2148 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA 92612

Holy Land Pilgrimage — July 10–23, 2008

With the Bless­ing of His Grace Bish­op Max­im, A group of 17 pil­grims [G17 plus] from the West­ern Amer­i­can Dio­cese embarked on a spir­i­tu­al jour­ney to the Holy Land start­ing July 10, 2008.

Day 1
There spir­tu­al odessy began with a vis­it to the Church of the Nav­i­tiy of our Lord Jesus Christ in Bethel­hem, which is the old­est Chris­t­ian church in exis­tance today. The orig­i­nal church was built by Czar Con­stan­tine in 329 AD and today’s struc­ture was buildt by Roman Emper­or Jus­tin­ian in 527AD. Father Blasko said prayers in front of the birth place of Christ and all pil­grims were annoint­ed and blessed by Holy Oil dur­ing this cer­e­mo­ny. They also were able to see the manger where Jesus was laid down in swad­dling clothes. Next Shepard’s Field was vis­it­ed, where the Angels announced the birth of Christ to the men attend­ing to their flocks. Their spir­i­tu­al jour­ney con­tin­ued to St. Sava of Jerusalem Mon­es­tary, where all the men from the group ven­er­at­ed St. Sava’s Holy Relics. Once upon a time this mon­es­tary had 5,000 her­mits and ascetics liv­ing in caves with­in this com­pound. Today 15 monks remain liv­ing in this mon­es­tary, among them Father Gre­go­ry from Hilan­der Ser­bian Mon­es­tary from Mt. Athos. The day con­clud­ed with a vis­it to St. Theo­do­sius Greek Mon­es­tary, one of the founders of mon­es­tic life. The pil­grims were blessed and ven­er­at­ed the tombs of the moth­ers of St. Sava of Jerusalem, Sts. Cos­mas and Dame­ni­anos, the Heal­ers, and oth­er moth­ers of known Ortho­dox Saints. Prayers were offered in all these places for all the faith­ful in our Dio­cese and espe­cial­ly for those in need and those suf­fer­ing in Koso­vo. The spir­i­tu­al jour­ney will con­tin­ue through the Holy Land.

Day 2
Filled with the Spir­it of the vis­it of the Nativ­i­ty Church in Beth­le­hem and oth­er holy sites, the pil­grims began the sec­ond day by vis­it­ing the Last Sup­per room where the first holy eucharist was per­formed by our Lord Jesus Christ and His dis­ci­ples. We felt the sig­nif­i­cance of this most impor­tant sacra­ment of the Holy Eucharist estab­lished by our Lord for our sal­va­tion. Even though the room is not used today for ser­vices, we offered the prayers for unceas­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Holy Sacra­ment estab­lished here. From this holy place we were tak­en to the tomb of King David who set the exam­ple for unceas­ing­ly prais­ing the Lord with Psalms and express­ing repen­tance through­out our life. After the vis­it to David’s tomb, the group retraced the steps that our Lord Jesus Christ walked on the way to the dun­geon where our Lord was held before His tri­al. Intense emo­tions were felt as we ven­er­at­ed the shad­ow of our pray­ing Lord that still remains on the dun­geon walls. It is not by coin­ci­dence that the dun­geon is next to both the res­i­dence of the high priest Caiaphas and the place of St. Peter’s denial of our Lord. All of this was fore­told by the Old Tes­ta­ment prophets which led the group to vis­it the birth­place of the fore­run­ner of Christ, St. John the Bap­tist. Wit­ness­ing his birth­place in the cave par­al­lels our expe­ri­ence of see­ing the Beth­le­hem cave where Jesus was born. The meet­ing place of the moth­ers of both St. John the Bap­tist and our Lord Jesus Christ was our next loca­tion of inter­est, which is cur­rent­ly a Russ­ian Ortho­dox monastery. The day con­clud­ed with a vis­it to the church ded­i­cat­ed to St. Eli­jah the prophet, fol­lowed by group con­fes­sions in prepa­ra­tion for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Day 3
Leav­ing our hotel not quite in sync with the ring­ing of the morn­ing bells at the near­by Church of the Nativ­i­ty and miss­ing ear­ly morn­ing traf­fic because of the Jew­ish Sab­bath, the group had all in their favor to arrive in Jaf­fa on time for a holy day that would turn out to be very spe­cial for all the pilgrims.

