Since the beginning, no epoch has matched the assault on the integrity and morality of children as has this late twentieth century. In America's spiritually impoverished cities, the beast devours youth, and some of those victims are baptized Orthodox. Russian and Greek, Syrian and Armenian, Serbian, Byelorussian, converts. Do not imagine this is not for you. It is. Our ethnic children do drugs, fornicate, become homosexual, lie, cheat and steal, deny Christ and turn away in droves. They also get AIDS and die. Why might that be?
Remember the death of Jim Jones and his possessed followers a decade ago in Guyana? One was the daughter of an Orthodox priest. I will never forget the photograph of that man grieving in a California cemetery. What on earth went wrong? How many Orthodox parents suffer torments unimaginable when they find their children dead by suicide?
Between 1960 and now, church attendance has fallen by fifty percent, divorce is fifty percent more common, and adolescent suicide is up by three hundred percent.
People divorce for a lot of reasons: loneliness, abuse, lack of kindness,
lack of closeness, lack of a Christo-centric marriage. Everyone is
liable--priest, parishioners, saint... Everyone. Hide your alcoholism and drug
addiction from the healer. Hide your sin from the confessor. Partake in adultery
without repentance. Live a lie. You will destroy your marriage and create in
your children statistical predilection for depression, unhappiness, accidie, and
death by suicide. The statistics are all there.
So, if Holy Orthodoxy is a taste of "the kingdom of Heaven," why is all this happening? Particularly in the Russian Synod, --where supposedly we are more pious, more God-fearing, where we fast more, confess more often, stand for services, where we follow the right calendar,--why ' do these things happen amongst the faithful?
Part of the answer is simple: whatever one's creed, we are all subject to the passions, which breed pain and impropriety. But more importantly, look at any marriage which has its bond in Christ, where husband and wife ask each other for forgiveness, where there is a proper Orthodox approach to Confession and Communion--that marriage is less likely to fall by the wayside.
Then there is the question of how we perceive our Orthodoxy. Is it a robe to be taken off and on? Is it a golden vestment drenched in the language of ancestors and countries afar? Is it a Faith honoring God with lip service and hearts far from the King's desire?
Where does all this come from? Shall we blame bishops and priests? Sometimes, yes. Parents too busy to care or so wrapped up in their ethnocentric anti-semitic nationalism? Yes. But there is another series of devils.
Forty years ago, television launched its assault on family life. When Marshall McLuhan said, "The media is the message," he was saying things indescribably true, and yet not understood by families. It is, however, understood by the purveyors of western lifestyle. Faced with material debauchery, most families succumb - allowing the discipline of love and Christian logic--that which is truly best for our children--to be shunted aside in order to avoid conflict. Then, when the seeds of youthful transgression achieve full blossom--with immorality and its guarantee of unhappiness, with avarice and greed, with rebellion and narcissism--then parents who neglected the spiritual rod of firmness and correctness, of patience and understanding, of forgiveness for every transgression and requesting forgiveness for parental sins, then those parents, unless they be slain by God to rise again, enter the valley of despair and disillusion with Christ and His Holy Church. They begin to malign the Church of God and His priests.
When we allow the unbridled beast of non Christian media into our homes without even the "PG" recommended by those who do not know Christ, then, beloved Orthodox, we commune with the message and that message is not the Gospel according to our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, but the gospel according to the flesh, and the way of the flesh is death.
So then, what do we do?
Bearing children is a matter for nature, but raising them is a matter for parents. Educate them! They have heart, a will of their own and a sense of freedom, and your task is not an easy one. Do not offend them, for you love them and are seeking joy and consolation through them, but at the same time remember your responsibility. Your treatment of them in their earliest childhood will determine the rest of their lives. See what a mighty responsibility you bear! Archimandrite Tavrion (+1978)
Remember, excessive rigidness breeds rebellion, just as surely as lack of guidelines breeds contempt for authority. Therefore, it is not rules, but availability which makes the difference. The priest who is available is guiltless. Likewise the bishop and so, too, parents, assuming that moral and spiritual turpitude are not present. Our job as parents is to make sure that the foundation for God's Healing Grace is pressed into the oil of the family matrix, then dysfunction is dispelled and the road to repentance remains open.
Some things one has to say "no" to, but let the "no" be gentle, and let the teller be filled with prayer. And yet, how to acquire this Oil of Gladness? First, by living a Christian life. Holy Communion often enough so that the "devil does not find us unawares." Holy Confession, more frequently than the former. Holy Services inasmuch as they can be attended. We must ask ourselves, how do we live our Orthodoxy? Is it with Christ or without? And if it is with Christ, how do we know this is so? If one has doubt, ask the priest, and de what he recommends.
Let us remember that what is required is mercy, not sacrifice, and the
ability to knock on the door that it may be opened.
Priest Gerasimos Kambites
St. Xenia Parish, Nepean, Ontario
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