Mass Propers for the Feast of the Holy Family
Entrance Antiphon, Lk 2:16:
The shepherds went in haste, and found Mary and Joseph and the Infant lying in a manger.
Alleluia Verse, Col 3:15a, 16a:
Let the peace of Christ control your hearts; let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
Preface II of the Nativity:
It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.
For on the feast of this awe-filled mystery,
though invisible in his own divine nature,
he has appeared visibly in ours;
and begotten before all ages,
he has begun to exist in time;
so that, raising up in himself all that was cast down,
he might restore unity to all creation
and call straying humanity back to the heavenly Kingdom.
And so, with all the Angels, we praise,
as in joyful celebration we acclaim:
Communion Antiphon, Bar 3:38:
Our God has appeared on the earth, and lived among us.Today is the Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas. When there is no Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is celebrated on the Sixth Day of the Octave of Christmas.
Scripture tells us practically nothing about the first years and the boyhood of the Child Jesus. All we know are the facts of the sojourn in Egypt, the return to Nazareth, and the incidents that occurred when the twelve-year-old boy accompanied his parents to Jerusalem. In her liturgy the Church hurries over this period of Christ's life with equal brevity. The general breakdown of the family, however, at the end of the past century and at the beginning of our own, prompted the popes, especially the far-sighted Leo XIII, to promote the observance of this feast with the hope that it might instill into Christian families something of the faithful love and the devoted attachment that characterize the family of Nazareth. The primary purpose of the Church in instituting and promoting this feast is to present the Holy Family as the model and exemplar of all Christian families.
—Excerpted from With Christ Through the Year, Rev. Bernard Strasser, O.S.B.
The Holy Family
Marriage is too often conceived as the sacrament which unites a man and a woman to form a couple. In reality, marriage establishes a family, and its purpose is to increase the number of the elect, through the bodily and spiritual fecundity of the Christian spouses.
1. Every marriage intends children. Although Mary and Joseph were not united in a carnal way, their marriage is a true marriage: an indissoluble, exclusive union, wholly subordinated to the child. Mary and Joseph are united only in order to bring Jesus into the world, to protect and raise him. They have only one child, but he contains the whole of mankind, even as Isaac, an only child, fulfilled the promise made to Abraham of a countless progeny.
2. The purpose of every marriage is to establish a Christian family. The Holy Family observed the religious laws of Israel; it went in pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year with other Jewish families (Lk. 2:41). Jesus saddens and amazes his father and his mother because to their will and company he prefers "to be in his Father's house". Thus it may happen that God's will obliges the family to make disconcerting sacrifices. Yet every Christian family must live in harmony and in prayer, which are the pledges of joy and union.
3. "He remained obedient to them." Jesus was God. And through the fullness of grace Mary stood above Joseph. Nevertheless — if we except the event in the Temple — Joseph remained the head of the family; he took the initiative (as when the Holy Family fled to Egypt), and in Nazareth Jesus obeyed his parents.
—Excerpted from Bread and the Word, A.M. Roguet
Mass Readings for the Feast of the Holy Family, Cycle A:
The First Reading is from the Book of Sirach 3:2-6; 12-14. Although all the emphasis in these verse seems to be on the obligation of children to their parents, there is a profound lesson here for parents, too. "Like father like son" is an old and a true saying very often. If the parents fail to do what is right and just in the sight of God they can hardly complain if their children turn out disobedient to God and to them. The young learn more from example than from precept. Today, on this feast day, I would ask all parents to examine themselves and see how how they are fulfilling this grave responsibility—which God has placed on them. Are they preparing their children by word and example, especially by example, to be worthy citizens of heaven where they will be their parents' crown and glory?
The Second Reading is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians 3:12-21. Ninety per cent of the first readers of St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians were pagans before their conversion. To practice the new Christian virtues was no easy task for people reared in the laxity and license of the paganism of their day. Yet they did practice these virtues and produced many saints and martyrs. Let us being in our own family circle to bring sanity back to our world. Let us have the true peace of Christ in our hearts and in our home, each one carrying out the task God has allotted to him. We shall not convert the world immediately but we shall have made a start. The world is the sum-total of its individual families.
