Why I Left The Armenian Church For ROCOR

stugatz

Pelican
There is no partial communion between the OO and the EO, ever since Chalcedon they've being in completely schism.
OK, thanks for clearing that up. I’ve never heard them spoken of poorly by EO Christians I know, so I think I just assumed.

I used to think the Assyrians were OO for a while, too, and they’re their own thing entirely.
 

ben1

Sparrow
This is one of my frustrations as a Reformed Presbyterian (who is orthodox and catholic) with the "one true church" argument. There are "one true churches" that are in schism with one another, and there is the obvious evidence of visible sanctification in believers in many of the churches in schism with one another. There are notable examples of doctrinal change within these churches, and churches who rely on the outcome of councils to argue that they maintain the infallible truth, despite the fact that they just reject as false councils any that they disagree with.

I am quite glad to see Roosh reject monophysitism, but to me it begs the question why there is so much apparent amicability between monophysite so-called-Orthodox and the Chalcedonian Eastern Orthodox, when there is no such amicability between Chalcedonian Protestants and Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic.

It seems very superficial and arbitrary.
 

Thomas More

Hummingbird
This is one of my frustrations as a Reformed Presbyterian (who is orthodox and catholic) with the "one true church" argument. There are "one true churches" that are in schism with one another, and there is the obvious evidence of visible sanctification in believers in many of the churches in schism with one another. There are notable examples of doctrinal change within these churches, and churches who rely on the outcome of councils to argue that they maintain the infallible truth, despite the fact that they just reject as false councils any that they disagree with.

I am quite glad to see Roosh reject monophysitism, but to me it begs the question why there is so much apparent amicability between monophysite so-called-Orthodox and the Chalcedonian Eastern Orthodox, when there is no such amicability between Chalcedonian Protestants and Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic.

It seems very superficial and arbitrary.
This is one of life's mysteries. On the one hand, theological theories can be every bit as elaborate and multifaceted as all of math and physics. On the other hand, the message of salvation can be boiled down to a few sentences, and a person of modest intellect can be fully saved and live a Godly life with no knowledge or understanding of all the complicated theology. It's easy to come to the conclusion that the complicated theology is not what matters. On the other hand, some of the differences seem fairly important.

I would say that God does not reveal himself irrefutably for everybody to see, because he wants us to accept him by faith. If it were possible to work out theology in exact detail so that everybody can agree on it (like physics and math), then God's existence might be proven fact instead of a matter requiring faith. It seems like God has set things up purposely so we can't nail these questions down to everyone's agreement.

However, as my avatar's namesake would probably agree, I think it is important to be faithful to the theological understanding we hold, so long as we have arrived at it sincerely by searching the scriptures, the previous words and writings of the saints, and through prayer.
 

Roosh

Cardinal
Orthodox
Hi Roosh,

I'm a member of the Syriac Orthodox Church, part of the Oriental Orthodox communion and therefore a sister Church to the Armenian Apostolic.

I was wondering if you attempted to explore the other sister Churches of the Oriental Orthodox communion before ultimately converting to the Eastern Orthodox? Thanks.
No because they all share the monophysite problem.
 

Roosh

Cardinal
Orthodox
I am quite glad to see Roosh reject monophysitism, but to me it begs the question why there is so much apparent amicability between monophysite so-called-Orthodox and the Chalcedonian Eastern Orthodox, when there is no such amicability between Chalcedonian Protestants and Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic.
The term "Oriental Orthodox" only begun in use during the 1950s when the monophysites started talks to establish communion with each other. That term filtered into books a decade after:

oriental-orthodox.jpg
(The below reference explains the 1870s blip may be from Eastern Orthodox usage of the term to refer to themselves).

Confusingly enough, "Oriental Orthodox" was also used as an exotic synonym for the Eastern Orthodox. The Oxford History of Christian Worship (Geoffrey Wainwright, 2006) says that the umbrella term "Oriental Orthodox" for the Syriac, etc., churches, was established in the 1960s, as a replacement for calling them "Monophysite". It certainly seems that pre-1950 references to "Oriental Orthodox" that I've found are actually talking about the Eastern Orthodox. Moreover, I imagine that the term "Oriental Orthodox" would only be invented if several of the churches in question were already calling themselves Orthodox.
The Armenian Church usually refers to itself as the Armenian Apostolic Church, not the Armenian Orthodox Church.
 
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NoMoreTO

Ostrich
No because they all share the monophysite problem.

So how does communion work with ROCOR with other Eastern Churches.

Now that you are ROCOR, you would no longer receive communion or any sacraments at your old Armenain Church as they while having apostolic succession are in schism due to the Christology? Could you still go to the Church and participate in the Mass with your family without receiving for instance? Recite the confession etc etc.

