I had the opportunity to spend a week at the Convent of the Annunciation in Ormylia, a monastery of over 100 nuns in northern Greece. My purpose was to retreat: to be refreshed and renewed in Christ through entering the daily rhythm of monastic life (prayer, worship, work, rest, fellowship). However, God had more in store for this visit. I did return home refreshed and renewed, but to my delight and surprise, I also learned a lot about family life, things I wish I had been more aware of when our children were young.
Monastic communities are like families. Each has a “mother” or “father” or both. At Ormylia, the mother is the abbess, Gerontissa Nikodimi, and the spiritual father is the abbot of Simonopetra, Geronta Eliseos, who visits Ormylia regularly. Together with the sisters, they constitute a monastic “family,” with the sisters being in obedience to the Gerontissa on a daily basis. This “obedience” is both similar to and different from the obedience a child has to his/her mother or father. We will explore this relationship and the practice of obedience in a future article.
I learned many lessons from this family of nuns, most importantly that the primary function of the family is to recognize and honor Christ, who is always in our midst, in every nook and cranny of family life. In our busy world we tend to compartmentalize our lives into work, school, Christ/Church, finances, recreation, health, family life, and other activities. We tend to think of Christ as being “out there somewhere,” rather than living in each of us and in our midst through virtue of our baptism when we “became clothed in/put on Christ.”
However, as I learned at Ormylia, if we are truly living in Christ, we acknowledge and honor Him in everything we say and do. Particularly in family life, we recognize and acknowledge Christ in all of our interactions with one another. The nuns acknowledge Christ by the way they greet one another in passing throughout the day, saying warmly and lovingly, “Evlogite,” and respond with, “O Theos”; that is, “Bless,” “The Lord blesses.”
How can we more intentionally recognize Christ in our midst in every nook and cranny of family life?
We will explore this intentionality in the next article to follow, which will include reflections and activities for family life.
Let’s begin with a family meeting. Whether or not you have children. and no matter their ages if you do, after beginning with prayer, sit in a comfortable space in your home and discuss the following question: How do we honor/acknowledge Christ in our home every day? You may need to modify this question for age appropriateness. So for younger children, you might ask: How do we remember Jesus in our house every day? Then make a list and post it somewhere in your home, adding to it as you become more intentional. This list can be in the form of a poster you make together, with various icons of the major feast days honoring Christ pasted to it . . . or whatever you think of as a family.
Presvytera Kerry Pappas is the Coordinator for Seminarian and Clergy Couple Care for the the GOA Center for Family Care.