will inspire our vocation to minister, to visit and to pray for the sick, to teach the faith, giving guidance to the young, to get more involved in the stewardship of the church outside of the liturgical setting, becoming leaders in the church's social responsibilities, administering food drives, participating in Bible Studies and leading missions of evangelism and mercy here at home, in Armenia and if we have real vision and the mind of Christ, outside the boundaries of ethnic identification. Yes, the deacon must be the conscience of the church, a living example to the rest of the community.

All this is possible if each of us reflect on our own ministry and repent from that which is lacking, turning away from that which is NOT "of the Church" and turning in stead to the light of the knowledge of God so that we might become all that we were invited to and set apart to be from the day of our ordination to this very sacred vocation and ministry of the diaconate.

Today, we have learned about the Divine Liturgy itself, heard an exposition of the

meaning and significance of the hymnody within the Liturgy, even exploring the inner

Mystery of Christ's very presence in the Eucharist, the celebration in which each of you minister on a weekly basis. Hopefully this will help each of you to remember that this community of persons, the church, is the realm of the holy where we participate fully in what it is that we are all invited to receive in the Eucharist which is the very life-giving body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ that He gave us for the Life of the World, the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.

What we ought to hope to rediscover and to recover should be a fuller and more faithful ministry of diakonia, as understood according to an Orthodox ethos shaped by a clearer view of its historical setting in the apostolic church. This job, is ours, so that hand in hand we may rediscover and recover the true ministry of service in the sacramental order of the diaconate to the building up of the Kingdom of Christ and to His Glory together with His Father and All Holy Spirit now and always and unto the ages of ages, Amen.

Thank you for your attention.
http://www.geocities...1089/DEACON.htm

#12 MJ

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Posted 19 February 2001 - 03:03 PM

Quick Facts about the Armenian Church


Origin of the Church


The Armenian Church was founded in the middle of the 1st century by two of the original Apostles of Jesus Christ: St. Thaddeus and St. Bartho-lomew. It was fully recognized in AD 301 by Armenia's King Tiridates III, who was conver-ted to Christianity by St. Gregory the Illuminator (or Enlightener) of Armenia. As a result, Armenia was the first nation in the world to declare Christianity as its state religion.

The Clergy

The Church recognizes the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians as its leader. Priests, in certain categories, are permitted to marry. Clergy hear confessions en masse or on an individual basis if preferred by the person offering confession.

The Catholicos is seated at Etchmiadzin in Armenia. The Church entered its most recent era of leadership on October 27, 1999, when Armenian Christians chose His Holiness Karekin II as leader for their worldwide church. He succeeded the deceased Catholicos Karekin I, who died in late June 1999.

The Church in America

The first Armenian Church in the United States was built in 1891 in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Nearly one million Armenians live in the United States and Canada. Approximately 50,000 Armenians reside in the greater New York City area.

His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian is Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America.

The Armenian Church of America is made up of two dioceses-one serves the eastern United States and one the western U.S. The Eastern Diocese includes all of the United States except California, Washington, Nevada and Arizona, which are in the jurisdiction of the Western Diocese. A third diocese governs all of Canada.

The Eastern Diocese has 63 organized and mission parishes. There are close to 60 Armenian clergymen serving the various parishes throughout the Eastern Diocese. Each Armenian parish includes a language and a Sunday school.

The North American Seminary

St. Nersess Armenian Theological School, in New Rochelle, New York is the seminary serving all three North American dioceses.

Contact Information

The Eastern Diocesan office is located at
630 Second Avenue (on the corner of 34th Street),
New York, New York 10016-4885;
Tel: (212) 686-0710; Fax: 212-779-3558.
info@armeniandiocese.org

THE ARMENIAN CHURCH-A BRIEF HISTORY


The Armenian Church is an independent Christian church, also known as the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church. Its head is the Catholicos, who resides at Holy Etchmiadzin, near Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.
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Christianity was declared the state religion of Armenia in AD 301. Armenia thus became the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion. This was largely due to the efforts of St. Gregory the Illuminator. Born a nobleman, he converted Armenia's king Tiridates III, who had formerly perse-cuted the Christians. Conversion of the rest of the population soon followed. It was St. Gregory who built the Mother Church at Etchmiadzin in AD 303.



