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Pilgrimage Journal: A Warm Farewell

We spent the last 10 days following in Christ’s footsteps across the Holy Land. Our incredible journey came to a close at the very site from which Jesus ascended into heaven after giving his disciples the Great Commission. Here, at the Church of the Ascension, which is shared by Christians and Muslims, we attended a prayer service. We reflected on what Christ calls us to do, and thought about ways we can inspire others in our parishes once we return home.

On the previous day, Tuesday, June 11, we enjoyed a free day to explore Jerusalem. Some of the pilgrims returned to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Others sought out “hajis” artists to have Armenian crosses tattooed on their arms, as has been the custom with Armenian pilgrims for centuries. We also walked along the wall around the Old City, taking in magnificent views of Jerusalem.
On Wednesday evening we gathered at a local Armenian restaurant, where we shared a meal and celebrated the new friendships we formed during our journey. As we prepared to depart, many of us spoke about how inspiring this pilgrimage has been. We experienced the stories of the Gospels in an entirely new way by walking alongside our Lord.
–Kathryn Ashbahian was a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage

Pilgrims walk along the wall in the Old City.

Archbishop Nourhan Manougian outside the Church of the Ascension.

Pilgrims show off their cross tattoos.
Tags: Church of the Ascension, Holy Land, Jerusalem
Posted in General Interest, People and Places, Pilgrimages
Pilgrimage Journal: The Jordan River
June 11th, 2013    |    No Comments »
On Monday, we visited the Armenian Chapel of St. Polyeuctos, where we viewed a beautiful Armenian mosaic dated from the 5th–6th century. The mosaic inscription reads: “To the memory and salvation of the souls of all Armenians, whose names are known to God alone.” (St. Polyeuctos was a Roman officer who converted to Christianity and was martyred in Malatya, in historic Armenia, in the 3rd century.)
Our next stop was on the banks of the Jordan River, the site of Christ’s baptism. Here Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and Fr. Mardiros Chevian performed the “Blessing of Water” ceremony. The olivewood crosses that were used during the ceremony were presented to pilgrims Crystal Densmore, of St. Mesrob Church of Racine, WI, and Marcus Dalakian, of St. Mary Church of Livingston, NJ. From the Jordan River we traveled to the Mount of Temptation, just as Christ did after he was baptized in order to prepare for his ministry.
We continued on to the town of Jericho, strolling through its central streets and observing vendors laying out fresh bread and meats at the market. Here we also enjoyed a delicious lunch. Our day concluded with a visit to the Dead Sea. On our approach, we saw the Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. We then enjoyed a relaxing afternoon on the Dead Sea.
–Kathryn Ashbahian is a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage

The Mount of Temptation.

Archbishop Barsamian performs the “Blessing of Water” ceremony at the Jordan River.

Pilgrims Marcus Dalakian and Crystal Densmore at the Jordan River.
Tags: Armenian Chapel of St. Polyeuctos, Dead Sea, Holy Land, Jordan River
Posted in Diocesan Programs, General Interest, People and Places, Pilgrimages
Pilgrimage Journal: The Empty Tomb of Christ
June 10th, 2013    |    No Comments »
On Saturday morning, we visited the Armenian Seminary of Jerusalem, where we met with local clergy and youth for a discussion on the ways we can live out the teachings of the Gospels. The conversations were particularly interesting given that our Diocesan theme for this year is “Living the Gospel of Christ.”
Later in the afternoon, we visited the Upper Room, where Jesus and his disciples shared their Last Supper together. After attending the evening service at Sts. James Cathedral, we returned to the hotel to prepare for our early morning “Badarak” at the Church of the Holy Seplucher the next day.
Rising before 4 a.m. on Sunday, we made our way through the Old City to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In the silence of the undisturbed morning, we winded our way through the empty streets and prepared our hearts to take Holy Communion at the empty tomb of Christ.
Following services, we toured the Holy Sepulcher. We kneeled to kiss the Stone of Unction, touched the rock of Golgotha, and saw the underground Armenian chapel.
In the afternoon, we gazed upon the magnificent structure of the Dome of the Rock, also known as the Temple Mount. It is said that Armenians handcrafted the elaborate and colorful tiles that cover the Dome.
While at the Pool of Bethesda, we had a Bible study on Jesus healing the crippled man at the site, and spoke about times in our lives when we’ve needed healing. It was encouraging to share our personal experiences with each other, and to offer each other words of support. Then we came together and sang “Der Voghormya” at the nearby St. Anne Church.
We closed the day by going to the Wailing Wall and leaving written prayers in the crevices of the old structure.
–Kathryn Ashbahian is a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage

Pilgrims at the Dome of the Rock.

