Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings, and the years of thy life shall be man. (Proverbs 4:10)
Our society can be damaging to our souls, hindering our very salvation. We must form an Orthodox community, expressing an Orthodox way of life. We are not to form a hothouse, but rather return to the beginning, the place of Eden. Although we are in heritors of Adam's fall, we must establish that which was meant to be by God, refusing to imitate Adam in his corruption. We must be in total union with God, which Christ made possible by becoming what we are. St. Irenaeus (+202) said, "In His unbounded love, God became what we are, that He might make us what He is. If we are to accomplish this it is necessary to put aside creaturely comforts, worldly desires and pleasures, for they draw our attention away from God, forming a cataract over the eyes of our soul. Although it can be argued that many pleasures are sinless, per se, they nonetheless encompass an emptiness, a vacuum into; which the enemy readily enters and begins to fill our minds with anything but righteousness.
The Holy Fathers never preached a frivolous style of life, for frivolity leads to negligence of the soul. The lifestyle of present day society is definitely negligent. But Scripture commands:
"Guard what has been committed to you. Stay clear of worldly idle talk and the contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge" (I Tim. 6:20). Here we see that the true Christian Faith-Ortho doxy-must be preserved. Furthermore, we see that Orthodoxy is a way of life, the way of life.
For an Orthodox Christian, God exists in every aspect of daily life. The Christian lives day by day Zn God, not living with a "thank God it's Friday" mentality, but rather from one Church feast to another, the feasts being linked in one whole to form a guide to spiritual life. The world, with all its ungodliness, should not penetrate an Orthodox soul, for it is nurtured with inward quietness obtained from the Divine Services and feasts of the Church year. This is the kind of life God intended us to live!
In today's society, religion is no longer held in high regard, especially by young people. The struggle for salvation is unknown to many of them, who have already given themselves totally to the world and its ways. This is the case even with many young Orthodox teenagers. But we must remember that whatever becomes a part of us in youth is imprinted upon our character for years to come! To remove it is an enormously difficult task.
In previous times, Christian youth often acted differently, committing themselves to God's service while still quite young, and thus attaining an amazing degree of moral perfection. Their lives are great examples of faith, obedience, patience, fasting, burning prayer, and virtue, for it is during the years of ones youth that it is easiest to enter into close communion with God.
In our materialistic 20th century, where earthly pleasures reign supreme, the ways of God have become distorted In the past, good could be seen as good, and evil as evil. Today, the Enemy is camouflaged, often appearing as harmless or something to enjoy. Occupying oneself with a subjective lifestyle and the accumulation of material possessions causes a shallow understanding of life to develop, and prevents union with God. From this lack of union a person tries to find another identity, an identity with the fallen world expressed in often immoral theatrical presentations or movies, loose lifestyles, and highly undignified or immodest forms of dress for both men and women.
Why is Orthodoxy a true way of life? Because Christ, the Son of God, established only One Church, of which He is the sole Head. This Church contains all that Christ revealed. To ignore the Church's teaching, therefore, is to ignore Christ Himself. And to not obey Christ is to sever all union with the one Who is within Himself the "way, the truth, and the life." When one severs himself thus, he treds a road which leads to selfishness, self- indulgence, self-delusion, superficiality, and, ultimately, despair. This is not at all why Christ came to the earth!
Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding; for the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. (Proverbs 3:13-14)
Hieromonk Kyrill (Dmitrieff)
The young generation of today, raised on the philosophy of meaningless change, has been deprived of a sense of sta bility, sobriety, concentration, inward peace and silence of soul. The older generation today is c on f u 5 e d and without principle, although it still hides its inward emptiness behind a remnant of law and order inherited from the past; but the younger generation is entirely exposed to the naked power of the prevailing philosophy of anti-Christianity...
The situation of contemporary youth is desperate; but it is not hopeless. It is natural to youth to be inspired by high ideals, to seek and find the meaning of life, to have a deep spiritual thirst which finds genuine satisfaction only in the one true religion, Holy Orthodoxy. Contemporary youth can find truth and salvation if only, having "stumbled across" true Orthodoxy, or having rediscovered the religion it was so often improperly taught in childhood, it makes the resolve to sell everything else in order to purchase the field in which the treasure of living Orthodoxy is buried. The sooner in youth this happens, the better; for the endless intellectualizing and the self-worship which one breathes in with the spiritual atmosphere of our times, easily kill the first tender shoots of spiritual aspirations in a young soul.
(From "Contemporary Youth and Orthodox Sanctity" in The Orthodox Word, March-April, 1974) Hieromonk Seraphim Rose