Archive for the ‘Armenian Apostolic Church’ Tag

Feast of Sts. Gregory the Illuminator and Isaac the Great (March 23)   1 comment

Armenian Apostolic Church Logo

Above:  Flag of the Armenian Apostolic Church

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR (CIRCA 257-CIRCA 332)

His feast day (The Episcopal Church) = March 23

His other feast day = September 30

and his descendant

SAINT ISAAC THE GREAT (CIRCA 345-SEPTEMBER 439)

Also known as Saint Sahak the Great

His feast transferred from February 10 and September 9

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Patriarchs of Armenia

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Although St. Bartholomew (a.k.a. St. Nathanael) introduced Christianity to Armenia, sources list both St. Gregory the Illuminator and St. Isaac the Great as founders of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Traditional accounts of the life of St. Gregory the Illuminator blend the objective reality of his life with legends.  We can, however, be reasonably sure of certain details.  He, a native of Armenia, grew up and studied in Cappadocia, in Asia Minor, in the Eastern Roman Empire.  There he converted to Christianity.  Eventually St. Gregory returned to Armenia.  He became the “Apostle of Armenia,” converting even King Tiridates III “the Great” (reigned 287-330), once a persecutor of Christianity, circa 301.  The following year the monarch, who made Christianity the official religion of the realm, appointed St. Gregory the Patriarch of Armenia and Catholicos of the See of St. Echmiadzin and All Armenians.  St. Gregory retired to a monastery in 325.  There he died seven years later.   His successor as Patriarch and Catholicos was a son, St. Aristakes I (in office 325-333), who attended the Council of Nicaea (325).

Many of the earliest Patriarchs of Armenia and Catholicoses of the See of St. Echmiadzin and All Armenians belonged to a hereditary lineage, that of the Arsacid Dynasty.  After St. Aristakes I came St. Vrtanes I (in office 333-314), succeeded by his son, St. Husik I (in office 341-347).  His grandson was St. Nerses I “the Great” (in office 353-373).  St. Nerses I was a martyr, for a monarch he had rebuked poisoned him.  St. Nerses I’s son and eventual successor was St. Isaac (a.k.a. Sahak) the Great.

Armenia was in a geopolitically difficult position, for it bordered the Eastern Roman Empire on the west and the Sassanian (Persian) Empire on the east.  In terms of religion the Eastern Roman Empire had been influential in the kingdom for most of the period following the time of St. Gregory the Illuminator.  In 387 the Eastern Roman and Sassanian Empires partitioned Armenia.  The Eastern Romans gained Western Armenia.  Eastern Armenia became a Sassanian vassal state, which it remained until 428, when it became a province.

St. Isaac, of royal origin and born in 354, wed, but entered a monastery after his wife died.  He became the Patriarch of Armenia in 390.  As the Patriarch, St. Isaac established the independence of the Armenian Apostolic Church.  Also, he stopped the practice of married bishops, enforced Byzantine canon law, resisted Persian religious influences, built churches and schools, and encouraged monasticism.  Furthermore, Patriarch St. Isaac the Great supported the creation of an Armenian alphabet and translated part of the Bible into Armenian in cooperation with St. Mesrop (died 441).  St. Isaac also initiated the development of an Armenian liturgy.  Sassanian Persians forced St. Isaac to retire as Patriarch in 428, after 38 years in office.  Yet he returned to his post two years later, holding it for the last decade of his life.

Sts. Gregory the Illuminator and Isaac the Great did much to glorify God in their times and left enduring legacies for the Armenian people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 26, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TIMOTHY, TITUS, AND SILAS, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Heavenly Father, Shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servants

Saint Gregory the Illuminator and Saint Isaac the Great,

who were faithful in the care and nurture of your flock;

and we pray that, following their examples and the teaching of their holy lives,

we may by your grace grow into the stature of the fullness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16

Psalm 23

1 Peter 5:1-4

John 21:15-17

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 718

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Feast of St. Nerses Lampronats (July 17)   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, a.k.a. Little Armenia or Lesser Armenia (1198-1375)

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS (1153-1198)

Armenian Apostolic Archbishop of Tarsus

A brief tutorial of parts of Armenian history is essential.  This is hardly a comprehensive list of Armenian political stages to 1375, but it is what I have cobbled together with the help of the 1962 Encyclopedia Americana, the 1968 Encyclopedia Britannica, and Jeremy Black’s World History Atlas (London, UK:  Dorling Kindersley, 1999).

