Archive for June, 2013

Feast of St. Trdat the King and Queen Ashkhen

June 21st, 2013    |    No Comments »

This Saturday the Armenian Church will observe the Feast of St. Trdat the King and Queen Ashkhen—two key figures in the story of Armenia’s conversion to Christianity at the beginning of the 4th century.

Although Christianity began spreading in Armenia before the reign of Trdat (or Tiridates), the king was committed to his pagan heritage. As tradition has it, it was his wife Ashkhen who first learned about Christ’s teachings through the preaching of the young nuns Hripsime and Gayane.

When Trdat met Hripsime, he fell in love with her, but she refused his advances. Infuriated by Hripsime’s rejection and by her devotion to Christianity, Trdat ordered that Hripsime and her sister nuns be stoned to death. In the aftermath of this massacre, the king fell violently ill and it seemed no one could cure him of his affliction.

But Trdat had a sister, Khosrovidoukht, who also adopted the Christian faith, and with Ashkhen prayed for her brother’s recovery. Their prayers were answered when Khosrovidoukht saw a vision in which she learned that Trdat could be cured by the man whom he had imprisoned more than a decade earlier—St. Gregory the Illuminator.

Under St. Gregory’s guidance, King Trdat prayed at the site where the young nuns were martyred. The historian Agathangelos tells us that “by Christ’s grace [Gregory] cured [the king’s] hands and feet enough so that he was able with his own hands to dig graves and bury the caskets in them.” Gregory then baptized the royal family, and Christianity was proclaimed as the official religion of Armenia.

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The story of Armenia’s conversion to Christianity is depicted on the doors of St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in New York City. In the detail above, Queen Ashkhen and King Trdat are baptized by the hand of St. Gregory the Illuminator.

Pilgrimage Journal: A Warm Farewell

June 13th, 2013    |    No Comments »

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.

Pilgrims walk along the wall in the Old City.

Archbishop Nourhan Manougian outside the Church of the Ascension.

Archbishop Nourhan Manougian outside the Church of the Ascension.

Pilgrims show off their cross tattoos.

Pilgrims show off their cross tattoos.

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

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The Mount of Temptation.

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

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Pilgrims Marcus Dalakian and Crystal Densmore at the Jordan River.

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

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Pilgrims at the Dome of the Rock.

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

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Fr. Mardiros Chevian leads a Bible study at the Pool of Bethesda.

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.

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.

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

Lunch with members of the Sts. James Brotherhood.

Lunch with members of the St. James Brotherhood.

Local youth welcome the pilgrims for a social evening.

Local youth welcome the pilgrims for a social evening.

Young people dancing together at Sts. Tarkmanchantz School.

Young people dancing together at Sts. Tarkmanchantz School.

Pilgrimage Journal: Galilee

June 7th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Early in the morning on Thursday, we boarded the bus for a two-hour journey to the region of Galilee. Our first stop was the Church of the Beatitudes, which sits on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Here we participated in a Bible study session on the Beatitudes of Jesus and considered how these teachings help us to become strong leaders.

Next we boarded a boat that took us across the Sea of Galilee. With the sun shining brightly overhead, we looked out across the water where the disciples were awed by the way Jesus calmed the wind and the waves. We enjoyed a period of quiet meditation, and later sang and exchanged the “Kiss of Peace” to celebrate God’s presence among us. The boat ride concluded with traditional Armenian music and dancing.

Later we saw the site where Jesus multiplied the fish and the bread to feed a crowd of 5,000 people. We reflected on the spiritual nourishment we receive through Holy Communion. We then traveled to Nazareth and visited the Church of the Annunciation, built over the well at which Mary received the news that she would conceive a child. We also saw the Basilica of the Annunciation, which is built over the childhood home of Mary.

On our return trip, we saw Mt. Tabor, where Jesus was transfigured before the apostles Peter, James, and John. It was here that the voice of God proclaimed, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” We thought about this mysterious event in Christ’s life, and how God speaks to us in our own lives.

–Kathryn Ashbahian is a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage

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Archbishop Khajag Barsamian leads a Bible study at the Church of the Beatitudes.

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Pilgrims dance to Armenian music on the Sea of Galilee.

Pilgrimage Journal: The Church of St. Mary and the Mount of Olives

June 6th, 2013    |    No Comments »

On Wednesday, we started our day early with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Church of St. Mary, which houses her empty tomb. In addition to the Armenian liturgy, we heard hymns of prayer from other Christian communities that were holding services in the church. The weaving of worshipful voices was a holy chaos.

Later we visited the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations, where we kneeled and prayed before the very rock upon which Jesus prayed on the night of his arrest. Our Bible study examined Jesus’ anguished prayer in the garden, and we discussed the importance of both individual and communal prayer.

In the afternoon, we journeyed to the Mount of Olives and visited the Church of Dominus Flevit, where Jesus wept for Jerusalem. We filled the church with the “Der Voghormya”; as we sang, we looked out onto Jerusalem from a large window behind the altar. We then sang the “Hayr Mer” and were struck by the way the music moved within the church and within our hearts.

Our last stop was the Pater Noster Church on the Mount of Olives, in which the Lord’s Prayer is displayed in more than 130 languages, including Armenian. In the evening, we joined the local Armenian community for a reception to celebrate Archbishop Nourhan Manougian’s enthronement.

–Kathryn Ashbahian is a participant in this year’s Young Adult Pilgrimage

 

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Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of St. Mary, with young pilgrims assisting on the altar.

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Marcus Dalakian kneels in prayer.

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Pilgrims on the Mount of Olives.

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A pilgrim enjoys a camel ride in Jerusalem.

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 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 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.

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.

Archbishop Nourhan Manougian (second from left) with clergy at the enthronement ceremony at Sts. James Cathedral in Jerusalem.