Archive for the ‘Pilgrimages’ Category

Lessons from our Pilgrimage

June 19th, 2015    |    No Comments »

On Friday, June 12, we woke early and at 3 a.m. we set out for a special Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We walked through the dark streets of the Old City of Jerusalem until we reached this holy place—the site of Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and glorious resurrection.

Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan celebrated the Divine Liturgy, and later each of us entered the tomb of Christ to pray.

Following services, we visited the Armenian Patriarchate for a lecture on the history of Armenians in the Holy Land by author and historian Kevork Hintlian. It was inspiring to learn that our ancestors have had a presence in the Holy Land for centuries. We also considered what Armenians today can do to support the Armenian Patriarchate and the Armenian Quarter.

On Saturday, we saw an ancient mosaic floor decorated with motifs of birds and grapes. Dating to the 5th or 6th century, the mosaic floor is the only remaining section of the Armenian Church of St. Polyeuctos. An inscription on the floor reads: “To the memory and salvation of the souls of all Armenians, whose names are known to God alone.”

We also visited the Pool of Bethesda and St. Anne’s Church, the site of St. Mary’s birth.

In the Upper Room, the site of the Last Supper, we reflected on Christ’s final evening with his disciples: “He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’”

Coming to the Holy Land and walking in the footsteps of our Lord brought us closer to our faith. We are looking forward to sharing our incredible experience with our parishes back home.

—Michael Salama is among the pilgrims on the 2015 Youth Leadership Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The Garden of Gethsemane

June 12th, 2015    |    No Comments »

On Thursday morning, Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of St. Mary in Jerusalem. This ancient church, built at the site where Mary was buried by the apostles before her assumption into heaven, belongs to the Armenians and Greeks, and Armenian services are held here every day.

In his sermon, Fr. Hovsep spoke about Mary’s humility, and he encouraged us to think about what lessons we might draw from her life of service and purity.

At the Mount of Olives, we visited the Church of the Ascension and were amazed by the breathtaking views of Jerusalem stretching before us. At the Roman Catholic Pater Noster Convent—where the Lord’s Prayer is inscribed in 62 languages, including Armenian—we spoke about how Jesus taught his disciples to pray. As we sang the “Hayr Mer” together, we felt Christ’s presence among us.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, we made our way through the olive trees to the Church of All Nations. Tradition tells us that Jesus prayed here prior to his betrayal and arrest. Here, too, we paused to pray and to consider the momentous sacrifice our Lord made for humanity. We found shade under the olive trees for a Bible study on Christ’s night in the Garden of Gethsemane.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he told his disciples. “Stay here and keep watch with me’” (Matthew 26:38). But as he prayed, Peter, James, and John fell asleep.

The day concluded with a visit to the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, where we were received by His Beatitude Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem. He spoke to us about his duties as the Armenian Patriarch and current issues that face the Armenian community in Jerusalem, and he answered our questions about some of the holy sites we have been visiting in recent days.

—Melanie Panosian and Nazley Wilson are among the pilgrims on the 2015 Youth Leadership Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Pilgrims in prayer at the Church of St. Mary.

Pilgrims in prayer at the Church of St. Mary.

 

The group visits the Pater Noster Convent, where the Lord’s Prayer is inscribed in 62 languages.

The group visits the Pater Noster Convent, where the Lord’s Prayer is inscribed in 62 languages.

Visiting the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem

June 11th, 2015    |    No Comments »

On Wednesday, we visited the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. As we walked the narrow streets and alleys, we saw history written all over the walls and our faith embedded in each rock.

At Sts. James Cathedral in the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, we marveled at the beautiful rows of hanging lanterns. We reflected on how blessed we are, as Armenians, to have our own historic quarter in the holy city of Jerusalem.

A special part of our visit was the baptism of one of our pilgrims at Sts. James Cathedral. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan served as the “godfather” of the baptism, and we all raised our voices in singing the Lord’s Prayer in this magnificent sanctuary.

—Aline Grigorian and Nicole Kashian are among the pilgrims on the 2015 Youth Leadership Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan takes pilgrims on a tour of the Armenian Quarter.

Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan takes pilgrims on a tour of the Armenian Quarter.

