Is the Collar Choking the Armenian Clergy? Vol. 1, No. 4

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view of the Armenian Church

Fall 1990         Volume I, Number 4







©1990 The Armenian Church Research and Analysis Group
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Publisher                    The Group
Editors                    Fr Vazken Movsesian
Dn Hratch Tchilingirian
Art director                Yn Susan Movsesian
Holy Etchmiadzin            Dn Michael Findikyan
Distributions                Alice Atamian
Electronic Communications    Roupen Nahabedian
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Beneath the Collar by Fr. Vazken Movsesian
Where doew the Buck Stop? by Dn. Hratch Tchilingirian
Requirements and Qualifications for Priesthood
Chaos and the Need for Reform by Dn. Serop Aljalian
Wounded in the Jungle: Interview with an ex-Armenian Priest
Priest’s Don’t Fall from Heaven by Dn. Michael Findikyan
Lost Meaning of Sainthood by Vigen Guroian
Book Reviews
Compendium & Letters
News from ACRAG


Beneath the Collar
Fr. Vazken Movsesian

“Eat Free at Italian Restaurants” claims a full page ad in a major
U.S. magazine portraying  the  face of satirist “Father” Guido
Sarducci.  The caption reads, “Go on.  Mangia.  I’m not talking
subs, either.  I’m talking cacciatore.  You think
they’re gonna let the check slide if you’re a doctor or a lawyer?
Don’t hold your breath. But when you’re a priest, it’s on the
house!  One of what I call ‘the padre perks.’  Other padre perks
are sleeping late, getting first crack at parish
rummage sales, and helping your fellow man.  Could be these perks
are right up your alleyway.  Which makes you priest material.”
The tounge-in-cheek plea is followed by the address of the
recruiting director of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
Overshadowing a sincere plea for recruits by this Roman Catholic
order is a humorous description of a priest, who fits a
stereotype.  This priest has his counterpart in the Armenian
Church.  Though we are more likely to admit it behind closed
doors, our view of the Armenian priest may in fact be a bit more
radical than the one presented by the Oblates in their ad.
Based on an informal survey of parishioners, here is a
stereotypic characterization of the Armenian priest.  He has a
one-day-a-week job. He lacks intelligence and has therefore
the only occupation available to him.  Driven by greed, he
celebrates the sacraments for their monetary reward.  The reason
he enjoys the work is because it is easy and financially
stimulating.  He is first in line for food and never pays for his
meals because he does not feel the need to contribute to his own
cause.  If he is celibate, his activities are embellished with
sexual connotations.  If he is married, his wife’s personality
becomes an issue.  The priest is a nice ornament at
parties and functions.  He is also the president of all parish
organizations: a figurehead with all the wit and intelligence of a
department store dummy.
The so called “Dumb Priest” is the focus of this issue of Window.
Presumably he is so dumb that all he can do is God’s work!  One
would quickly be branded a bigot should s/he make such a blanket
statement about the Blacks, Mexicans, Jews or any
other group.  Yet the priest is fair game for stereotypical
projections.  Like the comment of a bigot or racist, stereotypes
blind the senses to reality.  Even as the youngest Armenian
priests in America, with only eight years since receiving the
holy order, I can verify that it is far from a
sleep-in-late-one-day-a-week-job.  The “dumb-priest” myth unjustly
ignores: the disappointment of finding church pews empty, while
church dinners are sold out to capacity; the nights away from the
family for the infamous “meeting”; the preparation to make sermons
relevant; the difficulty in expressing sympathy at premature
death; the tuning of a deaf ear to misdirected criticism; the
dilemma of juxtaposing fund raising with the free love of
God; the anguish at witnessing the moral decay of parishioners;
the loneliness at partaking of the Lord’s supper alone; and so on
and so on.
This is not an apology.  “Where there is smoke there is fire,” we
say, and so stereotypes are fabricated on some bit of truth.
Maybe so. Perhaps there are a few “bad apples” that spoil the
bunch. Or possibly recent sensationalistic revelations
about televangelists have made us suspicious about all clerics.
Or maybe the socio-economic conditions of our day, where job
security is so vital, has necessitated compromise.  But the sting
of this stereotype is felt in its wide-spread acceptance
among the Armenian laity and even among the projectees–the
clergy.  And this betrays the Armenian Church to disfunctionality
because the role of the priest cannot be seen outside of the myth.
The inability to conceptualize the priest as a man of
God, who has a sincere dedication and devotion to the Church,
prevents us, as the Church, from exploiting the talents of the
clergyman for the greater glory of God.
Case in point: According to the by-laws of the Armenian Church in
America (all jurisdictions), the priest is the head of the parish.
He is the president of all parish organizations.  It is a nice
title with very little function behind it.
Nevertheless, he is the one most familiar with the day-to-day
routines and needs of the parish.  Yet the operation of the parish
is delegated to a parish council (a body which changes every
year).  The parish council makes the decisions about what
and where to invest money, how to operate the church facility,
what office equipment to buy,_ etc.  If, by chance, the priest
understands investing, if he is computer literate, if he is
knowledgeable in contract law, it does not matter.  His
opinions are dismissed, “What can he possibly know about anything
in the business world?  After all he is only a dumb-priest.”
Perhaps not in these
words, but the stereotype has a tight grip: The collar is choking
our clergy!
Furthermore today, the Diocese-Prelacy unity committee has
submitted a draft of a united by-laws to be debated and adopted by
the respective assemblies.  One of the striking points in the
document is the vote of the priest at diocesan assemblies
which will count in a 1:7 ratio. Could it be that the grip on the
priest, vis-a-vis the stereotype, is so profound  that he must be
repressed within the very organization which defines him?

From the beginning
The Father “consecrated and sent into the world” (Jn. 10:36) the
Son, Jesus Christ in fulfillment of the prophetic call “to preach
good news to the poor_ to proclaim release to the captives and
recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty
those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the
Lord.” (Is. 61:1,2).
As the manifestation of the unseen God, Jesus in His work and
ministry becomes the supreme example of the priesthood.  He
establishes the Church, His Body, and the apostles organize the
church, with the decent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, to
continue Christ’s work in this world.  Tertullian, a the second
century theologian, precisely writes, “The Church from the
Apostles, the Apostles from Christ, Christ from God.”
With the spread of Christianity and with the greater demands upon
the apostles a formal structure for the Church became necessary.
The apostolic church had its own hierarchy: bishops, priests and
deacons. Each order had its specific duties,
responsibilities and authority.
Jesus Christ, as the proto-priest, is the “alpha and omega.”  He
has never changed,  nor has His mission.  What has changed is our
perception of the priesthood.
In the Book of Acts, chapter 6, we see when the apostles could no
longer minister to the physical needs of the congregations, they
chose deacons, so that the spreading of the Good News would not
suffer.  In the same sense, we may argue that for the
Armenian Church also, the physical demands of the congregation
have become great.  Yet for a variety of reasons, we have not
taken that next step to appoint “servers of the table” (Acts 6:2).
I am not making a case here for expanding the
responsibilities of the diaconate, but rather the point that the
priest in the Armenian Church has been left alone to carry out
these responsibilities, while the myth constricts his office to a
frivolous insignificance.
Our problem with the priesthood is not that we necessarily lack a
definition, but that we have cluttered the definition with excess.
“I never learned plumbing in seminary”
Along with his responsibilities of spreading the Good News,
healing the sick and consoling the bereaved, comes the
administration of a parish.  In the parish, the priest is now
called to a new ministry, which he may or may not be qualified to
He is the chief fund raiser, the door keeper, the janitor, the
secretary and the supplier of raffle tickets.  In essence, the
priest is the man who keeps the church running.   Amidst this
clutter of responsibilities, the spiritual shepherd is put
out to pasture.  Hence, the priest learns and masters a new
career, albeit, by way of on-the-job-training.
The dumb priest myth–like all myths– reflects the mind-set of
the projector, i.e., the stereotype says more about those who
harbor these sentiments than about those for whom they are
Marshall Shelley, in The Problems of Battered Pastors
(Christianity Today, May 17, 1985) further explains that today the
general changes in life are necessary to consider in our analysis
of the  priesthood. “No longer are pastors allowed to be
generalists, jacks of all trades; today is an age of
specialization,” writes Shelley. “Different church members expect
pastors to be specialists in almost every area_.”  He further
notes, “The office is no longer guaranteed respect_. few
positions are so open to public evaluation_ sermons are received
not so much as a word from God to be obeyed but a suggestion from
the pastor to be debated.”
It is somewhat encouraging to learn that this problem is not
endemic to the Armenian Church.  In an age of specialization, the
Armenian priest continues to be a “jack of all trades.”  Where no
one is exempt from rules, the actions of the priest is
open to scrutiny.  When there are no moral standards, the Armenian
priest’s job cannot be taken seriously.   Here begins our
confusion about his role within the community and our
misunderstanding of his profession.  Amidst this confusion arises
corrupt definition of the priesthood, one which can only be
dismissed when we understand the meaning of the priesthood as
defined by the Traditions of the Church.
The priest is a anointed server of God.  Yet, above all else, he
is not God.  Nor is he a superman.   He is human.  He breathes,
talks, laughs, cries, sings, hurts.  He is perhaps the happiest of
all humans, because he is called to witness to a
resurrected Lord– the Champion of life.  At the same time, he is
one of the saddest human beings, when confronted with a seemingly
impossible mission.
The comments, opinions and reference material in this issue of
Window are focused on the priesthood.  These articles are not
intended to dismiss the “dumb-priest” concept.  That is a reserved
right of the belief holder.  Rather, the presented
material is for our readers to test the concept–the myth– within
their own experience and against the ideal.  Christ reminds his
apostles, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed
you that you should go and bear fruit_” (John
15:16).  It is this reminder that the congregation, through its
love and understanding of the priest, must provide for the bearing
of the true fruits.

On the
St. John Chrysostom (the “golden mouthed”)

The work of the priesthood is done on earth, but it is ranked
among heavenly ordinances.  And this is only right, for no man, no
angel, no archangel, no other created power, but the Paraclete
himself ordained this succession, and persuaded men,
while still remaining in the flesh to represent the ministry of
angels.  The priest, therefore, must be as pure as if he were
standing in heaven itself, in the midst of those powers_.

Anyone whom considers how much it means to be able, in his
humanity, still entangled in flesh and blood, to approach that
blessed and immaculate being, will see clearly how great is the
honor which the grace of the Spirit has bestowed on priests.
It is through them that this work is performed, and other work no
less than this in its bearing upon our dignity and our salvation.

If a king confers on one of his subjects the right to imprison
and release again at will, that man is the envy and admiration of
all. But although the priest has received from God an authority as
much greater than that, a heaven is more precious
than earth and souls than bodies, some people think he has
received so slight an honor that they can imagine someone
entrusted with it actually despising the gift. God save us from
such madness!  For it is patently mad to despise this great office
without which we cannot attain to salvation or God’s good

