YOUTH AND FAMILY
H.G. Bishop Moses
Table of Contents
1. A christian view of Marriage.
2. The Maturity necessary for Marriage.
3. The perfect choice of life-partner.
4. The engagement period.
5. The marriage Ceremonies.
6. The characteristics of a Christian family.
7. Passing on faith in the family.
8. The family and a sound upbringing.
9. The family and the money.
10. The family and the mass media.
11. The family and the relationship.
12. The family and bearing witness for Christ.
- 1 -
YOUTH AND FAMILY LIFE
A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF MARRIAGE
(H.H. Bishop Moussa)
Christian marriage is different. It has a perspective of
its own, which we need to get to know -if we want to get the
full picture, and see it in all its purity. For Christian
marriage is a sacrament: it is the Holy Spirit Who makes it
work. So we need to approach it in a different way, with
real spiritual depth. Then we will see it work out in
practice, in authentic Christian behavior.
The Apostle Paul gives us two significant insights into the
sanctity of marriage: "This is a great mystery" (Eph 5:32);
"Marriage is honorable among all" (Heb 13:4).
Christian marriage goes beyond the coupling of bodies: it
aspires to the coupling of souls. In the same way that the
Holy Spirit is active in baptismal water to create a new
person, so He is present in marriage. Just as He is at work
in Meeron oil (Holy Chrism) to consecrate a human body to
make it a temple of the Holy Spirit; just as He takes the
bread and wine and transubstantiate them into the Lord's
Holy body and blood; So he unites the bride and groom to
each other and to the Lord, through sincere prayers and
Yet, this unity is not accomplished in a magical way. The
bride and groom are aware of and participate in it by their
heartfelt prayers and positive response to the working of
grace. This means that the sacraments do not work in a
merely mechanical way: rather, they demand a spiritual
response from the person who is receiving the sacrament.
This is just as necessary as the involvement of an ordained
priest; the holding of formal prayers - and the presence of
the Spirit of God.
This divine work is the new thing in Christianity. For
since the beginning of the creation there have been marriage
rituals, agreement by both sides, and social aspects that
differ from one community to another. But the new thing in
Christianity is the work of the Holy Spirit that makes two
individuals into a couple and the couple into one entity.
The Christian understanding of marriage is seen through
specific characteristics some of which are:
1. One Partner
Christianity does not permit polygamy, i.e. getting married
to more than one partner, Monogamy, or the law of one wife,
is definite in Christianity and established in the Bible.
In this context St. Paul's words are enough:
+ "Let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have
her own husband" (1 Cor 7:2).
+ "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but
the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have
authority over his own body, but the wife does" (1 Cor 7:4).
+ "Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A
wife is not to depart from her husband" (1 Cor 7:10).
+ "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one
flesh" (Eph 5:31).
+ "He who loves his wife loves himself" (Eph 5:28).
This in fact is:
a. A restoration to the original state of affairs: "He who
made them at the beginning 'made them male and female'" (Mt
b. Keeping Christ's command: "So then they are no longer
tow but one flesh. Therefore what God had joined together,
let not man separate" (Mt 19:6).
There is no doubt that the law of one wife has many
important implications. It raises the status of the woman
from just a mere tool to a life-partner; changes the
significance of the children from sheer quantity to their
quality, and refines the instinct from sensuality to
spirituality. These three points we should consider deeply.
God has created only one Eve for Adam to make him realize
that she is a help-meet for him, i.e. a life-partner on an
equal footing. It is often said that God took Eve not from
Adam's head, so as to be superior to him, nor from his leg,
so as to be inferior. He took her from Adam's side to be an
equal counterpart to him.
Moreover, the law of one wife changes the significance of
children from their quantity to their quality. They are
limited in number and raised on the basis of a sound
Christian upbringing to become good citizens and faithful
witnesses to the Lord. This is much better than having a
big number of children who are badly brought up and have no
share either in church membership or in eternal life
The law of one wife also sublimates the instincts.
Spiritual love is the secret of satisfaction, contentment
and happiness, whereas uncontrolled, sensual love is a
regression from the human to the animal level.
Christian marriage is not jus a contract between two parties
whereby each person continues to follow his or her own ego.
Instead Christianity unifies the two parties or rather the
two partners in "one entity" for "the two shall become one
flesh" (Mt 19:5). The expression "one" here is very
precise, for the one flesh has many members but all are
linked and unified in love, sacrifice, self-giving, and
harmony. The one flesh is controlled by one network of
thoughts and feelings and one will.
Therefore, the true Christian marriage turns the home into a
new heaven and the family into a sacred church. There is no
more duality but one entity integrated on the levels of:
Spirit: the two are united in God.
Mind: the two now have the mind of Christ.
Emotions: since the spiritual self-sacrificing love is their
motto. "It is more blessed to give than to
Will: the Holy Spirit is the leader of each of
their wills and unifies the two into one.
Therefore we call the individual a couple and the couple
one. This is true as they are united in God. Each partner
bears the other in the depths of his or her being. He or
she is no longer one individual but a couple. Each thinks,
moves or acts with the other partner hidden deep in the
heart. At the same time, the couple becomes one, i.e. their
behavior flows from a spring of profound unity created by
the Holy Spirit.
That is why it is very important for the bride and groom to
pay attention to the prayers and commandments recited in the
celebration of the sacrament of matrimony. They need to
rise to that Christian level where their marriage goes
beyond social and physical coupling to a sacred spiritual
This is a third important characteristic of the Christian
marriage. In fact, it is - as the Lord Jesus said - the
principle on which Adam and Eve originally lived.
Therefore, when the Jews tested the Lord on divorce saying:
'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any
reason?' He replied: 'Have you not read that He Who made
them at the beginning 'made them male and female' .... For
this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be
joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.'
When they asked him: 'Why then did Moses command to give a
certificate of divorce, and to put her away?' He answered:
'Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted
you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not
so' (Mt 19:3-8).
From this text we can clearly see two facts:
a. Marriage was originally based on continuity, i.e. the
idea of divorce is completely rejected.
b. Moses allowed the Jews to trespass over this boundary -
with God's permission - because of the hardness of their
But Christ Who marked a new covenant of salvation and
restored us to our original image and first nature, also
restored marriage to its original state, i.e. continuity and
prohibition of divorce. God has not allowed divorce except
for adultery because the guilty partner - by the nature of
his or her sin - breaks the original marriage bond by
uniting himself or herself by a new partner. However, if
the innocent partner is willing to go on with the marriage
and accepts the other partner's return, marriage can
continue on the basis of the sinful partner's sincere
repentance and rededication to the first marriage covenant.
The second reason for divorce is spiritual adultery, that is
to say denial of faith and giving up Christianity. In this
case the Christian partner is no longer bound by the
marriage covenant and has the right to divorce the other
As for the kind of reasons Christians are now putting
forward to divorce, such as ill-treatment, separation,
frequent absence and chronic diseases, they cannot set one's
conscience at peace. For they are a mere veneer, to cover
up for a basic selfishness and lack of love.
On the other side, the nullity of marriage is allowed in
cases of cheating, impotence, and some other cases specified
by the church. The nullity of marriage is a sound principle
as there has to be basic elements to guarantee a sound
marriage, such as full physical and mental maturity ... etc.
An overall view of the reasons for divorce today shows us
how shallow the spiritual life is and how rare genuine love
has become. It shows us the extent of selfishness and self-
centeredness, and disobedience to Christ's commandments.
May the Lord restore to the Christian family its ideal
cohesion and unity; the cohesion and unity with which the
Christian family has so long testified to Christ, its
4. Bearing Fruits
The Christian family - by the work of the Holy Spirit -
bears the following fruits:
a. Christian Virtue: reflected in the life of its
b. Children: when God grants - they are blessed and
raised in the fear of God and firmly at one
with the church.
c. Services: the family offers to everyone it deals
with, in a true Christian love which knows
neither discrimination, hatred, nor
The family is a small, lively, active church that testifies
to its Lord Jesus Christ. Children are not an end but just
fruits. How wonderful it is when the parents' hearts are
enlarged to include a wider circle of love instead of
confining their emotions to their children. How wonderful
it is when the couple, whom God has not granted children by
the flesh, enlarge their hearts to adopt by the spirit a
bigger number of children. At the same time, within God's
church they look after thousands of children in true
These are some characteristics of the Christian marriage.
May God give us the joy of seeing more marriages that
witness to Christ.
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YOUTH AND FAMILY LIFE
THE MATURITY NECESSARY FOR MARRIAGE
(H.H. Bishop Moussa)
Young people often rush into marriage. This is a natural
inclination in the beginning of youth and the heat of the
call of instinct. But mistakes always result from this
hurriedness, for many reasons which will be dealt with in
Every young person must be endowed with some important
aspects of maturity in order to be in the right position to
think and move towards the choice of a life-partner. Here
are some of these aspects.
1. Spiritual Maturity
Though young people might not take this point too seriously,
yet the guidance of the soul by God's Spirit is paramount.
