Young people are a blessing and joy to the society
With great spiritual joy, we address a word of blessing to you, young participants in Craiova, at the International Meeting of Young Orthodox (ITO), organised this year by the Archdiocese of Craiova.
Because youth is, in this transient world, a symbol of the beauty of eternal non-transient life, God has implanted in human beings, from this early age, the longing for the ideal, for holy love and eternal life, as we see in the life of the rich young man in the Gospel, who understood that complete happiness is not given by transient material goods, but by God’s eternal love (cf. Mark 10:17-21; Luke 18:18).
- Jesus Christ loves the children and young people.
The Holy Gospel shows us that our Lord Jesus Christ paid special attention and appreciation to children and young people. He said: “Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14), thus underlining the value of the innocence and purity of the children. On the other hand, the three resurrections from the dead, which Christ performed during His life on earth, were resurrections of young people, namely the son of the widow of Nain (cf. Luke 7:11-16), Jairus’ daughter (cf. Matthew 9:18-25; Mark 5:22-42; Luke 8:41-56) and His friend Lazarus, from Bethany (cf. John 11:1-46). Lord Jesus Christ resurrected these young people also to show that youth is a symbol of the beauty of eternal life in the Kingdom of heaven (cf. Matthew 22:30).
In a secularised and ever-changing world, young people need to feel the generous love of God and of the Church for them.
Thus, the Church is permanently called to renewal also through the new generations of young people, because Jesus Christ, the One Who “yesterday and today and forever, is the same” (Hebrews 13:8) wants it to testify about Him at all times.
And the renewal of the spiritual life of the Church is also achieved through the young people who always cultivate the three great Christian virtues: faith, hope and love.
- Faith in God, hope and love are the fundamental features of Christian life.
The faith cannot manifest itself without hope and without love. The Christian believes, hopes and loves at the same time. However, what most resembles man to God is the virtue of humble and generous love.
In his Epistle to the Hebrews, Holy Apostle Paul defines faith as follows: “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). In other words, faith is the pledge of hoped realities and the confirmation of unseen realities. The same Apostle teaches us that “all that are seen are transient, and those which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). In this perspective, faith is a spiritual knowledge, beyond knowledge through senses.
Faith is the spiritual capacity of human beings to see with the eyes of the soul and to feel with the heart the presence of God in creation and His work in the lives of the people. Therefore, faith is not only an intellectual conviction that God exists somewhere in heaven, but faith is the beginning of a new relation or relationship of the faithful human being with God the Creator and Saviour of the world. Holy Apostle Paul tells us that by faith we understand that God made heaven and earth (cf. Hebrews 11:3); by faith Abraham departed from his native country to an unknown land, promised to him by God (cf. Hebrews 11:8); by faith Moses was not afraid of Pharaoh’s wrath, but stood steadfastly as one who “sees the unseen One” (Hebrews 11:27). And Holy Apostle Peter says to the Christians “Though you have not seen Him (Christ), you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). Therefore, we can say that Christian՚s life is illuminated by “faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).
A young theologian, who also studied physics, philosophy and medicine, says in a recent book: “By faith we see the cosmos and the world in which we live as a Church, by faith we feel our fellow human beings as brothers in the Lord, and through it we also receive the gifts and riches of the world as goods intended for offering. In the light of faith, the powerlessness is healed, in the shadow of the cross of Christ the hardships, sufferings and shortcomings are filled with light. Through the grace shared by the Sacraments of the Church, faith in Christ, His life and of the saints renew the understanding powers of the minds of each of us, giving us the strength to free ourselves from the narrow habits of the fallen nature, and to see everywhere in the setting of our life, and in past, present and future experiences, God’s providence”.
- Christian hope grows and bears fruit through man’s co-operation with God.
Hope is a gift from God to human beings, a gift that however must be cultivated. Therefore, the Christian has a duty to fight, especially from a young age, against everything that can prevent him from loving God and his fellow human beings.
The Church calls on young people to pay special attention to the renewal of spiritual life, to defend innocence, to cultivate sincerity, courage, creativity, love, truth and all the values of this age blessed by God for the good of society.
The first step in cultivating spiritual life is the participation of young people in the life and mission of parishes and other ecclesiastical units. Therefore, it is important for young people to belong to a community: it is not enough to pray at home alone, even if this prayer is necessary. That is why Christian writer Tertullian wrote in the 3rd century: “A Christian alone is not a Christian” that is, he is a Christian when he is in communion with other Christians in the Church.