Until the 5th century, Christian worship in Armenia was conducted in Greek or Syriac, since there was no Armenian alphabet, hence no written language. In AD 404, St. Mesrob (at that time a monk) completed an alphabet of 36 letters. His objective was to translate the Bible into Armenian, and the golden age of classical Armenian literature began shortly thereafter.

Persia reduced Armenia to vassaldom and in AD 450 issued a decree ordering all Christians to embrace the Zoroastrian religion. The Armenians, under Prince Vartan Mamigonian, rose in revolt. This culminated in the Battle of Avarayr. Vartan lost the battle, but under the leadership of his nephew, Vahan, the Armenians continued the war for 30 years. They won a decisive victory through a peace accord in AD 484, and Armenian Christianity survived. St. Vartan Day-which is celebrated in February of each year-commemorates the battle and is a major Armenian holiday.



The Armenian Church has traditionally maintained two patriarchates: one in Jerusalem and another in Istanbul. In Jerusalem, the Armenian Patriarchate is the guardian of the Holy Places in the possession of the Armenians. It is also one of the three principal custodians of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other important shrines and sanctuaries in the Holy Land. The Patriarchate of Constantinople serves a community of approximately 50,000 Armenians living in Istanbul.

Holy Etchmiadzin remains the central spiritual authority for millions of Armenian Christians living in diaspora communities around the globe. In recent years, the Armenian Church has taken an active role in the ecumenical dialogue among the clergy of all faiths.

The Church entered its most recent era of leadership on October 27, 1999, when Armenian Christians elected His Holiness Karekin II as the 132nd Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, pontiff of the worldwide Armenian Church. He succeeded the deceased Catholicos Karekin I, who died in late June 1999 after leading the church for 4 years.



Holy Etchmiadzin & St. Gregory the Illuminator

The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin is the pre-eminent center of authority in the worldwide Armenian Apostolic Church. Located near the capital of Yerevan in the Republic of Armenia, it is composed of (a) the Mother Cathedral of the entire Armenian Church; (b) a monastery and monastic brotherhood; © the residence of the Catholicos of All Armenians; and (d) various religious and cultural institutions, such as the Kevorkian Theological Seminary and a museum.



The cathedral dates back to the 4th century, and is reckoned the oldest Christian cathedral in world. Although the current sanctuary was erected in the 1600s, remnants of the 4th-century altar have been unearthed beneath the present structure.



In its capacity as the residence of the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos (the pontiff of the Armenian Church) of All Armenians, Holy Etchmiadzin is known as the “Catholicate of All Armenians.” It became the seat of the Catho­licate of the entire Armenian nation in the 4th century, following the conversion of King Tiridates III to Christianity by St. Gregory the Illuminator in ad 301.



According to the chronicler Agathangelos, soon after Armenia’s conver­sion to Christianity, St. Gregory had a vision of the Son of God. Appearing as a heroic figure of light surrounded by a mighty angelic host, Christ struck the ground with a golden ham­mer, indicating the place where the Mother Cathedral of the new Christian nation was to be established. The name Etchmiadzin—literally, “where the Only Begotten descended”—refers to this episode.



Gregory was formally designated as the supreme head of the Church, and was sent to Caesarea to be ordained a bishop. He thus became the first in an unbroken line of 131 catholicoi (or “universal bishops”) of the Armenian Church. He built the first Christian cathedral in Vagharshapat, near Mount Ararat, then the capital of Armenia. Having accomplished his mission and advanced in age, he then retired from active life to live as a hermit until his death.


