Customs & Traditions of the Armenian Apostolic Church
Customs & Traditions of the Armenian Apostolic Church
How to Address the Clergy
Greeting a Celibate Priest (Catholicos/Bishop/Vartabed)
“Asdvadz Oknagan, Vehapar Der (or) Srbazan Hayr (or) Hayr Soorp” (God be your Helper)
The Priest’s reply will be “Asdvadz Bahaban” (God Be Your Protector)
This is followed by kissing the Catholicos’ or Bishop’s offical seal of office as worn in the form of a ring on the left hand. This signifies your acknowledgement of the high office held.
Greeting a Married Priest
“Ornya Der” (Bless me Father)
The Priest’s reply will be “Asdvadz orhneh kez” (May God bless you)
Attendance at the Church Service
The Divine Liturgy or Holy Mass (Soorp Badarak), which is the main service in our Church on Sundays, starts at 10:30am and at 10:00am on Major Feast Days (Tabernacle Days)
It is the principal worship service of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the most important expression of the Church’s (the community of believers’) faith and identity.
General Manners and Dress Etiquette in Church
- Turning off mobile phones before entering
- ️ Not talking during the Church service
- Not crossing legs while seated. Feet should be on the floor, ready to stand at attention (which is what “Let us attend/ broskhoomeh” means)
- Not stretching arms on pews or placing hands in pockets or behind your back
- Arriving on time, otherwise entering discreetly
- It is improper to leave before the conclusion of Holy Mass
- When you are entering Church
- When the Holy Trinity is mentioned
- When one Person of the Holy Trinity is mentioned
- When the celebrant makes the sign of the cross on the faithful
- When the celebrant or the deacon censers the faithful
- When the Deacon intones “Asdoodzo yergirbakestsook”
- Whenever the faithful feel like crossing themselves
- When you are exiting the Church
One of the devotional practices of the Armenian Church is the beautiful custom of burning candles in front of the holy pictures. While making the sign of the cross, you say a short prayer for you and your dear ones, then take your place. Lighting one candle has the same significance as lighting ten. Donations for candles are an expression of appreciation for God’s blessings and grace.
Taking Your Place on Entering the Church
When you take your place in the pews you should bow down your head slightly, make the sign of the cross and inaudibly say The Lords Prayer. You are now ready to partake in the service.
Times to wait before entering to sit on a pew are when:
- The Gospel is being read on the bema (khoran)
- The Nicene Creed (Havadamk) is in progress
- The Choir is singing the “Sanctus” (Soorp, Soorp), “One is Holy, One is Lord” (Miayn Soorp, Miayn Der) or “Lord Have Mercy” (Der Voghormia)
- The Priest is saying the word of institution, “Take, eat; this is My Body” (Arek, gerek, ays eh marmin eem)
- The sermon is being given
Standing, Sitting, Kneeling and Bowing Down
It is traditional to stand during the whole service if you wish.
If not, follow the clergy or markings in the Liturgy books to know when it is appropriate to stand, sit or kneel.
During the Divine Liturgy the direction to “bow down” is always given by the Deacon with the words, “Asdoodzo yergirbakestsook” (Let us bow down to God). Bow your head or waist and cross yourself.
During the Censing when the Celebrant Priest walks among the people in Procession
The faithful say to the Celebrant Priest “Heeshescheer yev zees arachee anmah kareenun Asdoudzoh” (Remember me also before the immortal lamb of God).
The Celebrant Priest replies “Heeshyal leecheer aracheer anmah kareenun Asdoudzoh” (May you be remembered before the immortal lamb of God).
Salutation or Kiss of Peace
St Paul routinely directed the members of the Christian church to “greet one another with a holy kiss” as a visible sign of unity and common vision of love in Jesus Christ. A ritualised greeting of peace and reconciliation is found in the Eucharist of all ancient churches and is known as the “Salutation” or “Kiss of Peace”.
To receive the salutation from the priest giving the ‘Greeting’, you simply kiss his hand. If a layman is giving it to you, he will incline his head first to your right and then to your left with his right hand on his heart giving the proper salutation below. You respond accordingly. Then in turn, you repeat the same head action to the person next to you with right hand on your heart passing on the greeting as it was done to you. The salutation passes on throughout the church in this manner until everybody in the church receives it.
While giving the salutation you say “Krisdos ee mech mer haydnetzav” (Christ is revealed amongst us).
The receiver answers “Orhnyal eh haynootyoonun Krisdosi” (Blessed is the revelation of Christ).
By this symbolic act the whole congregation is bound first by its own mystical Head, Christ, and then with one another in one sacred bond of love. Not to take or give the salutation is bad manners in the church.
Taking Holy Communion
Holy Communion is a sacrament by which the believer receives Christ’s Body and Blood in the form of bread and wine for remission of sins and the reception of eternal life. It is offered to the faithful during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
Any baptised member of the Armenian Church can receive Holy Communion.
It is up to the individual to decide how often he/she is ready and willing to take Holy Communion.
Those who wish to receive Holy Communion normally prepare themselves by prayer and by fasting from all food and drink on the morning before receiving the sacrament. This is the ideal toward which all should strive. However, if a person has not been able to fast for health reasons, but earnestly desires to receive Holy Communion, he/she should not hesitate to approach the chalice and to receive the sacrament
Spend time before church and during the confession recitation to prayerfully reflect on how you have fallen short in the ways enumerated. Commit yourself to working actively to “sin no more.”
Before Holy Communion is distributed, communicants are called forward before the priest and making the sign of the cross they kneel/stand before him for general confession and absolution. As a prepared examination of conscience is read, communicants respond with “Megha Asdoodzo” (I have sinned against God). Then the priest, not by his authority but by the “very word” of Jesus Christ, absolves the sins of all who made the confession.
When taking Holy Communion:
- Communicants should make their way before the Altar with contemplative reverence
- Ladies should ensure their heads are covered and any lip colour removed
- Make the sign of the cross
Sharing in the Holy Bread (Mas)
Nearing the end of the Divine Liturgy the holy bread or “Mas” is distributed among the congregation. “Mas” means share or portion. When you take a piece of “Mas” you kiss it and eat it making the sign of the cross. It is custom to take a small portion of “Mas” home to those members of the family who were desirous to come to church but were unable to do so.
Taking “Mas” does not mean taking Holy Communion. It is sharing in a fellowship meal and is a sign of Christian charity and spiritual kinship.
When we participate in the Divine Liturgy and take Holy Communion, we are united with Christ by receiving His Body and Blood. Therefore the “Mas” offered to the congregation is intended for those who but did not partake in the holy sacrament.
At the Conclusion of the Divine Liturgy
The faithful kiss the Gospel and say to the Celebrant Priest “Heeshetseh Der zamenayn badarakus ko” (May the Lord remember all your sacrifices).
The Celebrant Priest replies “Datseh kez usd srdeet koom” (May the Lord grant the petitions of your heart”.
Exiting the Church
Your departure from church should be as reverent and as orderly as your entrance. Before exiting the Church turn toward the Altar, make the sign of the cross and depart from God’s house.
In the Armenian Church when the service concludes, the officiating clergy holds the Gospel for congregation members to approach and receive his personal blessings before leaving the church.