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.
On day two, we ventured out into Jericho and ascended the Mount of Temptation, where Christ prayed and fasted for forty days, and where he was tempted by the devil three times (Matthew 4:1-11). We often hear in the Bible and in the lives of the saints how they went out into the “desert”. On this pilgrimage, their desert has certainly been put into perspective; rocky, mountainous, and dry. Jericho is particularly warm, even in the early months of summer. We made our way up the mountain via rundown 5 seater vans, where we were dropped off, a few floors of switchback stairs from the monastery gates. We began our trek up the mountain only to find the gates of the monastery locked. So we waited, we reflected, and we prayed. As we began to lose hope, we chanted Soson Kyrie before departing. However, one of the monks heard us and opened the door! We entered into the monastery where we were able to venerate an indentation in the rock where Jesus knelt and prayed. From the monastery’s balcony, you could see all of Jericho, across to Jordan, and part of the Dead Sea. I particularly found this church special because inside on the column supporting the cave, was an icon of St. Efstratios! My patron saint, and first name, is very rarely depicted in churches. What made this even more rare, next to him was St. Anthony, my Koumbaro’s name! We descended the Mount of Temptation contemplating what prayer and fasting really means, and how powerful it is against temptation and the devil.
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