It is a serious matter for many reasons:
a. Marriage is a spiritual fellowship and an integral union
in Christ. This necessitates a true Christian life for both
partners so that they may (through the Holy Spirit working
in the sacrament of matrimony) be brought together in a
true and firm union. This union cannot take place without
the intervention of the Holy Spirit, for He is the Spirit of
unity and He integrates the two spirits in one entity.
Through this spiritual union the husband and wife are united
in mind and body.
b. Christ is the Lord of the house in which He dwells.
Whenever the Lord takes His leading position in the family
everything is performed according to His mind, love, and
holy guidance. The Lord will be ever present at meals, the
silent listener to every conversation, the divine Savior for
c. In the choice of life-partner the spirit should dominate
over both mind and emotion, for the mind has limited vision
and power, while the emotions are fickle. The spirit is the
divine element in contact with God; capable of finding the
way out, and controlling the course of mind and emotion.
Therefore, young people have to activate their spiritual
life and their fellowship with the Lord, so as not to be
easily inclined either to the heat of their passion or to
their limited thinking.
d. The blessing of the Lord and His sacred seal for the
choice is the only sure guarantee for a happy life under His
love. Even if you wear yourself out trying to find out all
about your life-partner and trying to check that you made
the right choice, you cannot without the intervention of the
Holy Spirit succeed in this aim.
e. Marriage requires some significant concessions from both
parties in a spirit of self-sacrificial love, not of
destructive selfishness. This is quite impossible without
the work of the Holy Spirit, the only guarantee for self-
denial and the surrender of many habits and patterns of
thinking. This will enable the two partners to give before
taking - giving with Christian joy, not with the resentment
of the oppressed, nor in a quarrelsome and reluctant spirit.
Therefore, maturity is essential for both partners for
leading a life of fellowship with the Lord and involvement
in church life.
2. Psychological Maturity
Studies show that the young adult, at the beginning of
university life, looks forward to choosing a life-partner
and finding out about the opposite sex. It is also well
known that this is merely a phase of life in youth called
"general heterosexuality". In other words, we are looking
at the opposite sex in frequent attempts to find out more
about them. So we cannot identify the right person for the
journey of life at this stage since our characters are still
frequently changing. It is a good idea at this stage to mix
in a spiritual environment that allows opportunities for
general acquaintances without pairing off or getting
involved in 'heavy' relationships. Such relationships are
more harmful than useful as the two partners are distracted
from establishing themselves spiritually and academically.
They may also harm a girl's reputation, since how do we know
that this relationship is God's choice? Are we not still at
the stage of "general heterosexuality"?
When university life draws to its close, even after
graduation, a young adult begins to move towards the stage
of "specific heterosexuality", i.e. we may, through thought
and prayer identify the specific person we feel is the
choice of God for our lives. Now we are psychologically
mature enough to take this crucial decision, the decision of
So we should get to understand these two phases. We should
not choose hurriedly or get involved in 'heavy'
relationships which finish in desolation and bitterness.
3. Emotional Maturity
This is significant too. There is a big difference between
a young man driven by the heat of passion and another moved
by spiritual love. Emotion is often deceitful and
changeable. It is a facet of man's psychological make-up.
It is merely a repeated attraction towards a particular
person accompanied by a feeling of comfort. However, is
this human feeling the final arbiter of partner selection?
Where is God in this decision? Where is the mind? Where
are the two families' views?
Moreover, emotion is usually a physical phenomenon. So it
is part of our natural selves. Unless it is raised to the
level of spirit, holiness and Christian love, it rapidly
drags the couple into heavy, physical involvement.
Christian marriage generally begins with a spiritual,
sincere, sublime love whereas an emotional one begins with a
sensual affection, fading away when difficulties show up the
fact that it was not love at all. Emotion is taking first,
then giving. Spiritual love, however, is giving without
necessarily receiving in return. So emotional love will
vanish at the first ordeal: when a partner misbehaves,
wants something without being able to give anything in
return - in time of illness or trouble, for instance.
On the other hand, spiritual love is giving in essence.
Therefore give "to all liberally and without reproach" (Jas
1:5), as the Lord does; without waiting for something in
It is here that emotional maturity is essential, where we
enjoy the outpouring of God's sacrificial love into our
hearts. Because of this we are capable of generous giving
without waiting for compensation. Thus love thrives through
marriage, and continues in spite of all life's crises, as a
witness to the Lord Who loved us when we were still sinners.
Many marriages today are violently shaken by life's blows,
because of selfishness and fickle emotions. When the ego
dominates, the family is torn apart.
4. Economic Maturity
This is the fourth pivotal point. Marriage has definite
material prerequisites. Because of old fashioned traditions
which we hope one day will disappear, the two partners are
faced with huge material obligations. To mention but a few:
marriage rings, gifts, shelter, furniture, celebrations
inside and outside the church.
However young people, in their innocence and momentum, try
to escape these traps. They find these traditions rigid
like a rock, putting a stumbling-block in their path to
marriage. Where love collides with a financial rock, their
hearts are filled with bitterness even towards the partner
who lets him or her down.
At this point, we need to be realistic. Life is not as
smooth as imaginations and daydreams are. It is as tough as
reality, its pains and its facts. The two partners have to
estimate the costs before embarking on this step. As the
girl will suffer more than her partner, she must be more
prudent when love and harmony may be dashed on the rock of
social and economic circumstances.
It is better to be jerked back into the real world than to
fly into reveries with the wings of imagination and be
deceived. We must get into the serious business of managing
our material needs, before we stumble for lack of readiness.
Building on maturity in the four areas we have thought
about, young people will be in a suitable position to choose
a partner and look forward to a happy and lasting marriage.
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YOUTH AND FAMILY LIFE
THE PERFECT CHOICE OF LIFE-PARTNER
(H.H. Bishop Moussa)
There is no doubt that the choice of a life-partner is a
vital decision. It is the decision of a lifetime; you need
to be successful in choosing your life-partner. No doubt
there are many forces at work in this decision, the outcome
of which is a crucial step; one of personal destiny. What
are these forces? Let's consider them from the lowest
upwards. The lower drives, unfortunately, are the most
pressing and clamorous. The higher powers are less
insistent, yet they are the more reliable guides.
This is humanity's most basic drive, for we shares it with
the animals. A young person may imagine, at the onset of
youth, that he or she has chosen the right life-partner.
This choice may merely be the result of propinquity: of
being crammed together in public transport or in overcrowded
housing conditions. Most typically, it can stem from the
incessant stimulation of the modern media and - even worse -
video, which carries highly provocative material. However
simplicity and chastity are assumed, the more powerful
prompting voice lurking behind is undoubtedly instinct. It
has its call, its heat, its treacherous currents, especially
under the influence of external stimulation and internal
It is well known that young people at that age undergo a
phase where they are inclined to have knowledge of the other
sex. So their attentions shift from one personality to
another in a changeability characteristic of that age.
Deception is so dangerous at this phase, when we think we
have chosen well and are proceeding towards a perfect
marriage. However good our intentions, however keen we may
be to please God, the strong voice of instinct makes itself
felt at this age. The truth, that instincts alone cannot
lead us into the path of holy marriage, should be made
The dangers of this attitude are clear enough, especially
for the young girl. For they may lead to risky involvements
and damaging results. Consequently, young people undergoing
this phase need to be aware of the range of their instincts,
their recognized limitations and the need to elevate them,
in holiness and in progression towards maturity. Those
envisaging marriage must not allow the message of the beauty
of the body and sensual desires to determine their choice of
life-partner. These motives must be cut down to size, since
"Charm is deceitful, beauty is vain" (Prov 31:30) and the
body returns to dust (Gen 3:19).
This is the second set of drives. Although they may seem
finer than instincts, they are related at the core.
Emotions are a part of the psychological system, necessarily
then of the natural system.
Therefore, we cannot rely on them as a sufficient guide to
the choice of life-partner. Untrammelled emotions are
subject to human limitations: they are fickle, superficial
and tend to get us into tricky situations.
Fickle: Emotion is not spiritual, pure, sacrificial love.
It is a kind of trade-off: a relationship based on what you
can get out of it. It is a form of selfishness: you have a
special motive for love. You find in your partner something
you are missing: a resource that you need and want to draw
on. On the other hand, spiritual love carries on "in spite
of ..." For it is a divine, self-giving love. It is
generous, giving without waiting for a response, even
without getting anything in return. It can be compared to
God's love, which prefers giving to receiving: it gives
itself to the other.
Superficial: Emotion does not run deep in the human being.
Lovers get high on it for a quickly fading moment as it is
superficial, highly excitable, not deeply rooted in the
heart. It is facet of the soul - not of the spirit, which
is the most profound part of our human identity.
May Degenerate: Emotion, without the spirit, may degenerate
into bodily desires and sensuality at a rate which may vary
from one person to the other, depending on that individual's
concern for personal salvation, struggle against sin, and
sanctification of marital life.
This is a higher power. It distinguishes human beings from
the animals. The animal has rudimentary instincts and
emotions, but human beings are characterized by the mind and
the spirit. The mind is a noble gift of the Creator, yet it
is substantially limited. It cannot be the sole arbiter of
this crucial choice. Can the mind really get to the bottom
of things? Can it, no matter how intelligent one may be,
discover the depths of the chosen partner's psychology and
his or her character? Can it gauge the unknown and the
future and foretell what destiny is reserved for him or her?
