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The Annual Antiochian Women's Retreat in Southern California - 04/22/2007

Frazier Park, California

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White Hairs, White Hearts, this year’s Annual Spring Retreat was beautifully planned by Laurie Olson and so eloquently ministered to us by the V. Rev. Fr. Josiah Trenham.  Thank you to Laurie for all your hard work in organizing this retreat and greeting each lady with a smile at our arrival.  V. Rev. Fr. David Hovik, as our spiritual advisor, was there for us throughout the weekend, hearing confessions and offering words of advice and encouragement.

Despite the rain and snow, many of the women were able to arrive at Camp St. Nicholas on Friday night. Staying at camp St. Nicholas in the winter/spring is a treat, if not a cold treat – as the trees are either budding or dusted with snow.  We had both!  Snow on Friday and spring on Saturday!  Despite the cold the warmth of sisterly love embraced each of us. 

White Hairs, White Hearts – what does this mean? Fr. Josiah walked us through the aging process from a biblical perspective. We were reminded that despite popular culture’s idolization of youth, it is fleeting.  It is through aging that we (hopefully) gain wisdom and respect.  Fr. Josiah pointed out that our respect and treatment of the elderly reflects our fear and respect of the Lord Himself.  Throughout history those with “White Hairs” have done great things:  Noah, Simeon, Anna the Prophetess, St. Anthony whose greatest years of service to our Lord were from age 70-105!  Seniors are the most effective co-laborers in most parishes for many reasons including: wisdom, time and an understanding of the importance of a healthy Parish to nurture our youth.  We were reminded that just because someone has white hair they may not have developed the white heart.  We must age spiritually and not seek to remain in youth physically or spiritually.  Just as there are examples of the elderly doing great things, there are examples of youth with “old spirits” showing spiritually they are elderly such as Daniel, the 3 Holy Youths, and St. Sava who at age 17 was tonsured a monk and by age 20 was recognized as a “child elder”. 

Fr. Josiah bravely addressed on our vanities and challenged us to embrace our age and for those showing white hairs to praise God.  The youth look to the elders of the church for examples of God’s faithfulness and for wise council. Seniors have a calling for active service in the Parish which is an honor – don’t complain and send the wrong message to the youth, instead rejoice at the opportunity for service.  Retirement, Fr. Josiah pointed out,  is not an excuse for lethargy, it is an opportunity to throw off the cares of this world (child rearing, full time job) and follow God’s calling to service.  Fr. Josiah pointed us to Titus 2:3-5 ‘The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things- that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”

We left this Holy camp with a new respect for our aging, and with a challenge to focus on spiritual things so our hearts grow white as our hair turns white. 

By: Melinda Bentz

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