Tuesday, September 7, 2010
My Week at Antiochian Village - by Clint
A little over a year ago, our beloved Fr. Matthew (Memory Eternal!) agreed that it would be a good idea for me to attend the St. Stephen's Course. So I began reading books, studying topics and getting ready for my "exams." These "exams" were basically essay papers on various topics. The course is 3 years long, with two units, or semesters, each year. Once per year, students are excpected to come for a residency week at Antiochian Village, just outside of Pittsburgh, PA.
Since I completed my first year of the course, I received permission from my employer and registered for the appropriate week of my residency. Each year, the residential portion of St. Stephen's (and other Antiochian House of Studies courses) set aside a two week block of time around labor day. First year student and third year students typically come for week 1 and second year students come for week 2.
Obviously, I was in week 1, since I was a first year guy. I admit to being frugal (some say "cheap"), so I requested to share a room with two other participants (much cheaper than a loner room. Anyway, it turned out that one of our assigned roommates was unable to attend at the last minute, but I was able to share the room with a fellow classmate (he is actually a year ahead of me). I got to know more about him and his ministry, which was fascinating, since he comes from a Western Rite parish.
We attended lectures each day (all day), and had both Orthros and Vespers each day. During the week, both Bishop Thomas and Bishop Antoun were present, encouraging and uplifting the students. In addition, many priests came to share insights and learning with all of us. It was a wonderful week, with ecclesiastical topics to keep our minds busy, and great anecdotal stories to keep our funny bone sharpened.
Ultimately, though, two things really stood out to me. First, I had the opportunity to get to know fellow Orthodox Christians from across the country, and even the world. I have begun to develop relationships with my fellow Christians that will last a lifetime. I met elected politicians, judges, librarians, teachers, a handyman, etc. I felt blessed to be included in their number. These are all people, both men and women, who desire to learn more about their God and their Church. They are committed to service.
Secondly, I was able to worship at the tomb of St. Raphael. I have not been Orthodox long enough to have had this opportunity before. I have prayed to many Saints, but never at the tomb of one. It was a special moment when I was able to go to the burial place and offer my prayers. It was moving.
I really enjoyed my week - not so much for the content of the lectures, though they were very good. But really, the relationships with my fellow Christians, both living and departed were what really made it wonderful.
I can't wait until next year!