Parishioners with St. Augustine Catholic Church in Ponoka took part in a special Advent mission facilitated by a monk.
Father Teodosy Kraychuk, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest monk who lives in a monastery in east central Alberta, was invited to Ponoka’s Roman Catholic parish. The three day retreat was meant to inspire and prepare the congregation for the feast of Christmas, said Father Teodosy.
The identity of what Christmas is about, he explained, is Jesus Christ entering into the world. While much of the world takes in this period of time up until Christmas, for others it continues.
“In our tradition after the 25th we begin a 40-day post-feast,” said Father Teodosy.
Advent is a time to celebrate the joy of what the birth of Christ means.
“In our Lenten retreat here we’re focussing on the theological dimension of that,” he added.
It’s a time of celebration. “So that we can partake in that divinity.”
He pointed out that Christ’s importance is in who He was and what he brought to man. “The whole Advent retreat that we’re having, and mission, is focussed on this appearing of God amongst us,” said Father Teodosy.
The theme of the mission was about God being with mankind through Christ, and then through Christ in the Church, said Father Teodosy. Adding to that, part of the mission was to restore in the parish the priestly character of Christ.
“We’ve lost a sense of gratitude to God. We don’t have that vertical reference to Him,” said Father Teodosy.
He added that another goal of the mission is to put into perspective what a person’s existence means in relation to God.
It’s not often Ponoka receives a visit from a monk and Father Teodosy explained some of what his role is. The word monk comes from the Greek word ‘monos’ which means to be alone.
“The word ‘alone’ has particular reference to the idea of marriage. So the monk gives up marriage and the nun gives up marriage,” he explained.
This is meant to give focus and point to God and humanity. Marriage itself is a wonderful thing, he added, saying that for those monks and nuns, they channel that focus.
Father Teodosy said that without God there will remain an emptiness in a person’s life. He used his own life as an example pointing out that he used to be a biker in California. He had every physical thing he every wanted and yet, it wasn’t enough.
“Having everything and discovering that it’s not enough, and in that moment of discovery of that emptiness in myself, hearing then for the first time…this is not where it’s at,” said Father Teodosy.
He added that while the material objects such as money and power are not necessarily bad but bowing down to them will break things apart in a person’s life. For Father Teodosy the key is about having a personal relationship with God.
“Christianity is not about a moral code and some kind of ethical system. It’s about a relationship to a person and that’s what it’s about,” said Father Teodosy.