hidden in its urban neighborhood, St. Zoravor
is a haven.
It is a nation of churches, Armenia.
One of its newest, St. Grigor the Illuminator,
was consecrated by Pope John Paul II during a
visit here two years ago.
One of the oldest, Geghard, is one of the republic's
most popular tourist sites. And of course there
is Echmiadzin, the very seat of Armenian Christianity.
Churches are the centerpieces of Armenian villages.
And for some, they are where the soul finds its
There are churches where you go to talk to God,
and churches where you go to listen for God's
voice. My favorite is the second sort.
Far from the luxurious appointments and ornamentation
of St. Grigor, that big white church near the
square, my favorite sits unadorned and hidden
in the middle of the city.
Sourb (Saint) Zoravor fits snuggly among apartment
buildings just off Parpetsi Street in Yerevan.
Nearby is a bank and a new restaurant and a book
store and small kiosks, two political headquarters,
this newsroom, tourist agencies, beauty shops
. . . so much that St. Zoravor could be easily
missed, especially in summer when neighborhood
fruit trees hide it behind canopies of green.
It is what a church should be - a haven among
is shaded by mulberry and cherry trees.
Yerevan is a terribly noisy city, particularly
during these months of so much construction, renovation
and street repair. But stepping into St. Zoravor
is as if God's own sound barrier has muffled outside
interference so that inner voices can be heard
Inside, worshippers, seekers of faith, the pious
and the confused, find a quiet disturbed only
by the noise of birds enjoying those fruit trees
and the occasional cries of children playing in
It is a small chapel with six pews near the altar
and two against the back wall. Like other sacred
places in Armenia, it holds images of the saints
and the smell of burning candles is constant.
The very walls themselves emit the aroma of incense
that for so many years has been the wings for
prayers of the faithful and the faith seekers.
I do not know Armenian church ritual. I know
that it is proper to keep your hands out of your
pockets while in church, and to walk out backward
when you leave. I'm always afraid I'll naively
do something that offends.
I have no religion. And, like the New Testament
apostle, I believe just enough to know that I
need help for my unbelief. I believe God can be
found as surely in a mosque as in a temple or
a church or in a parking lot evangelist's gospel
tent. Or in a lover's eyes or in a parent's caress.
But how God can be found is a mystery to me.
More likely, God finds us, I suspect. For in matters
of spirituality, I am usually the one who is hiding
or is lost.
there is fruit for the soul.
Yes, a mystery.
And I like that. Too much can be explained in
life. Knowing that some things can't be known
leaves room for the soul to expand.
Lacking anything spectacular as distraction,
St. Zoravor modestly invites a person to look
If you go there, go to listen. You may not hear
anything. And in this busy city, that in itself
is something of a miracle.