Father Blasko par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Holy Litur­gy and all the pil­grims took the Holy com­mu­nion at the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Monastery of St. Peter on the Feast day of Saint Peter and Paul! We lat­er shared with many oth­er fel­low pil­grims fresh bread, cheese, fruit, cook­ies, and mint tea spread out­side like a pic­nic on a sun­ny, but hot sum­mer day. Before leav­ing, we were blessed to be able to vis­it the revered site believed to be where St. Tabitha was res­ur­rect­ed through the Saint Apos­tle Peter.

On we went to Lyda, where St. Peter healed Ananais. St. George had lived here, and his holy relics were placed at the beau­ti­ful Greek Ortho­dox monastery. Upon ven­er­a­tion of his holy relics and the tomb, the fra­grance of unfor­get­table holy myrhh drew us to spend more time with­in the small under­ground room.

Next, we drove the fer­tile Sharon Val­ley, where still live “Arabs of 1948” as gen­er­a­tions of their fam­i­lies had done before them. Then from the high­ris­es of Tel Aviv to old Jaf­fa for a taste of some authen­tic native cui­sine — deli­cious falafels. In store was a short rest along the cool Mediter­ranean with a view of Tel Aviv across the water which delight­ed the shut­ter­bugs. At the next stop in Cae­saria, we saw part of the well-pre­served ten-mile aque­duct built by King Herod.

The day’s final des­ti­na­tion was the city of Nazareth where we vis­it­ed the site and the church of the Annun­ci­a­tion. We all drank water from the spring under­neath the church where Saint Archangel Gabriel announced to Saint Mary that she was cho­sen to be the moth­er of Sav­iour, Jesus Christ. It was a mov­ing expe­ri­ence to spend the night in the place where our Lord Jesus Christ spent His childhood.

Day 4
We were won­der­ing how it was pos­si­ble for each day to be bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous day. Per­haps the begin­ning of our expe­ri­ence is in the head but soon trav­els to the heart. God has blessed the group with Youri Romashouk, a native of Jerusalem and one of Fr. Blasko’s parish­ioners, as our guide.

This morn­ing on Sun­day, Father Blasko was blessed to serve with Father Miroslav, a Russ­ian Ortho­dox priest, at Mt. Carmel at the church of St. Eli­jah, where St. Eli­jah lived for some time.

On the way to Mt. Carmel, the group made a vis­it to the loca­tion of the house of St. Joseph, St. Mary and baby Jesus in Nazareth.

As usu­al, while trav­el­ing to not­ed places of bib­li­cal impor­tance, we heard sto­ries from both the Old and New Tes­ta­ment. Our bus passed through a Bedouin vil­lage and began to ascend to Mt. Tabor. Mini bus­es were secured to reach the peak and the Greek Ortho­dox monastery and Church of the Trans­fig­u­ra­tion. Upon enter­ing the church, we began singing the tropar­i­on prayers. Know­ing we were at the place where our Lord was trans­fig­ured made a strong spir­i­tu­al impact, fur­ther strength­ened by ven­er­a­tion of the won­der-work­ing icon of the Moth­er of God. Among the mir­a­cles at this monastery every year on the feast of the Holy Trans­fig­u­ra­tion a cloud comes down from Heav­en to the lev­el of humankind so peo­ple can touch it.

After the trans­fig­ur­ing expe­ri­ence at this holy place, we pro­ceed­ed to the Jor­dan riv­er. It was late after­noon so we were vir­tu­al­ly alone, except for one Ukran­ian woman busy keep­ing her head above water pray­ing for an Ortho­dox pries to arrive and bless the water. After the bless­ing of the water, the pil­gims immersed them­selves in the Riv­er Jor­dan, where our Lord was baptized.

Day 5
Mon­day morn­ing began with a vis­it inside the church at Cana of Galilee, where our Lord and His moth­er were guests at Simon’s wed­ding. The well known sto­ry of His first mir­a­cle of turn­ing water into wine for the wed­ding guests took place there. Inside the church are two of the orig­i­nal water jars used at this wed­ding in Cana. Around the jars we not­ed papers with the names of cou­ples seek­ing prayers for their fam­i­ly mar­riage life.

