Hi, future convert

Anastasia1

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Hi everyone

I am I guess attending an Armenian Orthodox Church and thought I would go ahead and join. I was Lutheran for most of my life. I am coming from a more recent more protestant church experience with study of Catholicism and I understand a bit about the christology although I am not . Can you give me some advice about converting? How long does it take to be official? What church fathers should I read? How much do I need to know before I am officially part of the church?

Thank you
 

CoptoGeek

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Welcome to the forum, Anastasia1!

We have some wonderful Armenian people here that I'm sure will answer your questions.
 

PSFam

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Hi Anastasia 1,

All I can help is with a suggestion of what church fathers to read. As for the others questions there are others here better qualified o answer. Though presumable you are working with a member of the clergy to prepare yourself for entrance into the church, they would be ultimately the ideal source for answers.

In terms of what church fathers you should read.  I happened to be talking with the dean of our (Coptic) theological seminary, he came up with this survey of 13+ works that every christian should read. It is a survey that covers works from the first to fifth centuries of Christian and covers a wide range of topics from dogma, doctrine, ethics, apologetics, christian living and worship. Some works are short some are really long.  Enjoy be edified (some have public domain audiobook versions to which I provided links, as well).


1.  7 Letters of St Ignatius (Theophorus) of Antioch

2.  Epistle to the Corinthians by St. Clement of Rome  link to audio version

3.  Dialogue with Trypho the Jew by St. Justin Martyr

4.  On Prayer by Origen link to audio version

5.  Pedaegogus (aka The Instructor or Christ the Educator) by St. Clement of Alexandria

6.  Life of Cyprian of Carthage by Pontius the Deacon
6a.  On the Lord's Prayer (aka Treatise IV) by St. Cyprian link to audio version

7. On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius  link to audio version

8.  On the Unity of Christ by St. Cyril of Alexandria

9.  On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil the Great

10. Life of Macrina by St. Gregory of Nyssa  link to audio version

11. 5 Theological Orations (aka Orations 27-31) of St. Gregory Nazianzus
Oration 1  Oration 2    Oration 3    Oration 4    Oration 5

12. 24 Catechetical or Mystagogical Lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem link to audio version

13. Life of Antony by St. Athanasius (credited by St. Augustine for his conversion)  link to audio version
 

AntoniousNikolas

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Hi Anastasia,

Welcome home to the Orthodox Church!  :)

As I'm sure you know, the Armenian Orthodox (Apostolic) Church is one of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, which means she shares the same Miaphysite Faith as the Syriac, Ethiopian, Coptic, Indian, and Eritrean Churches.

I'm not Armenian, I'm Coptic, but we share the same Faith and my wife and I visit the Armenian Church in our neighborhood and receive Holy Communion every couple of months or so.  Especially when they're having some kind of festival and there's khorovadz and eetch to be had.  ;D

Here is a link to a website with a basic catechism of the Armenian Orthodox Church.  It answers a lot of basic questions about the Church and the Faith.  It should be very helpful for you:

http://www.armenianorthodoxchurch.org/v07/doc%20catechism/main.htm

I understand a bit about the christology
Basically, what you need to know is that the Armenian Church sticks to the formula of St. Cyril of Alexandria mia physis tou Theo Logou sesarkomene, which means One (Composite) Nature of God the Incarnate Word.  This means that we believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ has one united nature, both fully human and fully Divine.  So we are not "monophysites" and those who call us such are either misinformed or liars.

If you want to know more, there's more in the catechism I linked to, and some good books on the subject are The Council of Chalcedon and the Armenian Church by His Holiness Karekin I and The Council of Chalcedon Re-Examined by Fr. V.C. Samuel.  Those are pretty invovled and academic though, so if you want something a little shorter and more straightforward to get started with, I'd recommend The Nature of Christ by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, which is available online here:

http://www.copticchurch.net/topics/theology/nature_of_christ.pdf

Can you give me some advice about converting?
1.) Build a life of prayer and seek God's will.

2.) Find a priest you're comfortable with so they can guide you on your journey.

3.) Attend the badarak and other services as much as possible.

4.) Study and learn all you can.  I'm a history and theology geek, and my wife and I kinda went through this whole process ourselves, so you can feel free to ask me anything at any time, and if I can help, I will.

How long does it take to be official?
There's no set period of time.  It's all about when your father of confession (the priest who's guiding you) feels your spiritually ready and have learned all the basics.  It's usually somewhere between six months and one year, but for some people, it can be a lot shorter.  I've seen people received into the Church after just a couple of months because the priest knew that had been studying and praying and preparing themselves for a long time beforehand, and he judged them to be ready.