On the other hand, I assume now you could receive communion and sacraments at the Greek or Western Churches as the Christology is the same, accepted councils are the same?
 

Roosh

Cardinal
Orthodox
So how does communion work with ROCOR with other Eastern Churches.

Now that you are ROCOR, you would no longer receive communion or any sacraments at your old Armenain Church as they while having apostolic succession are in schism due to the Christology? Could you still go to the Church and participate in the Mass with your family without receiving for instance? Recite the confession etc etc.

On the other hand, I assume now you could receive communion and sacraments at the Greek or Western Churches as the Christology is the same, accepted councils are the same?
ROCOR is in Communion with other Eastern Churches but we are told not to commune with GOARCH due to the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarch, but not because of theological differences.

I would not attempt to receive communion in an Armenian Church (though they may let me). I don't think I would attend a service unless it was a funeral. That's not my Church anymore.

As for other churches that aren't Orthodox, that's up to them if I can receive communion, but I wouldn't attempt it.
 

NoMoreTO

Ostrich
ROCOR is in Communion with other Eastern Churches but we are told not to commune with GOARCH due to the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarch, but not because of theological differences.

I would not attempt to receive communion in an Armenian Church (though they may let me). I don't think I would attend a service unless it was a funeral. That's not my Church anymore.

As for other churches that aren't Orthodox, that's up to them if I can receive communion, but I wouldn't attempt it.

Thanks for the explanation. Makes sense.

To Clarify, by Western Churches I meant the Western(?) Orthodox Church I have heard about.

Non Catholics can not take communion at a Catholic Church, although we can cross rites eg. Roman to Byzantine to Maronite etc. Still, sometimes this teaching of not crossing does go on between TLM Churches and New Mass Churches.
 

Pioneer

Sparrow
As one who has studied both Theology and Math and Physics... Theology is much easier.
Theology — Sacred Doctrine — is the science of God is rightly called the Queen of all the sciences (Regina Scientiarum). In the natural sciences we get knowledge about the external world via our five senses. In the philosophical sciences, we get knowledge using our immaterial mind using our reason, our ability to deduce from observations, etc. But in Theology, the knowledge comes to us from something outside ourselves; these ideas originate in the mind of God.
 

MichaelWitcoff

Ostrich
Orthodox
It's often called the "Western Rite". I believe I can receive communion there. I think @MichaelWitcoff would know the answer.
Yes, both ROCOR and Antioch have Western Rite Vicariates. They use Gregorian instead of Byzantine chant, the priests wear different vestments, they emphasize different Saints, some of the liturgical practices are different, and they overall are trying to recreate pre-schism Orthodox Roman worship. Generally, at least in the Antiochian versions, instead of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom they use either the Mass of Pope St. Gregory the Great or the Liturgy of St. Tikhon, which is an Orthodoxized version of the Anglican mass. Orthodox Christians, of either Eastern or Western Rite preference, can commune at any other Eastern or Western Rite parish that their archdiocese is in communion with.

 
"icons are idolatrous" "Catholics worship Mary"

It's all so tiresome. Perhaps actually study how the Orthodox and Catholics view those two things before you spout nonsense.

"Everything that represents something related to religion is idolatrous. Instead, watch this youtube video to be guaranteed salvation!"
-Independent Fundamentalist Baptist


What I find curious as to why Christ nonetheless appears to Protestants and works miraculous signs and wonders despite the lack of Icons. At least among those who hold to the Nicene Creed and adhere to Scripture.

Well I suppose when I end up in Heaven. I may have to deal with the fact that I am wrong in certain ways.
 
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messaggera

Kingfisher
Woman
religion and culture can never be separated.

Culture does not define us. God defines us.
When religion and culture are said to never be separated it does not allow for all to come to Christ as the truth and the way.

For example look to the America culture - it is in need of a moral reformation because God has been removed from everything.

I converted to Catholicism as the age of 21 and I'm 29 now and I struggled often in reconciling my faith and my culture (my culture is not Catholic).

How is Jesus Christ keeping you from reconciling your faith and your culture? Or is it your religion, Catholicism causing the conflict?

Catholicism can serve as a benefit to the very young when Jesus Christ is the message. Those moral roots are established at a young age, but as we move through this religion, as adults, it becomes less about Jesus Christ and more about the Vicar of Christ/Pope modernizing the Church's message.

However, if one's religion is to be true, it has to be true everywhere for every race. I think of course this is one of the great advantages of Catholicism since it has permeated throughout the whole world and the Church shines and has edified all men

Jesus Christ was never meant to be a religion, but rather the truth and the way - to salvation and enteral life with our Creator.

Revelation 3:20​
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.​


God Bless you lasunsets, and your journey within the Catholic faith.
 

