By the Metropolitan of Florina, Fr. Augustinos
Our beloved children,
As I direct my word to you, I feel very moved. Three feelings dominate in my soul. The one is joy, the second is sorrow, and the third is worry.
I rejoice, because it is no small thing in the contemporary world, in this epoch of atheism and unbelief, to see hundreds of children, boy and girl students of junior high and high school, like thirsty dear running to the well, to the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the catechetical schools. This consoles us and enthuses us a great deal. That’s why I feel joy and glorify God.
However, I also feel sorrow, because as bishop I ought to have been your catechist (religious instructor), the catechist of all the children of my diocese and even of little children too, because that is the most important work of the bishop. So I ought to have taken on the job of teaching of children, of teaching in all the classes of religious instruction in the schools of the Metropolis.
I remember the unforgettable years, when as a preacher I went to different cities of Hellas and didn’t have the heavy weights of the episcopal office; I had many classes of religious instruction and my joy and gladness was to shepherd the lambs of Christ. Unfortunately now I must confess, that I am found far from the youth of the fatherland. And this, because in my old age I have taken on a heavy cross, the burden of my Episcopal duties.
But on fact minimizes this sorrow of mine: that I have entrusted the catechism of children not to professionals, but to noteworthy missionary persons, clergy and laity, men and women and even girls, who work unselfishly in the Lord’s farm. These people were at other times students of the catechetical school and they know very well the incalculable value that catechism or religious instruction has, in the formation of the Christian character.
So they speak from experience and from their sense of duty. To these persons, who worked with zeal, our Church expresses her pleasant satisfaction. The catechetical school is the only school that doesn’t pay. The religious instructor doesn’t receive even a penny. And yet, it is the only school the world hates mortally.
Here beside us in Albania, no Sunday school was allowed to function. The priest was not allowed to approach and catechize the children.
So the one feeling I sense is joy, the other sorrow, and the third worry.
I, the old bishop, worry a lot. I heard you with joy and gladness, children, singing and chanting. You seemed to be nightingales that sing in the forest. But the question arises: After three years, after five years, ten years, when you grow up, when you go to university and receive your diplomas, when join the army, when…, when…you get married, will you continue to have this fervent feeling, which you have at this moment?
I doubt it and worry. Because I know that this shameful society of the 20th century – not only in Hellas but everywhere – , which unfortunately has the name that it is Christian; 95% of it is antichristian. Within this society that children live, they meet many obstacles, which don’t allow them to form a stable Christian character. Everything pushes them to atheism; the radio, the television, books, teaching, the whole climate of society is contrary to the Christian faith and morality. And it is heroism in these years of ours for a young man to believe in Christ. For this reason those who believe are few, a minority in this world. But as few as they are, in our days the saying is realized: “Out of the mouths of infants and sucklings I shall create praise” (Psalm 8:3; Matt. 21:16).
These children are few. But as few as they might be, they have within them an indefatigable militancy for the supporting of the Orthodox faith. To these heroic children, the children in whose veins flows the blood of heroes and martyrs, we must remind the saying: “Resist the devil, and he shall flee from you” (James 4:7). Resist the devil and he will distance himself from you.
Few are these children in relation to the majority of youth, in relation to the world of atheism and unbelief. To these children, who with so much yearning go to catechetical school (religious instruction), I would like to say the following.
My children, as few as might be, have no fear. Only be careful not to be led astray by the current of evil. For this reason I will remind you of the following myth of Aesop.
At one time a fox was captured in a trap and her tail was cut off. She remained crippled. How can she now return without a tail with the other foxes? She couldn’t; she didn’t feel well. Then she thought to make the other foxes cut off their tails. So she went and called all the foxes from the forest and made a speech, being careful all along, however, for them not to see that she didn’t have a tail.
My beloved sisters, she says! God did many good things for us. They made us the smartest animals in the world. We live well. We have brains, intelligence and cunningness. We go to the chicken pens, grab the chickens, eat them, and we get along wonderfully. We have everything. But we have one fault. God gave us something that we don’t need.
– What? said the other foxes.
– Why here, he gave us a tail. And it gets all caught up, and it doesn’t allow us to move comfortably. For this reason I propose here at our convention, to cut our tails, so we can become more mobile, more free, but also more beautiful.
– You speak correctly, said the foxes. Let’s cut our tails.
Then an old female fox gets up and says:
– Let’s see, does she have a tail?
When they saw her ugliness, they all disapproved her. Because she didn’t have a tail, she would recommend to the others, too, to cut off their tails. In this way they comprehended her cunningness and didn’t cut off their tails.
The myth indicates. If a girl loses her honor, she immediately calls her friends and tries to lead them astray, to make them like her. For them to lose their honor. Because she was corrupted, she wants all the girls to be corrupted. This is a mania, a form of envy, of evil, and a catastrophe.
Thus also does the person with tuberculosis; he who suffers from tuberculosis. In earlier times, those who had tuberculosis would spit in oranges, in order to transmit their illness to others, too. Because they had tuberculosis, they wanted to make others have tuberculosis. That’s what girls that have been corrupted do; they want to transmit their corruption to as many other girls as possible. So stand as far away from such corrupted girls and boys. They’re foxes without tails.
And let the boys and girls steer clear from children who smoke. A boy of 12 years old, who began to smoke, tries to make all his other friends smoke.
So, far from such persons. The children of Hellas, the Christian children, must offer resistance, must resist against evil, which is found around them.
I said at another time too, and I repeat it here now, and I won’t stop repeating it. When I was a preacher, up on the high mountains of Grevena, there where the wells of Aliacmona are, I saw one thing: I saw the waters of the river, that as many fish that were dead, the water took them, and went down to Thessalonica. As many fish that were alive, these would go against the current.
My children! Be live fish of the great fisherman, of our Lord Jesus Christ. Go against the faithless and corrupt society. Against your father and mother, when they are faithless and push you towards atheism. Go against the teachers and professors, if they deviate from their destiny and preach unbelief and atheism to you. Go against faithless and perverse society. Go against that global current of corruption. Against all the demons. We shall resist as Hellenes, as Christians. And you can be sure, that as few as you might happen to be, the atheists and faithless shall not conquer; the faithful shall conquer. Because really Christ did not die, but lives and reigns unto the ages of ages.
Now an old bishop, who am found at the end of my earthly life, after living a life of hardships and difficult adventures of so many decades in the fatherland, I recommend to you the following:
If, children, a time comes, not in a theater but in reality we too hear “Persection!”, and priests and bishops grow faint-hearted and the churches are led astray so that they dissolve the Gospel, offer resistance. Whatever happens in Albania and whatever in other far off countries, will happen in Hellas too; I prophecy. But know one thing very well; the atheists won’t be victorious, the faithful will conquer. You, my children, as few of you as might remain with Christ, have no fear; you shall conquer. And even if, my children, child of the catechetical, religious school, a child of Hellas, of Macedonia, of Asia Minor, and of Pontus, and even if your mother and your father denies you and you remain alone in your city or your town, and if all society kneels before the devil, you don’t kneel. Fight him. And you the one shall conquer.
I said it before and I stress it again. Other lands may bow down. But Hellas, which is painted with the blood of saints, shall not kneel down. In your veins, of the small and great, flows the blood of martyrs. Our land shall remain a fortress of Christ. We shall prove yet another time, to the utter dismay of demons, that Christ didn’t die, but lives unto the ages of ages.
Your spiritual father
(This was a homily delivered to boy and girl students of catechetical, religious schools during a celebrative function in the city of Ptolemaida, in 1978).