∗I delivered this sermon far back as 1995. I find that it is current today as it was 23 years ago, however, I must elaborate on my claim at the time that there is no greater evil than television. Television is still evil, but the internet, with all of its challenges, can be more evil than television. I will discuss this topic in my forthcoming article.
Let’s not give up our beautiful, old tradition
Soon there will be the holiday Djetinjci. This holiday marks a beginning of a cycle of family oriented holidays, which slowly lead us to pre-Christmas joy of celebrating the Holy Family. And with that in mind, we should not be indifferent to how easily and carelessly we have abandoned our beautiful and old traditions, while accepting those of other people, of which we usually, do not know the meaning or the significance.
For example, just in these pre-Christmas days, how many of us know about Vara’s-day, or Sava’s-day, which come before St Nicholas Day? How many of us still know the meaning of the saying: “Vara vari, Sava ladi a Nikola kusa?”
The beauty of these traditions is in their modesty and simplicity. It used to be well known: on the day of St. Varvara the cooking was done-wheat was cooked, mixed with other grains of the earth. The eve of St. Nicholas day was dedicated to Saint Sava The Sanctified, whose name our Saint Sava received in his monastic life. It is implied that winter was strong during these days, hence the saying “Sava ladi” (Sava cools). And the phrase “Nikola kusa” (Nikola tastes) refers to our Orthodox tradition of fasting during these days. Therefore, it was celebrated with a fasting meal, and those who eat and serve roasted pork and other gourmet meals during the days before and after St. Nicholas day as well as during the Christmas Lent should know this.
The beauty of customs is in their modesty and warmth
There is no money or expenses, but there is an abundance of traditions. When, chasing after gifts, people spend all their money, they, somehow realize that the possible meaning of all these, for us the orthodox Christians, newly established holidays, is to make the deep pockets of the rapacious rich people even deeper. Every year, after their Christmas, it is my thought that various merchants – of who-knows-what faiths and customs, which they preserve – can rejoice the most in the Christian Christmas. While they rub their hands, the poor try to sum up their accounts and barely make ends meet in the following few months, to compensate for their hastiness.
Therefore, I would remind those forgetful Serbs, that we too have our family holidays: Djetinjci, Materice, Očevi, Mladenci and many others, and that we do not need their Father’s, Mother’s and other Days, and that our customs, thank God, do not require any unrestrained expenses. Their purpose is to encourage our love for each other. I remember when I was a child, on this day, Djetinjci, I used to think of myself as someone important and significant since, all of a sudden, I was the one that bestowed upon others. Our people, old and wise, knew they should teach their children, from an early age, the joy of giving and sacrificing. These selfish, and self-centered generations, the offshoots of their selfish fathers and mothers, do not represent the best of what our good people can give.
Let’s turn to ourselves and our families
Nowadays, when everything is set to destroy and annihilate all those sacred and beloved values – family above all – while we still have some time, let’s turn to ourselves and our families and make an effort, as much as it is to us, to enclose and strengthen our families, to keep them warm and protected. They deceive us when they reassure us that, our lives would be much easier and more beautiful once our family nest breaks down. Don’t you see how easily a divorce is obtained; easier than a driver’s licence? Many get into this adventure, without thinking about its tragic consequences. When “devil comes for what’s his,” and it is time to pay those dreadful bills, then it will be too late for a bitter remorse. I know of cases where the father and the mother, with all that intemperance and vehemence innate in us all, threw around all sorts of bad words, only to reunite after several years of ruined life, suffering of everyone involved, severe costs and losses, aware that, no matter how bad they were, they still were the best to one another, and to their children.
There aren’t enough words to describe the importance of our family. Let’s keep in mind the fact that the Lord chose to proclaim himself through a family. He did not want to come to us through some rich and magnificent palace; instead, he had arrived to a modest and honest home, and he chose to bless it and, with it, all other honest families. Let’s not forget that our Lord performed the first of His miracles, the first announcement of His divine power, in the wedding of two orphans, who just started building their own family nest.
They are taking our children away from u
People usually talk the most about things they have the least. Here, they surrounded and “protected”, as they like to say, our children with all kinds of strict laws; they have given the children countless rights on paper; however, they will never, I suppose because they can’t, give them the only but the most important thing children need: love and attention. They gave a name to everything-they created neologisms and they shackled our children with their “right” to everything other than a normal and happy life within the circle of a healthy and strong family. The more there are laws on paper, the more there are unhappy children on the streets of this, and all other relentless cities.