JYLewis

Chicken
Orthodox
Originally posted on RooshV.com

orthodox-cross-1024x661.jpg



Two years ago I returned to the Armenian Church, where I was baptized as a child by affusion, after living most of my adult life in the grip of sexual sin. On Holy Saturday of this year, May 1, I was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York (ROCOR historically receives converts by baptism). My godfather is a monk and my patron saint is St. Darius of Nicaea, an early Church martyr. I selected ROCOR over other Orthodox Churches because of its purity and fullness of faith, tradition of monasticism, and proven experience dealing with the sort of revolutionaries and communists that are currently subverting the United States. The Orthodox Church will be my final spiritual home before I am judged by Lord Jesus Christ upon my death.

The two groups that are known as” Orthodox,” the Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox, split in the 5th century because of a Christological dispute. The Orientals, which include the Armenians, Ethiopians, and Egyptians (Copts), did not accept the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon regarding the two natures of Christ. This resulted in them breaking communion from the Eastern Orthodox, meaning that up to my baptism in ROCOR, I could not commune in other Eastern Orthodox Churches, which includes the Russians, Greeks, Serbs, Romanians, and Antiochians. When I returned back to the Armenian Church in 2019, I did not understand the Christological disagreement that caused them to be labeled as “monophysite” schismatics or heretics, and wrote it off as a misunderstanding concerning semantics, but as my faith and knowledge of theology grew, I came to suspect that this was more than a misunderstanding because I saw firsthand that the Armenian Church has lost aspects of the faith still possessed by the Eastern Orthodox, which from this point I will simply refer to as Orthodox. I eventually concluded that damage to the Armenian Church occurred because they made a mistake in their theology which resulted in a decrease of grace, and that the Orthodox Church contains the pure teachings of Jesus Christ.

orthodox-iconostasis-1024x683.jpg


The first deterioration to the Armenian Church is confession, which used to be private. They no longer have private confession like in the Orthodox Church. Instead, the faithful read a prepared script aloud from the pews before receiving communion. I can attest that you can read this statement and receive communion without having to think of your sins or feel remorseful. You have the option to privately talk to your priest to confess your sins, but it is done informally and not something actively promoted by the Church (I don’t know any Armenian who does it). As a result, there are a lot of secrets in an Armenian parish where severe sins are occurring among the faithful that the priest knows nothing about. This leads to profuse award-winning acting where a parishioner acts pious in front of the priest but then immediately changes demeanor in his absence, an issue I have not noticed in Orthodox parishes.

Second, the Armenians have not been able to canonize individual saints for several centuries. While the victims of the Armenian genocide were recently canonized as a group, the last individual Armenian saint I learned to be canonized was St. Gregory of Tatev in the early 15th century, meaning there is no one in modern times who the Church has recognized as someone we must learn from and emulate in order to be saved. When I expressed this concern to a Church authority, I was told that the Church has lost the ability to canonize individuals due to governing and organizational obstacles. This answer did not satisfy me, because how could God’s Church lose the ability to glorify His most faithful servants before the end times? I believe that guidance from recent saints is essential to navigating a modern world that is far more evil and complex than several centuries ago, but I did not have that guidance in the Armenian Church and so began to look upon Orthodox saints.

Third, the Armenians seem to be in the process of losing monasticism. Most ancient monasteries in Armenia are medieval tourist destinations that do not perform the liturgical cycle of daily services or receive pilgrims like the innumerable Orthodox monasteries. If you visit an Armenian monastery, you would be lucky to encounter an Armenian priest from whom to receive a blessing. In the United States, there are no Armenian monasteries or sketes. Armenians will reasonably claim that the genocide and period of communism have devastated their monasteries (and Church in general), and that parish life is where priority should be given, but Russia was able to get their monasteries back open relatively quickly, and they are flourishing within Russia and the United States.

The last problem is icons: Armenians never developed iconography like the Orthodox or the tradition of venerating icons. They have icon-like paintings in their churches, but no framed icons that can be venerated. Being able to venerate an icon may seem like a minor detail, but there are endless examples of Orthodox icons performing miracles for the faithful. The Armenian Church has a beautiful cross design, but as far as I know, miracles do not come forth from them in modern times, unlike the numerous miracle-working and myrrh-streaming icons in the Orthodox Church that are currently active. I like to venerate icons because it is a way for me to show more humility before God and therefore add power to my prayers. While I was in the Armenian Church, I constructed my prayer corner in the Orthodox style with icons that I venerate.