Or for his or her life-partner? So, the couple and both
their families have to think through things. Yet the mind
alone is not enough as a guide. Yes the mind ponders the
suitability of both partners socially, ethically,
economically, religiously, etc. What is possible and what
is not? What is fitting and what is not? Nevertheless, the
mind is unable to give the last word.
This is the decisive element, the divine part in us, the
power which links us to God. By it we believe in God, gaze
into His heaven and live out His commandments. Therefore,
the divine voice is the most significant. The satisfaction
of the spirit is really crucial. The only guarantees for
giving the spirit its opportunity to thrive, to move and to
+ Sincere and consistent prayers in true surrender, in
accordance with God's will, with the conviction that God
knows and will choose the best, and works out everything for
our good. He works in a way which is radically different
from our limited human approach.
+ Finding pointers of Christ's ideas in His Holy Gospel, as
it shines in our hearts in a special way and gives a power
of discernment in controversial matters.
+ Giving opportunities for discussion with family members
and friends capable of giving the right advice. Sharing our
thoughts with others cancels psychological tension and its
bad effects. Being open to the Lord to speak through
family, friends and the spiritual father.
These are the main forces at work in making this important
decision. Let us summarize them according to their
1. Spirit: praying in
surrender, asking for the Lord's
2. Mind: thinking calmly
3. Emotions: feeling
acceptance towards the partner-to-
4. Instincts: sacred,
caught up into an expression of
spiritual love, within a family
which is a true church and a unity
blessed by the Most Holy.
Proceed, my friend, keep yourself under the protection of
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YOUTH AND FAMILY LIFE
THE ENGAGEMENT PERIOD
(H.H. Bishop Moussa)
The engagement period starts with the agreement to get
married and ends by actual marriage. It is a very important
period because it gives the chance to get to know each other
deeply and to grow in Christian love, to sense the potential
for fulfilling the engagement with a happy marriage. Just
as the couple needs to get to know each other, so every
family member pulls together for the building up of a
marriage that will be blessed.
The engagement period provides a chance for bother parties
to speak out openly and frankly.
THE BETROTHAL ORDINANCES
Are brief. They comprise:
1. The triple sign
The sign of the cross is made three times on both the
engaged couple and the marriage rings (as the rings mark a
covenant of love and firm union). The priest says:
O "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy
O "Blessed is the Father, Almighty. Amen!"
O "Blessed is His Holy Son our Lord Jesus Christ!"
O "Blessed is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. Amen!"
This is how the One and Only God, Father, Son and Holy
Spirit blesses this project, based upon the acceptance of
both the fiances and barring any legal impediments, or other
2. Prayer of Thanksgiving
In which the priest offers everybody's thanks to the Lord
for the blessing of the establishment of a new family as a
small church. This new church family will, with God's
blessing, bring children into the Lord's house to complete
the body of Jesus and the number of the saints.
3. Prayers of Counsel
These aim at explaining the dimensions of engagement to the
engaged couple, asking the Lord for the completion of that
project at the appropriate time, for their salvation and
While uplifting anthems are sung, the rings are put on as a
symbol of the covenant. Then the priest commands the
engaged couple to live a holy, chaste life, to read the
Bible at every opportunity and end the reading with prayers,
in order that their engagement might be made holy and mark a
chaste beginning to a blessed marriage.
OBJECTIVES OF THE ENGAGEMENT PERIOD
1. Each party recognizes the characteristics of the future
partner: thoughts, opinions, aspirations and life-style.
2. Both the fiances may grow in a holy spiritual life,
where they are taught how to fight against sensualities, how
to acquire chaste manners and how to achieve spiritual
fullness as the only way to a sacred marriage.
3. Both families are introduced. This promotes the spirit
of love and understanding, cooperation and care for the
growth of the new plant.
4. Everybody cooperates for meeting all the needs of the
newly formed household in a truly Christian spirit. This
means shunning all extreme behavior such as showing off,
sulking, secretiveness, crookedness, annoying the other
partner, or failing to keep promises.
BASIC PRINCIPLES FOR THAT PERIOD
The relationship between the two fiances often suffers
severe fluctuations, instead of tightening up and becoming
stronger. There are many crucial factors that both of them
should watch out for if they really want their relationship
to continue and be transformed into a sacred marriage.
1. One of the critical causes of failure is blind jealousy
between the engaged couple, i.e. if one sees the other
paying some attention to a third person the former
misunderstands and consequently starts to make trouble,
expressing doubts and quarrelling. Just as it is essential
for each of them to be firmly loyal to the other, so it is
essential for both of them to get rid of that jealousy that
only indicates selfishness and awful self-centeredness.
Paying attentions to a third person may have only been done
out of politeness and good manners, or it may have been done
in good faith, although jealousy would see it as betrayal.
The more people are attracted to Jesus, the closer they get
to each other in a proper Christian way, free of all forms
of excessive possessiveness.
2. Another factor that could ruin the relationship between
the two fiances is the tight feelings of love between the
parents of one partner and their son or daughter. This
leads to the suspicion that the other partner will deprive
them of that love. So they would tend not to give their son
or daughter the appropriate advice that would make their
lives easier. The fear of testing out the probabilities
even magnifies situations and so complicated ordinary,
3. A third pitfall is when one partner asks about the past
of the other partner. Although this may be done out of
goodwill, yet dragging up an affair that is over and done
with, may only lead to jealousy and psychological
disturbances. It may even give rise to the suspicion of one
partner that the other might easily fall into temptation.
That is why we advice them to avoid the following:
a. Revealing old bad experiences that one has already
confessed; as they are no longer a part of our lives.
b. Going along with any sort of flirtation or physical
contact however slight, as this only creates doubts between
the two of them.
c. Asking the other partner repeatedly about past
experiences or sins in a stiff way that will only lead to
lying, or the admission of facts that might ruin the
engagement. Christ has forgotten all our sins, so let us
all forget the past and look forward to the future.
4. Disagreement on financial matters is a common reason for
the breaking of engagements. That is why it is preferable
to agree to all the details before the engagement: the
marriage rings, the new house, its furnishing and each
party's contribution to it, ceremonies, and all other
aspects. As Christian believers, we should avoid all
showing-off and extravagance in the engagement ceremonies or
overburdening one partner more than the other. We hope that
the rising generations would be able to break all those
obsolete habits so that marriage would no longer require
large amounts of money. Why should not economize on the
ceremonies? Why have candy boxes? Wouldn't a religious
picture card do? Why not economize on the furniture so that
it is no longer heavy, impractical, very tiring to buy, to
clean and to maintain. A simple, cozy sitting room, a
dining room, multi-purpose beds etc... could be more
The most important thing is that each partner should act in
a spirit of cooperation, frankness, honesty and commitment
to fulfill obligations, so as to maintain goodwill, without
avoiding any obligations or cheating the other partner in a
way that may disturb the existing amity or give an
impression of deceit.
Breaking off the Engagement
If it becomes impossible to go through with the marriage for
any reason, then either both parties or whoever feels unable
to continue must break it off in a proper way, as follows:
1. Exchanging all civil rights and referring any
disagreement to their priest.
2. The withdrawing party leaving the marriage rings, all
the non consumable presents and the money to the other
party. This is without taking into account food and
clothing and so on.
3. Each party keeping - forever - all the secrets of the
other party. God has a special punishment for the betrayer.
4. The priest issuing an official report as a final
settlement - civil and canonical.
5. If the engaged couple disagree on civil matters the
engagement is broken canonically - even at the request of
only one party and, at the same time, maintaining the civil
rights to both parties.
Nowadays people are in the habit of breaking engagements at
the drop of a hat, and this only goes to show how hasty they
are in making decisions. They rush into decisions without
bringing them to the Lord due to their spiritual shallowness
Let's develop our lives in the Lord, asking His divine
guidance at every step. Let's deal with the other partner
in a generous, loving spirit. The Lord Himself is the
secret of blessing and joy: He is the foundation for
success and unity.
- 5 -
YOUTH AND FAMILY LIFE
THE MARRIAGE CEREMONIES
(H.H. Bishop Moussa)
Marriage in the Coptic Orthodox church - as well as all the
other traditional churches - is a sacrament; and this means
that all three conditions of the other sacraments have to be
fulfilled. These cover:
1. Those receiving the sacrament.
2. The sacramental prayers and materials.
3. The ordained priest.
"Mystery" is not the ecclesiastical definition of a
sacrament: for "mystery" means "obscurity," whereas
"sacrament" means the "unseen gift" that we obtain as a
result of our conscious participation in the holy sacrament.
It is "the invisible blessing that we receive in the midst
of physical, visible manifestations."
1. Those Receiving the Sacrament
The couple approaching holy matrimony are like those who
come for baptism or confirmation. As they approach this
holy sacrament they have to meet certain special conditions,
- The Legal minimum age (16 for her and 18 for him).
- The absence of any legal impediments or any kinship
which may disqualify them as marriage partners.
- The full consent of both parties.
- Suitable spiritual preparation, such as repentance,
confession and receiving the Holy Communion.
- Mental, psychological and social readiness.
