From July 2-1, 2019, 18 parishioners of the Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Greater Boston traveled to Jerusalem for the 3rd Parish Pilgrimage to this most holy land. With the Gospel in hand, open hearts, and searching minds, parishioners ranging in age from teenagers to retirees, joined Fr. Vasken Kouzouian, parish pastor, on his sixth pilgrimage to the Land where Jesus Christ taught and performed His many miracles. “Every stone here tells a story, it is a truly spiritual experience coming to this land and experiencing the events this land tells,” states Fr. Vasken. “It is said that the Holy Land is the 5th Gospel, as the stones themselves speak of Our Lord and His message and miracles. Spending ten days here visiting the towns and villages where Christ spent His earthly ministry is powerful unto itself, but when we look at all He taught and relate those messages to our everyday lives … lives change. That’s what we found in that little piece of ancient and blessed land half a world away.”
The Cambridge MA parish pilgrimage began with a two-day visit to the region surrounding the famed Sea of Galilee where Jesus began His ministry. From the peaceful gardens of the Church of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, to a calm ride on a wooden boat across the Sea, to the meditative spot where Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, to putting our feet in the Sea, the land spoke to us. We spent much time in the remains of the Synagogue of Capernaum where Our Lord taught about the Scriptures. While in the Galilee region, we visited the Town of Nazareth and pondered the Annunciation where oral tradition claims Mary was visited by the Archangel Gabriel to announce her as God choice to bear His Son. A short ride from Nazareth is the city of Cana, and the site of the first miracle and blessing of a wedding. The five couples within our group renewed their marriage vows at this site and left uplifted in their marital commitment to one another. Our visit to this region ended with a steep and curve-filled ride up Mount Tabor to the site of the Transfiguration.
Entering the Old City of Jerusalem at night was a special gift with all its lights and sounds. The remainder of our visit was based out of this historic city. Bethlehem welcomed us with a beautiful day. We celebrated Badarak in the Grotto and viewed Manger Square from high above. After leaving the Shepherds Field, we spent the remainder of the day with a very gracious and warm audience with His Beatitude, Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. His Beatitude granted Fr. Vasken Kouzouian the honor of celebrating the Badarak that night on the Tomb of Christ, which remained a very special experience for all our participants. Prior to leaving the Armenian Quarter, our group of participants toured the remainder of the Armenian Quarter and offered a Requiem Service for our former Primates buried within the Quarter, Patriarchs Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan and Archbishop Torkom Manoogian.
The remainder of our pilgrimage focused on other important biblical sites where Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer, Ascended into Heaven, walked on Palm Sunday, prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and was baptized in the waters of the Jordan River. Along the way, we floated in the Dead Sea, rode a camel or two, and climbed down into the tomb of Lazarus. Of special note was a walk around the Old City from on top of the ancient Old City wall. That evening, our participants celebrated Der Vasken and Yn. Arpi’s 25th Wedding Anniversary at the beautiful open roof top restaurant atop the Notre Dame Hotel.
On our last day in the Holy Land, we shifted our focus to service. Presented to us was the honor of joining the deacons who serve the Holy Sepulcher Cathedral in cleaning the Tomb of Christ. Every member of our pilgrimage rolled up their sleeves, picked up a broom, cloth, or a bucket of water and began cleaning the Holy Tomb. We returned home with that honor filling us all with awe and thanksgiving. This was truly an unforgettable ten days.
Click here to view photos.