Justin Shaun Coyle, Ph.D.
This November, the Mission Institute hosted its third annual retreat at Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Redwood Valley, California. Students from across our vast Eparchy convened for a long, contemplative weekend of prayer, instruction, and fellowship in the misty forests of California’s famous Mendocino county.
Retreat days were punctured by the monastery’s liturgical rhythm. Students rose before dawn to pray matins with the monks. Divine Liturgy followed. After breakfasting to the sound of monks reading from the life of St Porphyrios the Kapsokalyvite, students repaired to Sheptytsky Hall for a morning session of instruction. Prayer resumed with the sixth hour followed by lunch, again scored by spiritual reading. An afternoon session of instruction passed over into free time, during which students explored the forest, chatted in the guesthouse, or took trips to nearby sites. Vespers began promptly at 4:30pm and, after time for silent reflection and prayer, led into supper. Compline closed the liturgical cycle of the day, after which students met for an evening session.
Monks of Mount Tabor gave generously of their time to lead instructional sessions. Morning sessions were taught by Hegumen Damian, whose lectures on iconography wove together theology, stories of life together at the monastery, and real-time icon painting. Fr. Damian also related his own history with the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Hawaii, whose doors he and Vladyka Benedict will officially re-open later this month. Afternoon sessions were led by Fr. Agapetos, who showed Mission Institute students that reading scripture like the Fathers of the Church does not mean riding roughshod over the letter of the text. Rather to read like the Fathers is to read across scripture by allowing scripture to define its own terms and meaning rather than assuming it must correlate to our own preconceived matrix of meaning. That students from an educational initiative gathered to learn from monks in a structure named “Sheptytsky Hall” surely honored the memory of Blessed Andrei himself, who always emphasized the importance of educators within the Church.
Highlights included Saturday Great Vespers with Litya for the feast of St Josaphat, an impromptu after supper choir-lesson with our own maestro, Mr. Yuri Ivan, and near endless spontaneous renditions of “Mnohaya Lita” (with apologies to the monks for piercing their atmosphere of silence with all of our joyful noise).
May God grant the Mission Institute itself “many years”!