Organization of the Hierarchy
According to the principles of the Armenian Church, supreme authority was vested in the Ecumenical Councils which were convoked by the hierarchical bodies of the several Churches. These exercised absolute functions in the matters of dogma. Questions of discipline were of a secondary nature. She holds that dogmatic canons are essentially binding on all Churches; while disciplinary canons, which serve as the basis for inter-ecclesiastical relations, are liable to variation in their application to each particular Church, according to circumstances. She also admits the possibility of variation in the several Churches as regards secondary points concerning doctrine, the methods of exposition, and the harmonizing of dogmas. She teaches that the supreme authority of the Ecumenical Councils could have valid power only from the first three Councils; and that it has not been possible to assert authority of this nature since then, owing to the dissensions which arose among the Churches. She also doubts that such an authority will ever be exercised in the future, on account of the improbability of reconciliation.
At the time of the assembly of the Vatican Council, the Roman Church, as a sheer matter of form, issued an invitation, doubtless to save appearances; for, in order to be canonical, it was necessary, as a preliminary, to put herself in touch with the other Churches concerning the points to be discussed, so as to pave the way for a common ground of understanding. But this writ to assemble was, properly speaking, but a summons to bow before her pretensions. Of a truth this procedure was not of a kind to smooth the preliminaries towards a sincere and loyal reconciliation.
To supplement what has been already said in the historical portion of this work = that is to say, that the Churches of the various provinces were grouped together separately to form national Churches or patriarchates- it may be added that this grouping was solely the result of the political conformation of the different countries. In the beginning, the three patriarchal sees which were founded in the Graeco-Roman world were allotted according to the civil administrative divisions which were then prevalent. Rome was the capital of the empire, and the administrative center for all the provinces of the West. The kingdoms of the Ptolemies and of the Seleucides, which, at the period of the spread of Christianity, had already been absorbed in the Roman empire, were converted into prefectures, and had Alexandria and Antioch for their capitals. In keeping with this distribution, three patriarchates were created at Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, which were separate and independent of each other.
Besides, there were lesser prefectures at Caesarea, Ephesus, and Heraclea, for the provinces of Pontus, Asia, and of Thrace; and, corresponding with this distribution, ecclesiastical exarchates were created in these three cities. These latter lost their autonomy only when the capital of the empire was transferred to Constantinople, where a fourth patriarchate was then established. As to the patriarchate of Jerusalem, it was established solely for the purpose of doing honor to the Holy City. To this end, the Council of Nicaea severed from the see of Antioch the two provinces of Palestine, and embodied them into the patriarchate of Jerusalem.
It has been quite wrongly imagined that the four patriarchates of the East were part and parcel of the Greek Church. Such was not the case. The patriarchate of Constantinople alone represented the national Church of that nation. The see of Antioch belonged to the Syrian nationality; that of Alexandria to the Egyptian; and that of Jerusalem to the inhabitants of Palestine. It is true that the Macedonian supremacy had left many traces behind it in those districts, and that Syria and Egypt had, to a certain extent, become Hellenized. But these effects were merely superficial; for, in the depth of their convictions, the native populations retained unimpaired their national spirit.
The political considerations which induced the distribution of the patriarchates in the Graeco-Roman world had for their object the creation of other autonomous patriarchates in countries which were outside the limits of the empire, and which had, like Armenia, Persia, and Ethiopia, received apostolic teaching. The Church in Persia bore the name of Ctesiphon or of Seleucius; and, in our time, she is represented by the patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldaeans. That of Ethiopia was for the time incorporated with the Egyptian patriarchate of Alexandria. Concerning the Armenian patriarchate, we have nothing to add to what has been already stated. We will, however, supplement it by remarking, in reference to the nature and extent of its jurisdiction, that the political and territorial principle, which ruled in the formation of the patriarchates at the start, necessarily determined the limits of the see of Armenia as conterminous with those of its kingdom, which at that time consisted of Armenia Major. What in the course of time came to be called Armenia Minor was then connected with the prefecture of Pontus, and, consequently, was dependent on the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Caesarea; and later, to that of the patriarchate of Constantinople. On the other hand, Georgia and Caspian Albania, which, at the rise of Christianity, had been subject to Armenian rule, passed under the jurisdiction of their own patriarchates.
This strictly territorial principle was rigorously adopted by al the ecclesiastical jurisdictions in the early Church. By virtue of this system it was only possible to have one bishop in each diocese, and all Chrisitans, irrespective of nationality or origin, were subject to him. This rule only began to lose its force when individual Churches severed all connection with others, and took the course of refusing mutual communion in divinis. From this arose the necessity of installing different priests and bishops with the same diocese, in accordance with the varying beliefs and religious ceremonies peculiar to each denomination of the population. This custom became more and more general from the time of the Crusades. Side by side with the Greek and Syrian bishops of the conquered countries were installed Latin bishops. From that time the oldd rule, which upheld the system of territorial jurisdiction, was entirely disregarded; each individual Church, which singled herself out from others by her own beliefs or ceremonies, resolved to have her own bishop. Such is the explanation of that anomaly whereby dioceses had at their head as many as seven or eight bishops, each bearing alike the same title.