PRESENT- DAY PATRIARCHATES & DIOCESES
Under the Jurisdiction of the Holy See of Etchmiadzin


· The Brotherhood of the Holy See of Etchmiadzin
· The Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Brotherhood of St. James
· The Patriarchate of Constantinople


1. Diocese of Ararat
2. Diocese of Shirak
3. Diocese of Gugark
4. Diocese of Siwnik
5. Diocese of Georgia
6. Diocese of Azerbaijan
7. Diocese of Arts'akh
8. Diocese of Nor Nakhichevan and Russia
9. Diocese of Atrpatakan [Tabriz]
10. Diocese of Teheran
11. Diocese of Isfahan
12. Diocese of Egypt
13. Diocese of Paris
14. Diocese of Marseille
15. Diocese of Lyon
16. Diocese of America, Eastern
17. Diocese of America, Western
18. Diocese of Argentina
19. Diocese of Brazil
20. Diocese of Uruguay
21. Diocese of Canada
22. Diocese of Iraq
23. Diocese of Australia and New Zealand
24. Diocese of England
25. Diocese of Roumania
26. Diocese of Bulgaria
27. Diocese of Greece
28. Office of the Pontifical Legate
of Central Europe (Vienna)
29. Spiritual Ministry of Sweden
30. Diocese of Germany
31. Diocese of Switzerland
32. Pastorate of India
33. Pastorate of Italy (Milano)
34. Pastorate of Ethiopia (Adis Ababa)
35. Pastorate of Sudan (Khartum)
http://www.armenianc...h.org/index.jsp

[ February 19, 2001: Message edited by: MJ ]

#13 MJ

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Posted 19 February 2001 - 03:05 PM

ENCYCLICAL OF KHRIMIAN HAYRIG:

FOUNDING DOCUMENT OF THE DIOCESE OF THE ARMENIAN CHURCH OF AMERICA
MGRDICH, SERVANT OF JESUS CHRIST, AND BY THE INCOMPREHENSIBLE WILL OF GOD CHIEF BISHOP AND CATHOLICOS OF ALL ARMENIANS, SUPREME PATRIARCH OF THE NATIONAL PRE-EMINENT SEE OF THE ARARATIAN APOSTOLIC UNIVERSAL MOTHER CHURCH OF HOLY ETCHMIADZIN.

Christ-given greetings, together with our patriarchal blessings to all of you, beloved Armenian expatriates. You remain the children of our Holy Cathedral of Etchmiadzin, the Mother of light, though you are living in that New World, America, and her cities and suburbs of Worcester, New York, Boston, Lawrence, Providence, Fresno (California), Chicago, Philadelphia, as well as other cities and villages. Salutations to all of you who believe in Our Lord Jesus Christ and the heaven-taught doctrine about Him. Salutations to the reverend priests, honorable trustees, diligent merchants, hard-working artisans, farmers and tillers, virtuous ladies and faithful children-in-Christ of all ages. Salutations to you all, from the occupant of the throne of the Holy Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew, the first Enlighteners of the land of Armenia, and of our Holy father St. Gregory, her second Enlightener.

May grace, love, peace and the bountiful, heavenly mercy of the Holy Trinity--Father, Son and Holy Spirit--descend and rest on you all, so that you may become strong and courageous, unshaken by the tribulations of this life, persevering in good conduct and in successful ventures. Amen.

Beloved expatriated Armenians, after our patriarchal greeting and blessing, I shall now speak with you in a dialect you can understand, lest you blame me, your Hayrig, and complain that you don't understand the language of poetry.

I know that you have many woes in that foreign land, and you are in need of much consolation and encouragement. In that distant country, away from the bosom of Mother Armenia, severed from your ancestral hearth, deprived of the comfort of your sweet family life, you seek happiness and consolation. If only such things were possible, even for just a moment. But how can they be? Who can compare the sweetness and happiness of life in one's native land, with existence in a foreign country, where one feels every minute the bitterness and the misery of life? Where the language, the natural surroundings, the land and people are foreign. Where even the climate and the water are strange.

It is the will of a mysterious Providence that our nation should live in exile, as settlers in foreign lands. Yet that same God has not forgotten the Armenians, or Armenia. He has protected our people wherever they live, granted them success, and has day-by-day multiplied their number in the fatherland. May His will be done.

The storm of violence in this world drove the Armenians from their native soil, scattering them to the far corners of the globe. Only distant America remained unexplored. But behold! In recent years Armenians have gathered there as well--and in great numbers. I am not certain, O Armenians, whether it was the freedom of life in America, or its gold mines, or its wondrous technology and inventions, which attracted you. Perhaps it was simply fate, the destruction of your ancestral abode and your suffering which led you across the limitless span of the sea?

