Holy Family's feast gives year-long lessons

Source: District of the USA

The Feast of the Holy Family falls on the first Sunday following the Epiphany, but its lessons from the sacred liturgy continue to apply throughout the entire year.

Per the Roman Rite's liturgical calendar, the first Sunday after Epiphany Day is designated as the Feast of the Holy Family. This feast commemorates the household life of the Child Jesus, His Blessed Virgin Mother and Foster-Father and presents some familial lessons that never cease in application throughout the year.

To this end we offer here a brief explanation of the feast’s history from the Roman Catholic Daily Missal as well as some excerpts from Dom Prosper Gueranger’s opus, The Liturgical Year.

The origins of the Feast of the Holy Family

The special devotion which sets forth the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as the model of virtue for all Christian households began in the 17th century. It commenced almost simultaneously in Canada and France: the Association of the Holy Family being founded in Montreal in 1663, and the Daughters of the Holy Family in Paris in 1674.

Numerous other congregations and associations under the patronage of the Holy Family have been established since that time, and they are spread over the world. The archconfraternity was established by Pius IX in 1847. In 1893 Leo XIII approved a feast for Canada, and Benedict XV extended the Feast of the Holy Family to the whole Church and ordered its celebration to take place on the Sunday after the Epiphahy.

Some commentary from Dom Gueranger

On the Mass propers

GOSPEL (Lk.2:42-52) When Jesus was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast; and having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the Child Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and His parents knew it not. And thinking that He was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And not finding Him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking Him.

And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard Him were astonished at His wisdom and His answers.

And seeing Him, they wondered. And His Mother said to Him: Son, why hast Thou done so to us? Behold Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing. And He said to them: How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business? And they understood not the word that He spoke unto them.

And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And His Mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.

ASPIRATION Thus, O Jesus! — didst Thou come down from Heaven to teach us. The tender age of Childhood, which Thou didst take upon Thyself, is no hindrance to the ardor of Thy desire that we should know the one only God, Who made all things, and Thee, His Son, Whom He sent to us. When laid in the Crib, Thou didst instruct the Shepherds by a mere look; when swathed in Thy humble swaddling-clothes, and subjected to the voluntary silence thou hadst imposed on Thyself, Thou didst reveal to the Magi the light they sought in following the star.

When twelve years old, Thou explainest to the Doctors of Israel the Scriptures which bear testimony to Thee. Thou gradually dispellest the shadows of the Law by Thy presence and Thy words. In order to fulfill the commands of Thy heavenly Father, Thou dost not hesitate to occasion sorrow to the heart of Thy Mother, by thus going in quest of souls that need enlightening. Thy love of man will pierce that tender Heart of Mary with a still sharper sword, when she shall behold Thee hanging on the Cross, and expiring in the midst of cruelest pain.

Blessed be Thou, sweet Jesus, in these first Mysteries of Thine Infancy, wherein Thou already showest Thyself devoted to us, and leavest the company of Thy Blessed Mother for that of sinful men, who will one day conspire thy Death.

COMMENT The Offertory takes us through the Feast of the Purification; let us again offer ourselves to the Lord.

OFFERTORY (Lk. 2:22) The parents of Jesus carried Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.

COMMENT In the Secret the Church again prays that she may be strengthened in peace and grace; these gifts have been purchased for us by our Lord Himself; it is through the Holy Mass that we can be more strongly established in them.

SECRET We offer to thee, O Lord, an atoning Victim, humbly entreating that through the intercession of the Virgin Mother of God and blessed Joseph, Thou wouldst strongly establish our families in Thy peace and grace. Through the same Lord.

COMMUNION (Lk. 2:51) And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them.

LESSON If we have kept before our eyes the example of the Holy Family, we may humbly trust that at the hour of our death we shall be helped and consoled and be found worthy to have fellowship with Christ in the eternal dwellings. Such is the last prayer of the Church, and may it be one we love to repeat and dwell on.

Hymn from the Office of II Vespers

Blest light of all the heavenly hosts,

Sole hope of them that dwell on earth,

The purest love that ever graced

A home, did smile upon Thy birth.

Mary, dear Mother, who but thee

Was ever yet so rich in grace?

Didst nourish Christ upon thy knee

And fold Him in a sweet embrace?

And Joseph, chosen out to guard

The Virgin with thy gentle might,

The Infant Jesus smiled on thee

And called thee father as by right.

You, Who to save a guilty race

Were born of David's noble line,

O hear the humble prayers of all

Today, who gather round Your shrine.

The sun now wends his way to rest

And earth is veiled in shadows gray;

Yet hearts a-fire with joy and love

Still bid us linger on to pray.

O may the grace of that sweet home

Which held the earthly Trinity,

Be shed abroad upon the world

And bless the Christian family.

O Jesus, born of Virgin bright,

Immortal glory be to Thee;

Praise to the Father infinite

And Holy Ghost eternally. Amen.

V. I will make all thy children to be taught of the Lord.

R. And great the peace of thy children.