Subsequently the principle of ecclesiastical jurisdiction was turned to account through right of conquest. Those countries which had not been Christianized in apostolic times, but had been converted by a pre-existing Church, passed under the jurisdiction of the latter. Thus the Church of Constantinople, through her apostolate, established her supremacy over the Balkan States and over Russia; and the Church of Rome established hers over Germany, Britain, and Scandinavia; as she did, later over the two Americas and the Extreme East. Herein lied the chief reason of the enormous and world-wide development of the jurisdiction of the Latin Church, or the patriarchate of Rome, whose influence increased in proportion to the social progress of the West. But this expansion of power and influence brought in its train abuses which led to the Reformation, whereby, at one blow, a goodly portion of her heritage was wrested from her jurisdiction. We must expect now fresh separations from her. The measures of repression which have, in the last resort, been enforced against those who go under the name of Modernists will probably yet bring about deep resentment towards her.
In spite of past experience, the papacy continues arrogantly to assert its right to meddle in the intellectual domain, and to maintain its politico-administrative interference over t hose portions of the world which are dependent on its authority. It contrives indiscreetly to restrict more and more the administrative sphere of authorities which are subordinate to it, by annulling those ancient rights which still remained to the Gallican, Hungarian, Ambrosian, Mozarabic, and Easter Churches; it reduces the ordinaries (bishops) of dioceses to the position of mere vicars.
This policy is far indeed from the spirit of the orthodox Greek Church, where the principle prevails that each nation or people having political independence should ipso facto enjoy the rights and privileges which are identified with autocephalic Churches. These rights confer administrative autonomy and a voice in dogmatic definitions.
Formerly, each autocephalic Church was administered by a patriarch or exarch, who was invested with supreme authority; but Russia, in the time of Peter the Great, was the first to supersede this arrangement by a permanent synod. Her example has been followed by the other orthodox states; so that today Greece, Rumania, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bulgaria each possesses her own national synod.
We have only to add to what has already been said concerning the Armenian Church in this respect, that in spite of the dispersion of her faithful throughout the world, and the creation of subordinate sees, consisting of two catholicates and two patriarchates, the jurisdiction of Etchmiadzin continues to extend over the entire Church.
The Armenian Hierarchy
The hierarchic order comprises in general the four following degrees:
1. The supreme patriarch or catholicos
2. The patriarch or special catholicos, exarch, or primate
3. The archbishop or metropolitan
4. The bishop.
The suffragan bishops are but mere non-resident vicars.
It has been said that supreme patriarchs are at the head of those particular Churches which are independent. Those which are part and parcel of the latter, and have, by reason of certain circumstances, acquired the right or privilege of forming themselves into special Churches, are administered by subordinate heads, with a kind of autonomous power, but they are by no means independent. Their position might be compared to that of a vassal prince towards his suzerain. As we have shown above, their title varies according to countries and local customs. A certain difference in privileges and functions may be found among them, but it is not a divergence which in any way affects the general character of their hierarchic position. The bishops of the same province have a metropolitan at their head, that is to say, the archbishop at headquarters, who possesses no greater prerogative save that of convening a conference of them when a common interest demands it. The bishops bear the name of suffragan with regard to the metropolitan, but they, in fact, enjoy all the prerogatives of the jurisdiction of an ordinary. We will now apply these general data to the specific case of the Armenian Church.
The supreme patriarch or catholicos of all the Armenians resides at present at Etchmiadzin, near Erevan, where existed, of old, the original residence, and where, after many wanderings, he has reverted.
In those early days he combined in his person two other sees which were accessory to his own; the Catholicate of Georgia, and that of Caspian Albania, which are no longer in existence. The see of Georgia broke away in the seventh century, and that of Caspian Albania was abolished in the beginning of the nineteenth century, on account of the fusion of the Caspio-Albanian or Aghwanian nationality with the Armenian. But, in course of time, circumstances have brought into being other secondary sees. The transfer of the supreme see from Aghthamar to Ani and from Sis to Etchmiadzin gave occasion for the creation of two sees which, at first, were of an anti-patriarchal character, but their status was afterwards regularized. The see of Aghthamar exercises jurisdiction over the districts of Cavash and of Shatakh in the vilayet of Van, and over the district of Khizan in the vilayet of Bitlis. This see, vacant since 1895, is administered provisionally by a bishop. The see of Sis exercises jurisdiction over the dioceses of Cilicia and of Syria. At the present time the vilayets of Adana, Aleppo, Sivas, Angora, and Mamuret-ul-Aziz are allotted to these dioceses. The last head of the see was elected in 1902, after a lapse of eight years. The patriarchate of Jerusalem owes its origin to the peculiar veneration with which the Christians of the East associate the Holy Places. Its jurisdiction extends over Jerusalem, Lebanon, as well as over the vilayets of Damascus and of Beirut. Egypt and the island of Cyprus, which were formerly connected with the patriarchate of Jerusalem, are at the present time dependent on the see of Constantinople.