Faith vs. Fear

June 10th, 2015    |    No Comments »

On Tuesday we traveled to the city of Tiberius, from where we took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan spoke about the significance of Christ calming a sudden storm when he was crossing the sea with his disciples.

“Why are you so afraid?” Christ asked them. “Do you still have no faith?”

We reflected on what it means to stand in faith with Christ, and on how our faith can help us overcome some of our most basic human fears.

Later we had a fish lunch by the sea. We were reminded of Christ’s miracle of multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish to feed a crowd of thousands.

At the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, we thought about Mary’s realization that she had been chosen by God to be the mother of his son. Recalling the Angel Gabriel’s words—“Behold,” he told her, “you shall conceive and bring forth a son, and call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and be called the Son of the Highest…and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”—we were encouraged to think about how faith helps us overcome fear.

The day concluded with a Bible study on the Mount of the Beatitudes.

— Christina Haroutunian and Lillian Assatourian are among the pilgrims on the 2015 Youth Leadership Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Pilgrims on the Sea of Galilee.

Pilgrims on the Sea of Galilee.

An Extraordinary Moment at the Jordan River

June 9th, 2015    |    No Comments »

On Monday morning our group set out for Jericho and the Jordan River. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan performed a “Blessing of Water” ceremony and we engaged in a Bible study on the significance of Christ’s baptism.

As we read from the Gospel of Matthew about the Holy Spirit descending in the shape of a dove, we noticed a group of beautiful white doves flying over us. It was yet another reminder to us that we have been walking in Christ’s footsteps here in the Holy Land.

Our next stop was Qumran, the archaeological site where the Dead Sea scrolls were first found. Later we descended 1,300 feet below sea level to what is the world’s deepest salt lake, enjoying a quiet afternoon at the Dead Sea before heading back to Jerusalem.

On the return trip through the Judean desert, we stopped in the shadow of the Mount of Temptation. Our group discussed how Christ was tempted by the devil, and considered how we can turn to scripture to help us overcome the temptations we face in our own lives.

—Adrian Stepanian and Greg Marifian are among the pilgrims on the 2015 Youth Leadership Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Pilgrims take photos at the Jordan River, where they took part in a "Blessing of Water" service.

Pilgrims take photos at the Jordan River, where they took part in a “Blessing of Water” service.

 

The group learns about the Dead Sea scrolls.

The group learns about the archaeological site at Qumran.

 

Pilgrims pose for a group photo in the Judean desert.

Pilgrims pose for a group photo in the Judean desert.

Pilgrims Arrive in the Holy Land

June 8th, 2015    |    No Comments »

A group of 21 youth leaders from 20 parishes throughout the Eastern Diocese set out on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land on Friday, June 5. Participants will be blogging daily from the pilgrimage.

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As our group gathered at New York’s JFK airport to embark on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we immediately bonded over the excitement we anticipated for the coming days.

Arriving in Jerusalem, we were warmly greeted by our tour guide Ghazar Kevorkian. The Rev. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan, our trip leader, and recent St. Nersess Seminary graduate Arpi Nakashian, a Jerusalem native, gave an overview of our pilgrimage, and we spent time getting to know each other better over a family-style dinner.

Later that evening, we enjoyed Jerusalem’s unique “Light Festival,” which showcases creative illuminations of buildings in the Old City.

Our next excursion was to Bethlehem, where we visited the Church of the Holy Nativity. It was moving to take part in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the site where Christ was born. As we sang ancient Armenian hymns in the humble grotto of our Lord’s birth, we reflected on the story of the Nativity and the gift of salvation God gave mankind.

Later that afternoon, we gathered for Bible study at the Shepherd’s Field: the site where the angels brought “tidings and great joy” to the shepherds. In our Bible study we considered what it might have meant to the shepherds to be in God’s presence. We concluded the session by singing “Sourp Asdvadz” in one of the caves at Shepherd’s Field.

Returning to Jerusalem, we attended the kindergarten graduation ceremony at the Sts. Tarkmanchatz School in city’s Armenian Quarter. What a delight it was to see the children singing and dancing to our traditional Armenian music.

—Lilit DerKevorkian and Vrej Pilavdjian are among the pilgrims on the 2015 Youth Leadership Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Awaiting their departure at JFK airport in New York, pilgrims gather for a group photo with the Rev. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan.

