Lenten Retreat

Report Dated : 09th February, 2020

Venue: St. Dionysius Chapel, Aravalli Retreat Centre, Gurugram

Theme:  Exodus into Genesis taken from Jeremiah 31:21

Resource: Rev. Fr. Abin P. Jacob (Diocesan Office Secretary)

This year’s Lenten retreat was a blessed experience like every other year. It is the time for self-reflection and meditation before we enter Great Lent. It was held on the 9th Feb 2020 in the picturesque and scenic locale of St. Dionysius Chapel, Aravalli Retreat Centre, Gurugram. 120 people of all age groups from various parishes under Diocese of Delhi attended it.

This time, we had organised an Origami session for the tiny tots to keep them engaged. Ms Sneha K. Shaji, along with few other MGOCSM members had coordinated the entire activity and done it well. For book lovers there was a TAB-KAB corner (Take a book-Keep a book)

Retreat opened with a word of Prayer by Rev Fr. Thomas Varghese, Manager of the Aravalli Retreat centre, Shantigiri and Shantigram, followed by the welcome address by our Vice President, Rev Fr. Ferdinand Pathrose.

We were led in the word by Rev. Fr. Abin. P. Jacob on the theme ‘Exodus into Genesis’ based on the Bible reference Jeremiah 31:21 meaning ‘A Journey to the Origin ‘. Here are some excerpts captured from the sessions.

“ He emphasized on many portions in the Old Testament which spoke about the slavery of Israelites and how they were always led out from different lands by different prophets at different times to their land of origin or point of departure. 

In Jeremiah 31:21, prophet tells the people that they need to return from captivity to their own land. Also in the funeral service, the last prayer emphasizes  on ‘return’, where we pray and hope that the body (soul) goes back to the place from where God created Adam and even when we talk about the garden of Eden, the emphasise is on ‘Return to the image of God and communion with him’. 

Adam is derived from “Adama” which means taken from mud. Various verses in the book of Genesis are associated with this word. 

1st Genesis being God breathed his life to Man. 

2nd Genesis being the dust who became life was closer to animals and nature. 

3rd Genesis being his Zenith of closeness with God. 

Rev. Fr. further emphasized on the 3 images of Christ that we should imbibe in during and after this Lenten season – 

“To be Holy as the Father in heaven is Holy”

“To be merciful as the Father in heaven is merciful”

“To be perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect”

When we learn the art of being real in this virtual world, we are in the image of God. Lent is the time of battle and retreat is going back to a stage where we prepare ourselves for this battle. Hence it is important that we learn the act of acceptance. He also referred to the “Wabi-Sabi” philosophy which is the art of appreciating the beauty of imperfection. The act of acceptance is important to co-exist with fellow beings on this earth as that is what is divine. The act of forgiveness without forgetfulness is a waste. 

We have come a long way through our exodus but it’s very important for us to now return to our Genesis so that able to depart with the old being and embrace the new being through this Holy lent. Let us prayerfully prepare for the lent. May the Lord almighty guide us and lead us during the lent and in every walk of our life. “

Later on, Q & A session was moderated by Mr. Sanjay Raphel Varghese, one of the senior Core member, put forth some thought-provoking queries related to chosen Theme and some relevant issues faced by people. Esteemed resource present for Day Retreat namely Fr. Ferdinand Pathrose (V.P. of IOD), Fr. Abin P. Jacob (Speaker), Dn. Shinu Thomas and some learned persons among audience involved and shared their inputs.

It began with

Q: “Is Retreat only purpose of Life and glorify God”?

A: God created each one of us as a unique one. Whichever vocation we choose in order to sustain ourselves becomes a means of life. During our journey in the life, it becomes very crucial for us to retreat. So that we can step aback, analyze, change strategy & plan and then start again. Essential purpose of humankind remains to glorify and manifest the divine nature of God through our work.

Q: What’s the limit up to anyone can forgive his/ her partner especially when the relationship had become toxic that neither of them can’t take it anymore?

A: In the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, through the grace of Holy Spirit two individual become one in order to fulfil the purpose that God has given them as a family. The Holy Bible says that what God had put together let no man separate. And if one divorces and marries another except for unchastity than that person commits adultery. Yet if one feels that they are not able to understand one another and the relationship has become harmful then they should seek help from people involved in counselling whether from spiritual fathers or any professional personal. We should never underestimate the power of prayer and the intervention of church in our life.

Q: The difference between the word’s: Heaven, Eternal life, Paradise and Eden garden?

A: At the time of creation, God created earth and towards its eastern side carefully planted a garden known as ‘Garden of Eden’. And we too describe it as Paradise. As John 1:14 says that ‘God tabernacle amongst us.’ The word tabernacle is used in reference to the incarnation of Son of God so that we can go back to the place from where we were thrown out. And thus, called this unique place as Garden of Eden or Paradise. Thereby, all these words are actually synonyms. Even Christ and Apostles also teaches that ‘Kingdom of God is within and amongst us.’ Wherever we are, God expects us to make it heavenly one. It’s not something which is kept for future. But, to be lived every moment in this world by the grace of God.

