Those living in Georgia with access to TV will have noted the recent media fascination with Georgia’s Assyrian minority living in Qanda village, close to Mtskheta town. This has been driven to an extent by the charisma and vocal talents of the priest of that community, Father Seraphim, who has made numerous media appearances and has multiple videos on Youtube of his choir in Qanda’s church, who sing in Aramaic and Georgian.
As previously reported, the ancestors of Qanda’s population came to Georgia as refugees in the 19th century. While they were Christians, they were not of our Eastern Orthodox communion. Over time, they accepted baptism into the Georgian Church and were accepted as an Orthodox parish with the dispensation to conduct their affairs in their native language.
This ethnic minority are held in high regard in Georgia, even more so since Qanda’s rise to prominence in the media. Georgian Christians are very aware that Georgian monasticism was developed by Assyrian monks and that many regions of Georgia still practising animism or Zoroastrianism after Iberia’s adoption of Christianity were converted by the Assyrian Fathers. Also, to witness a community accepting the local religion and integrating smoothly into the greater Georgian community has been very satisfying to observe for many. To my knowledge, other Orthodox Christian minorities in Georgia, including Slavs, Ossetians and Greeks, were already Orthodox when they migrated here, other than those Caucasus Greeks and Black Sea Greeks who settled here more than 2000 years ago.
The psalm performed in Aramaic, with the tune arranged by Father Seraphim, is Psalm 16:
16 Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.
2 O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee;
3 But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.
4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.
5 The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.
6 The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
7 I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.
8 I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.
10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.