PERTAINING TO THE ARMENIAN HOMELAND

Territory of the Persian Empire (550-331 BCE)

Territory of the Macedonian Empire (331-323 BCE)

Territory of the Seleucid Empire (323-190 BCE)

Kingdom of (Greater) Armenia and states it subsumed (190 BCE-429 CE)

Roman-Sassanid Partition (387)

Territory of the Roman/Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire (387-641)

Territory of the Sassanid (Persian) Empire (387-641)

Territory of the Islamic Empire (641-885)

Kingdom of (Greater) Armenia–Bagratid Dynasty (885-1045)

Kingdom of Vaspurakan–Ardsrunid Dynasty (914-1022)

Territory of the Byzantine Empire (1045-1157)

Territory of the Great Seljuk (Turkish-Persian) Empire (1157-1235)

Mongolian Invasion and Conquest (1235)

PERTAINING TO CILICIA/LITTLE ARMENIA/LESSER ARMENIA

Founded by Refugees from Greater Armenia

Principality of Cilicia (1080-1198)

Kingdom of Cilicia (1198-1375)

Egyptian Mamluk Invasion and Conquest

Our story occurs in Ciclica/Little Armenia/Lesser Armenia.

St. Nerses Lampronats (1153-1198) came from Lampron, Cilicia.  Educated at Skeyra Monastery, he became a noted theologian, biblical scholar, and linguist expert in Greek, Coptic, Latin, and Syriac.  Ordained in 1169, after the death of his father, the saint lived as a hermit before becoming Archbishop of Tarsus in 1176.  He translated many texts into Armenian.  These texts included the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great and the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia.  He also wrote hagiographies of desert saints, texts of hymns, treatises on liturgy, and commentaries on the Bible.

The saint favored the union of the Armenian Apostolic Church with the Roman Catholic Church.  He worked for that union for years, and died on July 14, 1198, six months after witnessing its culmination.  That union, more theoretical than actual, ended with the Mamluk invasion and the fall of the kingdom in 1375.

I like intellectual saints.  I recall one of my father’s parishioners in a rural southern Georgia (U.S.A.) United Methodist church.  (Please do not tar The United Methodist Church as a whole; the denomination is more progressive and intellectual than many of its members in the South Georgia Conference.)  This gentleman, over lunch at his house one day, criticized intellectuals in general.  Such intelligent people, he said, had a type of faith inferior to that of non-intellectuals, such as my host.  In other words, dummies have superior faith, according to this gentleman.  I said nothing.  I disagreed, of course, but I was a courteous lunch guest.

As an Episcopalian, I acknowledge the invaluable role of reason in faith life.  It is part of Richard Hooker’s Three-Legged Stool, which is really closer to a tricycle.  The human intellect is one element of the image of God.  If I am supposed to honor God with my whole being, that mandate includes my intellect.  To be blunt, the church is not supposed to be Holy Morons R Us, regardless of which see with whom is in communion.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

THE FEAST OF EVELYN UNDERHILL, ANGLICAN MYSTIC

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

and to another the insight of wisdom,

and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Saint Nerses Lampronats,

and we pray that by his teaching we may be led a fuller knowledge of the truth

we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61

Feast of Sts. Nerses I the Great and Mesrop (February 19)   1 comment

Above:  Logo of the Armenian Apostolic Church

SAINT NERSES I THE GREAT (DIED CIRCA 373)

Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church

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SAINT MESROP (DIED 441)

Armenian Priest, Scholar, and Linguist

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With this post I add two more Armenian saints to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

St. Nerses I the Great (died circa 373), of royal ancestry, was related to St. Gregory the Illuminator and father of St. Isaac the Great.  St. Nerses entered the world at Caesarea, Cappadocia, in 333 or 337.  He grew up and married a princess, who predeceased him.  Then the saint became a priest.  Made Catholicos (archbishop) against his will in 353, St. Nerses founded hospitals and encouraged monasticism.

But not all was well.  St. Nerses had condemned Armenian King Arshak II (reigned 350-367) for murdering the Queen.  So the monarch banished the Catholicos, who returned after Arshak died.  The new king was Pap (reigned 370-374), whom the Catholicos condemned for what sources I have consulted describe vaguely as a wicked lifestyle.  Pap was certainly a bad character, for he pretended to repent and to reconcile with St. Nerses, whom he poisoned at a banquet.

St. Mesrop (died 441) was a government official who became a hermit then a disciple of St. Nerses I the Great, who ordained him to the priesthood.  St. Mesrop studied Greek, Syraic, and Persian.  He also worked with St. Isaac the Great  as a missionary and proved instrumental in creating the Armenian alphabet.  St. Mesrop also translated the New Testament and Proverbs into Armenian.  “But wait,” as Ron Popeil says, “there’s more.”  St. Mesrop also organized schools in Armenia and Georgia, created a Georgian alphabet, and preached well into his eighties, until his dying day, February 19, 441.  His nickname is “the Teacher.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE OF MILAN, ARCHBISHOP

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Almighty God,

we praise you for your servants Saint Nerses I the Great and Saint Mesrop,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise us up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your Church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Revised on December 2, 2016

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