On Saturday the 30th of July ACOY VIC, hosted a day retreat titled, ‘Marriage: The sacrament of salvation’ at St Paul’s Antiochian Orthodox Church in Dandenong. This event was targeted at those over the age of 18. We were blessed to have Khouriya Rita Mawal, Khouriya Matilda Mattar and Father Jean Mawal to give us an insight on marriage in the church and raising children in the faith.

The first talk was given by Father Jean Mawal who spoke about Marriage: The sacrament of Salvation. He covered topics of the path of holiness through marriage, the structure of wedding as a path of salvation and marriage as a revealer and healer of passions. One of many things that stood out during this talk was the focus on Marriage in Christ will reveal distorted passions in our hearts which explained that marriage will force one to put their pride, impatience, and selfishness aside for their partner.

The second talk was given by Khouriya Matilda Mattar who spoke about Raising children towards salvation and building a domestic church. She covered topics around Orthodox homes, parenting, and youth and instilled the importance of role modelling and the language used in the home will be instilled in your children. Khouriya Matilda gave an example of us being brought up with our parents saying God willing and thank God, which when we were younger we did not comprehend but as we grow up we start using it and appreciating the words and understanding the power of those words.

During the talk, she gave out some little goodie bags which had a prayer, playdough, paper, and a pencil. She asked us to take out the playdough and start playing with it. Khouriya Matilda then explained that playing with playdough was like prayer. It starts off hard and cold but when you continue and persist it turns warm and soft.

The last talk of the evening was given by Khouriya Rita whose topic was also Raising children towards salvation but spoke more about the aspect of praying, fasting, giving, and choosing a patron saint for your child and celebrating that patron saint every year like a birthday. Khouriya Rita also spoke about fasting in children and easing them into it so that when they are older, they understand the fasting periods and why we do them. One of many things that stuck out was that she reminded us that it is hard to bring children to church when they are young and to keep them coming but that is only for a short period because there is a bigger picture. This spoke to me because as youth we all went through this stage of our parents making us come to church, but them making us eventually became a want to come to church because we wanted to come to see our friends, we wanted to come to learn and eventually we come to church because it is our home.

To end this reflection there was one phrase that I won’t forget that Fr Jean said regarding conversations in the home, that ‘every interaction is an invitation’.