IMG_9334-768x1024.jpeg

Kardiotissa myrrh-streaming icon

In spite of these four points, theology was not enough for me to leave. I rationalized that the Armenian theology was “close enough,” for which Church was closer? The Catholics seemed further away on dogma thanks to modern innovations and the Protestants even further. Besides, just about all the sermons I listened to and books I read came from an Orthodox source. I believed that I covered my bases, so to speak, but inevitably a new problem arose: I began to feel divided. I received the sacraments on Sunday from one Church and then for the remaining six days of the week I poured over the works of another Church. It was like courting two women at the same time. Of course you will develop a favorite, and my favorite was Orthodoxy. The Orthodox faith spoke to me more powerfully and was giving me the tools to follow God’s commandments and resist temptations at this late stage of human history. The Armenian Church was not able to support my zeal with enough materials and resources that made me confident my soul would be guided into Paradise. This year I arrived at the point where I was so convinced that Orthodoxy was the truth that even if the Armenian Church did start publishing books and sermons in English, I would not have consumed them.

The determining factor that could have prolonged my stay in the Armenian Church was ethnic identity. I am 50% Armenian by blood through my mother (my father is Iranian). This Church was made for me and “my people,” was it not? The problem is that I was not raised with an Armenian identity. My mother was born in Istanbul and is much closer to Turkish culture than Armenian. Her relatives and friends all prefer to speak Turkish. While she stayed in the Church, and decided for me to be baptized as a child, she taught me nothing culturally or spiritually Armenian, so it wasn’t until I was 39 years old that I heard the Armenian language for the first time at length. I tried to learn Classical Armenian to understand the Liturgy without a service book but gave up quickly, even though I had learned several other languages in the past with far more determination, perhaps because I subconsciously knew I would not remain in the Church.

I also do not identify with the Armenian historical struggle or pain from their genocide. When last year the war in Artsakh was raging, to me it was a war like any other, and I felt no more sadness than if the war had been in Mongolia. Other than learning how to make tasty Armenian food dishes, I never felt “Armenian” even though I did see that some of my personality traits, particularly when it comes to my passions, were shared by other Armenians. The Armenians in my church repeatedly asked me when I would visit Armenia for the first time and the instinctual response in my mind that I dared not speak aloud was “never.” Maybe I am too burned out from travel, but I am simply not interested in visiting what I’m sure is a beautiful country even though it is supposed to be my ancestral home.

On Easter Sunday of this year in my Armenian parish (April 4), I looked upon the crowd of Armenians and couldn’t help but see myself as a tourist who was enjoying a very pleasant service with an exotic people who vaguely looked like me. It didn’t feel like my Church and the Armenians present didn’t feel like my people. I was born and raised in America as an American, for better or worse, and while I can value my ancestral past through food and shared personality traits, I didn’t desire to be enveloped in a foreign culture that I would never have picked out of personal interest or a Church I would not have chosen based on its theological merits. The Armenian Church is an ethnic and nationalistic Church for Armenians, of which I never identified as one, and even if I did, I’m certain its theological problem would gnaw on me enough to only postpone my inevitable conversion to Orthodoxy by a couple of years.

02_photo_2021-05-17_15-51-33.jpg


In the past half-year, as God’s hand worked more firmly to guide me to the Orthodox Church, I even began to wonder if the Armenian sacraments were wholly valid. If their sacrament of confession was damaged compared to its past, was their Eucharist really the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ? I pushed that thought out of my mind when it would appear, telling myself that perhaps in the future when I moved to a rural area, and an Armenian Church was not nearby, I could finally make the jump to Orthodoxy. It would be too difficult to do it before, to tell those in my church that I left not because I was moving far away, but because I didn’t love the Armenian identity and had doubts about its theology. Then I received a call from Father Spyridon Bailey, a ROCOR priest.

On March 20, I conducted a call-in live stream. One of the callers was Father Spyridon, who has a popular YouTube channel. I knew of him and was exceedingly glad that he called. You can watch our conversation here:


After the call, in which I shared my concerns about being divided between two churches, I was on fire. I no longer wanted to be passive and let the meandering flow of the river determine which Church I should be in. If I am in the right Church then there is no problem, but if not, then I must make a decision and follow through on it, regardless of the social or familial consequences. After speaking with Father Spyridon, I prayed: “Lord, please give me the strength to make the right decision of which Church I should be in.” Forty-two days later, I was baptized in ROCOR’s Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York. I received a brief but intense catechism that filled in the holes of my Orthodox knowledge from a monk who is now my godfather.

Maybe one day I will share the series of providential steps that occurred in those forty-two days, but in summary, all the strength was given to me to leave the Armenian Church without losing a minute of night’s sleep, and all the doors to the Orthodox Church opened in a way that I would deem miraculous. Besides some bearable temptations from the demons the week before I was baptized, I felt that God was holding my hand into Jordanville’s baptistry to be immersed three times in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is now so obvious to me that God was guiding me into His Church that I wonder if I tested Him by taking so long to make the decision. I may have arrived at the eleventh hour, but with joy I can tell you today that I am an Orthodox Christian.

