On November 14th and 15th, ACOY Victoria invited the youth to take part in an online weekend retreat. This weekend was blessed with the guidance of Fr. Jean Mawal and the presence of Fr. Isaac Zghaib and Fr. Dcn. Theophan Nahas.
The dual fold theme of this weekend was the celebration of St. John Chrysostom, ACOY’s patron, and the commencement of the fast of the Nativity of Christ. The two days included informative seminars, a Great Vespers service, an English Matins and Divine Liturgy and finally, a practical workshop to conclude the weekend.
Fr. Dcn. Theophan began the seminar with a talk titled “Bowing the Heavens.” This session encapsulated how the notion of bowing the heavens is represented in scripture and church services.
“He bowed heaven and descended, and darkness was under His feet” (2 Samuel 22:10)
This was shown to be represented in the service of Great Vespers during the prayer with heads bowed, for just as Lord bowed the heavens, we bow our heads to the Lord. It was highlighted that the phenomena of ‘bowing the heavens’ in the form of Christ’s incarnation has allowed humanity to both encounter God and also speak about Him. Following this, the youth had time to reflect on how they are able to encounter God in their daily lives. More specifically, in the home, at school/work, when using technology and lastly, in the Church.
The next session of the day was a discussion led by Fr. Isaac unpacking the idea of “The Compass Towards the Kingdom.” Fr. Isaac expressed how God is constantly seeking us, yet we hide from Him, as did Adam and Eve in paradise. However, he beautifully reminded the youth that repentance is possible through the analogy of a compass. Fr. Isaac described how the incarnate Christ is the true North of our inner compass. Therefore, encouraging the youth to not sway left nor right with the distractions of the world, but to remain fixed on God through participation in the ascetical disciplines of prayer, reading and fasting with the guidance of a spiritual Father.
To conclude the first evening of the weekend, a Great Vespers service was celebrated. The following morning began with an all English Matins and Divine Liturgy service for the youth to participate in online.
The final event of this blessed weekend contained an interactive workshop ran by the ACOY committee. The workshop was based around the works and homilies of St. John Chrysostom. Following a brief introduction into the blessed Saint’s life, the attendees broke off into 4 small groups with the task of unpacking different writings of St. John. The 4 topics provided were “The Difficulty of the Priesthood”; the “Sermon on Lazarus and the rich man”; “Homily 20 on Ephesians 5:22-33 (On Marriage)”; and lastly, “The Nativity Sermon of St. John Chrysostom.” This workshop required the youth to delve into these magnificent excerpts and create a mind-map containing the main themes within the text. This edifying experience allowed for each group to communicate the key messages they found within their allocated topic.
ACOY Victoria was once again able to productively and efficiently run a retreat for the youth, despite these trying times. This provided another opportunity for the attendees to grow together in fellowship.
In the final words of St. John Chrysostom, Glory be to God for all things!