For whatever reason, having already departed and reached your destination, you have now come to comprehend your true situation. But my fatherly advice to you is this: Know who you are. The tribulations and calamities of this world are endless. The frost of winter is followed by life-bearing spring, spring is followed by fruitful summer, and summer is succeeded by autumn, when man harvests the results of his work and stores them in anticipation of yet another winter. The seasons change. The world turns. And the lot of man cannot stay the same.

It may be true that the Armenians have always been persecuted and on the move. But God has never abandoned us. As long as the Armenians never forgot their homeland, and their Enlightener's faith-as long as they never lost their native tongue, and preserved with awe and sanctity their ancestral traditions, and their native respect for family and morality-many of them grew and multiplied in foreign lands. But many also were lost without trace. Some preserved their ancestral faith and language, their family life and sacred traditions, and absorbed the arts and sciences of foreigners into their own natural genius. These grew and multiplied. Others disposed of their language, forsook their faith, lost their family honor and sacred traditions, adopted from foreigners everything that was destructive and poisonous. These were led to the abyss of destruction; they fell headlong and disappeared. Let the experience of the past serve as an example for the future. And let the wise man remain vigilant, to speak out whenever necessary.

Dear expatriates, remember the instructions our Savior gave to his disciples: This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you [John 15:12]. My command is the same: That you love each other as I love you. Let this be the sign that you are my children. If only I had the wings of an eagle, I could dart off and fly to you; I could speak to you and console you in person. But I am old, and limited by the bonds of mortal flesh, and burdened under many cares. I can only carry out my obligation to you through a simple letter.

Together with the love exemplified in the Gospel, I bequeath to you the Savior's peace: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you [John 14:27]. The peace of the world is unstable. But God's peace is immortal and gives happiness to mankind. Live with each other in peace and in love, so that you may preserve your existence in a foreign land where many languages are spoken. Let your honest way of life and your civilized demeanor gain respect for you in the eyes of the non-Armenians. Give no one cause to trouble or hate you. Be of one mind, and of one will in the way you conduct your work and worship of God. Love your immaculate Mother, the holy catholic Church, which gave birth to you through the holy baptismal font, and nursed you with her pure, unadulterated milk--that is to say, with her true doctrine and simple orthodox teaching, bequeathed to us by the Holy Enlightener and his blessed successors.

Do not be dazzled by the glitter of foreigners, and their eloquent, free-minded sermons. It should be sufficient to have a poor priest of the Mother Church instruct you through his rustic sermon, teaching you the philanthropy of the Gospel, love for friends, charity for the poor, awe before God, and a patriotic spirit. Remember that, over the course of many centuries, thousands of fierce tempests and floods have struck our people. But your Mother Church has remained firm and unshaken on her foundations, elevated from the fray by her spotless faith and sacred calling. For her foundations were built on rock.

Besides the Church, love and preserve your native tongue, given to you as a gift from heaven. Whether in their own homeland or in foreign lands-and always in their Church
-your fathers and mothers spoke, prayed, sang and wailed in this language. Bequeath it to your children and heirs, so that it will not be forgotten. For if you lose your language, you will lose everything. Stay firm in your ancestral traditions. Keep yourselves clean and spotless in every aspect of your life. Stay clear of every kind of addiction, which leads man to perdition. Love marriage and the family, which constitute the foundation of a moral life. Let life in the New World with all of its splendor and luster not lure you. Remember that you are expatriates in that foreign land. Remember that someday, the Lord God will deliver you out of that foreign place-as He did for Israel-and lead you back to your fatherland. Remember that a foreigner is always a stranger.

Make an effort to live together. Help each other. Extend a consoling hand to a wretched brother, a fallen friend. Find a job for the poor and the newcomer. Help the sick. Care for orphans and the unfortunate. Provide them with food and education. Train them in work. And in all of your endeavors show that you are the true children of your fathers.

Dear people, having considered these words sufficient, I end my admonitory encyclical and bless you all. I pray that all disagreements, quarrels and factions may disappear from your midst, and that the spirit of God's peace and gentleness will prevail. May you succeed in your undertakings; may you stay clear of all dangers; may you remain firm and unshakable beside your true Mother, the holy catholic Church. May the Lord God consider all our trials-which have drained our wretched people of their breath and spirit-to have been enough.

