My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
E KAT' OIKON EKKLESIA OR THE DOMESTIC OR HOME CHURCH
Everyone is cognizant of the ever-changing world and society that we live in and everyone knows that the changes that have become part of our daily lives are not always positive ones and profitable. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the average home. The home was once viewed as a safe haven for families (oikoggenies). It was a sacred place, 'the little church', a place of guidance, of prayer, of teaching the Christian faith, values, precepts, morality, respect for others, of compassion for others, of love. For Orthodox Christian families, the home was thought to be an extension of the Church, a place to practice what was taught on Sundays. The sanctity of the home for every husband and wife was placed into motion on the day of their Christian marriage when, through the crowning ceremony (stepsis), they were reminded that they were now royalty (king and queen) of a new "spiritual kingdom"--their household which was Christ-centered.
Tragically, most of today's home is not governed according to the holy teachings and principles taught by our Christian faith. Blame is cast in many directions: with two working parents, it is difficult to find time to devote to our family's spiritual needs. Children have so many "outside interests" that have taken them away from the home. We can go on and on with "reasons" for the decline of the Orthodox Christian home or the "Kat' oikon ekklesia". The truth of the matter, however, is that there should be no reason to have our home lose its Christian character.
It matters not if the parents are of a different Christian tradition. Theological differences may and do, exist between Christians of various traditions, however, the basic Christian principles regarding how to live as Christians, our faithfulness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and his commandments, the importance of the Holy Scripture, the necessity of daily prayer, of worship, of chastity, of living a virtuous life are the same. I believe all Christians believe that salvation can be attained only through Christ our Lord. It is absolutely necessary that the Christian family does not lose its Christian identity and become a secular institution.
Has it ever been easy to raise God-fearing children who are totally committed to Christ and His Holy Church? Orthodox Christian parents have historically labored under the yoke of pagan Rome, barbarian invasions, famine, the enslavement by Islam, communist oppression and atheism. Under the Ottoman Turkish occupation of Orthodox Christian countries, Christians found ways of teaching their children their Christian faith and culture in what we refer to as "crypha scholia" or "secret schools" in mountain caves. Under the communists, the Orthodox Christians had "the underground church". This was done knowing if caught by the authorities they would be either imprisoned or even executed.
The intrusion or invasion of the secular society in our home is very real and poses an immense threat to our family. It presents itself as 'entertainment'. The instruments that are used to corrupt and destroy the traditional and Christian family are television, the internet, computers, radio, movies, popular music through its lyrics which promote immoral messages. The secular society promotes and attempts to indoctrinate young people to condone all kinds of styles of life which are contrary to our Christian faith and the commandments of God. Christian parents must not surrender their children to this evil influence.
The supplications of the church are particularly good for verbalizing exactly what it is we need. We, as parents, should pray to the Mother of God. Through our Church's divine service the Akathist to the Mother of God called "Nurturer of Children."
"Raise my children to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Raise my children to have knowledge of good but not of sin. Raise my children to be wise against the snares of the devil. Raise my children to order their lives wisely, following the example of the Saints...Raise my children, O Lady, to be made worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven, and make them heirs of eternal blessings." (Ikos Two)
Keep your children close to the Church. Teach them our Christian faith and set for them a good example. Set aside time for prayer together each day. "The family that prays together stays together." Children should be taught to pray each morning and evening, as well as at meals, and parents should join them. Read the Holy Scripture each day, even if it is just a few verses and discuss it with them. Everyone is given a Church Calendar and follow it daily. Our Orthodox Christian faith is not just a "Sunday religion." It is a "tapestry" of holy feasts and fasts, with the commemoration of the Saints interwoven among them. Orthodox families should celebrate the holy feasts, honor and adhere to the fasts and imitate the lives of the Saints of our Holy Church. Prepare to receive Holy Communion by participating in the sacrament of Holy Confession first.
Saint Paul teaches us to "stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thessalonians 2:15). It is most important that Orthodox Christians practice the holy traditions of the Church. Prepare the 'bread of oblation" or "prosphoron" for the Divine Liturgy or boiled wheat" (kolyva) for the Saturday of Souls and make sure you bring the names of your dead relatives and friends. Invite your priest to bless your home and business following the feast of Theophany or during the year. Take fruit (grapes to church to be blessed on the Feast of the Holy Transfiguration. On Sunday mornings before you leave for church offer incense and go around to every room of your house as a blessing, have an icon corner at home where you keep your holy water, blessed flowers and your vigil light, there should be a holy icon or a cross in every room of your home except the bathroom of course.
Do not fail Christ or your family! Make God real in your home.
With sincere agape in Christ,