Eglise Armenienne

THE SYMBOL OF FAITH OF THE CHURCH OF ARMENIA

THE SYMBOL OF FAITH OF THE CHURCH OF ARMENIA

The profession of faith of the Church of Armenia is the so-called “Athanasius” symbol, whose liturgical use was adopted in the sixth century instead of the Nicene Creed. Consistent with Hermeneia, a symbol prior to 373 and already attributed to St. Athanasius, it is relatively close to the Nicene-Constantinople Creed (381). The attribution to St. Athanasius of Alexandria, no doubt inexact, was perhaps not formal but could correspond to the ancient custom which willingly placed the liturgical writings under the authority of a particularly esteemed Church Father .

The peculiarities of the Athanasian Symbol originated essentially from the usage that was in force in the East until the generalization of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in the 6th century: each of the churches had its own formulation of the symbol of faith , constituted from a common structure but leaving room for sometimes significant variants (Symbols of Jerusalem, Salamis, Antioch, Mopsueste …). When a bishop went into office, he sent to his brothers in the episcopate the symbol of his Church, which they recognized before admitting the new bishop to their communion.

The Athanasian Symbol is said in the first person plural – “We believe …” – in accordance with the earliest Symbols whose scope was deeply liturgical and community. This ancient custom is all the more precious because it is based on the prayer that Christ has taught us: “So, pray to you, Our Father …”.

The humanity of Christ is particularly emphasized: where the symbol of Nicea-Constantinople states in a few words that Christ “took flesh of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit and became man”, the symbol of Saint Athanasius dwells on the Incarnation: Christ “incarnated, became man, and was born perfectly from Mary, the Holy Virgin, by the action of the Holy Spirit and took from her body soul and spirit and all that is in man, in reality and not fictitiously “. Christ is “ascended to heaven with the same body” and “will come with the same body”. It should be noted that the symbol of Saint Athanasius is one of the many dogmatic and liturgical texts that unambiguously discard monophysism lent to the Armenian Apostolic Church.

As for the “Filioque” (formula affirming that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son as from the Father), it does not appear in the Symbol of Athanasius, any more than in the original text of the Nicene-Constantinople Creed used in the others. Churches of orthodox tradition. Introduced in the West at the end of the sixth century and adopted in the eleventh century by the Roman Church, which had, according to the expression of a famous Catholic theologian, “the audacity to proceed unilaterally to a new addition”, the “Filioque” is still a stumbling block to the theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches, which teach that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone and rests from eternity on the Son.

THE ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC CHURCH AMONG THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES

THE ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC CHURCH AMONG THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES

Among the usual classifications of Christian churches, some are insufficient, inaccurate, or clearly oriented in favor or against a particular church or group of churches. The most satisfactory classification, which is also the one adopted by the Catholicos Garéguine I and the most widespread among historians and theologians, part of the three theological orientations of Christianity that are:
– orthodoxy;
– Catholicism (Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Catholic Churches born of Uniatism, including the Armenian Catholic Church),
– Protestantism (churches resulting from the Reformation, including the Armenian Evangelical Church, and the Anglican Church whose particularities make it close to the Catholic Church).

Orthodox churches include:
– the Orthodox Church (including the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Georgian Orthodox Church);
– the Armenian Apostolic Church (described by its detractors as “Gregorian”);
– the Coptic Orthodox Church (the term “orthodox” is challenged by its detractors);
– the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (the term “orthodox” is also challenged by its detractors) and the resulting Eritrean Orthodox Church;
– the Syriac Orthodox Church (described as “Jacobite” by its detractors) and the Syro-Malankara Orthodox (Autonomous) and Malankara Orthodox (Autocephalous) Orthodox Churches that originate from it;
– the Assyrian Apostolic Church of the East (called “Nestorian” by its detractors) and the Malabar Orthodox (autonomous) Church which depends on it.

All these churches, geographically located in the Christian East, are of the same orthodox tradition in that they remain entirely faithful to the theological and spiritual tradition inherited from the Apostles, the Fathers of the Church and the Fathers of the Desert, in all its fullness, whether in its liturgical and spiritual aspects, or dogmatic and ecclesiological. These Churches, very attached to the inheritance of the undivided Church of the first centuries of which they have an acute conscience, did not wish nor knew the developments that the Catholic Church and the churches resulting from the Reformation thought good of initiate. Differences of opinion, usage and tradition have always existed between the Churches of orthodox tradition as in the undivided Church of the first centuries, but on points where a general agreement has not appeared and which are considered secondary. These divergences have never had any real theological or spiritual consistency, despite the polemics they may have led to, and have only “confirmed the agreement of faith” (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons). The only serious divergence is of a Christological order, in that the polemics around the Council of Chalcedon degenerated into reciprocal anathemas and put an end to the unity of the Christian East.