The Gospel is from Matthew 2:13-15; 19-23. During this holy season of Christmas, Jesus Mary and Joseph should be remembered frequently by every Christian. To help us to remember them and above all to strive to imitate them, the Church has dedicated this Sunday to the memory of the Holy Family. Although they were God's closest friends, and although they were the holiest family that ever lived, or ever will live, on earth, they had more than their share of this world's troubles and cares. Today's Gospel story tells us of some of these earthly woes and sufferings. They had just settled in Bethlehem, and the Baby Jesus was only a few months old when, to avoid his murder at the hands of the murderous and jealous Herod, they had to flee from Bethlehem and become displaced persons in a foreign and pagan land.
The message of today's Gospel story is a message of encouragement and consolation for every one of us. If the Holy Family suffered such trials and hardships, surely we should be ready and willing to suffer and bear with the trials that God sends us for our own eternal welfare.
—Adapted from The Sunday Readings, by Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.
The Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph
The devotion to the Holy Family was born in Bethlehem, together with the Baby Jesus. The shepherds went to adore the Child and, at the same time, they gave honor to His family. Later, in a similar way, the three wise men came from the East to adore and give honor to the newborn King with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that would be safeguarded by His family.
We can go further to affirm that in a certain sense Christ, Himself, was the first devotee of His family. He showed His devotion to His mother and foster father by submitting Himself, with infinite humility, to the duty of filial obedience towards them. This is what St Bernard of Clairvaux said in this regard, ‘God, to whom angels submit themselves and who principalities and powers obey, was subject to Mary; and not only to Mary but Joseph also for Mary’s sake [….]. God obeyed a human creature; this is humility without precedent. A human creature commands God; it is sublime beyond measure.’ (First Homily on the ‘Missus Est’).
Today’s celebration demonstrates Christ’s humility and obedience with respect to the fourth commandment, whilst also highlighting the loving care that His parents exercised in His keeping. The servant of God, Pope John Paul II, in 1989, entitled his Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Redemptoris Custos’ (Guardian of the Redeemer) which was dedicated to the person and the mission of Saint Joseph in the life of Christ and of the Church. After exactly a century, he resumed the teaching of Pope Leo XIII, for who Saint Joseph `...shines among all mankind by the most august dignity, since by divine will, he was the guardian of the Son of God and reputed as His father among men’ (Encyclical Quamquam Pluries  n. 3).
Pope Leo XIII continued, ‘...Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was.[…] It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and girt it about with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.’ Not many years before, blessed Pope Pius IX had proclaimed Saint Joseph, ‘Patron of the Catholic Church’ (1870)
Almost intuitively, one can recognize that the mysterious, exemplary, guardianship enacted by Joseph was conducted firstly, in a yet more intimate way, by Mary. Consequently, the liturgical feast of the Holy Family speaks to us of the fond and loving care that we must render to the Body of Christ. We can understand this in a mystical sense, as guardians of the Church, and also in the Eucharistic sense. Mary and Joseph took great care of Jesus’ physical body. Following their example, we can and must take great care of His Mystical Body, the Church, and the Eucharist which He has entrusted to us. If Mary was, in some way, ‘the first tabernacle in history’ (John Paul II Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 55) then we the Tabernacle in which Our Lord chose to reside in person, in His Real Presence, was also entrusted to us. We can learn from Mary and Joseph! What would they ever have overlooked in the care of Jesus’ physical body? Is there something, therefore, that we can withhold for the right and adoring care of His Eucharistic Body? No amount of attention, no sane act of love and adoring respect will ever be too much! On the contrary, our adoration and respect will always be inferior to the great gift that comes to us in the Holy Eucharist.
Looking at the Holy Family, we see the love, the protection, and the diligent care that they gave to the Redeemer. We can not fail to feel uneasiness, perhaps a shameful thought, for the times in which we have not rendered the appropriate care and attention to the Blessed Eucharist. We can only ask for forgiveness and do penance for all the sacrilegious acts and the lack of respect that are committed in front of the Blessed Eucharist. We can only ask the Lord, through the intersession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, for a greater love for their Son Incarnate, who has decided to remain here on earth with us every day until the end of time.