After say­ing our prayers at this holy place, we pro­ceed­ed to the monastery and the vil­lage of St. Mary Mag­da­lene in Mag­dal where we spent the rest of the day on the Sea of Galilee, where our Lord Jesus Christ called His first dis­ci­ples, walked on water, and mirac­u­lous fish­ing took place. After hear­ing how much Jews are charg­ing for the boat ride at this sea, we were not suprised that our Lord Jesus Christ walked on water.

Day 6
Today we phys­i­cal­ly walked where our Jesus walked. While trav­el­ing through the val­ley to the Mount from which He gave us His most impor­tant ser­mon about the Beat­i­tudes, we once again con­sid­ered the Beat­i­tudes, the new covenant, and exhor­ta­tions to true right­eous­ness. This was the “Val­ley of Sev­en Springs” when He was there, though only one now remains. It was inter­est­ing to observe the topog­ra­phy along the Sea of Galilee and lat­er on the gold­en hills of Jericho.The church on the Mount is in an octag­o­nal shape to rep­re­sent the eight Beau­ti­tudes. The church built where Jesus fed the 5,000, the Table of the Lord, is Ger­man Bene­dic­tine and built along Byzan­tine lines.

At the foot of this moun­tain by the Sea of Galilee, we vis­it­ed a beau­ti­ful Greek monastery ded­i­cat­ed to the Holy Apos­tles who come from this region.

Next came Caper­naum, a large town of 30,000 when Jesus was liv­ing there. The exca­va­tions are most inter­est­ing, includ­ing first and fourth cen­tu­ry syn­a­gogues; the black basalt under the white lime­stone indi­cates the tem­ple to which Jesus went. The dark­ened skele­tons of large com­mu­nal hous­es is across from the home of St. Peter’s moth­er-in-law. Many mir­a­cles occured in this place.

On the West Bank, we were kind­ly wel­comed by the monks of the Greek Monastery of St. Gerasi­mos, dat­ing from 450 with some of the orig­i­nal mosa­ic designs still remain­ing in the floor. Step­ping down into St. Jerome’s cave, we felt some relief from the over 40 degrees cel­sius heat.

Anoth­er very thrilling day for all!

Day 7
Our days always begin with prayers, Bible read­ings, and lives of the Saints of the day, fol­lowed by com­ments on the days read­ings. As we set out this morn­ing for the wilder­ness where the Dev­il tempt­ed Christ, we were pre­pared for new expe­ri­ences in the land of the Lord, expe­ri­ences that would help us feel near­er to Him. We already knew to expect goose­bumps and feel ever more hum­bled. Sights of the Judean Desert, Bedouins, and camels and con­tin­u­ous his­tor­i­cal and Bib­li­cal accounts from our guide accom­pa­nied us on the ride.

In our trav­els through Jeri­cho, we first stopped at the Greek Ortho­dox Church of Zac­cheas and saw the old­est sycamore tree in the world, which was plant­ed almost 1,600 years ago in com­mem­o­ra­tion of his meet­ing with Jesus. Inside we received expla­na­tions of some of the icons there that relat­ed to the story.

Approach­ing the Mount of Temp­ta­tion Monastery, we saw the caves in the side of the moun­tains, where the monks used to fast for forty days before enter­ing the Monastery. Inside a room, we were most blessed to see, touch, feel, kiss, pray by the rock that tra­di­tion holds Jesus may have sat upon and fast­ed for forty days in this wilderness.

An ardu­ous path led us up to St. George Monastery, orig­i­nal­ly the Church of St. Mary, with­in which lie the relics of St. John of Roma­nia. It was so spe­cial and plea­sur­able to be able to talk with three monks there, one Ser­bian, one Greek, and an Amer­i­can from San Fran­cis­co, who’d been con­vert­ed to Ortho­doxy at the Russ­ian Church in the city. They served us cool bev­er­ages and warmed our hearts as they stood wav­ing good-bye from a ter­race almost all the way down the mountain.

The day end­ed with a dip in the Dead Sea. Float­ing no mat­ter what we did in the water and every­body slap­ping the black min­er­al-laden mud on his skin, we thought we were all health­i­er and beau­ti­ful. It was fun, and we were all relaxed. Anoth­er day was con­quered, and the Pil­grims were far from divided!

