№ 4. 2008
WANT TO DO SOMETHING REFRESHING? GO FOR THE GREATER GOOD!
I feel great pain when I think of today’s young people: how are they going by and what approach should we take to make them listen to us, Christians? I’m not young anymore, so I’m not particularly welcome in their circle. And people often tell me that I do not know or understand young people; that I only criticize them; that they’re not bad, simply different and so on and so on. Of course, not all young people are bad but in the words of Vladimir Vysotsky: “The better ones are unknown to me, maybe they have wings”. Of course, there are good young people studying, working, staying home in the evenings and not going to burn cars. In fact, the Soviets were not bad themselves but all of them took part in creating an atheist state. Young people are not different. I see them from many angles. Here are they in the courtyard of my apartment block swearing and laughing challengingly. And these are my darling young dacha neighbors; they’ve come to the countryside for a bit of barbequing: they drink all night, cook a pig’s head over the fire, curse a lot and tirelessly chase their girlfriends leaving their neighbors with a sleepless night. Luxurious cottages are not far away from a women’s monastery in Moscow Region where a friend of my serves as priest. And there the kids are no less noisy: they turn up the radio of their jeep to full volume, shout swears, fill the church with barbeque smoke and send a nun asking them to be quiet during the night packing with some of the choosiest swears. And then they laugh like horses, shaking the very heavens with their voices, extremely satisfied with their atheistic, scientific life style which would, on second thought, even delight some of the living academicians.
I’ve been shown amateur films in Khanzhonkov’s film studio: a young man filming his buddy as the latter threw his pants down on sight of passer-bys (women, girls and old men) showing his genitals and then menacingly chased them a-la Chikatilo making corresponding pelvic thrusts and laughing; “good girls” kicking their friend lying on the ground. How many such videos are distributed through the Internet, how many scenes of depravity and rape have already been filmed and how many young people are watching this, thus distorting their souls? This gallery of images ends with the following: a little boy running past me on the street while chasing his friend and screaming: “Where are you going, homo?”
We see the triumph of broken conscience, vulgarity and horrible humor in which young people spend their lives. Is there any way to escape this?
* * *
Of course, there is. The source of this Christian optimism lies in the following: without doubt Russia with its’ precious treasure of Orthodox faith and Orthodox Church is the focal point and the basis of all important processes. We have the Sacral Orthodox Church to guide us away from a final drowning in a pool of atheism and moral defeat in the absence of the Tsar’s influence. The Holy Spirit present in the ever growing number of Orthodox churches is the key to a rebirth of Russia. At the same time, one naturally comes to a thought: how will the young generation which is corrupted by television, coarse naturalism, propaganda of permissiveness, depravity and business become Orthodox? In comparison with Ancient Rome’s pagans who never even heard of Jesus Christ, young people today have, at the very least, a general understanding of him. They’re just too cool for the spreading of humility, “turn the other cheek” and fighting their beloved sins.
It is certain that this type of thinking is directly connected with ignorance: just like the pagans before them these young men and women truly know nothing of Christ, making the former and the latter completely equal in this respect. We can even maintain that they are less corrupted than the ancient world, though the former’s alcohol and drug intake compensates for this. And yet… The ancient Christian apologist Tertullianus insisted that the human soul is Christian in nature. Aren’t young people proof of this? Saint John Chrysostom is outraged by the hippodromes of debauchery in the seventh tome of his “Gospel of Matthew” written in the fourth century A.D.! Things haven’t changed much, have they? One could say that this was a period when Christian persecution had just ended and when the world still belonged to pagans. That is correct in some respects, but at the time the Holy Fathers have already founded the Church, while the whole Empire was splattered with Christian blood. Saint John writes: “The power of Christianity lies in the fact that after Christ was reborn his apostles returned from the Mount of Olives rejoicing. Why? They have seen Christ being in the flesh elevated to the heavens. Unsure the day before, scared and disputing superiority, they came to believe in their imminent resurrection and immortality, turned into veritable giants and subjugated the whole depraved ancient world and its wise men, philosophers, orgies and buggery to the reign of the Gospel”.
How wonderful must have been the absence of visas in the Ancient Roman Empire when you could freely pass borders and visit any province! Apostles freely travelled preaching the Gospel. We must remember that the level of depravity was colossal but people were tired from a prolonged corruption of morals and wished to be cured, reborn, to be given new radiant guides; they subjugated themselves happily to the new teaching and the purity and power of its’ prophets. Such a surprising development! The aristocrats and the slaves were all weary from their constant sinful delights which they were simply copying from the rulers. Suicide had become the best way of ending life. Moreover, the young generation took completely after their elders: took part in orgies, drank alcohol, fought to the end, used drugs and then slit their wrists. And what happened in the end? A sublime church was created from the former pagans and rakes. Virginity ridiculed by Plato and Aristotle became valued as the most sacred object among the new Christians. New exceptionally moral communities have been created and inhabited by new Christians. Right up to the X century the teachings of Christianity were predominant in the world.
We need a similar holy Renaissance today. A young person is not some bottomless pit you can fill to your heart’s desire with profanity. He too grows tired of filth and, not wishing to die out completely, sooner or later begins to question the meaning of life. But a choice must be made quickly, as sin can always be attained easily without a presence of alternatives: you can get tired with sin and even hate it but old habits die hard, so overcoming it is impossible without God. All one has to do to prove this is to look into the eyes of a deep-rooted drunk or drug-addict. And yet, while man remains alive, there is always hope for a transformation. There are many examples of this. Let us take Saint Mary of Egypt who spent her youth in deep depravity! Even while en route to visit sacred sites of Jerusalem she managed to seduce the pilgrims. But the next forty six years were filled with such feats and sacral nobility!
