The Madonna & Child has been a classic theme for art through the centuries. The painting at left by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato (August 25, 1609 – August 8, 1685) is just one beautiful example among hundreds. In medieval and renaissance paintings as well as contemporary exhibits, the tenderness of mother and child – especially the Mother Mary and the Child Jesus – inspires us. It reminds and recalls the blessed connection and intimate communion that exists in human relationships. Such prints and paintings call us, even challenge us, to live those relationships fully. Sadly, as we move from dependent infants to independent adults we can so easily forget the union and relationship that brought us all into natural existence. None of us creates ourselves. None of us comes from nowhere. We come from parents in the natural order and from God in the supernatural. None of us is truly independent in the sense so often espoused and embraced by the world.
This weekend, the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God (a Holy Day of Obligation & opportunity) falls on Sunday. We give pause to reflect on Mary’s intimate union with Christ as His mother. The intimate care she provided Him. Carrying Him 9-months – sacrificing – yes, her body! – for the Body of – the Baby Jesus. Not as onerous (albeit difficult) duty, but as love. Love of mother for child – love of the Mother for the Child. She nursed Him, tended Him, caressed Him, surrounded Him with Love, warmth, concern. He who is Love was embraced by the Love of Mother Mary.
We need this image, this reminder, this witness… especially in a world that has begun to pit mothers against the children within them. I can think of few things so sinister or demonic as tearing at what is the very epitome of love and union. Acknowledging this gift of Mary for Christ, as well as that of your own mother for yourself, is the first step in combatting such wicked thinking. I realize not every mother is as holy or perfect as Mary, but all mothers do good in this simple – yet immensely self-sacrificial act – of bearing their child into the world and then tenderly loving them as best they can.
The tenderness of Madonna and Child recalls the importance of an additional truth – the power, presence, and purpose of a holy family. The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph was celebrated Friday, Dec. 30. Typically, this is a Sunday celebration but due to the calendar this year, it was transferred to Friday. This is the feast day for our parish namesake. And the quiet, simple, and spiritual life of the Holy Family shows us this immense pathway toward our own sanctification. Joseph, who plays not natural role, in the Madonna & Child of Mary & Jesus, still plays a potent role as father. The need for a father and a mother is irreplaceable. Not to discredit the valiant efforts of single family homes, but no single natural institution in the history of the world has done more good for particular persons and entire societies than the gift of the family – striving, even sometimes limping, toward holiness of communal life. Giving and receiving, caring and carrying, supporting and forming one another in the act of selfless service of others. This natural, foundational, and primordial institution of family is so essential, that when God desired to intervene in fallen humanities plight, the Father sends the Son first into the Holy Family with Mary & Joseph. For Christ’s coming is not simply to redeem you and I, to pay for our sins, to offer us grace, to extend to us salvation and the possibility of sanctification, but to equally redeem, save, and sanctify all families in their fallenness. Thank God for the Holy Family. Thank God for your family. Invite God to make your family holy!
Like the new Nativity Crèche? I hope so. It was purchased on the recent Holy Land Pilgrimage that I and others from the parish went on in November. It was a little costly, but in addition to beautifying our Christmas season it will help support Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem. If you would like to support the new addition to the parish heritage, feel free to make a donation. For those who make a contribution, large or small, there are Olive Wood Rosaries from the Holy Land for you to receive as a token of your support. Thank you for your generosity. I’ve made a contribution in support of the new set for the parish.
+ Nothing Less than saints for the Holy Family of God. +
Holy Family, Protective Father, Tender Mother, Dependent Savior Child, Pray for us.
~ Fr Jeremy M. Gries