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Finding Refreshment at the Annual St. Thekla Pilgrimage

From September 23-25, faithful traveled to the St Thekla Pilgrimage for the Patronal Feast of the St Thekla Monastery at the Antiochian Village for a weekend of prayer, refreshment, focus and fellowship. As pilgrims trickled in on Friday evening after busy weeks of work and the demands of daily life, they were offered hospitality and a time to unwind and transition in prayer at Vespers and then in fellowship and discussion following a movie. Saturday was a full day that began with Orthros and the Divine Liturgy, followed by brunch and workshops on Orthodox Family Life, Living Faithfully Though Crisis, the Sacraments, and a discussion of the book Miles to Go. After a break, we convened at the Shrine of St Thekla, located at the Village Camp and prayed the Supplication to St Thekla and were anointed with the miraculous oil from the lampada that burns in the Shrine of St Thekla in Ma’aloula, Syria.

An afternoon program was offered with a choice of time for an informative tour of the icons in the Saints Peter and Paul Chapel, a hike to monastery building site, or a visit to the Antiochian Heritage Museum, whose current exhibit, “Structure in Stone,” is of expeditions in the early 1900s studying the architecture of Syria dating back to 500BC. In the evening, we gathered for Great Vespers, dinner and conversation, followed by a talk and discussion on prayer by Mother Alexandra. The Pilgrimage closed on Sunday following Orthros, Divine Liturgy, the Blessing for Travelers and brunch.

Our guest Hierarch for the Pilgrimage was His Grace Bishop Thomas of the Diocese of Charleston and the Mid-Atlantic. Sayedna Thomas provided us with practical, spiritual food to strengthen our minds and hearts when we encounter the daily demands of this world. He reminded us that St Thekla was always prepared, unlike the unwise virgins in the Gospel, and to ask ourselves if we are prepared to meet Christ, not just when he comes at the end of the world, but in each day of our lives. We were grateful for Sayedna Thomas’ presence, providing many faithful the opportunity to meet him and speak with him personally. In addition, Fr. Anthony Yazge, Director of the Antiochian Village Camp, and many of our clergy from Pennsylvania were also with us until they needed to return to their parishes: Bishop-Elect, Fr. John Abdalah, Fr. Donald Shadid, Fr. John Nosal, Fr. Stephen Lourie, Fr. Gregory Long, Fr. Joel Gillam, Fr. Fred Pfeil, Fr. Meletios Zafaran, Fr. James Purdie, and Dn. Michael Ibrahim. We thank them for their time, presence and ministry to us.

Thanks are also extended to Paul Finley, Director of the Antiochian Village Conference Center; Barli Ross, Director of Orthodox Programs; and the entire Village Staff for their hospitality which far exceeds food and lodging.