Day 1: Friday: Departure from the USA
Enclose in your soul Greece (or something equal) and you shall feel every kind of grandeur (Dionysios Solomos; Note to “Free Besieged”).
We leave the US on an overnight flight to Greece. Dinner and breakfast will be served on board the aircraft.
Day 2: Saturday: Thessaloniki
“We keep thanking God for all of you and we remember you in our prayers, for we constantly are mindful before God our Father of the way you are proving your faith, laboring in love, and show constancy of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Thess 1: 1-3).
Upon our arrival, we’ll transfer to a flight bound for Thessaloniki where we’ll meet our Faith Journeys’ Tour Manager, who will assist us to our chartered motor coach for a transfer to the hotel. Thanks to its beautiful sea views, tree- lined streets, many museums, Turkish-influenced food, thriving modern culture and ancient Byzantine churches; Thessaloniki is very popular with visitors. Celebrate holy Mass at the local church of the Immaculate Conception. En route to our hotel, we’ll be given an orientation tour of this city celebrated as “the city whose praises are sung,” and this evening, enjoy a Welcome Dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 3: Sunday: Philippi, Kavala & Thessaloniki
“From there we went to Phillipi, a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman Colony. We spent some time in that city…” (Acts 16:12-13).
Kavala (known anciently as Neapolis), where Paul landed on his first voyage to Europe, will be our first stop this morning as we make our way to nearby Philippi, where Paul, accompanied by Silas, Luke and Timothy, first preached on European soil to sow the seeds of Christianity. Paul and Silas were arrested and beaten and thrown into prison while in Philippi. We visit the archaeological site of Philippi in the Kavala Prefecture. It was in Philippi that Paul met with a woman named Lydia, a purple-dye merchant (Rev. 2:18-29 and Acts 16: 14-15) who became the first Christian convert. Celebrate Mass together here together at this special site where Lydia had been baptized. Before we return to Thessaloniki for dinner and overnight, we will visit the Market Place, the Theatre, and Forum.
Day 4: Monday: Thessaloniki & Kalambaka
“Paul and Silas took the road through Amphipolis and Apolonia and came to Thessalonica…following his usual custom, Paul joined the people there and conducted discussions with them about the Scriptures…” (Act. 17:1-2)
Our reading of Acts 17:1-10 and the “Letter to the Thessalonians” will come alive in our minds and hearts as we follow in Paul’s footsteps and come to know firsthand where he first established the Church. We will marvel at his great faith and unwavering determination as we visit the places where Paul lived and preached: the ancient Agora and the Church of St. Demetrius (Hagios Demetrios) constructed on the site of an ancient Roman bath. The basilica, the most beautiful in the city, is famous for six extant mosaic panels (depicting St. Demetrius with the founders of the restoration and with children) that represent a rare example of art surviving from the Dark Ages. The crypt where the Saint was buried is also on site. After seeing the ramparts of the city and the Triumphal Arch of Galerius and the Rotunda (oldest of Thessaloniki’s churches, and some claim that it is the oldest Christian church in the world although there are a number of other claimants to that title; it is certainly the most important surviving example of a church from the early Christian period of the Greek-speaking part of the Roman Empire) along the Via Egnatia, an ancient road of the Roman Empire. Our journey continues through beautiful Berea (Veria) where we’ll celebrate mass and see Paul’s Bema where both he and Silas preached in AD 54 or 55 to a Jewish settlement after leaving the Thessalonians (acts 17: 10-15). We’ll also visit Vergina which became internationally famous in 1977, when the Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos unearthed what he claimed was the burial site of the kings of Macedon, including the tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. After a full and rewarding day, we’ll make our way to Kalambaka, home of the breathtaking Meteora Monasteries, for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 5: Tuesday: Kalambaka, Meteora Monasteries & Delphi
“If I have the gift of prophecy and, with full knowledge, comprehend all mysteries, if I have faith great enough to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”” (1 Cor. 13:2).
