CANDELARIOS IN GREECE December 2016 – April 2017

Christ is risen!

We pray that this finds you all well in blessed this Paschal season. A lot has happened since our last newsletter and we hope to catch you all up.
We will be using the bulk of this newsletter to talk about our 10-day mission trip to Albania with OCMC

Mission Trip to Albania with OCMC

In March, we served a 10-Day OCMC Missions Trip to Albania, and we’d like to thank you for your prayers and support which helped us to get there! This was our first ever formal mission trip with OCMC. We learned so much about Albania, the culture, and we left with new friends and a promise to return soon.

Our missions team was lead by full-time missionary, Dn. Stephanos Ritsi, and was comprised of us as well as our very own Matushka Wendy Cwiklinski! This speaks volumes for the continued involvement of the Orthodox community in San Diego with the Albanian Mission field, and we pray that this relationship continues.

The first half of our trip consisted of team building, meetings with the young adults, and small excursions around Tirana. Above, the Byzantine Music School and the view of the city from it.

We spent Friday through Monday in Tirana, preparing and briefing for the week, meeting with the Youth/Young Adult leaders. After the Liturgy on Sunday, we met with the young adults and Matushka Wendy gave a presentation on personal prayer.

On Tuesday, we visited the MacDonald OCMC Missionary family. Then, after Pre-Sanctified Liturgy at Shen Vlash (St. Vlassios) Monastery, Josef gave a talk to the seminarians about Fasting and Asceticism in daily life.

Josef giving his talk to the seminarians.

Throughout the week we visited different ministries of the church in and around Tirana including Tabor: the Byzantine Music School and the Home of Hope orphanage. We also went on day-trips with the Young Adults to the National Gallery, hiked to a castle and a church - built in the the medieval period - and attended church services.

An evening in the center of Durres at the church of Sts. Paul and Astios.
Our day-hike with the young adults included ruins, a very old church and Parakelsis at the end.
On Friday, we had the great blessing to sit and speak with His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios after the Salutations at the Resurrection Cathedral. He remembered us from our last visit and we spoke both in Greek and in English. He asked about our studies and gave us books to help with our research.

Saturday was the first big Youth Conference in Berat, about 2 hours South of Tirana. After morning prayers at St. Dimitrios Cathedral, Matushka Wendy gave a sermon on The Cross, followed by discussion groups. With the youth, we hiked to different pilgrimage sites in the city, had lunch and Albanian dancing, then ended the evening at the mountain-top castle where Matushka Wendy gave a closing address about the Cross in each of our lives.

Youth Conference Day 1: Berat. Photos of our walk through the city and of the seminar, where Mat. Wendy was the keynote speaker! Over 150 kids were in attendance!

We wrapped up our week with the second Youth Conference at the Monastery of St. John Vladimir where we had a full-day of activities and prayer. We gave our conversion stories, Josef talked about the religious culture in America, and Matushka Wendy told the story of how the Troparion of the Cross helped start a friendship between her grandfather and an Ottoman guard in Lebanon.

Youth Conference Day 2: Elbasan. We began the morning with the Liturgy (it was the Sunday of the Cross!) and spent the day engaged with the kids in sport and craft activities. There were about 180 kids in attendance!
It was such a blessed learning experience! We are considering returning in June to help out with a summer camp.

Holy Week & Pascha

Euphrosini spent Lazarus Saturday through Holy Tuesday at the monastery at Ormylia where she continued to bond with the nuns and helped them dye over 6000 Pascha eggs! Josef stayed in Thessaloniki and helped chant at nearly every service. It’s astonishing how packed the churches get for every single service here in Greece during Holy Week.

Holy Friday's procession through Thessaloniki's main street!

For the Holy Friday Lamentation service, which is held Friday evening, we attended St. Charalambos, which is a dependency of Simonopetra Monastery on Mt. Athos. There the chanting is in the same tradition and spirit as Simonopetra and was particularly powerful for this service. After an exhilarating two hours, we began the procession with the epitaphion (bier) of Christ. At first we thought we’d just process around the church. But then we went through the gates. And then we continued onto Egnatia, Thessaloniki’s main street! Despite the cars zooming passed us on our left, our voices thundered in a way we’d never experienced in an outdoor procession as every member joined in the chanting. As we circled back to the church, we ran into another parish processing! And so we stopped, our priests greeted one another, and we prayed an litany together before parting ways.

For Pascha, we accepted an invitation from the nuns of Ormylia, packed six of us into a car, and headed for the monastery at midnight. Most of the churches in the city were already well into the Pascha service, but the nuns don’t begin until 1am. To top it off, we were bringing non-Orthodox American and British friends with us! Under swinging chandeliers and immersed in the nun’s angelic chanting, ringing bells, and pounding talandrons, we received the light, and celebrated the Resurrection of Christ with joy, finishing the liturgy at around 5:30. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed in the church during services, so we don't have any!

We then went directly to the monastery’s dining hall where we broke the fast together with a delicious feast of all things fish, dairy (homemade from the monastery), and eggs. During the meal, all of the young ladies lined up to crack their red eggs with the Gerondisa, including Euphrosini and our friend who was with us. We didn't return to our beds until 7:30 in the morning! Exhausted as they were, our friends really enjoyed the experience!

The feast waiting for us at the end of the Paschal Liturgy!

Greek School

We’re at the point where we can converse freely with most people, though we do make many mistakes. Our workload at school has really ramped up as the final exam is fast approaching. We need to achieve a B2 level on our exam in order to be admitted into the university to start our Theology masters programs. It’ll be a grueling four hour exam on May 29th, so please keep us in your prayers!

Life in Greece

We moved to a larger apartment that’s more central and not on the ground floor. On moving day, we had ten friends show up to help us, which was an unexpected and overwhelming blessing. God has provided us with such a beautiful community here from whom we learn so much about Christ-like love and self-giving.

We had over 10 friends show up to help us move (some not pictured). We thank God for providing us with a wonderful community here!

Euphrosini is progressing with iconography as is Josef with Byzantine chant. Once the Greek exam is out of the way, he will be looking for a job in the city (probably teaching English and/or doing translation work). Euphrosini has been blessed with freelance jobs here and there. Please pray that we’ll be able to find enough work to keep us afloat here in Greece. Of course, we trust in God and if He really wants us here, He’ll provide a way!

Other than that, we’re trying to absorb as much of the Orthodox mindset that the city and the culture has to offer in the services and in daily life. Until next time, thank you so very much for your prayers and support!

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is risen!

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