September 22, 2015

The Youth and the Parish

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

Within the Church and in the space of the Parish, the youth, even if they have been let down by society and their family, are able to find an authentic community in Christ, and the interest of a real father. Of course, in the Church there can also be errors and fall short of what should be expected, but ultimately that which has value is that the Church is not an organization, but a divine-human organism, since it is the Body of Christ. We know very well that the wounds of the Cross on the resurrected Body of Christ are signs of its glory. By these wounds the Apostle Thomas beheld the Divinity of Christ, according to Saint Gregory Palamas.

When a Parish operates properly, then it is one family. There you will find a spiritual father, spiritual brothers and sisters, a true society which is not determined by the elements of biological birth, but by the elements of spiritual rebirth. The well-organized Parish is actually a therapeutic community, which operates better than humanistic and psychological therapeutic communities. Because, apart from the emotional and psychological security and coverage, a person and in particular a young person solves their internal anxieties, and are given meaning to their lives. This takes place because the Church is a mystery, it is "the establishment of human eros," it is the communion of people with God.

Within the Church the youth experience true love and authentic freedom. They understand that love is not related to biological necessity, but with the freedom of spiritual regeneration. And freedom is not limited to a choice of possibilities, but it is an ontological transcendence of death, the senses and feelings.

And if the youth cannot find this familial atmosphere in the Church, in the Parish, they will encounter it, sometimes after a tragic search, in Orthodox Monasteries. There they will see the Church as a Hospital and Family. And they will understand that in such an atmosphere there will be solved all their problems - social, ecological, existential. Only then can we feel that the Church is not an ideology to sustain the world through its anthropocentrism, but it is life that renews and transforms those who enter into her sanctified space.

There is interest in political parties, religions, psychologies and social organizations, all of which downgrade a person to a number. And these frustrate people and isolate them even more. Within the Church, when it operates authentically, a person is not expedient, but is considered the image of God being led towards God's likeness, and they are "called by God," according to the apt remark of Basil the Great.

Christ is not a custom, a habit or an idea, but "the way, the truth and the life" (Jn. 14:6).

Source: From the book Γέννημα και θρέμμα Ρωμηοί (Born and Bred Romans), Ιερά Μονή Γενεθλίου της Θεοτόκου, 2000. Translation by John Sanidopoulos.