Christ wishes the disciples to be kept in a state of unity by maintaining a like-mindedness and an identity of will, being mingled together, as it were, in soul and spirit and in the law of peace and love for one another. He wishes them to be bound together rightly with an unbreakable bond of love, that they may advance to such a degree of unity that their freely chosen association might even become an image of the natural unity that is conceived to exist between the Father and the Son. That is to say… to enjoy a unity that is inseparable and indestructible, which may not be enticed away into a dissimilarity of wills by anything that exists in the world or any pursuit of pleasure, but rather preserves the power of love in the unity of devotion and holiness. (St. Cyril of Alexandria on John 17:11)
These words from St. Cyril convey an icon of what our life in Church is to be. They also convey an image of what family life is to be. Yet, we live in a broken world where what is conveyed in these words from St. Cyril is not always the reality of family life. Divorce and remarriage, reconstituted families, and single parent families are also common in our churches. How do we enter into this unity “where our freely chosen association might even become an image of the natural unity that is conceived to exist between the Father and the Son”? Some thoughts to reflect upon:
- Read the Scriptures, especially the gospels, on a daily basis. Learn what Christ’s commandments are.
- Keep your daily prayer rule, and pray as a family once a day when possible.
- Practice the ascetical life in addition to prayer; keep the fasts, and give alms.
- Strive to minimize political discussions in family life.
- Learn the virtue of obedience, which means putting to death your own self-will. Self-will is the biggest obstacle to maintaining unity with one another.
- Memorize these verses from Philippians: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11 NIV)
By making these words from Philippians our own, we will all come a long way on the journey to enter into this unity with one another that is “inseparable and indestructible.”
The blessing of the Lord be upon you,
With love in Christ, Archbishop Paul