Armenian priest, depending on his rank, has his specific duties, obligations and unique vestments in the Armenian Apostolic Church. Find out everything about them including their unique vestments and hats.
Armenian Church is one of the oldest churches of the world, which has survived for more than 1700 years in a predominantly Muslim populated area.
Who is an Armenian Priest?
As a whole, Armenian church is an organized society, where every Armenian priest is baptized during a special ceremony. Every rank of clergy includes its vestments and hat typical for that position
Ordination is one of the most essential ceremonies of Armenian Church. During this ceremony, an Armenian priest receives power and grace to demonstrate his faith and fulfill the sacred duties as a servant of the church. The ceremony of Ordination is administered by the Bishop.
Taking into consideration the various services existing in the church, there are various ranks of clergy as well. However, all they have something in common: “laying of the hands” (dzernadrutyun in Armenian) by a Bishop. Becoming a member of Armenian Church and reaching to the major ranks of the clergy is a rather long path for an Armenian priest.
Before reaching the major rank, an Armenian priest must be ordained to the four minor ranks. The minor ranks of Armenian church hierarchy are: Doorkeeper (Drnapan), Reader (Entertsogh, Exorcist (Yertmnetsutsich) and candle bearer (Momakal). The one who receives these four minor ranks is called Dpir, or clerk. Dpir gets special privileges in church as a participant during the worship services. After getting these four minor ranks, the church servant becomes an Acolyte (Pokhasats).
The major orders are called Ecclesiastical in other words. During the Ecclesiastical Ordination, all clergy are bestowed the title of Priest. If an Armenian priest makes a decision to continue his religious path and serve the church his entire life, he pronounces a special vow of celibacy. In this case, he has an opportunity to achieve higher ranks. Those Priests who decide to celibate and dedicate their lives to church are called Monks (Abegha).
The major orders of the Armenian Church have gained some changes during its history. In the beginning the head and minister of the church used to be the Apostles. However, with the development of the Armenian Church the membership increased, as the apostles created other bodies in the church to assist them.
The first order, which was established, was the order of Deacon. Now the obligation of Deacon is to assist the Bishop and the Priest. The duties of the Deacon also include singing, censing and bringing the gifts to the Holy Altar during the celebration of Divine Liturgy.
The other major order is the Priest. All the sacraments, except the Holy Order, is administered by the Armenian Priest. During the ordination and anointment with the Holy Chrism (Muron) Armenian priest receives his authority from the Bishop. During the ceremony, the Bishop dresses the Priest with special vestments and hat and only then continues the main ceremony.
Bishops are in full power of the Apostles. They are the governors of Diocese of the Church. Bishops Administer Holy Orders. According to the Armenian Church canons only Bishops are in authority to consecrate churches, altars and baptismal fonts. Bishops are elected among celibate priests, which have achieved the rank of Archimandrite (vardapet).
The higher ranks, such as Archbishop, Patriarch and Catholicos have more power and higher authority and jurisdiction in Administrative Affairs.
In this article, you’ll know more about Armenian Church, its servant hierarchy structure and some of the elements of unique vestments of Armenian priests, which will probably amuse you!
Armenian Priests’ Hierarchy
Armenian Church is a body, where every Armenian priest has his duties, obligations and unique vestments.
Catholicos and the Executive Body of the Armenian Church
Catholicos positions the highest rank in this body and is on the top of hierarchy of Armenian Church. The word Catholicos means “universal bishop”, which once again emphasizes his authoritative position. The residence of the Catholicos is Holy Etchmiadzin-The Mother See of Armenia, which is located near the capital city of Armenia, Yerevan.
The Catholicos in Armenia is the Supreme Patriarch of all Armenians. The election of Catholicos is held in a special ceremony convened in National Ecclesiastical Assembly. He is elected by a delegation which consists of both lay and clergy delegates. Catholicos is the chief legislative body and judge of Armenian Church. His main responsibilities are leading Armenian Church and representing it both in Armenia and abroad.
