The celebration of Christmas contains within it the celebration of the Holy Family. This special feast day was promoted by Pope Benedict the XV to be celebrated by the universal Church in 1921, then in 1969 it was attached to the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas. Christmas is an important celebration in the Christian calendar because it is one of the central mysteries of our faith. Because of its centrality and perhaps because of the intimacy of what is being celebrated – the birth of a baby who is also the Savior of the world – it draws families together. Even though our society isn’t particularly Christian, Christmas continues to draw families together, inviting them to express love and affection, to share joy and to be generous with each other. In a world that is increasingly fractured, where the family is threatened from within and without by destabilizing societal forces like divorce, gender confusion, redefining marriage, abortion, social media and individualism, Christmas is still a reminder of what human beings can be for each other, and how we yearn to belong. Christmas, as societal pressure, directs us to look for the place where we belong, and the Church tells us that the family shapes our core sense of belonging.
It makes sense that we celebrate the Holy Family as part of Christmas. We need the example of the Holy Family to help us understand how our own families can become places of belonging. We belong to each other because we share the same flesh and blood, but we belong to each other even more profoundly by our choices. We belong to each other because of unconditional love, but we cannot avoid mutual correction of our faults. We cannot remain at odds with one another – allowing wounds to fester continually. If we belong to one another we must forgive one another and ask for forgiveness. To create stronger human communities, stronger societies, we must grow in our sense of belonging to one another and the natural God given place for this is the family. The Holy Family is the strongest example we have of human bonds of attachment and belonging – they can inspire us to acquire the virtues that will foster an invincible love in our own families.
Pope Paul VI gave us three elements of the life in Nazareth that he believed contributed to the strength of the Holy Family: silence, family life, and work. By examining how our own families incorporate these elements, we can strengthen each other, and each of us our bond with Jesus. Moments of silence in the home, where everyone is able to think or pray, allow us to grow in the autonomy we need to be human persons and make decisions. Family life means eating and preparing meals together, sharing our activities and conversations, looking out for each other and doing the chores that need to be done around the place we all live. Work is how every individual member of the family contributes their unique skills and gifts to the rest of the community in which we all live – it teaches responsibility and provides each member with a sense of worth and dignity.
May the Holy Family continue to inspire us to band together in our own families. May our own families be made stronger in the image of the Holy Family so that we may understand how each one belongs, is loved, and is made whole. May our Lord bless all the families and give them grace to live out their vocation.
Now what Paul wishes to say is that there is no benefit in those things, for all those things fall apart, unless they are done with love. This is the love that binds them all together. Whatever good thing it is that you mention, if love be absent, it is nothing, it melts away. The analogy is like a ship; though its rigging be large, yet if it lacks girding ropes, it is of no service. Or it is similar to a house; if there are no tie beams, of what use is the house? Think of a body. Though its bones be large, if it lacks ligaments, the bones cannot support the body. In the same way, whatever good our deeds possess will vanish completely if they lack love.1
Observe again that Paul has exhorted husbands and wives to reciprocity. As with wives toward husbands, here too he enjoins fear and love. For it is possible for one who loves to be bitter. What Paul says then is this. Don’t fight; for nothing is more bitter than fighting in marriage, when it takes place on the part of the husband toward the wife. For disputes between people who love another are bitter. These arise from great bitterness, when, Paul says, any one disagrees with his own member. To love, therefore, is the husband’s part, to yield pertains to the other side. If, then, each one contributes his own part, all stand firm. From being loved, the wife too becomes loving; and from her being submissive, the husband learns to yield.2
GREGORY THE GREAT:
Subjects are to be admonished in one way, superiors in another, but the former in such a way that subjection may not crush them; the latter, that their exalted position may not lift them up; the former; that they should not do less than is ordered; the latter, that they should not command more than is just; the former, that they submit with humility; the latter, that they be moderate in the exercise of their superiority. For it is said to the former, and this can be understood figuratively: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.” But superiors are commanded: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.” Let the former learn to order their interior dispositions before the eyes of the hidden Judge; the others, how to set outwardly the example of a good life to those committed to them.3
All heretics have gone astray by not understanding the mystery of his nativity. The statement “he who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord” is more applicable to the special nativity of the Savior than to that of all men, for Christ alone opened the closed doors of the womb of virginity, which nevertheless remained permanently closed. This is the closed east door, through which only the high priest enters and leaves, and nevertheless it is always closed.4
Let us come now to the turtledove, chosen as a chaste victim by the law of God. Hence, when the Lord was circumcised, the dove was offered, because it is written in the law that there should be a presentation of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” For this is the true sacrifice of Christ: chastity of body and grace of the spirit. Chastity belongs to the turtledove; grace, to the pigeon.5
BASIL THE GREAT:
Now, it is a custom in Scripture to call the Christ of God, salvation, as Simeon says: “Now let your servant depart in peace, O Lord, because my eyes have seen your salvation.” Therefore let us subject ourselves to God, because from him is salvation. He explains what salvation is. It is not some mere active force, which provides us with a certain grace for deliverance from weakness and for the good health of our body. What then is salvation?
“For he is my God and my Savior: he is my protector, I shall be moved no more.” The Son, who is from God, is our God. He himself is also Savior of the human race, who supports our weakness, who corrects the disturbance that springs up in our souls from temptations.6
- HOMILIES ON COLOSSIANS 8. Gorday, P. (Ed.). (2000). Colossians, 1–2 Thessalonians, 1–2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon (p. 49). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILIES ON COLOSSIANS 10. Gorday, P. (Ed.). (2000). Colossians, 1–2 Thessalonians, 1–2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon (p. 51). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- PASTORAL CARE 3.4. Gorday, P. (Ed.). (2000). Colossians, 1–2 Thessalonians, 1–2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon (p. 52). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- AGAINST THE PELAGIANS 2.4. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 47). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SIX DAYS OF CREATION 5.19.62. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 48). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILY ON PSALM 61.2. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 49). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.