The Metéora which means “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above”, is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece (which began when an ascetic group of hermit monks moved up to the ancient pinnacles as early as the 9th century). Access to the monasteries (only six remain, four of which are inhabited by men, and two by women; each monastery has fewer than 10 inhabitants) was originally and deliberately difficult, requiring either long ladders lashed together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. Going up required quite a leap of faith! The ropes were only replaced, so the story goes, “when the Lord let them break” but eventually steps were cut into the rock. Today we’ll visit the Monasteries starting with the Meteora Monastery, then the Grand Meteoron Monastery (Transfiguration of Christ) which is built upon the highest rock and considered one of the most beautiful Byzantine monasteries. After spending the day “in the heavens above”, we’ll continue on to Delphi to celebrate mass and enjoy dinner and an overnight stay in our hotel.
Day 6: Wednesday: Delphi & Athens
Croesus, king of Lydia, beginning in 560 B.C., tested the oracles of the world to discover which gave the most accurate prophecies. He sent out emissaries to seven sites who were all to ask the oracles on the same day what the king was doing at that very moment. Croesus proclaimed the oracle at Delphi to be the most accurate, who correctly reported that the king was making a lamb-and-tortoise stew, and so he graced her with a magnitude of precious gifts. He then consulted Delphi before attacking Persia, and according to Herodotus was advised, “If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed.” Believing the response favorable, Croesus attacked, but it was his own empire that ultimately was destroyed by the Persians.
We awaken in a renowned city labeled the omphalos (navel) of the earth, or in other words, the center of the world! Delphi was also the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world. Today, in a most beautiful and ruggedly majestic landscape, we’ll explore the ruins of the Temple of Apollo and the museum located at the foot of the main archaeological complex. The museum houses an impressive collection of items associated with ancient Delphi, including the earliest known notation of a melody, the famous Charioteer, golden treasures discovered beneath the Sacred Way, and fragments of reliefs from the Siphnian Treasury. We’ll continue on to Athens, known as the cradle of western civilization, where Paul, on Mars Hill gave his sermon about the Unknown God. Celebrate Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
Day 7: Thursday: Athens
“For the God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord the heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands; nor does he receive man’s service as if he were in need of it. Rather, it is he who gives to all life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:24-25).
Our day starts at St. Dennis Catholic Cathedral where we celebrate Mass before we start exploring the city of Athens. This morning, we’ll explore Athens, aptly called the “divine city,” beginning with the Acropolis, a flat-topped rocky area that rises 490 feet above sea level, where we explore the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess, Athena. The Parthenon, truly one of the world’s greatest monuments, is considered to be the most enduring symbol and important surviving building of Ancient Greece. We will also visit the Areopagus or Areios Pagos (in Greek pagos means big piece of rock), also known as Mars hill, north-west of the Acropolis, which in classical times functioned as the high court of Appeal for criminal and civil cases in Athens and from which the Apostle Paul gave his famous sermon about “The Unknown God.” “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship…” (The Acts 17: 22, 23). From here we have an excellent view of the ancient agora; former center of the Athenian public life. We’ll further enjoy a driving tour of the city to see the House of Parliament on Syntagma Square (with the Evzones or guards in uniform guarding the Presidential Palace and the Tomb of the Unknown Solder), the Library, University and Panathenaic Stadium where the first modern-day Olympics were held. We’ll also see the Olympieion (constructed in the 6th century BC), a colossal ruined temple that was dedicated to Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, and see Adrian’s Ach before traveling on to Corinth, one of the oldest towns in Greece, which, in classical times rivaled Athens and Thebes in wealth. Paul lived in Corinth for 18 months working as a tentmaker and establishing a church. We’ll visit the ruins of this ancient city including the Bema (judgment seat) and the remnants of the first-century shops, the Fountain of Peirene, and Temple of Apollo. After a full day, we’ll return to Athens for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 8: Friday: Greek Isle Cruise – Mykonos
Beauty is the gift of God. (Aristotle).
