Saturday, April 22, 2017

Retreat from the City but not from God

Over the past eight weeks, I truly cannot recall exactly how many services we celebrated in our host parish of Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs. I could look at the calendar and count, that’s true, but when I sit and reflect upon the past two months it is a blur of Church services in most cases two times per day in our Cathedral sometimes more. Today however I am enjoying a two-day retreat at the Diakonia Retreat Center near Salem, South Carolina for the annual Metropolis of Atlanta Pascha Picnic. Later today more than three hundred faithful and clergy from the nearby communities will gather for Vespers and a wonderful lamb roast picnic. It is something I look forward to every year.

Saint Paul teaches us to pray always without ceasing, (See 1 Thessalonians 5.17) but I’ve never believed he meant to be in Church 24 hours per day without ceasing. Such a teaching would be impossible and the Church does not give us the impossible. She challenges us to challenge ourselves, but never to the point of expecting us to live up to an unachievable standard.

So today I am retreating. Sure I said my prayers. I will pray again later today, and I’m sure before I go to bed this evening I will have offered several blessings and prayers. But this is never a chore for me. I always consider a blessing I receive when I offer God’s blessings on others as a Greek Orthodox Priest. I will enjoy a stroll around the lake today and feel the, albeit warm and humid, breeze across my face. I may even sit under the shade of a large pine tree and enjoy the silence, and I don’t feel a bit guilty.

Christ taught us this important lesson of retreat away from the chaos of the city as He went away several times. We retreat from the city not solely for the breeze and the shade since we can find physical refreshment anywhere. When we retreat to place such as the Diakonia Retreat Center our spiritual batteries are recharged. Our attention isn’t on ourselves but on God and His creation. When we retreat we remember there is more to life than making money and paying bills. There is even more to life than “being in Church” all the time. Life isn’t about standing in the pews without ceasing. Life is about praying always, and I can and will do a good bit of it this weekend during my retreat.

We return from retreat refreshed and ready for more spiritual challenges in life. Life doesn’t stop and the devil will not stop his attempts to distract us from God. Thankfully our Holy Metropolis has this place where we can retreat from the city but not from God.

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