Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fr Georges Massouh on the Orthodox Youth Movement

Arabic original here.

"I'm Now 72 Years Old"

In the first half of the 20th century, with the death-throes and eclipse of the Ottoman Empire, the Antiochian Orthodox Church was striving to come out of the intellectual, religious and spiritual decline that dominated her. The reasons for this decline are many, first among them the decadenence that was general in the Ottoman Empire, whose impact on the religious communities living on its territory no one can deny.

However, the most important of these reasons is ignorance of the Church's living theology and tradition, which led to an invasion of the Orthodox space by Catholic and Protestant missionaries, who practiced proselytism to draw Orthodox into the Western churches. They succeeded to a great extent in achieving their goal, seducing the Orthodox to abandon the faith of their ancestors and adopt Papism or Protestantism through their use of schools, universities and social foundations that they built for the sake of proselytizing.

Some of the Orthodox youths who were students at missionary schools rose up against the slander that the missionaries practiced against their Church and her tradition. They rallied and on March 16, 1942 established  the Orthodox Youth Movement. What brought them together was the effort to re-discover the treasures of their Orthodox faith, to revive it and spread it. They set their sights on "wiping the dust off of ancient patristic books" and examining the latest theological literature that was  missing from Arabic libraries. And so they published Majallat al-Nour and founded Manshourat al-Nour.

The founders agreed on naming the Movement, and according to one of them, a young Georges Khodr, "We say 'Movement' because we are not nor shall we ever be a sectarian association in the customary sense, with a particular temporal task. We are not forming a body that is frozen and static in its thought and work." Khodr continues to define it as a movement, saying, "The Movement invites all children of the Church to the revival because every Orthodox-- boys and girls, men and women, laity and clergy-- are responsible for her because there is no reform without joint work among all of them."

The Movement did not give itself the mandate of being an Orthodox political party, a faction within the Church, a distinct team, or an independent institution... Its members derive their membership from their commitment to the Church, their practicing the faith and worship, especially the Divine Liturgy, wherein is realized the union between Christ and the faithful. Each one serves the Church according to the talent he is given by the Holy Spirit.

A quarter century ago, Metropolitan Georges Khodr said at one of the gatherings of university students that every student who was present is responsible  for establishing the Movement "today, here and now." His point was that young people must not live on the glories of the past, but rather each one must have the mentality of the founder who is responsible for once more spreading the Spirit in the Church, as though the Movement does not exist and so he is called to call upon the Spirit to blow within it.

This year, the General Secretariat of the Movement launched the slogan "I'm now 72 years old" to signify that each member of the Movement, from child to elder, is the same age as the Movement. Through this the Movement is trying to say that the accumulation of years has no value if it does not include a real commitment to the Church as a place for sanctification and for life with Christ. However, the most beautiful thing at the anniversary celebration this year is the presence of the founder, Metropolitan Georges Khodr, the elder who is once more a child, the Oak Tree under whom many find shade.

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