translated Graham Nevill, St. Vladimir’s Press, 1984, New York

Where Does the Buck Stop?
Dn. Hratch Tchilingirian

As a  concept, to speak about the political dimension of the
Armenian Church’s mission might seem “unreligious” or even
dangerous. And yet, it is not the notion, in and of itself, that
causes a dilemma, but the possible assumptions and
interpretations attached to it.  His Holiness Vazken I, in a
written address to the clergy conference of the Armenian
Patriarchate of Jerusalem (1980), warned the servants of the
Armenian Church, when he wrote, “The Armenian clergy ought to bear
responsibility for the task of RELIGIOUS-MORAL UPBRINGING [OF THE
ARMENIAN PEOPLE] (caps. mine); to stand guard to the unity of the
Armenian Church and the unity of the Armenian faithful . . ..  In
order for the Armenian religious servant to
dedicate himself to this, [which is] his real mission, he shall
stay away from the Diaspora Armenian political streams . . .
However, if [the matter] concerns the present [Republic of]
Armenia,  he should stand in PRAYER (caps. mine) for the
preservation of the peaceful and safe life of [our] reborn Mother
Armenia . . ..  The Armenian clergy should also stay away from
expressing a pro or con opinion concerning international political
rhetoric . . .”
It was a decade ago that His Holiness warned the Armenian priests
with these words.  This policy was further reiterated in a speech
to the delegates of the Armenian National Movement (1989), where
his Holiness said, “the Church is not with any
side, the Church is with all the sides.”  This statement could
either be read as a positive political neutrality or more
correctly as a no position at all.  Nevertheless, despite this
policy, we see a double standard at work in the Armenian Church.
We hear and read that this bishop or that primate met with this
politician or attended a banquet for that congressman.  We hear
that the prelacy or diocese honored that diplomat, or
met with this president.  Furthermore, it seems that the church
hierarches are permitted to get involved in politics but not
ordinary priest, who one might assume are not “qualified” to carry
out such tasks. Obviously,
the intention of such activities should not be minimized, as long
as they are not  substitutes for the real  purpose of the church.
We never hear the bishop or the diocese or the prelacy take a
stand on contemporary moral or social issues.   We
never hear what our church is doing about the poor, or the drug
addicts or the pregnant teenagers, or for that matter the growing
cults in Armenia . . . we have other “national priorities.”  We do
not read in the newspapers what this or that diocese
is doing about the youth or the elderly. All we hear about is the
“political stuff.”  Admittedly, politics is a fact of life, but
not a preoccupation or excuse for procrastination.
Where does the buck stop? Who is in charge of what?  The lack of
a concrete and structured “church policy” concerning involvement
of the church in national affairs, has created a large gap in the
minds of the Armenian clergy between their mission
and the expectations of the community.
The Armenian community, particularly in the Diaspora, expects the
clergy to stay away from politics and confine himself to the
religious services in the church.  Nevertheless, the anticipation
of the community  proves to be just the opposite.
Besides the new trends in Armenia-Diaspora relationship that exact
an undefined role to the Armenian Church the clergy are constantly
patronized by the laity to be on the forefront of Azkabahbanoom
(i. e. perpetuation of the Armenian nation).   The
Armenian political “establishment” expects the church to be an
insurance policy for  the preservation of the Armenian language,
as a God given admonition.  The list of such expectations is very
long . . . discouraging the increasing intermarriage of
Armenians with non-Armenians (Odar  phobia), establishing contacts
with local, state or national government officials who might be
sympathetic to Armenians political and other needs, speeches
before national and international organizations,
representing the Armenians at public ceremonies and forums . . .so
on.  While, from a secular perspective, the Church is constantly
scrutinized for its involvement in political affairs, experience
and reality proves that the Church is not completely
apolitical.  In fact, as long as the Church exists in society, it
is necessarily a political entity, (here I use the term political
with an Aristotelian understanding, i.e. the striving for the good
or fair life by a society or community.  Politics
which denotes those processes of human action by which conflict
concerning on the one hand the common good and on the other hand
the interests of groups.  Certainly, this involves the use of, or
struggle for, power). Historically, the politicization
of the Church, particularly in the Armenian experience, can also
be seen in the Church-State symbiosis.
In recent years, this resurgence of political involvement has
been so emphatic, across the line in the church,  that the real
mission and purpose of the church has been put on the “back
burner.”  Nowadays, when one follows the stories or news
accounts in the Armenian media, it is not difficult to observe
that the Church has assumed more of a capitulating role in the
affairs of Armenian politics than being what it supposed to
be–the Body of Christ.  In the wake of a political emergency,
it is very easy to loose site of the unique characteristics of the
Church.  While, on the one hand the Armenian political
establishment and leadership approves this “assumed” role of the
church and reaps the fruits of its efforts, on the other hand,
the ordinary  Armenians that we see in our churches
every Sunday, expect the Church to give them spiritual
nourishment. Having said this, I am aware of the fact that, most
probably, I will be  accused of being “too religious” in my views,
because I used the word “Christ” and “spiritual.”    And this
exactly, brings us to the core of the problem.  We can speak about
the Armenian Church, its glorious history and how the Church has
preserved the Armenian nation . . . but we have to be careful when
and how we use the word “Christ.” In many people’s
mind the Armenian Church precedes Christ. Thus, the Armenian
Church can and should exist “without using too much Christian
stuff.”  For example,  in most Armenian Churches in America, the
sermon is delivered bilingually, Armenian and English.   I
think many priests will agree with the observation that you can
use the term “Jesus Christ” as many times as you want in the
English sermon, but if you repeat it more than three times in the
Armenian sermon,  you will most probably be accused of
being poghkagan [protestant].  In fact, in my experience I have
come across people who have said openly that the priest is
“preaching Christ too much,”  or  “Enough of Jesus, preach a bit
about the Nation as well.”  It should not be surprising that
many priests or even bishops would agree with this rationale.  But
on a more serious note, if the clergy, the priests or the bishops
are not going to speak about Christ, the spiritual . . . the
“religious stuff,” then who will?  I agree that the
Armenian Church is a national church and there is a certain degree
of “nationalizing” the Message of Christ, but “Armenian” should
only be the context of the message and not the content. If the
Armenian Church is not going to preach the gospel, then
who will?  Certainly not the political parties or the cultural
organizations or the numerous Armenian organizations that are
increasing on a daily basis.  If the Church is not going to preach
the Good News to those who hunger for it, then let us not
blame them for finding it in other places.  The fundamental
question that we need to ask is “What remains of the Armenian
Church if we take Christ out?”
To a certain degree, this confusion of mission stems from the
fact that our churches are run by a few people who are vested with
enormous authority to prioritize the needs of the Armenian
faithful. No, the church is not democratic in this sense.
People would acknowledge that there is a political system at work
in the church, but they are afraid that “democracy” is going to be
equivalent to, or a subterfuge for, anarchy.  In the Armenian
Church “democracy” is interpreted as “abandonment of
all authority.  Granted that at the present time, the independence
of Armenia, the rehabilitation of the earthquake stricken Armenia
is a top priority, but this should not be actualized on the cost
of ignoring the needs of the local churches or
communities. Whatever happens in Armenia, there will still be
people on the local level, in the local churches, who need to be
“fed,” who need to be healed and renewed.  The fate and the
ministry of the  Armenian Church in the Diaspora cannot be
dependent on the outcome of events in Armenia, per se.
Otherwise, the very catholicity of the Armenian Church would be in
question, i.e. the Church’s “mission to all, its responsibility
for saving the world, and its ability to assume and bless
whatever is worth saving, especially when that assumption leads to
the salvation of many.” (John Meyendorff, Catholicity and the
Church, SVS Press, 1983. p.46-47)  “A church whose only function
is to maintain ethnic identification loses the
character of true ‘Church of God.'” Ultimately, if we continue to
ignore the
part  we will damage the whole.  As the old Armenian proverb
explains, “in attempting to fix the brow, let’s not damage the
Certainly, politics is not new to Christianity.  A look back to
the time of Christ, shows that even Christ in his time was
conditioned  by the socio-political environment of his era.  But,
Christ was not “with all the sides,” his messianic mission
was  to feed the hungry, to console the grieved, to que
nch the spiritual thirst of the people_ to save those who believed
in him.  As Christ himself went through the “political process” of
his time, so ought the Church to prepare itself in the political
process of her time.  As far as the Armenian
Church is concerned, the need to reevaluate the church’s position
regarding political involvement is vital.  Without a clear
assessment and articulation of issues, the church will capitulate
to the political ends of the establishment, as it has done
in the past.
If the church ought to have a political agenda, it should be
contemplated within the  parameters of her ecclesiology and
theological vision.  The search for shared commitment to beliefs
for which the church could live or die is, and has always
been, a messy process.  It involves the mind and the spirit, the
senses,  intuition and passion.  It is inevitably enmeshed with
bias and projection, with love and hate. It is often a drama of
heroes and villains.  It has been lingered with venality
and arrogance and polished to a distinction with holy audacity.
It is in and through the agency of this messy interplay of human,
and therefore political, holy and sinful commitments that the
Spirit of God leads the earthly body of the risen Christ
to the truth that frees.  To reduce the work of the Spirit into an
attainment of political goals is to caricature the God who
delights in passionate creatures and respects them as free agents.
Those who have the responsibility for fidelity to that
Spirit must actively strive to create the human strategies and
processes whereby the true voice of the church can be heard. The
Armenian Church cannot be “with all the sides”, but it has to be
on the side of its flock. It is imperative for the
church to reevaluate its contemporary mission and fulfill that
which has been entrusted to her.  Church means, as T. Hopko
writes,  “those called as a particular people to perform a
particular task.  The Christian Church is the assembly of God’s
chosen people called to keep his word and to do his will and his
work in the world and in the heavenly kingdom.”  As such, the
Church ought to assume more of a prophetic role in renewing and
redefining the life of the Armenian nation–a prophecy
that does not necessarily announce the events that are supposed to
happen, but rather it comprehends the march of history and the
historical obligation attached to each moment in the life of the


Requirements and Qualifications for Ordination in the Armenian

Note: The Mayr Mashdots (Book of Rituals) or the Grand Euchologian
of the Armenian Church contains all the sacraments and rituals
that are performed in the Armenian Church (except those performed
by the Catholicos).  The requirements and
qualifications of Ordination were translated from the 1807 edition
of the Mashdots (printed in
Constantinople); the first and only official manual of liturgy of
ordination. The following are excerpts from said translation.  For
further discussion and translation of the entire text, see: Hratch
Tchilingirian, Ordination to the Priesthood in
the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, (Thesis at St. Vladimir’s
Theological Seminary, 1987. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilm
International, TREN 015-0069).

In the evening, before the calling service, the bishop, vested for
the ordination service, sitting on his throne in the nave and
before the people, shall examine the candidate with great caution,
as prescribed by the instructions of the eminent
teacher, St. Gregory the Rhetor.

1.  Examination for Education:  The Bishop shall determine whether
the candidate has fully completed the education for the priesthood
or not. Ignorance is for the illiterate and the illiterate cannot
be a priest. In the words of the prophet, “For
the lips of a priest should guard knowledge and men should seek
instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord,”
(Malachi 2:7).
2. Examination for Orthodoxy: If he (the candidate) be a heretic,
he cannot be ordained; for the apostle says, “Pull out the leaven
of wickedness, that it may not leaven the whole,” (I Cor 5:6-8).
3.  Examination for Good Deeds: The candidate, although he might
be knowledgeable and orthodox, has to prove himself worthy by
deed; for if he is unworthy by deed, even though he has all the
knowledge, he cannot be ordained.  As Paul says “do not be
hasty in the laying on of hands, so you will not be an accomplice
in his sins,” (I Tim 5:22).
4.  Examination for Maturity: If he be immature and not of age, he
cannot be ordained.  For youth is fond of virtue and glory_ it is
necessary to examine his age to ascertain whether his nature has
settled down and whether he chooses what he wants
with complete free will, so that his sponsors will not have to
answer for him or his actions.
5.  Examination of Family Background: If he is a child of
non-believers or apostates or born of adultery, he cannot be
ordained. For though the child is cleansed through the baptismal
font and we do not judge the son by his father; nevertheless, he
brings unto himself the nature and ways of his parents.
6.  The bishop shall ask the father confessor before all the
people “Do you affirm to the worthiness of the candidate for this
high rank and divine authority?  And the father confessor shall
give testimony to the best of his knowledge.
7.  The bishop shall deliver to him the message of God: Today you
have been assigned to be a watchman over the people of God, (cf
Is 21:6; Jer 6:17).  If you see someone in sin and you do not warn
him to turn from evil, “I shall demand his blood at
your hands,” (Ezk 33:8) says God.
8. Bishop’s responsibility: The bishop shall be on guard lest he
neglect all that has been said.  For, if on account of others’
requests or on account of fear of outside pressure, or on account
of possessions, or on any other account whatsoever he
should ordain such candidates against his will, he shall be
condemned and receive punishment for the sins of others. Rather
adhering to all the requirements he should ordain him worthily
according to the pleasure of God and the canons of election,
that neither the ordained nor the
ordainer shall have anything to answer for thereafter; so that,
he might say boldly on the Day of Judgment, “Behold me and my
children whom God has given me,” (Is 8:17-18; Heb 2:13).
9. Imposition of the two codes of conduct on the candidate: a) For
the immediate future–the bishop imposes upon him a period of
abstinence to last approximately two years, as it is fitting for
him to stand before the  church with purity and
diligence, with prayer and worship and tears.  Until the sixth
day, he shall stand in awe of God with the love of a servant.
Until the twentieth day in solitary penitence he is recompensed
with the love becoming of a hired worker by participating in
the crucifixion of Christ. From twenty days to forty days by
filial love he becomes steadfast in God.  And as the baby by the
fortieth day takes the thinking spirit, likewise the new candidate
shall be filled by the grace of God the Spirit.  And he
celebrates the Mass of the body and blood of Christ, partaking of
God the Spirit.  Second, he should fast for forty days in order
that he become accustomed to the habit of vigilance and
awakefulness, standing on foot, for prayer and holiness. Thus
he would forget the easy living he was accustomed to. For it is
necessary for the new “receiver of grace” to receive a new life
and be renewed. b) Code of Conduct unto Death: to take the image
of Christ–gentle, humble, compassionate,  man-loving,
forgiving and joyful-minded. For our Lord says, “Take my yoke upon
you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and
you will find rest for yourselves,” (Mt 11:29).   This means do
not be proud, angry, jealous, contentious, selfish,
arrogant, lewd or cunning, for these are the marks of Satan and do
not receive Grace from God. As the Apostle says, “The Lord opposes
the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” (I Peter 5:5;  Provb
Second, he shall admonish him not to be vagrant and drunken. He
uld advise the celibate under any circumstances not to be
acquainted with women: neither to have a foster mother nor to
adopt a mother or sister or keep a female servant; for all these
are temptations and are the ways of Satan. For on what grounds
does he who leaves his own mother get involved with other women?
10.  Exhortation to the rank of priesthood: the bishop shall
admonish the candidate, saying, “Behold to what rank you are
called, it is the rank of angels!”  Henceforth, your honor and
punishment shall be not in the manner of the world, but in the
manner of angels, those who have fallen and those who yet stand_
Moreover, the priest’s authority is greater than that of the
angels; for he becomes a servant of God by doing the work of
Christ; that is,
[through the sacrament of communion] administering the bread and
wine, body and blood of Christ;
[through the sacrament of baptism] making of the sinful child the
child of God;  and
[through the sacrament of marriage] making two strange persons
into one body
[through the sacrament of penance] granting absolution for the
sins of man and so on.
Such works are the works of God and not the work of angels, and
God gave man this great office.
Thus, by keeping in mind at all times this fear and awe,
henceforth, I commit you to the grace of the Holy Spirit and we
beseech the all-merciful God, together with all members of the
Church, that He may tenderly spread forth the grace of the Holy
Spirit through you like an irrigating river, like shining rays of
light of celestial splendor. And may he who adorned all beings
with splendors of all kinds, adorn you with the same
wondrous brightness through the emanating light of his divinity
and seven-fold grace, unto the ages of ages, Amen. [-Translated by
Deacon Hratch Tchilingiran ) 1987]

