The Church in Your House
Our motto this year, “the church in your house”, is a phrase taken from several of Apostle Paul’s Epistles, where in the early Church, groups of Christians gathered in homes to pray and worship together and partake of Holy Communion. This was a time when Christians felt they weren’t part of the world anymore, that is, they had rejected a world full of idolaters, people that sacrificed animals and children to the hundreds of gods they believed in, or people who had rejected the Messiah. Christians wanted to live God’s promise – they wanted to live heaven on earth. This they did in their houses.
Today when we think of the Church, we often think of it in the big picture sense, something greater than us, encompassing all Christians. The expression “the church in your house”, brings it back from that all-encompassing image, to the everyday, to the personal. It is not just a place we come and go from whenever there is a Divine Liturgy, it is a church in our house… it is our own home as a church. Every day and always.
This is the invitation of this year’s motto. For our home to be sanctified, to be sacred, and our family to be a little Church of Christ.
To understand what this means, we can ask ourselves what defines a church? Firstly, we think of buildings filled with icons, smelling of incense. We think of priests and bishops and rules that govern everyone. We think of all the Christians baptised into the Church. When we think about this, most of us would agree that our family home does bear some similarities to this.
Our families are baptised Christians. We fill our home with icons, we light candles and burn incense. We also have rules that govern us and we set spiritual rules to help us be more vigilant. Most of all, we try to make our home a place where God is not only present, but He rules as Lord and King.
Our homes are places where our families find sanctuary from the world we live in. The home is a place where we are nurtured and where we nurture. It is both a place of rest, but also of spiritual struggle. St John Chrysostom describes our home as “a tournament and an arena of virtue, so that there, being well exercised with much knowledge, we attend to those in the marketplace.” In other words, our training as Christian athletes begins in the home, or rather the church in our house, which prepares us to deal with the world, to know how to behave and respond as Christians in our studies and in our jobs.
It is well known that the family forms the foundations of a healthy and moral society. The enemy of our salvation understands this and is doing his best to destroy in our minds and hearts the sanctity of true family life. Only one example is the recent desecration of marriage by the legalisation of same-sex unions. In our Orthodox Christian teaching however, marriage, in which a man and a woman become mystically one in the image of the oneness of God, is also the very image of the Church: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church” (Eph 5:32). Husband and wife, along with their entire family, are called to be one with God, to be part of His Church.
Let us not just hang icons in our houses, but let the Saints be living members of our families and let us also become Saints. Let us not simply light candles, but ourselves becoming candles melting with love for God. Let us not just burn incense, but have the scent of holiness fill our homes and our lives. Then, not only will we be more complete members of our families, but more complete members of humanity.
As a contemporary monk on Mount Athos said: “When we learn to overcome our ego, we become true members of our families, and when we learn to become true members of our families by overcoming our ego then we become true members of the whole human race of Adam and then we will be able to pray for all humanity. Of course this is simply the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts. It is not at all by chance, that behind the three Great Heirarchs [St Basil, St Gregory and St John Chrysostom] were saintly mothers, saintly fathers, and saintly families. If we want the world to improve, let us first correct ourselves and our families.”
May this year be a new beginning for us and our family!
Source: Lychnos February/March 2018