True Life In God Retreat at the Beautiful Island of Aegina
January 24th – 28th, 2019
Here we are again, Christ’s companions travelling on a sunny day with Vassula on a ship headed to Aegina Island. Older and younger readers of the True Life In God Messages and other newly-joined members, with joy on our faces, exchanged good-wishes and experiences demonstrating the beneficial presence of Jesus and our Mother Mary in our lives.
Aegina Island - The port
The Danae Hotel, in which we stayed during last year's spiritual gathering, welcomed us this year from January 24 to January 28, 2019. Our banner had the slogan: "Our salvation is based on conversion and inner peace.” Christ’s image was situated on the right side of the banner, and the two honored Saints of Aegina, Saint Nektarios and Saint Minas were situated on the left. Tereza designed and decorated the meeting room. At the entrance there were book tables, the paintings and gifts associated with the New Year celebratory cutting of the Vassilopita. (New Year’s bread) Our videographer, Magda, prepared her camera to record the weekend event.
The people all arrived in time for the first evening meal. The tables were filled with delicious food, a small-surprise birthday cake was shared for Bernard’s birthday, and following suit, everyone sang the well-known worship song. Happy start! We came to drink Living Water!
We prayed the rosary, and read a message from True Life In God: “... be one; ecclesia shall revive.” (c.f. True Life In God Messages, April, 15, 1991)
The next day, breakfast and the established chanting the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic was followed by Vassula’s warm welcome and her inaugural address with the blessed words of Jesus from The True Life In God Messages: September 5, 1994.
We have been called-upon to spread His Kingdom and His Mercy: to participate in His Mysteries, and to become a living example of His Love for our brothers. Let us become God’s net. To win a soul for God is the greatest gift one can give Him. So as to accomplish this task, let us rely on the Holy Spirit’s gifts, with His Grace. Let our soul rise to its mission. Let's multiply the talents that God's glory gave us.
Vassula giving her speech
Vassula apologized for speaking broken Greek. The truth is she did just fine! She then introduced us to Fr. Agapito Gonzales, whom she first met while in Patmos years ago, when she went there with the Rhodes group.
Fr. Agapito Gonzales welcomed all and said that man has an insatiable thirst for love, beauty and truth that comes from God and is directed to God. Man cannot live a full life without experiencing his relationship with God. Faith in God, the source of all wisdom, cannot oppose the discoveries of human wisdom (The presenter offered examples of these philosophic thoughts taken from Mr. Hawkins, a well-known scientist). To the question of whether there will be any more revelations, he answers that Jesus is the final revelation as well as the revelation of God himself through Vassula with the Hymn of His Love. He ended his speech with Christ’s prayer to God the Father.
Msgr. Gonzalez giving his speech
Hymns of praise and songs from the messages followed. One of them was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Bishop Riah, who spoke next, wished everyone a peaceful New Year, and then referred to the prayers of the priests who believe that when union between faiths happens in Jerusalem, it will resound throughout the world. As a consequence of the religious/cultural tensions in this part of the world, people here are more prone to extend a gesture towards a unified co-existence. His speech had as its main theme the storm on the Lake of Galilee (Matthew 14: 22-33) when Christ walked on the water and encouraged his disciples to do the same. In today's world, this image of the storm is summed-up in pictures of crimes, of the suffering of refugees, of homeless women, of women and children in violence, of thousands of minors abused without a homeland and human rights, Christian minorities slaughtered, etc. Bishop Riah’s emotional speech borrowed this image of the storm to denote the spirit of our times, and the reality that our Savior, Jesus Christ, comes to assist us.
Alongside Bishop Riah’s speech, we also heard the song "In the Lake of Galilee" in which Christ comes and reprimands us for our lack of faith, while bringing us outer and inner peace.
Bishop Riah giving his speech
Vassula, due to Father Nicholas’s absence, invited the new-comers to tell their True Life In God discovery story, (how they found the True Life In God Messages) right after Bishop Gavin Ashenden’s speech.
Bishop Gavin’s speech lit-up poetic images.
