- Geronda, what will become of so many children who grow up today without discipline?
- For them, there will be mitigating circumstances. It is the parents who never understood the nature of discipline that now allow their children such excessive freedom and turn them into little hooligans. You say one word to them and they will respond with five, and with such impudence! These children may one day turn into criminals. Today many children are totally unraveled by too much freedom and no discipline. "Don't touch the children!" These are the slogans in society.
And of course what do children think? "Where else are we going to find a better regime than that?" In other words, they are deliberately turning them into little rebels who do not want to listen to parents, to teachers, or to anyone else. This serves their designs perfectly, for if children are not first taught to be rebellious, how can they end up later destroying everything? And you can see the poor youth looking like they are virtually demonized.
If we, monks, cannot put freedom to good use in the spiritual life, what is one to expect of people who live in the world? If freedom is not put to good use, it is worth nothing. All it brings is disaster. This is why the country is heading in the wrong direction. Can today's people make good use of the freedom given to them?
When freedom does not serve the cause of true progress, the result is catastrophe. Combined with secular progress, this sinful freedom has given rise to spiritual slavery. True spiritual freedom is spiritual obedience to the will of God. But you see, whereas it is obedience that will give us true freedom, the tempter, out of malice, presents it as enslavement, and so our youth today who have been poisoned by the spirit of rebellion, reject obedience. It is understandable that these young people are tired of the various ideologies of the twentieth century, which unfortunately distort God's beautiful creation and fill His creatures with anxiety, putting a gap between them and the true joy that is God.
Have you any idea what we went through when we were discharged from the army? If we were at all like today's youth, we would have gone on a rampage and destroyed everything on our path. It was in 1950, when the Guerilla War was over and many classes of recruits were discharged simultaneously from the Army. Some of us had been to war for four and a half years, others for four, others for three and a half. Well, after all these hardships, we arrive in Larisa and we head for the Transit Centres, only to find them full. So we tried some hotels but they would not accept us. "Soldiers!" they must have thought, "If they lodge here, not a single blanket will be left clean!"
We, of course, had the money to pay the rate. It was March and very cold. Fortunately, an officer saved us, may God keep him well. He went and found out the train schedules and their manoeuvres and arranged to have us spend the night in the trains. "They will do manoeuvres throughout the night," he told us, "but don't be afraid, the trains will depart at this or that time in the morning." And indeed, the trains were manoeuvring all night long. Finally we got to Thessaloniki. Some of us were from around there and went to their homes. The rest of us went to Transit Centres but they too were full. Next, we tried the hotels but no luck.
I pleaded with them at the hotel, "Please give me a chair to sit on and I will pay double the rate of a room!" "Sorry, we can't do that," they replied. They were afraid that someone might see me and turn them in for not giving a soldier a room. I spent the whole night outside with other soldiers standing up and leaning against a wall. There were soldiers lying down on all the pavements, as if we had a parade. If today's youth were in our place, they would have burned Larisa, Thessaly and the entire province of Macedonia to the ground. Although they face nothing compared to what we had to go through, they still do takeovers, destroy property... And back then, all those poor soldiers, were thinking so differently.
They felt hurt and bitter but it never crossed their mind to do anything bad. They had been through so many hardships in the snow. Many had been wounded and crippled in the War - they sacrificed so much! - and now they had to sleep out on the street; that was the "thank you" they got! I can't help comparing today's youth with the young men I knew then... No more than fifty years have gone by, but look how the world has changed.
Today's youth resembles a calf that is tied in a meadow, and constantly kicks and pulls on the rope to remove the stake and run away. Then it breaks loose, runs off and gets all tangled up and finally beasts come and devour it. When a child is young, it helps to apply the brake. You see, for example, a mischievous young boy climbing a wall, where he may fall and hurt himself badly.
"No, no," you shout, and you give him a slap or two. Next time he will be careful, not because he will think of the danger, but because he will be afraid of being slapped. Today no punishments are given out in schools or even in the army. This is why young people are such a menace to their teachers and the nation. In the army, in the old days, the more austere the basic training was, the greater the bravery the soldiers would show in battle.
A young person needs a spiritual guide, someone who will advise him and be eager to listen to his concerns, in order to proceed with spiritual security, without dangers, fears and dead ends. All of us, as we grow older, acquire experience from our own life and from the lives of others. But a young person lacks this experience. An older person should use his experience to help inexperienced youth avoid blunders. When young people refuse to take advice, they end up experimenting with their own lives. But if they take the advice given to them, they will have much to gain.
Young men from a Christian organization visited the Kalyvi once, and were boasting with self-confidence, "We don't need anybody; we'll find our own way!" Who knows why they said that? Perhaps they had been pressured too much and were rebelling. When they were about to leave, they asked me to point them the right direction for Iveron Monastery. "Which way should we go?" they asked. "Wait a minute," I told them, "didn't you, boys, say that you needed no one, that you will find your own way?
Didn't you just say that? Miss this road and you'll have only a minor inconvenience; at some point, you will run into someone and he will show you the way. But who is going to show you the road to Heaven? How will you get there on your own without a guide?" One of them said, "You know, the Elder may have a point."