Church of Armenia
The Church of Armenia, sometimes called the Armenian Apostolic Church or the Armenian Orthodox Church is an ancient church, originally part of the ancient, undivided Church. It separated from the Chalcedonian Orthodox in AD 506, after the Council of Chalcedon. It is one of the Oriental Orthodox Churches.
Liturgically, the Church has much in common with the Roman Catholic Church. For example, their bishops wear vestments almost identical to those of Western bishops. The Armenian Apostolic Church should not, however, be confused with the Armenian Catholic Church, which is church in union with the Roman Catholic Church. They also typically do not use a full iconostasis, but rather a curtain.
Christianity in Armenia
Tradition tells us that the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew first brought Christianity to the land of the Armenians in the first century. However, it would not be for about 200 more years that Armenia would become the first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion, in AD 301, when St. Gregory the Illuminator, a missionary from Caesarea, converted the king of Armenia, Trdat IV, to Christianity. In time, St. Gregory was sent back to Caesarea to be elevated to the episcopate and returned to Armenia as the first Catholicos (or "universal" bishop of an area). Gregory’s son, Aristakes, attended the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea in AD 325.
In addition to the obvious spiritual benefits which resulted from the "baptism" of Armenia, this conversion aided in unifying various ethnic groups into a cohesive Armenian identity. The Armenian Church was instrumental in the early missions to neighboring Georgia and Albania.
The Council of Chalcedon
Together with the other churches that have come to be called Oriental Orthodox churches, the Church of Armenia split with [Chalcedonian] Orthodoxy in the 5th Century, rejecting the dogmas of the Council of Chalcedon regarding Christ's two natures. They are sometimes called Monophysites, however this is a term that they reject, preferring to be called "Non-Chalcedonian," since they do claim that Christ did indeed have two natures.
The Armenian Genocide
The hierarch of the Armenian Church is the Catholicos of Armenia. The current Catholicos is Garegin II, who resides in the city of Echmiadzin, west of Yerevan. However, a minority of the church has recognized instead the Catholicos of Cilicia, who resides in Antilyas in Lebanon, as a result of a dispute that emerged while Armenia was under Communist rule.
Armenian Christianity Outside of Armenia
Today there are large Armenian Orthodox congreations in many middle-eastern countries outside Armenia. Of particular importance is the Armenian Apostolic Church of Iran, where Armenians are the largest Christian ethnic minority. The Armenian Church also is one of the churches (together with the Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Copts, Ethiopians and Syrians) which cooperates in the use and administration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jerusalem).
In America, the Armenian Church maintains St. Vartan Cathedral in New York City, and St. Nersess Seminary in New Rochelle, NY. The latter cooperates very closely with St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (Crestwood, New York).
- Frequently Asked Questions About the Armenian Church by Fr. Krikor Maksoudian
- Feasts and Saints of the Armenian Chuch by Patriarch Torkom Koushagian
- Portions of this article have been taken, with modifications, from Wikipedia:Armenian Apostolic Church
- The Armenian Apostolic Church in America