1996 has been designated by His Holiness Catholicos Karekin I as the Year of the Youth. By doing so, His Holiness has demonstrated an awareness of the tremendous need in the Armenian Church to focus on the spiritual needs of God’s children. At Sts. Joachim and Anne Armenian Apostolic Church we share his Holiness’ concern for increased focus on the youth. The endurance of our church throughout her 1700 year history indicates that, by some means, each generation found the church relevant to their lives; and it is incumbent upon us to continue the practice of helping the next generation see the importance of the church. The process by which each new generation discovers the meaning of the church in their lives can best be described as Holy Tradition.
The word ‘tradition’ means literally ‘that which is handed over’ or ‘ that which is passed on’. In order to understand what Holy Tradition is, one must differentiate it from tradition. Holy Tradition can be distinguished from ‘tradition’ (with a small ‘t’) in that ‘t’radition indicates practices of the church which arise out of, and are dependent upon, a particular cultural or social custom which is not essential to church doctrine. Examples in our own community of tradition include the Kheyma meal and the Breakfast with Santa. Both are wonderful traditions, yet if there were no Kheyma parties or Breakfast with Santa’s 500 years from now, the church could still be the church. Holy Tradition, however, refers to elements of our faith that must be maintained ‘as is’ for the church to remain the church. Therefore we must ask ourselves, what are these essential elements of our faith?
There are many elements within the church which together form Holy Tradition. They are the Bible, the Patristic Writings, Canons, Ecumenical Councils, Creeds, Liturgies, and Church Art (Iconography). A discussion of all these elements would be beyond the scope of this article. Yet a synopsis of the main message passed on through Holy Tradition is quite simple. In a word, the heart of Holy Tradition is Jesus Christ.
When we speak of what must be passed on to our children to maintain and secure the future prosperity of our church we can only answer a right relationship with the Savior. Anyone concerned with the future of our Holy church is therefore responsible to take it upon themselves to teach their children about Jesus Christ. There is no greater gift that we can give them. Yet in order to give, we must have received. We cannot give what we do not have. This Christmas, and at the start of this new year, let us resolve to receive the Lord into our lives so that we too might be filled with the joy of knowing Him. For it is only in embracing the Lord in our hearts, and instilling by example this love of the Lord in the hearts of our children, that we can assure the future prosperity of our church.
What can we do for the youth in 1996? Simple. We must examine our faith. Accept Jesus of Nazareth as our Savior and receive the gift of his life which he gave for us on the cross, dying in our place as a redeeming sacrifice for our sins. We must better familiarize ourselves with the Bible and the teachings of God’s holy church so that, filled with love and faith, we might demonstrate the love of God and our love for his holy church in our words and deeds. In this way our children will see by example the joy and peace that comes with a right relationship with God. By steadfastly living a life dedicated to the Lord in all things we will set a vital example for the youth to follow. What is the best thing we can do for our youth in 1996? Love Jesus.