Taking part in the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Fr. Mardiros Chevian leads a Bible study at the Pool of Bethesda.
Tags: Holy Land, Holy Sepulcher, Rock of Golgotha, Stone of Unction, Sts. James Cathedral, Temple Mount
Posted in Diocesan Programs, General Interest, People and Places, Pilgrimages
Pilgrimage Journal: Armenian Patriarchate
June 10th, 2013    |    No Comments »
On Friday, we spent our day at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Our visit began at the Patriarchate cemetery, where we held a requiem service and remembered the leadership of past Patriarchs.
Later we were welcomed by His Beatitude Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, the 97th Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem. The ACYOA Central Council presented Archbishop Manougian with a check for $1,000, as part of the organization’s annual contribution to the Armenian Patriarchate.
We visited local Armenian stores and enjoyed lunch with several members of the Sts. James Brotherhood. Following evening service at Sts. James Cathedral, we received a formal tour of the Patriarchate from the Very Rev. Fr. Samuel Aghoyan. We had the opportunity to learn more about Sts. James Cathedral, the Calouste Gulbenkian Library, and the Sts. Tarkmanchatz School.
In the evening, we enjoyed social time with local Armenian youth at Sts. Tarkmanchatz School. They shared with us their experiences growing up in Jerusalem and we engaged in a lively game of volleyball.
–Kathryn Ashbahian is a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage

A requiem service at the cemetery of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.Pilgrims pose for a group photo with Archbishop Nourhan Manougian at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Lunch with members of the St. James Brotherhood.

Local youth welcome the pilgrims for a social evening.

Young people dancing together at Sts. Tarkmanchantz School.
Tags: Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Holy Land, Sts. James Cathedral, Youth Pilgrimage
Posted in Diocesan Programs, General Interest, People and Places, Pilgrimages
Pilgrimage Journal: Bethlehem
June 5th, 2013    |    No Comments »
This week our group arrived in the Holy Land. We were at once exhausted and excited. Our first stop was the Church of the Holy Nativity in Bethlehem, where we took part in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. It was a very special moment to receive Holy Communion at the site where the infant Jesus made his humble entrance into the world. Members of our group bowed down to kiss the silver star that marks the place where Christ was born. In his message, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian formally welcomed our group and called on us to keep Christ at the center of our lives.
Later we made our way to the nearby Armenian Monastery, where we ate lunch and took part in a Bible study. In small groups, we discussed the significance of Christ’s incarnation and spoke about ways we can live out his teachings in our daily lives. We had another scripture reading at Shepherds’ Field, the site where the angels delivered the good news of the Lord’s birth, along with a moment of silence and the recitation of the Hayr Mer.
On Tuesday, June 4, our group was privileged to witness the enthronement of Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, the new Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem. Standing in prayer at Sts. James Cathedral, we were in the presence of other pilgrims, clergy, and guests. Archbishop Manougian delivered a moving message, underlining his commitment to strengthening the Armenian presence in the Holy Land, and to working with other faith communities to promote peace in the region.
–Kathryn Ashbahian is a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage

Pilgrims pose for a group photo with Fr. Mardiros Chevian at Armenian Monastery of Bethlehem.

Pilgrims assist Archbishop Khajag Barsamian in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

