Sharing with our Creator God the very same name, description and title, fathers occupy a most important position in our Church, our family life and our homes. It is the father who must maintain stability and security of life and faith among us. In the parish, the priest, as aptly described by St. Paul as father, must provide the kind of leadership and faith response to Christ's first shown love that everyone can imitate and pursue. Our bishops are the fathers of each local church and must protect the flock entrusted to their care from error and victory of the devil. Ordinary fathers in each faith community must encourage, insist on their spiritual fathers exercising their privileged duty over soul and body so that in each home fathers of families are encouraged and provided the example to pursue their own God-like vocation in guiding wife and children to God's paradise.
Today, unfortunately, the vocation of fathers is not appreciated nor responded to as it might. It is our God himself who mapped out for those of us called to initiate life in cooperation with God's grace, the important path and vocation which it must be. Because we are called to witness to, and exercise a profound, enduring and living faith, our wives and children should not find it difficult to follow our example and conviction. The need of fathers today, particularly, must be to provide an example of devoted prayer to our heavenly namesake. I remember most vividly, as a child, with my older and younger brother, each evening, before going to sleep, gathering at the foot of my parents' bed and repeating an entire series of prayers in Old Slavonic, led and inspired by my father who told us he was doing precisely what he learned from his own father in their European homeland. It was a brief time to learn and repeat all the prayers he had committed to memory from the simple Our Father and Hail Mary along with the ordinary beginning prayers that also ended with the Creed, augmented by what our people called the Velikoje Viruju, the "I Believe" recited before Communion at the Divine Liturgy.
In this very simple gathering for prayer together as a family, each evening;, for so many years, we learned to depend upon our heavenly Father and although it was never specifically mentioned, the truthful reality that our parents, too, particularly my Father d was totally dependent on the blessing and grace of heaven. We thus learned as children that everyone, including our seemingly omnipotent parents need heavenly help and could depend on the nurturing care of a God who loved us so much He assumed our humanity and came among us to teach and guide and love us into salvation.
It seems to me when we fail to pray with our children each opportunity we have, we encourage them to be indifferent to the needs of their soul, which then leads to the miserable mess our nation is in today. Without the example of fatherly parental prayer, without the encouragement of our relationship with our Creator, without the strengthening effect our faith response to Christ's first shown love imparts to our children, they grow up terrified, left to their own devices and not at all certain of dependence on God's blessed grace in their daily living. They are bereft of the security and inner strengthening that praying together as family can achieve. Worship both in public at church and in private at home with communicants of the family has an astounding encouraging and affirming character influence. It associates us as believers with our Maker in all instances and circumstances of living. It encourages us to entrust our entire life to the Lord of Life.
When we as fathers realize that our vocation is in fact primarily a spiritual one, we will undertake to mold and form the souls of our wives and children after the fashion of Christ. We will be the very first and foremost servants of our family members who lead them to paradise, who not only encourage, but insist spiritual values are honored and pursued because we ourselves know and experience the rich and varied result of such devoted living.
As fathers, we are to be the richest possessors of the love of Christ, the most realistic examples of Christian living, interpreting and loving the Saviour of the world in such a compelling way, all who have been given to us in this life to lead, will be ever eager to follow our example because it is not only enriching for us as father, but for them who pursue our inexorable example.
A blessed, holy and fulfilling celebration of this Fathers' Day to all you our beloved faithful parish family!