By Malachia Ormanian
Formerly Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul)
French Edition 1910
Armenian Editions 1911, 1912, 1913, 1947, 1952
English Editions 1912, 1955
The work which we present to the public is not exhaustive. The issues affecting the Church in general, or the Churches in particular, open up too vast a field for critical, historical, and philosophical discussions for us to venture upon; and, moreover, such is not the course which it is our intention to adopt. It will be acknowledged that the Church still retains unimpaired her existence, and even her influence, in spite of the hard blows dealt her by skeptics. Though certain points of doctrine have been held to be preposterous, and historic facts have been relegated to the realm of myths, the Church in general, and the Churches in particular, have, nevertheless, not ceased, in the full light of the twentieth century, to show proofs of a remarkable vitality; and in the tendency to intellectual progress, both social and political, we are compelled to take into account the influence which the Churches still exercise over humanity. But let us leave generalities to come to the aim we have in view.
For some half a score of years past, the Armenian, at one time almost forgotten, has reappeared in contemporary existence. His past, his present, and his future constitute so many subjects of study; and the world has come to interest itself in this ancient race which, through the centuries and under the most cruel vicissitudes, has never ceased to give proofs of its inexhaustible vitality. If, to succeed in fathoming the secret of a nation’s life, it is necessary that we should study its religion, for this very reason we see that a work such as this is not without its usefulness; still more, if we remember that the Armenian Church-which, in our own case, is closely identified with the nation-has played an eminent role in the national life.
Indeed, this Church is scarcely known to the world at large. The most erudite writers on ecclesiastical and social subjects have but seldom turned their attention to her. Nevertheless, in spite of her unassuming position and the general ignorance of her circumstances, she still continues to bear an importance of the very first order with regard to the character of the principles and doctrines which are enshrined within her. These principles, let us depend on it, are worthy to serve as a basis for the ideal work of Christian unity and purity.
But, instead of anticipating our conclusions, let us rather endeavor to dive into the heart of our subject. In order to do this, we must in the first place present a concise but exact, summary of the essential points in the history, the doctrine, the discipline, the rule, the liturgy, and the literature of this Church. In this way, by a convenient and natural process, it is our intention to guide the reader to those conclusions, so that they may be logically clear and be imprinted on his understanding.