For most of my life I have driven past a church dedicated to someone I have recently learned is, by tradition, an ancestor of myself and most of us with Western European ancestry, St. Gregory, a royal Parthian, Orthodox Enlightener of Armenia, the first state in the ancient world to adopt Christianity as its official religion.  Today Orthodoxy commemorates him, though today’s Armenian Church formally rejects the Chalcedonian teaching regarding the humanity and Divinity in Christ.  I have read that emotionally the Orthodox and Non-Chalcedonian or “Oriental* ”  Churches feel very close to each other, in practices and attitudes, even closer than to the “highest” of Western Christians.**  Although in recent years some Chalcedonian and Non-Chalcedonian theology experts have agreed we believe the same and merely express it differently, some weighty folks on both sides deny this.  We have not been in communion since approximately Chalcedon, even though the Church of Rome now allows communion with Orthodox, Orientals, Assyrians, and Polish National Catholics, under certain circumstances – a permission which some Orthodox regard with suspicion, since it was extended without agreement with us Orthodox, and in full knowledge that Orthodoxy forbids Orthodox to partake of non-Orthodox mysteries / sacraments, and vice-versa.

Since I’m not qualified to discuss the differences between Chalcedonian and Non-Chalcedonian doctrines, and debate can get quite heated in this area, I’ll leave this post without Comments.

(*–The English-language designation “Oriental” doesn’t translate well, since most languages only have one term for “Eastern,” whereas English has two, one deriving from Germanic, Eastern, and the other from Latin through Norman / French, Oriental.  Nevertheless, often the two communions are distinguished in English by these terms, Oriental connoting “farther East than Eastern,” even though Ethiopia and Egypt are not farther east than Antioch and Jerusalem, and the Syriac and Chalcedonian Patriarchates of Antioch are both headquartered in Damascus, Syria, today.  The Oriental Churches are those traditionally referred to in the West as Monophysite, a designation they deny, sometimes preferring the term Miaphysite.)

(**–Even the poorest of Ethiopian Oriental Christians keep the ancient, traditional fasts of Christianity, including the Dormition Fast in early August, as was alluded to in a documentary I saw a couple years ago on TV.)


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