Feast of the Holy Family: The Christian Family is a Domestic Church
The Christian family is called to be a 'domestic church' on mission in the world.
We actually live in Church. We were baptized into the Lord and we now live in His Body. The Christian family IS a church, the smallest and most vital 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, in fact it is reality for those who are baptized into Christ Jesus. It can lead us to holiness and happiness.
Christian Marriage is a Sacrament, a participation in the very life of God through which and for which we are given grace, the very Life of God.
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - "But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way." (1Cor. 12:31) I woke up in church this morning. Not on a cold dark floor or surrounded by votive candles and stained glass, but next to my partner in faith, my best friend, my beloved wife of 34 years, Laurine.
We are staying overnight this Christmas at the home of our oldest daughter. She wanted to host Christmas this year for the first time. She is the first of our five grown children. Her home is filled to overflowing with love, and the floors are filled with our children who were able to travel here, our grandchildren, and a rambunctious little dog. Together, we form an ecclesial community in the home. I was truly "in Church" this morning.
From antiquity the Christian Family has been called "the domestic church." Perhaps the most often quoted use of the term is from the "Golden Mouth", the Bishop John Chrysostom, writing in Antioch (the city where they were first called Christians) in the fourth century.
After all, the church is a relational reality, "when two or three are gathered." said the Lord. (Matt. 18:20) Also, at least within the Catholic and Orthodox Church, Christian Marriage is a Sacrament. In other words, it is a participation in- and sign of- the Life of the Trinity! As the Apostle Peter wrote to the early Christians, we are "partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1)
Yet, how often do we really view this way of life in this way?
Even the most sincere Christians can still live out their Christian life with a certain dualism. They see themselves as living "in the world" and "going to Church." Family life sometimes gets included in "the world" or perhaps it is seen as a part of a "duty in the Lord" which often "competes" with the Christian mission.
Please understand, as a Catholic Christian, I love to frequent beautiful Church buildings and to participate in the beauty of liturgical worship. However, the point I am trying to make is a vital one. We actually live in Church. We were baptized into the Lord and we now live in His Body. The Christian family IS a church, the smallest and most vital 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, in fact it is reality for those who are baptized into Christ Jesus.
The day will soon burst into a flurry of activity with a unique ritual pattern. To the untrained eye, it would look rather "hectic". But with the eyes of domestic faith, my wife Laurine and I will try to see the deeper purpose. All those years of raising children, and now trying to raise grandchildren, we have come to comprehend the mystery hidden in the routine.
There is almost a liturgical sameness to the pattern that emerges after so many years- by practice, developed spiritual purpose, and just plain ordinary human repetition. But it can all become transforming when lived out "in Christ". It is here, where the "rubber hits the road" for most Christians. It is here that the universal call to holiness, in all its real, earthy, incarnation is lived out-in all of its humanness and ordinariness.
Here is also where true progress in the spiritual life can find its raw material. The question becomes whether we who are called to live Christian marriage and family as a vocation do so by seeking to respond to grace and by developing the eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to accept the hidden invitations to love found beneath the surface of the daily "stuff" of Christian Marriage and Family life.
The Greek word translated "emptied" in an extraordinary passage in the letter to the Philippian Christians is "kenosis." St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians concerning our call to enter into the self emptying of Jesus, "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 Greek 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 life. There is a "domestic kenosis", a domestic emptying out which comes in the ordinary "stuff" of daily life in a Christian family. There is a "domestic ascesis", a way of living an ascetical life, when we embrace the very real struggles involved in living this out as a vocation in Christ.
However, we need to move from the realm of fuzzy feelings or theological theory to reality - the emptying is lived out in a unique and grace filled way in Christian marriage and family life. As Christian spouses, mothers and ...
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