During the Octave (eight days) of Christmas we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. The significance of the Feast unfolds when we come to understand the deeper truths it reveals. It teaches us about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph- and about each one of us and our own families. Through our Baptism, we are invited to live our lives in Christ by living them in the Church – which is the Risen Body of Christ. The Church is the place where we learn, as the Apostle Paul reminded the Colossian Christians, to “put on love, that is, the bond of perfection”. (Col. 3:14)
The Gospel of the Liturgy is taken from the presentation of Jesus in the temple account in St. Luke and the beautiful canticle of Zechariah. (Luke 2:22-40) However, upon leaving the temple to return to Nazareth, we read these words: “When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”
The house of Nazareth is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus. The Holy Family is an icon of the domestic Church, which is called to pray together. The family is the first school of prayer where, from their infancy, children learn to perceive God thanks to the teaching and example of their parents. An authentically Christian education cannot neglect the experience of prayer. If we do not learn to pray in the family, it will be difficult to fill this gap later. I would, then, like to invite people to rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family, following the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
The Christian family is the first cell of the whole Church. It is the place where we begin the journey toward holiness and become more fully human. The Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, became one of us. He was born into a human family. That was neither accidental nor incidental. There, in what the late Pope Paul VI called the “School of Nazareth”, we can learn the way of love. The late Pope’s reflection called “The Example of Nazareth” is in the Office of Readings for the Liturgy of the Hours (the breviary) for the Feast of the Holy family.
Every moment of his time among us Jesus was saving the world, re-creating it from within. To use a word from the early Church Father and Bishop St. Ireneaus, he was “recapitulating” the entire human experience. There, in the holy habitation of Nazareth, He forever transformed family life. Now, He teaches us how to live in His presence, if we will enroll in the “School of Nazareth”.
From antiquity the Christian family has rightly been called a “domestic church.” In our life within the Christian family Jesus Christ is truly present. However, we need the eyes to see Him at work, the ears to hear His instruction and the hearts to make a place for Him to dwell. In our family we can learn the way of selfless love by enrolling in the School of Nazareth.
Jesus spent 30 of his 33 earthly years in Nazareth. Some spiritual writers have called these the “hidden years”, because there is so little written about them in the Gospel narratives. However, they reveal the holiness of ordinary life and show us how it becomes extraordinary for those baptized into Christ.
Every moment of his time among us Jesus was saving, redeeming, and re-creating the world. From his conception, throughout His saving life, death and Resurrection, the One whom scripture calls the “New Adam” was making all things new. The Fathers of the last great Council of the Church put it this way: