This semester, Orthodox Life had an overnight retreat at Georgetown’s Calcagnini Contemplative Center (CCC). We traveled to the hills of Bluemont, Virginia, and partnered with the Pamplona Catholic retreat to fill the center with young people. It was exciting to see so much life and thoughtfulness in one place. Our theme was Salt and Light, being the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt 5:13-16). We meditated and shared on the work of being authentic Christians in the world today.
The leafing trees and brilliant orange and red colors, cool breezes and warm sunlight, gave us the right atmosphere to think about our upbringing and traditions, and the burdens of our individual circumstances. The celebration of the Divine Liturgy (pictured below) on Saturday crowned our spiritual practices. This was a Soul-Saturday, so we remembered our faithful departed and went outside to sing “Memory Eternal” amongst the trees in the morning sun. One could sense the power of the resurrection. Now we face the challenge of putting our Lord’s words into action, or rather, making his words our very own.
The CCC has the ability to cause reflection and inwardness owing to its location and quiet as well as the property’s lean and attractive buildings. The place is good on the eyes and ears alike. There are social moments, too. Retreats give us space to visit with one another with more courage to be ourselves. We can set aside the competitive and superficial ways of campus life for the honesty of trees and clean air, and the space to see a classmate in a better and more forgiving light. Salt and light require forgiveness! Then we came home
Returning to DC is the hard part. We begin the second phase of the retreat proper: doing the good we set out to find. Putting quiet into action is proof that we got away in the first place. The walks on the trails ready us to go home.
By Fr. David Pratt
Fr. David Pratt is the director for the Orthodox Christian chaplaincy and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Endowed Orthodox Chaplain.