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.

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