Ordinals

The Ordinal contains the ordination rites for the three major orders: deacon, priest and bishop. Similarly to the minor orders of the Latin rite, the Armenian Church has the orders doorkeeper, lector, exorcist, acolyte and subdeacon. Preceding these five there are also two 'offices' of psalmist and sweeper. There are both married and celibate priests in the Armenian Church. Various titles of honour are conferred on clergy in major orders. The degrees of vardapet (doctor, teacher) are Dsayragoyn vardapet (eminent teacher) and avag (senior = arch).

In Armenian literature there are also references to the deaconess as 'female worshipper or virgin servant active in church and superior of a nunnery'. Direct literary references to deaconesses begin in the twelfth century. Mkhitar Gosh, in his Book of Canons (1184), says 'There are also women ordained deacon who are styled deaconess to preach to women and read the gospel to obviate a man entering the convent.' Step'anos Orbelian, Primate of Siunik', in his History (1299), mentions that 'There are some women who become deaconesses to preach in nunneries . . .' In the seventeenth century the Armenian St Catherine's nunnery in New Julfa (Iran), founded in 1623, and St Stephen's nunnery in Tiflis had the custom of ordaining deaconesses. The Galfayian sisterhood, founded in 1866 in Istanbul fundamentally for the purpose of caring for orphans, is significant in that all its members were deaconesses, and the abbess a proto-deaconess. The nunnery's first abbess was ordained a deaconess by Patriarch Mesrop Naroian in 1932. The abbess ordained by Patriarch Shnork' Galus-tian in 1982 was, in 1990, invited to Lebanon by the Catholicate of Cilicia to found a new sisterhood. In June 1991 the monastic veil was bestowed upon the first candidate, K'narik Gayp'akian, in the cathedral at Antelias, and she was appointed abbess to the Armenian sisterhood. Accordingly the Armenian sisterhood of the Companions of St Gayane has been created next to the 'Birds Nest' orphanage at Jibeyl (Lebanon).

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