Day 8,9
The pil­grim­age itinerary’s far­thest point was a vis­it to Mt Sinai and St. Catherine’s monastery, dat­ing to 5th cen­tu­ry, which are both in Egypt. The group drove 7 hours to the bor­der of Egypt, pass­ing Qum­ran Caves, Masa­da, where ~1000 Jew­ish peo­ple took their lives rather than sub­mit to Roman rulers, and stone sculp­ture of Lot’s Wife. Once at the Taba Bor­der, we had to go through secu­ri­ty and obtain a sep­a­rate bus in Egypt, and were charged an exit fee to pass through to the Egypt­ian side of the Taba bor­der. The fee is only in spe­cial cas­es where peo­ple want to cross the land bor­der on the Taba side of Israel, as a con­di­tion between these two coun­tries that were pre­vi­ous­ly at war but now have a peace­ful cooex­is­tance to share this border.We were wel­comed by our guides, Marko and Isaac, and our secu­ri­ty offi­cer, who was ded­i­cat­ed to our group for the entire time spent in Egypt. On the way to Mt. Sinai we enjoyed beat­i­ful scenery of both the Red Sea and the desert.

We stopped by the Mery­land hotel next to St. Catherine’s to rest and have din­ner before our mid­night Divine litur­gy at St. Catherine’s small side church, which Fr. Blasko got spe­cial per­mis­sion to hold. The litur­gy was beau­ti­ful and inti­mate in this small church, only lit by can­dles in the moon­lit night. The tour guide lat­er told our group that this was the most spe­cial mem­o­ry of his expe­ri­ence with our group, lis­ten­ing to us sing our respons­es and take com­mu­nion before dis­sem­bark­ing on our spe­cial jour­ney up Mt. Sinai. Some peo­ple from the group chose to walk the entire path up the moutain where­as oth­er adven­tourous souls took their chances on the Bedouin’s camels, who knew the route by heart, even in the dark­ness. The trip took ~ 4 hours by foot or ~ 2.5 hours by camel and every­one must go on foot for the last 750 steps to the top of Mt. Sinai, which was very stren­u­ous, as the slope is very steep and slip­pery, in addi­tion to being dark. Many peo­ple used flash­lights along the path to keep their foot­ing; how­ev­er, God’s moon­light lit the way for our group, allow­ing us to glimpse at the amaz­ing val­leys below us. Once at the top we found that we were not alone; many groups of peo­ple from all over the world, rep­re­sent­ing dif­fer­ent Faiths were there gath­ered on rocks as a homage to Moses receiv­ing the 10 Com­mand­ments upon this very spot. Once the sun rose, the view of the val­ley below was spec­tac­u­lar, and you did real­ly feel your­self clos­er to heav­en and God at this great height, as if you were look­ing down at the entire world below you.We stopped to say a prayer in front of the Holy Trans­fig­u­ra­tion Greek Ortho­dox church, which is asso­ci­at­ed with St. Catherine’s monastery. The descent down the moun­tain was no less chal­leng­ing than on the way up. Many in our group that walked decid­ed to take a camel back down, only to real­ize that rid­ing a camel down the moun­tain is much more uncom­fort­able than the ride up. The great phys­i­cal effort we made remind­ed us of the spir­i­tu­al efforts we need to make to full­fill God’s Commandments.

Upon return­ing to St. Catherine’s monastery, locat­ed at the foot of Mt. Sinai, we were blessed to ven­er­ate the Holy Relics of St. Cather­ine; see the burn­ing bush; Moses well, where he met his wife; and the holy icons in the muse­um dat­ing from the 4th and 5th Cen­turies, which are the old­est icons in the world, sur­viv­ing the Iconoclasm.

After all this climb­ing, our tired and dusty group went for a refresh­ing swim in the Red Sea on the way back to the Taba bor­der. We all were exhaust­ed by the phys­i­cal strain of our jour­ney but our hearts and souls were alive with the mem­o­ries of our once in a life time experience.

Day 10
As our time in the Holy Land draws near, we have had an excep­tion­al day today. The pil­grims had an audi­ence with His Holi­ness Patri­arch Theophi­los of Jerusalem. On behalf of His Grace Bish­op Max­im and the pil­grims, Father Blasko expressed grat­i­tude to His Holi­ness for this blessed oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet with him and receive his holy bless­ing. Hav­ing in mind the sig­nif­i­cance of the role of the Patri­arch of Jerusalem as the guardian of the Holy Sepul­chre, Father Blasko asked for his prayers for all of us most espe­cial­ly for the suf­fer­ing Ser­bian peo­ple in Koso­vo and Meto­hi­ja which will always remain the Ser­bian Jerusalem. As a small token of our appre­ci­a­tion, the newest edi­tion of the Ortho­dox Study Bible with both the Old and New Tes­ta­ments was giv­en to His Holi­ness. In his remarks, His Holi­ness Patri­arch Theophi­los remind­ed us of the sig­nif­i­cance of the holy places in the holy land empha­siz­ing that every­thing that we saw and ven­er­at­ed is true and orig­i­nal and could not be denied by any­one in the world. He appealed to us to be wit­ness­es of the authen­tic Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian faith by shar­ing our expe­ri­ence with oth­ers upon our return to Amer­i­ca. His Holi­ness pre­sent­ed Father Blasko with a gift of a pec­toral cross.