We have devoted a special chapter to the origin of the patriarchate of Constantinople, and also to the details of its spiritual jurisdiction, which embraces, as we have shown, the whole of Turkey, with the exception of those districts which are dependent on the above-mentioned patriarchates. But if, as we have seen, its spiritual action is circumscribed, its administrative and national authority, on the contrary, extends over the entire Armenian community, who are subject to the Porte. The Armenians who inhabit the Balkan States, viz. Greece, Rumanian, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bulgaria, countries which were formerly portions of Turkey, still continue to depend on its spiritual sway.
These are the four sees of the second order which are comprised within the Armenian ecclesiastical hierarchy. The incumbents of Sis and of Aghthamar are entitled to the style of catholicos, which is withheld from the patriarchs of Jerusalem and Constantinople. This title carries with it certain privileges, especially those of the consecration of the holy chrism and the ordination of bishops. It should be noted that, of these four sees, three have boundaries approximately corresponding to those of the patriarchates of Graeco-Roman foundation. These are respectively the sees of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople.
As a matter of fact, there are no metropolitans and suffragans over ecclesiastical provinces within the Armenian Church. Nevertheless, the bishoprics of the principal towns in Turkey bear the title of archbishoprics; and the dioceses in the Caucasus, which are very large, have, in their chief towns, vicars, who may be regarded as suffragans.
We come next to the bishops, who are classed in the fourth degree of the hierarch. The number and division of dioceses have been fixed in the proportion to actual needs, and not after any preconceived distribution. In Turkey the patriarchate of Constantinople possesses forty-five dioceses; the catholicate of Sis has thirteen; the Catholicate of Agthamar, two; and the patriarchate of Jerusalem, five. The whole of Russia is parceled out into six large provinces (eparchies), which are again subdivided into nineteen dioceses. Persia has two provinces, wherein are included the East Indies and the island of Java. The Armenian colonies in Europe and in America form two distinct dioceses. Egypt, Rumania, and Bulgaria are included among the dioceses of Constantinople. It should be added that the dioceses of Persia, of Europe, and of America are in direct connection with Etchmiadzin.
Moreover, it should be observed that the ordinary heads of Armenian dioceses are not always ordained bishops; the Church allows archimandrites or doctors of the higher class to take up the functions of chief diocesan.
The functions pertaining to each hierarchic grade and to the ecclesiastical orders are based on a system of decentralization. Each grade or order works, without restriction, in a true sphere of its own, and within the limits of its functions, subject to the control of the superior authority. This control is exercised whenever the subordinate stands in need of explanations or advice concerning a doubtful point, or for the purpose of settling w difficulty; when redress is needed on account of foreign interference; or else when the superior considers it necessary to interfere from motives of general interest, or for the prevention of abuse. The right of appeal is allowed to every grade.
The bishop is the head and the administrator in ordinary of his diocese, with complete competency over all business and functions which pertain to it. If the chief in ordinary of the diocese is merely an archimandrite, he has the power to sanction ordinations, but is not in a position to perform them himself. The title of aradjnord (prelate), which distinguishes them, is borne equally by all ordinaries, whether they be bishops or archimandrites. His competency over the clergy is absolute, whether for granting them licenses, or in matters deserving censure. He gives judgment, in council, on marriage questions, with the reservation that he possesses no right to pronounce divorces. He grants dispensations in accordance with the facts of a case, and on the grounds of discretionary power.
The patriarch of Jerusalem is the guardian of the Holy Places, or, rather, of the sanctuaries which are in possession of the Armenians. He is the superior of the congregation of SS. James (Srbotz Hacobiantz), which has the custody of them. The Armenians are by no means numerous in the patriarchate of Jerusalem; and are grouped in small and scattered communities in the dioceses of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Beirut, and Damascus, though unprovided with proper diocesan organization. [Beirut and Damascus are now under the jurisdiction of the Catholicate of Cilicia; they form separate diocess. Beirut has 90,00 Armenian population and Damascus 8, 190.]
The patriarch of Constaninople, in his capacity has head of the entire nation, exercises his administrative agency over sixty-five dioceses. Those over which his spiritual authority extends number forty-five. The episcopal diocese of Constantinople is conterminous in extent with the boundaries of the prefecture of that city.
The prelates of every degree in the hierarch perform their functions with the assistance of councils, both spiritual and lay, or religious and civil. They confine themselves to carrying out the decisions of these councils, or rather, in certain cases, they adhere to general rules; whilst, in certain other circumstances, they arrogate to themselves, besides a discretionary power.