O Armenian people: Do not forget to pray for the elderly Hayrig, so that God may give me the strength and ability to carry out the obligations imposed on me. I in turn will never forget you, nor the manifold needs that you and the Church possess. My love for my children and for their well-being has placed upon me the sweet obligation to carry out your longtime wish: namely to dispatch to you a high-ranking, able pastor. Behold! Providence has once again handed that heavy yoke, the helm of that storm-ridden ship, to an experienced and meritorious captain: namely, His Eminence Bishop Hovsep Sarajian
-your first hard-working pastor in that foreign land. Overcoming great obstacles and hardships, he succeeded in establishing the Enlightener's faith in that foreign land. He raised the cross of the Armenians and built an Armenian church. I saw that he alone was suitable and worthy to be appointed as pastor of America, and for that reason I granted him the sacred episcopal rank in the name of the Armenians in America.

Now you, O expatriate Armenians of America, hearken to the voice of your good pastor. Follow the steps of your leader. Carry out his good wishes and listen to his advice: you will see that it is all for your own good and benefit, and you will never stray from the path of truth and happiness. In consideration of his experience, and his love for his faithful people, we gave him full authority in his position as primate, knowing well that he will not fail our expectations and trust, and will always work for the good of the Church, so that you, dear children, may receive consolation and prosper. In all matters assist your new primate, particularly in paying the debts for your Holy Saviour Church. In consideration of your condition, we turned to other compatriots in order to alleviate some of the outstanding debt. But it is up to you to pay the greater part. You are the ones who contributed to its construction, and you must make provision to pay the remaining debt. For the purpose of fundraising, we gave His Eminence Bishop Hovsep a ledger bearing the seal of our name, so that you can sign in it.

Accept the elderly Hayrig's loving and heartfelt blessing, which I have enclosed in my encyclical. I am sending this to quench your thirsty and anxious hearts, like heavenly, life-giving dew from Mother Armenia, from snow-capped Massis, from Mt. Arakadz, the place where the Enlightener prayed and rested, from the Araks River, and from Holy Etchmiadzin.

May you be healthy and blessed, successful and comforted, now and forever. Amen.

Mgrdich I, Catholicos of All Armenians
July 2, 1898
http://www.armenianc...ENCYCLICAL.html

#14 MJ

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Posted 23 September 2001 - 06:59 AM

Armenian Church History and Doctrine
by Fr. Shenork Souin.

The Christological Controversies/Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches

The Armenian Apostolic Church is an ancient Church of apostolic origin and thus comprises a fibre of the fabric that makes up the one holy apostolic and catholic church. It did in its history however reject the Fourth Ecumenical Council of AD 451 which is known as the Council of Chalcedon (modern Kadikoy in Turkey near Constantinople). This council was summoned by the bishops not to define Christology, but to fine tune it and to examine the extreme "monophysite" heresy of the Alexandrian Eutyches who took the Christology of St. Cyril to an extreme seeing in Christ a humanity which was lost, swallowed up in a see of divinity.

The Armenian Church along with the Syrian, Ethiopian, Coptic (See of Alexandria) and the Indian-Malabar Church or Church of the Apostle St. Thomas, comprise the 5 churches that rejected not only Eutyches, but also the definitions and acts of Chalcedon due primarily to the Tome of Leo, which "separated' the pactivities of Christ according to human or divine, thus tending strongly toward the dangers and errors of Nestorius.

These 5 churches maintain, until today, the linguistic heritage of the Third Ecumenical Council, known as the Council of Ephesus, (even today, the ancient town of Ephesus, one of the 7 churches of the Book of Revelation, known as Efes (Turkish) remains a sacred site of pilgrimmage, as the home of the Virgin Mother of God who lived with John the Apostle, according to the command of the Lord who in John 19:26 , "When he saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved (John) standing by, said to his mother,"Woman, behold your son," and there took her Dormition from whence her body was Assumed into heaven, celebrated by the Armenian Church on the Third Sunday of August, the Feast of the Assumption of the Most Holy Asdvadsadzin).which condemned the arch-heretic Nestorius who denied that St. Mary was Theotokos, or Mother of God, saying rather that she was only Christotokos or Mother of Christ, since in his thought she gave birth not to God, but only to the human nature of Jesus. He denied that in Christ dwelt bodily all the fullness of God. He spoke of two natures, one human and one divine, joined not personally but by "good pleasure" so as seeing in the Incarnation both the Son of God and the Son of Mary, a horrible confusion of the divine person hood of the Incarnate Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.


