Family, the Joy of Life

The Church of Antioch has published the following document for all the faithful.

We publish here its introduction, written by His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.

To our beloved children in the Lord,

The clergy and faithful of the Holy Patriarchate of Antioch,

In accordance with the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch, held in Balamand on October 3-10, 2019, and building on its discussion of the topic “the concept of the family, its situation and its needs” as a primary concern because of the worries, difficulties and challenges affecting the family today, we address this pastoral letter to all of our children in the Holy See of Antioch, in the homeland and the countries abroad, seeking to fortify them, as individuals and as families, with the Church’s approach to the dangers of these challenges and ways to avoid their repercussions for the soundness of their life in Christ and the stability of their families, relying on the mind of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church and the holy fathers.

The decision of the fathers of the Holy Synod of Antioch to prioritize the family in their study and concern stems from the fact that it is the nucleus, heart and conscience of society, despite the questions that modern sociology raises about its proper place. Likewise, preserving the family and securing the joy of Christ in its life is of the greatest concern for the Church because the targeting of the family and of the stability of its life that we are witnessing in our world today threatens a basic pillar of Christian life. Our Holy Church therefore places at the forefront of her priorities helping people to realize God’s will in their families, stabilizing them in correct faith, in living Christian values, and in standing firm in joy and hope. “The little church” is a living witness to Christ, a lamp shining in the world.

As a brief preface to the contents of this letter, we note that our Orthodox theology is distinguished as a healing theology that attends to the human being in his or her totality and is concerned with his or her salvation. This requires first of all diagnosing the illness and its causes, the dangers if it persists and the consequences if it worsens and then specifying the effective means of treatment. Both the treatment and the methods of prevention rely on the experience and tradition of the Church, while they benefit from modern science in the search for ways to heal and from the necessity of patients’ respecting them. The Church is a hospital that treats and heals people through the power of God. Her treating her children is also tied to spiritual fatherhood and the pastoral care of the Eucharistic community for the “patients” through love and inviting them to rely on God and His Holy Spirit in confronting difficulties. In doing so, the Church draws inspiration from her patristic and liturgical heritage in all programs for raising awareness and providing treatment and healing because of the encouragement for spiritual vigilance, receptivity and growth that it contains.

Because preserving the stability of the family is the first requirement for the desired steadfastness in the face of economic crises, our Holy Church affirms that the effort to activate all energies and capabilities to support the family is a priority for her. She calls upon her children to be constructively engaged in this effort to humanize societies and to work to make their structure more equitable.

This letter raises essential issues of life pertaining to the family and it remains for each diocese to implement the ideas set forth according to its situation, its circumstances and the society in which it exists and to work according to its regulations and laws. In this way, the task of implementation belongs to us all, pastors and people, because every believer is responsible for the knowledge and gifts that God has given them.

May God strengthen us so that in grace we grow, in service we transcend, and in love the structure is strengthened, and our families flourish in the joy of life.

Issued by the Patriarchal Headquarters in Damascus

November 8, 2019

By the grace of God

John X
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East