Orthodox America

  A Word to Youth

by Archbishop John Maximovitch

 And the younger said to his father:  Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me...(Luke 15:12)

       The parable of the prodigal son contains a most edifying lesson for young people. Indeed, in the prodigal son we see all those qualities which typically characterize the flighty period of youth: light mindedness, heedlessness, a passion for independence; in short--all that commonly distinguishes the majority of young people.

     The youngest son grew up at home with his parents. Having reached the age of adolescence, he began to find his parents' home confining. It seemed irksome to live under the authority of his father and the watchful gaze of his mother; he wanted to be like his comrades who were given over to the noisy amusements of the world. "I am heir to a large fortune," he reasoned, "Wouldn't it be better if I received my portion now? I should be able to manage my wealth as I liked, and not as my father does." The light minded youth was captivated by the seductive glitter of worldly enjoyment and made up his mind to throw off the yoke of parental obedience; he decided to move away from home.

     Are not many today similarly motivated to leave, if not the earthly home of their parents, then the house of their Heavenly Father; i.e., to leave the Holy Church?

      To immature minds, the yoke of Christ seems heavy and His commandments difficult. They see no need for adhering to the teachings of God and His Holy Church. To them it seems possible to serve God without sacrificing an attachment to the world. "We are already strong enough," they say, "to withstand fatal temptations and seductions, We are capable ourselves of holding onto the truth and sound teaching. Give us the chance to perfect our minds by exposing them to a broad field of knowledge. Allow us to strengthen our wills ourselves amidst temptations and delusions. And let our feelings through experience become convinced of the vileness of sin!" These desires are no botter than the thoughtless request which the prodigal youth proposed: "Father, give me my portion of the inheritance!"

     And so, the light minded youth ceases paying attention to the commandments and the counsels of the Holy Church. He discontinues his study of the word of God and the teachings of the Holy Fathers. Instead, he gives his ear to the sophistries of false teachers, and in these studies he kills the best hours of his life. He begins to go to church less often, or stands absentmindedly through the services, without any concentration. He no longer finds opportunity to diligently pursue spiritual perfection and the practice of good deeds; most of his time is now occupied with going to the theater, to parties, etc. In a word--with each passing day he grows in his attachment to the world, and finally he departs altogether "unto a far country."

    Where does such a departure from the Church lead? To the very same thing caused by the prodigal son's departure from his father's house. Reckless youths very soon dissipate the wonderful strengths and talents of both spirit and body, and they destroy that good which they did for the present and for all eternity. Meanwhile, they begin to experience "a mighty famine in that land": emptiness and dissatisfaction--inevitable consequences of riotous pleasures. ' They develop a craving for enjoyment which grows yet stronger with the gratification of carnal passions until it finally becomes unbearable. And as it often happens, to satisfy his passions, the unhappy lover of the world runs to engage himself in base and shameful deeds. Far from helping him come to his senses like the prodigal son and leading him back onto the path of salvation, they ensure his perdition-both temporal and eternal.


(Translated from "Blagovestnik," San Francisco, June-July, 1986)

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