Why did I pick ROCOR? It’s more that ROCOR picked me. Most of the spiritual value and edification I received in the past two years happened to come from the Russian Church. From reading their books, listening to their sermons, visiting their churches and monasteries, talking to their priests and monks, and viewing the actions of their bishops, I came to believe that ROCOR is the most traditional Orthodox Church existing in the world today which has best preserved the Christian faith. It fully grasps spiritual warfare, does not dabble in new ideas, has clergy that understands the Jewish revolutionary spirit, and has been most resistant to succumbing to coronavirus mandates, not only by its hierarchy but also its parishioners (though some ROCOR parishes in the cities are unfortunately strong on masks). There are many other Churches within Orthodoxy, but by getting baptized into ROCOR, I have made my bet that if there is only one Church left standing during the tribulations of the end times, which there must be since Christ did state that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church, it will be the Russians.

saint-seraphim-sarov-2.jpg


I also like ROCOR because of its strong sense of community that spans across state lines, the piety of the flock, and its catholic nature of drawing in converts from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, many of whom are just like me in that they came to the truth later in life after a period of seeking. There is certainly an ethnic component to ROCOR, but unlike with the Armenian Church, it does not wholly dominate or make me feel that the ethnicity is put on par or even above God. In ROCOR you receive the fullness of God based on what the Russian people have dutifully preserved over the centuries, and the parish services are not so foreign to disturb your worship if you happen to be an American who does not have a Russian background.

For much of my adult life, I’ve been seeking the truth, and while you may have seen me take many wrong turns, I never wholly strayed from that mission. Returning back to God two years ago gave me the humility to finalize this journey with my baptism in ROCOR. Now that I’ve experienced a taste of the Kingdom and the glory that awaits Christians who love our Lord Jesus Christ, I hope to co-work with God to share His truth to all who happen to come across my words. I do not deserve the grace I’m receiving from being in His Church based on the evil works I have done in my life, so Glory goes to God for the love and forgiveness He has for His most sinful servants.

Read Next: 12 Things I Learned From Visiting Holy Trinity Monastery In New York
Permalink
This must have not been easy Roosh. Prayers for you.
 

willgeiger

Chicken
Axios! Worthy! Достоин!

A heartfelt congratulations to you on your conversion and journey to (Russian) Orthodoxy.

Your story really hits home with me. I too struggle with being pulled tight like a rope, with my patrimonial church on one end, and Orthodoxy on the other. Like you, I too feel as though I'm divided, like "courting two women at the same time"—receiving the Sacraments from my baptismal church, but attending Vespers and Matins at Orthodox parishes. My struggle is much like yours, but at the same time, quite different. My patrimonial church is the Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholic Church (otherwise called the "Byzantine Catholic Church" in America, and "Greek Catholic Church" abroad). Our liturgical tradition is that of the Byzantine Rite, though we're in communion with Rome ("Orthodox in Union with Rome" as some would say) due to the 1646 Union of Uzhhorod. Our Church is rooted in ethnic identity—that of the Rusyn (Ruthenian) people who lived along the Carpathians, across several countries. Our people began immigrating to America in the late 1800's, and for decades our Church was altogether made up of people with this ethnic identity. Due to interethnic and interfaith marriage over the past few decades, our Church today is quite blended. Like any other ethnic church, our Church's identity was also tied to the language of the people. This too has been destroyed in the name of universalism; the language of the people (Rusyn) and the language of the liturgy (Church Slavonic) were replaced in 1965 with English. The traditional Slavonic plain chant melodies—which were formulated centuries ago by our people across the Carpathians—didn't even fit with English words. Our monastic traditions have faded, our liturgical cycle of services has been withered down so much that people forget what Vespers and Matins are, and most sorrowful of all, weak theology, weak priests, and weak hierarchs have opened the door to progressivism and liberalism. Our churches are brimming with members that support abortion, oppose traditional marriage, and promote subversive ideologies, yet receive Communion with a smile. These give-in's to modernity drive me to Orthodoxy, but my loyalty to the church of my ancestors, and my Ruthenian identity, keep me in "park."

I have not visited Jordanville, but years ago attended a funeral service for a friend's father. A crowd of monastics and seminarians from Jordanville came to the service to lead the chanting—as a thank you for his good works with the seminary. There were no pews. The people venerated, stood, prostrated, and did "the work of the people". The incense filled the tiny church. The priest and servers moved with intention and staidness, and the cantors chanted with vitality. Not a single person partook in chit-chat or took out their mobile phone to check their Facebook feed. That is how every liturgy should be, how every attendee should act—and what I see at each Orthodox service, regardless if it's in America or abroad.

