Efstratios Magoulias, or Yianni as his friends call him, is a native of the Annunciation parish in Modesto, California. Having completed his bachelors in Classics (with an emphasis in ancient Greek culture) at UC Santa Barbara, he is currently a 4th year Master of Divinity seminarian candidate at Hellenic College Holy Cross, Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Yianni loves sharing what makes him smile, in the hope it too makes others smile. Throughout the St. Helen's Pilgrimage, Yianni will be writing and reflecting on his experiences with various churches, monasteries, and adventures with his fellow schoolmates. Yianni hopes all of the iPilgrims at home following along will also have the opportunity to one day visit the Holy Land, Constantinople, and Greece in order to strengthen and experience their faith in Jesus Christ, first hand.
The OCN is pleased to share with you written excerpts and photos from the 2017 St. Helen’s Pilgrimage of the Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. The students started their pilgrimage on May 21st and will return to Boston on June 26th. This is a wonderful opportunity for the students and we look forward to learning about their experiences.
Our fourth day in the Holy Land took us into the military zone between the Israeli state and Palestine. Due to the land and political disputes, the site of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan now lies within the military zone. Within this thin strip of land, four churches of various Orthodox jurisdictions, still function. It is safe for pilgrims to visit, but still one must use caution. Erected by the water is a small outdoor chapel, where on Theophany, Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem presides over the agiasmo, of blessing of the waters service. We were greeted by Bishop Theophanis of Gerasa, who came prepared to do an agiasmo service with us. He even took the time and effort to find a translation of the service in English! Together we prayed the agiasmo, for life, health, salvation, and especially peace in this region and throughout the world. During the service, many pilgrims joined in our prayers. Orthodox pilgrims from Russia, Ethiopia, and Romania (who began chanting the hymn for Theophany in Romanian in rotation with the Greek and English we were already chanting!) filled in the pews and received the blessed water and a blessing from the bishop. The apolytikion came alive as we chanted, “During Your baptism in the Jordan, O Lord, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest,” while looking at the Jordan! With the conclusion of the service, we poured the rest of the blessed water back into the Jordan and boarded our bus, continuing our journey through the Holy Land.
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