The Annual Diocesan Antiochian Women's Retreat in Northern California - 11/12/06Menlo Park, California
The weekend of November 10-12, 2006, marked the 11th Anniversary of the gathering of the Antiochian Women at Vallombrosa Retreat Center in Menlo Park, California. The theme this year was, “What makes me tick? Understanding and overcoming the passions,” presented by the Very Reverend Father Marc Dunaway, Dean of St. John Antiochian Cathedral in Eagle River, Alaska.
On Friday, we began our retreat with Vespers, dinner and an introduction by Father Marc, who defined our passions as a normal desire that gets out of control just as a small campfire can easily turn into a raging forest fire if left unattended. He also touched on the differences between having a satisfied feeling from completing a job well done versus taking pride in something we didn’t work for like our appearance, ancestry, or wealth. He continued to share that the ugliest form of pride was when we become blind because we begin to believe we are God.
Saturday morning Father David Hovik, Diocesan Spiritual Advisor to the Antiochian Women, described how the pyramid of power was a secular view of authority. He said Christ turned that pyramid on its head and became a servant to man so that we too could acquire godly humility by following his example. Father Marc then took over and spoke to us about how vanity is an addiction to human admiration or to be man pleasing instead of God pleasing. This topic provoked many questions and much discussion among the audience. In other words, we all recognized how our desire to please others had left a detrimental impact on our lives. Thankfully, Father Marc gave us the strategies needed to conquer our passions, pride and vanity.
During the weekend the women had time to renew friendships, take walks together, and visit the bookstore brought to us by St. John’s Monastery (OCA) in Manton, California. We were also blessed to have Father David show us a DVD of his trip to Mt. Athos last fall. When we returned for the third session Saturday afternoon, we were greeted by a funny caricature of Father Marc climbing the ladder to heaven drawn on the white board by his good friend, Father Leo Arrowsmith (OCA), who was also one of the attendees.
Sunday morning began with rabbits following our path to the chapel for Divine Liturgy. The choir sounded heavenly under the direction of Lucille Belomy and we were treated to the angelic chanting of Kh. Maria Jackson and Shannon Sharp. After the Gospel reading, Father David delivered an inspirational sermon that encouraged us to find ways to share our wealth with those less fortunate whether they lived next door or across the globe. After Divine Liturgy, we had our last meal together which was appropriately a thanksgiving menu because many of us felt very thankful for the insights we had gained over the weekend.