Q: How do we define perfection?

A: Perfection is God and a perfect being has no flaws in its essence. On seventh day, God saw everything he had created and said that it was good. The entire creation was made out of that perfection. We should always strive to reach perfection in our life i.e. to be in communion with God. It derives from our freedom of good choices. What we choose out of our freewill determines what our course of life will be.

Q: Why does Monk wear Mashnamsa, and a big cap at the time of kukiliyon ?

A: Mashnamsa is a cloth worn by a monk to cover his/her head. It has 12 crosses determining 12 disciples and one big Cross denoting Christ at the center of it. It is worn by all the monks. But at the time of kukiliyon which is the time for meditational prayers. A Big cap is worn as authority symbol of a Metropolitan.

Q: Why God made us?

A: In the New Testament, Ten Commandments of God culminated into: Love your God with all our strength, mind, heart and soul. And Love our neighbors as you love yourselves. Both these commandments signify the importance of love. Communion of the triune God as one in three and three in one denotes love. So, God created us also out of love. Something beautiful in order to love.

After Q & A, an open discussion was taken up on the relevant issues that our young generations face these days. Along with that what could be possible ways through which the elders as well as the church work to help them out. Few months back, unexpected and painful accidents happened which made us to ponder. Do we still live in communion with our God and Church? Youngsters from our parishes lost their life due to the various issues and problems they were going through in their personal life.

From the audience, both young and elderly came forward to raise issues related to the youth and their connection with the church.  The reflections from various participants are recapitulated below:

Does elder or parents are able to set up an example to their children? There is lack of role model around us, upon whom these young people look upon and become like them. Even in our homes, are we able to create space where often talk and share about each other’s life? So, as to know what’s everyone going through and if they need any help. It’s very much crucial and desired from us to listen, talk and understand our children. And we should not set a huge expectation for them in our homes. Whereas give freedom to let them live their life and counsel about importance of God so as to let them not fall in wrong side. Elders should try to share their experiences on how they were able to tackle their problems at the similar stages of life and have a common family prayer on such issues or concerns. When a family prays together, it creates altogether a different impact. 

In our parishes, we have a very significant role towards the youth who goes through such dynamic phases. Do we have tendency to talk with them after Holy service on Sundays? But rather, we usually create a mindset or stigmatize the youth because of their varied lifestyle and behavior and we have a habit to accuse them if they end up in a serious trouble and tend to cut lose all our bond, leave them alone where they need us the most. If we are going to be adamant about our culture, language and priorities without giving space for them to grow and nourish, sooner or later, our children will ask what we have kept for them as part of church? Most of youngsters really feel that nobody interested or rather care about them in the church.

Can we reach out and bring back all those to the church? We often hear and learn about the love of God and how compassionate he is. He came for all those who were near and far distant so that they can hear the word of God and become one in Christ. It is our responsibility to understand, love our brethren and children as we love ourselves.

The Lenten Retreat was coordinated by IOD Core Committee members and Conveners, Mr. James P John and Mr. Mathews T Kurian. Though HG Dr.Youhanon Mar Demetrios was not present (due to his pre-decided commitments and was out of station), IOD core committee is indebted to him for his guidance (especially for the Kalpana) in run-up to the Retreat. In the vote of thanks, the IOD Committee recognized and felicitated Rev Fr. Abin P Jacob for being a wonderful resource to lead each one of us towards successful Lenten season. IOD family also recognised the invaluable contribution by Rev Fr. Thomas Varghese Manager of Shantigram, and Shantigiri, Aravalli.

IOD family extends its appreciation to Rev. Fr. Ferdinand Pathrose, VP-IOD, Core Team members with Office Bearers and the various attendees from Delhi NCR parishes. Special Thanks to Vicar Rev Fr. Shaji Mathews, Asst. Vicar Rev. Fr. Lany Chacko and Managing Committee members of St Thomas Orthodox Church Ghaziabad for rendering all support towards food expense and Transport facilities for the retreat. The IOD Committee recognized contributions made by the members of Gregorian Voice who led the choir session with their melodious songs. Efficient compering of the day’s event led by Mrs Reeja Jojo Thomas, designing of event poster & backdrop by Mr. Johnsy Jacob.

IOD core recognizes the contributions of Ms Liji Varghese and Ms Elizabeth T. Kurian for compiling the report on Theme Addresses and Q&A/open discussion respectively and Mrs. Reeja & Jojo Thomas for fine-tuning the same

May God be praised for a blessed Lenten retreat 2020 and look forward to a Blessed Lenten Season.