St. Nersess the Graceful: Chaos & the Need for Reform


Too often nowadays, we find ourselves overwhelmed with the
problems in the Church.  However, when we look back at history, we
find that certain issues were always prevalent in the life of the
church.  The General Encyclical (Unthanrakan Dooght) of
St. Nersess the Graceful Shnorhali  (c. 1102-1173) is such a
document which bears the unmistakable mark of the turmoil,
suffering and unrest that troubled Armenia during his years as
Catholicos (c. 1166-1173). Indeed, few documents of the time give
so clear an image of the  chaos in the nation’s religious,
political, social, and economic life as does this work.  It is
essential to note, however, that the encyclical is of more than
mere historic interest, for its influence continues to be felt
throughout the world in the Armenian community and church.
St. Nersess wrote The General Encyclical in a direct, oratorical
style. However, the reader soon discovers a wide variety of
rhetorical devices in the writing.  Among these are: the humble,
magisterial tone of the narrator, the effective  use of
biblical and patristic allusions, lyric references to the coming
of Christ, colorful, pastoral imagery, and illustrations from the
common life. Even in translation, the range of the Shnorhali’s
vocabulary is evident. The encyclical employs  the
language of rural life, of political and military life, of the
world of business, and of the church. Like so many ancient
writings, The General Encyclical gives the impression of being
dictated to an amanuensis by an author in the white heat of
inspired emotion.
Since its composition, St. Nersess’ great work has been accepted
by the Armenian Church as an enlightening guide to reform,
worship, ritual, rules of conduct and canons. It is a document
that the church can ill afford to disregard as it carries on
its work among the people of the Armenian nation.
In keeping with apostolic and patristic usage, St. Nersess begins
the encyclical by  establishing his authority in the Armenian
Church. There is no doubt in his mind that the church and nation
require reform; however, he is equally aware that the
forces against reform can overcome only through the voice of the
duely enthroned Catholicos.
It seems that at the time of  his elevation to the Seat of the
Catholicos  there was  much trouble, warfare and  poverty, and
Armenian were scattered. As a spiritual leader of the nation, it
was impossible for St. Nersess to visit the various places
in which the scattered Armenians were living in order to nourish
them as a spiritual father with the knowledge and fear of God. St.
Nersess writes, “Our nation does not have a royal capital or
assembly anymore, so that sitting there on the
patriarchal and doctrinal throne, we
taught our people God’s law like the first patriarchs and doctors.
But we are like the wild goat that has escaped from the dogs and
hunters, living in caves.”  So while living in a cave, he
addresses himself in writing to the whole Armenian nation.
“We speak with the writing of our hand as if with our mouth to
everyone who has ears to hear, repeating that you might hear the
strength of the words of the apostles, prophets, and church
fathers, and not our own words.”
The encyclical opens with general admonitions to the Armenian.
This section provides a colorful picture of the customs and
traditions of the times.  It is clear that St. Nersess’ major
concern  is the orthodox faith of all Armenian  Christians.
“The confession of the true faith is the foundation of the divine
temple which is in us.” Subsequently,  all that he says later
about the lives of all Armenian Christians grows out of this
St. Nersess provides specific instructions for all ranks of
clergy. Some of the instructions  bear the mark of the  time in
which he wrote as well as the economic, social and political
situation in Armenia. They seem therefore to be of chiefly
historic interest. Moreover, members of the Armenian Church in
America may find little practical interest in the exhortations to
the monks and  priors because there are no Armenian monasteries
in the  United States.
However, when a reader looks at the admonitions to the clergy as a
whole–monastics, priors, prelates, and priests–he finds
instructions of timeless significance. It is in the combined
instructions that the voice of St. Nersess still speaks to the
Throughout  the section dealing with clergy,  St. Nersess
expresses grave concern about the worldliness of the clergy.  He
finds the general preoccupation with money, property, personal
enrichment at the expense of the church, church taxes and
perquisites to be contrary to the holy faith and the canons. He
becomes especially exercised when this wordliness takes away from
the glory of the church, a glory seen not only in splendid
buildings and vestments but  also in  holy worship. Surely
current clerical concerns about salary, travel allowances, and
fees for weddings, funerals and baptisms reflect something of St.
Nersess’ concerns, and his encyclical  stands as a reminder to the
clergy of the  twentieth  century to place
self-interest behind the glory of the church.
Catholicos St. Nersess is no less concerned about the manner in
which the clergy lead their lives. His concern begins with
individual clerical morality and ethics and continues through
virtually every aspect of the ministry of Word and Sacraments.
The major thrust of his instruction is in the area of the
avoidance of anything that would in any way bring the general
reputation of the clerical order into disrepute.  He includes in
his instructions references  to the marriage of clergy, handling
of offerings made for baptisms, weddings and funerals, and general
behavior in the community.  The faith and life of the clergy of
every rank are to serve as  models  for the  lay people committed
to their charge.
For St. Nersess it is of special importance that the clergy
maintain holiness of life and uphold the faith when they are
carrying out their priestly functions at the altar or the
baptismal font or at confession.  Not only are they to avoid
offense to the faithful, they are also to remain free from all
personal prejudices and favoritism.  This applies to officiating
at the ma
rriages, to the
treatment of rich and poor,  and to the  handling of  Christians
who belong to other parishes or jurisdictions.  The clergy are
God’s servants, not lords in their own right. It is God’s law, the
traditions  of the  fathers and  the canons of the
church which form the standard for judgment and action, not the
whim and  caprice of the clergy.  These warnings are appropriate
for the church of all ages.  As M. Ormanian writes, “Truly, if the
Encyclical  were to be written today  as an
encyclical not even one word would need to be altered.”
He warns against the  sort of external appearances which border on
the blasphemous. He speaks against standing before the altar in
common dress or   without  bathing. He insists  that the clergy
be aware of the significance and  necessity of
appropriate  vestments.  A careful reading of St. Nersess serves
as a reminder to today’s clergy to be more aware of what they are
about  when they  prepare to offer the Holy Mysteries.
Through all the instructions to the clergy there runs a  solemn
warning against the sins which are closely associated with the
misuse of the  tongue. These warnings  include: strife, gossip,
quarrels, and contention. He makes it quite clear that
when clergymen open their mouths  to  speak, they have the power
to edify or tear down the church. The dangers of the sins of the
tongue  continue even to our own time.
The Encyclical is also clear on the subject of jealousy and
dissention among  the members  of the  clergy. Priests are jealous
of primates; monks are contentious;  primates and  priors fail to
care for, instruct  and  give  example to the  men
under their jurisdiction; clerical peers are jealous of one
another because of supposed preferential treatment. Such problems
will probably  remain with the clergy of the church until the end
of time, but Shnorhali’s instructions can serve as a much
needed corrective  to this weakness.
St. Nersess exhorts that clergy of all ranks must be faithful to
God’s calling, devote themselves to their ministry of the Divine
Word and the Holy Mysteries and cultivate lives of Christ-like
virtues. While this admonition is really applying it to
all the faithful, St. Nersess seems  most urgent when applying  it
to the ranks of the clergy. Taken together these instructions  can
serve as a guide for the entire life of  the man called to serve
as a priest of the Armenian Church.
Perhaps the specific instructions and  warnings to those in
secular positions–princes, army personnel, women, etc.–are of
less interest and importance to the present day Armenian
community. This is the case because  the instructions are quite
dated, and some areas are governed by civil law. At the same time
it must be  noted that admonitions and exhortations to honesty,
justice, morality, compassion, and Christian charity are always
appropriate and never out of date. St. Nersess’
specific  applications of these virtues may strike the  reader as
somewhat quaint, but a second reading  will shown that perhaps
times and people do not change as much as we sometimes  imagine.

Excerpts from St. Nersess Shnorhali’s General Encyclical
translated from St. Nersess Shnorhali’s Encyclical, Jerusalem, St.
James, Press, 1871

To the Primates of the Church who are in the World and are called

Let us speak to you the ranks of holy bishops, who are ordained
overseers by God over the souls of the faithful  who are in the
world. Although we address you second for the sake of orderliness,
speaking first to the monastics, you who are primates
in the world are nevertheless first in rank. Before all else I
beg you to bring to mind and recognize with wisdom the rank which
you possess, the dignity and the work, where it began, and why it
was established, and what was commanded to be done by
those who established it.  For when one knows these things as he
ought to, he profits threefold, recognizing the gravity and
hardship of the post and not willingly approaching it as a easy or
pleasant task, knowing his weaknesses, but renouncing it
completely, although he is condemned by infirmities of his mind or
by those who are close to him, as the first saints did and taught.
Or taking upon himself to be a bishop, he strives according to
God’s pleasure to perform the work of providence,
or shall not do what is worthy, and recognize the harm and the
deficiency in goodness  to be in himself, and by the conscience of
his mind he judges himself, considering himself guilty. . . .
It is also necessary to know for what reason the work of the
office of bishop was established by Christ and the Apostles.  It
is evident that the primary purpose is to be the head and
commander of the priests and people and to watch over everyone
like a sleepless sentinel and  with the eyes of the mind to
straighten the crooked and to keep the straight firm in their
rectitude.  And what a bishop is commanded to be or do, that Paul
reveals in writing to Timothy, “Now a bishop must be above
reproach . . temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt
teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and
no lover of money”  and so forth, (Tim 3:2)_.
He adds this, “He should be an overseer of the ministry of the
word,” that is, he is to study and to know and to serve the
ministry of the divine laws, and first to accept the work and then
the material responsibility, as the Apostles did and
taught.  For they say, “It is not right that we should give up
preaching the word of God to serve tables.” (Acts 6:2)  Although
the table is service to the poor and not to themselves,
nevertheless  he commanded that they feed the bodies of the poor
less than the souls impoverished of good with spiritual food,
which is the ministry of the word.    For the sake of  physical
nourishment they established the Order of Stephen to serve the
people and they themselves preached the Word of God (cf.
Acts 6:5).   And this is what is commanded to the bishops: to be
overseers of the ministry of the word,  to comfort those who are
recovering, that is, to those who do not have infirmity of faith,
who accept the apostolic See, they are bound to carry
on the work of the Apostles, as they are the followers of the
first holy patriarchs.  And  those who shall have the rank of
bishop and are not trained in the ministry of the word, it is
necessary to surround themselves with those who will cultivate
them in this divine grace, so that they can give to their
co-servants the nourishment of the word of God at any hour.
Thus did the ranks of Apostles who first accepted the office
bishop from Christ conduct themselves and teach their followers to
act according to his law.  Yet, in these troubled times we have
greatly from their good example. While those who are willing to
accept it know no other reason to be  bishops, but to collect
belongings from those who obey them by various schemes and from
glorifiers, to hunt for glory which ought to be called
dishonor and not glory. According to the Lord’s commandment,  good
works in the name of God are the cause of one’s true glory: “that
they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is
in heaven,” (Mat 5:16).  And the glory of men is
opposed to the glory of God, as  was said by the Lord about some,
“For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God,”
(John 12:43).  But also they shall be condemned to their faces as
infirm by those who praise them because of  the
desire with which they pursue praise and glory.. . .
But you who are apologists for the truth and followers of the same
goodness, we ask you to be ready in all the spiritual deeds of
your pastoral ministry, which you receive from the true Pastor
according to the above mentioned bounds and according to
the canonical advice of the holy Apostles and their followers.
Thus you may stand boldly and with an open face before him who
passes on to you the talent of the commandment, giving an account
of their gain, with double increase for himself.  For
which you hear the blessed words, “Good and faithful servant, you
have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much.  Enter
nto the joy of your master.” (Mat 25:21)   We too through your
prayers may meet the same in Christ Jesus our Lord.

