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.
Today is Sunday and our last day in the Holy Land. We woke up early and walked to a nearby monastery dedicated to the Synaxis of the Apostles. The original chapel is underground and dates back to the 2nd century (when Christianity was still illegal, hence the chapel being underground). We had the blessing of chanting Orthros and Divine Liturgy for the few nuns and locals who attended. After liturgy, we loaded up the bus and made our way back to the Tel Aviv area for our flight to Cyprus. Modern day Tel Aviv is located in biblical Lydda, the home of St. George the Great Martyr. St George is very important in the Holy Land, even the muslims respect him and many of the houses have carved icons of him above their doorways. His church is built over his tomb (which is empty) but still streams myrrh. As we arrived at his church and I stepped off the bus, I immediately smelt myrrh. Walking into the church the smell got stronger and stronger as I lit a candle, venerated the icon of St. George, a piece of his relics, and the icon of Panagia. Finally, I walked down the stairway located on thesoleas and saw his tomb. I noticed something glistening on the top of his marble tomb and icon. The top was covered in myrrh! I dipped my hand into the oil to smell it and indeed, it was the same smell I smelt from the parking lot. I blessed and dipped my baptismal cross in the myrrh, knelt and said a prayer, before returning to the main level of the church. That was around 10:30 in the morning, it is now 5:30 and my hands and cross still smell like the scent! We then left for the airport and arrived safely in Cyprus for dinner with our group and some much needed relaxation after a bustling, but very refreshing pilgrimage through the Holy Land.
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