29 December 2023

Feast of the Holy Family, Year B; Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, Year B


St Joseph and the Christ Child

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 2:22-40 [or 22, 39-40] (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they [the parents of Jesus] brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord [(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons”. Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;

    for my eyes have seen your salvation
    that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
    a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

And his father and his mother marvelled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.] 

And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favour of God was upon him.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

The Census at Bethlehem
Pieter Bruegel the Elder [Web Gallery of Art]

My late father visited me in the Philippines for six weeks in 1981, arriving on 16 February, one day before St John Paul II made his first visit as Pope. My Dad spent most of the time with me in a small seminary for diocesan seminarians that I was in charge of for two years in Tangub City, Misamis Occidental. Before that I had spent less than three months as parish priest of Tangub, the last Columban priest to hold that position.

One evening a family invited my father and myself to visit their home. We went with some other parishioners. When we were walking home slowly someone commented that my father and I were walking in exactly the same way, with our hands behind our backs. I had never been conscious of that before. I recalled Sunday mornings when I was a child when my father would take my brother and myself for a walk in the Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed park in any capital city in Europe, which was about ten minutes' walk from where we lived. Our walks in the Park were usually more of an amble or a mosey rather than the determined 'keep fit' type of walk that so many engage in today.

Phoenix Park, Dublin

But my friend's comment in Tangub City made me realise that I had unconsciously picked up this kind of ambling from my Dad.

I learned a lot more from him without being aware of it. When my brother Paddy, who is three years younger than me, was very young Dad would take me to Sunday Mass while Mam stayed at home with the baby and went to a later Mass. I gradually became aware that my father went to an early Mass every day of his working life before going to work on construction sites. (Like St Joseph he was a carpenter and was named John Joseph.) I noticed that after Mass he prepared my mother's breakfast, bringing it to her in bed, and I often saw him during winter cleaning the fireplace, taking away the ashes from the previous day's fire, and preparing it for the fire that would be lit later in the day. All of this before going to work.

I saw how he deeply respected my mother, and everyone else he met, most especially the men who worked under him on construction sites. I worked with him on one of those during the summer of 1967 when I was a subdeacon. I was ordained the following December. I saw at first hand what I already knew. He never swore, never raised his voice, was a real mentor to young workers, and led by example. He was a quiet man, with a sense of responsibility that he carried lightly and a gentle sense of humour.

The Census at Bethlehem (detail)
Pieter Bruegel the Elder [Web Gallery of Art]

In a number of places Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that St Joseph is the legal father of Jesus: Therefore let us venerate the legal father of Jesus (cfCatechism of the Catholic Church, n. 532), because the new man is outlined in him, who looks with trust and courage to the future. He does not follow his own plans but entrusts himself without reserve to the infinite mercy of the One who will fulfil the prophecies and open the time of salvation. This is because he named Jesus, as the angel had instructed him in Matthew 1:21 - She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sinsOn 19 March the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Today's gospel refers to Joseph and Mary as his father and mother. Jesus in his humanity learned from St Joseph how to behave as a boy and as an adolescent. He learned  the trade of a carpenter from St Joseph. Most likely he walked like St Joseph. And we can be sure that St Joseph took him to the synagogue on the sabbath. In today's gospel St Joseph and Mary take the infant Jesus to the Temple to present him to the Lord. They took him again to the Temple when he was twelve. These two events are marked in the fourth and fifth Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.

It was Joseph as husband of Mary who led the pregnant Mary to Bethlehem as shown in Pieter Bruegel the Elder's painting above, The Census at Bethlehem. The artist shows the Holy Family coming into a 16th-century Netherlands village in the depths of winter, nobody noticing them. This shows on the one hand that He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him (John 1:10-11). It shows on the other hand that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). God who became Man threw in his lot with us. He came into our townland, our village, our town, our city. The villagers in Bruegel's painting haven't rejected Jesus but they haven't yet recognised him.

St Joseph is central to all of this. He exemplifies the vocation of the husband and its consequence for most husbands, the vocation of the father, to an extent that no one else has done. He was the man whom Mary honoured as her husband and whom Jesus called Abba/Dad / Papa / Tatay.

Taken a week before his sudden death on 11 August 1987

Traditional Latin Mass

Sunday Within the Octave of the Nativity of Our Lord

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 12-31-2023, if necessary).

Epistle: Galatians 4:1-7. Gospel: Luke 2 1:33-40.

Presentation in the Temple
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel (Luke 2:24; Gospel).

Monday 1 January 2024

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

The Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord

This is a Holyday of Obligation in the Philippines, the USA and some other countries.

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 2:16-21 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

The shepherds went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Adoration of the Shepherds
Murillo, painted 1650-55 [Web Gallery of Art]

Traditional Latin Mass

The Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 01-01-2023, if necessary).

Epistle: Titus 2:11-15. Gospel: Luke 2:21.

And at the end of eight days , when he was circumsised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Sung by Nancy Griffith with The Chieftains

This traditional Irish carol originated in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland.

A Happy New Year!


MPSa-onoy said...

Thank you, Fr. Sean on your thoughts about your father and St. Joseph. You indeed look like your father and I could imagine how great he was. Your are indeed fortunate.
May the New Year bring you good health and more harvest for the vineyard of the Lord.
Mode and Verns Sa-onoy.

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Father Seán,
What a lovely story about your Dad, visiting you in the Philippines.
Those observing that you and your Dad walked the same way was a gift to you!
Yes, back in those days people did walk different, either with or without hands on their back. It was very much a pondering about how another week passed by and about their lives which included religion and therefore high morals.
The whole fitness fad for wanting to be seen 'sweating it' is no compensation for the lack of religion and thus high morals—it will not keep your body and spirit healthy.
Your Dad proved to be a loving, caring and gentle soul towards his wife, the mother of his sons and also at work for being a fine mentor.
Your Dad's sudden death worked fine for him as he lived in a way to be prepared always for going 'Home'.
May more young(er) man follow the example of St. Joseph.

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Father Seán,
Wishing you a quiet and peaceful New Year's Eve and a Happy and Healthy 2024!
Prayers do work as I'm now for one week pain free...