|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 very ancient expressions of the Christian faith. Armenians 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 Holy Apostles
Thaddaeus and 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 and
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 all the ancient Orthodox and
Catholic Churches down to our day, even here in America. Peter was the first bishop of Antioch and Paul evangelized
throughout the Near East. Matthew went to Syria, Mark to Egypt, Philip to Asia Minor, John to Ephesus and 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. He is therefore considered the patron and founder of the Church of Constantinople. Several centuries later in
the 9th century, St. Andrew's successor as Patriarch of Constantinople, St. Photius the Great, sent Sts. Cyril and
Methodius to be Apostles to the Slavs. Eventually some of these Slavic peoples of the Carpatho-Russyn tradition
immigrated to America and founded here 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 on a foreign, non-American hierarch. This Church is 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 to be an indigenous expression of Byzantine Christianity in
America and provide a firm foundation to reach our nation and culture with the richness of the Eastern Christianity.
Just as 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 a successor 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 turn, once again, from darkness to
the light of the knowledge of God. To accomplish this we must return to the very 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" does not change (Jude 1:3, Heb 13:8) and was entrusted to the Holy Church which Jesus Christ
established (St. Mt. 16:16-18). As the Church Father, St. Cyprian of Carthage once wrote: "No one can have God
for his Father, who does not have the Church for his mother." St. Paul the Apostle also proclaimed, 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 must bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to America.
Mission Statement: The St. Gregory the Illuminator Institute Website is meant, in some small way, to
contribute to the above stated mission. Its goal is to be a multi-faceted ecumenical website which provides valuable
information for those interested in learning more about the ancient Orthodox faith. Its purpose is threefold: It relates
some of the great history and ecclesiastical tradition of the Armenian and Byzantine Churches, it presents the Orthodox
theological tradition of the Christian East and it 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 serves
the Byzantine Catholic Church Eparchy of Parma
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 2001-2016
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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