The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord – The World Day of Orthodox Youth
Deacon Tarasii ANDRUSHEVYCH, Boryslav
How to surprise the young today? The epoch of the post-informational society abounds in consumerism wars and dirty advertisements against the creativity of young talents and a free personality. Namely, young economists, lawyers, and artists have managed to found numerous international associations and organizations in the chaos of international crises. The most successful ones are grounded on nothing but belief and the church. Our contemporary, an artist from Volyn, Anatolii Makhoniuk, writes: “I am the grandson of belief and the son of hope. I am looking for love.” How have present-day youth managed to keep lively bonds between Ukraine and universal Orthodoxy, despite all troubles and schisms? A short excursus on the history of the World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth, which celebrates Youth for Christ Day on the 15th of February, the Feast of the Meeting [or Presentation] of the Lord, helps to illustrate this.
“Why do you need what you don’t have if you don’t know what to do with what you already have?”
The Christian Youth Movement was formed more than 100 years ago. This fact was stated by the heads of the 1999 organizing committee, Vladimir Misiuk (Poland), Manos Koumbarelis (Greece), and Hildo Bos (Paris), at the 50th anniversary of the World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth, Syndesmos. The movement’s beginning is considered to be the arrival of Jon Mott, the World Christian Student Federation secretary, to Russia. This resulted in the formation of student centers in Odesa, then part of Russia, St. Petersburg, and Moscow. It is easy to understand the problems of the youth of Russia, at that time the richest country in the world. Today we, young people, are as full of enthusiasm and thirsty for self-discovery and inventive projects as our contemporaries 100 years ago. Even in the hellish time of war there were good-doers who by their own work and with costs from numerous parishes and monasteries in Jerusalem, Alexandria, Russia, Serbia, Poland, Canada, Ukraine, and many other countries financed the opening of Orthodox theological schools for immigrants in Presov (1923) and Paris (1924). In 1925 at the Lesno monastery in Hopovo (former Yugoslavia), Metropolitan of Kharkiv Antony (Khrapovitsky) offered to form the Orthodox Youth Fellowships Editorial Office.
“A church is not in the logs but in the ribs”– these words of John Chrysostom inflamed the hearts of those young men and women who later became priests and teachers: Alexander Schmemann, John Meyendorff, Basil Zenkovsky, Georges Florovsky, Serhey Vysheslavtsev, Maria Skobtsova. New enlighteners from France, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Serbia grouped around intellectuals from Russia and Ukraine. And when in 1930 in Paris a League of Orthodox Culture was formed, in Thessalonica many Orthodox pedagogues gathered at their conference. In 1936 the prominent Ukrainian psychologist and priest Basil Zenkovsky wrote: “I realized after Thessalonica how difficult it would be to unite all Orthodox believers.” Later this Kyiv priest wrote in immigration: “We have to acknowledge the fact that a quasi-church culture exists these days. It originates not in animosity regarding the church but in indifference towards it… How important it is to turn to the very essence of Christian culture!” (See G. Florovsky “Belief and Culture,” I. Iliin 1927 “The Grounds of Christian Culture” www.g-vik.narod.ru www.fjc.ru №9, 10, 30)”.
“The essence is not in a hand shake but in whose name the hands have joined – SYNDESMOS”
Young women and men from different countries organized in 1949 the World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth Syndesmos (“the bond of peace”, cf. Eph.3.4). Among its founders are Archpriest Basil Zenkovsky (in 1918 he chaired the Religion and Culture Committee of independent Ukraine at the Hetman Skoropadskyi government); Archpriest Alexander Schmemann, and Fr. John Meyendorff – future rectors of St. Vladimir’s Seminary (the Orthodox Church in America); future metropolitan of Silivria Emilianos Timiades; Georges Khorde (metropolitan of the mountains of Lebanon); Archimandrite Meletii (Orthodox metropolitan of all France); Nikos Nissiotis – the future Bossey Ecumenical Institute director; and also Pierre Struve, together with Tatyana Lebedeva (Russia), Leon Zander, Ioanis Lapas (Greece), Velizar Hayich (Serbia).
How has it been possible to carry on the work of the fellowship and constantly develop it? It became possible only by participating in many educational and cultural projects, such as publications of new books for children, and teaching at schools and orphanages. “All the time you have to give up your personal life and yield to the requests of parents, teachers and organizations’ directors -- the children need this,” said priest’s wife and young teacher Elizabeth Kyrychevska.
The works of prominent contemporaries John Zizioulas, Paul Evdokimov, Oxford professor and bishop of Dioklea Kallistos (Ware) made a big contribution to the common cause. Kallistos’ “The Inner Kingdom”; “The Orthodox Way”; “The Church: Unity and Mission” have been published in Ukrainian at the editorial office of Dukh i Litera Press [ Spirit and Letter] at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (see www.spmu.narod.ru, www.duh-i-litera.kiev.ua, and www.syndesmos.org).