To those who have commented negatively here against the Russian Orthodox church... study history. If it weren't for the the "third Rome" and the Russian church after the fall of the Byzantine Empire, we'd be wearing jalabiyyah's and burqas right now.

Roosh — If you happen to read this... if you find yourself around Northeastern Pennsylvania, in the Scranton area, make a visit to St. George's Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church in Taylor. The church is home to a myrrh-streaming Kardiotissa icon which has miracles attributed to it. They serve a Moleben to the Theotokos on Wednesday evenings, and bring out the icon at the end and bless the faithful with the streaming oil.
 

Eremias

Chicken
Originally posted on RooshV.com

orthodox-cross-1024x661.jpg



Two years ago I returned to the Armenian Church, where I was baptized as a child by affusion, after living most of my adult life in the grip of sexual sin. On Holy Saturday of this year, May 1, I was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York (ROCOR historically receives converts by baptism). My godfather is a monk and my patron saint is St. Darius of Nicaea, an early Church martyr. I selected ROCOR over other Orthodox Churches because of its purity and fullness of faith, tradition of monasticism, and proven experience dealing with the sort of revolutionaries and communists that are currently subverting the United States. The Orthodox Church will be my final spiritual home before I am judged by Lord Jesus Christ upon my death.

The two groups that are known as” Orthodox,” the Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox, split in the 5th century because of a Christological dispute. The Orientals, which include the Armenians, Ethiopians, and Egyptians (Copts), did not accept the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon regarding the two natures of Christ. This resulted in them breaking communion from the Eastern Orthodox, meaning that up to my baptism in ROCOR, I could not commune in other Eastern Orthodox Churches, which includes the Russians, Greeks, Serbs, Romanians, and Antiochians. When I returned back to the Armenian Church in 2019, I did not understand the Christological disagreement that caused them to be labeled as “monophysite” schismatics or heretics, and wrote it off as a misunderstanding concerning semantics, but as my faith and knowledge of theology grew, I came to suspect that this was more than a misunderstanding because I saw firsthand that the Armenian Church has lost aspects of the faith still possessed by the Eastern Orthodox, which from this point I will simply refer to as Orthodox. I eventually concluded that damage to the Armenian Church occurred because they made a mistake in their theology which resulted in a decrease of grace, and that the Orthodox Church contains the pure teachings of Jesus Christ.

orthodox-iconostasis-1024x683.jpg


The first deterioration to the Armenian Church is confession, which used to be private. They no longer have private confession like in the Orthodox Church. Instead, the faithful read a prepared script aloud from the pews before receiving communion. I can attest that you can read this statement and receive communion without having to think of your sins or feel remorseful. You have the option to privately talk to your priest to confess your sins, but it is done informally and not something actively promoted by the Church (I don’t know any Armenian who does it). As a result, there are a lot of secrets in an Armenian parish where severe sins are occurring among the faithful that the priest knows nothing about. This leads to profuse award-winning acting where a parishioner acts pious in front of the priest but then immediately changes demeanor in his absence, an issue I have not noticed in Orthodox parishes.

Second, the Armenians have not been able to canonize individual saints for several centuries. While the victims of the Armenian genocide were recently canonized as a group, the last individual Armenian saint I learned to be canonized was St. Gregory of Tatev in the early 15th century, meaning there is no one in modern times who the Church has recognized as someone we must learn from and emulate in order to be saved. When I expressed this concern to a Church authority, I was told that the Church has lost the ability to canonize individuals due to governing and organizational obstacles. This answer did not satisfy me, because how could God’s Church lose the ability to glorify His most faithful servants before the end times? I believe that guidance from recent saints is essential to navigating a modern world that is far more evil and complex than several centuries ago, but I did not have that guidance in the Armenian Church and so began to look upon Orthodox saints.

Third, the Armenians seem to be in the process of losing monasticism. Most ancient monasteries in Armenia are medieval tourist destinations that do not perform the liturgical cycle of daily services or receive pilgrims like the innumerable Orthodox monasteries. If you visit an Armenian monastery, you would be lucky to encounter an Armenian priest from whom to receive a blessing. In the United States, there are no Armenian monasteries or sketes. Armenians will reasonably claim that the genocide and period of communism have devastated their monasteries (and Church in general), and that parish life is where priority should be given, but Russia was able to get their monasteries back open relatively quickly, and they are flourishing within Russia and the United States.

The last problem is icons: Armenians never developed iconography like the Orthodox or the tradition of venerating icons. They have icon-like paintings in their churches, but no framed icons that can be venerated. Being able to venerate an icon may seem like a minor detail, but there are endless examples of Orthodox icons performing miracles for the faithful. The Armenian Church has a beautiful cross design, but as far as I know, miracles do not come forth from them in modern times, unlike the numerous miracle-working and myrrh-streaming icons in the Orthodox Church that are currently active. I like to venerate icons because it is a way for me to show more humility before God and therefore add power to my prayers. While I was in the Armenian Church, I constructed my prayer corner in the Orthodox style with icons that I venerate.

