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Regulations pertaining to the administration of marriages, divorces, baptisms, funerals, memorials and other sacraments and rites in the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church.

A. Marriage

n order for the union of men and women candidates for marriage to be perfect and acceptable in the eyes of our Church, It is imperative that they receive the Sacrament of Marriage of the Armenian Apostolic Church. In order for the performance of the ecclesiastical Sacrament to be valid, the following conditions must be met: 

  • There must be no reason or grounds preventing the candidates from getting married. 
  • Civil (state) and ecclesiastical (Church) licenses must be obtained in advance. 
  • The Marriage Sacrament must be performed by a consecrated cleric in the service of the Armenian Apostolic Church and our Prelacy, according to the rites and canons of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The performance of the marriage rite by an ex-communicated clergyman is considered void by the Church. Visiting clergymen may participate after obtaining the permission of the given Churchís pastor and with the knowledge of the prelate. 
  • The Marriage Sacrament in the Armenian Church is performed in accordance with the rites and canons of the Armenian Apostolic Church. 
  • The Armenian Church recognizes the validity of marriages performed by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholic and other churches having a hierarchical authority and recognized by our Church, as well as other churches that are not heretical. In such cases, the Armenian Church does not require the repetition of the Marriage Sacrament. 
  • In the case of mixed marriages, the non-Apostolic candidate should have been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. 
  • The Armenian Apostolic Church absolutely refuses to perform the Marriage Sacrament between an Armenian Apostolic and a non-Christian individual. 
  • According to the teachings of the Armenian Church, an important role is reserved for the godfather or the best man. And, since the responsibility undertaken by him involves a close and lasting relationship, as in the case of baptism, the best man must be someone who is acceptable to the Armenian Apostolic Church: an adult who has been baptized and confirmed, and who is a communicant of the Church. 
B. Permissible days for marriage

he Church has designated certain days of the year as permissible for marriage, after taking into consideration Sundays, Saintsí Days and Fast Days. The schedule of permissible days must be respected. Therefore, before setting any date, the couple should obtain the approval of the local pastor to avoid complications. 

C. Divorce

he Armenian Apostolic Church refuses to perform all marriages where one or both of the parties were married in accordance to the canons of our Church, and have subsequently obtained only a civil divorce, without advising the proper authorities of the Church about their divorce. 

It is possible to obtain an ecclesiastical divorce after the civil decree has been issued. However, the parish priest should exert every effort to reconcile the couple. Should the priest fail to do so, then the petition for a divorce and all relevant and corresponding documents are submitted to the Prelacy for an appropriate resolution. 

D. Remarriage

f any of the parties has been previously married and divorced (once or more), he/she is required to present the decree of each divorce and the Prelacyís ratification along with an affidavit certifying his/her singleness.

E. Mixed Marriages

t is an undeniable fact that the more the number of common denominators between individuals entering into the marriage bond, the greater are the probabilities that they may enjoy a peaceful and harmonious life together. Certainly, sharing the same faith and traditions can spare them from many serious problems and strengthen their family ties. 

If we consider the theology, teachings and didactic concerns relate to the Marriage Sacrament of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and realize that the Church represents a unity in terms of its doctrine and mission, then we may understand that the Church cannot put itself in a contradictory position, i.e., preach the faithfulness of our beliefs on one hand, and preach the eternality of the same beliefs on the other. Therefore, it should be clear to all, as to why the Armenian Church does not, and cannot, encourage mixed marriages between an Armenian Apostolic and a non-Christian to be absolutely impossible. This is not a matter of prejudice and/or unfair discrimination, but rather, it reflects the principles of remaining faithful to our faith. 

If we confess that the utmost objective of the Marriage Sacrament is to view the union of marriage as an integral part of our faith in Christ, which is expressed by the participation of the couple in the life of the Church, that is, the body of Christ, then it becomes clear that the participation of an individual outside of our faith, or religion in the Marriage Sacrament can ultimately be destructive to the integrity of the Churchís doctrines as well as to the self-respect and dignity of the non-Apostolic believer. 

All the sacraments of our Church, including marriage, originate with the Sacrament of Baptism. Therefore, it is an absolute prerequisite for marriage that both candidates be Christian believers, baptized and confirmed in the name of the Holy trinity, for they are called upon to be the people of God and members of the Church. Those who are fundamentally opposed to the beliefs, doctrine and mission of the church, should not choose ecclesiastical marriage as the means of commencing their conjugal life. 

