NEW YORK — A group of 29 young adults from parishes across the Eastern Diocese traveled to the Holy Land from June 6 to June 14. The sixth annual Youth Leadership Pilgrimage to the Holy Land was led by the Rev. Hovsep Karapetyan, pastor of St. Mary Church of Washington, DC, and Arpi Nakashian, a recent graduate of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary and a Jerusalem native.
Their pilgrimage began in Bethlehem, where the young people visited the Church of the Holy Nativity. They descended into the Holy Grotto, where they took part in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the site where Christ was born. At the conclusion of the service, the group proceeded to the Armenian monastery and later gathered for Bible study at Shepherds’ Field, where the angels announced Christ’s birth.
The following day, the pilgrims traveled to the Jordan River where Karapetyan performed a Blessing of Water ceremony and the group engaged in a Bible study on the significance of Christ’s baptism. The pilgrims touched upon the symbolism of participating in Bible Studies at the holy sites, in which the passages were tied to momentous periods in Christ’s life.
“I learned so much about Biblical events and it was inspiring to have stood on the grounds of such important historical and spiritual sites,” said Sophia Yedigarian of St. Mary Church of Washington DC. “I feel blessed to have had several moving experiences, which continually felt more emotional and spiritual as the week progressed.”
The pilgrims traveled to the Church of the Tomb of the Blessed Virgin, which marks the site where Mary was buried by the apostles before her assumption into heaven. Karapetyan celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the site, where Armenians hold services daily at the church.
“When we visited the Church of the Tomb of the Blessed Virgin, I had an indescribably moving experience,” said Yedigarian. “This was the pinnacle of my trip, and was such a significant turning point in my faith. I had never felt God’s presence more in any other holy site or place in my life.”