Liturgy Sacraments and Music


The Armenian Patarag (offering) is the most important expression of the Church's faith and identity. P'awstos Buzand in his History describes the liturgy as 'drink[ing] from the vivifying cup of salvation in the hope of the Resurrection, that is to say of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ'. Armenian church fathers call the Divine Liturgy Khorhurd Khorin (mystery profound).

An exhaustive study of the Armenian rite, with critical texts and commentary are contained in Y. Gat'rjean's Srbazan Pataragamatoyts Hayots. This volume contains translations of the following liturgies: (1) the Liturgy of St Basil, in the oldest Armenian version; (2) the Liturgy of St Basil in a later version; (3) the Liturgy of the Armenians (under this latter title are: (a) the Anaphora of St Sahak, (b) of St Gregory of Nazianzus, (c) of St Cyril of Alexandria, and (d) fragments of a liturgy ascribed to St John Chrysostom; (4) Mass of the Catechumens; (5) the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom; (6) the Anaphora of St Ignatius; (7) the Liturgy of the Presanctified; (8) the Liturgy of St James; (9) the Liturgy of the Romans; and (10) the Liturgy of the Armenians from the eleventh century to the present. The availability of the above listed liturgies in Armenian contributed to the final shape of the only liturgy celebrated today in the Armenian Church.

Some features of the Armenian liturgy reflect what is called the Jerusalem rite. Between 397 and 431, the Jerusalem rite of the Liturgy of St James was adopted by the Church of Antioch, with which the Armenian Church has always been in close contact. The few changes made in the Armenian liturgy in the tenth century are almost all from the Byzantine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. And finally, during the crusades, from the twelfth to the fourteenth century, the Latin presence in Asia Minor also left its traces on the liturgical uses in Armenia. The Armenian liturgy as it is used today took its final form sometime after the year 950 but before 1177, the date when Nerses Lambronatsi wrote his commentary on the liturgy.

From the seventh century, in the Divine Liturgy unleavened bread and unmixed wine is used, as the canons of the Council of Karin (692) indicate. In place of the doctrines of consubstantiation and transubstantiation, the word used in the Armenian liturgy for the changing of the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Christ is 'transposition' (p'okharkel'). This word shows that material elements as such remain the same in every respect except that they receive a new function and a new power. In the Prayer of the Epiclesis, the words used in the blessing of the bread are 'make it truly the body of our Lord', over the cup, 'make it verily the blood of our Lord', and over the bread and the wine 'make them truly the body and blood of our Lord' (repeated thrice). The communion bread is placed into the mouth of the faithful in the form of the consecrated bread dipped in the wine. The priest can celebrate only one liturgy a day, and only one liturgy can be celebrated each day on the same altar.

Those who do not partake of the sacrament receive mas, blessed thin unleavened bread (Greek antidoron) at the end of the liturgy. It is also taken by the worshippers to the members of their household who have not been able to attend the church. The person giving the mas says 'May this be to thee a share and a portion from the holy Sacrifice.' The person receiving replies 'God is my portion for ever.'

The principal Commentaries on the Armenian Liturgy are those by Khosrov Andze-watsi (c.900-63) (Venice, 1869; English trans. New York, 1991); Nerses Lambronatsi (1153-98) (Jerusalem, 1842; Venice, 1847; Italian trans. Venice, 1851, French trans. 2000), and Yovhannes Archishetsi (1260-1330) (Ejmiadsin, 1860).

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