every Christian family to “become what you are”, a domestic church.
The Holy Family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary is not only our model, it is the beginning of the new family of the Church. Our Gospel story today tells us of a family trip which is packed with lessons for those enrolled in the School of Nazareth. In and through the ordinary stuff of daily life we find Jesus and in the encounter discover ourselves. In those encounters we change, we “put on love, which is the bond of perfection”.
Pope Paul VI wrote: "Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ’s life was like and even to understand his Gospel. …Here we can learn to realize who Christ really is. … Here everything speaks to us, everything has meaning.”
I woke up in church this morning. Not on a cold dark floor surrounded by votive candles and stained glass; but next to my partner in faith, my best friend, my co-pastor, my beloved wife of 33 years, Laurine. Down the hall slept members of the ecclesial community now in our home, our daughter and our grandson. The others are out of the home now but never out of our hearts. They are pursuing their own mission in life and, we pray, growing in a mature understanding of the implications of their baptismal vocation to holiness.
Perhaps the most often quoted use of the term “domestic church” is from the "Golden Mouth" 4th century preacher John Chrysostom in Antioch, the city where they were first called Christians. He reminds us that the church is a relational reality and Jesus promised "when two or three are gathered…" He would be in our midst. However, within the Catholic and Orthodox Church, Christian Marriage is even more, it is a Sacrament, a participation in- and sign of- the Life of the Trinity!
Yet more often we see ourselves living "in the world" and "going to Church." However, our Feast today reveals the deeper truth. Every Christian family is a holy family when the source of holiness is welcomed to take up residence. Because of His presence in our life together, we all woke up in Church this morning.
We live in Church. We were baptized into the Lord and now live in His Risen Body as members. The Christian family is the smallest cell of that Body. The extended church community is a family of families. This understanding is more than piety--it is sound ecclesiology, solid anthropology...it is reality. Family life is where the "rubber hits the road" for most Christians. It is here that the universal call to holiness, in all its real, earthy, humanness and ordinariness is first issued.
Family is where progress in the spiritual life can find its raw material. Whether we respond to grace and develop the eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to accept the hidden invitations to love found beneath the surface of that daily "stuff" is wrapped up in the mystery of human freedom. The Greek word translated "emptied" in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is "kenosis." "Have this mind among yourselves which was in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself… " (Phil. 2:5)
This word refers to the voluntary pouring out-like water-of oneself in an act of sacrificial love. This "emptying" is the proper response of the love of a Christian for the One who first loved us. It is also the very heart of the vocation of Christian marriage and family.
When the right choices are made in this life of "domestic kenosis", we cooperate with the Lord's invitation to follow Him by exercising our human freedom; we choose to give ourselves away in love to the "other." In so doing, we are gradually transformed into an image, a living icon, of Jesus Christ. This way of holiness is not easy, as anyone who has lived the vocation can attest, but make no mistake; it is a very real path to holiness. It is also a wonderful one.
The challenge lies in the choices we make, daily, hourly, and even moment-by-moment. Two trees still grow in the garden of domestic life. They invite the exercise of our freedom, the core of the Image of God within us. There is the tree in Eden where the first Eve said, "No I will not serve." Then, there is the Tree on Calvary where Mary, the "second Eve" stood with the beloved disciple John and, along with him, again proclaimed her "yes". Through those choices, presented to us from the moment we open our eyes every morning to the time we close them at night, we are invited to learn in the “School of Nazareth” and, in imitation of the Holy Family, become a domestic church.
“Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” (Colossians 3)
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Christmas / Advent News
- A Layman's Plea for Tolerance of Catholics
- A Question For The Christmas Season: Do You Want To Become A Saint?
- Every Leader Supporting Abortion is Herod, Every Child Killed a Holy Innocent
- Feast of St. Stephen, Proto-Martyr, Calls us to Reflect on the Gift of Deacons
- Fr. Sly on the Feast of St John in the Octave of Christmas
- Welcoming the Birth of the Redeemer in the Womb: Jesus was an Embryonic Person
- Merry Christmas: Love is Born on Christmas Morn and the World is Born Anew
- Pope St Leo the Great: Christian, Remember Your Dignity
- Pope Benedict XVI: If God's Light is Extinguished, Man's Divine Dignity is also Extinguished
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?