All about the Holy Family
Today’s reading provides the picture of the iconic family: Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Almost everyone, Christian or not, has seen a painting or a card depicting this group. In Roman Catholic culture, today is the Feast of the Holy Family, designed to focus everyone on the spirituality of the home.
In Eurocentric Christianity, this veneration for the Holy Family as a group, did not arise until the 1600’s and was not officially recognized until the feast day was formally instituted in 1921. That was also about the time the phrase “nuclear family” was coined to define the basic, normal family grouping in a capitalist society. The feast was originally celebrated on the Sunday after Epiphany but was moved to the Sunday after Christmas in 1969, to bring it within the Christmas season, the most family-oriented season of the year.
Both the Catholics and Protestants have been obsessed with the health of the family as capitalism has done all it could to fracture it in the name of enriching it. The Church’s focus has often left unmarried people, people from broken or foster homes, and people who don’t fit into hetero-normative relationships feeling like second-class members of the Church, all the while Jesus never marryied and Paul suggested it might be better if one did not.
Nevertheless, it makes sense to have a very “fertile” day in the midst of the Christmas celebration. It is, after all, a celebration of miraculous conception and the birth of the Son of God! The incarnation overturns the propensity of spiritual people to long to be without a body by affirming the goodness of the body as a fitting place for God to dwell and affirming the miraculous experience of sexual ecstasy, conception and birth. The incarnation is all about reclaiming and restoring the good, reproducing creation.
An intereview with Janet McKenzie, the artist of the painting above. [link]
On the 6th day of Christmas my true love sent to me… six geese a-laying.The song we have been including in our Christmastide prayer makes a lot of sense on this day, wouldn’t you say?
In the “secret” meaning of the song the six geese and their eggs represent the six days in which the Lord made the world. So it is an apt verse for today because 1) The language used to describe the beginning of creation in Genesis 1 is related to a bird brooding over her eggs. 2) It is good to put our celebration of procreation in a song, since Job 38 asks where we-who-question-God’s-goodness were “when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly children of God shouted for joy?” These angelic “morning stars” appeared in the heavens again to shepherds when Jesus was born and again sang for joy over the new creation. Advent was all about “brooding” and Christmastide is all about the joy of birth.
What do we do with this?
Pray: Open the eyes of my heart so I can see what you have done and sing for joy over the new creation.
Christians often look askance at people who can’t love their families. So let’s assume you have already considered how that area of your life is going — how you relate to mom and dad, how you are a mom or dad, and whether you live as a beloved child of God. If not, pause here.
Let’s spend some time singing with the morning stars. Recall one of the Christmas songs that have now stopped playing wherever religious songs are still played. Let it play over and over in your mind or in your ears, until you stop resisting it and go with its joy. “Joy to the World” is a good choice. Let it impregnate you with some goodness. Here are suggestions for new carols to move with which might not be in your repertoire: The Huron Carol. Tu scendi dalle stella. Daystar Carol.