|Sharing the Inextinguishable ~ Light of Christ ~ Maintained by the Eastern Churches
|The St. Gregory the Illuminator Institute
|The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat
in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned... (St. Matthew 4:16)
|St. Gregory the Illuminator
of Armenia ~AD 301~
The first Christian Nation
|Eastern Christians maintain ancient expressions of the Christian faith. Armenians, for example, have a recorded
history of over three thousand years and are the bearers of an ethnic and cultural patrimony which distinguishes them as
one of the most ancient, continuous people in the world. Armenia's majestic Mount Ararat is the place where Noah's
Ark rested, making this historic homeland in eastern Anatolia a cradle of civilization. But more important than these
is the fact that after two centuries of intense persecution upon those who adhered to the faith brought there by the
Apostles Thaddaeus & Bartholomew, Armenia became the first nation on earth to "turn to God from idols, to serve the
living and true God." This definitive conversion of the nation, in A.D. 301, was accomplished through the preaching &
sufferings of Saint Gregory the Illuminator who established the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in Armenia.
This pattern of evangelization, conversion and Apostolic Succession has been repeated in each of the Orthodox and
Catholic Churches down to our day. Peter first went to Antioch and Paul evangelized throughout the Near East.
Matthew went to Syria, Mark to Egypt, Philip to Asia Minor and John went to Ephesus. Thomas went all the way to
India before meeting his martyrdom. Finally Peter and Paul both went to Rome and were martyred. St. Andrew the
Apostle, brother of Peter, preached in Scythia, Asia Minor and Greece and was crucified in Achaia. Therefore, he is
considered the patron and founder of the Church of Constantinople. Several centuries later in the 9th century, his
successor as Patriarch of Constantinople, St. Photius the Great, sent Sts. Cyril and Methodius as "Apostles to the
Slavs." Eventually some of these Slavic peoples of the Carpatho-Russyn, Hungarian and Croatian traditions
immigrated to America bringing with them the Byzantine Catholic Church. Today this autonomous (self-governing)
Church has its own American hierarchy, headed by the Metropolitan of Pittsburgh, and is the only Eastern Catholic
Church in America which is not dependent upon a foreign hierarch. Descending from the Ruthenian tradition, the
Church is now comprised of Americans from various ethnic backgrounds and its services are typically entirely in
English. These distinctive qualities place the Byzantine Catholic Church in an unique position among Eastern Catholics
as becoming an indigenous expression of Byzantine Christianity in America, providing a firm foundation to reach our
nation with the richness of the Eastern Christianity.
The Apostolic Authority given by Christ to His Apostles was passed on through Sts. Thaddaeus and Bartholomew to
their chosen successors, the first bishops of Armenia -and ultimately to the first Catholicos, St. Gregory the Illuminator.
Today one of his successors, Catholicos-Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX, maintains full communion with Pope Francis of
Rome. Thus there are three Armenian canonical jurisdictions in the U.S.A.: the Diocese, the Prelacy and the Eparchy
(which is one of the autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches). As one of the successors of St. Andrew the Apostle,
Metropolitan Archbishop William of the Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan See of Pittsburgh also maintains full
communion with Pope Francis of Rome. The Orthodox counterpart to this Church is the Orthodox Church of
America. Together, with the other historic Orthodox and Catholic Churches, we comprise the One Holy Catholic and
Apostolic Church of our God and Savior Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:4-6).
Today western influences have greatly impacted the Eastern Churches and people. Many Christians in western
society are sophisticated in everything except knowledge of their faith and, as a result, are easily swayed by the
opinions of the world. Others study our Church and Tradition like an artifact in a museum or a specimen in a science
lab. But unless our Orthodox faith, liturgy, hymns, feasts and fasts are internalized in our hearts and actualized in our
lives, they do us no good. As Eastern Christians, our faith and liturgy must impact and be a meaningful part of our daily
lives. Today many have lost, drifted away from, or abandoned the Holy Faith which the Apostles once preached,
turning back again to the idols of this world: materialism, secularism and even atheism.
We need a New Evangelization to bring about a New Illumination for people to, once again, turn from the
darkness of ignorance to the light of the knowledge of God. To accomplish this we must return to the original source
of our faith: Jesus Christ -the same Christ preached by the Apostles, St. Gregory the Illuminator and the Church
Fathers. This "once for all delivered faith" was entrusted to the Church which Christ established (St. Mt. 16:16-18)
and does not change (Jude 1:3, Heb 13:8). St. Cyprian of Carthage once wrote: "No one can have God for his
Father, who does not have the Church for his mother." And St. Paul the Apostle states the Church is the “pillar and
foundation of truth” (1 Tm 3:15). Just as St. Gregory brought the Gospel to the Armenians and Sts. Cyril and
Methodius brought it to the Slavs, today Byzantine Catholics are called to share the Gospel with fellow Americans.
Mission Statement: The St. Gregory the Illuminator Institute Website is meant to contribute to the above
stated mission. Its goal is to be a multi-faceted, bi-ritual, ecumenical website which provides valuable information for
those interested in learning more about the ancient Orthodox Faith. It relates some of the great history and ecclesial
tradition of the Armenian and Byzantine Churches, it presents the Orthodox theological tradition of the Christian East
and manifests the Eastern Catholic ideal of maintaining our historic Orthodox tradition within the Catholic communion.
|The following pages
are for your perusal:
|The web-servant, Rev. Sub-Deacon Lazarus W. Der-Ghazarian, M.A., was ordained
in the Armenian Orthodox Church (Eastern Diocese) and now is a member
of the Byzantine Catholic Church - Eparchy of Parma and serves
at St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church in Clinton Twp., MI.
Thank you for visiting.
|St. Thaddaeus the Apostle
One of the 1st Illuminators
of Armenia: Martyred c. AD 50
|St. Bartholomew the Apostle
One of the 1st Illuminators
of Armenia: Martyred c. AD 68
|This is a personal web-site. The views expressed herein are those of the authors. To the best of my knowledge
they are in full accord with authentic Holy Tradition and the Orthodox Faith of the Catholic Church.
You may contact me with any questions or concerns (St. Mt. 18:15-17).
Website Copyright 2001-2018
Carving of the
|"As for us, we shall glorify Him who was before the ages, worshipping the All-Holy Trinity and one Godhead,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and always and unto the ages of ages. Amen."
-The words of St. Gregory the Illuminator upon his acceptance of the 1st Ecumenical Council
|Holy Icons of those who first brought
Christ's Light to the Armenian people.
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