The significance of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple is sometimes overlooked in our days, but for the youth of Saint Mary’s Mount Pritchard, the beauty of this Feast was lived in the spiritually-energising retreat to the Antiochian Village in Goulburn from the 20th to the 21st of November.

It began as a Friday evening around a bonfire on a surprisingly cool night where they shared spiritually-enriching conversations and delighted in charades. Our youth solemnly prayed Small Compline around the fire, creating an atmosphere of prayer.

They spent the night there (which was admittedly difficult for some!) and awoke to a quiet morning that gave them time to prepare for an early Matins service that stressed symbolic descriptions of the Presentation of the Theotokos.

Breakfast and monastery chores followed, and the youth were sure to pray the Jesus prayer to allow the difficult tasks to raise their minds to Christ. Shortly after, a talk with Sister Virginia explained the Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos in light of St Gregory Palamas’ teachings. She presented to the youth a challenging but important message that the significance of this feast lies in the choice of the Virgin Mary to dedicate her life and purity to God, which we can emulate by limiting our worldly distractions (like reducing time on our Smartphones) and developing good prayer habits (like saying the Jesus prayer more often).

Soon after, the youth broke off into groups and completed an activity where they analysed the Old Testament passages and hymns about the feast.

Did you know that the temple in the Old Testament is a symbol for the Virgin Mary, the pure temple of God? The temple had to be constructed beautifully and made pure, and the Theotokos was a temple herself in which God dwelt. When she was presented into the temple, she was dressed in beautiful garments fit for a queen, despite being only three-years-old.

After lunch, the youth unwinded for the remaining hours, playing sports, packing up and bonding as a group.

Overall, the weekend was greatly nourishing both physically and spiritually. Valuable lessons were taken away from the retreat and well done to our parish community and youth groups who helped organise this event.