In preparation for Great Lent, the Ladies’ Philoptochos of Weston sponsored a women’s overnight weekend retreat held at Holy Cross Seminary in Brookline, Mass. on March 3–5. The campus of Holy Cross, with its beautiful Chapel, was the perfect setting to give glory and honor to God. I am compelled to share the events of the weekend retreat as we are all instructed to “always be ready at all times to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you, but do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15–16).
The retreat, entitled “Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 33:8), centered on Jesus and His relationships with women in the Bible, and how He reveals Himself to us through those relationships. We were graced with the wisdom of Matuska Deborah Belonick and Presbytera Dr. Kyriaki FitzGerald, who prepared discussions related to this topic.
Beginning with a reflection on the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, we learned how Jesus loves and accepts us all, even in a state of sin, as He awaits our metanoia (change of heart). Matushka Deborah Belonick’s followed with a discussion on the Theotokos as our intercessor. Her constant supplication to our Lord on our behalf is illustrated by the story of the wedding at Cana, where Jesus performed His first miracle. Matuska Belonick went on to speak of Jesus’ great love and respect for us by relating the story of Mary Magdalene. As a repentant sinner, so loved by the Lord, she was deemed worthy to be first among those to whom Jesus appeared after His Resurrection. Matuska Belonick used the story of Mary and Martha to emphasize how we need to create a balance in our lives between worldly cares and spiritual nourishment. Presbytera Dr. Kyriaki FitzGerald spoke of the “Audacity of Joy,” defining joy as being “that which is fully rooted in and growing in communion with God.” She explained audacity as “that which is reflective of the joy of God, rooted in complete humility, which is the honesty with self in the presence of God.” Presbytera FitzGerald used the example of the woman with the issue of blood to illustrate her point. In the midst of a crowd, at a time when it was not the custom for women to bear witness, the woman with the issue of blood audaciously stepped forward to touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak with the faith that she would be healed. “Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well’”(Matthew 9:22). The woman’s humility and her audacity to approach the Lord, combined with her great faith, brought about her healing, and consequently, joy.
We read in the Gospel, “For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:8). So too the thirty women who sought the Lord found Him in the midst of the holy Chapel through the edifying talks, quiet reflection, the sacraments of confession and communion, a Paraklesis [prayer service for the intercession of the Theotokos], and through the bond of love that grew among the participants.
Thank you to those at Holy Cross Seminary who so warmly welcomed us, Nikki Stournaras for her direction, and Father Makris, who tirelessly gave of himself as servant of the Lord for our edification.