Holy Orders

There are three major orders in the ranks of the clergy of the Armenian Church; deacon, priest and bishop. Within each of these orders there are ranks or subdivisions. There are also four minor orders of Tbir or Clerk

Under the order of deacon we find first the stole bearer
(Ourarageer). He is not ordained but given the stole to use while serving in the Church. The stole bearer may serve at the altar, read the litanies and sing. When there is no deacon available he may also read the Gospelsbook. Second, there is the rank of sub-deacon (Geesasargavak) which is conferred by ordination and is a specific rank in the church. Finally, there is the deacon, sometimes called archdeacon (Sargavak), the last rank before priesthood. Only the deacon has the right to present the chalice. We address stole bearers, sub-deacons and deacons as Deeratzou.

The next order in the church is priest. In the Armenian Church there are two types: the married priest (Kahana) and the celibate priest (Gousagron Kahana). Priests have the right to perform all services and sacraments except ordination. Married priests are usually pastors of parishes and serve the parochial needs. The celibate priesthood has a number of divisions. The first rank of celibate priest is Apegha, which means monk. The celibate then usually receives the rank of Vartabed or doctor of the church. There are fourteen levels of celibate priesthood, the last being Dzayrakouyn. We address married priests as Der Hayr and celibate priests as Hayr Sourp.

The third order is that of bishop. The bishop has the right to perform all the services and sacraments including ordination. Under the heading of bishop fall primates and patriarchs. (Unmarried priests may also serve as primates.) The primate is the spiritual leader of a diocese and a patriarch usually presides over a historical see. We have many diocese but only two patriarchates, Jerusalem and Constantinople. We address bishops as Srpazan Hayr.

Although not technically a separate “ordained” ministry, the highest order in the Armenian Church is Catholicos, the bishop of bishops and Supreme Patriarch and Catholic of of All Armenians. He resides in Holy Etchmiadzin, the Mother See of the Armenian Church. Throughout history we have had more than one Catholicate, but they only exercised local jurisdiction. Of these only the Catholicate of Cilicia. whose center is now in Antelias, Lebanon, has survived. The Catholicos has the special right to consecrate bishops and prepare the Holy Oil (Meuron). We address the Catholicos as Vehapar Der.