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Real Break Thessaloniki II - Thurs. (3/16/17)

We were blessed with yet another beautiful day!

Real Break Thessaloniki has been up close and personal. From the scents of incense rising as we began the week with Liturgy to the very holy fragrance of saints’ relics and miraculous icons, as special as these are what really made it come to life has been the very human people we have met living these symbols in hospitality. \

Like the blossoming flowers on the iconostasis’ in each church from centuries ago yet ever in bloom, the life behind these great works spoke today from a workshop of prayer.

This afternoon a man of a family of 3 generations of icon carvers took us into his workshop with sawdust in the air and a heart of love …his words and works revealed the image of Christ was also a deep relief in his soul as he shared his greatest joy is not to produce but to create, not to invent but to continue a tradition that is alive. From Russia to Jerusalem and many other countries where his work has been found in churches, he is considered the best in the world. He shared he could not do this work without an active liturgical life, he would not know how. How humbling!

Real Break Thessaloniki has brought so many students together from around the United States with people sharing the Orthodox Faith and one true Church here in Greece such as the icon carver, a priest who has aided the ignored deaf community, an 86 year old Geronda and Nobel Peace prize nominee, the hotel receptionist, the bus driver as well as the beautiful monks and nuns.

The team is so grateful for such an opportunity and our Diocesan students and faith leaders also can not thank God enough for blessing us with this true and honest Pilgrimage made possible through the stewardship of the Kulis Foundation. Glory to God!

May God multiply the talents of those we met for a rich harvest in His name and help us do the same with the seeds planted in our hearts from these spiritual gardeners so this spring we can say with one voice and one heart, “Christ is Risen!”

A student shared their experience today:

"This morning we were blessed to visit the Church where St. Demetrios' relics are kept that dates back in part to the fourth century! It has been fascinating to see churches this week that have been built upon older sites and ruins, knowing that they have been here for more than a thousand years!

When I encountered St. Demetrios' relics and learned that it streams myrrh, I immediately thought about the icon in Taylor, PA and how much myrrh streams from the icon. I thought how marvelous it would be to witness the same thing here!

What an amazing trip it has been so far! I am grateful that I was able to venerate these relics and have so many opportunities to experience my faith in a culture where it is very much alive.

We had the wonderful experience of visiting the women's Monastery of the Annunciation in the village of Ormylia. I was fascinated to learn that the nuns of high academic caliber perform research related to breast cancer and offer free screenings to many in the local community. I was amazed by what wonderful work they are doing there and the beauty of the monastery Church, the fabulous icons and wood carving. I could not believe the beautiful stone mosaic in the courtyard created by the sisters from pebbles from the shores of the Aegean Sea (See photo)

The experience that really meant a lot to me was meeting Sister ProsdokiI and hearing the story about how she ended up at the monastery. She told me that her decision to enter the monastery took place when she was in college. While there she had questions about what she was supposed to do with her life. She went to her religious studies classes and was not impressed with the program as she found out that her soul was hungering for more. Taking this as a sign from God, she went to visit an Orthodox Monastery in Essex, England. While there she was counseled by one of the monks to become a nun. Within one week of this conversation she came to this monastery in Omrylia where soon she will have lived for 40 years. She said that before entering the monastery she had an emptiness inside that needed filling and after asking God what she should do, she found her place and now she has all that she needs.

It was such a blessing that she was so willing to share her story and her happiness and joy with us"

(Jaclynn Choma)

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The Church of St. Demetrios, the heartbeat of the city of Thessaloniki
The Church of St. Demetrios, the heartbeat of the city of Thessaloniki
The relics of St. Demetrios within the Church, open for prayers and veneration
Making our way to St. George Church, a most historical structure
The interior of St. George Church
The restored ceiling of St. George Church
Attending a graduation of a dear friend from the Theology program of Aristotle University
We were blessed to visit with Fr. Serapion and the blessed Mothers and Sisters of a Monastery outside the city
Fr. Spyridon and Fr. Serapion are one in step, physically and spiritually
In the courtyard outside the main Church of the Monastery, we beheld an incredible mosaic comprised of stones from the beach of the Aegean Sea, collected and put together by the Mothers and Sisters of the Monastery
As Noah called the animals into the ark, so are we all called the enter the Church, the Ark of our salvation!
A group photo in front of the Church of the Annunciation
Students and leaders took reprieve after a late lunch on the beach
Students and leaders were honored to learn about the construction of iconostasis from a professional
Students behold an especially detailed iconostasis in progress, to be sent to a Church in Russia
Exceptional hand-done woodwork
Living, breathing Icons of the Church!