At JFK airport in New York, pilgrims gather for a group photo with the Rev. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan.

 

Fr. Karapetyan celebrates the Divine Liturgy at the site where Christ was born.

Fr. Karapetyan celebrates the Divine Liturgy at the site where Christ was born.

 

Pilgrims enjoy an evening in Jerusalem.

Pilgrims enjoy views of Jerusalem from the rooftop of their hotel.

 

Praying at the Holy Sepulcher

June 16th, 2014    |    No Comments »

A little after midnight on June 8, we left our hotel and walked in a procession through the empty streets of Jerusalem to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We walked quietly, each of us preparing to enter the most important site of the Christian faith. It was here that Christ was crucified and buried, and from here he rose on the third day.

The Rev. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Christ’s empty tomb. Some of our pilgrims assisted Fr. Hovsep on the altar, while the rest of us sang the hymns of the Divine Liturgy in this beautiful, ancient church.

Later we received a tour of the Armenian section of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We saw the Chapel of the Fainting of Mary—the site where the mother of Christ fell to the ground when she saw her son on the cross. A large wall mosaic in this chapel depicts Mary and St. John at the foot of the cross, and is based on early Armenian illuminations of this scene.

Later, we enjoyed lunch at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, where we were joined by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and other clergy from the Brotherhood of St. James. In the evening, we were invited to a concert of classical Armenian music at the Patriarchate.

On the last day of our pilgrimage, we took a walking tour of the Old City, where we saw the ruins of the Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed a crippled man; the Upper Room, where Christ met with his Apostles for the last time; and the Wailing Wall.

Later we met with Mr. Aso Tavitian, whose generosity made this pilgrimage possible. We expressed our gratitude to him and shared some of our moving experiences from the past 10 days. At a final wrap-up meeting, we discussed what we had learned and considered how we might apply these lessons once we return to our parishes.

—Valerie Gideon, of St. Gregory of Narek Church in Cleveland, OH, and Erik Sahakian-Fiegel, of St. Mesrob Church of Racine, WI, are among the pilgrims on the 2014 Youth Leadership Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

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Pilgrims in procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

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In prayer at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

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The group poses for a photo in the Old City.

The Garden of Gethsemane and the Mount of Ascension

June 11th, 2014    |    No Comments »

On Saturday our day began in a sunlit courtyard, from which we walked down 47 stone steps to enter the Church of St. Mary. Oil lamps hung from the cavernous ceiling as we entered the ancient sanctuary. It was amazing to learn that the church belongs to the Armenians and Greeks, and Armenian services are held here every day.

Archbishop Khajag Barsamian celebrated the Divine Liturgy that morning. “By coming to the Holy Land, each of you has joined a long line of Armenian pilgrims, who have been coming here for centuries, and who have literally left their marks upon Jerusalem—even as Jerusalem has left its mark upon them,” he told us. “Like our ancestors before us, we have been following a path that has led us into the mystery and wonder of the life of our Lord.”

Some of our pilgrims assisted Archbishop Barsamian as altar servers. Later we all had the opportunity to enter the small chamber behind the altar and pray at St. Mary’s empty tomb. It was from this site that St. Mary was taken up to heaven, and it was awe-inspiring to stand in the same place where the Apostle Bartholomew stood when he discovered the empty tomb nearly 2,000 years ago.

From the Church of St. Mary, we walked to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Tradition tells us that Jesus prayed here prior to his betrayal and arrest. Standing in the shade of the olive trees, we raised our prayers in thanksgiving for the sacrifice that Christ made for humanity.

Another highlight of our day was the stop at the Russian Chapel of the Ascension. Here we saw a fourth-century mosaic floor, beautifully decorated with birds, flames, and floral designs. This marvelous mosaic was created by Armenians who lived in the Holy Land in early Christian times to mark the place where St. John the Baptist’s head was buried in the first century. At the time, the church that stood on this site was built by Armenians, but that sanctuary was destroyed by Saladin and his armies in the 12th century. Its only surviving element is this ancient mosaic, which still draws pilgrims from all over the world.