The young people’s lot at that time was to pray for society’s healing of the diseases that at present have to be cured by Ukrainian Orthodoxy. One of the founders of Syndesmos, Georges Khodre, wrote back in March 1947: “Provincialism, the abuse of the principle of autocephaly, discords of language and race, and conflicts between churches and jurisdictions are the plague of the Orthodox world. Philetism seems to be our practical heresy. The church always allies with the state, the nation or the race. In order for the church to fulfill its mission on earth, the unity of the Orthodox churches must be achieved.”
And God will not ask you, but others. And He will not ask your name, but the one of them to whom you are a brother.” “
“Because of their weakness people have transformed centers according to their desires (they have turned churches into clubs) and often they don’t want to leave the boundaries of their corporate interests: ‘What are these Catholics or Protestants to us? We are Orthodox and that’s all!’ And so among such fundamentalists is born a twisted orthodoxy (or simply a faith in rituals) but the live spirit of faith escapes, is forgotten. But ‘to believe is also a work, and it is very difficult.’” It is so difficult to believe that a humble Catholic is often more Orthodox than a proud “Orthodox” adherent of the “pure faith,” and a Baptist hears better the voice of God than an ascetical preacher of traditionalism. And belief opens fantastic horizons. The young teachers and students of Kyiv seminaries supported the sacrificial way of Ukraine’s president at the Ecumenical Youth Council only because of the truth. Once at the Young Men’s Assembly in Thessalonica, 1958, John Meyendorff confessed, “Mission is a consequence of unity. In short, if there is one truth, we must be united in believing in this truth. And if there is one truth, we must let others know it and not keep it selfishly to ourselves ...”
At the beginning of its history members of the Orthodox Christian Youth Association had to struggle with sectarian elements among parishioners and clergy, not only in the provinces but also in the capital. This is why the movement’s members are grateful to young scouting organizations like Hurt and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). That is why the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the blessing of Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine Volodymyr for the first time greeted representatives of the World Fellowship Syndesmos in Kyiv, 1995. And most fruitful, according to the vice president and conference organizer for Syndesmos, Archpriest John Matusiak, were seminars in Lviv (1997-98) and Uzhhorod (2000: (republica.pl/alikw/). Boys and girls from 21 regions under the leadership of Auhustyn, hierarch of Lviv and Halychyna, hosted participants from 10 countries at the Dormition Monastery in Pochaiv and near the Carpathian Mountains. They added to their experience with their work at boarding schools, hospitals and orphanages. Professor Meyendorff wrote about this in the following way, “The New Testament changed the old religion of a nation to the religion of a person, Jesus Christ, through whom and in whom all people of all nations could find the answer to the ultimate meaning of life, and could receive the revelation of the coming of God.” Now one must not “save the church from heresies and schisms” with loud meetings and chants, high-flown newspaper articles and TV programs. One needs to subordinate his personal ambitions, destroy his criminal ignorance … and to “grow together with Christ in his strength.”
I have the whole world for love and myself for war.” “
“I do not defend my way because it is my conviction, but I do this because it is my savior’s way in this world, Christ’s way,” explains Fr. Justin (Popovich). How should young boys and girls today maintain the way of salvation if, as international experts on statistics state, several drug addicts are found in each multi-storey building in a city? “This is paradoxical, but people come to me as to a pagan priest: to bury somebody or to baptize. And there are few eager to change something in their souls for the better and to strengthen their faith,” said a young priest from Polissia.
“I am pleased that Greek Catholic youth led by Fr. Andrii Nahirniak are forming a group to submit drafts to Parliament on the protection of young people’s health and culture in Ukraine,” said Fr. Rostyslav Triokhbratskyi. “If, for example, fines are imposed for bad language, smoking at trolley bus stations, or pollution of streets and rivers by plastic waste, then this money will be sufficient for the ecology and education of our children. But believe me, this is not a panacea, since Christ’s way is not in relying on a system, institution or authoritative methods. It is personal example, sacrificial love. No law will change a man so much as the good example of a neighbour can. Orthodox youth are like a healthy plant among the waste heaps of drug addiction and drunkenness.’’
The biggest achievement for a young man and woman in marriage is to forget about his or her ‘me’ for the sake of the blessed ‘you,’ explained young Kyiv priest and editor of the journal for youth “Quo Vadis”, Fr. Andrii Dudchenko. In a similar way, all young people should make themselves responsible for their neighbours, friends and schools, because, he said, “God will ask others for you and you for others.”
“It’s quite another matter that your Ukrainian youth are not always open enough,” states the head of the Slovak Youth Organization, Bohumil Voprsalek. “Thus, it is worth recalling at all seminaries today even more than ever that to refuse social cooperation with representatives of other religions means to take the risk of ending up beyond the borders of Christianity. As Paul the Preacher wrote, ‘As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace [syndesmos]. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”. (Eph. 4: 1-6.)
RISU’s Ukrainian-language site posted the text on 17 February 2006.