When we look upon the issue in its literal context, the only "mixed marriage", which can take place within the Armenian Church is the one between an Armenian Apostolic and person belonging to a non-Armenian Apostolic Church. 

The Armenian Apostolic Church considers Churches as Christian and orthodox if they specifically confess the Divinity of the Holy Trinity, believe in the perfection and unity of the Divine and human natures of Christ and use the formula, "In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" during baptism. 

As stated, the Armenian Church does not encourage such mixed marriages; nevertheless, it does not refuse to perform them either, since, in terms of its mission, it must care for the spiritual well-being of the Christian believers. At the same time, it is thought that the non-Armenian Apostolic Christian can share the ecclesiastical Sacrament to a certain extent without being unfaithful to his/her church and beliefs. 

This "deviation" from the accepted ways, in ecclesiastical terms, is called "economy", i.e. to utilize the Churchís mission with hope for the future. 

It must be clear, however, that the participation of a non-Armenian Apostolic in the rite of the Marriage Sacrament of the Armenian Church does not result in automatic change in the confession of faith of the individual; nor does it grant him/her the right to participate in other sacraments of the Armenian Church. 

Often, however, after acquaintance and some deliberations, the Candidate may wish to accept the Armenian Apostolicism, either prior to the exchange of the martial vows or subsequently. In such cases, the wish of the candidate is naturally granted, once he/she has received the necessary doctrinal instructions. 

In any event, the Armenian Church does not force, nor does it exert pressure on others to accept Armenian Apostolicism. The candidates are accepted within the Church only when they apply for it by their own free will. 
There are three classifications of mixed marriages in general, non-theological sense of the word: 

  • Individuals from non-Christian religious or heretical sects; 
  • Individuals from non-Apostolic Christian Churches; 
  • Individuals from other Apostolic Christian Churches. 
The Armenian Apostolic Church blesses the Sacrament of Marriage between an individual of these classifications and an Armenian Apostolic after the following conditions have been met. 

Individuals of non-Christian religious and/or heretical sects:

  • Marriage between an Armenian Apostolic and a non-Christian is prohibited as long as the latter has not expressed the desire to accept our Churchís confession of faith, baptism and mission through its sacraments, by his/her own free will in an explicit manner. 
  • The following are regarded as non-Christian and heretical; Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Taoism, Paganism, Zoroastrianism, Fetishism, Naturalism, and Atheism. Among the schismatic faiths are Mormonism, Jehovahís Witness, Scientology, Christian Scientist, Salvation Army, Quakers, etc. 
  • First, these individuals should express their desire to become a member of our Church, then receive serious instructions in its catechism, accept its rites, get baptized, and, in this way, obtain membership in the Armenian Church under the supervision of the Pastor. 
  • In such cases, the candidates are required to confirm, with a written promise, that they shall raise and instruct their children in accordance to the doctrines and teachings of the Armenian Apostolic Church. 
Individuals belonging to non-Apostolic Churches:
  • By the term "non-Apostolic", we refer to those Christian Churches, which were not founded by the apostles, and by their doctrines they deviate from the teachings of the churches founded on Apostolic traditions, particularly, in their perception and priesthood. By non-Apostolic churches in general we understand the traditional Protestant or Evangelical churches, such as Lutheran, Calvinist, Presbyterian, etc. 
  • In this case as well, the marriage of an Armenian Apostolic to a non-Apostolic individual is prohibited in the Armenian Church and according to its rites, as long as the individual doesnít express the desire to accept our Churchís confession of faith in an unsolicited and explicit manner, acting on his/her own free will. 
  • These individuals should also be instructed in the catechism of the Armenian Church and accept its doctrine. If they are baptized, they must be confirmed and take communion according to the rite of the Armenian Church and, in this way, obtain membership in the Armenian Church, under the supervision of the pastor. 
In such cases, the candidates are required to give a written promise, that they will raise and bring up their children according to the doctrines and teachings of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Individuals belonging to other Apostolic Churches:

  • By "Apostolic Church", we mean all those churches which are considered to have originated through apostolic tradition and which accept the Holy Trinity, the Nicene Creed, the Churchís seven sacraments and the Churchís hierarchy.

