I cannot stress how important it is that family life is the main place where Christian formation takes place. The epistle reading from Romans for last Sunday speaks to this theme:
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification. Romans 6:17-19
The first part of Romans Chapter 6 focuses on the reality of baptism; we die through the cross to the Old Adam of sin leading to death, and put on the New Adam, Christ, in the power of newly resurrected life in Him. The second half of the chapter speaks to how this new life in Christ is lived by the Spirit in the body. Once we were slaves to sin, and now we are becoming slaves to righteousness. With the same zealousness we pursued a sinful life, we are now with that same zealousness called to live a righteous, Godly life.
What Baptism has given us is the freedom to choose the path we are called to follow. The problem with this path is we can’t always see what lies before us on that path, as it may disappear into the fog. We can only see the next few steps ahead of us and nothing more. Therefore, it is tempting to return to the past that we have been freed from, because we know how things will go. We may be miserable, we may be unhappy, but it is predictable. With freedom comes taking risks and taking responsibility for our choices. We don’t know how things will turn out. The past can make us victims, where we are not to blame. Whereas when we live in the freedom of our new life in Christ, it enables us to become responsible for our actions and to realize our true humanity.
So the process of Christian formation consists of the need to “yield our members to righteousness for sanctification.” The formation of Christ in the life of parents and their children is ongoing and never ending.
I often get a lot of “how to…” questions when it comes to helping one’s child to embrace Christ and the faith of the Orthodox Church. The answers are not to be found in a methodology or snap answers that have an immediate impact. Everything has to do with the quality of relationships parents nurture with their children, and the quality of relationships a family has with their parish and their parish priest. Is there an ongoing process of living an ascetical life through prayer and fasting? Is it motivated by hunger for a righteous way of living and to renounce those things that hinder the life of Christ being formed in us? This all is motivated by love, humility and repentance, and parents need to be living examples of this to their children. Baptism and Chrismation are sacraments that speak to the communal reality of the Church. We are not saved as individuals, who live in isolation from each other. We are saved as persons in communion with each other through Christ and His Holy Church.
The blessing of the Lord be upon you, with love in Christ