The Badarak of the Armenian Church and the Mass of the Catholic Church are two ancient expressions of the Eucharist, the primary Christian sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ at his Last Supper. The service of the Lord’s Supper developed differently in the various eastern and western cultures where Jesus’ apostles preached his Gospel. The heart of the Eucharist in both traditions is the same: Jesus Christ comes to the faithful in his Word, through the reading of the Scriptures and especially the Holy Gospel; and in his Body and Blood by means of Holy Communion. Through these sacred acts, Christ unites us with one another and with God the Father, as he promised: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me” [John 6:56-57]. Armenians and Catholics (and all other traditional Christian denominations) composed their own unique prayers, hymns and rituals to express this central Christian mystery of salvation according to their own culture, language, music, and distinctive Christian experience.
For an Armenian the Catholic Mass will appear very different from the Badarak: the Mass is generally shorter than the Badarak. The language of worship is customarily the spoken language of the community. The music is rather dissimilar, with relatively little chant. Many prayers and acclamations are not sung but spoken. There is little ritual movement compared to the Armenian liturgy. Incense is used sparingly, if at all. The Mass includes moments for silent reflection. There are fewer altar servers, whose liturgical role is less conspicuous than that of Armenian deacons. The faithful frequently and actively participate in the service by reciting in unison various acclamations and responses, which they know by heart. There is no bidding to “bow down to God” (Asdoodzo yergrbakestsook) as we have in the Badarak. The wording of the Creed is slightly different. The Mass contains many prayers and liturgical texts that are unique to the Catholic Church. The sermon is delivered in its traditional place, immediately following the Gospel reading (in many Armenian churches the sermon has been displaced to a moment later in the service). The greeting of peace is offered by a handshake, not a “kiss” or ritualized embrace as in the Armenian Church. The chalice contains a bit of water mixed into the wine (in the Armenian Church pure wine is used; see pages 40-41 above). In Holy Communion the people receive the bread and wine separately (in the Badarak only the celebrant priest drinks from the chalice. Everyone else receives a piece of bread that has been dipped into the wine). In some Catholic parishes, specially trained lay people are authorized to distribute Holy Communion. Dismissal rites are different: Catholics do not come forward to venerate the Gospel or Cross at the end of the Mass. There is also no blessed bread (mahs; antidoron) distributed to the faithful to take home to the sick and shut-ins. Of course, most of the hymns of the Badarak were composed in Armenia or other centers of the Christian East and are unknown in the Catholic and other churches.
On the other hand, the Badarak and the Mass share many things in common. Sacred Scripture is read, culminating in a reading from one of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). The Nicene Creed is recited. There is a sermon. The faithful cross themselves and kneel down at certain times during the service. A kiss or greeting of peace (Kreesdos ee mech mer haydnetsav) is shared among the people. The “Sanctus,” or thrice-holy hymn of the angels (Soorp soorp) is sung within the Eucharistic Prayer. Jesus’ words at the Last Supper (“Take, eat. This is my body… Drink… this is my blood…”, “Arek, gerek… Arpek ee smaneh…”) are recalled in the Eucharistic Prayer. Mary the Mother of God and other saints are invoked in the Eucharistic Prayer. The Holy Spirit is invoked in the Epiclesis of the Eucharistic Prayer. The living and the dead are prayed for. The Catholicos or Pope are remembered, as are church and civil leaders. Prayers are offered for the sick, poor, prisoners, and those who support the church’s work through their gifts. Also found are prayers for the stability of the church, peace in the world and other concerns. The Lord’s Prayer is offered before Holy Communion. A penitential hymn featuring the biblical phrase, “Lord have mercy” is sung. Holy Communion is distributed. The services conclude with a final dismissal blessing.
The differences between these two ancient Eucharistic services are, for the most part, differences of expression and culture. Some are theologically significant, but not so much as to prevent both the Armenians and Catholics from recognizing the others’ Eucharistic service as legitimate and venerable responses, for their own faithful, of Jesus’ mandate to “Do this in remembrance of me” [Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 11:24-25].
Source: Frequently Asked Questions on the Badarak, The Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church by Michael Daniel Findikyan.
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