South Caucasus 2021 update

Transcaucasia, also known as the South Caucasus, is a geographical region on the border of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, straddling the southern Caucasus (Russian Kavkaz) Mountains, presenting us the Caucasian States lying between the Black Sea (west) and the Caspian Sea (east) and occupied by Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

Around the Black Sea coast (Chernoye More) or Marea Neagră we can find the most people living in that area. Urban dwellers account for nearly three-fifths of the entire population, and in Armenia and North Ossetia the proportion is even greater.

At the eastern end of the Black Sea on the southern flanks of the main crest of the Greater Caucasus Mountain the population is aging. The sunny climate of the Black Sea coast, the pure air of the mountain regions, and a wide range of resorts may attract some tourists, but do not bring much conversation about religion.

Georgia embraced Christianity about the year 330 and today people still find joy in the many old traditions to glorify and adore their many saints. But interest in Georgia for the real God and our faith has declined since its early promise, and it has not been possible to visit for some time. Some contact is maintained with one sister who is doing some translation work.

There is little to report for modern Armenia, which comprises only a small portion of ancient Armenia, one of the world’s oldest centres of civilisation. After a devastating war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020 both parties were compelled to withdraw from most of Nagorno-Karabakh (also called Artsakh), an enclave of 1,700 square miles (4,400 square km) in southwestern Azerbaijan populated primarily by ethnic Armenians.

Most Armenians adhere to the Armenian Apostolic Church, a non-Chalcedonian Christian church, which is also the world’s oldest national church. Armenia was the first kingdom to adopt the religion after the Arsacid king Tiridates III was converted by the Parthian prince St. Gregory the Illuminator, the 4th-century apostle of Christianity in Armenia. The Armenians have therefore maintained an ancient and rich liturgical and Christian literary tradition.

In 506 at the Council of Dvin, the Armenian church rejected the ruling of the Council of Chalcedon (451) that the one person of Jesus Christ consists of two natures, one divine and one human. The Armenian church was one of several Eastern churches that confessed the Christological formula of St. Cyril of Alexandria, which proclaimed “one incarnate nature of the Word.”
After Chalcedon, the Armenian church was considered by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches to be monophysite — i.e., taking the theological view that Christ had only one, divine nature (physis), despite his incarnation in a human body. But like the other “pre-Chalcedon” or Oriental Orthodox churches — churches in the Caucasus, the Middle East, and Asia that did not offer allegiance to Rome or to Constantinople — the Armenian Apostolic Church in fact rejected monophysitism and promoted a doctrinal position known as miaphysitism, which holds that both divinity and humanity are equally present within a single (hence the Greek prefix mia-) nature in the person of Christ. {Encyc.Brit.}

One would think this would make it easier to talk about the single nature of Jesus, him only being a man and not being God, but having a divine character, him being in the image of God not having done any fault or sin.

Contrary to the allegations of their detractors, the Syrian and other miaphsyite Christians did not deny Christ’s human nature nor emphasize his divine nature. {Encyc.Brit.}

In Armenia to bring people to come to see how the human nature of Christ is so important for our salvation seems a very difficult task (like in so many other Christian countries).

One of our Armenian brothers has had a protracted stay in Canada, but has now returned, or Azerbaijan, which is still not safe enough to be visited.

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