The Feast of the Holy Family
Introit (Proverbs 23:24-25) The father of the just rejoices greatly, let your father and mother be joyful, and let her rejoice that bore you. Psalm. How lovely are your tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! my soul longs and faints for the courts of the Lord. ℣. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. The father of the just …
Collect Lord Jesus Christ, who, being subject to Mary and Joseph, did sanctify home life with ineffable virtues: grant that, with the aid of both, we may be taught by the example of your Holy Family, and attain to eternal fellowship with them: Who lives and reigns with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.
Epistle (Colossians 3:12-17) Brethren, Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience: bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another: even as the Lord has forgiven you, so do you also. But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection: and let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body: and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly, in all wisdom: teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God. All you do in word or in work, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Gradual (Ps. 26:4) One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. (Ps. 83. 5.) Blessed are they that dwell in your house, O Lord, they shall praise you for ever and ever. Alleluia, alleluia. (Isa. 45. 15.)
Alleluia Verily you are a hidden king, the God of Israel, the Saviour. Alleluia.
Gospel (Luke 2:42-52) When Jesus was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast, and having fulﬁlled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and His parents knew it not. And thinking that He was in the company, they came a day’s journey, and sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances. And not ﬁnding Him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking Him. And after three days they found Him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard Him were astonished at His wisdom and His answers. And seeing Him they wondered. And His mother said to Him: “Son, why have You done so to us? Behold, your father and I have sought You sorrowing”. And He said to them: “How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” And they understood not the word that He spoke unto them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And His mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age, and grace with God and men.
Offertory The parents of Jesus carried Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord.
Secret We offer unto You, Lord, this propitiatory Sacriﬁce, humbly entreating You: that through the intercession of the Virgin Mother of God, with blessed Joseph, you ﬁrmly establish our families in your peace and grace. Through the same Jesus Christ, your Son …
Communion Jesus went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them.
Postcommunion Make us, Lord Jesus, whom you refresh with heavenly Sacraments, ever follow the example of your Holy Family: that in the hour of our death, the glorious Virgin your mother with blessed Joseph may come to our aid, and we may be found worthy to be received by You into everlasting tabernacles: Who lives …
The Holy Family
The family is natural, and its nature, is good. God made humanity so that the family is normal. The human family is based on the divine model of the Holy Family of Nazareth. According to Syriac Christian ways of thinking, our human families are reflections (antetypes) of the Holy Family of Nazareth (which is the archetype). How true are our reflections to the divine pattern? Are our families reflections of the Holy Family, striving to improve? Can one recognise anything Christian in them, or are they reflections in shattered mirrors? Let us be impartial, not despairing, just seeing what we are, repenting for our mistakes and limitations, and striving to do better.
To make this practical we need to learn. Imagine you had a child who was forever wasting their chances in school: not listening, and arguing with the teachers all the time. You would be worried for their sake. You would want to sit them down and explain to them that this opportunity to learn something was valuable. You would explain how fortunate they were to be there, how the chance to learn at such places can never come back quite the same way, and how wasting these opportunities will come back to haunt them. This is true of all education, and most especially true in respect of the education in life which God intends us to have through and in our families.
The family is so valuable we should speak of it as being precious: we are with people who have been given to us by God. We are the same flesh and blood as our parents and siblings. There are family resemblances which show that together with our individuality we have a commonality. There is a natural love between family members provided we do not interfere with it by selfishness and vindictiveness. We are fortunate to have families: consider the pain of those who lose their families from any reason whatever, whether war, natural disaster or other evils. May we be preserved from that. And, as with school, the chances we have with our families never come back the same way: before you know it, the children have grown up, father or mother have a new job which takes them out of the house more, or one of them becomes ill; and there, in one stroke, the family dynamic is irrevocably altered.
What do we learn in our families? Children learn how to speak, and the whole of their lives, sport and education included, take place against the backdrop of the household. Parents learn how to care for their children: how to understand their needs, anticipate their wants, and how to act resourcefully in the hundred and one unforeseen situations which arise. All members of the family learn some form of responsibility which corresponds to their age and their situation in life. Older children are role models for their younger siblings, and younger children can encourage the older ones in good behaviour.
But more than any of this, which is still on the natural level, the family is a small world in which we can learn holiness. The family is a school of holiness, or at least it can be. The parents are particularly important because they set the tone for the family. If the parents are seeking holiness, as opposed to speaking about religion (which are two very different things), the children will at least have this example before them all their days of their lives. Because children naturally love and respect their parents, those parents are the chief role models for them. If the parents tell lies, lose their tempers, are vicious, and make easy excuses for their failings, the children will do the same. If the parents prepare each day with prayer, if they are considerate and rational during the day, not straying too far from the voice of conscience, and coming back to it when they do, closing the day with prayer, trying to improve from day to day, the children will do so, too. Let us not only pray for this but work for it, too. Amen.