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Kardiotissa myrrh-streaming icon

In spite of these four points, theology was not enough for me to leave. I rationalized that the Armenian theology was “close enough,” for which Church was closer? The Catholics seemed further away on dogma thanks to modern innovations and the Protestants even further. Besides, just about all the sermons I listened to and books I read came from an Orthodox source. I believed that I covered my bases, so to speak, but inevitably a new problem arose: I began to feel divided. I received the sacraments on Sunday from one Church and then for the remaining six days of the week I poured over the works of another Church. It was like courting two women at the same time. Of course you will develop a favorite, and my favorite was Orthodoxy. The Orthodox faith spoke to me more powerfully and was giving me the tools to follow God’s commandments and resist temptations at this late stage of human history. The Armenian Church was not able to support my zeal with enough materials and resources that made me confident my soul would be guided into Paradise. This year I arrived at the point where I was so convinced that Orthodoxy was the truth that even if the Armenian Church did start publishing books and sermons in English, I would not have consumed them.

The determining factor that could have prolonged my stay in the Armenian Church was ethnic identity. I am 50% Armenian by blood through my mother (my father is Iranian). This Church was made for me and “my people,” was it not? The problem is that I was not raised with an Armenian identity. My mother was born in Istanbul and is much closer to Turkish culture than Armenian. Her relatives and friends all prefer to speak Turkish. While she stayed in the Church, and decided for me to be baptized as a child, she taught me nothing culturally or spiritually Armenian, so it wasn’t until I was 39 years old that I heard the Armenian language for the first time at length. I tried to learn Classical Armenian to understand the Liturgy without a service book but gave up quickly, even though I had learned several other languages in the past with far more determination, perhaps because I subconsciously knew I would not remain in the Church.

I also do not identify with the Armenian historical struggle or pain from their genocide. When last year the war in Artsakh was raging, to me it was a war like any other, and I felt no more sadness than if the war had been in Mongolia. Other than learning how to make tasty Armenian food dishes, I never felt “Armenian” even though I did see that some of my personality traits, particularly when it comes to my passions, were shared by other Armenians. The Armenians in my church repeatedly asked me when I would visit Armenia for the first time and the instinctual response in my mind that I dared not speak aloud was “never.” Maybe I am too burned out from travel, but I am simply not interested in visiting what I’m sure is a beautiful country even though it is supposed to be my ancestral home.

On Easter Sunday of this year in my Armenian parish (April 4), I looked upon the crowd of Armenians and couldn’t help but see myself as a tourist who was enjoying a very pleasant service with an exotic people who vaguely looked like me. It didn’t feel like my Church and the Armenians present didn’t feel like my people. I was born and raised in America as an American, for better or worse, and while I can value my ancestral past through food and shared personality traits, I didn’t desire to be enveloped in a foreign culture that I would never have picked out of personal interest or a Church I would not have chosen based on its theological merits. The Armenian Church is an ethnic and nationalistic Church for Armenians, of which I never identified as one, and even if I did, I’m certain its theological problem would gnaw on me enough to only postpone my inevitable conversion to Orthodoxy by a couple of years.

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In the past half-year, as God’s hand worked more firmly to guide me to the Orthodox Church, I even began to wonder if the Armenian sacraments were wholly valid. If their sacrament of confession was damaged compared to its past, was their Eucharist really the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ? I pushed that thought out of my mind when it would appear, telling myself that perhaps in the future when I moved to a rural area, and an Armenian Church was not nearby, I could finally make the jump to Orthodoxy. It would be too difficult to do it before, to tell those in my church that I left not because I was moving far away, but because I didn’t love the Armenian identity and had doubts about its theology. Then I received a call from Father Spyridon Bailey, a ROCOR priest.

On March 20, I conducted a call-in live stream. One of the callers was Father Spyridon, who has a popular YouTube channel. I knew of him and was exceedingly glad that he called. You can watch our conversation here:


After the call, in which I shared my concerns about being divided between two churches, I was on fire. I no longer wanted to be passive and let the meandering flow of the river determine which Church I should be in. If I am in the right Church then there is no problem, but if not, then I must make a decision and follow through on it, regardless of the social or familial consequences. After speaking with Father Spyridon, I prayed: “Lord, please give me the strength to make the right decision of which Church I should be in.” Forty-two days later, I was baptized in ROCOR’s Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York. I received a brief but intense catechism that filled in the holes of my Orthodox knowledge from a monk who is now my godfather.

