This weekend the Armenian Church will remember the two people who first brought Christianity to Armenia: Sts. Thaddeus and Bartholomew. They were among the earliest Christian missionaries in history—but they were more than that.
In fact, they were two of the original disciples of Jesus Christ. When they came to the land of our ancestors to spread the Good News of Christ’s Resurrection, they were not just offering an abstract philosophy. They told about their own first-hand experience of the life and mystery of Jesus—stories they knew from having lived side-by-side with him.
It must have been an exciting time, those first years in the history of the Christian religion. A substantial Christian community arose in Armenia thanks to Thaddeus and Bartholomew. Among the converts was a royal princess, Santoukht, who was later canonized as Armenia’s first martyr for Christ.
Because of Thaddeus and Bartholomew, Armenians are part of an unbroken tradition stretching all the way back to the original apostles—and through them, to the historic figure of Jesus Christ himself. And to this day, our church renews and refreshes that personal union between Christ and each of us.
Through its role as the administrator of the sacraments, and especially through the Holy Badarak, the church is the “mystical body” through which Christ becomes present among us: in our communities, in our families, in our hearts. We acknowledge his presence in the great Armenian hymn: Krisdos ee mech mer haydentasav—“Christ is among us, revealed.”
To sing those words in Badarak is to re-live the experience of the two Apostles who first brought Christianity to the Armenian people. This relationship with the historic Jesus Christ—a relationship shared by only the most ancient Christian communities—is a precious treasure of the Armenian Church. It’s what we mean by the term “Apostolic origin:” namely, that we can trace our roots all the way back to the beginning of the Christian movement—to people who listened and learned, who spoke and walked, who lived with Jesus Christ, during his earthly ministry. People who saw him die—and then witnessed the miracle of his resurrection with their own eyes.
This treasure now belongs to us. Reflect on that this Saturday, as our Church marks the Feast of Sts. Thaddeus and Bartholomew.