Bucharest, January 2, 2023
The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church has proclaimed 2023 as the year of honor of the pastoral care for the elderly, and the commemorative year of hymnographers and Church chanters.
The Romanian Synod dedicates every year to a specific theme, with events throughout the year celebrating a different aspect of the Orthodox Christian spiritual life. Last year was dedicated to the centrality of prayer in the Orthodox life and to the great hesychasts Sts. Symeon the New Theologian, Gregory Palamas, and Paisius (Velichkovsky).
“Care for the elderly, for children, and for the poor shows the degree of civilization and the depth of Christian living of a people,” His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel of Romania said in his address on the dedications.
“From this point of view, we’re particularly concerned about the state of social abandonment and disinterest towards the elderly (parents and grandparents) which we often see in society today.”
Traditional society has always been concerned for the elderly, the Patriarch said, which is clearly testified to throughout the Scriptures.
“The New Testament clearly shows us that the wisdom of the elderly depends on their closeness to God through prayer and the virtuous life they live,” His Beatitude continued, pointing to the example of St. Symeon, who was blessed to hold the Christ Child in his arms in the Temple.
The Church is beautifully adorned by gray-haired infirmity united with faith, says St. John Chrysostom, and old age must also be understood as the time when people are approaching their final journey to the Lord, the Romanian primate adds.
However, many elderly people unfortunately live in isolation today, feeling useless and traumatized by their aging.
The Church is called to think of new forms and current pastoral methods, getting closer to the needs and expectations of the elderly. At the same time, work must also be done on raising and educating young people in order not to marginalize the elderly, not to abandon them and isolate them in social assistance centers, because young people and elderly people need each other. More precisely, the elderly need comfort and a word of encouragement, and the young need the wisdom, patience, and power of prayer of the elderly.
The elderly, through their spiritual maturity, can help a lot to preserve Christian values in our culture, for the harmony of society and the family. Therefore, the Church will help the elderly to overcome the lack of confidence, sadness and isolation, which prevent them from participating actively and with hope in the life of the community.
And the Church is already helping the elderly, of course. As the Patriarch notes, there are 21 day care centers, 54 residential settlements, and 52 home care services on the Patriarchate level, all intended for the elderly.
And if 2022 was dedicated to prayer, then 2023 is dedicated to prayer accompanied by Church singing, as psalmody itself is communal prayer, His Beatitude continues.
The Patriarch quotes the great Romanian theologian Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae: “God is so great that only poetry can try to express Him.”
“The theology expressed in Church hymnography is among the richest in meaning and, at the same time, most enlightening for the believers of our Church, therefore it must be used more in the sermons and catechesis of our days,” Pat. Daniel encourages, with reference to great hymnographers from Romania and the entire Church.
“The commemorative year of hymnographers and church singers thus becomes an occasion to commemorate those who labored through their work, inspired by God, to compose Church songs and interpret them, for our advancement in the knowledge of God.”