He stated the following: “I think of life with the Spirit and I see the image of a flying bird. The air under our wings is the Holy Spirit. This holds us up and we fly. Our soul hovers like a bird, but we must try to move the wings of our soul. Of course, we are turning to prayer consciously invoking God, and our Lord answers with messages, such as, the True Life In God message from April 3, 1999 and August 24, 1998. We learn that the Lord wants a steady cooperation with us; He sanctifies our every moment: our thoughts, our activities, remembering US-- you and me, me and you (each one of us together with the Lord). He states, ‘Respect My Presence.’ While in communion with our Lord, we are likely experience a spiritual conversion and an inner-purification with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Alongside this transformative experience, we now also live in a constant spiritual struggle because we belong to Christ; the adversary tries to remove us from the sweetness of our Father, waking-up in us appetites of vengeance, anger, arrogance, while God wants us meek. We need to remind ourselves that since what we have in our lives is God's loan, we should share only meekness and a gentle-heart with those who are in-need.”
Having said this, Bishop Gavin, very directly and simply referred to the administration of time for prayer. He stated that we do not pray more because we think this time is ours. We do not want to share it with the Father because there will not be any time left for us. What actually happens is the opposite. When we administer time only for ourselves, time disappears quickly without leaving any real impact on our lives! Offering God our time in prayer pleases Him. Our Lady advises us to always be pleasing to God, in full communion with Him. (cf. True Life In God Messages, May 12, 1989) Our unity with God leads us to know that the greatest spiritual gift we have is Love. We can delight in this love by living through our True Life In God Messages. As our closure, we prayed for the conversion of the world and all living hearts. Amen!
Vassula and Bishop Gavin with TLIG friends
After hearing Bishop Gavin’s compelling talk, we heard a few True Life In God discovery testimonies from new comers: Polydoros, Myrofora from Cyprus, her friends Sophia and Eleftheria, Athanasios, Antonella from Bologna, and Maria from Loutraki.
To culminate the heart-warming testimonies, Vassula asked Fr. Bernard de Frileuse from Loreto, Italy, to tell us his insights about circumstances and he had previously disclosed to Vassula. Loreto is a town situated at a one hour drive from Rome. There, in Loretto, in a supernatural way, the angels transported the Virgin Mary's home from the Holy Land, stone-by-stone. Moreover, our Blessed Virgin Mary is active world-wide. Fr. Loraden confirmed to Fr. Bernard that Our Lady is present at the same time in 300 places all over the world!
Fr. Bernard de Frileuze giving his speech
Our Blessed Virgin Mother’s presence reaches us individually as well. Bishop Gavin serendipitously offered us his fascinating narrative about how he got introduced to the rosary! It is truly miraculous to experience the way the Holy Spirit works! Glory to God; blessed is His Holy Name! We worship you God and Lord!
After a brief break we celebrated the Divine Liturgy with Fr. Theodoros, Bishop Riah Hanna Abu El-Assal, Fr. Bernard de Frileuse and Fr. Petar Ljubičić. Fr. Theodoros read from the Gospel of Mark and requests were heard for unity, love and peace for the entire world. After taking Holy Communion, a pleasant surprise followed. Ten-year old Nefeli sweetly sang us a song as Dimitri accompanied her with his guitar.
Vassula's enlightened speech on God's Infinite Mercy followed. God, who lowered himself to let us know whom we belong to, now sends us His Holy chant, the Hymn of His Love. It is written that people will resist praising God more than ever. Satan wants to deceive everyone. It's the battle! God, however, saves without distinction; He saves the worthy and the not-so- worthy, the elect and the sinners. The New Jerusalem is us, the reborn. Our Lady appears at many places throughout the world to prepare us for the Day of the Lord. God sends Her to prepare us. She blesses God’s students, so that their tongue, as a two-handed sword, shall wipe out the liars. She seals our foreheads! Once again Vassula apologized for her imperfect Greek and added that Jesus told her that He chose her because she cannot master a single language.
Vassula givingig her 2nd speech
Vassula exclaimed, “I even know Arabic, but no language to a perfect degree.” She added Jesus’ request, “Allow me to form you; but first eradicate your ego." To illustrate the difficulty of heeding this request, Vassula said laughing, “As you know, when a man dies, his ego dies ten minutes later.”