The archpriests are entrusted with the spiritual supervision of the parochial churches, but what is described elsewhere as right appertaining to the function of a parish priest, is common to all priests. Each family has its recognized confessor, Taneretz or Dzkhater (supervisor of the home), whom it chooses for itself; he performs for it at the same time the duties of the parish priest. The licenses for betrothals and for marriages are issued by the prelate in ordinary of the diocese. The offices within the churches are regulated, with one consent, by the archpriest, and by the supervising council, which is composed of laymen elected by popular vote. This council administers the parish, as well as it churches and its schools, and all other institutions of public utility. In the administration of the sacrament of penance or confession the system of special license or of the reservation of sins is quite unknown in the Armenian Church.
Formerly the priests of every church, formed into an association, performed the duties of all parochial bodies. The fees and alms received were collected into a common fund, and afterwards distributed pro rata between the archpriest, the priests, the deacons, and the clerks. The custom has fallen into disuse for a long time, especially in the towns; at the present time each family has its recognized priest, who belongs to the parish.
The particular functions of the catholicos consist in the consecration of bishops and the blessing of the holy chrism takes place every three or five years; a sufficient quantity being prepared for the needs of all the dioceses. It is a composition having boiled oil for its chief constituent, with a mixture of balm and of essences of forty different species of plants and odoriferous gums. About a quart of holy chrism reserved from a former preparation is added to it, in order that there may be in it some small particles of the original holy chrism, which, it is claimed, was that which Jesus Christ blessed, and which had been taken to Armenia by the apostles. If this fact does not bear historical proof, it continues, nevertheless, to be taken for granted, and so it is not without its significance.
The above two privileges of consecration and of blessing the chrism also belong to the catholicos of Sis and of Aghthamar within the limits of their respective jurisdictions. The patriarchs of Jerusalem and of Constantinople are not endowed with these privileges; and their consecrations are performed at, and the holy chrism obtained, the supreme see Etchmiadzin. But they maintain the right of themselves nomination the candidates for the episcopate with their charge.
The Clergy and Celibacy
The clergy of the Armenian Church are divided into two quite distinct categories: the regular clergy, who are celibate, and the married secular clergy. The latter comprises, in effect, married men and fathers of families, living among worldly surroundings. It is absolutely necessary that marriage should precede their ordination to the diaconate. Once they become widowers, deacons and priests can only marry again on the condition that they lay aside their vestments and leave the ranks of the clergy. [The right of remarriage of widower priests was accorded by the catholicos Gueorg V on November 11, 1922.] If they take this course, they incur no blame, and their reputation remains untarnished. On the other hand, those who marry a second time, or who marry a widow, are excluded from the priesthood. It is usual to allow the period of at least a year to elapse between marriage and ordination; the candidates should be between the ages of thirty and fifty. Exceptions to this rule are rare.
The functions of the married clergy embrace whatever is concerned with the spiritual direction of the people. He administers the sacraments, and takes upon himself the daily service of the offices. He is occupied in assisting the sick and the poor, performs burials, etc. Among the Easterns the daily obligation of reading the offices and of celebrating the mass does not exist; nor is what is called a low mass known.
The offices of archpriest, of vicar, and of member of the councils are the only ones within the reach of the married clergy. The married priest may conduct the duties of a vicariate in the event of a vacancy, but he is not allowed to be a candidate for the doctorate, nor for the dignity of the episcopate, unless he enters the ranks of the celibate clergy after widower-hood. Though this restriction has, in our time, acquired the force of law, it is altogether unsupported by canonical weight or old-established authority. If we scrutinize the essence of this rule, we arrive at the conclusion that the episcopate is but the fullness of the priestly office, dedicated to the service of the people; and this is precisely the definition of the duties which devolve on the married clergy. Formerly the bishops were recruited from among the archpriests, who then went under the title of kahanayapet, that is to say, the chief among the priests of the diocese, in the same way as the avagueretz (great-priest or archpriest) was the chief of the priests of a given church. There is nothing, therefore, to prevent the present custom, prevalent though it be, from being superseded by the usages of the primitive Church, and access to high ecclesiastical dignities being thrown open to the married clergy. Such a course would be highly beneficial to the nation; for the married clergy would escape from a position of inferiority which is in no way justified, and which especially fetters them by their exclusion from the higher offices, which is now their lot. Under the existing conditions, individuals who are gifted with some education are, generally speaking, little inclined to embrace a laborious career, wherein they can find no satisfaction for mental aspirations and material benefits. We find, therefore, scarcely any but men of a simple rank in life and of mediocre capacity who aim at attaining the priesthood in the East in these days is in a condition of inferiority; and it goes without saying that the faithful are the first to suffer from such a state of things. As a remedy, we are inclined to think that a return to the ancient canons for the recruitment of the episcopate would remove the evil. By enlarging the field for promotion, the cultured portion of the nation would no longer hesitate to enter the ranks of the married clergy. That would tend to raise them in the eyes of the faithful, and would enable them to fulfill their mission worthily, and in keeping with the requirements of the times.