    Those classified as Apostolic Churches are: the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church.
  • As stated above, the greater the common bonds existing between the two candidates for marriage, the higher the probability for a more solid marriage. However, when an Armenian Apostolic and a non-Armenian Apostolic decide to get married, the Armenian Church will grant their wish, after examining and satisfying the following conditions:
    • Verify and confirm that the non-Armenian Apostolic candidate has been baptized and confirmed by his/her church and/or administer whatever is necessary and proper. 
    • Acquaint him/her with the doctrine and history of the Armenian Church. 
    • Enroll him/her as a member of the Church, upon his/her request. 
    • Receive assurance that, after the wedding the children will be brought up and educated in accordance to the teachings of the Armenian Church. 
Forbidden marriages according to the Canon regarding incest:
  • Parents with their own children, grandchildren or great grandchildren 
  • Brothers and sisters with each other. 
  • Uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews 
  • Cousins 
  • Foster parents with foster children 
  • Foster children with the children of foster parents 
  • Godfathers with goddaughters 
  • Godfathers with the mothers of their godsons 
  • Godchildren with the children of their godfather 
  • Godmothers with their godsons 
  • Godmothers with the father of godsons 
  • Brothers-in-law with sisters-in-law 
G. Baptism

Baptisms may be performed at any time, in accordance to the following rules: 

  • In the case of the Baptism or Confirmation of a child, the consent of the subjectís parents or legal guardians is required. 
  • The godfather of the child to be baptized must be an adult, baptized and confirmed member or the Armenian Apostolic Church. 
In exceptional cases, the godfather may be a member of the Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox or Eastern Orthodox Churches. A member of the Protestant Church may become a godfather only in the event that he receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, if he is already baptized. A non-Christian is not acceptable as a godfather under any circumstance.
  • The Sacrament of Baptism should be performed in the Holy Font of the Armenian Church. Only under special circumstances is it permissible to perform it at home, as when the child is very sick or the parents live far from the Church. 
  • Preferably, the first name of the baptized, otherwise the middle name, should be distinctly Armenian. In this respect, the Pastor should have discussed this matter with the parents in advance and given the necessary explanation, along with a list of Armenian names. 
  • In the case of the baptism of illegitimate children the explanation "Child of the Church" shall be recorded instead of the fatherís name. 
H. Memorials

t is recommended that our faithful respect the memory of their loved ones and seek the fatherly mercy of God through prayer, charity and religious ceremony. 

For the benefit of those who wish to have a memorial service performed for their departed loved one, or relative, they should take into consideration that it is necessary for them to be present in church from the start of the Divine Liturgy and participate in the prayers, because although the memorial service will be performed at the end of the liturgy, the celebrant priest remembers all our departed ones in his silent liturgical prayers as well. 

  • Memorial services are performed at the end of the Divine Liturgy. 
  • According to the canons of the Armenian Church, it is forbidden to perform memorial services on Feast Days: Nativity or Epiphany, Easter Sunday, transfiguration of Jesus Christ, Ascension and Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Special Remembrance Days for conducting memorial services follows on the next days of these five major feasts. Memorial services coinciding with feast days should be moved to the preceding or following Sunday. 
  • According to the canons of the Armenian Church it is not permitted to perform memorial services during the Holy Week as well as on Christmas Eve and Easter Eve Liturgies. 
  • It is possible to perform Requiem Mass on Sundays during Lent if there is such a request, usually after the Sunrise Service which follows the Divine Liturgy. 
Burial of the dead

Funeral services are permissible on all days of the year but avoid performing funerals on Sundays. 
Pastors must: 

  • Endeavor to explain to the relatives of the deceased, that after the performance of the Wake Service (Dan Gark), performed at the funeral home, they honor the departed one with the Church Service followed by a graveside service at the cemetery. 
During the performance of the Wake Service (Dan Gark) when the casket is still open, it is appropriate to place a wafer in the hands of the deceased. Although there is no special rule concerning whether the deceasedís face should be kept uncovered or covered, prior to the service, for the sake of solemnity and in order to prevent unnecessary or after inappropriate displays of behavior taking place inside the Church, it is advisable to keep the casket closed in the Church. If it has been customary to keep the deceasedís face open, it is proper for that custom to be gradually lifted and the magnificence of the rites of our Holy Church kept undisturbed during the funeral service.
  • It is specifically forbidden to have the deceasedís casket open during the funeral service at the Church. 
  • Pastors and parish councils are requested to use all available means to convince the faithful that, according to the canons and traditions of the Armenian Church, as well as the tenets of the Christian religion, they should not cremate the body of their beloved deceased. 
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Basic Rules & Manners - Continue >
Courtesy of Fr. Daron Stepanian
St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church
Web site: www.krikorlousavorich.org
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Updated 30 August 1999 ..
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Copyright © 1999 HyeEtch. All rights reserved
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