Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

part of the country, and as a crowning triumph the Bible was translated into the Armenian language. Our bishops sat in all the early councils of the one common Christian church, catholic in spirit, liberal in doctrine and government.

About 450 A. D., various causes presented Armenia's representation in the fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, at which Eutyches was condemned on the doctrine relating to the person of Christ. The Armenian church reserved their decision, and was assumed to endorse his heresy, which was untrue. In 491 this doctrine in full Synod was formally annulled by our patriarch, which act resulted in separation from the Greek and Roman churches. It was not a question of dogma, but of jurisdiction, that caused it to reject the council. Documentary evidence is not wanting to show that the Armenian church was essentially orthodox at that time and has ever been so. European and American historians have drawn on bigoted Latin and Greek sources for the information. On the contrary, so long as the Armenian church stands aloft from the endorsement of the Council of Chalcedon, her autocracy is secure. To concur would be to court absorption into the Greek and Roman hierarchies.

When we consider with what the Armenian church has had to contend during the past eighteen centuries, our sympathies cannot fail to be awakened and our admiration kindled. The time came when the Persian conquerors offered annihilation by the sword or religious submission to forsaken heathenism. A most critical moment; they must wade through a carnage of death to religious freedom, or desert the pure religion of their fathers! Christian homes or Christian graves was the unanimous sentiment that echoed from the Armenian ranks. Men, women, children, all stood on the battle ground in defence of their faith. One universal resolution prevailed, “From this belief no one can move us, neither angels nor men, neither fire nor sword, nor water, nor any other horrid tortures." What a pathetic scene! In that vast throng of clergy and laity, Prince Vartan Mamigonian, the valiant commander-in-chief of the Christian host, lifted his eloquent voice in a thrilling oration: “I entreat you, my brave companions,' said he, "fear not the number of the heathen, withdraw not your neeks from the terrific sword of a mortal man! That the Lord may give the victory into our hands, that we may annihilate their power and lift on high the standard of truth."

In the morning, with clash of arms the army of the Persians was advancing. No time could be lost, the decisive battle was soon on! It was after partaking of the holy communion that the Armenians marched on with brave hearts and with these words on their lips, “May our death be like the death of the just, and may the shedding of our blood resemble the blood-shedding of the prophets! May God look in mercy on our voluntary self-offering, and may He not deliver the Church into the hands of the heathen.” The battle raged furiously. Never fought men with greater heroism, though fewer in number, and though their noble commander was first among the slain, the courage of the determined heroes of the Cross increased until they shook the Persian throne to its foundation, and the Persian monarch, retreating in confusion, besought compromise, granting religious liberty. This was the last of many religious battles in which the Armenians contended with opposing Zoroastrianism, and they dealt her here such a blow that she never again lifted her hand to strike. Persecuted as she has been by the relentless Saracen, and by the still more murderous Mongol and Tartar, she has always held her ground patiently, heroically, and songs of hallelujah she has sung above all the strife and conflict. Not with inward controversies, but with the red blood of martyrdom have Armenians maintained their religion throughout all ages. Tangible good resulted from the long centuries of persecution. It strengthened the faithful. An iron-clad Christian character resulted, successfully resisting the sensual allurements of Islamism for generations. Western Christians may frequently be seen to embrace Mohammedanism for military or social standing, but the Armenian almost never!

For many centuries the Church suffered the meddlesome interference of the Pope at Rome, who tried to place it in subordination to the papel power. Many apostacised to Rome (notably since the Council of Florence, 1439 A. D.), perhaps in the hope of the better protection of a stronger and more dominant organization; undoubtedly the superior schools of the Jesuits also attracted a large number from the National Church. Nor is this all; owing to the continued opposition and interference of the Greek Church, much of its superstition has crept in and has exerted a pernicious influence on the national religion, robbing it of its pristine purity and simplicity. In the twelfth century Merses Lambronasses, a celebrated Armenian orator, in a masterly speech, advocated the union of the two churches. The laity and clergy, however, unanimously rejected the idea, suspecting that it threatened their independence. Moreover, the doctrines and usages of the two churches differ widely in many particulars. While the Armenian Church claims to be orthodox, she does not claim to be the only orthodox church, and does not deny communion to members of Greek and Roman churches. The Armenian Church is liberal, while the Greek is exclusive in the extreme.

Whether owing his allegiance to Rome or to the orthodox Greek, a convert to the evangelical missions, or yet within the fold of the native church, the Armenian Christian still esteems Etchmiadzin the most sacred shrine of national adoration. The monastery of Etchmiadzin, most ancient of monastic foundations, has been the patriarchial throne of Armenia throughout all Christian ages. Here is the first St. Gregory's church, traditionally founded on a spot where Christ descended, as its name implies, “Etch" meaning descent, and “miadzin” only-begotten. It is at the foot of Mount Ararat, cruciform, with transcepts

so short that it seems square. It is elaborately decorated with ornaments usual to Armenian places of worship.

Of all the officers of the church, the Catholicos ranks highest, the Catholicos at at Etchmiadzin being supreme.*

[graphic][merged small]

* The author, when in Constantinople, had the pleasure of an extended interview with the ex-patriarch, Mgr. Khrimian, who has been recently exalted to the office of Catholicos at Etchmiadzin. He was cordially received and enjoyed the paternal advice and blessing of this highest dignitary of the Armenian church and people. When about to depart, the venerable man presented his young congenere with several original autograph volumes, which are held as priceless additions to his library.

« ForrigeFortsett »