Spiritual Retreat AROLA 2017 Eastern Deanery of USA
We are at home! A home away from the one in which we live, a home for our soul, St. Dumitru Monastery from Middletown, NY, on March 17-19, 2017.
The second edition of the AROLA Spiritual Retreat gathers just a few ladies: from St. Nicholas, Woodside NY, from Holy Trinity, Philadelphia, PA, from the Life Giving Fountain, Long Valley, NY and from Holy Trinity, Rochester NY. The weather impedes the other ones who live nearby to join us for Rev. Fr. Nicolai Buga’s conference. The theme is Valeriu Gafencu, a Saint of the Communist Prisons.
We start the day as we ended the one before, with prayer, taking turns to read a Kontakion and an Ikos from the Annunciation Akatist in the chapel of the monastery. We have the chance to venerate the Holy Relics of St. Ana, the mother of the Theotokos, and the protector of AROLA. As a family, we break bread and enjoy the food that was prepared with love by the members of St. Nicholas, and together we clear the tables in order to participate in the conference.
Through Fr. Buga’s words the portrait of Valeriu Gafencu comes alive: a Romanian young man, born in Bessarabia, member of the Cross Brotherhood, that promoted orthodoxy and nationalism, is arrested and made an example: he is condemned to 24 years. Torture and starvation broke his body, but his soul grew in communion with God. Sick, in the hospital, he knew he was going to die on February 18, 1952 and, with help, he was able to see one last time his friends. His last words were “Lord, give me the slavery that liberates my soul, and take away my liberty, that enslaves it.”
At the end of the conference we all have tears in our eyes. We ask Fr. Buga how can we, Orthodox Christian women living in a free country, implement the message of the conference? Father Nicolai encourages us to tell everyone about our orthodox faith, because without Christ we are like smoke in the wind; to teach our children through example about cross, and prostrations, and prayers, to have them when they are alone and no one else can see them, just God; to teach them the love for Church; to speak with them in Romanian, so they will have later access to the Romanian troves of wisdom, tradition and culture.
Lunch comes and goes, and we’re asking questions that try to satisfy a different kind of hunger, trying to dilate time so Father Nicolai will answer many of them. Eventually we have to say our good-byes because Fr. Buga has to return to his parish. After a short break, I make a short presentation of the Transylvanian tradition of painting icons on glass. Then some of us choose a model after which to paint an icon. The afternoon passes quickly and at 7 pm we unite our voices in prayer in the Vespers service lead by Hieromonk Vincentiu Temirov.
Morning will ﬁnd us again in the little chapel taking turns and reading the Akathist of the Holy Cross, and then participating in the service of the Divine Liturgy. Fr. Temirov gives the dismissal and we are sent back, recharged and renewed, to our families, to our parishes, to our jobs to tell everybody about the many blessings that we have received.
We thank God for all His gifts! We thank His Eminence Nicolae, Metropolitan of the Romanian Orthodox Metropolia of the Americas, for his love and care for the members of AROLA. We give thanks to Rev. Fr. Nicolai Buga for imparting his knowledge with us, to Hieromonk Vincentiu Temirov for hosting us, to Rev. Fr. Daniel Ene for making possible for us to venerate the Holy Relics of St. Ana and to the priests of our parishes who announced this spiritual retreat.