Today we transfer to the city of Piraeus which sports the largest passenger port in Europe and the third largest in the world, to embark on a lovely 4 day / 3 night Greek Island cruise. We first sail to the island of Mykonos, believed to have been named after a local hero who was considered an offspring of the god Apollo. There is much to see in beautiful Mykonos, also known as Chora (i.e. the Town in Greek, a common denomination in Greece when the name of the island itself is the same as the name of the principal town), which lies on the west coast. From its legendary windmills (landmarks from as early as the 16th century), to its “Little Venice” where buildings have been constructed on the sea’s edge with their balconies overhanging the water, from its famous mascot Petros the Pelican to its inviting sandy beaches, from its quaint shops to its narrow cobbled streets, we can’t help but enjoy this cosmopolitan island. Tonight at one of the wonderful restaurants of Alefkandra, we’ll see a magnificent island sunset before returning to Mykonos Town to take the shuttle back to our ship (round-trip shuttle cost is additional). Celebrate Mass onboard.
Day 9: Saturday: Greek Isle Cruise – Kusadasi, Ephesus & Patmos
Each of us has received God’s favor in the measure in which Christ bestows it.” (Ephesians 4:7).
We dock in a resort town on Turkey’s Aegean coast, Kusadasi, whose name comes from words meaning “bird” and “island” because the peninsula upon which it sits has the shape of a bird’s head as seen from the sea. After driving through this picturesque town, we’ll head for Mt. Koressos (Bülbüldağı in Turkish meaning “Mount Nightingale”) to see The House of the Virgin Mary, a pilgrimage site officially sanctioned by the Vatican, where it is believed Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken by John to spend her last days. This is a perfect spot to celebrate Mass before traveling to see the ruins of Ephesus, for many years the second largest city of the Roman Empire ranking second only to Rome. It is to the Ephesians Paul wrote: “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…. Having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness… taking the shield of faith… the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6: 11 – 17) after having spent three years (from 52-54 A.D.) walking its marble streets, preaching and ministering here. While in the ancient city of Ephesus, we’ll look with wonder on many historically rich sights including the Temple of Artemis (Diana), the fountain of Trajan, the Baths of Scolastika, the Temple of Hadrian, the Library of Celsus and the Great Theatre capable of holding 25,000 spectators (used initially for drama, but during later Roman times for gladiatorial combats) where Paul preached and where the riot of the silversmiths occurred. We will walk along Arcadian Way where Mark Anthony and Cleopatra once rode in procession. En route to Patmos, we’ll view the Basilica of St. John, which was built over his grave in the 6th century, and see the Monastery of St. John noted for its exceptional architecture, frescoes and interior decoration. Next we’ll journey to Patmos, an important destination of pilgrimage, where the Apostle John received his vision of the Apocalypse. Visitors can see the cave where John is said to have received his Revelation (the Cave of the Apocalypse) and if time permits, we will visit a few of the several monasteries on the island dedicated to John, including the mile high Monastery which houses a treasury of Byzantine art and religious artifacts. After a memorable day, we’ll drive back to the port of Scala to enjoy some free time in this beautiful harbor before returning to the ship for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 10: Sunday: Greek Isle Cruise – Crete & Santorini
“But you must hold fast to faith, be firmly grounded and steadfast in it, unshaken in the hope promised to you by the gospel you have heard. It is the gospel which has been announced to every creature under heaven, and I, Paul, am its servant.” (Colossians 1:23).
The morning finds us visiting the largest city and capital of Crete, Heraklion (home to many significant artists including the poet and Nobel Prize winner Odysseas Elytis and the world-famous Greek painter Domenicos Theotokopoulos (El Greco)). Just a few miles from Heraklion are the ruins of Knossos Palace (also known as Labyrinth as suggested by its maze of 1,300 rooms connected with corridors of varying sizes and direction) which is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square with detailed images of Cretan life provided by images on the walls of this palace. It was in Heraklion that Paul was warned about continuing his journey to Rome by the owner and captain of the ship. This afternoon, we’ll cruise to the town of Fira on the breathtakingly beautiful Island of Santorini. Fira is a traditional settlement of white-washed houses built on the edge of a caldera. The panoramic view of the blue Aegean water is magnificent from Fira and there is much to see and do: open-air cafes, charming boutiques and some museums of great interest including the Santorini Archeological Museum and the Museum of Prehistoric Thera. We’ll return to the ship for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 11: Monday: Depart for Home
“Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith…In a word be strong. Do everything with love.” (I Cor. 16:13-14)
Today marks the end of our journey. After we disembark, we’ll transfer to the Athens airport for our flight back home.
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