To the Ranks of Priests
. . .You are designated by your priestly ministry to dedicate your
whole soul to God, by giving birth to all into the adoption of the
Heavenly Father and into the joint inheritance of Christ.   God
through the baptism of the holy font, and by the
distribution of the redeeming body and blood of the Lord  feeds
their souls on immortality.
And now I beg all of you with the love of Christ to  open the eyes
of your minds, to awaken from the deadening numbness of daily
life, and to know the power of the heavenly work to which you were
called by invitation. Your rank is higher than the
supernatural angelic host, who with spotlessness and holiness
worship Him.  And because you became worthy to offer yourselves to
this heavenly work, for no reason and under no circumstances let
yourselves fall into fault in your ministry as the
Apostle warned (cf. II Cor 6:3).  But  bravely, with willing heart
and without laziness perform unfailingly the regimen of prayers
canonized by the holy fathers for each hour.  And with a clean
soul and pure heart, with spotless faith and great
hope,  with innocent mind and perfect love serve with fear and
trembling the divine mystery.  Do not go mindlessly, like water
through a pipe, through the mystical words of prayer which you
offer, whether they be Psalms,  Scripture, Hours [services]
or private prayers of the priest during the Holy Eucharist or
other canonical rites, rather do them with great thought.  And if
possible, do them with tears and great fear, so that you bring
them forth in a renewing manner from your heart and your
mind, for all are prayers to God for various and sundry gifts and
good things   from Him.  When God Himself, the gift-giver of good,
sees the fervent supplications of a petitioner,  He grants yet
more abundantly what is asked, according to the
Gospel, “For every one who asks, receives,” (Mat. 7:8) and so
Know that in the earliest times of the Apostles when the spring of
faith had just blossomed, they were all filled with the Holy
Spirit, and through the grace of the Holy Spirit from their own
minds they spoke the words of prayer as was proper to the
hour of the performance of all rites and the Divine Mystery.  And
in later times, since the winter of sin was close at hand freezing
by its ice and severity the warmth of the love of all toward God
and dulling men to the Grace of the Holy Spirit,
which was seen with the eye of their souls by the Spirit-bearing
holy Doctors of the Church,  therefore, in the Scripture, they
bequeathed everything to those who followed them, so that guided
by these Scriptures we might perform without error or
stumbling all the rites of the church. Thus, it is necessary to
offer these things with thought and with great faith and hope.
Know this too, that the calling of your priesthood is not by man
and not through man, but from Him, who was called priest according
to the order of Melchisedek, who was Himself a true priest, a high
priest and a sacrifice to God the Father.  And He
gave you the calling of His name, and took upon Himself with that
name also the work associated with it, to shepherd his people, and
always to teach them good works, and to give Himself as a good
example for everyone, as Paul wrote to Timothy, “Do
not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic
utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you” (1
Tim 4:14) and again, “Let the elders who rule well be considered
worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in
preaching and teaching,” (1 Tim 5:17).  Therefore we pray that you
perform your work according to the name of your calling, and as
the fathers and parents of your people, give them at all times
spiritual guidance, always teaching in the church, in
public places, and at home, admonishing each according to his or
her age and exhorting them to godliness.. . .
And now we ask all of you to be slow to move to argument and
fights and to be quick to move to reconciliation and peace.  And
let no one who is strong in physical aggressiveness try to deprive
his fellows or wrong them, so that he may not have as
his judge and prosecutor God-who defends the rights of
destitude-and may not pay  for the eternity what he embezzled
doing this temporary life. _
Let none of you love the blindness of ignorance of priestly
knowledge on account of laziness or worldly preoccupations. It is
not possible for everyone to be perfect in all grace, which the
divine commandments demand from priests; however,  those
who minister must be faultless, that is, they must read the church
books correctly,  observe the finest study of the chants in
church, and then present themselves for ordination to the
Again, let no one among the priests or people  judge  the church
before princes of this world  or before the people of other
nations or before Christians, so that he will not be judged by the
apostolic and canonical commandment, as Paul writes to
the Corinthians, “When one of you has a grievance against a
brother, does he dare go to law before the righteous instead of
the saints.” (1 Cor. 6:1)   And the holy fathers in their canons
command that priests who do this be defrocked.. . .
And now, let these few admonitions which we wrote be enough from
us to you priests,  given not by commanding as a ruler but by
beseeching as a co-servant.   And what is missing from our advice
you must to learn
from the canonical writings of the first fathers, by which they
guided the children of the church to the glory of God.

To the People

Farmers and people in general listen to the advice of God’s
commandment which we give to you.  The spiritual medicine is
especially  necessary for you for the healing of your souls, so
that you may be cured of the infirmity of your sins.
Hence we ask you, do not lose the eternal pleasures of the soul
which the saints enjoy in the kingdom of heaven  through the
pleasures of the body in this ephemeral life.
And since you are temples of God, as the Apostle said (cf. I Cor
3:16) and the spirit of God dwells in you through the baptism of
the font, do not corrupt your Divine temple of your souls by
abominable prostitution or promiscuity, so that God does
not corrupt you on the day of judgment with the fire of Hell, as
the Apostle Paul writes, (I Cor. 3:17).. . .
Moreover, do not make your tongues work for Satan through evil and
bitter swearing, especially since it defiles the faith, the soul,
the baptism of the font, the baptizing priest, the face and the
mouth. These are transgressions greater than
renouncing one’s faith and circumcision.  When those of other
nations make Christians deny their faith, they do not make them
disgrace God.  But when you disgrace the faith, you do not
disgrace man, but God, for the faith of all who worship is in
God.  When you disgrace baptism and the baptizing priest, this
disgraces  the Holy Spirit, for through Him the baptized are born
in the font.  And when you disgrace the soul of man, the same
blasphemy goes up to God, for the soul is the breath of
God, and the face is the image of God, so too the mouth is the
receiver of the body and blood of Christ.  And now, do not sadden
the Holy Spirit of God with such base and vile words, lest the
Spirit of God that  dwells in you through the font depart
from you and  the spirit of Satan enter and dwell in your hearts
in his place.
Furthermore, we give the following commandment to all believers in
general, that you nourish your children in the fear of God,
admonishing them during the days of their childhood to be
God-loving, merciful, prayer-loving and teaching  them the word
of prayer and rebuking  them so that they do not learn filthy
words and swearing, for in the time of childhood the advice of
parents takes root better in the minds of children with
uneraseable memory,  with them  you will receive the reward of
good deeds from the Lord.
And hold love toward each other as the head of all good. Toward
the poor,  the naked,  the strangers,  the imprisoned and the
sick, show sympathy and me
rcy, through this you will become the heirs of the Kingdom in
Jesus Christ.

Wounded in the Jungle

An interview with an Ex-Armenian Priest

Interview conducted by R. Panossian

Note: Upon the requests of the interviewee, a former married
priest, we have kept his identity anonymous.

Q.  Can you give us a brief introduction about yourself?
A.      I have been educated both oversees and here in this country
and have graduate and post-graduate degrees.  I have been involved
in our Armenian community life in this country for the past thirty
years. . ..  Instead of speaking about myself, I
will concentrate mainly  on two close friends of mine who went to
school with me oversees, namely at the Seminary in Antelias, where
they were ordained celibate priests.  Both of them quit and got
married.  I knew them while they were priests in
this country and was very close to them.  I am close friends with
them even after they left the priesthood.  I also know some others
who quit the priesthood in the last so many years, whom I have
seen also since they became laymen.  However, I will
concentrate on my two good friends, with whom I have associated
both before and after their priesthood in the Armenian Orthodox
Church or rather Armenian Apostolic Church.  Parenthetically, we
should say Apostolic rather than Orthodox because some
Armenians, unfortunately, misinterpret the term orthodox by
voiding the term from its original meaning.