The second step in cultivating spiritual life is family prayer. Even if we do not have an intense spiritual life, we can often be inspired by other members of our family or by other practicing families who live their faith profoundly. We can ask them to pray for us. Saint John of Damascus said that a coal ignites when it touches another that burns. In other words, living faith is communicated more quickly to others during the prayer.
The third step in cultivating spiritual life is living the faith every day, not just on Sunday. We live in a civilisation of technology and electronics, of excessive information, which often stresses humans so much that they are too scattered and spiritually fragmented. For this reason, prayer as an expression of living faith is a beneficial practice in the struggle against stress, and especially the prayer of mind and heart, that is, invoking the name of Jesus: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”. Specific to monastics, this prayer has proved to be of great benefit, even for the lay believers who want to meditate and acquire the inner peace of the soul. This prayer is simple and short, but adapted to the hectic and fragmented life of humans today. It can restore the spirit to the state of vigil and love for God and others. In this regard, Saint Isaac the Syrian says that pure love is born out of prayer.
The religious services in which young people participate also bring much inner peace and much joy. The faces of people who participate intensively in the Church’s services are no longer strained, sadness and stress leaving room for light and joy. This is the peace of Christ that shines from the souls of those who pray profoundly. Prayer is a gift we receive from God, but we must cultivate it, especially as preparation for confession and the Eucharistic sharing.
And the Eucharist is not only forgiveness of sins, but it is also a source of spiritual strength, which inspires us, gives us courage and does not leave us in despair. Loneliness, the difficulties of life induce, in contemporary times, a sense of meaninglessness, absurdity, despair that often causes depression. However, prayer and especially the Holy Eucharist give us the power to feel, through faith and hope, the foretaste of the Resurrection, that is, the victory of love over loneliness.
- Young people love beauties created by God and cultivated by human beings.
Through excursions in nature, is cultivated the joy of seeing the beauties of natural creation and the joy of glorifying God-the Creator of the Universe.
Through pilgrimages to holy places and the reading of the life of the saints, the joy of seeing the beauties of the ecclesiastical art and of the life of the saints is cultivated in the soul of the young people.
The youth camps have as their main purpose the cultivation of the beauty of communication and of communion among young people at parish, deanery, eparchial or metropolitan levels, at national and international levels, through common prayer and singing, through common thought, through common action, through friendship and joy.
Cultural and social-philanthropic or charitable activities are an opportunity to cultivate in the soul of children and young people the beauty of generous love or the beauty of generosity towards the underprivileged, towards orphan children, the sick, the elderly, the lonely and the sad people, the bereaved and helpless families.
All these activities show us that however the greatest beauty is the kindness of the God loving soul and of the fellows, in family, in church, in school, in society and in the whole world.
In this regard, our Church encourages young people to become the hands of Christ’s love for human beings, that is, to initiate spiritual and social projects and programs that meet the concrete needs of local communities.
It is evident that many young volunteers receive joy from the joy they bring to those whom they help understand or feel that they are loved for their human dignity, created in the image of God and called to communion with Him and with fellow human beings. Young people are eager to live in communion of love, to love and be loved, in family and in society, but also to cultivate an ideal, to give a meaning to their present and future lives, by accumulating new knowledge and through creativity. Thus, they represent not only the future of the Church and society, but also their dynamic and renewing present.
The presence of young people in the liturgical, social, cultural, missionary activities of the Church confirms the truth that young people are a blessing to family, Church and society.
Dear young people,
Through faith, hope and love you become a Chalice of joy, but also apostles or missionaries of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you cultivate sincere love in family, in friendship, in parish, in eparchy, in society and in all national and international Orthodox meetings, to the joy of the whole of Orthodoxy and the communion between the peoples of the world.
In conclusion, we congratulate His Eminence Irineu, Metropolitan of Oltenia, and all those who have contributed in organising this International Meeting of Young Orthodox in Craiova.
We pray God to bless you all, to use the time of your stay in Craiova as a time for cultivating faith, hope and the love of cultivating dialogue, friendship and Christian Orthodox unity, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity, the wellbeing of the Church and the joy of you all!
Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church
 Archdeacon Adrian-Sorin MIHALACHE, You are what you live. Some recent data from neurosciences and spiritual experiences of the Philokalia, 2nd edition revised and added, TRINITAS Publishing House of the Romanian Patriarchate, Bucharest, 2019, p. 371.
Photography courtesy of: Basilica.ro / Raluca Ene