 Pilgrims in prayer at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

 Archbishop Nourhan Manougian (second from left) with clergy at the enthronement ceremony at Sts. James Cathedral in Jerusalem.
Tags: Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Holy Land, pilgrimage, Young Leaders
Posted in Pilgrimages, Youth
Today on the Young Adult Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
June 20th, 2012    |    No Comments »
FAREWELL
Sunday found us setting out earlier than any other day on our pilgrimage. At 4 a.m. we walked in procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where we experienced the Divine Liturgy at the tomb of Christ. Armenians have had the daily right to celebrate the Divine Liturgy at this site, in this early hour, since 1853.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian celebrated the badarak, with several of our fellow pilgrims assisting. Being a part of the service at this holy site was certainly a highlight of the entire pilgrimage; many pilgrims described it as an almost surreal experience.
We had a more down-to-earth-but no less joyful experience immediately following the Divine Liturgy, when Archbishop Barsamian blessed two of our pilgrims—Vache Soghomonian and Nadia Silk—who became engaged during the pilgrimage.
That afternoon we attended a lecture on the Armenian presence in Jerusalem, led by historian Kevork Hintlian at the Armenian Patriarchate. Afterwards, we gathered for a final group discussion to share our thoughts about the journeys—physical and spiritual—we had all been on over the prior week.
Our pilgrimage ended where the Church began: in the Upper Room, where the Holy Spirit descended upon the holy apostles on Pentecost. In that setting we read the story as Luke relates it in Acts; then we sang and prayed for our fathers in observance of Father’s Day.
One final stop had us in the home of Boghos Shahanian, an Armenian resident of Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter, for a farewell celebration which included toasting, singing, and a delicious Armenian meal provided by our host.
On Monday, the participants were reluctant to leave, and the strength of our newly-formed relationships was evident. Our hope and prayer is that we will all keep in touch; but most importantly, that we will keep the fire we discovered in Jerusalem burning in our hearts, as we allow it to deepen our faith in Christ. On this pilgrimage, we have truly seen him come to life in us in a new way.
We should do our best to preserve the centuries-old Armenian presence in Jerusalem, and to encourage all Armenians to visit the Holy Land. Our group would like to thank Archbishop Barsamian, Fr. Mardiros Chevian, Dn. Justin Ajamian, and everyone who helped make this program possible. We are eternally grateful.
– Eric Vozzy is a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage
Pilgrims take part in the Divine Liturgy at the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem.
Pilgrims take part in the Divine Liturgy at the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem.

Dancing at an Armenian restaurant in Jerusalem.
Tags: Holy Land, Holy Sepulcher, youth leaders, Youth Pilgrimage
Posted in General Interest, Youth
Today on the Young Adult Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
June 19th, 2012    |    No Comments »
HOLY SEPULCHER
On Saturday we visited the Pool of Bethesda, where Christ healed a man who was ill for 38 years and could not physically make his way to the pool to be healed. We then began to walk the Via Dolorosa, “The Way of Grief”, which led us to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher—the site of Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and glorious resurrection.
As we entered the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, we saw the slab of stone on which Jesus was laid after he was taken down from the cross. After spending time in prayer at this holy site, we made our way through the church to the tomb of Christ. For all of the participants, our experience at Christ’s tomb was overwhelming and momentous.
We then made our way up to Golgotha, the place where Christ was crucified. Here we crouched down to get close to the spot where this life-changing event took place.
Next we descended into the St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Chapel, which is adjoined by a cave discovered by an Armenian bishop some 40 years ago and considered to be the closest place to where the original cross of Christ was discovered by St. Helena. This cave leads to yet another Armenian chapel named after St. Vartan. It was here that we paused to meditate and to sing the Hayr Mer.
We finally walked up some stairs to another area belonging to the Armenian Church, called Second Golgotha. Overlooking the tomb of Christ, this part of the church houses numerous Armenian altars, as well as a piece of the pillar to which Christ was tied when he was tortured. Here we had a Bible study on forgiveness, and we spoke about the death and resurrection of Christ.
Later that day, we returned to Sts. James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter, where we took part in a vespers service, and observed the eve of the Feast of Holy Etchmiadzin. Celebrating Etchmiadzin as the birthplace of the Armenian Church was a very fitting end to our day.
– Eric Vozzy is a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage

Pilgrims at the chapel of St. Vartan in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Pilgrims bow down before the Stone of Unction.
Tags: Holy Land, Holy Sepulcher, via dolorosa, youth leaders, Youth Pilgrimage
Posted in General Interest, Youth
Today on the Young Adult Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
June 18th, 2012    |    No Comments »
MOUNT OF OLIVES
Our first stop on Friday was at the Chapel of St. Polyeuctos, where we viewed an Armenian mosaic dated from the 5th–6th century. It is the earliest written evidence of the Armenian presence in the Holy Land. The mosaic inscription reads: “To the memory and salvation of the souls of all Armenians, whose names are known to God alone.”
From there we traveled to the Mount of Olives, where we walked the same path that Christ walked on Palm Sunday, the day he entered Jerusalem. While on this route, we visited the Russian Convent of the Ascension of our Savior, which houses an ancient Armenian mosaic.
We also visited the Church of the Ascension. This is the place from where Christ ascended to heaven before his disciples and other witnesses. The building now belongs to the Muslims, but the Divine Liturgy is celebrated here every year on the Feast of the Ascension.
From there we walked to the Church of the Lord’s Prayer, in which the Lord’s Prayer is displayed in over 130 languages, including Armenian. Other sites on this path to Jerusalem included the Dominus Flevit Church, where Christ wept for Jerusalem, the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ was betrayed and arrested before his crucifixion, and the Church of St. Mary, which houses her empty tomb. Each of us entered Mary’s tomb to pray and reflect on her Assumption.
In the evening, we gathered with youth from the local Armenian community for fellowship. We enjoyed dancing, a soccer game, and karaoke.
Overall, it was a busy day, and there were many moments of inspiration, as we were able to walk the same path as Christ did to Jerusalem, and to stop at holy sites to pray, meditate, and sing.
– Eric Vozzy is a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage

A view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

Pilgrims at the Church of the Ascension.

Pilgrims enjoyed fellowship with local Armenian youth.
Tags: Holy Land, Jerusalem, Mount of Olives, youth leaders, Youth Pilgrimage
Posted in General Interest, Youth
Today on the Young Adult Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
June 15th, 2012    |    No Comments »
SEA OF GALILEE
Today we traveled two hours north of Jerusalem. As we passed Mount Tabor, we stopped the bus for a Scripture reading, and a moment of meditation about the Transfiguration of Christ. Our next stop was Nazareth, the town where Jesus was raised, where we viewed the remains of the house of St. Mary, located in the Basilica of the Annunciation.
Other sites in this vicinity included the town of Capernaum, which has a church built over a visible portion of the house of St. Peter; the town of Cana, where we read and reflected on the miracle Jesus performed at the wedding of Cana; and Tabgha, the site where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes. We then stopped at the Church of the Beatitudes, and had a Bible study where we discussed the Beatitudes as guides to being a disciple of Christ.
Our last stop of the day was the Sea of Galilee. Jesus spent a lot of time here during his ministry; it’s where he walked on water, and saved his disciple Peter from drowning. During a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, Fr. Mardiros Chevian led a group meditation on the storms of life, and how faith can overcome doubt.
Witnessing the many places where Christ walked, ministered, and performed miracles has connected all of us more deeply—not only to Christ’s presence in the Scriptures, but also to his presence in our lives today.
– Eric Vozzy is a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage

At the Basilica of the Annunciation, in Nazareth.

Aboard a boat on the Sea of Galilee, the pilgrims meditate on life’s storms.

The dramatic landscape around the Sea of Galilee, unchanged since the time of Jesus.

The lush surroundings of the Sea of Galilee: the setting for several Gospel stories.
Tags: Armenian Patriarchate, Holy Land, Jerusalem, pilgrimage, youth leaders
Posted in Diocesan Programs, Youth
Today on the Young Adult Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
June 14th, 2012    |    No Comments »
ARMENIAN QUARTER
We spent Wednesday at the Armenian Patriarchate located in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The day opened with a meeting with Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, the Patriarchal Vicar. During the meeting, the ACYOA Central Council presented Archbishop Manougian with a check for $1,000, as part of the organization’s annual contribution to the Armenian Patriarchate.
We then received a tour of the Patriarchate, which included sites such as the Sts. Tarkmanchants School, where we learned about the latest programs, as well as opportunities to be involved with and support the school. Other sites included the Calouste Gulbenkian Library, which holds close to 100,000 volumes, the tree to which Christ was tied when he was flogged, and the Holy Archangels Church, which houses the prison where Jesus was held as he was tortured before his crucifixion.
After having lunch with the Brotherhood of Sts. James, we attended a vespers service in Sts. James Cathedral. We then proceeded to one of the many altars of the cathedral, where Noel Dawood of St. George Church of Waukegan, IL, was chrismated by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian.
Witnessing one of our peers receiving a sacrament of the Armenian Church, in such a holy setting, made this an especially memorable day for us as pilgrims.
– Eric Vozzy is a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage

Pilgrims pose for a group photo at Sts. James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem.
Noel Dawood was chrismated by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian at Sts. James Cathedral.

Tags: Armenian Patriarchate, Diocesan pilgrims, Holy Land, Jerusalem, youth leaders

Posted in Diocesan Programs, Youth

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