Q.  What was it that drew these priests or individuals into the
Church in the first place?
A.      I know these ex-priests because I went to school with them in
Antelias.  They were in Antelias because it was one of the best
secondary schools at the time.  Obviously this was not the only
reason.  There were other reasons too: poverty, which
was a terrible fact at that time, that is 35-40 years ago in the
Middle East.  Hence, these young people, at the age of 13 or so
were in the Seminary because it was a good school, good
discipline, away from some of the dangers of the outside world
and the parents liked that.  And then poverty got them into this
school.  Later on as they went through the Seminary, they were
brainwashed to become celibate priests.  This is how my two
friends became celibate priests; others also went through the
same process.
The brainwashing took place during the six or seven years in the
Seminary.  It was done through various methods.  Primarily, these
young souls at the age of 13, 14, or 15 up to the age of 16 or 17
were constantly brainwashed to believe that
“devotion to your Armenian nation” was a big attraction.  This is
called ad hominem  in Latin, [i.e. a form of argument that rests
on prejudice rather than on proof, designed to influence feelings
rather than intellect].  There were many other ways
ad hominem,  great people, teachers, both clergy and lay, were
able to convince these young souls to take the vow of celibacy.
So ultimately, it was a way out_ an exit out of a “no exit” life.
Hence they went into the priesthood.  After
ordination, they stayed in the monastery for a while, though I
think they should have stayed longer.  Perhaps they should have
stayed for another 20 years until they reached the age of 40, so
that they were more prepared and mature, emotionally,
intellectually and otherwise. . . maybe we’ll come back to this
question later on.
So they stayed in the Seminary for a while, some of them went and
studied in colleges and universities and others went to Europe to
study.  My two friends continued their studies and eventually
became Vartabeds and came to the United States.  (I do not wish to
delve further in respect of their anonymity.)  After some years
oversees, they came to the United States, however they
had no parish experience. One of them came to New York, a good
priest with many capabilities, but unfortunately young, in his
20’s, and there he is in New York and he is in his parish.
It is difficult to say what attracted them to the Church.
Perhaps some devotion to the Armenian nation and the Armenian
Cause, because they were trained in that area for many years.
Something like eighteen hours a day and 365 days a year.  The
brainwashing took place with all the arguments, one of them being
the service to the Armenian nation plus the fact that this was a
better way of life than being a shoe repairman, or being hungry on
the street.  Obviously, all these were the wrong
reasons to become a priest.  I know these people, I talked with
them and I was a part of them during our years in the Seminary.
Q.  Was there a “payback” for the education they received?
A.      Well, they did serve the Armenian Church.  But then, later on
we will see what will happen and why they will quit.  They went
into the priesthood because it was a way out.  I don’t think there
was much devotion or calling by God.  Not in the
cases of many of these people that I know.  There may be
individuals who had the calling to serve God later on, for example
Vazken Catholicos of Etchmiadzin and Torkom Srpazan of Jerusalem.
These two individuals have shown true devotion and calling.
There may be others but let us suffice with these two examples.
Going back to my two friends, I don’t think there was any real
calling.  When the time came, as we say in Armenian “Yerpvor
tanagu vosgoreen hasav”  [when the knife reached the bone], when
they were cornered and the going got tough, they could not
be tough enough.  So they said, “Alright, I can’t take it any
Q.     Were these two celibate priests?
A.      Yes, both were celibate priests.  Here, I don’t want to
comment on married priests.  They have different motivations in
life, and I have to confess that many of them fail as a married
priest, or let’s say most of them.  I know a married priest
who is successful and he became a married priest as an adult only
after having succeeded in life, in general.
Q.      What are your thoughts on the age of ordination?
A.      Both of my friends were ordained between the ages of 19 & 21,
so I will concentrate on this rather than on those who have chosen
celibate priesthood at a mature age.  My friends were ordained
priests, apeghas , under certain circumstances.  The
brainwashing that we mentioned earlier, had made them think that
devotion to the Armenian nation was in itself a duty or calling by
God.  It was an artificial calling by God, dictated by the
teachers, professors and the other priests and the
ordaining bishop.  It seems that most of them went into it because
they found an easy way of life_ to serve the Armenian nation and
the Armenian Church.  They couldn’t do anything else.  Their years
of training, their whole teenage years were
spent in the seminary.  There was no way out.  If they had left
the seminary, they needed to start from zero in the outside free
world.   These were the circumstances in which these young people
were ordained.
Q.      Were the assignments of these priests on a parish or a
diocesan level?
A.      They were ordained as priests and stayed in the monastery for
some years.  While in the monastery, they assumed teaching
assignments or administrative duties within the monastery.  Some
of them even went to a university nearby or were able to
gain further knowledge.  But eventually, they ended up leaving the
monastery and going into a parish.   One of my friends was
assigned directly to parish ministry and that killed him because
a) he was not ready, b) the parish was not ready.  Let me
explain the second reason. Although there are very respectable and
honorable people among the Armenians who can treat their clergyman
with enough respect and at least tactfully, the ones who
consciously hurt the priest are the most dangerous.
Although there are people in the Armenian Church who are Christian
people, there are also those people who happen to be Hokapartzoos
[parish council] or Yerespokhans  [diocesan delegates] of the
parish.  These people are not deserving to hold these
positions in the church and it is such people who hurt the priest
the most.  They hurt the priest so much and they band together for
numerous reasons.  These priests were not ready
to take this kind of a blow, this kind of abuse, to a point that
priesthood became too narrow.  They couldn’t survive because they
were not ready.  Well, one might ask, why weren’t they ready?
Because there wasn’t enough preparation before
ordination and there wasn’t enough time to mature.
For example, they should have taken more pastoral theology
courses. They should have had tools or weapons to work with.  They
should have had courses and training that would teach them to
survive within thorns and within a jungle–the Armenian
Church.  Figuratively speaking, a jungle where there are many
dangerous and wild animals . . . there are tamed animals also.
There are animals that would eat the priest up.  There were such
cases, there have been and will continue to be such cases.
A friend of mine would say that the profession or the business of
a priest is of the road where it is full of thorns, rocks and so
forth . . . It’s not an easy road.  These priests were told that
it was an easy, rosy road.  They were not prepared
for the rough conditions of the road, so that when the going got
tough, they could take it.   These priests could not take it
because they did not have thick skin.  You see, a priest should
probably be sensitive, sensible, understanding . . . all
that, plus at the same time, have a very very thick skin, so that
the people in the jungle wouldn’t be able to hurt him with their
words, their insults.  They wouldn’t be able to insult a human
being who has been raised very sensitive and fragile
since the day he went to the seminary at the age of 13.
Q.      Are you saying that the priest is supposed to have the right
answer for everybody despite how he feels?
A.     The priest should be loving and all merciful and all forgiving
and at the same time have such a tough skin that when those people
come to hurt him, he would be protected.  It is not easy to
develop a sensitive spirit and mind and then face the
dangerous people in the jungle.
Q.      Do you think that a parish assignment was a wrong assignment
for these priests?
A.      Yes, that was a mistake, being assigned to a parish without
Q.      So then, if they were not assigned to a parish could they
have been cultivated as better leaders in other areas?
A.      They would have remained in the monastery, teaching or doing
administrative work.  Hence, by the time they reached the age
forty, they would have developed a kind of balance between
compassion and the proper skills needed to survive in a
parish.  It is very difficult to be so compassionate, to be an
embodiment of Christian virtues and survive in troubled waves of
parish life.   These priests  could not survive.  When the going
gets though, you have to be tough. You can not be a
Gomidas Vartabed if you are in Turkey.  If you are like Gomidas
Vartabed and so sensitive, so humane and so compassionate and then
the Turks do to his people what they did . . . then you go crazy,
you burst and you die.  You die and live as a mad
person all your life like Gomidas Vartabed did.  Why do you think
Gomidas went crazy?  It’s because he was not able to face man’s
inhumanity to man.  Our parish priests were not ready and are not
ready to face man’s inhumanity to man.  Parishioners,
parish council, delegates, etc. going out and insulting him and
hurting him all the way to his bones.  Now this is real . . .
there are real things like this in our parishes.  When people or
parishioners look at a priest and indirectly insult him by
saying, “Son what drove you into the priesthood?  You’re not
blind, neither lame nor deaf; you are a complete human being
physically.  How come you went into the priesthood? Aren’t they
saying, “I pity you my son, why did you go into the priesthood?
You could go and beg or drive a bus and make a living.”  Is that
why he went into the priesthood?  Of course these were not the
only reasons that these two priests quit.  Nevertheless, there are
people in our parishes who have no right to call
themselves Armenians or Christians.  Not at all. These people do
not even know they are hurting the priest.  The animal does not
know that he is a dangerous animal in the jungle.  They hurt
people left and right, but they are there for their
business, to promote their own self and business in the parish
church. And when one day the parish priest faces these people,
they “poison” him. Unfortunately, there are many of these in the
Armenian parishes. Again, these priests were not ready to
face these realities.
Q.      Rather than resigning why didn’t these priest ask for
A.      Because, wherever they turned they would have faced the same
situation, the same jungle. As I said, though there were other
reasons, they quit primarily for two reasons: the parish was too
“wild” to survive and they weren’t ready to live in
such environment. Perhaps, reassignment might have worked better,
but in the case of these two, they said, “Good-bye! Let others
fight in this jungle . . . I quit.”
Q.      What do you think the Church should do or should have done to
better prepare parish priests?
A.    Well, that’s why I thought Torkom Srpazan went to Jerusalem.
Probably to do his best in preparing one or two better priests.
The demands are many; we do need better priests.  In order to
prepare them, we need to keep them in the seminary for a
longer period of time.  We need to give them higher education,
college or university, before they are ordained into the
priesthood.  They need to know how
to survive in a society.  They need to know the tools to survive
in parishes, the kinds of parishes that I described earlier.  One
day a young priest asked an older priest how should he survive,
the older priest said, “Look, you have to be both
blind and deaf in order to survive well in a society like this.”
Both of your eyes should be blind not to see some of the things
that you see as a parish priest, or as a holy person, both your
eyes and ears.  At a moment’s notice, you should be
wise enough to make yourself completely deaf and completely blind
and then wise enough to absorb the sticking attacks of your
parishioners.  In order to do that you need some maturity. You
need not only university education, theological education
and pastoral theology, but also skills that teach you how to
survive in a society.  This education and training should take
place in the seminary at first, not in the parish.  So you prepare
yourself until the age of thirty or older and then you
serve and practice some of your skills in the monastery.  Then
maybe at the age of forty you may be assigned to a parish.  The
two priest that we mentioned, if they had been prepared until the
age of forty  and then assigned to a parish, they would
not have quit.  The case is the same with many other classmates of
mine who were ordained celibate priests and then quit.  Of course
the age is only a relative point.  There may be a turning point or
some mature faster at the age of thirty or thirty
five, but the preparation is crucial.  Otherwise, you will be
burned out and you will quit.
Q.    What should the parishes do?
A.    Well, the parishes should see that those one or two percent of
ill-willed people are not permitted to participate in the ongoing
life of the parish.  These individuals should not be permitted to
come forward and serve as parish council or
delegates and then at the end destroy the priest, both with their
words and deeds.  There are other things that the parishes can do
in order to show love and respect to their priest.  I would say
that 50% or more of the people in the parishes should
learn how to be reasonable and cultivated Armenian Christians.  In
reality there is a lack of this.   The rest fall into the other
percentage of the parishioners who are neither true Armenians nor
true Christians.  It is in this kind of a milieu
that the young Armenian priest finds himself.  He finds himself
among people who might not even believe in the church, but are
there for their own reasons, for their own business.  Perhaps to
find a bride for their son or a husband for their
daughter.  This is why it is imperative that a priest is aware of
these situations and comes to a parish with a wider pers
pective.  It is only then that he might move more correctly and
not be burned out.  These factors should be considered when
preparing young people for the priesthood.
Q.    How should the priest be prepared in the United States?
A.      It is a very difficult road.  Of course there have been
educated people, with masters degree and above who have gone into
the celibate priesthood, but those are the exception.  In the
United States, until we have a good monastery or seminary,
and until we have parishes with better Armenians and better
Christians, we will not be able to prepare priests very easily.
If the groundwork is not there, why should a person go into the
priesthood?  After getting a bachelors degree in a given
field, why priesthood?  What is there for a priest?  God’s
calling?_What calling?  In a parish community like ours, do you
think there would be people who would want to go into the
priesthood? Of course, I do not wish to hurt the deacons or the
seminarians who are going into the priesthood, maybe they have
God’s calling.  But the people that I am talking about are the
people that I know do not have the calling.   Is it because the
Turks killed our parents, why . . . why?  Having described our
parishes, what reason is there?  Is God calling them at the age of
20 or 21 or is somebody brainwashing them, or is it
that the world is too tough and they have the easiest way out in
the priesthood?  Each priest or deacon will have to answer these
questions for themselves.  If it is God’s calling, then I
challenge them  to prepare themselves properly.

Q.      Can you make a brief comparison between the life of these
individuals as priests and life as laymen?
A.      Well, life as a priest brought them to the end of the rope.
Another  problem of these celibate priests was loneliness and the
need for companionship and so on.  Thus, the lack of preparation
and the need for companionship lead them to
“failure,” and they quit.  I have in mind a half a dozen educated
people who, under the circumstances I described, left the
Now as a layman, they learned their trade and they are doing
quite well.  As a priest they had 602 headaches and they had to
speak 601 different languages.  As a layman now they have just one
language and one family, hard work and existence.  These
ex-priests that I know are still involved in Armenian life, but at
their free will.  Either as a writer or some other capacity . . .
they come and go.  They are not very active in the church_none of
them are Sunday School superintendents, although
they could have been or could be.  They are like others, but they
treat their priest or bishop with more respect and in a more
civilized manner.  They work hard as a layman.  They have their
own little family.  One job and no headaches.  Now, why
couldn’t we, Armenians, bring our priests or our parishes to such
a level, where there was more order and less headaches, instead of
1001 unnecessary problems.  Why?  What is the problem?  Life as a
layman gives them a chance to be a private person
again, gives them a chance to be an Armenian . . . Probably, they
teach their children a little better value system, about the
Armenian Church and Armenians.  And if they are not involved, I
don’t blame them, because of the great hurt that they have
felt. . ..
As a priest your life is not yours, but as a layman you dictate
your own course of life.  As a priest you are ever visible and are
working for the church community and you are expected to be
totally selfless for your community.  This in itself can
exhaust you mentally, emotionally and physically.
It seems to me that we should not let young people come to the
Armenian Church as an unprepared young priest and serve in that
wild jungle.
Q.      What about married priesthood?
A.      You know, they asked Socrates, the great philosopher, “Should
one get married or stay single?”  Socrates was hesitant to answer.
When they asked why he was hesitant, he said, “Because it does
not make a difference whether one should be married
or single . . .It does not really make a difference, because at
the end both will regret.”  So it doesn’t make a difference
whether you choose to be a married priest or
a celibate priest in the sense that Socrates implies.  Now that I
have past that stage of 40 or 50, I am convinced that it really
doesn’t make a difference.  That’s not the thing.  A married
priest has his own different way of life, family,
responsibilities and so forth.  On the other hand, who is the
Armenian girl who will honestly marry a priest or a priest-to-be?
Show me one . . .with all the headaches . . .that girl must be
crazy if she does.  The difficulties that marriage will
bring will prevent him from fulfilling some of his duties.  But a
celibate priest, might have a better chance to serve his church.
The question of marriage or celibacy is just like Socrates’s
anecdote, “It doesn’t make a difference.”  The wise
person will understand that that is not the question.  In fact
marriage could be “detrimental to the survival of the Armenian
Church, just as the Catholic Church now feels the effects of that.
Therefore, the Catholic Church is letting hundreds and
hundreds of priests leave the priesthood and their excuse is
marriage . . . nonsense. . . that is not the reason.  Marriage
will hurt his priesthood, in some cases it may help him.  As Tiran
Srpazan Nersoyan used to say, “Will marriage all of a
sudden make a person wiser?” . . . No, marriage will just give him
some physical satisfaction, perhaps nothing else . . . So,
therefore, the question is not married or celibate priesthood.
The question is the priest and his preparation.

Q.      What would you say to a young person who is contemplating to
become a priest, celibate or married, but is unable to make a
A.      His timely choice will be to take his bag and go to a
monastery and serve there as a teacher or administrator; live
there in that community until certain urges come to nil and until
he is prepared. This is the way I think a priest should be
prepared.  If, however, he feels that marriage will not hinder his
service to the church and his community, and if he finds the
person of his heart, and if this person honestly, 100% honestly,
agrees that “Yes, my husband will be a priest and I will
help him to the best of my ability and I know that he will have
1001 headaches” then fine, let him get married.  Then marriage
will not be a hindrance.  In fact, it may be an asset in that
case. But, you cannot find an Armenian girl who will get
married with an Armenian priest, with such a spirit and honestly.
Which Armenian girl in her right mind will do this?  And if she
does, I bet you after the honeymoon, things will change because
she is more down to earth,  and she will pull him to
the earth and she will want all the material things . . . all
those material things which will be against his own profession.
This type of a wife will be a disaster, both to the priest and
the parish.  It would be a scandal to her husband, to the parish
and to herself. . . I know such a woman . . . I know such a wife.
I know women who are wives of priests  . . . they got
married just because they fell in love or something with that
deacon and zoooom. . . After the honeymoon things change, because
she is more materialistic. . . she is not Gomidas Vartabed.  She
doesn’t want a husband with 1001 problems, a husband who
is working for a different “world” than hers. Now, after the
honeymoon she creates such a disaster . . . well, there fails the
marriage. . .there fails the priesthood. . .

Q.      Where does the church hierarchy fall in this picture?
A.      Well, I would rather not comment on this.  All I can say is
that the hierarchy did fall short of supporting the priest in his
turmoil. Only a few members of the hierarchy are some source of
inspiration or motivation, the rest barely provided
basic support and guidance.
To bring this conversation into a conclusion, I would say that
proper preparation of our priests is extremely important on the
one hand and the respect, support and cooperation of the parish on
the other.

Priests Do Not Fall From Heaven
Dn. Michael Findikyan

HELP  WANTED: P r i e s t – Armenian Church.
American Diocese of an historic eastern Orthodox Church seeking
highly motivated, dynamic and committed self-starters to develop
and implement marketing strategies with respect to the Christian
faith and its traditional expression in the Armenian
context. Responsibilities will involve managing all facets of
church life in parish communities, including coordination and
direction of liturgical services, counselling, development of
youth and geriatric programs, teaching, lecturing, preaching,
preparing reports, working with committees, crisis intervention,
development of funding sources, clerical work, community
relations, editing of weekly/monthly parish periodicals,
supervision and motivation of volunteer staff.
The ideal candidate will demonstrate unshakable faith and possess
proven leadership and organizational abilities, superior
interpersonal skills, excellent written and oral communication
skills in English and Armenian.  Working knowledge of
Classical Armenian, word processing and database also required. A
flair for creativity and innovation helpful. Master’s degree,
clinical experience and min. 2 years residency/apprenticeship
required.  Must be eager to work nights and weekends.
Salary not necessarily commensurate with education, experience and
particular parish resources.
Send resume to Human Resource Dept., Diocese of the Armenian
New York, Los Angeles, Montreal.

