On top of the hierarchy of the Armenian Church is the Catholicos. While receiving the grace of ordination, Holy Spirit, he receives the power to pass it on to the bishops, who in turn pass it on to the ordination of priests, and the latter – the people.
Thus, the hierarchy of the Armenian Church includes three main power of the priesthood, whose representatives through ordination and chrism (anointing) receive the grace of the Holy Spirit and the power to pass it on to others.
The priest is the main level of the hierarchical system.
The duty of the priest is ministry, that is, care for the spiritual revival of the people, the spiritual education of believers, as well as the sacraments and worship.
The priest receives priesthood authority from the bishop through the laying on of hands and anointing.
In the Armenian Church, as in the Orthodox one, there are both married and unmarried priests. In order to become a priest, the elect must be married at least a year and have a son. The priest, a widower can take monastic vows or get married for the second time, according to the Catholicos Gevorg V (1911-1930).
Monk (celibate priest) the same day after ordination takes a vow of celibacy and wears “vsgar” (a special headdress – Hood) as a symbol of renunciation of the world.
Married priests can reach the rank of archpriest.
Bishop is the highest level of church hierarchy. Bishopric personifies the unity of the Church. Bishop is the head and spiritual leader of all the churches of a politico-geographical region (diocese). Bishop has the right of ordination and consecration of the anointing of priests and temples.
In the Armenian Church, bishop is ordained and takes chrism from the Catholicos. During the episcopal ordination Bishop receives a rod and a ring as a sign of power. Bishops are elected from among the celibate clergy, having a degree of Archimandrite.
Particularly outstanding bishops can get the honorary title of archbishop.
In contrast to the Orthodox Churches in the hierarchy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the head of the Church – Catholicos – is a step up from the bishops. He takes the chrism and the laying on of hands by 12 bishops.
Catholicos is the centralized authority of the Armenian Church. He is the chief legislator and chief judge. His responsibility includes the ordination of bishops, the consecration of St. Peace, blessings of the new laws and new holidays, the foundation of new dioceses, etc.
Catholicos is elected by the Church and the National Cathedral for life.
In the Armenian Church there are also two lower ranks.
Reader (dpir) – currently a reader combines the responsibilities of various ministers of the ancient church: the sacristan, sexton, sacristan, lamplighter.
Deacon is elected from among readers and was ordained a deacon. His responsibility is to help the priest, and during worship, and in his pastoral work.
Degrees of the Armenian Church
Armenian Church assigns its servants two levels of learning:
1. Archimandrite (vardapet) – corresponds to the degree of Candidate of Sciences,
2. proto-archimandrite (tsayraguyn vardapet) – corresponds to the degree of Doctor of Science.
Degrees are awarded only to celibate clergy. Degree awarding powers have only those bishops who have the title of supreme Archimandrite.
When academic degree is awarded to Archimandrite rod with a two-headed snake, it symbolizes wisdom and gives him authority to teach and preach.
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