2014 – Year of the Elder
National Representative Assemblies,
Religious and Executive Councils,
Boards of Trustees and the
Faithful People of the Holy See of Cilicia
On these days with the mystery and anointed message of the incarnation of the Son of God, and the New Year, we greet you from the Catholicosate of the Holy See of the Great House of Cilicia with pontifical blessings and warm Christian love, and wish you rich and happy days filled with heavenly goodness, and declare 2014 the
YEAR OF THE ELDER
The Elderly in the Bible
On any occasion in our lives, as a Christian people we must always consult the Bible, to begin correctly and to receive clear direction.
In the Old Testament, the words “elder” (tzer) and “senior” (yeretz) are usually used as synonyms, and they are mentioned on many occasions in different meanings. Hence, the elderly were recognized as the city’s legislators, or judges, or the family’s noblemen and rulers (Genesis 50:7), leaders of a tribe and dynasty (Numbers 11:16-17), or a nation’s major representatives and leaders (Exodus 3:16). As individuals with experience, who worked hard, it was the function of the elderly to propose solutions to problems in the life of society, to study the concerns of the people and meet their needs, and to act as leaders.
Likewise, in the New Testament elders are looked upon as church leaders and clergy (1 Peter 5:1-2), leaders of cities (Luke 7:3), as well as those who were zealous guardians of tradition (Matthew 15:1-3). It was the duty of elders to closely follow concerns that arose in the Church (Acts 15:1-3), be attentive to the protection of the Church’s order and laws (Matthew 15:1-2), to encourage the spread of God’s Word (1 Peter 5:1-2), to secure the Church’s economic income (Acts 11:29-30), and when needed to call meetings to examine questions and problems that arise concerning the Church (Luke 22:66).
The ample references to the elderly in the Bible clearly demonstrate that the elderly were not left out of the central page of society and life, and that they even had an important place and role in the scope of the divine revelation. The elderly have been considered to be synonymous with prudence, wisdom, experience, and objectivity, and therefore have been entrusted with the task of leadership.
Seniors in the Life of the Church
The Church Fathers gave an important place to the elderly in their writings in biblical commentaries, and church history, always citing biblical testimonies and events, including the special role of the elderly in Christian witness and the task of administering church affairs. Indeed, the Church Fathers have many thoughtful proposals and testimonies about the elderly. For example, Patriarch John Chrysostom compares the elderly person to old wine, saying that the more the wine ages the more valuable it becomes. Similarly, it was stated that when persons who are filled with the spirit of God, become old they become more valuable and helpful to society.
Naturally, throughout history, as a Christian people, we have demonstrated special respect and care for the elderly. Our Church Fathers, beginning with St. Gregory the Illuminator and St. Nerses the Great, to St. Nerses the Graceful, and from Khrimian Hairig to more recent times, our Catholicoi paid special attention to the elderly, not only to make our nation’s elderly the object of our obligation, but also to emphasize the necessity of building old age homes and retirement residences.
Honoring and Taking Care of the Elderly
The presence and role of the elderly in society as depicted in the Bible and by our Church Fathers, as well as in the pages of our people’s history, clearly portray the elderly as being prudent, tranquil, righteous, sober, and experienced. Throughout history, these five traits of human behavior, mentality, and action have been present in some large or small measure in the elderly.
Indeed, the elder generation is the lifeline of society, the foundation of the family, and one of the strong footholds of any organization. Our people must show a high level of care, love, attention, and respect for their elders.
First, it is necessary to protect the elderly. It is absolutely unacceptable for our seniors to be considered to be separate from our life and in the margins where they are powerless, unprotected, and without a guardian. The supreme guardian is the nation, with all of its many levels, and those in leadership positions. Seniors are an undivided and indivisible part of our living nation—our Fatherland, our Church, and our organizations. Let us not forget also that the prime guardians of the elderly in their weak and difficult times, is the family, their children. The spirit of duty must be firmly rooted in the consciousness of our nation’s children.
Second, it is necessary to respect the elderly. It is God’s commandment to respect the elderly, and it is also the basis of the laws of humanity. Seniors must be respected for their long years of service, for the experience and wisdom they have gained. It is necessary for us to respect the elderly in our everyday life, give them love and care, and establish a special relationship with them. Sometimes we see indifference towards the elderly by the young generation. The education of our youth must include the necessity of respect for the elder generation.
Third, it is necessary to listen to the elderly. Generally in our lives we are inclined to speak, advise, and command. Listening inspires self-confidence and leads us to wisdom. In order to know the truth it is necessary to turn to the elderly and to their experiences in life, both positive and negative, and utilize their experience as a guide to our lives. Indeed, the new generation has much to learn from the old generation. No matter how much the New World has enriched the new generation with immense progress, the lifelong experience of the elderly has an important role alongside the younger generation’s expertise.
Fourth, it is necessary to care for the elderly. With advancing age the elderly have need of care in every way. Those who neglect to perform their filial obligations properly and fully toward their aged parents are regarded to be sinful according to the principles of Christianity and civilized society. And, as we stated, those seniors without a guardian, without family or relatives, must be cared for by the nation. This has always been the case.
Indeed, not only in early or recent history, but also today, to the credit of our people, we continue our special care of our elderly. In Lebanon, Syria, Greece, the United States, and elsewhere, we have well organized homes for the aged and retirement homes, where the older generations of our nation find shelter and receive medical care.
* * *
In declaring the current year as “The Year of the Elderly,” we wish to express our high pontifical appreciation of all organizations, benefactors, guardians, physicians, and nurses who care for our elder generation. Dearly beloved, you are engaged in God-pleasing work. Always remember the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel (Luke 10:30-37), and continue your dedicated service with even greater faith and dedication.
We wish to express our deep appreciation and warm thanks also to the churches and organizations in Switzerland, Germany, United States, and Denmark, who after the Genocide established homes for the elderly in Lebanon, Syria, and Greece, and later entrusted those institutions to our people while continuing for a time their financial support.
On this occasion we offer our heartfelt suggestions:
a. It must be the sacred duty of all families to zealously provide the senior members of their family with the necessary care.
b. It is necessary for the children of our nation, and especially our young generation, to strengthen their love and zeal for their elders.
c. It is necessary to financially support existing old age homes and health centers so that they will be able to provide greater care in their humanitarian service.
d. Impelled by our concern to make the care of our elderly better organized, it is necessary to establish new programs utilizing modern and special methodology. Our fellow compatriots who have the financial means must be earnestly concerned about the future wellbeing of the institutions caring for the elderly.
Following the Genocide, we saw the silent suffering of our mothers and fathers who lived through massacre and exile. And then followed the generation of orphans, who also lived through the terrible aftermath of the Genocide. Now and forever, we must never—never!—forget the tortured lives of our grandfathers and grandmothers.
The elder generation, with its deep faith, strong will, hard work, and enlightened vision built our people’s rebirth. Honor and respect to our elder generation! On the eve of the 100th anniversary, let us, with deep emotion and faithfulness, remember all of our elders who were victims of the Genocide. Let us also remember the orphans who became the lifeline of the resurrection of our people, and the reminders of our rights.
Therefore, we ask our Prelates, Clergy, National Representative Assemblies, Religious and Executive Councils, Boards of Trustees, and all of our affiliated community organizations to organize events during 2014, taking into consideration these thoughts and expectations that will strengthen the care, love, and respect we have for the elder generation.
We pray to Almighty God to keep in his heavenly care and protection our fathers and mothers in their advanced age, and fill their lives with good health, happiness, and abundant goodness.
With affectionate fatherly love and blessings,
Catholicos of the
Great House of Cilicia
January 1, 2014