At the close of our day, we visited the Church of the Ascension, the Roman Catholic Pater Noster Convent—where the Lord’s Prayer is inscribed in 62 languages, including Armenian—and the Roman Catholic Church of Dominus Flevit where Christ wept over Jerusalem.

Indeed, during the course of our journey, we have been experiencing the mystery and wonder of the life of our Lord!

—Ara Kernan, of Holy Virgin Mary and Shoghagat Church of  Belleville, IL, is among the pilgrims on the 2014 Youth Leadership Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

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Archbishop Barsamian delivers a sermon at the Church of St. Mary.

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In prayer at the empty tomb of St. Mary.

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Pilgrims pose for a group photo with the Holy City of Jerusalem in the background.

Experiencing the Armenian Quarter

June 9th, 2014    |    No Comments »

Friday’s itinerary on the Jerusalem pilgrimage brought us to the Armenian Patriarchate, where we had the privilege of meeting His Beatitude Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, the 97th Armenian Patriarch.

The Patriarchate itself is an impressive complex, incorporating churches, a seminary, a school, as well as the museum and library. Its centerpiece is the Sts. James Armenian Cathedral: a masterpiece of medieval architecture, where the sense of holiness and history are palpable. Amid the rows of hanging lanterns that dangle from the vaulted ceiling like illuminated spider webs, one feels transported to an earlier age: a time prior to the harsh illumination of the electric light bulb; a world lit only by fire. What a blessing it was, in that ancient setting, to witness a group of young boys being ordained as acolytes.

It made us think of the larger blessing we have as Armenians: the blessing of our own historic quarter in holy city of Jerusalem—where every corner reveals another vista of history, yet where the modern descendents of the centuries-old Armenian community still live, work, and play.

We experienced that vibrant community later that day, during an evening gathering with the Armenian youth of Jerusalem at the Armenian Patriarchate. Naturally, none of us had ever met prior to this day. But their welcoming spirit, and our mutual sense of a shared heritage of faith and culture, transformed the occasion into something warm and familiar. We talked, danced, and played volleyball.  It felt like we were one big family.

Nora Dulkadir of the St. Gregory the Illuminator Church in Chicago, IL, is among the pilgrims on the 2014 Youth Leadership Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

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Pilgrims peruse Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter.

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Fr. Samuel Aghoyan of the Jerusalem Patriarchate imparts the lore of the Armenian Quarter to the pilgrims and their leader, Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan.

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At the Patriarchal residence, Patriarch Nourhan meets with the pilgrims, Abp. Barsamian, and Fr. Karapetyan.

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Inside Sts. James Cathedral, centerpiece of Jerusalem’s Armenian Patriarchate.

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At a gathering with Armenian youth from Jerusalem, the pilgrims played volleyball and mingled in a family-like atmosphere.

Nazareth and Galilee

June 5th, 2014    |    No Comments »

Our experience on this pilgrimage simply gets more rewarding and deepens one’s faith every day. Today’s journey took us to Nazareth, led by Archbishop Barsamian and Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan. Our first stop was the Latin Cathedral of the Annunciation, decorated inside and out with beautiful artwork—mainly mosaics and sculptures—from around the world.

Walking uphill we arrived at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation: believed to have been built over a spring where the Virgin Mary would draw water. The spring is still there, and we were able to wash our hands in its precious water.

In the afternoon we headed up the Mount of the Beatitudes to receive an unbelievable vista of the Sea of Galilee. In its quiet, natural beauty, we opened our bibles to study together the words of the gospel—an amazing experience to have in the very place where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount.

We concluded the day on a boat in the Sea of Galilee itself. We were reminded of the significance of the Sea of Galilee throughout Jesus’ ministry, and then read the gospel passage in which Jesus calmed the storm—along with the hearts of his frightened disciples—when their boat was foundering on the sea.

Fr. Hovsep invited us to reflect on the message of that episode: on God’s benevolent concern for mankind, and His assurance that “Love is greater than fear.”  We spoke of the struggles and fears of daily life; but also affirmed that these will not prevail as long as we have faith in God’s love for us.

—Karina Bekelian of the St. James Church in Watertown, MA, is among the pilgrims on the 2014 Youth Leadership Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

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Bible study on a boat in the See of Galilee.

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