The Holy Family, Ethiopian Arts.
…..the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel….. Matthew 2:19-20.
To see a young Jesus, with Mary and Joseph (or, more likely, Y’shua, Miriam and Yosef), walking down the street of a Jewish Saturday afternoon coming back from temple, nothing would have seemed remarkable. The youngster would perhaps have been jumping about, his apparent father maybe playing with him, Mary perhaps smiling at the loving relationship between the two. Perfect. Life I’m sure would not have been easy for them; they were not wealthy, they depended on Joseph’s skills as a carpenter, and I’m sure there was a struggle to put food on the table day after day. Almost all families face such challenges; I know mine did just after the war in the 1940s and 50s. Millions still do in the poorer countries of the world. But life goes on. Today’s feast therefore is a celebration of the completely normal and ordinary. Almost all of us can identify with that scene. So what is it doing here today? Well, I’m proposing something rather unusual, and that is, that such a family is a reflection of the Blessed Trinity itself. God the Father was the first Person to enter human history in Genesis 12, approaching Abram and offering friendship and promising that which Abram would have thought impossible – ancestors and land. From the heights of heaven, this covenant was fulfilled slowly and surely through the centuries. Once the foundation was laid, God’s Son appeared, one who could and would demonstrate in purely human terms, how God the Father would like to see us behave with each other and God. Once that example had been done, and Jesus, God the Son, was condemned for so doing, God’s Holy Spirit was sent to us to enable us to live that perfect life Jesus had shown us. So the Holy Family could be a living example of the Trinity in human terms. Joseph taking on the role of Father, the one who sustains his family, guides them. Jesus as the life force, moving into adulthood with the solid foundation and experience of a loving family from which he drew stability and confidence. And Mary as the binding force, the strength keeping everything together and in harmony (and remember that the Jewish understanding of God’s Wisdom was feminine). And there you have it, the perfect unit. Today, of course, we have many different manifestations of that family unit. Rather than condemning them, perhaps it would be better to hope and pray that each of them can offer the same strong ideal foundations that their children can rely on as they grow. Love is the binding force in all such relationships. And so we need to consider the nature of love itself.
There are two popular songs from Broadway/West End musicals which seem to capture the nature of love. One is from the Sound of Music, but much more elaborated by its lyricist, Oscar Hammerstein II, in his song, “Love isn’t love till you give it away” The other is from Les Miserables, the finale of which states, “Take my love, For love is everlasting; And remember, The truth that once was spoken: To love another person is to see the face of God” And from that comes another amazing “proof” if you like, of the nature of the Blessed Trinity. The other two great monotheistic religions cannot begin to comprehend what the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is. But if you accept the definition that God is love (1 John 4:8), then there has to be a community of persons, at least two, for love to be present. Anything less than that means there cannot be true love. To whom do you give love if you are alone, such as one solitary God prior to the creation of the universe? There is no such conundrum with the Holy Trinity, who loved all of us into existence. That is why I claim that today’s feast is a clear reflection of God, the Christian belief in a divine community, love generating life (which can be seen in the Person of God the Son, eternally generated from love) for all eternity, and we are fortunate enough to benefit from such care and solace.
The Holy Family, Catholics Striving for Holiness.
Reflections on the following Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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