"Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven"
It has been said many times that the: "Young people are the Church of tomorrow!" It is disturbing to hear Orthodox Christians make this statement because nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that our "young people are the Church of TODAY!"
At a very young age our children participate in the Holy Mysteria of Baptism, Chrismation, and the Holy Eucharist. They are full members of the Body of Christ — the Church! In the Sacrament of Holy Baptism a person is established with the life of the crucified, resurrected, and glorified Christ.
We include our children in the sacramental life of the Church, but neglect to teach them to live the Faith in a holistic manner. As the young person grows from child to adult, and participates in the life of the Church, one’s personal response becomes crucial. Keeping our lives focused on Christ, we unite ourselves to Him through prayer and sacrament.
On June 13 we commemorate the life of a young girl who gave a most impressive Christian Orthodox witness to people of all ages. Born in Palestine at the end of the third century, her Christian parents named her Aquilina. By the age of seven, she was recognized for her deep faith and zeal as a Christian and at the age of ten, she was preaching Christ to all people, especially to her young friends.
This was a period of great unrest for the Christian Church. The pagan rulers were persecuting Christians all over the empire. It was during one of these periods of persecution that Aquilina was turned over to the regional governor. His hatred towards Christians was so great that he sought to make an example of Aquilina, by this time a young twelve-year-old girl. Not once during the horrendous suffering she endured did the young girl deny Christ; on the contrary, she became more zealous for her faith in the Savior. Furious that she would not renounce Christ, the governor ordered that she be beaten and tortured by passing a heated rod through her ears and brain. The physical suffering caused her to collapse and appear as dead. Assuming that he had triumphed over the faith of this innocent young girl, the governor had her body disposed of for the wild animals to consume. During the night, an angel of the Lord appeared to her and said: "Arise, and be healed!" and the young girl was restored to health and praised God beseeching Him to permit her to die a martyr’s death. A voice from heaven responded: "Go; and it shall be to you as you wish" and Aquilina went into the city. She immediately headed for the governor’s palace and appeared before him. Terror seized him and he became so furious that he ordered the executioner to behead her with a sword. Aquilina knelt in prayer and immediately gave up her spirit to the Lord.
Imagine a twelve-year-old girl having the ability to draw people to Christ. This is the lesson we learn from the life of St. Aquilina. No matter what age one may be, the light of Christ can shine and illuminate through them and attract others to the life that is united in Christ Jesus.
The greatest gift we can offer our children is the gift of faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. It is for this reason that we must instill in them the Orthodox Christian understanding of living the true life in Christ. Our grasp of Christian Orthodox Stewardship is exactly this — it is the response we offer by living our faith in a proper Orthodox manner. We know no age limits in accomplishing this — young and old, parents and children, united as one family in Christ Jesus are called to draw near to the Lord.
To learn more about the stewardship of the saints, click here.