The above ad has not yet appeared in the New York Times, but it
may, unless the Armenian Church soon accepts the reality that she
is on the threshold of a clergy shortage of crisis proportions.
At present more than thirty parishes in the three
North American dioceses have no full-time priest. These include
parishes of all sizes, from small, developing “mission” parishes
to parishes in  major American cities comprising hundreds of
Armenian families.  In addition, within ten years 40% of
the clergy presently serving the North American dioceses will be
retired.  A large number are
currently of retirement age, but continue to work because there
are no available priests to replace them–and there are precious
few on the horizon.
Consider the largest Armenian diocese in the diaspora, the
Eastern Diocese of America.  According to data in the Diocese’s
Parish Directory (New York: July, 1990), the diocese presently
encompasses 40 active parishes, seven of which have no full-time
priest.   This means that in order to provide one priest for each
active parish in the Eastern Diocese, seven priests are
needed immediately.  Beyond that, to maintain one priest in every
parish of the Diocese, the Armenian Church must recruit, train and
ordain one to two new priests every year for the next ten years.
This plan provides only the absolute minimum number of priests.
It does not take into account the diocese’s 12 “mission” parishes,
young communities which are growing toward full parish status.
These “mission” parishes are currently served in
part by clergy who visit from nearby and not-so-nearby parishes.
These priests are expected to provide for the liturgical and
pastoral needs of the mission parishes in addition to their
regular full-time home parish responsibilities.
Neither does it provide for adequate staffing of the very large
parishes in Boston, New York, Detroit and elsewhere, where even
two or three full-time priests are not enough to meet all of the
parishes’ liturgical, sacramental, educational and
pastoral needs.
The plan also ignores the need for clergy in non-parish positions
such as education, youth ministry  and administration, to name a
In the last ten years only five parish priests have been ordained
for service in the Eastern Diocese.  This is woefully short of the
projected number of new priests needed in the Diocese, to maintain
even the current deficient levels.  With the
supply of clerical leaders in the Church dwindling,  the very
existence of the Armenian Church in America is in jeopardy in the
coming decades.
Where will the Church’s new priests come from?  Formerly the
Armenian seminaries in Jerusalem;  in Etchmiadzin, Armenia; and in
Antelias, Lebanon supplied the overwhelming majority of priests
for the American dioceses.  But for various reasons, the
number of priests arriving in America from these seminaries has
all but shut down.  In the last ten years, the Seminary of Holy
Etchmiadzin supplied only two priests to the Eastern Diocese; the
Seminary of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem provided one.
Faced with their own particular vicissitudes (not the least of
which being the dramatic growth of the Church in Armenia), the
Armenian seminaries abroad are challenged at the mere prospect of
providing clergy for their own needs, much less those of
the American dioceses.
In short, the Armenian seminaries abroad may no longer be
considered an endless source of priests for the Armenian Church in
America. Providing adequate numbers of qualified priests to serve
the churches in America is no longer the problem of
far-away ecclesiastical authorities.  The recruitment, training
and ordination of priests must now become (indeed should have
become years ago) the concern, the business and the responsibility
of the Church in America–of the hierarchy in America,
of the priests, and of all of those who consider themselves
children of the Armenian Church.
The clergy shortage in the Armenian Church in America is clearly
related to a larger phenomenon being experienced by many religious
groups in the United States.  A 1989 New York Times article
brought to light the concern of Jews, Catholics, and
various Protestant denominations alike, that the number of
entrants to the clergy is on a sharp decline (“Shortage of
Entrants to the Clergy Causing Alarm for U. S. Religions,” July 9,
1989).  The article credits among other
things, the so-called “Me Generation” of young adults  who are
shunning human service careers including the priesthood, in favor
of more financially lucrative professions.  There is no question
that young Armenians growing up in America in the
1980’s are influenced by this trend away from community, ethnic
and spiritual awareness and concern.  Like the vast majority of
their American peers, our Armenian young people are choosing their
professions in a single-minded pursuit of financial
success, with the misguided belief that it alone will breed
complete fulfillment and meaning in life.
Responding naturally to their own collective memory of the
tragedies of genocide, Armenians have a particular instinct to
steer their children toward careers which will lead to financial
But there are other factors particular to the Armenian Church
which are responsible for the tragic decline in the number of
qualified young men considering priesthood.  Among our people
there prevails a negative perception of priests, a distorted
mindset which does more to discourage talented young men from
considering the vocation of the priesthood than any force in our
society.   It is a throwback to the village priest, uneducated but
basically good-hearted, who worked once a week for
whatever spare change and food handouts the villagers could muster
that week.  The village priest was nevertheless given some degree
of honor as one who knew the mystical and mysterious rites of the
Church, and as one who provided an essential
service to the community: baptisms, weddings and funerals.  A
talentless beggar–hardly the inspiring model for an upwardly
mobile, future-oriented generation of American youth.  And
surprisingly it is a prevailing attitude.  I cannot count the
number of well-intentioned Armenians who, when they discovered
that I wanted to become a priest, exclaimed, “But you’re such a
smart boy.  You could choose any career,” as if only helpless
waifs become priests.
It is curious that our people remember the image of the village
priest, and not of the countless priests in our history who became
charismatic leaders, intellectuals, writers, musicians, builders,
teachers, and theologians. Our people are either
unable, or refuse
to see the potential for greatness and excellence in the priest,
and in the Church.  As a people who have suffered through
centuries of occupation and oppression, we have become stuck on,
and content with mediocrity.  When we begin to show our
young people the greatness of the Church;  the dynamic power by
which our Armenian Church’s unique expression of the Christian
faith can touch and inspire a person, strengthen and give meaning
to his or her life, and provide hope and joy in a
hopeless and troubled world filled with despair and loneliness,
then our young men will be more willing to be a part of this good
work as priests in the Armenian Church.

Our youth will not come forward, however, until the hierarchy
makes the recruitment of priests a priority.  As shepherds to the
flock, the bishops have an obligation to provide for the assured
and continued life and growth of the Church.  Seeking
out and encouraging talented young men to consider choosing the
profession of priesthood in the Armenian Church must be one of the
bishop’s fundamental goals in the administration of his diocese;
it must be a regular theme whenever and wherever the
bishop addresses his people, especially at
convocations of youth.  The bishop must involve himself completely
in efforts to attract and train young men for the priesthood.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case.  Over the years our
bishops seem to have proceeded from the premise that seminary
candidates will spontaneously come forth from the youth, without
active recruiting efforts by the Church hierarchy and
leadership.  Sermons, speeches, articles and programs related to
the priesthood and other church vocations are all but
non-existent.  There is no Catholic diocese in the country which
does not have a Director of Church Vocations to oversee the
important work of actively seeking out and advising prospective
priests and other church workers.  No such position exists, or has
ever been contemplated in any of the American dioceses of the
Armenian Church.  The only institution for recruiting
and training Armenian priests in America, St. Nersess Armenian
Seminary, has received only lukewarm support from the hierarchy.
The failure of the hierarchy to recognize and to respond to the
clergy shortage in America is yet another bitter consequence of
the crippling short-sightedness demonstrated by the Church
leadership in America in virtually all phases of its
administration.  I fear that our Church is wandering into the 21st
century with little sense of direction or purpose, satisfied
merely by its day to day survival, and by the accomplishments of
our ancestors centuries ago.  It is high time for the
Armenian Church to objectively and critically assess her place in
America, to define her purpose and mission and to chart a course
for the future, directing all of her efforts and energies toward
the fulfillment of these goals.  Until the Church is
able to concisely articulate her raison d’etre, the ends toward
which she is striving and her specific plan of action to attain
those ends, she can never hope to engage the hopes, and dreams,
the talents and professional goals of our young people as
they make career decisions.  In this future-oriented society, few
young men will eagerly step forward to devote their lives to the
service of a Church or any institution which exists exclusively as
a curator of ancient traditions and past glories.
When the hierarchy begins to use the history and traditions of the
Armenian Church as a point of departure, rather than as an end in
itself; when the bishops feel ready to move on from an attitude of
preservation and conservatism to an attitude of
risk-taking, creativity, challenge and growth, then we will have a
Church which breeds qualified leaders in abundance.

Attracting talented men to become priests in the Armenian Church
is a task which demands the attention of the entire Church
community:  the bishops and priests, as well as all of the
faithful children of the Church.  Priests do not fall from
heaven.  Neither does a young man devote his life to the Church as
the result of a sudden, lightning bolt of divine intervention, or
by perusing the Help Wanted section of the New York Times.
Tomorrow’s Armenian priests are our altar servers, our
choir members; our sons, grandsons and brothers whose devotion to
God is nurtured and cultivated in a loving Armenian Church
community, in which our ancient faith is made vital and relevant
to the people.


The Lost Meaning of Sainthood
Vigen Guroian

There has been talk of late within the Armenian Church that new
members should be added to its list of saints.  Dn. Hratch
Tchilingirian cites in his article “Canonization of the Victims,”
(Window, Summer 1990) the joint communique of Vazken I and
Karekin II, of  April 1989, in which both Catholicoi proposed
canonization of the victims of the Armenocide.  In in his article,
Dn. Hratch raises the important question of whether the Armenian
Church is actually prepared to engage in such a serious
activity. Rightly, he points out also the theological and
practical pitfalls of blanketly canonizing all 1.5 million victims
of that awful catastrophe.
There is no question that among that number there were many who
died in the way of the ancient martyrs or whose suffering even
short of death (need we think further than Komitas Vartabed?) must
count as a mark of supreme holiness. Yet, oddly,
perhaps even ironically, the Armenian Church, which has given the
whole catholic and universal Church so many new martyrs and
confessors in this century, may lack, as Dn. Hratch suggests,  the
clarity of vision and the will to make the crucial
distinction between victims and martyrs.  Indeed, the Armenian
Church has been confusing victimology with martyrology for some
time now. The political as well as psychological reasons which
have tempted the Church into this confusion are not
difficult to identify.  As Dn. Hratch observes: “Seventy five
years have passed and the world seems to ‘ignore’ the victims of
the Genocide, thus, in our frustration, the ultimate honor that we
can render our victims is to declare them as saints.”
The confusion of victimology and martyrology has been a useful
expedient, since a godless world knows what victims are and honors
them under such banners as human rights and national sovereignty
but does not know how to value as martyrs in the
Christian sense victims who died as witnesses to the truth of
salvation in Jesus Christ.  One cannot wholly begrudge Armenian
secular and political leaders for adopting the strategy of “victim
politics.”  The Church, however is another matter .  It
ought to able to make and insist upon the distinction between
dying because one is Armenian and willingly giving one’s life up
for Christ.