- A sound understanding of Christian marriage.
2. The Sacramental Prayers & Materials
Everything is "sanctified by the Word of God and prayer"
(1Tim 4:5). So are the bride and groom. They must listen
carefully to extensive prayers, to readings from St. Paul's
letters, the Psalms and the Gospels. These deal with every
aspect of Christian marriage. The couple are also anointed
with holy oil. It is above all after they have been
anointed in the name of the Holy Trinity three times that
they receive the Spirit of God and He makes them one in
The Ordained Priest
If the sacrament is to be effective, the priest is
essential: for he has the authority of the church to
carry it out. It is not just the prospect of
parenthood for the bride groom, or even the spiritual
aspects of marriage that are involved in the
performance of the sacrament. The sacrament also
involves the canonical rites, and these depend on the
ecclesiastical authority handed down to the priest.
As a holy sacrament, marriage requires canonical
prayers. In those prayers we call on God's Spirit to
bless the bride and groom and sanctify their union. Is
it possible for that to happen in a civil marriage, a
marriage by private contact on in a mixed marriage
between persons from different religious backgrounds?
Definitely not! For those marriages are man-made and
not from God, and Christianity rejects them.
It involves successive steps that are vitally linked. In
fact, the ceremony used to take place between the Raising of
Incense at Matins and the Eucharistic Liturgy, just as the
rites of monasticism do now. For as the monk becomes
attached to the Lord, so the bride and the groom become
attached to one another in the Lord. In this way they are
prepared for receiving the holy communion, as the first step
to be taken immediately after getting married. In the old
days there was a custom, based on the Book of Tobit, that
the newly married couple should spend the first three days
of marriage fasting from physical contact so as to deepen
their spiritual love and thus to abide by and in the Lord.
1. The Contract of Appropriation1
The vow to belong to one another used to be taken
immediately upon engagement, in the form of public prayers.
However, these prayers have since been separated from the
engagement rites. For whereas the engagement can be broken,
the 'contract of appropriation' is binding. Saying the
prayers amounts to a real, legal marriage contract that
cannot be broken except for legal reasons.
Those prayers or at least, the most significant part of them
are now transferred to the wedding itself. We take from
them the Triple Sign which is at the heart of those prayers.
2. The Triple Sign
This is just like the blessing given for the engagement, "In
the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, One
God. Amen! Blessed is God the Father, blessed is the only
Son, and blessed is the Holy Spirit." This is done for the
newly married couple and their wedding rings, as a blessing
for the partners and for their partnership, and for the
covenant of love between them.
3. The Letters From St. Paul
A passage is read form St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians
(5:22-6:3) where the Apostle draws our attention to the
proper foundations for the Christian home: a husband that
loves his wife as much as himself and a wife that obeys her
husband. As much as the husband gives love, the wife gives
obedience and vice versa. It is a wonderful recipe for the
unity and the continuity of the Christian home.
4. The Gospel
After Psalm 19: "Like a bridegroom coming out of his
chamber" (verses 5,6) and Psalm 128: "Your wife shall be
like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house" (verse
3) are read out, there comes the Gospel according to St.
Matthew where the Lord stresses:
a. The law of monogamy (one wife): "He Who made them
at the beginning 'made them male and female'" (Mt 19:4).
b. The unity of the married couple: "The two shall
become one flesh" (Mt19:5).
c. The continuity of the marriage: "What God has
joined together, let not man separate" (Mt 19:6).
5. The Litany
In which the priest and all the congregation ask God for His
mercy to bless the groom and the bride as He blessed Adam
and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and
Rachel, Joseph and Asenath, and as He also blessed the
wedding at Cana of Galilee by His gracious presence.
6. The Three Prayers
In which the priest asks for spiritual blessing and real
unity for the couple, "That they may have happiness and keep
the right faith, and enter into the mystery of joyfulness."
He also prays that God would "Keep them in welfare, wisdom
and the blessings of salvation" and grant them godly
children, "For life O Lord comes from You, and the fruit of
life from the womb."
7. Anointing With Oil
This is after a special prayer over the oil so as to bless
it: "As a weapon for righteousness and justice; an
anointing for purity and incorruptibility; radiance and
beauty that will never fade; and a renewal and salvation for
their souls, their bodies and their spirits." The deacons
respond at the end of each section by singing a joyful
8. The Chasuble2 & The Crown
The priest prays over the chasuble and the crown so that the
couple may receive, "Crowns of glory and honor, blessing and
salvation, joy and happiness, virtue and justice, strength
and stability." Thus, when the priest crowns the newly
married couple, this means crowning them in spiritual glory
in their new church. When the groom puts on the chasuble,
this means that he has become the family priest. He is to
present daily sacrifices, such as prayers, praises and
offerings, on the altar of Christian love and the altar of
the inmost heart.
As for the marriage rings, they are a mark of the covenant
of love. That is why they are transferred from the right-
hand to the left, which is closer to the heart.
9. The Presentation
The priest presents the bride to the groom with a special
prayer. Then he covers both their hands with a Communion
napkin that was originally given to them as a preparation
for Holy Communion. It is now just to remind them that they
should receive Holy Communion at their earliest convenience.
10. The Exhortation, The Blessings and The Absolution
Now the priest urges both bride and groom to take special
care to nurture their love for each other and to cherish
their family ties. After they have promised at the altar to
keep the family altar, to have daily prayers and Bible-
reading, he blesses them. Then he prays for forgiveness for
their sins and sends them out with the congregation in
peace. After this they should be regularly receiving Holy
Communion and other sacraments.
This is how the prayers of the sacrament reach their climax:
on a high point of spirituality and exhortation. Although
the bride and groom will then be very busy with the
photographs and social niceties, which are not that
appropriate, we still hope that they will reflect on all the
prayers of this sacrament, which are usually taped.
May the Lord keep our homes in purity, understanding and
cohesion. May He make them model homes: models of witness
to Jesus Christ, their Founder and Shepherd
- 6 -
YOUTH AND FAMILY LIFE
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A CHRISTIAN FAMILY
(H.H. Bishop Moussa)
A Christian family has special traits that spring from the
Christian concept of sacred marriage and the commandments of
the Bible for the married couple about how to deal with each
other and how to bring their children up.
The Definition of a Christian Family
The family in the Christian concept is a small church, for
St. Paul says: "To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow
laborer, and to the church in your house" (Phil 1:2). The
family is an arena for experiencing the work of God in
uniting the couple and sanctifying their offspring for Jesus
Christ, and in radiating His light to those around.
Domains of Family Love
There are many aspects, such as:
1. The Family Altar
The family prays together and reads chapters of the Bible as
a means of binding its members together spiritually, so that
they may all receive the blessings of the Holy Spirit and
the power to overcome every evil.
2. Taking Communion Together
It is when the whole family is gathered around the body and
blood of Jesus in the Eucharist that the church - as a
community - is best expressed. This gathering is a feature
of our Orthodox church, for not only does it bring the
individual into a relationship with God but it also nurtures
the relationship of the group with God: "In the
congregations I will bless the Lord" (Ps 26:12).
The Spirit of God endows groups with more than it endows
individuals. This is why taking Holy Communion together,
following repentance and confession, is a continuous source
of renewal for the family.
3. Bringing Problems Before God
It is important to get our children used to lifting up their
hearts to God when they face a problem. Besides the fact
that this makes a way for God to intervene in our problems
and make our hearts ready to cooperate gratefully, we find
that this method builds up faith and fellowship so that we
turn to God under all circumstances. "Call upon Me in the
day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify
Me" (Ps 50:15).
4. Mutual Understanding
The pressures of life in our age, whether those put on the
exhausted husband, on the working wife, or on the stressed
children who have their conflicts and worries about the
future, demand that the family stay committed to settling
disputes in a spirit of mutual understanding.
It is a great crime against the unity of the family and
against oneself that a person puts his foot down and acts in
self-centered individualism and stubbornness without
consideration for others. We must learn to be
understanding: to let go of our preconceived ideas and be
open to one another.
5. Friendly Visits
It is a good idea for the family to pay friendly visits to
other Christian families because this strengthens the spirit
of love in the Christian community. It also nurtures and
renews love among the family members.
It is important that the wife cares for the feelings of her
husband's family and the husband for the feelings of his
wife's family. Most of the problems emerge from neglecting
those important feelings. The harmony between the two
families is a strong support for a Christian family and an
important basis for psychologically well-balanced children.
We warn against interfering in the family's affairs because
such interference frequently causes problems, division and
6. A Spirit of Simplicity and Contentment
One of the most disruptive influences on a family is that of
imitation and jealousy of other families who are trying to
'Keep up with the Jones'. However, the Christian soul that
the Lord has filled with His grace sings in heavenly peace:
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" (Ps 23:1).
It is important to examine oneself on this point and both
parents are responsible to do that. St. Paul teaches us
that: "Godliness with contentment is great gain... and
having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a
snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown
men in destruction and perdition" (1Tim 6:6-9).
