Where do you live? Do you live on a farm where you tend crops and animals? Do you live in a big city where you walk, ride a bus, or hop on the subway to reach your destination? Do you live in a remote area or a heavily populated area? Do you live in a warm climate or a cool climate? We read about and watch on TV places that seem otherworldly to us in comparison to how we live day in and day out ourselves. We’ve been blessed with an education that introduces us to other cultures different from our own. These brief introductions allow us a glimpse of understanding of different ways to live, but they by no means allows us to fully understand them or make them a part of us. I know a cow lives on a farm, but I lack all the experiences associated with being a farmer. It’s one thing to see a farmer milk a cow. It’s quite another to get up every single morning, even when you just want to pull the covers over your head, and milk the cow, regardless of the weather waiting for you outside.
Is this the same method of how we’re teaching the next generation of Orthodox Christians? Are we giving them a brief introduction to a variety of aspects of our faith without truly diving in and participating in the life of the Church? Do we make it familiar to them so they can identify certain aspects of it but don’t have a true sense of what it means to actually fast, attend Lenten services, or participate in Orthodox traditions within the home?
Fr. Johannes Jacobse wrote in an article about The Twelve Days of Christmas, “Our Orthodox traditions – from fasting cycles to worship – exist to teach us how to live in Christ. The traditions impart discipline. These disciplines are never an end in themselves, but neither can life in Christ be sustained apart from them.”
There tends to be a lack of tradition in our modern culture, although people, as a whole, are still drawn to it. Take for example the British Royal Family. Look at the massive group of people who are in no way associated with England but have closely followed the wedding of Prince William and Catherine and their son’s baptism as they yearn for a sense of history and tradition.
We have an opportunity to be living examples to the next generation of Orthodox Christians as we practice the traditions of the Church and provide that sense of history and tradition they’ve been searching for in other ways.