The following is the conclusion of a message from His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, written on the eve of the Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, which be held this July 6th-9th in Philadelphia. Click here for more information on Clergy-Laity.
From God every family in Heaven and on earth is named (Ephesians 3:15)
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We continue our reflections on the theme for our upcoming Clergy-Laity Congress by focusing on the identity, character, and life of the Orthodox Christian family. As Orthodox Christians we are blessed with a beautiful and rich spiritual heritage that offers us tremendous guidance and resources for strengthening and ministering to the family. In the previous article in this series, we emphasized the biblical basis of this heritage from the Old Testament, the life of Christ and the identity of the family in the early Church.
On this foundation has been built the continuous witness of the character of the family through the lives of many faithful and Saints. In addition to the holy lives that offer an example of family life in communion with God, we find numerous sermons and letters that offer guidance on marriage and raising children, prayers and exhortations for strengthening the family in the face of challenges and adversity, and the power and continuity of our rich heritage of worship and fellowship within the local parish.
From this heritage and resources of our Orthodox faith, we can see that the Orthodox Christian family is first and foremost a family that lives in strong connection with God. As we discussed in the first article, God is the source and identity of the family. Families that are connected with God will be what God intends them to be. Further, the relationship and communion with God is nurtured when families use the resources that are offered by our faith. When a family reads the Holy Scriptures and hearts and minds are filled with the truth of God, when a family learns about the holy lives of parents and children who became Saints and seeks to follow their witness, when a family participates fully in the life of the parish through worship, the sacraments, and ministry, that family is an Orthodox Christian family. From this relationship with God and with a strong and holy identity as an Orthodox Christian family, a family is then able to reveal the true character and nature of the family.
When a family is identified as a genuine Orthodox Christian family, it offers a beautiful and holy witness to the world of the blessed and abundant life in communion with God. The Orthodox Christian family knows the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge…and is filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19). Through worship of Him and service to others, the family offers a visible example of the true identity of the family and what God created the family to be. All of their endeavors and relationships become opportunities to share the grace of God, to bear spiritual fruit in their lives and the lives of others, and to reveal the blessed life and promises that come from the Father.
This identity and witness of the Orthodox Christian family should be one of our primary concerns at all levels of our Holy Archdiocese. We have begun an essential and critical work through the Center for Family Care. We have enhanced our resources on marriage and family life, but there is so much more to do. As we prepare for our 42nd Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, we must prayerfully considered and seek God’s guidance in extending these ministries and initiating others that will reach more families in need, bring families into our parishes, and establish and nurture the Church in the home. We need to gather additional resources and plan additional means to nurture, strengthen, and protect Orthodox Christian families. I ask each of you to make this a priority in your prayers, to analyze and evaluate the work of your parishes, and to bring new ideas and suggestions, a renewed commitment, and open hearts and minds to our Congress.
Above all, may we ask our God and Creator, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, to bless our preparations and to guide us in His abundant grace.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America