All were in bed and I straightened up a few things before retiring for the night myself. In the stillness of my quiet and darkened living room that night, I stopped what I was doing, seizing a moment to gaze at my Christmas tree. It glimmered softly with colored lights that seemed to whisper a reminder to me that soon it would no longer festively fill the corner of the room. Rather, it will be stripped of its ornaments, taken down and tossed out into the woods — going back to the earth to allow a new chapter of life to unfold.
Many thoughts are being pondered in my mind as I pass from one year to the next. I am thankful for the recently traveled Advent season that our Church has given us to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child yet a bit fatigued from navigating the path to Jesus' manger amid the frenzied commercial rush that continued to beckon for my attention in our noisy money-driven society.
Life, it seems is measured in chunks of time and experienced in various traditions in our ordinary lives and within the Liturgical year. Every January as the New Year rolls around, my exhausted mind is usually filled with a blessed appreciation yet grateful relief of having made it through the busyness of the Advent and Christmas season intertwined with an excited anticipation of hope for the New Year. My hope is really for everyone and everything around our planet. I hope for love for the lonely, food for the hungry, solace for the sick and suffering, peace within families and society and on and on. There is an awful lot to be done. My heart swells with hope and a prayer that I will be, by God's grace, an instrument of hope for others in the New Year.
The timing of the feast of the Holy Family was a blessing, as we made our way through the Christmas Octave. The Holy Family teaches us the sublimity and wisdom in obedience, humility, and tremendous love for and devotion to our family members. We also can realize the extreme love that God has for us to become Man and dwell with us. A little Child was born through His Blessed Virgin Mother and came to our world to redeem us — to love us with an Infinite love.
As the Christmas tree is stripped of its ornamentation, perhaps we too can strip ourselves of whatever it is that stands in the way of our closer relationship with our Lord and allow the Holy Family to teach us the blessedness of simplicity, humility and obedience to our state of life.
Recently I went to Eucharistic adoration with my daughter, delighted that I could bring her along with me that particular day. I cherished the idea of quiet time with our Lord and knew that I would enjoy the extra bonus having of my daughter with me. We knelt side by side alone in the chapel, whispering the rosary together before our Eucharistic Lord exposed in a monstrance. We expressed our many requests and offered many prayers of thanks. I was so grateful to have that time in the chapel with my youngest daughter, Mary-Catherine; together with our Lord — taking in strength and grace for the journey ahead.
After our visit with Jesus, we'd be off again to pick up Mary-Catherine's older sister, Jessica, at the train station. We then had to shop for a few items for her trip to India as a participant in a "study abroad program."
We searched a couple of stores for the specific back pack that Jessica needed for India. When we finally found the right one, Mary-Catherine picked up a statue of the Holy Family which was setting on top of a few random items that were surprisingly in the luggage department of the store. While I was wondering why that statue was mixed in with the luggage, Mary-Catherine suggested that we buy it since it was very nice. I have a special devotion to the Holy Family and expressed no hesitation at the thought of possibly taking it home with us. We were told by the salesman however, that the statue could not be purchased because it was to be thrown out due to a very small crack in the back. To that, I replied with a smile, "You can't just throw out the Holy Family!"
The salesman explained that there would be no way to price the item since it came from a full nativity set and it lacked an individual price. Possibly the look on my face told him that I didn't want to accept his explanation as a good enough reason why this beautiful statue couldn't be purchased rather than thrown away. I was also thinking, after all, we are not talking about fashion, music or electronics that teenagers are typically drawn to — my sixteen-year-old daughter picked up this representation of the Holy Family and suggested we get it!
"How about eight, seventy five?" he asked me. "Sure!" I answered. So, he wrapped it up and we took it with us along with the back pack. It now rests on my mantle with its entire splendor reminding me of my time praying in the chapel with my daughter, her finding the Holy Family, and her precious expression of desiring it for our home. I am also very cognizant every time I gaze upon the statue that the Holy Family is indeed an essential and very significant part of my life — a holy family that you can be sure I will be counting on for assistance in the New Year.