Our Orthodox Christian faith teaches us that God's love is a continuously abiding, healing, and transforming presence in our lives. The love of God accords peace and tranquility to every aspect of our lives, especially within our families, which are called to be communities of care and intimacy that reflect His perfect love. As parents and guardians, we are charged with the task of raising Christian families characterized by the love of God. Though a formidable task at times, we have numerous examples before us; and we may particularly learn much from the portraits of families presented in the lives of the Saints and in the Holy Scriptures.
Consider the family of St. Basil the Great, for example, whose Liturgy we celebrate on each Sunday of this Lenten season. The guidance offered by his parents and grandparents, who were well-known for their witness of the faith under persecution, their virtues and their care for the poor, had an extraordinary influence upon Saint Basil. This influence was reflected in his own dedication to prayer, his commitment to learning, and his exceptional leadership abilities. As a result of the heritage of piety and the cultivation of mind and soul in their home, six of Saint Basil's immediate family members were declared saints by the Church.
Consider also the paradigmatic parable of the Prodigal Son, which serves as a model for instilling repentance, forgiveness, adult responsibility, and love in the home. The cultivation of these attitudes and values, reflected by the parable in the relations between a father and his two sons, are particularly important for families that may perhaps be struggling with disciplinary problems involving one or more children. Often these problems demand so much attention from parents that the spiritual well-being of the other members of the family suffers.
Here, it is important to note that the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son did not neglect the cultivation of spiritual values in his home; rather, he properly understood the delineation of duties that belonged to him and the duties that belonged to his sons. He patiently understood the complexities and uncertainties of parenting. He gracefully encountered the inevitable realization, known to many parents, that he had to allow his child to leave the home and establish independence. Most importantly, the father understood that it was his son's duty to come to his own realization of his tragic and sinful condition through repentance. This is the essence of our Lenten journey. It was in this context that the father was able to rejoice when his son repented and eventually returned home.
What we see in these two examples is the power of faith in the home and in the life of the family. In the life of Saint Basil, we see how the fruits of holiness are cultivated by the commitment of an entire family to the will of God. In the story of the Prodigal Son, we encounter the properly defined roles of repentance, forgiveness, responsibility, and love in the family. Each of these examples is illustrative of how families that nurture their children in love and holiness enable them to properly face the realities, good or bad, of this world. A family that always keeps God its central focus, moves all its members closer toward the attainment of the ultimate experience, namely union with God.
As we reflect upon the continuously abiding, healing, and transforming presence of God's love in our lives, and as we work as parents and guardians to cultivate this love within our own families, I pray that the numerous examples of the Saints and the families in the Holy Scriptures may continue to inspire and grant comfort, reassurance, confidence, and peace in the important task of cultivating love within the home. May the peace of Almighty God abide in your homes and families always.
Archbishop of America