From an early age, they teach our children that nobody could touch them; they instil fear and distrust in children, of everything, including their parents, in such a way that not even a birth father can caress his child in a fatherly manner any more; so that after they snatch them away from their parent’s hands, and put them out in the cold streets, everyone can cruelly harass them. Parents are denied the right to be parents to their children, to reprimand them and discipline them as parents. Before they even teach children to cross the road safely, they infix in their little heads police number, so they could call the police if their father or mother punishes them. If that happens, there are dozens of psychologists and psychiatrists, so called “experts” who will send those poor parents to various exams and tests, from Pontius to Pilate, to courtrooms and madhouses, until parents finally realize that everyone else has more rights regarding their children except parents themselves
Let us be true parents to our children
For children’s holiday Detinjci, let’s really think about our children. Let’s dig deep into our souls and see what would really be the most important thing for our children. Let’s first think of how we can be true parents to them. Even if life was not very kind to us, let’s go back to our childhood and let’s give our children what was denied to us. That is far from buying them a gift or expensive, stupid toys. I’m horrified when I hear that stereotypical and ludicrous phrase: “Since I did not enjoy, and I did not have it all, at least my child can.” This parvenu logic has cost us a lot and it will cost us even more.
We can see parents who are uneducated, but diligent and clever, who came here, worked very hard and settled, while their children spend their time in front of a TV or a computer, wasting days and nights lying on sofas and armchairs, becoming lazy and weak, so they can somehow, barely finish some schools and find some miserable employment while unprepared for life, so they can linger away their earthly lives. It is rare that our businesses live through the second generation. Spoiled by their mothers, and raised to feel as the centre of the universe, when they encounter other people alike, they never get the courage to step into life independently and by themselves, and to start their own families and have their own children. I gave it a lot of thought and here’s my I conclusion: how can a “mama’s boy” get into a marriage when he has everything he needs in his mother’s home, while also getting all the other things easily, and when there isn’t anyone’s daughter that would be suitable and ready to replace his mother: one that cooks well, does the laundry, irons the clothes, cleans and serves, specially if that someone’s daughter is a “mama’s little girl”, who herself has learned to be served
Let’s return to our root
I always mention that, as in everything else, we must return to our old and established ways and customs, and we must not try – with some exceptional cases – to be smarter and more advanced than our wise and experienced ancestors. That sacred and impartial strictness of our parents is what has made us into people. If that recipe was good for centuries, if it was good for us, then why do we leave it aside and adopt other disastrous methods. If our work has made us into people, it will turn our children into people too. It’s that ample and effective
We have to rely on our own powers and on ourselves and to arm ourselves with patience. I warn all young parents: Do not fool yourselves that anyone, other than you, will raise your children; unfortunately, school the least. If you do not teach your child to count and calculate, to read and write, the way our good old teachers taught us, these teachers certainly would not. He or she would not remember your child’s face even if tortured. To him or her, your child is just another boring number and nothing more. Ask your older children whether they remember at least one teacher from elementary school. If, by any chance, they do recall one, don’t worry- it is not for the good things. I, like you, certainly remember all my teachers from the first grade to the final university days, with deep respect and gratitude. The memories of the earlier ones are clearer and more beloved than those of the later ones.
The harmful effects of television
There is one more thing I tell all young parents: those, whose children are still very young, will do them a favour if they take the TV and accidentally drop it to break into small pieces. I believe there is no greater evil for the young souls of our children than this phenomenon, and there will never be. Even if there were hundreds of channels, or three times that, children could never learn anything meaningful from that toxic box. Television delivers them an unreal and nonexistent world of fame and wealth, hatred and violence. It distracts them from true literature, good books and contemplation. Can’t we see that our children do not socialize or talk to each other? When, at Slavas and other family celebrations of my parishioners, I see their children and the children of the gathered guests, who, regardless of an abundance of food, have ordered pizza, and sit silently staring at the TV, all my joy disappears, and I feel terrible and sorry for them and their parents, and for all of us together.
Children are a gift from God
Children are a gift from God. We can be God’s gift to our children too, but only in one way and that is to be true parents to them. At the time of our beautiful family holidays, before and after Christmas as well as any other God given day, let’s give each other love and attention so that our earthly days are filled with happiness and joy. Amen
Toronto, December 15, 1995