"The Church Messenger" Publishes Mrs. Anzivino's Article

posted Aug 12, 2011, 6:57 PM by Fredrick Anzivino   [ updated Aug 12, 2011, 7:23 PM ]
Sophia at the Jordan River
   August 12, 2011 - Mrs. Anzivino wrote an article about her Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Her brilliantly written story was recently published in the American Carpatho-Russian Church Diocese newspaper  "The Church Messenger".
Her story, as written, is below...
         "How can one describe the Holy Land? There are not enough beautiful words to describe the place where God gave His only Son the land to dwell. The Holy Land was a place for Christ to teach others about God, pray, work, eat and rest for He was human like you and I. As Orthodox Christians we believe that Christ is always with us: but in the Holy Land I felt like I was with Christ… a guest in His home, on His land getting to visit the most magnificent of holy sites; St Peter’s home, where St John the Baptist lived and baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, Mary, Martha & Lazarus’ home, Lazarus’ tomb, Christ tomb at the Holy Sepulcher Church, the Theotokos’ tomb, Joseph and Anna’s tombs and many other saints relics and tombs to name just a few. Who is blessed to dip their toes in the Sea of Galilee as Christ once did or see the sun rising and setting over the mountains like He once did? Who is so very blessed to see all of Nazareth from the peak of Mount Tabor as He did prior to Transfiguring before Peter, James and John? We, the pilgrims, were blessed the opportunity to visit the Holy Land by God and the blessing of our dear beloved Metropolitan Nicholas. If you ever get the blessing to go to the Holy Land or there is an opportunity to take your children/grandchildren consider the opportunity as a gift from God Himself and GO! What was so special about the Holy Land?
        First, one must understand the Holy Land is not just a piece of land, a place to start a family, a nice place to go to church, to visit a monastery or start a business…oh no! The Holy Land holds an omnipresence of Christ unlike any other place on earth. Everything had the presence of God. The soft breeze, palm trees and desert floor, the light and gentle warmth of the sun, cool turquoise, blue and gray waters, and the star lit night sky or sometimes cloudy night skies are all wonders Christ and the pilgrims experienced in the Holy Land. Christ in those moments became very human to me. At last I could relate to Him and His everyday needs as a man. Throughout my life I have always struggled to know the spiritual side of Christ through the sacraments, prayer, and fasting but on this pilgrimage I got to know Christ as a real Man. As the Man I will be fervent in trying to emulate. There is definitely something to be said about walking on the same ground that Christ, the Theotokos and His disciples did. Simply taking off my shoes and standing in the Sea of Galilee brought me closer to God just knowing Christ spent many hours of many days near the Sea of Galilee. To help me stay true to Christ I will remember those moments I felt closet to Him on the pilgrimage.
        The times when I felt closest to God happened when I freed myself of random thoughts to concentrate on the moment at hand in the same way a child might watch a butterfly breaking free from its cocoon and fluttering away into the distance. That child can’t see anything but the amazement of the butterfly. I couldn’t see anything but the amazement of God! Our senses naturally overload in the presence of God …now try to imagine this happening day after day on the pilgrimage. One can emotionally, spiritually, and physically feel God molding them into a new person and believe me it was exhausting. Imagine walking into a church where the Holy Spirit impales the soul as an awakening and a welcoming at the same time or flooding ones eyes with the divine beauty of icons written on every single inch of the church-- so much so that it sends shivers down the spine in a paralyzing way. Was God saying; “Stand still for a moment”? Imagine walking into and touching the tomb of Christ and His most sweet Mother the Theotokos’ tomb to find one gasping for breath because the human heart simply couldn’t bare the presence of Their intense love. Try to imagine yourself walking to venerate an icon of the Theotokos and having your eyes well with tears into a blur until the sweet Theotokos is no longer visible through the eyes but now is only clearly visible through the heart! For some of our pilgrims there is no need to imagine for they experienced miracles daily.
        Several pilgrims were either healed or had miraculous accounts while venerating icons of the Theotokos. One pilgrim was venerating an icon of the Theotokos and knew at that very moment a lump in her breast, which the doctors had been watching very closely for a year, was no longer a worry. Calmness, for lack of a deserving word, came over her and she truly new that a miracle had just come upon her. When she returned to Ohio and went for a mammogram the results came back normal for the first time! I personally experienced a life changing miraculous event while approaching an icon of our beautiful Theotokos which sat behind Her tomb. I can only hold this memory close to my heart, not able to share because I simply cannot put into words what and certainly why the miracle happened to me. Only the poetic saints can explain the wonder that comes over a person when the Holy Spirit touches their heart with such love and compassion. “With my whole heart I cried to the all-compassionate God: and He heard me from the lowest depths of hell, and brought my life out of corruption.” (Canon of St. Andrew) We can all experience the same love and compassion when we take of the Eucharist for this is a miracle too!
        May 12th 2011 Father Deacon Ed also experienced a beautiful gift from God. “Even before we left on this Holy Pilgrimage I knew that our encounters on this journey would be unforgettable. On Thursday morning May 12th, we travelled to the Jordan River and at each holy site all of us would prepare to listen to the Gospel reading according to that miraculous event.  Fr. Nicholas Wyborski read the Gospel from St. Matthew 3:13-17 (The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ). We gathered together to listen to the Holy Gospel facing the Jordan River.  Fr. Nicholas facing us began chanting this reading and I witnessed a dove float down on to a branch behind Father on the bank of the Jordan. At first I could not believe it was real,  it was surreal, the dove looked at all of us, then to Fr. Nicholas and before Father  finished, the dove flew sharply upward and disappeared just as it had arrived. A moment in time I’ll never forget and thanking the Holy Spirit for allowing all of us to experience an incomprehensible journey to the Holy Land. “O Christ God, Who appeared and enlightened the world, Glory to You”. These are just a few miracles from our journey: I’m sure throughout our lives ongoing miracles will be revealed to us at the appropriate times.
        In closing, I want to thank God, our beloved Metropolitan Nicholas, Father Edward Pehanich, Father Kenneth Bachofsky, Father Myron Zuder, Father Nicholas Wyborski, Father Deacon Ed Brisbine and all my fellow pilgrims for their guidance & love! We couldn’t have had a better group of pilgrims! I also must say thank you to our tour guide Tanas Baddour. We all have Guardian Angels but he was certainly our Guiding Angel taking us through Christ life bringing the Bible to life! God brought us together in a way that will bond us for eternity! Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory Forever!
Your sister in Christ,
Sonya Anzivino"