THE ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC CHURCH AND THE CONCEPT OF THE NATIONAL CHURCH

THE ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC CHURCH AND THE CONCEPT OF THE NATIONAL CHURCH

In the Bible, the “nations” – French translation of the Greek term of ethnos (nation, people, family or any multitude from the same kinship) – designate the pagan peoples. When St. Paul uses the expression Churches of Nations (Rm 16,4), he designates the Christian communities established outside the land of Israel and thus signifies that the Church of the Old Testament, that of the Hebrew people, has become the Church of the baptized of all nations. Now, the universality of the Church is inseparable from its unity: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither man nor woman; for all you are one in Jesus Christ “(Gal 3,28, Co 3,11). Saint Paul thus formulates, not an ideological concept, but the lived experience of the Church. This is why the Christian Church – a community of the faithful united by and around Christ – has spontaneously constituted itself into local churches of territorial jurisdictions, bringing together all the baptized persons of the same place, of all ethnic origins and all languages: within each city in the Roman Empire (churches of Corinth, Rome, Ephesus …) or by province or country, where the urban fabric was underdeveloped (Churches of Armenia, Persia, Georgia, Albania, Gaul, Ireland …). The boundaries of ecclesiastical jurisdictions generally followed administrative and political boundaries: Western Armenia thus naturally came under the jurisdiction of the Greek Church when the Roman Empire annexed it in two stages, between 69 and 79 for the Armenia minor, then in 387 for Armenia magna. Conversely, the Church of Armenia exercised jurisdiction over all Christian communities, Armenians and non-Armenians, Persians (that is, Armenia independent but under Persian tutelage), as well as the churches. Georgia and Albania. The Church being united, the Christians included the Church of the place where they resided, like the Hripsimian saints, who, seeking refuge in Armenia, passed from the jurisdiction of the Church of Rome to that of the Church of Rome. Armenia, of which they became major figures. Such a territorial organization allowed unity, universality and specificity at the same time. Members of the same Church, each community rooted and transmitted the teaching of Christ in the language and culture of the place, with intonations of its own.

Schisms brought the first blows to the principle of territoriality: on the same territory, confessional communities emerged. The Byzantine Church thus extended its jurisdiction to the chalcedonian communities of Persarmenia. Later, the Catholic Church did its utmost to divide and rally the faithful of the Churches of the Christian East (Uniatism), notably creating an Armenian Catholic Church. From this first breakup of the principle of territoriality, dates the extraterritorial and confessional jurisdiction of the Christian Churches, each exercising their jurisdiction over their respective communities, wherever they may be. We are not always aware that this schema, fruit of division and sin, is contrary to the unity of the Church, and that it persists, in particular because the differences between Churches are still numerous and, for some, really founded.

THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH OF ARMENIA

THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH OF ARMENIA

The Apostolic Church of Armenia (or Armenian) is called apostolic because born of the evangelization of the holy apostles Thaddaeus and Bartholomew, and Armenia because it is the Church of the place and the Christians who populate it. This denomination, which has never changed over the centuries, is based on the tradition inherited from the first Christian communities, which took the name of the place where they were constituted: names of cities in the Roman Empire, where the cities governed the provinces (eg churches of Corinth, Ephesus, Rome …); country names outside the limes, where the urban fabric was less developed (eg churches of Ireland, Ethiopia, Armenia …). The apostolic mention, also inherited from ancient ecclesiology, reminds us that the teaching of Christ was directly received from his apostles. The denomination of the Armenian Apostolic Church is therefore fraught with meaning, which is why we must strive to respect it.

In spite of this, the Armenian Apostolic Church is regularly designated under improper names that distort its physiognomy and the main one is that of Gregorian Church – or Church of the Illuminator – by reference to St. Gregory the Illuminator. Churches have never designated themselves by the name of an apostle or a saint, even if it was at the origin of the evangelization of their community. He is only a Church of Christ, who is its sole founder and head. The concept of “Gregorian Church” was approved in 1836 by the emperor of all the Russias, Nicholas I, in order to conceal the evangelization of Armenia by the apostles, to challenge his autocephaly and thus facilitate his attachment to the Church of Russia. It was largely taken up by the Roman Catholic Church to deny the Armenian Apostolic Church the durability of its apostolic succession and confer it to the Armenian Catholic Church, born in 1742. In the Armenian Apostolic Church itself, some The faithful, unaware of the semantic subtleties, adopted this denomination, which they rendered in Armenian by “Church of the Illuminator”. It would be all the more desirable to abandon its use, since neither the Russian Church nor the Catholic Church contests the apostolicity of the Armenian Church.