Sainthood and
the Culture in Which We Live
The ill effects for the Church of the strategy of victimization
are compounded by the cultural environments in which most
Armenians live, whether in the diaspora or within Armenia.  But
here I restrict my observations to the culture in which
Armenians of the Western diaspora live.  In this culture’s art,
music, literature, television  and cinema the saints are virtually
absent.   In such a context, even the repeated mention of the
saints in Christian liturgies loses the power to
persuade people that the saints are truly present, that there
really is a communio sanctorum.  I need only look within myself to
realize that for modern people, including the vast majority of
those who sit in the pews of Armenian parishes here in
America , the saints are culturally “useless.”  We do without
them; and if we give thought to why once saints were important to
people, we are baffled.
Yet within antiquity, as Christianity expanded in a pagan world,
saints were expected, looked for by Christians as proof and
testimony to the truth of their faith.  Indeed in the early Church
the identification of the saints was populist and
spontaneous.  There were no set rules for identifying saints or
for their canonization.   At first the honor was reserved
primarily for persons who di
ed for the faith as witnesses to Christ, i.e. martyrs.  But in the
second and third centuries in the last days of pagan Rome when
persecution of Christians increased, it became evident that death
by capital punishment could not be the only test of
exceptional holiness and imitation of Christ.  There were in the
various churches individuals who for reasons largely beyond their
control escaped violent death but who, nevertheless, made supreme
public profession of their faith. These took the
name of confessor.
Later after the great persecutions, with the Emperor
Constantine’s conversion and the legalization of Christianity  in
313) and its institution as the religion of the empire under St
Theodosius in 381, persecution ceased.  Martyrdom had been held
forth as special because of its likeness to Christ’s willing
surrender of his life for the sake of God’s redemptive truth and
purpose.  Now the lives of the ascetics and monks were venerated
because of their cruciform way of living. Their paths of
discipleship and self-denial were held up as equal in holiness to
the way in which the martyrs had died and the confessors had
expended their lives.
And so there followed from this new veneration of the lives more
than the deaths of persons other categories of sainthood.
Confessors came to include men, most often bishops, who dedicated
their lives to pastoral concerns.  Nobility and monarches
who served the Christian realm well were also included.  And the
lists expanded to include mystics and scholars, missionaries and
founders of monastic orders.
In this duration, the process of identifying saints became
increasingly more formal requiring the interventions of local
bishops and, later, gatherings of the bishops in councils and
special sessions.  In the Latin West, this process became highly
formalized and legalistic. Very specific criteria for
beatification and canonization were in place by the late middle
ages and there was the added requirement of papal approval.  In
the Christian East there was less tendency toward formalization
centralization.  In both East and West, however, there were
practical reasons and circumstances which required some
formalization and central control of the cults of saints.  For
instance, local cults of saints and their veneration threatened to
overwhelm the church calender, detracting from the significance
and commemoration of other feast days.
All this makes very interesting history.  But one is bound to
question whether this discussion about  sainthood gets any of us
closer to a knowledge of  the saint.  The church historian Peter
Brown has argued in his remarkable study The Cult of the
Saints, that for Christians of antiquity and the middle ages “the
holy man” served “as Christ made accessible.”  In him was
available “in distilled” form the very character of Christ.  The
saint bridged in a personal and immediate fashion, as the
high theology and doctrine of the Church could not for the peasant
or villager, life and death, time and eternity, the here and the
hereafter.  So it is not surprising that after the holy man’s
death early Christians held forth such a  figure
as an efficacious intercessor through prayer and worship with a
divinity who in so many other respects was hidden and
unapproachable. As the Roman Catholic theologian John A. Coleman
has put it: “Saints . . . traditionally served as God’s mediators,
signs of the divine presence even at the level of the trivial,
local and everyday.”
I find it difficult, however,  to imagine how Coleman’s or any
similar experience and understanding of the saints can be
rehabilitated in our time.  Let us face it, the many saints of the
Armenian calender whose initial, often local, veneration got
their lives included ultimately in our Haysmavoork [the book that
contains the daily readings of the saints’ lives] are about as
remote to contemporary Armenian Christians as the Chinese emperors
of the Middle Kingdom.   And how many believers turn
to these saints as a comfort to their own suffering, as illumining
of Christian virtue ,or as intercessors in prayer.  Those saints
with whose lives Armenians are most familiar are celebrated
because they have become understood as creators and
defenders of the Armenian nation and symbols of a resurgent
nationalism.   There is little sense that I get when in Armenian
churches that the invocation of the names of the saints is
experienced as a holy presence among the worshippers, that those
living are in real communion with the saints, or that the saints
represent a compelling example as to how those living ought to
conduct their lives in conformity to a crucified God.
But we are all moderns.  We carry our cameras and notepads and we
visit the places where our ancestors once worshipped – in Armenia,
where Gregory with his God-scorched eyes saw the Son descend,
where the holy translators labored to breath the
breath of God into the flesh of Armenia, where the monks prayed
and martyrs shed their blood. Do we, however, hear the voices of
the saints?  Do we experience their presence? The great twentieth
century poet T. S. Eliot raised these questions when
he wrote of a sojourn to the site of an abandoned 17th century
English monastic community.  Yet it might have been in Armenia or
anywhere where Christians have set down the cross and prayed: “If
you came this way/ Taking the route, starting
anywhere, / It would always be the same: you would put off/ Sense
and notion. You are not here to verify? Instruct yourself, or
inform curiosity/Or carry report.  You are here to kneel/ Where
prayer has been valid.  And prayer is more/ Than an order
of words, the conscious occupation/ Of the praying mind, or the
sound of the voice praying./ And what the dead had no speech for,
when living,/ They can tell you, being dead; the communication/ Of
the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of
the/ living./ Here, the intersection of the timeless moment/Is
England – [Armenia] – and nowhere.  Never and always.”

Why We Need Saints

A version of this article was given as a lecture this year at the
annual retreat of priests of the Prelacy.  The retreat is
traditionally held on the feast of St. Levond, the patron saint of
priests.  I noted, how remote such a  feast was from the
consciousness and daily living of the people priests serve.   Did
any of us honestly believe that for the vast majority of even
those who were regular church attenders patron saints and guardian
angels had any strong reality?   Wouldn’t it be more
honest to admit that patron saints were
about as important to Armenian Christians as other curiosities of
medieval folk, such as fairies, demons, and leprechauns?   In the
minds of us moderns, sickness is accounted for in strictly
scientific terms.  Vocations and professions are not
perceived as having any relation to an eternal or supernatural
destiny of persons. In such a world what need is there for healing
intercessors or models of holiness?
At issue in the Church’s contemporary consideration of sainthood
is our very identity as Christians in a post-Christendom world.
We may not be aware of it, but we need saints for reasons we have
forgotten. The Russian religious philosopher
Nicholas Berdyaev once observed: The Christian world created the
ideal of the saint, i.e. of man completely enlightened and
transfigured that had conquered its old nature.  What image of man
comparable to the ideal . . . of the saint . . . has been
created by modern history?  The ideal of the citizen cannot be put
on the same level. . . A number of professional types which have
their own ideal qualifications have appeared – the type of the
scientist, the artist, the politician, the business
man, the workingman.  It is characteristic of our age that the
ideal of man is split up into a number of professional images and
ideals, [but] the wholeness is lost. . . . [Marxists have tried]
to convert  [the type of the workingman] into a
complete ideal image – the image of the “comrade” .  . . But in
the “comrade” the ideal of man is finally extinguished, the Divine
image and likeness is distorted.

We live in a culture which does not know what virtue is, except i
n the loose and distended sense of just and fair treatment of
others.  Ours is a culture which has not the sufficient narrative
accounts of life to persuade us that there are some things worth
dying for (except perhaps nation), that truth and error
have eternal consequences, or that love is more than a pleasant
sentiment or good feeling but is the divine measure of our
sinfulness and the purifying flame of God’s judgment.
Still more importantly,  Berdyaev was making the point that we
moderns have lost a unified vision of the virtues and of the whole
human being before God.  We live fragmented lives with a multitude
of roles which compete in our minds with no sense
of coherence or goal.  Marxism tried to rehabilitate the complete
image of the ideal human being in the new Communist man.  We all
know better than ever as a result of the events and disclosures of
our most recent contemporary political history,
even in Armenia itself, the utter disaster of that Promethean
venture.  The ancients achieved an image of the whole and mature
human being in the sage and in the Homeric hero.  For Christians
it was the saint.  The saint was the ideal of the
theanthropic human being.- the perfect practitioner of
divine-manhood.  In the saint, the virtues were united and gained
a permanence of character through a profound love which witnesses
to its divine origin and burns with a desire for a life with
God.  In the saint, the Christian recognizes the path to
perfection to which Adam was called by God when he created the
human being in his own image and likeness.
Our culture has lost the example of the saints and the stories of
their lives which once upon a time provided in Eastern and Western
Christendoms alike the narrative contexts in which persons could
strive to be virtuous and discern to what end such
a life well lived
was directed.  But then I am resigned to the fact that Christendom
has passed, as has Christian Armenia.  As  Christians in a
post-Christendom age we are challenged to answer the question
posed by a twentieth century Christian martyr and victim of
Nazism,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Asked Bonhoeffer: How can we live
the Christian life in a “world come of age?”
St. Anthony of Egypt, St. Basil, Sts. Hripsime and Gayan#, St.
Gregory the Illuminator, St. Nersess the Gracefull can yet be
instructive to us in living the Christian life.   I am convinced,
also, that they need the help of new saints whom we have
not yet named.   Remembering the holy men and women of the Old
Testament the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says: “What a
record all these men have won by their faith!  Yet they did not
receive what God had promised, because God had decided on
an even better plan for us.  His purpose was that only in company
with us would they be made perfect” (Heb. 11: 39-40).  It is
important that Armenians today identify persons of this age who
have lived sanctified lives and from whom we can take
example in living the Christian life.  These new saints will bring
alive the old and contribute to our union and perfection in
One sure indication of the vitality of a Christian religious
community is not only its capacity to produce such lives but to
know how to identify them and hold them forth for remembrance and
veneration.  And so there is much to think about and be
concerned about as to why the Armenian Church has been incapable
of identifying and honoring such lives since Gregory of Datev in
the 15th century.  We are desperately out of practice in naming
saints, leave aside giving up our lives to imitation of
their lives.
The point I want to close with is that the ancient wisdom of the
catholic churches which have retained the veneration of saints is
worth keeping.  Christians gain an understanding of salvation, of
holiness, and receive instruction in good and evil
not primarily from something called Christian philosophy or in
bodies of ethical rules or laws but in the person of Jesus Christ,
his life, death and resurrection.  On the basis of this revelation
our vision extends backward to the lives of the
patriarchs and matriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament who in
faith waited upon the Messiah; and our vision extends forward from
Christ to the proto-martyr Stephen and all the martyrs,
confessors, ascetics and monks, bishops, doctors of the
faith, Christian princes and queens who followed Christ’s example
and whom we call saints.
The call for the Armenian Church to canonize those martyred in
the Armenocide is valid.   But I tremble at what meaning might be
given to these lives and deaths by a national community
traumatized with a sense of victimization and driven by all too
often desperate nationalistic aspirations.  Will these new saints
merely serve our most atavistic and self-preservationist instincts
or will we recapture in their lives and deaths the paschal and
redemptive meaning of our Christian faith?  Martyrs
and confessors of the Genocide must be remembered.  But I suspect
also that the saints we need most are those we look for least.
For Armenians in the diaspora, especially, are thoroughly modern
and captive to the same myopic and morally vacuous
secularity as their non-Armenian neighbors and fellows in the
workplace.  We must look for saints of ordinary life, saintly
lawyers, businessmen or teachers, whose lives strike us as, in and
of themselves, a kind of miracle, in so far as they show in their
lives a measure of heroism and sanctity not expected by the world
in which we live.  Let us always remember that the
first mark of a saint is quite simply holiness.

Book Reviews

Fr. Hovnan Derderian, Hovvagan Asdvadzabanootyan Kordznakan
Tzernark [A Practical Guide to Pastoral Theology – in Armenian]
Toronto 1989, 94pp.
As a pastor, a priest is deeply concerned about what his people
need. Sometimes these needs are formulated as questions; sometimes
there is only the cry of anguish or silence of grief that has not
learned to speak. But the questions are always
there, whether voiced or not.  The pastor tries to speak to the
need of his parish, whether his speaking is in sermons, in writing
or in individual or group meetings. The position of the pastor
becomes more significant and responsible when he has to
make recommendations to his parishioners or to a parishioner.
Some of these recommendations are general ones, and are intended
to apply to large groups of people, and perhaps universally, like
for instance the sermons. Some pastoral advice may be
universal and still need to be highly individualized for
individuals in varying circumstances.  The central questions is
“What can the priest do that will best help this particular person
meet his/her needs?
In A Practical Guide to Pastoral Theology,  Fr. Hovnan Derderian
presents the Armenian priest in this pastoral milieu.  He presents
the priest as the key functionary of pastoral care, and as such,
develops his discussion of pastoral theology
through three major interrelated themes: a) the calling of the
priest, b) the priest in the parish, c) the Armenian priest in the
Armenian Apostolic Church.  Accordingly, the book is divided into
three sections:
In the first section, Fr. Hovnan articulates a biblical
definition of the priest and formulates the parameters of the
priest’s calling, i.e. the priest as a praying person, the priest
as a preacher of God’s word,  and the priest as a humble servant
of Christ.
The second section of the book deals with the practical aspects
of a pastors ministry.  Here, Fr. Hovnan uses the functions of the
priest, as defined in the By-Laws of the Canadian Diocese, as his
guide. Then, he explains and expands on each
function and provides ample, as well as very useful examples of
numerous situation.  Indeed, for a person who is studying to
become a priest or preparing to become a parish priest, this
section will be most valuable in giving them actual scenarios,
occasions and situations and the practical solutions or how to do
of each situation.
The main functions of the priest that are discussed are:
a) To perform all church services and sacraments according to
the canons and traditions of the Armenian Church.
b) To visit his parishioner and console the  sick, the needy and
the grieved in his parish and perform all duties that are related
to the spiritual growth of his flock, as they are defined in the
Scriptures and by the Fathers of the Church.
c) To supervise the Parish and the Sunday schools.
d) To supervise the correct application and execution of the
instructions and recommendations of the Diocesan by-laws, the
decisions of the Parish Assembly, the Primate and the Diocesan
e) To support and encourage the church choir, the altar servers
(deacons, acolytes, etc.) the Sunday and Parish schools.
f) To present his annual progress report at the Annual Parish
Assembly and to the Primate.
g) And other related tasks, such as ecumenical relations,
acknowledging the work and services of his parishioners, etc.
In the last section,  the various issues related specifically to
the Armenian clergy in the Armenian Church are discussed.  Here,
Fr. Hovnan expands on the discourses of His Holiness Vazken I
concerning the Armenian priests.  Large sections from
His Holiness’ speeches and encyclicals are quoted and integrated
in the conclusion, which gives the book an added value in
underlining the viewpoints of the Catholicos.
A Practical Guide to Pastoral Theology  is written clearly and in
simple language.  As the title suggests, it is a practical guide,
and it should be read by every seminarian or ordained priest who
is preparing for a pastoral assignment for the
first time, especially in North America.   The book is further
valuable for it integrates the thoughts, experiences and the
difficulties of a young Armenian priest in the field of pastoral
care.   As such, it is a welcomed contribution to the field
of Armenian pastoral theology, which so far lacks in quality and
quantity.  It is hoped that this book will be the beginning of a
series of books that would deal with pastoral issues and problems,
discussed specifically from the perspective of the
Armenian Church.
The book can be obtained from the bookstore of the Diocese of the
Armenian Church of Canada, 615 Stuart Avenue, Outremont, Quebec
H2V 3H2, Canada.

