On the weekend of 28 February, until 1 March 2020, and under the stewardship of His Eminence, Metropolitan Basilios, 100 of us gathered from the various states to attend ACOY NSW’s annual adult retreat. The theme of ‘Receive Me Today’ was inspired by the prayer read during the canon of preparation for Communion.

We were privileged to delve deeper into the importance of the sacrament of Holy Communion and were provided with the ways and means enabling us to prepare ourselves to partake of the precious Body and precious Blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The weekend started with some ice-breakers and the opportunity for the group to get to know each other and consisted of team activities, workshops, services and three very important talks.

After a delicious Cheesefare breakfast, the first talk was delivered by Archimandrite Nabil, ACOY NSW’s spiritual director. The talk was on the importance of Holy Communion and the process of preparation. Fr. Nabil covered the crucial process involved to ensure that participation in Holy Communion as befit is extremely beneficial. These steps included self-examination, repentance, confession, prayers and fasting.

We were honoured to have His Eminence, Metropolitan Basilios cover the process of preparation of the Divine Gifts. Every Orthodox Divine Liturgy is preceded by a service called the ‘Proskomedia’ or ‘Prothesis’ in which the bread and wine are prepared as an offering. This is done by the priest in the altar during the Matins service before the Divine Liturgy begins and unseen by the faithful. His Eminence graciously offered the talk in the Church of St. Anna and demonstrated the rite performed. He also explained the meaning and importance of the vessels, bread, water, wine and covers used. This was both an insight into the spiritual and practical relevance of the Proskomedia service.

The third talk was presented by our guest speaker Dr. Philip Kariatlis, the Academic Director and Senior Lecturer in Theology at St. Andrew’s Theological College. Dr. Philip covered the mystery of the Sacrament of Communion offered by Christ for our sake and how we can, in turn, offer our lives back to Him through Christian Fellowship, or Koinonia.

The climax of the weekend was the Sunday morning, where His Eminence, Metropolitan Basilios, presided over the Forgiveness Sunday Liturgy and reminded us of the importance of forgiveness as we enter into Great Lent.

Delicious meals, prepared by the Ladies Auxiliary of St. Nicholas and St. John the Baptist, kept us full of energy and strengthened the feeling of being at home. The beautiful surrounding of the Antiochian Village brought our minds out of our day to day lives and offered us respite from the daily rush. The workshops stimulated our minds and had us thinking outside our regular patterns.

Overall, this retreat raised the bar in our spiritual lives. We all left feeling challenged, yet better prepared to face the world empowered with the spiritual knowledge we acquired over the weekend. We pray that our faithful youth who attended the retreat were spiritually uplifted before this Great Lenten period and that the importance of the sacred gifts, Communion, and Christian fellowship have left an indelible mark on their lives as they continue to live in Christ with faith and zeal.

Wishing all our Youth a blessed Great Lent!