Here's a good description of the process from another Orthodox Church:

Adults wishing to enter the communion of the Church go through three stages that can be compared to getting married. At the inquirer stage, one enters into a "dating" relationship with the Church. When one's inquiries satisfies one that the Orthodox Church is who she claims to be - the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, the body of Christ, the fullness of him who is all in all - one is welcome to become a catechumen. Becoming a catechumen is like getting engaged. At this stage, one learns not only about Orthodoxy but how to be Orthodox, how to live according to the Orthodox way. One is gently guided in the ascetic and moral disciplines of the Church. When one feels ready to die to the world in order to live for Christ in his holy Church, one is ready to be married to Christ by becoming a member of his bride, the Church, through Holy Baptism and/or Chrismation.

http://www.sthermanmpls.org/catechumenate.html

What church fathers should I read?
You don't want to overwhelm yourself at first.  Start slow, and make sure you really absorb what you're reading.  The Fathers are deep, so if you try to absorb too much too fast, you could burn yourself out.  I would recommend St. Cyril of Alexandria One the Unity of Christ and St. Athanasius On the Incarnation for starters.

How much do I need to know before I am officially part of the church
It's not a matter of how much you need to know before you're received.  We're all still learning, even after we're in.  It's a growing process.  But basically, if you have a handle on the stuff in the catechism, you're in good shape.

I hope this helps!  Please let me know if there's anything else I can help with at any time.  My wife was from a Protestant background, and we were received into the Coptic Orthodox Church together at the same time, so we went down the same road you're walking now.  Shoot me a pm anytime, or ask here in the forum.

Take care, God bless, and welcome home!  :)

Nick
 

Salpy

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Welcome to the forum, and welcome back to the Mother Church!  :)

For some basic reading about the Armenian Church and guides for the liturgy, these are good books:

http://www.stvartanbookstore.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=5169

http://www.stvartanbookstore.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=4710

http://www.stvartanbookstore.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=4758

You can look around the website of the St. Vartan bookstore to see what else they have.

http://www.stvartanbookstore.com/

A good devotional prayer that has been used by the Armenian faithful for a thousand years is "I  Confess with Faith," by St. Nerses Shnorhali:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,13200.msg199055.html#msg199055

http://www.lusamut.net/English/nerses-the-gracious.htm

If you want it in the form of a little prayer book, you can call or e-mail St. Vartan bookstore, and they probably will have one for you.

Regarding how long it takes to officially convert, that is up to your priest.  Don't be afraid to talk to him about this.  I'm sure he'll be very happy about your desire to convert.  :)
 

deusveritasest

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I am curious, why did you decide to go to an Armenian Apostolic church?
 

Anastasia1

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deusveritasest said:
I am curious, why did you decide to go to an Armenian Apostolic church?
I'm Armenian. I have always had an interest in non-protestant theology. I like the Orthodox approach better than the Catholic-it seems more natural. Miaphysitism does sort of make sense. It's the nearest Armenian community outside of the school I graduated from and it is interesting to have more contact with that part of my heritage. Because of my recent increased interest in Armenian stuff and desire to learn the language, it is easier to tell my mom that I am going to the Armenian church than to the Coptic church.
 

deusveritasest

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Anastasia1 said:
deusveritasest said:
I am curious, why did you decide to go to an Armenian Apostolic church?
I'm Armenian. I have always had an interest in non-protestant theology. I like the Orthodox approach better than the Catholic-it seems more natural. Miaphysitism does sort of make sense. It's the nearest Armenian community outside of the school I graduated from and it is interesting to have more contact with that part of my heritage. Because of my recent increased interest in Armenian stuff and desire to learn the language, it is easier to tell my mom that I am going to the Armenian church than to the Coptic church.
Ah! I didn't realize beforehand that you were Armenian. This makes much more sense now.
 

Anastasia1

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Sorry, I just realized I had a reply here.

I am partly Armenian, but fully proud of it.  I don't yet speak the languange though.

By Messianic, do you mean my jurisdiction listing? I attend services and Bible studies at a Messianic synagogue. They are liberal on required theology, trinitarian, and gospel-preaching. We even have a Hebrew Catholic who attends.
 

Salpy

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Is there a Bible study at the Armenian church near you?  You may want to attend that one if you are really interested in learning more about the Armenian Church.
 

Anastasia1

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Salpy said:
Is there a Bible study at the Armenian church near you?  You may want to attend that one if you are really interested in learning more about the Armenian Church.
No Bible study that I know of, but I am in ACYO for what little time I have left in it. It's part of why I have been talking to a lot of Coptic people I met when I was in school as well.  Most Orthodox I meet really know their church history from back in the day. I admire that.
 

Alveus Lacuna

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Welcome to the forum, and I hope this is a blessed journey for you.

As a loving aside, I just want to state that Messianic Judaism is still a form of Protestantism, and if you are serious about the Armenian Church then you would eventually have to stop attending those synagogue services. But in time this should not be difficult, considering that the ancient apostolic churches received almost all of their rituals and liturgical structures from ancient Jewish temple rites. In many ways, the ancient Christian liturgies are more reflective of second temple Judaism than modern Talmudic Judaism.
 

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As for Bible studies, I agree that the Copts are great on that (and that includes the Old Testament). Unfortunately, the Copts near me do their Bible studies only in Arabic. If you have soime in a language you understand, I definitely recommend it. If not, there are two great series on the Bible to download as mp3 on Ancient Faith Radio: "Search the Scriptures" and "Coffee Cup Commentaries".

