The Portal November 2017 - Page 6

THE P RTAL November 2017 Page 6 The Armenian Orthodox Apostolic Church Fr Mark Woodruff takes us to Armenia A t Antioch we saw Peter first establish his leadership, before his path took him west. We saw apostles leave for the east as far as China, and across the ocean to India. We have seen Greek-tradition, Syriac-tradition and later Arabic Christianity that survive to this day in the surrounding south, west and east of the region. But what of the north? Andrew, Paul and John are credited as apostles of the Greeks. But in the mountains of south-central modern Turkey, and across the plains to the Caucasus mountains and the Caspian sea lived others: the Armenians. We think of Armenia now as a land-locked ex-Soviet country in the Caucasus, but in the century before the apostles it was its own empire balancing the rival Romans and Persians. Even reduced to a buffer state by Rome in the first century, its people settled and traded everywhere across the eastern Mediterranean. By the same token, others settled and moved alongside the Armenians. Among them were two Aramaic-speaking Jews, Bartholomew and Thaddaeus, honoured as the Armenians’ first apostles. The Armenian Orthodox Apostolic Church, like the Syriac Orthodox, is “Oriental Orthodox”, not accepting the Council of Chalcedon’s definition that Christ is one Person in two natures, human and divine of one substance with the Father. Doubtless Armenians were among those hearing their tongue at Pentecost, for, after initial persecution, Armenia was the first state to declare itself Christian in 301. Christianity has been the defining characteristic of Armenian civilisation ever since, especially under Arab, Persian, Ottoman Muslim and later Soviet domination. In the 12th century, local Christian Armenians were favoured by the Crusaders liberating the Christian Middle East from Islamic oppression, and an Armenian kingdom of Cilicia flourished in what is now south-central Turkey across the sea from Cyprus. Armenian Orthodox often say that Church division is more to do with mutual isolation than doctrinal disagreement. So, as contacts have grown over the centuries, the renewed links have often been positive. With the Mediterranean Armenian population subjected by the Ottomans, Armenians found new homes in Eastern Europe. Many in this western Armenian tradition looked to the Catholic Church, forming part of it with their own hierarchy and rites. This is now agreed to be a difference over translation, not about faith. Catholics, Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox agree that the human and divine are not mixed but remain, yet inseparably united in one Christ. The Armenian Catholic monastic congregations of Vienna and Venice were crucial in scholarly preservation of Armenian language, history, chant, The heirs to this historic presence are today’s liturgy, texts and spirituality, a contribution prized communities in Syria, Lebanon and the Holy Land. also by the Armenian Orthodox. A noticeable feature The western Armenians have their own Catholicos of contacts with the west was the adoption of tall Latin of Cilicia based in Lebanon; there is an Armenian episcopal mitres – the eastern episcopal crown was Patriarch of Constantinople for the community still then devolved to priests. in Turkey, and another in Jerusalem. The Catholicos in Etchmiadzin, the mother see in Armenia itself, is Armenian Catholics were ruthlessly suppressed in primus inter pares. Their rite preserves an early form communist Eastern Europe. Their patriarch, father of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, signifying close to 740,000 Christians (of whom over half a million cultural and religious links with the Greek Byzantine are in Armenia), is based in Beirut. There are six world (Chrysostom was a Greek from Antioch). million Armenian Orthodox, with nearly half living in Unusually among the Eastern Christians, Armenians Armenia itself. use the organ with their rich chant tradition. ... continued at the foot of page 8 Ø