A Blessing on Our Families

Patriarchal sermon given on the feast of the Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos after Liturgy in the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin (January 8, 2020)

I cordially congratulate all of you, dearly respected hierarchs, fathers, brothers and sisters, on the second day of the Great Feast of the Nativity of Christ, which we traditionally celebrate in the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. On this day, we glorify not only Christ the Savior, but also the Mother of God—the Ever-Virgin Mary—and all the relatives according to the flesh of our Lord and Savior, that is to say, the extended family to which the Infant Jesus belonged by kinship, through His Most Pure Mother.

It is no coincidence that the Church glorifies the names of these people, for they turned out to be saints—it was not just because they were [the Lord’s] relatives. We know that the Word of God never avoids calling evil evil, or condemning people for evil. If it was any other way, how would one of the twelve apostles, Judas, have been condemned for his betrayal? And if someone from among the closest relatives of the Ever-Virgin Mary did not correspond in spirit to the family, if he was far from virtues, if he was spiritually a stranger, then his name would never have been inscribed in the ancient books which record the relatives of Christ the Savior, belonging to the special family of the Mother of God, the relatives of the Most Pure and Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary.

Every time we speak about family, about its meaning, and our thoughts involuntarily turn to contemporary times. Firstly, how important it is that in modern culture, in modern customs, the concept of a large family is present. I still remember the times when these large families existed, which included first, second, and third cousins, those relatives who would now be considered distant, and with whom few keep in touch. A large family, not to mention the small family uniting parents and children, plays a special role, and is of particular importance in preserving spiritual and moral values—because the family is a school of virtue.

Nowhere does a child learn goodness in the same way as he learns it by following the examples of his parents and loved ones. And today, remembering the large family of the Virgin Mary, we pray that modern families, large and even small, will be able to keep the Faith. But most importantly, they should be able to reproduce faith and piety in each successive generation—so that both children and grandchildren, despite the very difficult circumstances of modern life, joining their hearts and minds to the Faith and to the Word of God, can be filled with a yet stronger and stronger faith.

Therefore, our prayer today is for families: for Orthodox families, where the father and mother are Orthodox people; for those families in which one of the spouses is a believer, and the other has not yet recognized the Church and God; and even for families where both parents do not consider themselves to be believers. We must pray for everyone, and ask the Lord to help those who do not have faith, to gain this faith. And if someone is not very interested in life after death—and I have met those who say: “I don’t believe, because I don’t believe in the afterlife,”—then I would like to say that there is another strong argument. You need to believe in God not only in order to greet the afterlife in divine glory, but also in order to make your earthly life bright, beautiful, safe and happy. We know that laws—even the most reasonable and strict ones—do not protect people from [all] crime. But the inner state of a person's soul, the state of his conscience is a tremendous force that protects not only from crime, but also from bad deeds.

May God grant that our people be protected by this spiritual power from all calamities, and to strengthen our families, so that we can continue the spiritual traditions of our people, bringing them up in future generations.

On the feast of the Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos, I invoke a special blessing on all our families, for parents, for grandparents, for children, and for all those responsible for the upbringing of the younger generation, and therefore for the preservation of the Faith, and a strong moral foundation in the life of our nation. Amen.

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