The celibate clergy are trained chiefly within the precincts of monasteries. The Armenian monastic institution has nothing in common with the system of religious orders in the West. Each monastery forms an independent community. Its members voluntarily submit to the rules of conduct based on canonical regulations, but are not bound by religious vows. The days of anchorites and contemplative monks have irrevocably passed; today the sole mission of the monasteries is to prepare the celibate clergy for their sacerdotal functions. Thus the monasteries of Sevan, on the lake of Gueukchay, of Lim and of Ktootz, on lake Van, to which is assigned the name of anapat (wilderness), have lost their character of contemplative institutions, and have been converted into seminaries for priests. [These educational institutions do not exist any longer as such. They were all confiscated during and after the First World War.] This particular branch of the clergy devotes itself exclusively to preaching and to hierarchic duties. The administration of sacraments, the hearing of confession, and the solemnizationof marriage do not come within their province; but their presence is required at those functions which are invested with any religious or ritual ceremony. The different degrees by which this branch is classified are those of deacons (sarkavag), monk-priests (abegha) minor or particular doctors (vardapet), supreme doctors (dzayrogooyn vardapet,) bishops (episcopos), and those which comprise the highest dignitaries of the hierarch, such as archbishops, patriarchs, and catholicos. It is not customary to make used of married deacons, either on account of complications which might ensue from their employment, or to avoid the occasion of eventual widower hood. But there are celibate deacons at the monasteries, where they usually serve a probationary period of three years. Monk-priests are ordained at the age of twenty-two at the least, and they are then invested with the veghar (hood), which distinguishes the celibate clergy.
The grades of doctor confer the right to preach through the bestowal of the doctor’s crosier, which is surmounted by an emblem representing two or four serpents entwined, with their heads apart and facing each other. The two grades of this rank are subdivided into grades for mere appearance – the minor rank into four, and the major into ten, making fourteen in all; but this subdivision, after all, has no significance beyond increasing in proportion the number of hymns and lessons during the course of the ceremonies of investiture. The license or assent of the ordinary of the diocese is indispensable before the ministry of preaching can be followed. The sermons are preached, in the standing position, from the platform of the altar. Only bishops enjoy the privilege of being seated when preaching.
The hierarchical duties of dioceses, whether they pertain to the ordinary or to an ad interim incumbent, are restricted to the celibate clergy. Those who have become widowers, whether before or after ordination, may be included in this class. Promotion to the episcopal rank is at the present time reserved exclusively for the celibate clergy, as we have already stated above. He alone has the right to carry the crosier and to put on the veghar. There is, however, no canonical bar to prevent the married clergy from receiving the doctor’s crosier, if they are endowed with the necessary education. At present they preach sermons, but always without the crosier (gavazan).
The two degrees of the doctorate common in the Armenian Church have their exact counterpart in the degrees of licentiate and of doctor in theology which are conferred in the European universities. But the Armenian Church has given them a more religious significance. Consequently, there is a tendency to attach less importance to the abilities of the candidates than to the duties with which they are concerned. It is on account of the exacting nature of these duties that the members of the celibate clergy are no longer tied down to the strict monastic life, nor are they compelled to live in the presbyteries.
The Ecclesiastical Revenues
There is no existence in the Armenian Church either of benefices or canonries or income such as the Latin clergy enjoy. The ecclesiastics live entirely on the voluntary offerings of the faithful. This is especially the case with the married priests. At times, however, the celibate ecclesiastics draw a moderate stipend.
The churches and monasteries do, indeed, own some real property, such as lands or buildings, but the income which is derived from these properties is most precarious in Turkey, on account of the peculiar legislation which governs this class of property. The churches, the monasteries, and the schools are not recognized under Muslim law, as they do not come within the category of people possessing mental faculties; they are consequently deprived of the right of possession. To surmount this difficulty, an attempt is therefore made to register the inheritance of these institutions in an assumed name. But this expedient is attended with danger; for, in the first place, a risk is run of losing these possessions when their holder happens to die without leaving a direct heir. The possible bad faith of the heirs must also be reckoned with, or the contingency of a judicial attachment, which may even be without proper legal sanction. It must be remembered that properties which belong to the category of vaquefs (possessions in mortmain) can only be conveyed to a man’s children. It is possible, however, to extend the right of inheritance to relations of the first and second degrees by payment of an indemnity in a lump su, which is supplemented by an annual contribution.