My own impression of Messianic "Judaism" (from some people I know in there, and occasional visits to services) is that the idea of the founders is to be Baptist, with Jewish ritual. That doesnt always work out in practice though, since the influence of Judaism is so strong, that many lose their faith in Jesus Christ altogether, others accept Jesus as the Christ/messiah, but reject the trinity... it does not seem to lead closer to God, but into confusion.
 

Anastasia1

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Gorazd said:
As for Bible studies, I agree that the Copts are great on that (and that includes the Old Testament). Unfortunately, the Copts near me do their Bible studies only in Arabic. If you have some in a language you understand, I definitely recommend it. If not, there are two great series on the Bible to download as mp3 on Ancient Faith Radio: "Search the Scriptures" and "Coffee Cup Commentaries".

My own impression of Messianic "Judaism" (from some people I know in there, and occasional visits to services) is that the idea of the founders is to be Baptist, with Jewish ritual. That doesnt always work out in practice though, since the influence of Judaism is so strong, that many lose their faith in Jesus Christ altogether, others accept Jesus as the Christ/messiah, but reject the trinity... it does not seem to lead closer to God, but into confusion.
There is Jews for Jesus Messianic and then there is the other sort of Messianic Judaism, which considers itself a form of Judaism. There are many flavors and converts both towards and away from truth, but that is beside the point.

Thank you everyone for the wonderful resources. Great to hear about the Coptic studies. I was thinking of going to one as I can until one of my classes starts.
 

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I know different kinds of "Messianic Jews", and all of them consider themselves a form of Judaism (including J4J). From the non-messianic Jewish point of view, it is clear though: "Believe in Jesus and you are out". But I agree that this should be discussed elsewhere.

I would say that the religious group closest to Old Testament Judaism today is the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Church (who are in communion with Armenians). These people were actually Jewish befoire becoming Christian, their ancestors are a mix of the ten Israelite tribes and Black Africans.
 

deusveritasest

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Gorazd said:
I would say that the religious group closest to Old Testament Judaism today is the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Church (who are in communion with Armenians).
That is true, in some sense. However, liturgically speaking, the rite that the Ethiopians use is essentially Egyptian, whereas the Syriac Orthodox Church maintains a rite with probably a closer connection to the earliest Jewish Christian communities of Jerusalem and Antioch.
 

Anastasia1

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So the local Armenian church where I have been going to bimonthly services at has sermons in Armenian and liturgy in Armenian with transliteration and translation. I do not speak Armenian, but do desire to learn it. I was thinking to go to a Coptic service or something at least once a month. The Armenian church is going to try doing a Bible study once a month along with having an Armenian dance isntructor volunteer at least a few times a month to teach dance in the evening. Someone I know called into question my decision of the Armenian church on the basis of language. What do you think?
 

Salpy

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Anastasia1 said:
So the local Armenian church where I have been going to bimonthly services at has sermons in Armenian and liturgy in Armenian with transliteration and translation. I do not speak Armenian, but do desire to learn it. I was thinking to go to a Coptic service or something at least once a month. The Armenian church is going to try doing a Bible study once a month along with having an Armenian dance isntructor volunteer at least a few times a month to teach dance in the evening.
This is all very cool.   :)

Someone I know called into question my decision of the Armenian church on the basis of language. What do you think?
That's silly.  Since the services are in Classical Armenian, instead of Modern Armenian, chances are whoever said that to you probably doesn't understand every bit of the service themselves without help.  If they have liturgy books that transliterate and translate the service, you'll be fine.  You'll find yourself picking up phrases very quickly, such as "Der Voghormia" (Lord have mercy!)

For some extra help, there is St. Nersess' Liturgical Resources page:

http://www.stnersess.edu/classroom/resources/index.php

And the Eastern Diocese has a Faith and Worship page:

http://www.armenianchurch-ed.net/faith-and-worship/the-badarak/introduction-to-the-badarak/

If you want to impress people, learn some Classical Armenian here:

http://vasntearn.blogspot.com/2010/07/classical-armenian.html
 

Anastasia1

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Gah! I keep missing the Bible study for some reason or another...
 

trevor72694

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Anastasia1 said:
Gah! I keep missing the Bible study for some reason or another...
when I miss Bible Study, I just read the chapters that Father would go over, and then google "Orthodox commentaries on ____", and just read those. 
 

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What about finding an Orthodox bible study in your area, or starting one, if there is none yet?
 

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I'm curious, is this the Armenian Apostolic Church we are referring to, and are they under the umbrella of the Oriental Orthodox?
 

deusveritasest

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Ortho_cat said:
I'm curious, is this the Armenian Apostolic Church we are referring to, and are they under the umbrella of the Oriental Orthodox?
The Armenian church, which is Oriental Orthodox, goes both by the name "Armenian Apostolic Church" and by "Armenian Orthodox Church". People are sometimes not familiar with the latter because the former is used about 3x as often.
 

chris

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Anastasia1 said:
Bump to read links again this weekend.
These links are great! I just had a chance to peruse them!
 

peterfarrington

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I was going to attend the Armenian language lessons in London, but they are Saturday and Sunday evening for 4 weeks and I couldn't commit to losing the weekend 4 weeks in a row, but I'd like to study some elementary Armenian to be able to participate in the liturgy.
 
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