The Holy Family, consisting of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, is a central figure in Christian tradition. Although the Canonical Scriptures provide limited information about their life, including significant events like Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, their flight to Egypt, and Jesus being found in the temple, these texts leave many details unexplored. To fill these gaps, non-canonical texts like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas offer stories, but these have not been accepted into the canon due to their portrayal of Jesus.
Despite these gaps in the historical record, the Holy Family has become an important symbol in Christian devotion, particularly since the 17th century. This devotion was further institutionalized when Pope Benedict XV, in 1921, established the Feast of the Holy Family in the Latin Rite general calendar, a practice previously confined to regional observance. The Feast, celebrated on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s Day, emphasizes the Holy Family as a model for Christian families and domestic life. If Christmas and New Year’s Day are both Sundays, the Feast is observed on December 30th, but attendance is not mandatory. Before 1969, it was celebrated on the first Sunday after Epiphany.
The Feast of the Holy Family is more than a celebration of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; it’s an opportunity to reflect on and sanctify our own family units. The concept of the “domestic church” encourages Christians to make Christ and His Church central to family and individual life. This can be achieved through practices like reading scripture, praying, attending Mass, and emulating the Holy Family.
The Church also identifies behaviors that contradict God’s vision for the family, such as abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, polygamy, embryonic stem-cell research, divorce, and abuse. Catholic teaching emphasizes that marriage should be open to procreation and cautions against practices that impede this. Additionally, social issues like poverty and lack of healthcare are seen as detrimental to families and are areas of concern for Christians.
The Feast of the Holy Family serves as a time to appreciate and pray for our families, both human and spiritual. It’s also an occasion to assess our family life, considering how it might be improved and how we can foster family values in our communities.
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