Youth

Through your eyes I greet the springs of our nation. As I look at you, I give thanks to God for giving us this opportunity to communicate, encounter and fellowship with you. Every time I meet young ones, I feel rejuvenate and regenerate.

I can say that youth is not dependent upon the number of years. Of course, it has something to do with age, but that is not the most important factor. The basic factor is how one looks at life, in what spirit one relates to the problems, situations and challenges in life. Youth is a quality of human attitude.

My topic consists of two words:

1- challenge and  
2- continue
  (challenge to continue).

I would like to begin with a definition. What do we mean by “challenge” and what do we mean by “continue”. I could have chosen the words “called to continue”, but instead I have chosen the “challenged”, because in the concept of challenge I find a sense of motivation. Simple invitation to a person makes that person passive, but challenge makes the person takes issue with something that is offered in the discussion or a given concrete situation of life. A person with no challenge cannot be fully human. Challenge means to be faced with such problems to confront such situation in which you test yourself. You begin to think of yourself first, before you react or you actually confront the problem.

Let me say to you one of my experiences: When I first went to America, I was terrified and shaken with the idea that I will stared on Sunday and deliver a sermon in English. I was feeling very humble, I was repeating in mind: “how can I speak with these American faithful in my very limited and broken English?”

I stood there and said, “ my name is…. I am the new Antiochian Orthodox priest...” “What is Antiochian? Where is Antioch? Any one knows where is Antioch? No! Came the answer.

Here, the challenge began.

What was I am going to do? I was challenged. I have to explain to them where and what is Antiochian. I am going to feel you the story of a Greek known author named Nikos Kazantzakis. In his book “report to Greco” he wrote: His father decided to sent him to a catholic school, away from his homeland of Crete. The father told him: “you are from Crete, don’t forget. Your mind is not your own, it belongs to Crete. Sharpen it as much as you can, so that one day you can use it to help liberate Crete. Since you cannot help with arms, why not with your mind? Do you understand what I am asking of you? Says yes! That is for today, tomorrow, and always. Do not disgrace me”.

Kazantzakis added: “ I felt the whole Crete on my shoulder. If I failed to know my lessons perfectly, to understand a problem in mathematic, … Crete would be disgraced…”

This passage strengthened in me the consciousness of my obligation to be first of all purely, truly, faithfully myself. I felt I was under terrible burden of carrying in my humble person that great wealth that Antiochian signifies in history. Let me not be that person because of whom people might think wrong or bad of Antioch. I would not commit that kind of betrayal to my own being as a member of that two thousand years old Church.

Now, I come to the second word: “continue”, what do we mean by saying we are “challenged to continue? To continue is to add, not to repeat. It means to create, not to preserve. History can be a teacher but history is the worst thing in the world if it becomes a dictator. You cannot be dictated by history but we can be taught by it. In other words, “to continue,” means not to be prisoners of yesterday or to behave as sheer custodians of a heritage, but to do something in our lifetime that may enrich that history. That is the true meaning of “continuation”.

Here, again, I would like to add the term “preservation of our Church”. What this word implies? How can we preserve our Church? Preservation is not only by keeping, as it is what is preserved, i.e. static, unchangeable. Preservation, in a creative sense, means bringing new stimulus, new vitality giving new impetus to something that you have inherited. We are not a Church to be conserved, stop. We are a Church to live, to continue. This means we have roots, deep roots, we have gained a rich experience, we have to take courage, sustenance and strength from our fathers and teachers. But not to be subdued by them to such extent that we can no longer look ahead and breath afresh.

Let me give you a case : let us take the word “truth”. What do we mean when we say it? Do we mean what we want to be the truth or we are after the real meaning of the truth? Are we after life or after name? What do we seek in life? The Gospels state that “the truth makes you free” (St. John 8:32)

Where do we find the truth? In books? In treaties of philosophers or theologians or scientists? The truth is incarnational.

Kiekegaard the Denmark philosopher wrote: “truth exists for the individual only as he himself produces it in action.” What does that mean. Two by two makes four, this is not the real truth. That is the abstraction of the truth. Two books and two books make four books. I am sounding a little bit naïve in the way in which I try to present this experience, but, I always believed in what Jesus Christ taught us and He did not say: “this is the truth”, He said: “I am the truth”, “I am the way”, “I am the light”, look at me and read the truth. In other words, whatever value, principle, truth we look for in life, we have to give it expression in concrete action. Otherwise, truth, value, principles become notions in the air while life goes on. Therefore, we have to find a new way of looking at the basic truth in life.

Hammarsktold, the UN secretary general wrote: “Holiness in the 20th century passes through the world of action”. That means high values in life are not hanging up in the air, but are integrated and incorporated in the texture, stature of human life on this earth. God said in His Gospel: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that the world could be saved”  (John 3:16). All that is expressed in one word “love” God is love. God did not preach love in words. He came to us, crucified in order to express his love. Love is sacrifice. You cannot manifest that sacrifice through sheer words: Love becomes a lip service, perhaps a nice way of feeling, if it is not converted into personal commitment and into action. What I am trying to say is that whatever study in your school, in your work, in your everyday life, you may discover different truths about the different subjects, but the real truth of life, the real truth in life, can only be manifested through the act of personal engagement and personal experiment.

You, the young generation, is called to a new assessment of truth, reality and value. We have given enough worship to rhetoric. We have been following the shadows for long escape from the light. We have nurtured our soul with vanity, nominal and formal food and skilfully excused ourselves from responsible involvement. We speak proudly of our Church and our Orthodoxy but do very little in building it in our everyday lives. We pay lip service, empty tribute to great names that through their lives have been witnessed of the truth. But we do nothing to follow their path.

When Isaiah, the O.T. prophet heard the call of God “whom shall I send?” to the people who are in need, Isaiah first trembled but soon overcome the doubt and hesitation He said “here I am! Send me.” ( Isaiah 6:8 ). Are we ready for commitment?

You are Australian raised in an Antiochian Orthodox heritage. In what way, to what extent, are you going to create a harmony, to bring about a synthesis between the two?

I am sure you will discover many similarities, affinities, common features between your Orthodoxy and your Australian experience in life. Be proud of your Orthodoxy, continue it, pursue it for greater achievements for today and tomorrow.

I conclude by saying that: I see the Orthodox Australian youth, as a privileged ones, you have nothing to be ashamed of.

Abbe Pierre, a French priest said: “The great difference today is not between believers and unbelievers, but between persons who care and persons who do not care”. That is, the good criterion in human life.

Where do you stand?

Do you believe that your faith, your Church is of no use?

If you are answering with yes, You are wrong. For, Christian Faith, in the Gospel sense and in the Orthodox experience of the word is the God – inspired invitation for action, commitment, toward the betterments, enhancement of society, in this case and in the first place as enhancement of our society, our Church and our nation.

May God lead you in this way of life

 + Paul

Metropolitan Archbishop Paul of Australia and New Zealand

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