7. A Sound Upbringing
Parents should realize that the sound upbringing of children
in their early childhood and the stages that follow is very
important. When the parent is at one time tender to his or
her children and on many other occasions strict, the child
gets confused. The child does not understand what
principles to follow nor what good behavior means. When the
father is strict with his adolescent son or daughter while
the mother treats the same one tenderly - ignorant of the
nature of that stage and of the father's aim - the young
person will go off the rails and neglect duties. There must
be an agreement between both parents on a policy about how
to deal with their children. The affections should be
balanced during the process of upbringing.
It is important to watch the children's behavior with
compassionate understanding. This must be done effectively
and persuasively, so that they become capable of choosing
good friends and steer clear of pit-falls.
8. The Family and the Community
Sometimes the parents are very lax with their children; they
let them give way to peer-group pressure. After a while, it
turns out that they are mixed up with the wrong kind of
company and are up to their necks in trouble.
A positive and flexible Christian approach is to be open to
people and deal with them in love and cooperation without
getting involved in their aberrations. What is most harmful
is being flexible to the point of laxity: letting our
values, principles, and kids go adrift. The family should
be careful when it comes to getting involved with other
families. What some would consider friendly relations might
end with critical problems.
9. The Family and the Mass Media
It is not wrong to have access to different kinds of media
at home like T.V., radio, newspapers and magazines, but it
is wrong not to help children, and even parents, to choose
the right thing. All should learn to pick the appropriate
method for improving their minds: the right program, a good
book et. It is up to us to stop and ask ourselves if we are
abandoning our children to trivialities or negative
influences that will ruin their spiritual lives.
We hope for the day when the mass media puts across material
that will build up the spiritual lives of our children -
because life is not like a decadent play or a violent movie.
Indeed, the mass media should elevate - not degrade -
people's instincts. There are the fields of science, art,
and sport and, even better, religious knowledge that fights
atheism and spreads the principles of pure, genuine love.
These are the subjects that we can watch or listen to on the
10. Serving Others
Christ taught us that He came not to be served but "to serve
and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28). There
is no doubt that the spirit of servanthood is the sign of a
real Christian soul and the blessed testimony of what
Christianity does in people's lives. We should get
accustomed to serving others and teaching our children to do
The selfishness that we teach our children will cost us
dearly unless we correct ourselves. We ask our children to
be selfish and hate even their cousins, to be jealous and
take advantage of others. All this creates a fractious
community full of feeble and resentful people. Christianity
requires from us self-sacrificial love: "Love suffers long
and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade
itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not
seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not
rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all
things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all
things" (1Cor 13:4-7).
Hence it is necessary to have the spirit of servanthood, to
give part of our time, effort, money and talents to others,
especially within the church which channels such donations
to the needy. Be honest in giving your tithes to the Lord
and you will know His blessings. "Bring all the tithes...
and prove Me now in this.... If I will not open for you the
windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that
there will not be room enough to receive it" (Mal 3:10).
The church trusts that you are going to respond to its
appeal for family repentance - that you are going to pray
and worship God together, take Communion together, glorify
Jesus, and offer lively, fruitful service.
- 7 -
YOUTH AND FAMILY LIFE
PASSING ON FAITH IN THE FAMILY
(H.H. Bishop Moussa)
The words of St. Paul to his disciple Timothy were very
strange, when he told him, "I call to remembrance the
genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your
grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded
is in you also" (2 Tim 1:5).
Is faith inherited? The very genuine faith in the heart of
Timothy the son, was the very same faith as that living in
the heart of his mother Eunice and in his grandmother Lois.
The faith that a family passes on to its children is a
sacred inheritance. Faith cannot be transferred from one
generation to another mechanically, but the effect of
transmitting it and of Christian training in the home cannot
This is the most important function of the Christian family:
transmitting faith. We could have our children a fortune -
that is okay, but the danger lies in our failure to pass on
to our children the faith we inherited from our holy
fathers. "For what is a man profited if he gains the whole
world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in
exchange for his soul?" (Mt 16:26)
That is why St. Paul confirmed the role of parents in the
salvation of their children: "Nevertheless she (the mother)
will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith,
love and holiness, with, self-control" (1 Tim 2:15). So the
outworking of the mother's salvation is conditioned by the
way she brings up her children. That is why St. Monica
cried bitterly when her son Augustine went off the rails,
feeling her great responsibility towards God for her son.
Her concern deserved St. Ambrose's encouragement: "Trust my
daughter... the son of all of those tears shall never be
Now, what are the channels through which our children will
be given faith?
1. A Life of Adoration
This is the main channel through which our children receive
faith. Standing to pray in front of an icon, depicting the
Lord Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary holding the Lord, makes
an indelible impression on the child's mind. For our first
experience of such a vigil is associated with baptism - now
new birth by the church.
2. Christian Education
This is the second channel which transmits faith, since
"Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Rom
10:17). Here we should always remember the role of the
grandparents when they tell their grandchildren stories from
the Bible, starting from the beginning of the creation, the
flood, Babel, Moses and going on to the birth of Jesus by
the flesh, His crucifixion, His resurrection, His ascension
into heaven and the establishment of His church.
Grandparents usually have more free time than fathers and
mothers, but the stories of the Bible and the work of the
Word are two very important issues for childhood education
and upbringing. It is also worth mentioning that many
parents have experienced the effectiveness of the Bible when
they started to tell their children some of its stories. It
is a glorious blessing to every age-group, as the Bible is
the best school and the best law.
Also, parents should give more attention to the regular
attendance of their children at Sunday school, at services
and at the Communion table. All these build up a store of
faith and education for succeeding generations.
3. The Family Peace
"There is no peace", says the Lord, "for the wicked" (Is
48:22). This is true: when the husband and wife who are
away from the Lord and each of them is either self-centered
of even worse sin-centered, they never live in peace. On
the other hand, the husband and wife who are close to the
Lord, who believe that He is with them in all their problems
and guides their family wisely, live in true peace. That
peace - the fruit of their faith - is noticed and
appreciated by their children. It is a vital channel
through which the family can know the Spirit of Christ, His
mind and His forbearance.
I could never forget, that once when I was visiting a godly
and blessed Christian family, a relative came around in
tears, all worked up, and raised her voice as she complained
against her husband. It really disturbed the quiet and
friendly atmosphere of the family. A little girl leapt into
her mother's arms and cried out: "Mum, let this lady
leave." Yes, because she was not used to loud disagreement
but to the calmness of love.
4. Dealing With Difficulties
There is no doubt that the Christian family which has real
faith can easily pass it on to its children, through the way
it handles various situations. As it is a loving family
that bears genuine love for everybody, children notice and
absorb that spirit. It is a wise family, because it handles
its problems quietly and avoids getting itself into fights
or quarrels that are not from the Spirit of God. It is a
serving family, since it serves everybody happily, in the
joy of giving. It also follows all the principles of the
Lord Jesus Christ of Whom Isaiah prophesied, "He will not
quarrel nor cry out, nor will any one hear His voice in the
streets" (Mt 12:19). Such a family models itself on the
commandments, love and mind of the Lord.
What ruins the children more than to see their parents fall
out with others, whether family members or not? How great
is the responsibility the parents must bear for bringing up
their children properly!
5. The Family Library
It is perfectly okay for the family library to include daily
newspapers, magazines and general publications suitable for
children and young people, but it is also important that
parents organize a small library suitable for their children
according to their ages. You can find many constructive
Christian publications, whether stories from the Bible, or
lives of saints, or explanations of the liturgical services,
or other suitable books for young people. Reading edifies
the wandering mind, said one of the saints. That is why we
have to concentrate on the role of books in the children's
lives, especially since TV and other audio-visual aids have
weakened people's ability to read, as most people just sit
passively in front of the box, accepting whatever comes on.
Some programs are good, but most of the others would have
The family library should also include the Bible and books
to help young people interpret it. There books can re-
activate young people's minds and recharge them with
spiritual ideas, giving no chance for evil ones to get a
6. Educational Trips
Such as visiting monasteries, or exchanging visits with
churches in or outside your area. All this is education
that children and young people can absorb as they meet with
monks who have given up the world, with priests who can give
insight into the mind of Christ and the works of the Spirit,
or with brothers and sisters that are following the same
path as they are - the path of eternal life. This is how a
young person can grow spiritually in a relationship with
God, psychologically at ease in a social group,
intellectually increasing in knowledge and physically
building up the body through training and sports.
Those are some of the channels that the family can use to
pass on the faith to its children - to increase the number
of those who are to dwell in the eternal kingdom and are
free from condemnation on the last day.
- 8 -
YOUTH AND FAMILY LIFE
THE FAMILY & A SOUND UPBRINGING
(H.H. Bishop Moussa)
The personality of an individual is the final outcome of two
sets of essential factors. The first set is made-up of the
innate qualities inherited from the family. The second set
is acquired from different contacts - such as family and
school-life. But the family is the most important
The family plays a key role in building the personality for
it gives all hereditary qualities and provides the most
important environment. You can easily tell the difference
between a person born and bred in a poor family in a slum
and another from a rich family and a cultured neighborhood.
The difference lies not in morality but in behavior: in
patterns of thought; aspirations; ways of dealing with
others; expression of feelings; habits; attitudes and norms.