Another expedient, which is often resorted to, is that of registering the properties under the name of a saint, as if he were still living. In this way the properties which belong to the church of St. Mary have come to be registered under the name of a woman, Mary, daughter of Joachim, and those which belong to the church of St. John the Baptist, under the name of a priest, John, son of Zachariah; and so on. But if the fiscal authorities were to drive their methods too far, there would be the danger of losing the estates. This peculiar condition under which ecclesiastical property is administered has, in recent times, given rise to most serious difficulties. The government, which had shut its eyes until now in a tolerant spirit, has suddenly changed it tactics. It would, without compensation, put an end to a state of things which it has suffered to exist for many centuries. Thus it has instituted a system of confiscation; but it is to be hoped that the new laws will remedy the evil. [The new laws within the last quarter-century have made the situation worse.]
To explain briefly the nature of vaquefs, it should be remembered that estates which belong to religious or charitable institutions in dominium directum are included in that category. They only have no bearing on individual possessions in dominium utile, that it to say, on title to usufruct, with reservation of the right of succession, as has been said above. A very trifling annual charge towards the rights of transfer and of succession is levied by the institution; finally the ownership itself entirely reverts by the extinction of the category of heirs, as anticipated by the law. The churches and other Christian institutions alike possess the same right of ownership. Many of the churches of Constantinople own vaquefs.
The daily offertories made in the churches during the mass and the offices provide another source of income. Plates (pnak), which are entrusted to the lay members of the council, are carried round among the people; besides this, contribution boxes are placed in the court and at the entrances of the church to take in the gifts of the faithful. Formerly the collections did not fail to be tolerable productive, but at the present time they yield but little. It is necessary to add to these incomes the proceeds obtained by the sale of church candles, which is usually done at the doors of the churches, and payment for these is left to the discretion of the faithful. The custom of burning candles before pictures is always in favor among the Easterns.
The church receives, besides, a special fee at the celebration of religious ceremonies, such as baptisms, marriages, funerals, requiem masses, etc. The income obtained by the transactions of the chancery office, such as certificates, authentications, and attestations, has also to be taken into account. Gifts and voluntary offerings form a supplementary source of income, of which it is not possible to afford any precise information; and, in a word, the largest portion of the landed estates accrues from legacies and deeds of gift.
The monasteries enjoy, besides, the right to levy from the villages in their district a fixed portion in kind of the product of the soil and what is bed on it. This contribution, which is called ptoogh (fruit), although voluntary, has a fixed character about it. The ravages from which the Armenian provinces periodically suffer have dealt a fatal blow to this source of income.
As a matter of principle, the income of each church should be made to defray its own expenses. Endeavor should be made to lay it out in such a way as to satisfy its best interests. The expenses which the churches have to make provision for might be summed up as follows: 1) for the upkeep of real property; 2) for the maintenance and purchase of ornaments and articles necessary for the church services; 3) for maintenance of the parochial school; 4) for salaries of the staff engaged for the service of the church and the school; 5) for relief of the sick and the poor. Free education is given to the latter; from others a small fee is required.
It is to the generosity of the faithful that the maintenance of the married clergy is also indebted. The best part of this fund is contributed for them by families, who have to provide for needs of their taneretz (parish priests); the remainder comes from the ecclesiastical functions they perform on occasions of baptisms, betrothals, weddings, funerals, the blessing of houses at Christmas and Easter, and of the celebration of masses. The proceeds of the offertories and of alms intended for the priests of the same parish are divided amongst them. From what has been said above, it is clear that the married clergy exist solely on voluntary gifts, and the maintenance of its members depends on the amount of energy they display, as well a on the devotion of their flock.
When the members of the celibate clergy form part of an administration, or are attached for duty to a superior, they are generally allowed a small annuity, which is secured to them either by the diocese or by the church. To this pittance must be added the offerings which they receive on account of the duties they are called upon to perform among their flock.
We cannot but see that the existence of the Armenian clergy is based on an uncertain element. In such a position they can be sure of neither liberty nor independence of action in the presence of those they have to serve. At first sight this might appear, therefore, to be prejudicial to the general good; and yet it offers the inestimable advantage of preventing the clergy from combining into a caste in the nation. It even tends to strengthen the bond of union and of harmony between the clergy and the people, from the very fact that he former are bound to watch over the interests of the latter. On their part, the clergy, struggling with the difficulties of existence, are compelled to redouble their zeal and their energies. This is the reason that the Armenian clergy have at all times felt themselves to be at one with the ideas and sentiments of their people. What in other Churches is termed the clerical spirit has never from the beginning existed among the Armenian clergy.
The Laity in the Church
Among the Armenians the clergy are not looked upon as absolute masters and owners of the Church. This Church, since its institution, has belonged as much to the faithful as to the ministers of worship. In virtue of this principle, and apart from sacramental acts, for the performance of which ordination is indispensable, nothing is done in ecclesiastical administration without the co-operation of the lay element.
