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Annual Diocesan Antiochian Women's Retreat in Northern California - 11/11/2007

Danville, California

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The weekend of November 9-11, 2007, marked the 12th annual Northern California Antiochian Women Diocesan Retreat at San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville, California.  The theme this year was, “The Theotokos: An Icon of Human Perfection,” presented by the Very Reverend Father Thomas Hopko, Dean Emeritus of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Semianry. Attendees came from all the major jurisdictions (Antiochian, OCA, Greek, and ROCOR) to hear the lecture series.

On Friday, we began our retreat with Vespers, dinner and an introduction by Father Tom. He explained to us how it took generations of families to prepare the way for the birth of our beloved Theotokos.

Saturday morning Father David Hovik, our Diocesan Spiritual Advisor, spoke to us about addictions and how those addictions can keep a person from accepting the truth and healing offered to us by the Church. Fr. Tom then continued his lecture drawing from the Bible and Orthodox liturgical and iconographic tradition, he showed us how Mary the Theotokos is not the great exception, but the great example: the perfect disciple of her Son and Lord Jesus Christ, the image of human perfection for all people. By God's grace, the Virgin Mary hears God's words and believes in their fulfillment. Her soul magnifies the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God her savior. She remains faithful to her divine Son to the end, witnessing his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. She received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and perseveres to her own end, transfiguring her death into an act of life. And Mary now lives in the glory of the risen Christ to make intercession for the Church and the whole of creation until the Lord's Coming.

During the weekend the attendees had an opportunity to meet women from other jurisdictions, renew friendships, take walks together, and visit the bookstore brought to us by Fr. Innocent of St. John’s Monastery (OCA) in Manton, California.

After a day of clouds and rain, Sunday morning greeted us with a bright sunny sky as we entered the chapel for  Divine Liturgy. Lucille Belomy was able to maintain the beautiful sound of the choir even though the center lost all power during the middle of the service. After the Gospel reading, Father Tom delivered an inspirational sermon on the Gospel reading of day by candlelight. Afterwards, we had an enjoyable lunch with Fr. Tom as he shared stories from his past when he was a young priest.

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