NEW YORK: June 20, 2008
Epistle of Metropolitan Hilarion, Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, On the Day of Youth of the Russian Church Abroad
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!
Dear in the Lord Brother Archpastors, Reverend Fathers,
Brothers, Sisters and Children!!
In May, 2006, the IV All-Diaspora Council convened in San Francisco. The first point of order in this historic event in our Church was the matter of our relationship with the Church in Russia. The second was the future of our Church in the diaspora with special attention paid to our youth and the problems it faces in contemporary society.
By the limitless mercy of God and thanks to the spiritual guidance and righteous labors of our memorable Primate, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory, the painful division between the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church was finally overcome with the signing in May, 2007, of the Act of Canonical Communion, and the process of healing began!
This means that the matter of work with youth today takes the forefront in the salvific labors of the Church in today’s world, and demands the most serious attention on our part. This was especially clearly stressed by His Eminence Vladyka at the opening of the XII World Russian People’s Council in Moscow: “Youth is not only our future, but also our present. Young people deserve our special attention by virtue of the fact that they are called upon to open new paths to disseminate the truths of the Gospel. Without the youth, we would not only be deprived of the ability to progress, we would stagnate.” Further, he said: “But if we attract and unite our youth, especially those young people who burn with love for God and the desire to serve the Church and Fatherland, we will be able to accomplish great feats to the benefit of the Church, Orthodoxy and our much-suffering Motherland. The Russian Church Abroad, scattered throughout the world, can especially fulfill this mission, fostering the expansion of Orthodoxy and its great legacy among the peoples, spreading the good news to those ‘which were afar off, and to them that were nigh’ (Ephesians 2:17).”
Following the call of our late First Hierarch, the Council of Bishops this past May decided that the Sunday of All Saints would from now on be designated the Day of Youth of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. This celebration will be aimed at all three basic socio-cultural groups of the youth of our Holy Church: young people born in Russia, those born abroad, and those who turned to Orthodoxy from the local populations where the Russian Church Abroad exists.
And so, dear brother archpastors, reverend fathers, brothers and sisters! I call upon you to active and salvific work with our youth! Our churches have parish schools where children are taught the Law of God, Russian language, Russian history and literature: there are youth groups led by priests and laypersons. There are summer camps and youth conferences. If we continue to follow the example of the old emigres who taught us, who burned with love for the Church, our history and culture, who founded Russia Abroad, if we share this wealth with the children and youth, and live by that which we received from our ancestors, then I am certain that the Lord will help us ignite young hearts with that same love, or at least, we can plant in them the good seed which will bear fruit. We are duty bound to walk among the people, remembering the Apostles, who were “weak, and not weak.” Let us labor to the best of our abilities!
Now a few words to our youth. The Lord said: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). The closest interpretation of this is as follows: I do not demand that you completely abandon all cares in seeking external goods and eschew daily joys. But I desire and request of you one thing: reorganize your priorities. Before you cared more for the temporal, but for the heavenly you cared little or not at all; and I say: place to the forefront all cares and desires for the heavenly, the eternal, and that which is worldly should be in second place. Christ then adds: if you seek the Kingdom of Heaven and His Truth over all things, know that the earthly needs will be granted to you—it will come as a result of a special benevolence to you from God. Our Lord Jesus Christ not only does not forbid happiness and the enjoyment of worldly success, but only under the mandatory condition that we hold these second in importance, ceding the first place to our cares in seeking eternal happiness, seeking perfect Good, Love and Beauty in God and in His Image, Which is reflected in our neighbor. One thing must be kept in mind: do what is needed for earthly life; a part of your time and efforts must be devoted to prayer and works of mercy; do not be prideful in happiness; do not despair in unhappiness; and remember that all—the good and the terrible—comes from God, Who loves us and directs us to blessedness. And God will be with you.
I conclude with the words of St Macarius of Egypt: "God sees neither virgin nor married person, neither monk nor secular; but seeks only earnest and good will. Obtain this good will and salvation is near, whosoever you are and wherever you may live.” Amen.
Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York
First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad
Sunday of All Saints, 2008