Our night is dark, but we shall receive light like many constellations put-together! We are the city where God resides. Let's lower ourselves for Jesus to form us into a garden of flowers, into a paradise for His Glory. Glorious is the name of our Lord. Great is His Mercy and the blessing He is for all of us!
Fr. Theodoros began his speech from the Epistle to the Ephesians 4, which asks us to be worthy of the call we received. The True Life In God message from September 25, 1997 states the same.
Fr. Theodoros giving his speech
After dinner we watched a video from the pilgrimage to Moscow, and another describing a miracle by St. Nektarios who cured a boy from Romania.
On Saturday, the next morning, Fr. Salvador talked about the peace of Christ, the celestial peace and its fruits. He mentioned St. Therese quoting “Let nothing frighten you! Keep looking for the celestial things that are eternal.” He also quoted St. Ignatius: “Father, all is yours, take all my will, and everything I have; give me Your Love and Your Grace and that will be enough for me.” He finished his speech by alarming us to not downgrade and waste the inheritance we received.
Don Salvador giving his speech
Subsequently, Fr. Theodoros spoke of repentance and its stages. What is the call, the call of Christ? What is the response to his Love? His mercy endures every repentant. What is confession, and what is its significance? We should have doxology and inner peace in our divine worship.
As we contemplated about reconciliation and its significance towards divine worship, we heard some additional words from Fr. Bernard de Frileuse from Loreto. He stated that God is peace. It is necessary for us to remain in His inner peace. Patience, which leads to inner peace, is the key to the type of obedience we need to enter into His Kingdom. We should ask for His Grace the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as we renounce ourselves and forgive others with genuine sacrificial love. Let us surrender to the will of God. Let us receive the Virgin Mary in our heart, so as to stay united with Her Son, the Prince of Peace. Let us be witnesses to the end.
Under the title of: “How to do God's Will”, Vassula spoke of the need to empty our soul through repentance and confession, in order to be enlightened by the Holy Spirit. This enlightenment would then illuminate our soul as a thousand constellations and reveal the will of God. Without water, the fish does not live; the soul too, does not live without the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us His Gifts, most importantly the gift of Love. Love is the root of the tree and all its virtues are its fruits. Let us be alert to the presence of the Holy Spirit. Christ, as a true Father, justifies us through this Holy Spirit; He wants to save us. Glory to His Holy Name and His Will.
Later on that day, after hearing the various speaches that spiritually guided us, , we went down to the Aegina port for a meal. We tremendously enjoyed each other’s company, and returned back to Danae hotel with the sun inside us to pray the rosary. We offered-up our prayers to the Christians that are severely persecuted. The True Life In God message From June 5, 1989 reads, "I will intensify My Celestial Works on mankind;"
Bishop Riah began his speech with humor. He remarked by saying: “Let’s pray for the New Pentecost, the pouring of the Holy Spirit, to save us from translations.” He told us about a personal incidente. Once, for a speech he gave in Nazareth when he was asked to preach in simpler language, one person said to him: ‘Lower the basket so that the world can reach the food.’ Since we need to hear God’s words in a language that we all understand, we are starting with a song that calls on God to bring Peace.
As it was in St. Paul's journey to Rome in which he and those with whom he travelled had to throw material loads from the ship overboard to save themselves, so is the journey of each person’s life. We need to throw overboard, discharge, the load that weighs our soul, so that we receive a soul-conversion. If and when we let Christ lead our soul, we will be saved. Alongside our salvation, we will save others and become one in Him, as He and the Father are One. Amen. That beautiful talk about our soul prepared us for the Divine Liturgy that followed.
Vassula began her speech that followed with the topic of the value of unceasing prayer. When we pray, silently looking at Him, the perfect union with God occurs. Nothing else pleases God as much as a humble soul with a kindness that is forgiving and full of love. Whatever we endeavor, even our simple day-to-day activities, we are asked to do with love and with Him. For example, we can say to Jesus, “Let's go together to turn off the oven and not burn the food. Let's go to the bus together. We are one.” Do not forget Him. We are never alone. The small activities become big when they are done with love. He, who loves, knows God. Love is your key to Heaven.
