Learning at the School of Nazareth: Feast of the Holy Family Teaches Us How to Become a Holy Family
In our own Christian family we can learn the way of selfless love in the School of Nazareth.
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. 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.
The workshop of Nazareth at Our Lady, Queen of the Universe in Orlando, Florida
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - I just returned from an unusual Christmas. I think I will be unpacking its implications for years to come. For the first time since I was ordained to the order of Deacon all those years ago, I was not serving the Altar on Christmas. I was, instead, at the bedside of my mother. She is growing old and, though still as funny and insightful as ever, her body is succumbing to the effects of aging.
So, our whole family traveled from all over the country to be with "Nana". Children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, all spending some precious time with her - perhaps, their last time. It was hard and soft, sad and joyful, all at once. I am sure that memories were formed in the young. I know they were evoked in this aging mind. Life is a classroom, a place of instruction in love. The only real question is whether we learn the lessons it teaches.
My dear wife and I attended Christmas Day Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady Queen of the Universe in Orlando, Florida. I had visited this national treasure years ago during a Catholic leadership Conference. That was back when the effort was led by my friend, Deal Hudson. During that visit I had the privilege of serving as Deacon at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for a wonderful Bishop named Thomas Wenski. He is now the Archbishop of Miami and the faithful are truly fortunate to have him.
I will never forget when the Bishop gave me a tour of that absolutely beautiful Church. It was specifically built to reach out on mission to the millions who visit the parks associated with Disney World. The Bishop shared his hope that it would become a pilgrimage site and a place of deepening conversion. It certainly has! At one point he took me to the beautiful sculpture of Joseph and Jesus in the workshop of Nazareth to the left of the sanctuary. His explanation of the beauty revealed in this sculpture came back to my mind on this Christmas.
On this Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I have just arrived home in Chesapeake and am drawn to marvel at the mystery revealed in the workshop of Nazareth. I am overwhelmed at the meaning of those years Jesus spent in Nazareth, in a holy family. 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, and applying it to our own daily lives.
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. From antiquity the Christian family has rightly been called a domestic church. In our own Christian family we can learn the way of selfless love in the School of Nazareth.
During this 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."
In a beautiful address given last year, on December 28, 2011, at his Wednesday audience, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the life of the Holy Family in Nazareth. Here is a short excerpt: "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 ...
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