Today is the feast day of the Holy Family, but also every family’s feast day, since the Holy Family is the patron and model of all Christian families. Today should be a huge family feast since it is devoted entirely to the Holy Family as a model for the Christian family life. As Rev. Edward Sutfin expresses:
“The children must start to see in their father the foster-father St. Joseph, and the Blessed Mother as the perfect model for their own mother. The lesson to be learned is both practical and theoretical, in that the children must learn how to obey and to love their parents in thought, word, and action, just as Christ was obedient to Mary and Joseph. Assisting the mother in the kitchen and in the housework, and helping father in his odd jobs about the home thus take on a new relevance by being performed in a Christ-like spirit.” (True Christmas Spirit, ©1955, St. Meinrad Archabbey, Inc.)
The Holy Family
Marriage is mostly conceived as the sacrament which unites a man and a woman to form a couple. In reality, marriage builds a family, and its purpose is to increase the number of the elect, through the bodily and spiritual fecundity of the Christian spouses.
- Every marriage intends children. Although Mary and Joseph were not united in a carnal way, their marriage is a true marriage: an indissoluble, unique union, wholly subordinated to the child. Mary and Joseph are united only in order to bring Jesus into the world, to protect and raise him. They have only one child, but he contains the whole of mankind, even as Isaac, an only child, accomplished the promise made to Abraham of a countless progeny.
- The purpose of every marriage is to build up a Christian family. The Holy Family observed the religious laws of Israel; it went in pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year with other Jewish families (Lk. 2:41). Jesus saddens and amazes his father and his mother because of their will and company he prefers “to be in his Father’s house”. Thus it may be that God’s will obliges the family to make disconcerting sacrifices. Yet every Christian family must live in harmony and in prayer, which are the pledges of joy and union.
- “He remained obedient to them.” Jesus was God. And through the fullness of grace Mary stood above Joseph. Regardless — if we except the event in the Temple — Joseph remained the head of the family; he took the initiative (as when the Holy Family fled to Egypt), and in Nazareth, Jesus obeyed his parents.
The Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph
The devotion to the Holy Family was born in Bethlehem, together with the Baby Jesus. The shepherds went to adore the Child and, at the same time, they gave honor to His family. Afterward, in a similar way, the three wise men came from the East to adore and give honor to the newborn King with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that would be safeguarded by His family.
We can go further to affirm that in a certain sense Christ, Himself, was the first devotee of His family. He showed His devotion to His mother and foster father by submitting Himself, with infinite humility, to the duty of filial obedience towards them. This is what St Bernard of Clairvaux said in this regard, ‘God, to whom angels submit themselves and who principalities and powers obey, was subject to Mary; and not only to Mary but Joseph also for Mary’s sake [….]. God obeyed a human creature; this is humility without precedent. A human creature commands God; it is sublime beyond measure.’ (First Homily on the ‘Missus Est’).
Today’s celebration shows Christ’s humility and obedience with respect to the fourth commandment, whilst also displaying the loving care that His parents showed in His keeping. The servant of God, Pope John Paul II, in 1989, entitled his Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Redemptoris Custos’(Guardian of the Redeemer) which was committed to the person and the mission of Saint Joseph in the life of Christ and of the Church. After exactly a century, he resumed the teaching of Pope Leo XIII, for who Saint Joseph ‘.. shines among all mankind by the most august dignity, since by divine will, he was the guardian of the Son of God and reputed as His father among men’ (Encyclical Quamquam Pluries n. 3). Pope Leo XIII continued, ‘.. Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was.[…] It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and girt it about with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.’ Not many years before, blessed Pope Pius IX had ordained Saint Joseph, ‘Patron of the Catholic Church’ (1870)
Observing the Holy Family, we see the love, the protection, and the diligent care that they gave to the Redeemer. We can not fail to feel uneasiness, perhaps a shameful thought, for the times in which we have not rendered the appropriate care and attention to the Blessed Eucharist. We can only request for forgiveness and do penance for all the sacrilegious acts and the lack of respect that is committed in front of the Blessed Eucharist. We can only ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, for a greater love for their Son Incarnate, who has decided to remain here on earth with us every day until the end of time.
Things to Do:
- Let us live like the Holy Family in our Christian families, and our family will be a cell and a prefiguration of the heavenly family. Say a prayer committing your family to the Holy Family. Also pray for all families and for our country to uphold the sanctity of the marriage bond which is under attack.
- Study more about Pope Leo XIII who started the Feast of the Holy Family and read his encyclical On Christian Marriage. You can equally check out the Vatican’s page of Papal documents on the Family.
- Have the whole family participate in cooking dinner. You might try a Lebanese meal. Some recommendations: stuffed grape leaves, stuffed cabbage rolls, lentils and rice, spinach and meat pies, chicken and dumplings, hummus, Lebanese bread, tabbouleh — a Lebanese salad and kibbi, a traditional Lebanese dish of specially ground meat mixed with spices and cracked wheat. This is the same kind of food that Mary served Jesus and St. Joseph. It’s healthy and delicious