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The Orthodox Christian Family: A Dwelling of Christ and a Witness of His Gospel - Part IV
42nd Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress
Philadelphia, PA – July 6 – 10, 2014
Part IV: The Orthodox Christian Family: A Witness of His Gospel
From God every family in Heaven and on earth is named (Ephesians 3:15)
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In prayerful preparation for our 42nd Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress we have reflected on our theme, "The Orthodox Christian Family: A Dwelling of Christ and a Witness of His Gospel." With the biblical affirmation that every family in Heaven and on earth is named by God, we have recognized the vital connection of the family to God. This connection is essential to the true identity of the family, the life and well-being of the family, and the role of the family both in the lives of its members and in the world.
In this final article on our theme, our focus is on the vital role of the Orthodox Christian family as a witness of the Gospel of Christ. When the family is connected to God, and the lives and home of the family are filled with the presence of Christ, the family will offer a true and beautiful witness of the grace, life, joy, and love that is presented in the Gospel. As the family experiences the forgiveness and healing offered by God, others will see His love. As the family finds assurance in the truth of the Gospel in the midst of a world of confusion, others will see the strength and wisdom that comes from above. As the family overcomes challenges and faces hardships with an enduring peace and unquenchable hope, others will see the power of grace and truth.
This witness of the Gospel by the Orthodox Christian family is offered through the life of the family, through all that the family does, and through the lives of each member. It is a witness that is reflected in the identity and character of the family that is connected to God. First and foremost, it is shown in the love that family members have for God and for each other--through the commitment to the life and well-being of each member, through the sacrifices made for the family, and through the effort to keep the life of the family focused on Christ. The family is also a witness of the Gospel through faithfulness in worship and prayer. For the Orthodox Christian family, worship both in the parish and in the home is sacred and essential. It is time that is cherished and protected. When the family shows that communion with God is a priority, others will see a witness of the source of their love and hope.
The family also offers a witness of the Gospel through service to others. From the love of God experienced through the presence of Christ, each member offers service through the ministries and special opportunities in their parish, as well as in their daily lives when needs arise. As the family prays together, the family serves together. Husbands and wives share the love of God side by side. Parents show their children the life in Christ by example and by teaching them how to respond to the needs of others. From this foundation of shared service, each member of the family is prepared to offer the compassion and healing of Christ in the home, at school, in the workplace, and in every moment and opportunity when the Gospel can be shared.
Our responsibility as leaders in our parishes, Metropolises and Archdiocese is to provide the support, resources, and coordination so that families can be what God created them to be. We must affirm the priority of ministry to the family. We must focus our efforts on connecting families to God. Certainly, this is essential for the salvation and well-being of each member, but it is also vital to our work in sharing the Gospel. As stated above when families are connected to God, when Christ dwells with the family, the Gospel will be shared. To fulfill our calling to go and teach the Gospel, we are called to nurture and guide families to be Orthodox Christian families.
In a few weeks we will gather in Philadelphia for our Clergy-Laity Congress. We will worship and pray together. We will review the tremendous progress that is being made at all levels of our Holy Archdiocese of America. We will seek God's guidance, wisdom, and inspiration to continue and expand our witness of His grace and truth. May we also focus specifically on our calling to strengthen families. May we commit the time and resources in the months and years ahead to nurturing Orthodox Christian families that are a dwelling of Christ and a witness of the Gospel.
With paternal love in Him,
Archbishop of America
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