Maybe one day I will share the series of providential steps that occurred in those forty-two days, but in summary, all the strength was given to me to leave the Armenian Church without losing a minute of night’s sleep, and all the doors to the Orthodox Church opened in a way that I would deem miraculous. Besides some bearable temptations from the demons the week before I was baptized, I felt that God was holding my hand into Jordanville’s baptistry to be immersed three times in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is now so obvious to me that God was guiding me into His Church that I wonder if I tested Him by taking so long to make the decision. I may have arrived at the eleventh hour, but with joy I can tell you today that I am an Orthodox Christian.

Why did I pick ROCOR? It’s more that ROCOR picked me. Most of the spiritual value and edification I received in the past two years happened to come from the Russian Church. From reading their books, listening to their sermons, visiting their churches and monasteries, talking to their priests and monks, and viewing the actions of their bishops, I came to believe that ROCOR is the most traditional Orthodox Church existing in the world today which has best preserved the Christian faith. It fully grasps spiritual warfare, does not dabble in new ideas, has clergy that understands the Jewish revolutionary spirit, and has been most resistant to succumbing to coronavirus mandates, not only by its hierarchy but also its parishioners (though some ROCOR parishes in the cities are unfortunately strong on masks). There are many other Churches within Orthodoxy, but by getting baptized into ROCOR, I have made my bet that if there is only one Church left standing during the tribulations of the end times, which there must be since Christ did state that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church, it will be the Russians.

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I also like ROCOR because of its strong sense of community that spans across state lines, the piety of the flock, and its catholic nature of drawing in converts from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, many of whom are just like me in that they came to the truth later in life after a period of seeking. There is certainly an ethnic component to ROCOR, but unlike with the Armenian Church, it does not wholly dominate or make me feel that the ethnicity is put on par or even above God. In ROCOR you receive the fullness of God based on what the Russian people have dutifully preserved over the centuries, and the parish services are not so foreign to disturb your worship if you happen to be an American who does not have a Russian background.

For much of my adult life, I’ve been seeking the truth, and while you may have seen me take many wrong turns, I never wholly strayed from that mission. Returning back to God two years ago gave me the humility to finalize this journey with my baptism in ROCOR. Now that I’ve experienced a taste of the Kingdom and the glory that awaits Christians who love our Lord Jesus Christ, I hope to co-work with God to share His truth to all who happen to come across my words. I do not deserve the grace I’m receiving from being in His Church based on the evil works I have done in my life, so Glory goes to God for the love and forgiveness He has for His most sinful servants.

Read Next: 12 Things I Learned From Visiting Holy Trinity Monastery In New York
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Roosh,
I am in the OCA, and I've thought a lot about joining the Armenians, due in part to your influence. I am afraid that you will find the grass is no greener elsewhere, that confession becomes tedious, and that ROCOR is "traditional" in that it is reactionary and legalistic. You were baptized at birth, it seems a disgrace to me that you were rebaptised as if all that time you were not even a Christian, despite what the last 2 years have wrought in your life. Also, how often in Orthodox churches one's piety is a matter of showy signs of the cross and bows and prostrations? It gets ridiculous at times seeing the number of crosses we are supposed to make. Faith as a show exists in every religion, and ROCOR is not immune to that. You want icons? The Copts know a thing about monasticism, weathering persecution and iconography, and they are in the Oriental Orthodox communion. It is a disgrace to me that so many Eastern Orthodox will refuse to recognize Copts and Armenians over hair splitting issues that more and more I think they do not even understand besides being able to regurgitate by rote the supposedly correct verbiage. There was something wonderful in seeing you instinctively reunite with the church of your ancestors. As you read Eastern Orthodox sources, my guess is you felt bullied by the fan boy apologists that proliferate on YouTube who oftentimes sound like they have aspergers as they rail against the "monophysites".
Anyway, I wish you the best, but I think you've made a mistake. When your country has problems you don't abandon it for greener pastures, so says you all the time. Why would different principles guide you in your choice of church?
 

NickK

Woodpecker
Orthodox
Roosh,
I am in the OCA, and I've thought a lot about joining the Armenians, due in part to your influence. I am afraid that you will find the grass is no greener elsewhere, that confession becomes tedious, and that ROCOR is "traditional" in that it is reactionary and legalistic. You were baptized at birth, it seems a disgrace to me that you were rebaptised as if all that time you were not even a Christian, despite what the last 2 years have wrought in your life.
Roosh was a Christian, but he was unbaptised.
Baptism is valid only when done in the Church.
The Copts, Armenians etc are monophysites. They are heretics. They don't have baptism.
That's what the Church says, that's what our Ecumenical Councils say, that's what the Church Fathers say. And they are not "fan boy apologists that proliferate on YouTube".
 
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