The council declared that after the conception of Christ in the womb of Mary, by the "Gospel" spoken to her at the Annunciation of the Arch-angel Gabriel and the "overshadowing" of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever, is bothe perfect God and perfect Man in one Divine Person, the Son of God, equal to the Father in His divinity which has no beginning, and equal to us in everything except for sin according to His humanity, which after the Incarnation has NO end.

The Armenians, who in 451AD were fighting a battle in defence of Christianity against the Persians who outnumbered them and desired to bring the Armenians to political submission and also strip them of the Christian faith and with it the HOPE of eternal life, were not present at the council and thus never bowed to the political pressure of the West who abandoned them while they were being persecuted for the very faith about which the West speculated in a war of words. To them, the controversy was settled by confessing in concord with the Ephesian formula that there is in Jesus Christ "One Nature of the Incarnate Word."

This ideological, political, linguistic and theological difference has kept the 5 Oriental Orthodox Churches separate from the rest of Christendom for many centuries since, although the Armenians have had a history of emminent ecuminists, such as St. Nerses the Graceful, St. Nerses of lambron, who while being doctors and confessors of Armenian Orthodoxy, struggled for the unity of the church with a sense of humility and great love for the sister churches of the Chalcedonian Council, even acknowledging the validity and the orthodoxy of the Greek Orthodox in their day.

The Eastern Orthodox condemn the errors of Nestorius and interpret the acts of Chalcedon from the perspective of St. Cyril's Christology (St. Cyril was the holy father that spearheaded the deposition and defeat of Nestorius and his vile heresy) seeing a personal union of two natures, a sharing of natural attributes in the person of Christ and that in the Incarnation, St. Mary is and always will be the All-Holy Mother of God Theotokos (the Armenian word for Theotokos is Asdvadsadzin). The Oriental Orthodox on the other hand reject the Eutychian heresy that sees the in Christ's Incarnation, the humanity of Jesus swallowed up like a "drop of vineger in a sea" of divinity. In the One Nature, both completely and fully human and divine, the properties of both continue to operate in the person of Jesus Christ. Both errors are avoided and rejected, serving as a balance for Orthodox Christology.

The 5 so-called Oriental Orthodox Churches other wise known as the Non-Chalcedonian or Lesser Orthodox Churches, have always acknowledged the "orthodoxy" of not only the 3 preceding Councils, but the 3 Councils that succeded Chalcedon. Happily, in recent years, there has been a rapprochment among the 2 families of Orthodox Churches over the divisions caused by the Fourth Council. There have been numerable dialogues and symposia that have included theologians and fathers of the various orthodox churches that have brought the two churches so close as to declare that in essence, the two families share the one Orthodox faith, with very little but maybe the administrative and jurisdictional issues that still separate us. Today we even see many Non-Chalcedonian Oriental Orthodox gentlemen studying in Orthodox Seminaries, ie. the joint curriculum of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.

Also, church school curriculums can be shared amongst the two branches of Orthodox Churches without fear of "contamination". Today, it is believed that in principle, the Orientals acknowledge the orthodoxy of the Eastern Orthodox, while the Eastern Orthodox acknowledge the orthodoxy of the Oriental Orthodox, paving the way for a joyful return to a reunified Church. We ought all pray that the anathemas of the past one against another be dropped so that an age of one undivided holy and apostolic Orthodox Church can become once again to a world divided, the eschatalogical sign of the witness of Christ's life and resurrection to the world.

Rev. Fr. Shenork Souin
For a greater understanding and clarification regarding the relationship of the Armenian Church with the Church of Rome, in view of the dialogue between the Pope and the Catholicos, see my Press Release.




http://www.geocities...hristology.html




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