Seminarian Continues Studies in Holy Etchmiadzin
Seminarian Dn. Timothy Aznavourian has been studying at the Gevorkian Theological Seminary located at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin since September 2018. We asked him to share his thoughts and impressions about studying and living in Armenia with his wife Julianne. Dn. Timothy is from Rhode Island and is a second year student. They will remain there until June 2019.
Q: What classes are you taking?
A: Dn. Timothy: Currently, I am taking Western Armenian, Classical Armenian, Russian, Armenian Literature, National History, Church History, Ecclesiastical Music, New Testament, Old Testament. The education at Gevorkian Theological Seminary is very intense and students are expected to master the material given to them at a very advanced level. Taking classes here has helped me identify some of the areas that I need to work on in order to pursue ministry within the Armenian Church. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for which I am extremely grateful. My wife Julianne is taking intensive Armenian language and literature courses at the Philological Faculty of Yerevan State University.
Q: Please share your worship and prayer life in Holy Etchmiadzin.
A: Dn. Timothy: There are a lot of opportunities for prayer and worship in Armenia. I feel most connected to Jesus Christ in my prayer life when I listen to and pray with others here, whether on Friday evenings at the hospital in Kanaker or with the many people that I meet throughout the day. Because we can participate in liturgy every day at Holy Etchmiadzin, a line from a sharagan or a prayer will strike me that I had never thought of before in that particular way. For example, in the Night Service there is a prayer addressed to Jesus the Good Shepherd that reads, “bless everyone, instruct everyone, enlighten everyone, and bestow upon everyone your Kingdom of Heaven”. A short line like this can stay with me throughout the day and inform the way I interact with students, my wife, family, friends and myself as well.
Q: What has been your experience living in Armenia?
A: Dn. Timothy: While living in Armenia is certainly different than living in New York at St. Nersess, it has by no means been a hardship on either myself or my wife Julianne. Particularly if one lives in or near Yerevan, the standard of living is similar to that of working-class America. The major difference is that there is a strong sense of community. It is almost expected for someone to be close friends with their neighbors.
Q: Please describe a special moment you have experienced.
A: Dn. Timothy: On New Year’s Eve, starting at around 10 or 11pm, many people in apartment buildings go around door-to-door wishing each other a healthy and successful New Year. It is an expression of goodwill that is, unfortunately, becoming less and less common in America as we become increasingly afraid of one another. Celebrating the New Year here was particularly special for us because we re-connected with old friends, have made acquaintances with new friends, as well as have connected with the families of clergy from our own Eastern Diocese.
I was moved on New Year’s Day when the next-door neighbor’s son unexpectedly knocked on our door and asked us if we would like to join them for New Year’s dinner. I asked him when he would like to have us over and he said “ges jamits’ — in a half-hour and then ran away to play outside in the pag ‘neighborhood’ with his friends. Julie and I went to our neighbors, scrambled to find a gift to bring for them and spent the next three hours with four generations of family members — laughing, sharing stories and watching the eldest son play the clarinet and sing the traditional Armenian “Khnjouyki yerk” for us. We also prayed for the health of the family and safety of the father who was unfortunately absent because he was serving in the army in order to provide for them.
We have so much to be grateful for living here in Holy Etchmiadzin, and we would particularly like to thank His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, the Very Rev. Fr. Garegin Hambardzumyan, Dean of Gevorkian Theological Seminary, as well as our Diocesan Primate the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan and the Dean of St. Nersess the Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian for all of their assistance in helping us to adjust to life in the homeland.