World Children’s Day is a day celebrating the power of children in changing the world; a day dedicated to our determination to create a better future and environment for every child across the globe. Why should we, as young Orthodox Christians contemplate on matters concerning childhood, their rights and value in today’s society?
Firstly, children are truly the antidote for today’s rather unsettled and uncertain times. Their importance, their value and significance in our lives, as well as our dedication to their upbringing and safety, is at the forefront of our Orthodox Christian teaching and ethos. In a way, how apt is our Church’s forthcoming feast of the entrance of the Virgin Mary into the temple? The Mother of God, as a young girl, is led into the holy place (led by Zacharias, the father of St John the Baptist) in order to become, herself, the ‘holy of holies,’ the living sanctuary of the divine child who She bore and brought into this world for the salvation of humankind. In the coming weeks we then celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ in a humble manger; God truly uniting with humanity and by this salvific act expressing the fact ‘He is with us.’ (Matt 1:23) Every child brought into the world is an expression of God’s love and of His ineffable goodness.
However, even in the midst of the most holy nativity – God becoming human – we witness harrowing scenes. We read, in the Gospel accounts, of the ‘Massacre of the innocents’ (Matt 2:16-18) in which King Herod orders the execution of all male children in the vicinity of Bethlehem. What a paradoxical image; Christ, the source of life offering Himself to the entire world and yet simultaneously such acts, which fiercely defy human value and dignity and reject God’s law of love, take place.
Nelson Mandela famously tells us ‘there can be no greater revelation of society than the way it treats its children.’ Surely this is so true, perhaps to an even greater extent about our faith. Our Christian faith, especially in the midst of uncertain and troubling times, should express and implement the love, care and protection of children, should be their voice of hope, their ambassador for a better tomorrow and their assurance of God’s love for them. Let us not forget how much Christianity has contributed to, and arguably been the source of, the greater respect and dignity associated with both motherhood and childhood. For us, as Orthodox Christians, we do not understand human rights simply from an individualistic point of view, but rather, as His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch writes ‘For Orthodox Christianity, the highest ethos is the renouncement of our individual rights in the name of love (ἀγάπη)—for the sake of the protection of the rights of the other. In other words we as Christians will go out of our way for the rights of the other and particularly for the rights of children, fighting against the sins of discrimination, violence, bullying and exploitation, in order to uphold their dignity and holiness.
For this reason, ‘every day and every year is a time for the protection of the sacredness of childhood. The eyes of all children are brighter than the sun, and their souls are purer than light… For us Orthodox Christians, the most frequently encountered and impressive holy icon is that of Jesus Christ as a child—a true child and a true God—embraced by His All-Holy Mother…God Himself assumed flesh as an infant and called us to become “like children,” so that we may be deemed worthy to become gods by Grace.’ (His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch)
– Next week dear friends, our ‘Meditation’ will concentrate on, and examine, the icon of the Nativity of Christ.
– Our Online Classes with the theme ‘Unwrapping the Christmas Narrative’ continue on Sundays and Mondays. Please email [email protected] if you have not yet signed up!
– On Saturday the 12th December an online day event dedicated to our young people will take place, with various talks, presentations and discussions. The programme will be released in the coming days.