Armodoxy for Today: No Bible Today
Today begins the Fast of the Catechumens. This four day period is unique to the Armenian Church. It takes place a few weeks before Great Lent and offers an opportunity for purification, by restricting diet to bread and salt.
There are no Biblical passages assigned to the four days of the Fast of the Catechumens. The Lectionary is a list or book of portions of the Bible appointed to be read at church services. Every day of the year is assigned with Bible readings that pertain to that day. For instance, the lectionary for Easter includes a narrative of the Resurrection from the Gospel accounts. These four days of the Fast of the Catechumens are the only days with no lectionary assignment, which begs the question, how can you have a Church without a Bible? Actually, the more correct question is, how can you have a Bible without a Church?
We have been conditioned to believe that the Bible is a book that was handed down to us by God. With the Protestant reformation came the proclamation that the Bible alone is the final authority on all matters of belief and practice. And so, hearing that the Church is the seat of authority in Christianity seems against religious conventions for many outside Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions.
The truth is that the Bible was not given to us by God. God gave us something much greater than the Bible. He gave is His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Even Christ, did not give us the Bible. He did not write anything that we know of, nor did he hand down a book to his disciples. More important, He gave us His Body, the Holy Church and he said with his words which cannot lie “The gates of Hell will not prevail against it!” (Matthew 16:18). It was in turn that the Church produced the Bible, and that Bible was meant as a tool for the Church to evangelize and teach the catechumens. (A catechumen is a recent convert to Christianity who is under instruction before baptism.)
A quick look at history will lend more to the puzzle of which came first, the Bible or the Church? At the time of Jesus there was no Bible. At his Crucifixion, there was no Bible. At his Resurrection, there was no Bible. The Bible as we know it was finalized by the Church, with the different books in the 5th century. For five centuries, the Church existed and led the Christian community without a Bible.
The authority of the Church is singular: Jesus Christ. The ascription of “Apostolic” to the Holy Church means that it is in direct succession with the Holy Apostles who were commissioned by Jesus Christ himself. The Holy Bible has a unique place in the Armenian Church and referred to as the “Breath of God.”
These next few days, we will journey through the Fast of the Catechumens to learn closer the beauty of the Christ and the Christian faith.
We pray, a prayer of the Catechumens, “O Lord our God, who dwells in the heavens, and looks down upon all Your works, look down upon Your servants, the catechumens, and us, who have bowed our necks before You, and grant us a light yoke. Amen.”