Greetings from the Holy Land – the 2017 St. Helen’s Pilgrimage

Greetings from the Holy Land – the 2017 St. Helen’s Pilgrimage


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.  

Day 1:

Greetings from the Holy Lands! My name is Efstratios Magoulias, but my friends call me Yianni (that’s another story for another blog). In the fall, I will be starting my fourth and final year as a Master of Divinity seminarian at Hellenic College, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. I am blessed to be traveling on our senior trip with 12 of my classmates, and one of our professors, through the Holy Land, on to Cyprus and Constantinople, and then finally in Greece (where we will be pilgrimaging through northern Greece while attending Greek language classes at the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki).

Day 1 of our pilgrimage took us to St. Savva’s Monastery, one of the oldest monastic communities in the world. This monastery was started by St. Savva himself. Far removed in the desert, we abandoned our tour bus and piled into smaller vans to make the journey to the monastery. Only the men were allowed into St. Savva’s monastery. Upon entering, we were greeted by a few of the monks. They showed us to the original tomb of St. Savva, which we venerated, then proceeded into the church where we were able to venerate his body, which is on the solea in the main chapel. From the chapel, we looked out over the balcony into the desert. Across the canyon were many caves carved into the rock, where monks, like St. Savva, would live and pray for months at a time. We were then taken to a small room. This room was the cell of St. John of Damascus, who lived and composed the 8 tones of music we use in our Church to this day.

Our group really got a taste of what monastic life is like. The silence, the stillness. There were no phones ringing, no radios playing, no cars buzzing from place to place. There was only silence. All noise from the world, from our hearts, and from our souls, vanished. We were able to be alone with our thoughts and focus on our prayers.

Click here to download the Itinerary for the 2017 St. Helen’s Pilgrimage.

Photo: The Tomb of St. Savva


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About author

Yianni Magoulias

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.