Inside the Domestic Church Part 6: The Natural Family-Church and Family Tradition
For Eastern Christians, the home is an icon of the Church. As a result, the home is our domestic church. In fact, the same hymns which are sung at the ordination of a priest are sung during weddings; this emphasizes that a wedding is in a sense an ordination for the domestic church, a calling of the bride and groom to share in Christ’s priesthood in their little “c” church. The parents in each household are thus entrusted with the responsibility of blessing their children and their meals, with “preaching” through their own behavior as an example, celebrating feasts and fasts, lighting candles before icons, and of course through prayer.
Similarly, children can aid in the domestic church, gaining responsibility as they age. They can read from Scripture and help prepare the foods particular to various feast days, many of which will be covered as a part of our series.
As in our Church life, all the practices of the domestic church should be rooted in love. A family which grows and prays together in love best nurtures its children and prepares them for a life in the love of God and His Church.
In busy lives pulled in all manner of directions, the domestic church can also aid us in establishing continuity between the Church as we experience it throughout the week and our home lives. Church becomes, then, more than something which we do on Sundays but an integral part of our lives, a more holistic religious pratice which reminds us of the lives of the early Christians.
As we continue in our series to explore various practices of the domestic church, keep one thing in mind: if they’ve never been done before, many of these practices may seem forced. You might be self-conscious or feel silly as you attempt to implement them into your life. One way to mitigate this is to not be afraid of avoiding taking on too much at once: feel free to incorporate different traditions slowly and overtime. One easy way to become “burned out” is to go from nothing to everything in a short amount of time.
In addition to its importance to the wider Church, Tradition is a vital aspect of our home lives. It provides a sense of rootedness, of a being-in-history which demonstrates that we are a part of the unfolding of history and its realization in Christ. Children will come to know that they have a story of their own as they learn how their parents met, where their grandparents came from, and all the fascinating stories, happy and sad, in the narrative of their lives.
The relating of family tradition by parents in the domestic church is every bit as important as the relating of Church tradition by priests in the Church. Children can learn from both our triumphs and mistakes and one day impart their accumulated wisdom to their own children and grandchildren. They will also gain the knowledge that God has been working in their family and continues to work, constantly preparing us for our future.