Fr. Andreas Agathokleous
It’s not unknown for young people not to have anything to do with Church activities (services, fasts and sacraments), yet they continue to be curious, to wonder, to enjoy talking about God and what emanates from him as a way of life.
Anyone would think that these people were unversed in the spiritual life, without experience of the grace of the Holy Spirit and that they were merely chatting about ways of improving their life, of finding the calm and peace which they were lacking.
Yet, beyond the outward appearances, there’s a search for something they once had and have now lost. In his book about his Elder, Saint Silouan, Saint Sophrony notes that the Elder had this idea that God could be sought only by those who had known him and then lost him. He was of the opinion that anyone seeking God must already have had a taste of him.
If this is actually the case, then any curiosity, any reflection or relative discussion would always mask a secret pain of the soul since they would be tantamount to an admission of the loss of the divine experience. For this reason, we should listen with understanding and acceptance. rather than rejection, whenever we hear criticism, harsh words or even irony.
There’s also a great deal of theological confusion to be seen today, what with all the information which the internet provides. Everybody has an opinion, everyone has something ‘spiritual’, ‘theological’ or ‘Orthodox’ to say. And yet we can often discern heretical influences, which distort the Truth which has been handed down to us by the holy Fathers. We find this Truth in their books and also in the contemporary saints, whom the Orthodox Church has always had in every era.
So, because of the plethora of information in ecclesiastical and theological activities and the obvious confusion which exists, there is a ‘dearth of hearing the word of the Lord’ (Amos, 8, 11), genuine discourse, the real ‘word of the Lord’. You have to wonder whether the reaction of young people, and, indeed, of all thinking, reflective people, derives from a sense that ‘something’s wrong here’.
Of course, if we’re going to experience God in our life, sincerely and seriously, this involves a struggle, effort and pain in order to free ourselves from the passions which hold us back. Intellectual involvement with God and the things of God doesn’t require personal effort, however. Indeed, it can create spiritual pleasure, which may disorientate us.
Empirical knowledge of the life of Christ begins with the Grace of the Holy Spirit and is confirmed by our ascetic efforts which demonstrate our desire to experience the beauty, and the ‘something else’, which belong to thethatworld which his life gives us.
This is why, apart from the negative messages which we may be getting from our surroundings, as regards the theological and spiritual situation, our desire and real longing to know the Truth and to be brought to Christ will define the ‘taste, which he will grant us, as a starting-point for us to go on to taste many, varied and great experiences of his presence.