The first features of personality are formed between the
ages of three and five. There is a difference between the
wanted child and the unwanted child within the family, and
also between an only child and one with many brothers and
sisters. A child who is kept at home will not have a
personality like one who's been encouraged to go out and
make contacts with many other families.
So it is a must to know some important principles in sound
1. Setting an example
2. Understanding each Phase
3. Being even-handed
1. Setting An Example
This point imposes itself as a primary principle, not just
because we are handling the subject from a religious or
moral viewpoint, but also because we are looking at it from
a scientific and practical one. The child imitates
everything, picking up behavior from parents, relatives and
So we should be prudent in the way we speak and act. We
should avoid bad behavior, such as abusing, slandering, or
being harsh with others. We should also keep an eye on
anyone who helps in the home in case they spoil or maltreat
our children. Moreover, we should know what services the
kindergarten provides for our children and what effect it
has on the child's personality.
The parental model is very important. There is a real
difference between a child who sees his parents living in
peace and happiness and another who sees the reverse. The
first will be calm and the second will be very nervous.
Moreover, the second child may reject the idea of marriage
in the future or deviate, according psychologists.
There is a difference between the child who sees his parents
really involved with the church and takes part with them in
prayer and receiving the Holy Communion, and another who
misses out on all these things, living in a atmosphere of
continuous disturbances: the parents shouting, the TV
turned up and the telephone jangling.
Again, the child who gets to see short films and slide
presentations about Christ and the Bible and finds somebody
keen on helping him or her find out more about these
matters, is different from the one who spends his or her
time watching films on TV, playing football or going
dancing. The former grows up with a spiritual awareness
within him or her, while the latter grows up with a worldly
heart distracted from the spiritual path.
2. Understanding Each Phase
The parents should study carefully the characteristics of
each stage of growth. There are five stages: the two years
in the cradle, the early childhood (3-7), the late childhood
(8-12), adolescence (13-18), and maturity (19-25).
Each stage has specific characteristics and needs special
º From the cradle, the child learns to walk and talk,
and discovers the surrounding world. Both boys and girls
are nervous because of teething, so need kindness and
compassion. There is no substitute for these qualities.
º In early childhood, the child is imaginative and
imitative. He or she moves around inside and outside the
home, asks many questions and wants to know many things.
This stage is a period of learning and forming impressions,
so icons, spiritual music and church hymns will have a
º In late childhood, the child has unbounded and
untiring energy. He becomes sociable, wanting to know
people and places.
º Adolescence is the most critical stage. The
teenager starts to feel attracted towards the opposite sex,
and wants to find out about sex. This is not wrong, but the
problem stems from where he or she gets this information.
So the teenager needs parents and older friends to listen
carefully and openly without restraint of rebuke. Then they
can give him or her advice.
º The final stage is maturity. The young adult needs
to know the best way to choose the life-partner in order to
avoid being hasty in making the choice while still not ready
for the financially and not quite mature enough spiritually
and psychologically. Dialogue is the most appropriate way
to help our sons and daughters at this stage so that they
don't react with the kind of stubbornness that could ruin
their future prospects.
3. Being Even-Handed
The parents' treatment of the children should be balanced,
neither terribly severe nor extremely fond. Love and
firmness should go hand in hand. There must be no
discrimination between girl and boy or one child and
another. Lack of love and compassion may create delinquent
or hardened youths.
These are some principles of a sound upbringing, but the
most important is a close walk with God.
- 9 -
YOUTH AND FAMILY LIFE
THE FAMILY AND MONEY
(H.H. Bishop Moussa)
Although money is a gift from God and has an important role
in our lives, yet it is a root cause of all the recent
conflicts at the individual, family, and international
For this reason the Bible established basic principles for
using money to promote human happiness and serve mankind.
These principles have been defined to prevent us from making
money into another god and worshipping it. So what are
1. Money Is A Gift
"God ... gives us richly all things to enjoy" (1Tim 6:17).
So whatever the material income we have may be, it is a real
gift from God. In fact, if God hadn't given us life we
would not have received that money and unless He had given
us scientific, practical and technical abilities we couldn't
have gotten anything. Not only that, if He hadn't given us
health we couldn't have used the different parts of our
bodies in producing what brings money to us: for example a
painter uses hands, an engineer uses eyes, a player uses
feet and so on.
Therefore, the Bible teaches us to talk to God when we offer
alms for helping the poor or the church, saying: "All
things come from You, and of Your own we have given You"
2. Money Is Not Essential For Life
God said: "One's life does not consist in the abundance of
the things he possesses" (Lk 12:15), and He also said "Man
shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that
proceeds from the mouth of God" (Mt 4:4). "For in Him we
live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
Hence life - and health too - is a gift from God.
Therefore, whatever we spend or however far we travel, our
own efforts to enjoy a good life and good health will end in
failure - because life is His and health is His too.
3. Money Is Not Essential For Happiness
"Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of
feasting with strife" (Prov 17:1). Happiness is a spiritual
and psychological quality which comes from a living
relationship with God: a soul at peace, a mind at rest,
knowing God's forgiveness, and genuine love of all people
whoever and whatever they may be.
From this logical concept we can see how hard it is to buy
happiness with money: in fact money has brought sadness to
those who have a great deal of it. They rest all their
hopes on investing or keeping it, but sometimes they destroy
themselves by chasing a false happiness.
4. Money Is Transitory
St. Paul says: "Command those who are rich in this present
age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but
in the living God" (1Tim 6:17).
This verse is true: money is uncertain. It may come today
and go tomorrow. You may get a fortune today and lose it
very quickly again when circumstances change. Money is a
dynamic thing. So we must be cautious of it: depending on
it could cause a nervous breakdown.
5. Money Is A Talent
The Bible commands those who are rich to "Do good, that they
may be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,
storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to
come" (1Tim 6:18-19).
So what is required is to invest money for the glory of
Jesus Christ and the comfort and salvation of fellow human
beings, especially those who share with us in faith. "It is
more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). The
more we give, the more we are increased in blessings. "The
generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also
be watered himself" (Prov 11:25). In fact some who are rich
have also been rich in faith and offered great service to
We are stewards over "unrighteous mammon" (Lk 16:1-15).
This means that money is not ours, but a gift from God.
Think of the unjust steward who used worldly wealth to make
friends. Although this money was not his, but his master's,
he used it to win friends and influence people. The unjust
steward's behavior was wrong in that he had used what he did
not have, yet God orders us to learn from "the people of
this age", to invest the money which He has given us for the
purpose of having prayerful friends. God has entrusted us
with our money so we must use it conscientiously. We use
what we need and leave what we don't to the will of God, Who
may use it in coping with an emergency.
Therefore, God warns us about being wasteful: "The drunkard
and the glutton will come to poverty" (Prov 23:21). He
encourages us to take up the pieces left over to serve
others (Mt 15:37).
6. Don't Depend On Money!
Depending on money is a denial of God. The Lord said: "How
hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the
kingdom of God!" (Mk 10:24), or as Job said: "If I had made
gold my hope, or said to fine gold 'You are my confidence'
... I would have denied God Who is above" (Job 31:24-28).
So the problem lies in considering money as a pillar of life
and a support for the future. Yet this doesn't mean we
don't save, as saving is different from depending on money.
Saving means keeping the money we don't need and offering it
to God to use it according to His own will either for
service or for unforeseen circumstances.
So we must believe that God is essentially our sole
Supporter, but money is not: "He who trusts in his riches
will fall" (Prov 11:28).
7. Don't Crave For Money!
Those who love money fall into a lot of evils, such as
theft, embezzlement, and illegal practices, because they
want to be rich. "Those who desire to be rich fall into
temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful
lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the
love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" (1Tim 6:9-
So when God said: "No servant can serve two masters ... you
cannot serve both God and mammon" (Lk 16:13), He meant that
the love of money is opposed to the worship of God.
8. Enough Is Enough!
People are always trying to improve their personal income.
They keep changing jobs looking for a higher income, but the
main aim must be to have enough, not to live in luxury.
There is really a great difference between the two:
"Godliness with contentment is great gain" (1Tim 6:6); "Be
content with such things as you have" (Heb 13:5). "God is
able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always
having all sufficiency in all things, have an abundance for
every good work" (2Cor 9:8).
Satisfaction should be the norm: "Give us this day our
daily bread." This is what makes for a contented life lived
for the glory of God. God does not want us to be miserable,
but to be happy. He gives us the right to be satisfied.
But as for pleasure: "She who lives in pleasure is dead
while she lives" (1Tim 5:6).
And as for what people admire and run after: "All that is
in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes,
and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the
world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it"
9. Planning The Budget
A Christian must plan the budget for the family. A couple
must honestly collect their money together and budget for
their needs according to their priorities:
For God: the 'firstlings' or the
first portion of everything we produce,
the tithe or tenth, and the vows.
For each partner: a suitable sum of
money for personal expenses.
For the family: its daily and
For the children: a family must plan a
better future for its children.
For the parents: when they have a
For savings: we must allow God to
act according to His will either for the
family or for others.
The spirit of understanding, love, justice and righteousness
must prevail among us. There's no doubt that a lot of
families break up because of money, even though it should
not carry so much weight in our lives.
