Armenian Christianity is the oldest in the world. Even though Armenian apostolic church may not be the biggest one in the world, in fact, it is oldest. Learn more what makes Armenian Christianity special.
Christianity is the world’s largest religion. More than 33% of the world population is known as follower of Abrahamic religion.
Armenian Christianity, the origins of which date back to the 4th century, has greater role in the history of Christianity.
Armenian Apostolic Church has always stood true to its belief and values. Let’s go deeper and find out more about special features of Armenian Christianity.
Briefly about Armenian Christianity
Armenian Christianity is a part of the huge Christian community that has dominated in western culture for centuries. And it still remains the major religion in Asia, Europe and Americas. Bible is the sacred book of Christianity. It consists of Old and New Testaments.
This belief concentrates on the teachings of Jesus Christ. There are three branches of Christianity; Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Armenian Apostolic Church is one of the six groups of Oriental Orthodox communion.
However, Armenian Christianity has a lot of distinctive features that show how different can the groups of the same communion be. Stay tuned! Don’t miss the chance to learn more about the world’s oldest Christian church!
Features of Armenian Christianity #1: Christmas Celebration
Christmas celebrations reflect local traditions and culture. These celebrations may vary from country to country. It is here that religious background stands out and makes the main difference. Did you know that Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates the Christmas on 6th January?
According to the history of Armenian Christianity, this feast day commemorates both the birth of Christ and His baptism by John the Baptist. It is remembered through the ceremony known as “Blessing of Water” which follows the Divine Liturgy on January 6.
The Catholicos assisted by the bishops blesses the Holy Chrism that is in Holy Etchmiadzin. Now you may wonder why January 6, when most Christians celebrate it on December 25? The answer is in the origins of the traditions of celebration.
In fact, Christmas was probably not observed at all in the very early Church even at the time of Holy Apostles. Later, the birth and baptism of Jesus Christ began to be observed on January 6. However, by the end of the 3rd century, Rome celebrated the Christmas on December 25.
Meanwhile, the Eastern churches continued to observe Christmas on January 3. It is the Armenian Church that has maintained the old tradition to our days and celebrates the Christmas on January 6.
Features of Armenian Christianity #2: “Folk” Christianity Traditions with Pagan Background
Armenian Christianity is all about mixture of Christian and pagan traditions. Don’t be surprised! Armenians were pagans before adopting Christianity as a state religion. Accordingly, many Christian holidays in Armenia have pagan origins.
“Trndez” is the true reflection of “folk” Christian traditions with pagan background. Armenians celebrate the holiday on February 14, 40 days after Christ’s birth. This feast identifies purification in both Armenian Apostolic and Armenian Catholic Churches.
The pagan origin of this Christian holiday is related to the worship of sun and fire, symbolizing the coming of spring. Nowadays, pagan worship of the sun has turned into making a bonfire. Traditionally, newlywed couples use to jump over it.
“Vardavar” has special place in Armenian Christianity. During this festival people drench each other with water. It is celebrated 98 days after Easter. Although now a Christian tradition, Vardavar’s history dates back to pagan times. It is traditionally associated with the goddess Astghik, who was the goddess of love, water, beauty, and fertility.
Features of Armenian Christianity #3: Armenian Patriarchate as a Guardian in a Holy Land of Jerusalem
The history of the Armenian presence in Jerusalem dates back to the 4th century AD. Armenian quarter is one of the four quarters of Old City of Jerusalem.
It is noteworthy, that Armenians consider the quarter to be part of Christian quarter. Armenian Patriarchate has a semi-diplomatic status. It is one of the three main guardians of the Christian Holy Place.
Features of Armenian Christianity #4: Armenian Priests
In Armenian Christianity Armenian priests who are below the rank of bishop are allowed to marry before ordination. Their descendants are given surnames with the prefix “Ter” meaning “Lord”. This indicates their lineage.
In Armenian, a married priest is known as a kahana. Their wives generally play an active role. They carry the title of “Yeretskin” which means the wife of a priest. By the way, the second marriage of a priest is prohibited.
Features of Armenian Christianity #5: Women in Armenian Church
The fact that women are not generally allowed at the altar is one of the peculiarities of Armenian church.
Moreover, according to the traditions of the Armenian Christianity, women are not ordained to priesthood. They commonly serve in the choir of church, volunteer for church events and Sunday schools.
Features of Armenian Christianity #6: Armenian Church Architecture
The fact that Armenian architecture is outstanding needs no proof. The same goes about the architecture of Armenian churches. It was developed over 1900 years. Armenian apostolic churches have pointed domes resembling to the volcanic cone of Ararat (holy mountain of Armenians).
It has stone vaulted ceilings, tall and narrow windows. Frescos and carvings are usually ornate. External walls are decorated with wonderful sculptures. The ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral come to prove the above stated.
Features of Armenian Christianity #7: The Cross-Stones (Khachkars)
Roam all over the Christian world, there will be a lot of things that can catch your attention. However, cross-stones (kachkar) in Armenian churches are something different.
They are only typical of Armenian Christianity. These are characteristic of Medieval Christian Armenian Art. Cross-stones are carved stones with wonderful and subtle ornaments. They are richly decorated.
Khachkars are erected to commemorate victories, construction of a church and the salvation of souls. It is interesting to know that nearly 40000 khachkars survived since the 9th century. It is the date of their origins.
Features of Armenian Christianity #8: The Armenian Cross
The cross is the best-known symbol of Christianity. It refers to the crucifix. However, each denomination of Christian church has the cross typical of its church.
The Armenian cross stand out with its unique form. It combines cross with floral elements. This is how it gained its name “The Blooming Cross”.
Features of Armenian Christianity #9: Monophysitism of the Armenian Church
Unlike Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches, Armenian Christianity belongs to the category of monophysitic church. Makes no sense?
This is all about the nature of Jesus Christ. The above-mentioned churches believe that Christ has two natures-human and divine.
Armenian church is for divine essence only.
Features of Armenian Christianity #10: No Purgatory
In Roman Catholic doctrine, the souls of sinners go to purgatory to expiate their sins before going to heaven.
Armenians believe in saints, but not in purgatory. There is no purgatory in Armenian Christianity.
Other Related Posts of Armenian Christianity | The History & Origin of The First Christian Country
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- St Gregory Armenian Church / Saint Gregory The Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan