The theme of the Retreat was "Responding to God - Becoming at One With God's Will". As well as members from the Saint Eanswythe Orthodox Study Society, other retreatants came from as far as Manchester and America.
During the weekend, the Offices were done in a makeshift chapel in the Granary, with members marshalled into a choir ably directed by Mr. Michael Astley. The Divine Liturgy was celebrated on Saturday and Sunday at Saint Mary's Capel-le-Ferne, a small redundant church nearby which dates from about AD 1030.
The majority of the organising for the retreat was done by Mr. Eadmund Dunstall and as a result, the whole weekend went off very smoothly. The highlight was the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday which was a commemoration of the centenary of the decision of the Holy Synod of the Church of Russia to authorise the adaption of the services taken out of the Book of Common Prayer, for use by Orthodox people.
The Divine Liturgy was the "English Liturgy" which resulted from that decision. The Liturgy drew visitors from Manchester, London, Belgium, the USA and Australia. This was followed by lunch at a restaurant in the Alkham Valley and then a service of veneration of the relics of Saint Eanswythe at Folkestone Parish church.
THE OLD AND THE NEW
The contrast between the Old and New Dispensations is clearly seen in the passages: II Corinthians 3:4 - 9 and Mark 7:31 - 37. Glorious as the Old Dispensation was both in its Divine origins and in its continuation down the centuries of the Chosen People, nevertheless, it was a ministration of condemnation. It had sacrifices of atonement, but it had no sacraments of life and hope. David sang of hope and of the New Dispensation, but all he could do was foreshadow, for there was yet no Messiah come to make the change.
The Incarnation of the Son of God, the Messiah, was the origin, and His presence in the Holy Mysteries, and as the Church, is an intensity and quality of continuation; a spiritual richness and hope such as the world had not known since the fall. Mankind, even the Jewish Church, had grown very deaf and could not hear the voice from Heaven as its leaders had heard it in the past. There was a great impediment in the speech of the Jewish Church, so that the word of God was not spoken abroad and there was a dearth of prophecy.
The Son of God came and created anew His Body, the Church which would be His continued presence here. He touched her by making Himself one with her. The sigh of His Passion was followed by the “Ephphatha” of the Resurrection and as soon as His work was perfected by the looking up to Heaven of His Ascension and seating at the right hand of God, the ears of the deaf were enabled to hear the inspiration of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the tongue of the dumb was enabled, so that they could speak the revealed word of God.
That same enabling, cleansing and strengthening touch of Christ, its communication of His grace in the Communion of His Body and Blood, is the continuing means by which His corporate body on earth, the Church, and every member of it is enlivened and sustained. His continued gift of spiritual ability to the Church and her clergy of this New Dispensation, makes the ministration of righteousness, even in the most out-of-the-way places of this world, exceed in glory, the ministration of Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai.
The section of the Epistle deals with the great hope of the ministration of the New Dispensation. “Who”, it is asked in the preceding chapter (2:16) “is sufficient for these things?” The question is answered in 3:4: the man who places his trust in God through His Messiah, the bringer of the New Dispensation. The servant of Christ, the minister of the righteousness of the new order, gives everything in his service, but his power is insufficient to the task: He is dependent upon God in the end.
The Old Dispensation was eventually powerless as a ministry of law, for law can only condemn, law has no mechanism for mercy beyond its letter. This flaw made it the ministry of condemnation which meant death, for all were imperfect before the law. Prevented by their standing condemnation under the law, no-one was sufficient to either approach, or to understand the means of approaching God, although it was possible.
The New Dispensation of Christ was however a bringing of the righteousness of the law inside the heart of the individual. Christ summarised the law into a law of the heart, a law that all could work with and not be condemned by, even though they fell short. In this Dispensation, God is present and accessible even in our sinful state, for He has been fully revealed for our needs by Christ. Our Dispensation of Jesus the Christ of God is more glorious and effective than any which preceded it and The Church thereby immediately established among men, lives still and expands to this day, in a continuity unbroken and unaltered through two millennia as the Holy Orthodox Church.
Samuel Adams once said, "When people are universally ignorant, and debauched in their manners, they will sink under their own weight without the aid of foreign invaders." This is a timely message given the increasing threat of foreign religions and efforts throughout society to remove the Christian faith from public life. We see this both nationally and internationally, in the EU and here at home.
This nation grew out of a thousand years of first millennium Orthodox Christianity and succeeding generations considered that it was necessary to maintain the Christian values for our Parliamentary democracy to succeed. Yet today, a thousand years after having abandoned the Orthodox Christian faith, we find the nation sinking under the weight of the indifference to Christianity, moral ignorance and debauched behaviour of all levels of our society - we are in trouble indeed, as a nation that is ever more publicly abandoning God.
The Saint Eanswythe Orthodox Study Society started as a local initiative, under the guidance of a canonical Orthodox monastery, to start at the very basics and learn again the faith that built this country and which flourished in these islands for the first thousand years of the Christian era.
We believe that it is on this local scale that ordinary people can work. It is here, around our homes and in our local communities that the faith, and with it the faithful nation, can be rebuilt.
It seems to us pointless to try to continue with a watered down pseudo Christianity - such as is proving singularly useless to combat the secularisation of our society. We believe that the secular society will prove defenceless against the incursion of other far less peacable systems of belief and that the last state of the nation will be total spiritual disaster.
To that end, the Saint Eanswythe Orthodox Study Society was set up as a means of beginning the education of people in the ancient faith of our fathers here in this land: The Orthodox Christian Faith. This is the uncompromising authentic, original Christian Way that our Lord Jesus Christ taught to His Apostles and which they in turn, committed to the Church. That Church has continued to this day, unchanged, with the original faith intact. Unlike the multitude of pseudo-Christian organisations around the world, Holy Orthodoxy has kept the entire faith intact through two millennia.
Orthodox Christianity came to the British Isles just a few years after the Crucifixion of Christ, brought by Saint Aristibule as our first Bishop, and those others who accompanied him. It remained intact and flourishing in these isles until the Norman invasion. It is now reintroduced to our country and we seek to recover the English expression of that faith, in communion with and under the direction of the worldwide Orthodox Christian Church.