- 10 -
YOUTH AND FAMILY LIFE
THE FAMILY AND THE MASS MEDIA
(H.H. Bishop Moussa)
"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For
what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And
what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has
Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an
unbeliever? ... For you are the temple of the living God"
There's no doubt that the world has witnessed rapid progress
in the field of the Mass Media. Over a small number of
years, we have witnessed the progress of T.V. from black and
white to color, then the development of video which we use
to record movies to watch whenever we like.
There have also been developments in broadcasting. The
French are angry because of the tyranny of American T.V.
programs that come to France clearly spreading ideas,
culture and negative aspects of American society. They are
afraid of losing the French identity, despite its culturally
Because of all this, we need to study with an open mind the
effects of the mass media on the Christian family and how to
First: The Effect Of T.V. On The Family
1. The Spiritual Aspect
T.V. affects the family in - at least - two ways:
a. There is no doubt that T.V. keeps the family from
important matters that are basic to the salvation of its
members. To be forced sometimes to reschedule the hours of
Sunday School and youth meetings to avoid the viewing time
of a movie or a football match is proof enough that T.V.
takes up a lot of our time and attention. This definitely
affects our spiritual life whether individually, as a family
or as a society.
b. Some T.V. programs cause stumbling blocks because they
include unsuitable subjects for a Christian. Their moral
values are opposed to the sublime standards of Christianity,
and their principles contradict those of the Christian
faith. They titillate the senses in a way which flies in
the face of Christian integrity and faithfulness.
2. The Social Aspect
The T.V. presents social issues and offers the opinions of
famous writers and thinkers about family and public affairs.
It also shows various types of delinquency, disloyalty,
theft, and violence, and divorce for reasons like falling in
love with someone else etc. All these have their effect on
us. We get used to all these and they become accepted moral
values although they are as far as can be from Christian
purity. Maybe the adults can resist such effects because of
their firm upbringing, but the young may imitate what they
see and take things for granted. Current trends in hair-
cuts, smoking, styles of dress, even catch-phrases prove the
effect of T.V. on people.
3. The Cultural Aspect
Thinkers and writers complain bitterly about the triviality
of the ideas presented by T.B. TV has weakened the faculty
of reading. People sit waiting to watch TV programs. When
we study the TV programs, it is surprising to find that
there is a lack of humanitarian subjects and social advice.
Nothing but trivialities are presented most of the time.
Children memorize many of the advertisements, songs and
words broadcasted on TV. Why doesn't the TV handle
religious, cultural, scientific, and patriotic topics?
4. The Behavioral Aspect
There is no doubt that the violence that dominates our TV
and cinema screens is reflected in people's behavior. The
chief of Los Angeles police has realized that the rate of
certain types of crime increases after a film shows them on
TV. The cinema, now that TV has attracted much of its
audience, survives on two types of movies: violence and
sex. It degrades us by exploiting these two instincts to
take our money.
A novelist once wrote about a man who committed all kinds of
sins, then felt it did not satisfy him, and so repented.
However, the producer who made a film based on the book took
only the first part. He made a lot of effort to demonstrate
the man's sins and canceled the part about repentance. The
film was shown all over the world bearing the name of the
Second: How To Face These Effects
We can face them in three ways:
1. The Spiritual Fullness
There is no doubt that "A satisfied soul loathes the
honeycomb, but to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet"
(Prov 27:7). When our children find their satisfaction in
Jesus Christ, the Bible, the lives of saints; in church,
hymns and spiritual readings; in serving in the city and the
village, it will be easy to take them away from watching TV.
It also makes it easy to overcome the negativism in TV
programs. Jesus is a great power Who saves us from the
power of the flesh, the world and the devil and gives him
the victory over evil in all its forms. He can enable us to
reject sexual immorality no matter how tempting it may be.
We have to restore the family altar, gather with our
children to read the Bible, sing hymns, pray and go with
them to take Holy Communion and to attend meetings at
church. We should watch their spiritual progress closely.
Then it will be easy for them to make the right choices.
Inner emptiness is the reason behind being attracted to TV,
but the person filled with God's grace will watch the little
that is useful, leaving the much that is useless.
2. Cultural Fullness
We used to have a big library at home that was full of books
on different subjects. The parent used to read a book and
then give it to his or her son or daughter to read; later,
they would discuss it together. Now, we rely on the
cultural triviality of newspapers, magazines, and TV.
We need a push to read, to activate the mind and fill life
with sacred enthusiasm, leaving us with no spare time for
any delinquency. A cultured person is capable of choosing
useful books, programs etc., choosing what is upbuilding.
3. The Constructive Selection
When the heart is filled with Jesus Christ and the mind with
culture, it is easy for us to choose the best programs, the
right friends, good books and magazines which will be
fruitful in the home - and leave out those that are
As Christian believers we have some inner enlightenment
bestowed by the God Who made us. "Test all things; hold
fast what is good" (1Thes 5:21). We should weigh matters in
the light of three verses:
+ "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not
helpful" (1Cor 6:12).
+ "All things are lawful for me, but all things do not
edify" (1Cor 10:23).
+ "All things are lawful for me ... but I will not be
brought under the power of any" (1Cor 6:12).
We live in inner freedom: whether reading, studying,
discussing, watching, or travelling. "In all these things
we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us" (Rom
Let's live with our children a spiritually satisfying life,
a life that builds them up culturally. Let's enter with
them into a dialogue that will build their consciences
through Jesus Christ. We will not leave them to go adrift.
Instead, they will be filled with God, live a life of faith
and holiness, and be witnesses for the Lord Who saved us.
- 11 -
YOUTH AND FAMILY LIFE
THE FAMILY AND RELATIONSHIPS
(H.H. Bishop Moussa)
The Christian family has two types of belonging: one to the
church or the secret body of Christ, and another to society
or the country. Each of them has its own rights and duties.
The family is really the fundamental cell from which the
church and country are built up.
There is no contradiction at all between these two types of
belonging. Christianity calls us to be good neighbors. It
commands us to acquire good and honest behavior that can
testify for Christ Who dwells within us: "Let your light so
shine before men, that they may see Your good works and
glorify Your Father in heaven" (Mt 5:16). Moreover,
Christianity commands us to submit to the governing
authorities, being confident that God is above all: "The
king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of
water; He turns it whenever He wishes" (Prov 21:1); "There
is no authority except from God, and the authorities that
exist are appointed by God" (Rom 13:1).
The Christian family is asked to be Christian in reality and
not just in name. It is to be firmly connected by the Holy
Spirit and bonds of love, to be concerned with bringing up
its children in the fear of God and love for all. Then the
family will remain a model for the holiness and continuation
of Christian marriage and be ready to play its part in both
church and country.
1. The Relationship With God
It is the first and essential relationship. The Christian
family sometimes hangs an significant sign in the dining
room. It says: "Christ is the head of this house, the
unseen guest at every meal, and the silent listener to every
conversation." If the family follow this watchword, it may
be converted into a real church and a holy sanctuary where
it can offer the oblations of glorification and
In the past the Christian family took care to set aside a
place for prayer. This place contained a compartment for
the Holy Virgin carrying Christ, and in front of it there
was an oil lamp symbolizing the light of the God's Word, or
candles to symbolize the deepest source of self-sacrificial
love that the family had. In front of such an east facing
compartment a daily prayer has to be offered - we suggest it
should be once a day in the evening. The family may pray a
short prayer - we suggest the prayer of thanksgiving, Psalm
50 (Have mercy on me, O God), and the Compline absolution.
One of the children may read a chapter of the Bible, then
the prayer should be ended by the concluding prayer (Have
mercy upon us O Lord, have mercy upon us) and the Lord's
Such a family altar will mean that the Lord will keep an eye
on us and His love and personal presence will be with us.
His Word will be heard in the ears of both young and old.
It will be a reason for renewed calm repentance, its prayers
will be an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to renew,
sanctify, direct and win hearts to goodness and
No doubt this altar will be a chance for good family ties on
both the spiritual and emotional levels. The family will
never be divided against itself, neither the parents nor the
children. All will behave later with a spiritual and
enriching love. They will not be trapped in psychological
2. The Relationships Within The Family
Educationalists talk about the generation gap and the
inability of the parents' generation gap to understand the
psychology and circumstances of their sons' and daughters'
generation. On the other hand, young people have difficulty
in communicating with their parents and imagine that
agreement between their generation and their parents' is
impossible. This is a natural thing to happen among people
of the world but not among the sons and daughters of God,
who have got rid of their stubbornness and selfishness and
overcome their materialism. It will be easier for them to
meet intimately and agree gracefully. In an atmosphere of
warmth and affection, they should be able to give firm
guidance, free from enfeebling favoritism or undue severity.
Keeping the balance of expressing feelings and offering
advice is essential not only for the peacefulness and
cohesion of family ties but also wholesome spiritual,
psychological and practical life for its members.
A lot of young families have been torn apart because of the
strong emotional ties between the parents and their sons and
daughters. Because of the impossibility of the young person
being emotionally weaned from the parents he or she cannot
be united to a partner. Such a strange emotion between the
parents and the new couple is not love at all but only a
counterfeit image of love. It springs from an unwholesome
selfishness and self-centeredness, which causes
psychological troubles for both the young man and the woman
and makes an illness all too likely in the long run.