Learn to show your love to serve God. With a smile of her love, Vassula's ended her speech. Glory to God for the gift He brought us! In the last speech of the day, Fr. Gonzales spoke about the Son of God who descended as a true man, paid with his sacrifice for our sins and promised us he would return. Be it done! The hymn “Light Illarro” with Mr. Zoppas’s lead followed Fr. Gonzales’ speech. The Prayer of the Holy Spirit concluded the evening. We experienced moving moments of brotherhood.
On Sunday, the next morning, we left for the monastery of St. Nektarios, which encompassed the old chapel where the Saint preached. We celebrated Mass at this chapel.
Panoramic view of Saint Nektarios monastery
After Mass we visited St. Nektarios’s tomb and the house where he lived. In his room was the icon of the Virgin Mary. With Her Grace she inspired him to write the Hymn of the Virgin Mary-Despina. We worshiped at his holy tomb and then departed for the monastery of St. Minas, the Great Martyr and Wonderworker from Egypt. We discovered that this monastery is a beautiful and well-cared female monastery, founded by St. Amphilochios, located in a magnificent Aegina hillside.
More about St. Nectarios life: http://orthochristian.com/98838.html
We then returned to the hotel to cut the Vassilopita (New Year’s cake). Vassula, as the hostess, blessed and cut it. Neil was the lucky recipient of the cake’s New Year coin! God bless the whole True Life In God family.
Vassula asked us to pray the rosary in five languages: Aramaic, Czech, English, French, and Greek. In our True Life In God messages we read: "imitate Me, your Lord, and you shall live" (cf. True Life In God Messages, December 25, 1990).
“We are living in dark times”, said Bishop Gavin. In our wish-list, the desire for God comes last. You have to master your mind to think with your heart. This is done with unceasing, silent prayer. The most intimate and profound encounter with God is in the heart. Let us abandon the effort to control our lives and ask Him to take control, by accepting everything from His hand and in His own time.
We need to deliver our will to His will, certain that Love loves us. God’s world is the true reality. We are made to be with the angels: not here on earth, locked in time. The news is sowing terror, fear, disasters. The powers-that-be create anxiety through the destruction of the planet. Nonetheless, saving the planet is not the objective; our objective is to save our souls. God can rebuild many planets. Bishop Gavin presented this final speech that was direct and poetic, stoking us in his own way.
A speech by Fr. Gonzales followed. What we gathered from this talk is that the Holy Spirit is the soul of the church. The Church is the gathering of those whom the Word of God calls through the Holy Spirit. God’s people, when partaking in the Divine Eucharist, become whole through Christ. Christ tells us that he who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. Resurrection is the salvation of all Christians. The time of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church will come. Oh Christ, you are the King of the Glory, eternal Son of the Father. With these words, Fr. Gonzales gloriously concluded his speech.
Vassula, bidding farewell noted: “I’m just a postman. Read the messages; live them. Read from the beginning not from the end. Do not pay attention to the postman, but to the letter that she brought you. It is God’s gift for all of us. The truth is here revealed by the prophecies given before the events’ occur. The Indonesian tsunami catastrophe, the Twin Tower attack, Russia’s Christian conversion, and the conversions that will take place around the world are depicted in the saving effect of the messages.”
Vassula’s final spoken melody, in her embracing love, was her desire for us to experience with her what she experiences with our Lord. "If all were sharing what we experience with our Lord while reading the messages, replacing my name (Vassula) with your own, each person's personal history and therefore the history of all people would become a Song of Love."
Vassula giving her last talk
Bishop Gavin dancing with the retreat participants
Thank you, Lord, for the Salvation Song that you sent us and for Your blessed daughter who gives us generous love. Our retreat ended with dancing, songs and praises to our Lord! Miraculous are Your Works My God! Glory to Your Holy Name! May we all be ONE!
Thalia Argyriou –True Life in God Reader