Friday, September 5, 2014

Orthodox family life: A beautiful memory

family-2.jpgI visited an Orthodox family a few years ago. Father, mother, and four teenage children welcomed me so warmly that I felt I had become a part of their close-knit family. It seemed the word “stranger” did not exist for them. There was no awkwardness in their conversation, no pretense or vain show-off - instead, there was endless warmth and love. We conversed on topics of common interest. The lampadka remained lit in the corner of the room, where there were many icons and an analogion with books.

In the evening, the father suddenly said: “Prayers”! One of the daughters immediately ran to the various rooms to fetch her siblings. One by one they came wandering into the common room, while the father started:

Through the prayers of our holy fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us! Glory to Thee o God, glory to Thee….O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things…

Soon one of the girls took over. Mother had piously covered her head with a scarf. The youngest girl ended the evening prayers, and then the family broke out in song with the troparions to all their patron saints and the saint of their parish church. They were not great singers, but they knew all the words - speaking to the saints as to their extended family!

After these ten minutes, all quickly helped prepare an evening snack, over which we continued our conversations. The girls soon wandered off to their rooms to continue their girls’ activities and their homework, perhaps? School morning tomorrow…!

icon-corner.jpgTo my astonishment, at six o’clock in the morning, the scene repeated itself. “Prayers! Come on, get up”, I could hear not far away from the guest room. A few minutes later, three girls, mother and father, and myself, still half-asleep, stood in front of the icons, and mother now started the prayers. The readers alternated, each knowing when it was her turn. The youngest daughter finally wandered in, still in her pyjamas…

Prayers were nearly finished. Father announced: “Reading from the Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians!” and we listened to the Epistle and the Gospel readings for the day. The entire session took only 15 minutes - the readers knew these prayers, and had no need to go slow…
Father rushed off to work. I shared breakfast with more or less awake and enthusiastic children. One of the oldest turned to me to explain:

“It’s because our dad lived in a monastery for a while when he was young - we live sort of like in a monastery, with prayers every day. But we are used to it, I actually like it and can’t imagine living in a different way”

                               How blessed Orthodox family life can be!
On Saturday night, we all went to church together for the evening service. The girls sang. Everyone had Confession. They then asked forgiveness of each other, for any unintended hurts that might have occurred.
Next morning, there were no common prayers at home, as all were off to church. The girls ran in and out of each others’ rooms, asking to borrow such-and-such a skirt and “the blue silk scarf, because it is a day for the Mother of God!”. We arrived at church nearly on time…

Time proved that this way of life was neither without fruit nor a forced exercise. All the children remained close to the Church, and they converted their future spouses to the holy Orthodox faith. They were used to fasts and feasts, prayer in Church and at home, and the Mysteries accompanying every important moment of their lives.

More on the place of the icon corner in an Orthodox home.

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