In fact, spiritual and rational love is needed. It is
essential because we don't want young men and women to grow
up with an emotional deprivation that leads them to be
trapped by the first false emotion. Spiritual love is
essential, but emotional love is not sufficient. Emotional
weaning is needed and a balanced upbringing is essential
too. We suffer from the disparity between the father and
mother in the way they bring up their children. One uses
cruelty and the other spoils a child so that the son or
daughter grows up with a damaged, psyche which rapidly
develops into a corrupted manner and spirit.
3. The Relationships Outside The Family
These must have principles and boundaries. For example, the
spirit of love between a couple and their families must
always be evident. The parents' intervention must be
limited to what will benefit the couple and build them up.
Each partner must not allow the other partner to be closely
tied only to his or her family: they must be linked with
each other's families. The two families must not let
destructive curiosity or feelings of resentment interfere in
the life of the new family. Intervention is needed only for
the benefit of the new couple, but they must have time to
know each other intimately and become united. Each of them
must give up some of habits and mood. Within this period of
time, some minor differences or even disputes take place
but, because of the spirit of understanding, Christian love
and the earnest direction of parents they will calm down.
But if the parents take the opposite course, i.e. favoritism
and destructive attitudes, the new family may be torn apart.
Outside the two families there are the relationships with
colleagues, friends, and neighbors. Such relationships must
have manners and spiritual rules, because we suffer from
these types of relationships. They bring bad thoughts into
the family, involve them in resentful relationships and push
them into abandoning constructive, vital principles. this
is the last of the negative consequences which come from a
home with no protective walls around it. Visits must be
limited, relationships must be set up after suitable vetting
and sons' and daughter's friendships must be under
Hence, every family must keep an eye on its sons and
daughters to be able to say to the Lord on the Last Day:
"Hence I am and the children whom God has given me" (Heb
2:13). The mother "Will be saved in childbearing if they
continue in faith, love and holiness, with self-control"
The watchword of us all must be: "As for me and my house,
we will serve the Lord" (Josh 24:15).
- 12 -
YOUTH AND FAMILY LIFE
FAMILY AND BEARING WITNESS FOR CHRIST
(H.H. Bishop Moussa)
Bearing witness to Jesus Christ is not just the duty of the
family, but also of every believer. For what Jesus Christ has
done for us deserves our gratitude, dedication and active efforts
for Him. Therefore, the Christian family is expected to bear
witness to Christ, Who loved it and shed His blood for its sake.
We bear witness to Christ not only because we are thankful to Him
for saving, blessing and choosing us as His children, but also
out of love for humanity that needs the Good Savior. We need to
determine the ways that the Christian family should follow.
Bearing witness means demonstrating these divine characteristics
with consolidation and depth in our Christian lives. Being
positive in one's Christian life is a blessing to oneself and to
others, as Solomon said: "The generous soul will be made rich,
and he who waters will also be watered himself" (Prov 11:25).
There are many areas where the family can bear witness to Christ
Who protects and saves it:
1. The Area Of Personal Holiness
What proves that Jesus works in us is His ability to make us
holy. Holiness is not based on sinlessness, but on "freedom from
condemnation." It is impossible for man to be sinless. As long
as we are in our weak body we groan under the same burden as the
Apostle's saying: "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver
me from this body of death?" (Rom 7:24). Even we who "have the
first fruits of the Spirit, ... groan within ourselves, eagerly
waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body" (Rom 8:23).
We may stumble, but we refuse to be enslaved to sin.
In spite of our struggles and efforts, our weakness still leads
us to sin - this is natural, but our faults are caused by
carelessness or overconfidence in the face of temptation. We
should not try to test ourselves out. Such a reckless attitude
must be changed. It is possible for a certain kind of person to
rise to his or her feet when fallen. This person changes his or
her ways and is not condemned. "There is therefore now no
condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk
according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Rom 8:1).
Another kind of person, however, not only falls but with his or
her free-will keeps on falling and fully chooses to do so.
Someone like that really needs to be shaken up inside and have
his or her conscience aroused so as to change his or her whole
direction in life.
"Holiness" in Greek is "Agios", which means "set apart for God"
or "chosen for God." Just as tithes, or tenths, are "set apart
for God" and the vessels of the altar are "consecrated for
service", so a priest of the old covenant would have a sign on
his forehead saying, "Holy to God." In Holiness we set ourselves
apart from the natural walk of the people of this world, and
dedicate the innermost sanctuary of our hearts to the Lord. We
struggle to devote all our love to Christ.
This personal holiness is based on the grace of God working with
our struggles. This is the most important area of witness to
Christ, for people "May see your good works and glorify your
Father in heaven" (Mt 5:16). What will have most impact are not
our untiring efforts as God's servants, nor our profound studies:
what really counts is being a model or a demonstration of God's
handiwork, an icon that expresses the work of the Holy Spirit.
2. The Area Of Family Cohesion
The Christian family is to be an example which bears witness to
Jesus' love. This love can link the family members together in
one body. When talking about steady, consistent marriages people
used to call them "Christian Marriages." What is needed now from
our Christian families is a living witness to Jesus Christ Who is
dwelling in them with all His love. What we don't need is
trouble, selfishness, hatred and divorces.
People nowadays think of divorce very quickly and at the first
misunderstanding, despite the fact that divorce is completely
rejected in the New Testament except in the case of adultery or
abandoning the faith. god told us in the Old Testament - under
the age of Law - that He hates divorce: how much more in the age
of the Holy Spirit and redemption? People think nowadays of
cutting off marriage ties because they have no children (mainly a
Middle Eastern phenomenon). Or they may think of splitting up
because their characters differ, instead of coping with each
other in true Christian love. Or they may get divorced in the
face of sickness instead of looking after one another. None of
these reasons spring from the mind of Christ or the Spirit of
The family will disintegrate and the children will lose their way
and will face spiritual and psychological suffering. Yet the one
who is causing all this thinks he or she's doing nothing wrong.
As the days go by, the one who has said an angry word will sense
that he or she has done something which didn't please God.
Let God speak into our hearts! Let Him arouse our sleeping
consciences. Let Him unite our disintegrated families for the
sake of bearing true witness to Christ, Who suffered by the whips
which cut His shoulders for our sakes. We must watch out for God
will bring peace into our disintegrating families and give
repentance to lost souls. Otherwise, what a great crime we are
committing against our children, not only in this age but in
eternity as well!
3. The Area Of Service In The Church
This is the natural area in which the family should bear its
witness to Jesus Christ. We are to exert continuous service for
the church and to serve with our tithes and not to deny them to
their real owner, Who is the key of blessing. Giving tithes is a
blessing to oneself. We must contribute our talents: the
father, as a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer: the wife
in her work or in any job which may suit her. She can make food,
clothes, and share in outreaches for charity. The sons can share
while still young in serving the altar and then in Sunday Schools
in the church. Or they can join in with working camps and
various social activities. The girls can also serve in suitable
areas maybe in teaching classes, looking after the creche, or
serving in needle-work, knitting, and so on. Serving in the
church is a natural thing for every Christian family, because the
family is the basic cell for forming the church. It is an
inseparable part of the church and a vital organ in it.
Serving the church will also show the sons and daughters to be a
vital branch in Jesus' vineyard. They can't go astray from the
way of eternity. They achieve a sense of belonging and give
their efforts to God's house.
4. The Area Of Sacrificial Love
This is the deepest and most profound area of bearing witness,
where the family comes out of its shell and directs its attention
towards others: friends, neighbors, and everyone, with love
untainted fanaticism. For Jesus Christ has never known
fanaticism, but on the contrary, He fought fanaticism in His
disciples. When the Samaritan village refused to accept Jesus,
two of His disciples thought of asking for a heavenly fire to
come down and burn up the Samaritans. At that point Jesus
rebuked them saying: "You do not know what manner of spirit you
are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives
but to save them" (Lk 9:55, 56). And it actually happened that
these two disciples were inwardly changed and went to minister in
all areas, without discrimination between Jews and Gentiles.
Christ wants us - His children - to excel in opening our hearts,
spreading love and presenting our service with a highly positive
spirit. When a Pharisee, in order to justify himself, said:
"Who is my neighbor?", the Lord gave him the example of the Good
Samaritan that served the wounded Jew. He declared to the
Pharisee that the one he ought to show compassion to is the true
neighbor, not the one who belongs to the same sect or race.
Christianity is pervaded with the concept of love from the first
moment of creation till the end of the world, from the first
chapter of the Bible will the last. It is enough to know that
the most favorable way of describing God to us is that He is
love. That is why when hatred enters a person's heart God
departs from it that very moment. But when God possesses a
person's heart He widens its boundaries, till he or she loves the
whole world without being tainted by its lusts.
An elderly monk once said: "If you've shut yourself away to be
alone with God and haven't found consolation, get down to the
street, since you will find the image of Jesus in the first
person you meet."
Let's serve with all our love and energy, without expecting
praise or anything in return. For this we'll have praise from
God and that will satisfy us.
God bless our families for the glory of His Name. Amen!