Today the church remembers not one person, but rather a family: The Holy Family, Vessels of Divine Communion.
Typical depictions of the Holy Family usually include Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus. We understand through scriptural accounts as well as the conventions of the day, that Jesus had siblings as well, which should not be forgotten.
It should also not be assumed that the Holy Family is somehow a prescription for how nuclear families should look. It is, instead, descriptive of the times…and even then, not so much, as Mary’s pregnancy out of wedlock certainly chaffed against the societal norms of the day.
But even with these qualifiers, the Holy Family as a unit is instructive for the kind of love that people can, and should, share within the family (biological or chosen). Joseph, the step-father of Jesus, is tenderly concerned when he cannot find his son on their pilgrimage, and is, by all accounts, kind and stalwart with Mary, keeping their engagement despite the pregnancy surprise.
Mary is a wise and protecting mother, accompanying Jesus on his travels, and sticking with him until the very end, even the cross. Truly, Beloveds, we are not meant to bury our babies, and yet she does so, not shying away from the heartache.
And though we don’t get much of a glimpse of the child Jesus, we find him appropriately rebelling against his parents, kindly watching out for his mother, and including his brother in his ministry.
Certainly it was not an idyllic family. No flesh-and-blood family, chosen or biological, is idyllic (despite what social media might portray). There were even a few arguments recorded (John 2, Matthew 12, Mark 3) that showed not everything was “Leave It to Beaver.”
And yet, they loved one another through it all.
This is why they are lifted up today: not because they were perfect, but because they loved one another in and through the imperfections.
Which, to me, sounds pretty Divine.
-icon written by Br. Mickey McGrath