Fr. Garen Gdanian, Medz yes Too Der,  [Great are You, O Lord – in
Armenian] (New York, 1989 136pp.
Great are You, O Lord  is a collection of sermons or homilies by
Fr. Garen Gdanian, prepared during the forty years of his
priesthood in the Armenian Apostolic Church.  The sermons are
organized under three major themes: a) The Words of the Lord;
b) Religious Lessons; c) Contemporary Issues; and an Appendix at
the end.  Written in a simple, yet endearing language, the sermons
reflect the gratifying, as well as difficult experiences of Fr.
Garen as a pastor, whose concern for the spiritual
well being of his flock seem to be the essence of his ministry.
As in the Preface, Fr. Khajag Barsamian notes, the book does not
endeavor to make theological or doctrinal assertions.  But rather,
Fr. Garen converses with the reader on everyday matters in life,
with simple, practical and realistic  suggestions.
His words are warm, genuine and direct.  Certainly, the Armenian
reader will appreciate the sermons of Fr. Garen for their value
and practical wisdom.

Fr. Garen was ordained a priest in 1948 and has served the
Armenian Church until his retirement in 1988.  He is also the
author of Key to Inner Peace  (in English) published in 1986.

Great are You, O Lord  can be obtained from St. Peter Armenian
Church, F. G. Gdanian Literary Fund, 100 Troy Schnectady Road,
Watervliet, NY 12189.

Fr. Garabed Kochakian, Armenian Portraits of Faith,  1989, Racine.
The Armenian Portrait of Faith presents the traditional
iconography of Armenian miniature painting transformed into the
genre of colorful stained glass.  The relications are of the
stained glass windows from the sanctuary of St. Mesrob Armenian
Church in Racine, Wisconsin.  The history of holy images in the
Armenian Church is a long, rich and beautiful one portrayed in
sculpture, mural painting and the art of illuminated manuscripts.
The artistic style and didactic quality recapture the best
examples in Armenian Miniature painting of the 11th-13th centuries
and in conforming to the liturgic traditons of the Armenian
Church, explain the Christian message in the medium of colored
glass.  This multifaceted volume, presents 72 pages filled with
full color replications.  An invaluable resource book, archive of
history, guide to the propriety of liturgical art. Available: St.
Mesrob Armenian Church, 4605 Erie St., Racine, WI


Four priests of the Armenian Church were consecrated bishops by
His Holiness Catholicos Vazken I on October 9, 1990 at Holy

BISHOP KISAG MOURADIAN , Primate of the Armenian Diocese of
Argentina. Bishop Mouradian was born in Aleppo, Syria,  in 1951
and studied at the Armenian Seminary of Jerusalem.  He was
ordained a celibate priest in 1971.  He has served the Armenian
Church in Argentina for a number of years.

BISHOP KHAJAG BARSAMIAN, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the
Armenian Church of North America.  Bishop Barsamian was ordained a
celibate priest in 1971 in Jerusalem.  He was elected as primate
of the Eastern Diocese in May 1990, after years of
service as Vicar General.

BISHOP HAGOP KILINJIAN, Primate of the Armenian Diocese of
Uruguay. Bishop Kilinjian was born in Kessab, Syria, in 1955 and
studied at the Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin.  He was ordained a
celibate priest in 1978.

BISHOP HOVNAN DERDERIAN, Primate of the Armenian Diocese of
Canada. He was born in 1957 in Beirut.  He was ordained a celebate
priest in 1980 in Holy Etchmiadzin.  Bishop Derderian was elected
as Primate of the Canadian diocese in May 1990.

ARCHBISHOP KAREKIN KAZANJIAN elected Patriarch of Constantinople
(September 5, 1990).  Archbishop Kazanjian was born in Istanbul in
1927.  In 1940 he was accepted to the Armenian Seminary of
Jerusalem, where upon graduation, he was ordained a
celibate priest in 1950.  In 1951, he returned to Istanbul and was
appointed Dean of the Holy Cross Seminary by the then Patriarch
Karekin Khachadourian.  In 1959, he came to the United States and
served as the pastor of St. Mary’s Armenian Church,
in Washington, D. C.  In 1966, he was consecrated a bishop by His
Holiness Vazken I and was appointed as the Patriarchal Legate to
the Far East.  Later, he was elected Primate of the Armenian
Diocese of Australia.  In 1980, he returned to Jerusalem
and served as the Grand Sacristan  of the Patriarchate, until his
election as Patriarch of Constantinople.

ARCHBISHOP TORKOM MANOOGIAN had an audience with His Royal
Highness King Hussein of Jordan, in Amman, (September 14, 1990)
during which the King presented the Patriarch with his ferman,
thereby giving him official recognition as the Armenian
Patriarch of Jordan and the Holy Land.  This tradition goes back
to the seventh century, when Khalif Omar Ibn Khattabi gave the
first ferman and royal recognition to the Armenian Patriarch.
Following his enthronement (Oct. 27-28) as Patriarch of
Jerusalem, On October 31, 1990, His Beatitude, with a Patriarchal
delegation, paid a courtesy visit to the President of Israel,
Chaim Herzog.

Bishop Tavit Sahagian was elected Grand Sacristan of the Armenian
Patriarchate of Jerusalem, (October 26, 1990). The position of the
Grand Sacristan is the second highest position of the
Patriarchate, which encompasses administrative duties,
protection and maintenance of all church belongings and
supervision of the orderly performance of all liturgical services
and ceremonies.  Bishop Tavit was ordained a celibate priest in
1957 and was consecrated a bishop in 1976, by His Holiness
Vazken I.

ARCHBISHOP MESROB ASHJIAN attends conference in Lausanne,
Switzerland — During the week of October 6-11, Archbishop Mesrob
Ashjian participated in the 9th General Assembly and International
Symposium of the International Council on Monuments and
Sites (ICOMOS). ICOMOS is a non-governmental agency which
counsels the UNESCO on the choice of endangered historical
monuments which need protection.  Archbishop Ashjian brought to
the attention of the Assembly the situation of Armenian monuments
that are endangered, particularly the historical monuments
in Turkey.  It is hoped that the International Committee on
Historic Towns will meet in Yerevan in September of 1992, where
perhaps the current condition of the medieval city of Ani could be
discussed and conveyed to UNESCO.

September 23-28, 1990, the Armenian Church participated in the
Third Conference of the Joint Commission of the Theological
Dialogue between the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches,
hosted by the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in
Chambezy, Switzerland.  The meeting was aimed at repairing the
rift which has existed since the Council of Chalcedon in 451.
Representing the Holy See of Etchmiadzin
was Bishop Mesrob Krikorian, and the See of Cilicia, Archbishop
Mesrob Ashjian and Archbishop Aram Keshishian.
Thirty-four theologians from 16 countries unanimously adopted an
“Agreed Statement and Recommendations to the Churches” to
transcend the theological differences over the nature and person
of Jesus Christ.   They now agree that “both families have
always loyally maintained the same authentic Orthodox
Christological faith, and the unbroken continuity of apostolic
tradition, though they may have used Christological terms in
different ways.”   The theologians recommended that “anathemas and
condemnations of councils” be lifted as they seek deeper unity.

The Armenian Church representatives participated also in the
“Faith & Order” Conference of the World Council of Churches in
Geneva. Archbishop Aram Keshishian is the chairman of the
Appointment Conference, which is responsible to appoint the 136
members of “Faith & Order” and its thirty member Executive Body
for the next seven years.

requests of the student body, the Ministry of Education of
Armenia, in cooperation with His Holiness Vazken I, has formally
announced the establishment of Department of Theology at
Yerevan University.  His Holiness has appointed VERY REV. FR. ABEL
OGHLOOKIAN to teach and develop the program.  Fr. Abel was born in
Beirut in 1959 and studied at the Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin.
Upon his ordination to the priesthood in 1980, he
was sent to Vienna, Austria, where he continued his studies at the
University of Vienna.  He is soon to receive his Doctorate in
Theology from the same institution.

20, 1990, the United Bible Society  and Holy Etchmiadzin  signed a
formal agreement, under which the Society will finance the
reorganization and acquirement of advanced equipment for
the printing press of the Holy See.


Dear Editors:
We recently received the third issue of your magazine Window.
This publication is a very important development, not only in the
life of the Armenian Church but also in creating enthusiasm among
Armenian youth and leading them to an interest in
our spiritual roots as well as to the importance of serving the
Armenian Church.  With your thought-provoking, scholarly, and
informative articles, you create an “environment” which should
especially inspire Armenian youth in America to consider
serving our people through the Church.
We are very fortunate to have talented young Armenian clergy such
as you who have not only the ability but also the dedication and
“calling” to serve.  The Church is the most important institution
of our Armenian people; and it has served for many
centuries as a very strong foundation for our survival as a
We congratulate you on a job well done and encourage you to “keep
up the good work.”
-Garbis Der Yeghiayan, President
American Armenian Internation College, La Verne, California

I received the latest issue of Window and offer my
congratulations on continually producing a quality product,
something very rare when it comes to Armenian publications.
Whenever I pass out copies of Window to Armenian and non-Armenians
alike, I
feel very confident that both will come to understand the richness
of our Church while witnessing to your desire (and mine) to awaken
our people to their calling as baptized Christian Armenians.  Now
all we have to do is get them to subscribe.
–Rev. Fr. Tateos Abdalian
Watervliet, New York

Thank you for the copy of the Window which is a professional
publication.  I am sending a copy of the Summer 1990 edition to a
friend who needs information about the Genocide to answer a letter
written to him from the Turkish Embassy.  Keep up the
outstanding work.
-Victor V. Arzoomanian, Director
Armenian Church Endowment Fund.

Congratulations on embarking on this adventurous, ambitious new
publication.  I especially liked “Towards a Diaspora Theology”
(Vol. I, No. 2).  I recommend, however, that you encourage an
economy of words among your writers.  Try to stay away from
too scholarly articles.  Let’s have down to earth “daily bread”
kinds of writing too.  Sign us up!
—  Ted & Lucine Iskenderian
Pasadena, CA

I am very much enjoying reading some “serious”  material about the
Armenian Church.  While I don’t agree with everything I read, I
find the concept challenging.–and yes, it is all the more
enjoyable because I don’t agree with it all.  I wish the
Group good luck and sincerely hope you receive enough
subscriptions to keep Window “open.” Keep the faith.
–Iris Papazian
Dumont, New Jersey

Publishers note: We thank the many readers of Window  who have
taken the time to write to us.  Space does not permit us print all
these letters, but we do appreciate your comments.  We have
received many requests for Vol. I, No. 1.  The premier
issue of Window is now out of print.

CORRECTION: In the Summer 1990 issue of WINDOW, the poem cited by
Vigen Guroian, in his article”How Shall We Remember,” (p. 5), was
inadvertently attributed to Yeghish# Charents.  The correct author
of the poem is Vahan Tekeyan.


As part of a three month tour of the United States, Garegin
Chookaszian,  Executive Director of the Academy of Sciences in
Armenia, made a stop at the ACRAG offices to “look through” the
Window with co-editor Fr. Vazken Movsesian.
The distribution of Window in Armenia was the primary focus of
the meeting.  Mr. Chookaszian has been commisioned by the
Parliment of Armenia to set up a global network for the
dissemination of Armenian information.   ACRAG will be a vital
link in
that network.   By Summer of 1991, ACRAG will be distributing the
electronic version of Window in Armenia.

Let ACRAG Do It For You!
A broad range of services are available from ACRAG for parish
development.  With the move toward computerization, more and more
parishes are blindly jumping into high technology, over-extending
themselves needlessly. ACRAG has put together a
package with recommendations that are church-oriented and cost
efficient for large and small parishes.  Consultation can be done
locally or remotely. Before spending money needlessly consult with
Surveys are essential for any organization and in particular the
church.  The ACRAG Research Department can structure, produce,
mail and compile data from your parishioners and return a thorough
report. Analysis can also be provided.

Drugs and Alcohol are distroying our youth in record proportion.
Now, the ACRAG Department of Community Services  has prepared
a Drug and Alcohol pamphlet for parents  written in Armenian.  A
valuable  guide to be distributed by Armenian Churches and priests
commited to combatting this epidemic.  Avaiable in
lots of 50.   $10

are available at
$5.00/copy, $100/25 (s&h included)

Vol. I, No. 1 Premier Issues (out of print)
Vol. I, No. 2 Liberation Theology
Vol. I, No. 3 Year the Church Died

ACRAG Stack:
A HyperCard* stack  explaining ACRAG aims, services and products.
This is a promotional product and available on a 3
.5″ disk free of charge.  Send $2 for postage and handling.
Macintosh w/1 Meg RAM and HyperCard required.

Organizing a Conference?
Moderating a Parish Discussion Group?
Teaching Adult Bible Study
or Sunday School?

If so, then Window can help you spark dialogue and debate.
There is no substitute for thinking!  Get to the “meat” of  the

To  serve the needs of our active readership, Window can be sent
to you in multiple copies of an issue at bulk rates for use in
those special classes or workshops.  Available through the ACRA


Write to:

The Group
P.O. Box 700664, San Jose, CA 95170

or on the

Electronic Bulletin Board Service

c. 1990 Armenian Church Research and Analysis Group

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