Before wan­der­ing through the nar­row streets of the col­or­ful, busy Arab bazaar, we paid a prepara­to­ry vis­it to the Holy Sepul­chre Church, where we would all come for the mid­night liturgy.

Out­side the main door, many were kiss­ing a crack in one of the columns that has a sto­ry con­nect­ed with the dif­fi­cul­ty of the Armen­ian and Greek Ortho­dox Church­es shar­ing this great holy place. At one time, in the 14th cen­tu­ry, the Arme­ni­ans locked out the Greek Ortho­dox Patri­arch with the faith­ful out­side the church in order to attempt to recieve the Holy Fire by them­selves which comes from Heav­en every year on Pascha. After hours of wait­ing, the Greek Patri­arch and the faith­ful prayed out­side the church, and as a result, the Holy Fire appeared and cracked one of the pil­lars of the entrance of the church which is still vis­i­ble as a sign of this miracle.

Just out­side the Holy Sepul­chre church, we vis­it­ed the three old chapels of St. Jacob, the Forty Mar­tyrs, and the Myrrhbearers.

Day 11
Day 11 of our pil­grim­age began with a high­light of our spir­i­tu­al jour­ney, a Hier­ar­chi­cal Divine Litur­gy at the Holy Sepul­chre church. The matins mid­night ser­vice began at 12:30am fol­lowed by the Divine Litur­gy which was presided by Met­ro­pol­i­tan Isi­hios and local cler­gy includ­ing Father Blasko. It was an incred­i­ble spritu­al expe­ri­ence for all of the pil­grims to receive the Body of Christ where His body was placed before the res­ur­rec­tion. The litur­gy con­clud­ed around 3:30am.

Hav­ing rest­ed in the morn­ing, we con­tin­ued our pil­grim­age by going to Hebron, Pales­tine, where the most clear old tes­ta­ment rev­e­la­tion of the Holy Trin­i­ty appeared here to Abra­ham as three angels in one voice. The ancient oak still marks the place.

Up the road we vis­it­ed a spir­i­tu­al trea­sure: a Russ­ian Ortho­dox church and monastery, ded­i­cat­ed to fore­fa­ther Abra­ham and Sarah. The plain­er, blue and brown­ish-gold arched walls stretched far back to the altar, but we were struck more by pow­er­ful feel­ings than by its beau­ty. The shroud in which St. Mary was wrapped is encased there, and we were able to ven­er­ate her won­der-work­ing icon. Then Father led us in prayer and was joined by the monk, who’d helped us enter the grounds.

After more shop­ping and watch­ing the glass blow­ers and pot­ters at a near­by fac­to­ry, we revis­it­ed the Church of the Nativ­i­ty in order to pray for the chil­dren killed by Herod. There is a small chapel to remem­ber and pray for them under­neath the main floor of the church, and it is pos­si­ble to see their poor bones strewn about through barred win­dows in the stone wall below the altar.

We walked back to our hotel through the Arab Quar­ter for an evening rest.

Day 12
Come on, it’s so hot, where is so-and-so, look at that, don’t slip, watch the crowd, and oth­er such com­ments fol­low us on our dai­ly excur­sions, but the reward is always big­ger than you could imagine..

Today we began with our guide, Samir, at the Mount of Olives from which our Lord began his tri­umphant ride into Jerusalem. There is a mag­nif­i­cent view of the city from here, white build­ings and the gold­en domes, specif­i­cal­ly the Gold­en Dome, where the orig­i­nal tem­ple stood and is now cov­ered by a mosque.