The participation of the laity in church matters is evidenced in the first place by the election of the minister of worship. The married priest is chosen by the parishioners, either by the direct process of voting, or by a deed of presentation. The religious council, presided over by the bishop, proceeds to examine the ability and the fitness of the candidate, and it is only after the advice of this body has been taken that the ordination of the candidate is carried out. The bishop cannot of his own initiative ordain a priest; but he may refuse him ordination if he can prove that the candidate falls short of canonical requirements.
As regards celibate priests, these are recruited from among the young people who are prepared for the priesthood in the monasteries. Their promotion lies at the discretion of the superior and the chapter, but their ordination to the diaconate and the priesthood must be sanctioned by the patriarchate, on which the monastic institutions are dependent. The lay element has no voice in this matter.
The election of the chief ordinaries of dioceses rests, in Turkey, with the diocesan councils, of which six-sevenths of the members are laymen and only one-seventh ecclesiastics. Such is the arrangement authorized by the old-established and general canon of the Church. The Russian polojenia, however, without placing a bar on lay intervention, reserves the right of final nomination to the tsar on the presentation of two candidates by the catholicos. If we bear in mind the similarity which exists between the election of catholicos and that of bishops, the choice of candidates for the bishopric will be seen to devolve on the deputies of the diocese. For the election of the Catholicate comes within the province of the electoral assembly, which is composed of religious heads and lay deputies who are nominated by the dioceses as a whole. The eight members of the synod and the seven oldest members of the congregation of Etchmiadzin have equal share in the voting. The final nomination of the catholicos is reserved for the tsar, who chooses one of two candidates whose names are presented by the assembly.
The patriarchs of Constantinople and of Jerusalem are elected by the national assembly of the capital, of whom six-sevenths of the members belong to the laity. The catholicos of Sis and of Aghthamar are elected by the electoral councils, of which one-half are laymen. [The present electoral council of the Catholicate of Cilicia is composed of fifty members of whom only fourteen are clergymen.] We see, therefore, by these examples, to what extent the lay element exercises its preponderating influence over ecclesiastical preferment.
The participation of laity in ecclesiastical matters is not on that account the less efficacious. Although it is exercised under different forms, in accordance with the laws and customs of the countries in which Armenians have settled, yet the important principle of lay intervention is everywhere held in esteem. In Turkey each church is managed by a council or ephorate (tha-gha-kan) composed entirely of laymen, who are elected by the parish. On this council devolves the administration of the church, the school, and the domestic affairs of the community. Its management is controlled by a diocesan economic council (tntesakan) composed of laymen, which has power over the finances. In Russia the government permits the existence of lay councils (ephorates), but it has done away with the diocesan councils, whose prerogatives have been transferred to a synod and to consistories made up of ecclesiastics. [Under the Soviet rule these forms of Church administration have undergone changes.]
We will now consider to what extent the lay element takes a share in the administration of the general affairs of the nation. We know that the principle is to be reckoned from the earliest existence of the Church; but in 1860 it became the subject of reform after the promulgation of the Sahmanadroothiun (regulation or constitution) which was sanctioned by the Ottoman government in 1863. By virtue of this constitution, the chief direction of affairs was entrusted to a national assembly invested with legislative powers and control, and to two councils, the one religious and the other civil, possessed of executive power, which assisted the patriarch in the exercise of his administrative duties. The councils are, in their turn, assisted by many committees, which are appointed to take up severally the various questions concerning matrimonial disputes, public instruction, financial management, wills, the monasteries, and the chief charitable institution or national hospital. The national assembly is composed of one hundred and forty members, of whom six-sevenths are laymen elected by vote. The civil council comprises fourteen laymen, and the religious council the same number of ecclesiastics of all ranks, celibate or married. As to the two councils, they are elected directly by the assembly; and, when assembled altogether, they form a mixed council board, whose province extends over the administration in general. Matters of spiritual import are amenable to the religious council; others, such as finance and public instruction, to the civil council. These two councils perform their functions separately. Each committee is composed of seven members; those which are concerned with instruction, internal economy, and the hospital have none but laymen on them; these latter form merely the majority in the other committees, which have the adjudication of wills and the control of monasteries.
The committee entrusted with judicial matters is composed of eight members, of whom half are laymen. The chief functions of the assembly are the election of patriarchs and of councils, the voting on the budget and estimates of supply, the discussion and preparation of special regulations, and taking cognizance of disputes among the various authorities, and of settling difficulties of an exceptional character. It should be added in passing that the national constitution has instituted a direct tax, which is assessed on each individual who possesses sufficient means; and the right of voting is subject to the payment of this tax. The proceeds of this tax are paid into the exchequer of the patriarchate.
In Turkey the diocesan administration is modeled on that of the chief administration of the patriarchate. What differences there are among the dioceses are due to their varying importance and extent. The number of members belonging to the general diocesan councils varies from twenty-one to seventy, the proportion in these of six-sevenths of the laity being maintained. The other councils and committees run on the same lines; and it seems unnecessary to enter into their details.