The highest executive body of Armenian Church is the Supreme Spiritual council. It directly plays an advisory role for the Catholicos and is engaged in various affairs connected with Armenian Church. Among those are administrative, cultural, economic, organizational affairs, etc. The head of the Supreme Spiritual Council is Catholicos.
The first Catholicos of Armenian Church was Gregory the Illuminator. Gregory the Illuminator played a huge role in the history of Christianity. He was the one, who influenced on Armenian King of that time Tiridates to establish Christianity as the official religion of Armenia.
The vice chairmen are patriarchs of Jerusalem and Constantinople. The members of the council are either elected by the National Ecclesiastical Assembly or appointed by the Catholicos.
The Highest Legislative body if the Armenian Church is National Ecclesiastical Assembly. The main duty of the Assembly is to hold the elections of the Catholicos of All Armenians. This body is also engaged in various administrative affairs connected with the main constitution and canons of the church.
Unique Elements of Armenian Church: Vestments, Hats
Armenian Apostolic church is a separate branch of Christianity for many ideological reasons. Even though the Pope of Rome is a very respected figure for Armenians, still the head of the Armenian church stays the Catholicos of all Armenians.
The difference between Armenian and other Christian churches is not only in the ideology and hierarchy, but also has some vestment elements. So, here are some specific vestments of the Armenian priests.
Shabig (Alb) is long tunic, which extents down to the ankles. It is worn during the Devine Liturgy. Shabig must be white and simple, as it symbolizes the gladness of spirit with which the Armenian priest must approach the Lord’s Table. Shabig with its white color also symbolizes purity.
Poroorar is also called stole, which is worn with shabig, as it hangs down in front of it. This type of clothing is typical to Deacons.
Shoorchar (cope) is another unique piece of Armenian religious clothing made from fine and rich material. It symbolizes the power and glory of faith and is also shield and defense from the Evil. Shoorchar is worn by Priests and Bishops during Devine Liturgy and other ceremonies, such as reading the Gospel.
Saghavart is a tall bulbous hat, which is made of fine silk and velvet. This unique hat, called saghavart is worn by celebrant during the liturgy.
Verargoo (schema) is the most common vestment in Armenian church. Schema is a simple plain clothing which is worn by almost all ranks of church servants.
Veghar (crown) in comparison with verargoo, this clothing is worn exclusively by celibate clergy in the church. However, the married ones have to stand bare headed in the church, no hat is needed. Veghar symbolizes the humility and the denial of the world
What is Armenian Church?
The national church of all Armenians is the Armenian Apostolic Church. As Armenians were the first to adopt Christianity as a state religion, Armenian Apostolic Church is considered one of the oldest Christian communities throughout the world. The church is also called Armenian Orthodox Church and is a part of oriental orthodoxy.
Armenia adopted Christianity as a state religion in the 4th century, however the church has originated in the 1st century. This is when the apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew arrived with the mission to spread Christianity in Armenia. This was the reason why Armenian Church is called Apostolic.
During its long historical path, Armenian Apostolic Church remained true to its principles and has changed almost nothing in its main concept.
Armenian Church currently has two catholicosates: Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the See of Cilicia.
The Mother See of Etchmiadzin is the spiritual and administrative center for worldwide Armenian Church. It is also the residence of Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, Karekin II. The idea of religion is rather deeply rooted in Armenian nation’s mentality.
During Armenia’s history Armenian Church was the strong body, which has never left the nation in hardships and always lead them to build their future in safety and faith. You can meet Armenian churches almost in all countries of the world. The reason is that Armenia has rather large diaspora, which always supports Armenian Church.
Armenian Church is rather active in Armenia. It constantly organizes various activities to make younger generation more aware of their religion. Armenian Church is also actively engaged in charity programs, to help poor people and give a helping hand to those who are in need of it.
Other Related Articles of Armenian Priest | Their Vestments, Hat and Everything about the Holy Men of Armenian Church
- Armenian Christianity | The History & Origin of The First Christian Country
- Armenian Apostolic Church | Apostolic Doctrine and its Priest, the Orthodox Christianity in Armenia
- Armenian Christmas | What are the Traditions & Date? How to say Merry Christmas in Armenian?