Anoth­er beau­ti­ful gold­en dome on the mount of olives was the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Con­vent of Mary Mag­da­lene. The tomb of St. Eliz­a­beth, their bene­fac­tor, rests inside. The lux­u­ri­ant gar­den of the church is how you might visu­al­ize the Gar­den of Geth­se­mane, locat­ed below this monastery. In the Gar­den of Geth­se­mane, which was our next stop, grow only olive trees, now fenced in because of the myr­i­ad of vis­i­tors to the Gar­den and the Roman Catholic Church beside it. Some of the trees are prob­a­bly 3,000 years old, and this is known to be just where Christ prayed to His heav­en­ly Father before He endured His pas­sion before the cru­ci­fic­tion. The Catholic All Nations Church or Agony Church holds a small piece of the rock upon which Christ had been pray­ing. Next, we saw the emp­ty tomb of St. Mary, the Moth­er of God, at the Greek Ortho­dox Church and were made to under­stand it is the cor­rect place of her assump­tion. View­ing below us, we could see an unusu­al­ly shaped dome rep­re­sent­ing the tears He’d shed. Along this way, we stopped to ven­er­ate the foot­print of our Lord upon His Ascension.

We also went to Bethany to vis­it the tomb where Lazarus lay until Christ raised him from the dead. The Greek Ortho­dox Church of Martha and Mary stands on the place where Mary ran to Jesus to tell Him her broth­er had died. This is the place where He said, “I am the life and the res­ur­rec­tion.” After a deli­cious lunch in the Arab quar­ter of Jerusalem, we relaxed and shopped and wan­dered into more areas of the large bazaar.

Day 13
Our last day before prepar­ing to return home was spent in Jerusalem, going in the morn­ing to the Pool of Siloam, where Jesus had healed the blind man. On the way to Siloam, we enjoyed the beau­ti­ful view of the Kidron Val­ley! Before, it had been hard to real­ize how actu­al­ly close togeth­er places are.

Our guide pro­vid­ed us with more his­tor­i­cal infor­ma­tion to explain such church­es as Our Father, where Jesus Christ taught His dis­ci­ples the Lord’s Prayer, which is writ­ten in many lan­guages on the walls out­side, includ­ing those of Bib­li­cal times, as well as Ser­bian. Inside was the tomb of Princess Aure­lie Marie de Bossi, who’d bought back the orig­i­nal­ly Byzan­tine church from the Mus­lims and restored it.

Next was the Wail­ing Wall, which is par­ti­tioned so that men are on one side and women on the oth­er. There were many Jews pray­ing at their holi­est place.

Lat­er in the day along the “Via Dolorosa” — “The way of grief.”, we passed the church of St. Stephen the first mar­tyr and we made a stop at the Church of the Nativ­i­ty of the Moth­er of God, the place where she was born, and offered our prayers to her.

Anoth­er holy place we vis­it­ed was the site where Jesus Christ healed the par­a­lyt­ic, the pool of Bethesda.

Fol­low­ing that, we walked Christs’ painful route on the way to Gol­go­tha before cru­ci­fic­tion. The walk began from St. Stephen the Martyr’s Gate and con­clud­ed at the Church of the Holy Sepul­chre. There are 14 sta­tions, specif­i­cal­ly mark­ing the loca­tions of His con­dem­na­tion, humil­i­a­tion, fla­gel­la­tion, and agony, which He endured for our sal­va­tion. With­in the church of the Holy Sepul­chre, we again ven­er­at­ed those places con­nect­ed with His cru­ci­fic­tion and death and, also, saw the tomb in which Joseph of Aram­e­thia had been buried in because he’d giv­en his new one for Jesus Christ, ful­fill­ing Scripture.

Not a real good-bye because we’re car­ry­ing all our trans­fig­ur­ing mem­o­ries and expe­ri­ences home in our hearts.

Day 14
Before our depar­ture back the the U.S., we would like to express once again our grat­i­tude to Allmighty God for keep­ing us safe and pro­vid­ing much more for us than we had planned. Our spe­cial thanks go to His Grace, Bish­op Max­im for his bless­ings for this pil­grim­age, and also His Holi­ness, Patri­arch Theophi­los of Jerusalem for his bless­ings in the holy land. Last, but not least, we are thank­ful to Yuri Romashouk, a native of Jerusalem and mem­ber of the church of the Most Holy Theotokos in Orange Coun­ty, and all the oth­er peo­ple who helped us to suc­cess­ful­ly to accom­plish this holy journey.

Abouna Blasko

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