THE ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ORTHODOX CHURCH traces her origins to the apostolic era, when the Church of Christ was established in Armenia through the evangelical efforts of two of the Apostles of Christ, Saints Thaddeus Jude in 66 A.D. and Bartholomew in 68 A.D.

There are two ‘families’ of Orthodox, the Eastern (adhering to the teachings of the Council of Chalcedon) and the Oriental (rejecting this particular council). This Council’s acceptance as Ecumenical is what fundamentally divides them. The theology, church government, hierarchy, understanding of scripture, and Holy Tradition are identical. From the day of Pentecost until today, these Churches of various nations proclaim the same faith of the Apostles.

The Lesser or Oriental Orthodox are the Churches of Armenia, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia and the Syrian Church in India. Though quite different in their outward forms of rite, ritual, worship styles, cultural tradition and language, they share a total organic unity. These Churches accept only the first three councils as Ecumenical in nature. Any member from either Oriental Orthodox Church is privileged to receive all sacramental blessings in any sister church of Oriental Orthodoxy.

The Greater or Eastern Orthodox – the Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, Antiochian [Arab Greek Orthodox] Romanian, Bulgarian, American, Japanese, Mexican, Polish, etc. – are the sister Eastern churches to the Oriental Orthodox whose confession of faith is without question consonant, save the Chalcedonian interpretation of Christ’s natures. Unlike the Oriental Orthodox, the Eastern Orthodox accepts seven councils to be Ecumenical. Their church government, hierarchy, theology, understanding of scripture and Holy Tradition are no different from the Oriental Orthodox. They are of the Byzantine or Slavic [and even today Western] rites, meaning that the same Divine Liturgy, according to Saint John Chrysostom, is celebrated in various languages. Unlike the Oriental Orthodox Churches, all their rituals are more unified regardless of the ethnic diversity. The Eucharistic unity with the Oriental Orthodox – broken since the year 451 A.D. as a result of the Council of Chalcedon – in more recent times, with more serious study and with the official meetings of hierarchs, clergy and theologians – has fostered a rapprochement between these two families of Orthodoxy and has sparked a movement towards restored communion between and among all Orthodox Christians.

The Armenian Church

Doctrine

  • The faith, doctrine and dogma of the Armenian Church are based upon the Apostolic teachings, Holy Tradition and the written Word of God.
  • The prime doctrinal dogma of the Holy Trinity defines God as One in three persons.
  • The Nicene Creed is the main statement of Faith.
  • Only three church councils are accepted as Ecumenical: the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.); the Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.) and the Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.).

Worship

  • There are seven Sacraments administered and celebrated by the clergy.
  • Baptism by immersion into water constitutes one’s entry into the Church.
  • The Holy Eucharist or the service known as the Divine Liturgy is the central Sacrament and is offered to the faithful in the form of unleavened bread and wine which becomes truly the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • It is proper to honor and venerate the Saints who reign with Christ in heaven and invoke their help in intercessory prayer.
  • The Virgin Mary is venerated as the Mother of God and her icon/holy image is required to be placed above each altar.
  • The Holy Cross and other holy images and icons are venerated and honored with great respect as vehicles through which God reveals himself.
  • The prayers for the departed are regularly offered requesting God’s mercy for their salvation.
  • Salvation is achieved through faith and works and is a life-long process.

Government

  • The Foundation, Head and High Priest of the Church is Jesus Christ.
  • The Armenian Church is one of Apostolic Succession and was established by the apostles, Thaddeus and Bartholomew.
  • Holy Orders are reserved for the male gender; they are Bishop, Priest and Deacon.
  • The successor of the apostles is the head of the Church called the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians who resides in Armenia.
  • Bishops, priests and teachers are appointed by him to govern the church.
  • Bishops govern parishes and these parishes form a unit called a diocese.
  • There are two classes of priests, married and celibate.
  • The laity and clergy together constitute the leadership of the church and participate in decisions that affect the faith and life of the church.

The information above is taken from The Armenian Church in the World Today, a publication of St. John Armenian Church in Southfield, Michigan, prepared by the Rev. Fr. Garabed Kochakian, Pastor. If you would like a copy of the publication, please contact Fr. Kochakian at St. John Armenian Church (248-569-3405) or e-mail him at frgkoch@sjachurch.org.

Further information on the Armenian Apostolic Church and details on the Armenian Christian faith and doctrine are available at the official website of the Diocese of the Armenian Church (Eastern) at http://www.armenianchurch.net.