In Russia the lay element exercises no control over the management of the dioceses. The synod of the catholicos and the diocesan consistories, represented only by ecclesiastics, are confined to purely spiritual functions The imperial government has let slip no opportunity to alienate its subjects from the chief administration of ecclesiastical institutions. It has not deemed it right to grant them privileges which the Ottoman sultans have conceded.
The dioceses of Egypt, Rumania, and Bulgaria, which are dependent on the patriarchate of Constantinople, follow the system in vogue in the latter, so far as that is compatible with the laws of their country. The dioceses of Persia, of Europe, and America, which are dependents of the see of Etchmiadzin, comply with the customs prevailing in the Caucasus. [Each of these dioceses being under the jurisdiction of Etchmiadzin complies with administrative customs prevailing in its own country.]
From what has been said above, it will be inferred that, of all Christian communities, the Armenian Church is the one wherein the democratic spirit excels in all its vividness and truth. Sacerdotal exclusiveness, so fatal to the good fellowship which should exist between the Church and the faithful, between the shepherd and his flock, is altogether alien to her being. This traditional participation of the lay element in church matters dates back to the earliest period of her history, and its roots are sunk e=deep into those beginnings which have been most pregnant with the welfare of Christianity. Thus the transactions of the national councils invariably testify that formerly princes and satraps, and, after them, the leading men and the deputies, in a word, the representatives of the people, have ever continued to take their place side by side with bishops and doctors in the councils. They are known to have taken an active part in all discussions bearing on questions of doctrine and discipline, and have then set their sign-manual at the foot of deeds and canons as effective members of councils. This old-established principle prevails even to this day in the customs of the nation, and it is by reason of it that the presence of the laity is justified in the ecclesiastical assemblies and councils. In making over to the element a large share in the administration of the Armenian Church, the two dangers which imperil the Western Church are averted: the first of these is known and clericalism; the other is indifference in the religious sphere.
The Name of the Church
There is a generally prevalent custom for each Church to have an ethnographical name, combined with one of a doctrinal denomination: the first is derived from the country or the race; the second from the doctrinal principle she follows. Thus we say, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Latin Catholic Church, the Anglican Episcopal Church, the Scotch Presbyterian Church, and so on. Yet, with regard to the Armenian Church, no term has been hit upon which in in keeping with her doctrinal denomination. The Armenians make use of the ethnographic name of the Armenian Church (Hay Ekeghetzi), or the Church of Armenia or of the Armenians (Hayastaniatz or Hayotz Ekeghetzi). The terms holy (soorb), apostolic (arakelakan), orthodox (ooghapar), and other similar expressions which are usually current, have in fact no official authorization.
Its doctrinal appellation dates from the Russian occupation, when the government of the tsar resolved to impose a particular regulation. It was then considered necessary to apply a more specific identification to the name of the Church, as her ethnographic description alone appeared insuffiecient. It was at this period that the word Loosavorchakan, which literally means Illuminatorian, was placed in front to signify the Church’s denomination, an expression which has, by analogy, been rendered by the term Gregorian, the name of St. Gregory the Illuminator. It is on this principle that the designation Armeno-Gregorian Church has been recorded in the Russian polojenia of 1836. It will be found to appear thus in the transaction of the synod of Etchmiadzin.
However, this nomenclature has not been welcomed by Armenian public opinion. Adherence to it tends to remove from the Church its apostolic character, giving it instead merely that of a Church founded in the fourth century. The Roman Catholics, who claim to consider St. Grigor Loosavorich an adherent of Rome, also repudiate the title, but on other grounds. The scruples forbid them to allow to a Church which is held by them to be schismatic the name of a Roman Catholic. They have, therefore, fashioned for their own use the name of Etchmiadznakan, which they have derived from the supreme see of Etchmiadzin. However, as will be readily believed this appellation has found favor neither among the faithful of the Armenian Church, nor with foreign authors.
But, after all, seeing that so much stress is laid on the need of a doctrinal designation, could not that of Ooghapar (Orthodox) Church be adopted, which would at least have the merit of corresponding with the Greek title ofo Orthodox Churchc, and that of the Pravoslave Church in Russian? While quite maintaining the similarity, it would, we should think, have the further merit, by the adoption of a name derived from its own language by each of the Churches, of characterizing the distinction between them. Such a course presents, besides, nothing of an arbitrary nature, since it has already been resorted to in the Almanach de Gotha (1890, p. 949, and 1891, p. 1012).
Finally, it would be in no way an innovation, because the custom of retaining names belonging to nations, with their own peculiar pronunciation, without resorting to translation, is more common than one would suppose. In this way a mass of designations of Hebrew, Greek, and Arian origin retain their native form with but slight change. We should be complying with this practice if we were to adopt the expression Ooghapar Armenian Church. I would have the double merit of indicating at the same time the special constitution of the national Church, and the bond which connects her with the group of orthodox Eastern Churches.