Roots of Armodoxy: The Connection that Binds
The landscape of Armenia is riddled with ancient Armenian churches, monasteries and chapels. They are recognized uniquely by the cone shaped domes that point toward heaven. If you go around the world, this design is the identifying marker of the Armenian Church. Whether in Argentina, Paris, London, Egypt, Australia, on one of the three countries of North America, wherever this dome is standing, with a cross atop its point, you know that an Armenian Church community is to be found. Each Armenian Church throughout the world is connected to all the others through an invisible threat that unites them at their foundation. Christ is at foundation, and the thread that ties them together is the Apostolic Tradition, that is, the Scriptures, the customs, and the methods that facilitate the mission.
Buildings from antiquity, particularly religious buildings, have an element of mystery attached to them and with that mystery comes wonder. We are first intrigued by the size and nature of the structure. We question the how – how were these stones placed on atop the other, without the use of machinery? How is the dome supported atop these arches? Next we are intrigued by the ornaments, and the weathering they have endured during difficulties. How did the etchings and carvings reach such perfection with primitive tools? How have they survived natural and man-made disasters?
But if you dare to see the connection between all the Armenian Churches throughout the world, you start understanding that each time and age had their challenges that have been overcome through unwavering faith in the Foundation, Jesus Christ. In fact, most of the Armenian Churches in the diaspora were built in the aftermath of the Genocide. People who had every reason to complain, instead came together and validated their faith in Jesus Christ as their only hope for life. If you dare to see this connection, then you can walk into any Armenian Church in the world, even the newest, and find the mysteries that unite us.
Many years ago, while on vacation in the Southwest, my wife and I found ourselves in Albuquerque, New Mexico on a Sunday morning. There was no Armenian Church in town, and we went into the local Roman Catholic Church for mass. We attended and were truly renewed and invigorated after the service. It was one of the most meaningful celebrations of the Divine Liturgy we had ever experienced. And then it hit us! We had gone in to pray and celebrate the Eucharist. That was it. We didn’t know the background stories of the parish, nor did we know members of the parish council. Unlike our experience of running a parish, in this case we were not exposed to the day-to-day workings of the parish.
It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt. We might suggest that the opposite is also true, that unfamiliarity promotes admiration. Going into these ancient monasteries in Armenia should be no different that walking into your local church, but it is. The challenge is to find the foundation and the thread that ties them all together. It’s the challenge that will guarantee the harmony that we seek in our lives.
In the capital city of Armenia, Yerevan, the world’s largest Cathedral stands atop a hill next to a statue of St. Vartan the Brave. This Cathedral, named after St. Gregory the Illuminator, is one of the newest construction in Armenia. It was dedicated in 2001, on the 1700th anniversary of Christianity in Armenia. The modernism doesn’t detract from the mystery and wonder. A group of us went for Sunday worship, and found the thread that connected us. It’s there and the Foundation was firm.
We pray, Lord Jesus, open the door of your Church to me, and open my heart to understand the essence of the Church in Your presence within those doors. Whether in Armenia on any of the other continents, or even virtually, may I find the wonder and beauty that has been placed there from the beginning of time and proclaimed at your Birth: Peace on Earth and Good will toward one another. Amen.