Today we can be most happy that new churches are being opened and that the word of God is being delivered to more and more people. Still, the younger generation needs their elders to show them an example of Christian life, a mission that lies primarily on priests. We must model ourselves on the examples of personal Christian deeds of Russian clergy in the XX century: while living in various camps these true Christians served masses wherever they found themselves but with what reverence they spoke! Father Tavrion of Batoz, Lord Vasily of Kinishem, Lord Afanasy of Kovrov all used cranberry instead of wine. Their faith actually made the simple cranberry seem to be the blood of God. Moreover, they served masses on the bodies of tortured priests, just like in the ancient catacombs during the days of persecution. Such zealots are the ones that returned by prayer Russia to us. We must remain optimistic about the rebirth of the Christian spirit. We must not forget what is said in the Gospel of Luca: “Do not be afraid, small herd”. And this “small herd” will, for better or worse, always be present in the Church. A rose always has thorns that cut our fingers.
When discussing the subject of traditional spirituality, some of our contemporaries point out that we must search for new approaches for talking with young people who are unresponsive to the old ways; and that the young generation will be unable to understand us, will turn to other speakers. It’s obvious that we must find a new form of teaching Orthodoxy but heeding to possible speculations of “modernizing”, for the sake of the young people, our religion and omitting Christ himself … Completely out of the question! Young people win us over with their naïve sincerity, youthful vigor and seeming naturalness; some priests actually unconsciously stoop to their level, rather than lead them with an example of Christian faith. Catholicism has already fallen to this temptation, an omnipresent bow to the pagan monster of civilization. To make a muscle-bound, ring-covered biker, rapper or punk notice you, accept you as one of his own (compare this situation with Christ’s words: “My kingdom is not of this world”) without smashing you with his boots, riding off into a glamorous future where narcotic incenses are lighten in the name of Lucifer and where depravity reigns laughing… Not an easy task. And yet we must not indulge young people, instead we must selflessly work with them, we must destroy, first of all, our “inner slave of sin”, if you will; only then will we be able to truly influence young hearts and minds. We are seriously lacking power of spirit: we, the pastors, are saying the right things but our mumbling is yet to be heard. And why is that? Simply because our words lack spiritual power, because we do not bother with cleansing ourselves from sin. This is the root of our Christian coldness and of the young generation’s indifference.
We even have problems with Christian youth as it too wants to get past the seminaries and the masses; it too is not completely satisfied. The essence of their struggles is understandable: they do not know how to practically fulfill their Christian beginnings; the absence of appropriate spiritual experience and ruthless combat fires up the spirit of discontent. They say that “everything is dull, routine and boring” but do not see themselves as the source of this. We again are in great need (think food and water) of good, spiritual shepherds who are able to transmit some of their power and their love of God to these young people. Moreover, a large part of young Christians is frankly seduced by the pagan world, its technical and entertainment possibilities (although these can be produced by Christians themselves) and sinful permissiveness and are hurt by the fact that they cannot deal with their problems like “real men”, so they begin to consider themselves wimps walking among “cool people” who swear and seduce their innocent brethren attracted by the cult of Mammon and sex.
For them “something new” is the equivalent of a fetish, an energetic spell: they think that should they add “new” to anything they say they will naturally be considered wise; but in reality these are just useless words, nothing more. “Something new” will only come to those who will grow to see themselves as the most wretched of God’s creations and whose souls will be filled with penitence. Now that truly is “something new”! Is it not our inner egoism, a lack of desire to spiritually work with ourselves, a wish to pass our problems onto other people that make us voice our dissatisfaction? Moreover, young people need moral support which they often do not get.
As for “something new”, what might it contain nowadays? A return to paganism? But it is not really “new”; it’s a nod to the beast within, nothing more. Today the development of mankind’s intelligence, progress and science are the only process that can be considered “new”. But by freeing ourselves through progress from physical labor, we are beginning to degrade morally. It almost seems that the expulsion from Heaven was beneficial to both Adam and Eve: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground”. While man, let us take a farmer or a worker with many children as an example, worked “by the sweat of his face”, he was an individual, as he was a benefit for society and sinned less. The same could be said about an engineer, soldier… But idleness leads to sin. The Holy Fathers did say that the beginning of all sins is idleness. Academician Igor Shafarevich brilliantly mentioned in one of his works that Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin all hated their respective peasantries! That’s actually perfectly understandable: peasants don’t have time to take part in political meetings, they are far too busy: livestock, field, seeds, family, children. They work from dawn to dusk as true Christians. Incidentally, peasant youth was also hard-working and morally strong. Today alcoholism and uselessness of the young generation are a social scourge which must be destroyed. So we can wholeheartedly wish the youth something truly “new”: making yourself work, pray and fast. Choosing the path of righteousness and refusing the advent of evil! Helping the needy, protecting the weak, assisting the poor, clothing the indigent, pitying the wretched, forgiving the wrong-doer, giving shelter to the homeless and giving a family to an orphan…
My God, how much good can one do within the reasonable limits of one’s power but such feats require a superb power of spirit which we can find in the love of God. First cleanse yourself: stop lying, stop drinking, stop taking drugs; stop partaking in open and secret sins; stop being lazy, stop grumbling and looking down upon your own kind. As Ambrose of Opt' once said, to live a Christian live one must be fluent in chapters five through eleven of Matthew’s Gospel. Learn it through the teachings of priests and you will begin a good life. Ambrose also said that you should live without worry, without offending or bothering anyone. Saint Metrofanis of Voronez provides his own possible way of life for the young generation: “How should one live? Eat and drink less and you will be healthy. Be steadfast in your work and you will never be poor. Do good, pray to God and your soul will be saved”. So simple!
перевод на англ. Кирилла Батыгина
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