Today, the dust is settling on a whirlwind of activity. We celebrated Christmas last night with 5,000 people in the cathedral. Watching so many people approach me to take a bit of bread, I could see the 200-300 parishioners whose faces were like islands of joy, peace band appreciation. The other 4,700 were in various kinds of spiritual disarray. There were so many whose pilgrimage is clearly a painful one. There were so many whose eyes were the eyes of a person in a mild state of shock. Life can do that to people. There was a lot of joy in the cathedral. A lot of light and red. A lot of beauty and great music. And a lot of pain. A lot to regret and sadness. It reminded me that we need this savior who has come to set us free. The question is whether we want the freedom and its associated responsibilities.
This image from the MET is a medieval carving of the holy family on its way into the life that must unfold for them.
Today is a day I often think on Joseph. How hard it must have been for him! How confusing. What a way for a marriage to begin. My own father spent most of his life confused by his family.
Here the madonna and child are stationary. They look so passive that they seem nearly drugged. A tree has been bent low for Joseph to pick fruit to feed his wife and child. Joseph is providing for this couple whose very existence must have been a strange sun around which to orbit as a rather dull moon.
But Joseph is faithful to his life – the one which has been given to him. And that is our job too. Now that the sun is up and the festivities are done we must wash the egg nog glasses and live with the bizarre life we have been given – full as it is with joy and happinesses as well as pain and grief and loss. Did Mary have secret hopes of one day being a dancer or a poet? Now she must care for this somewhat strange child. Did Joseph have secret desires of being an artist in wood? Did he have to revert to basic carpentry to pay the bills for this bizarre family? Did Jesus sense that this would end with nails, blood and shame? Did the teenaged Jesus lay on his mat in the wee hours of the morning wondering if what seemed to be unfolding in his life might take a turn to allow him to go to rabbi school? Or ballet school? Or might he have daydreamed about raising a family of his own and walking hand in hand with his own wife or secret husband (let’s call him a “best friend”) in his old age, in silence, because they were so close that words were no longer needed?
I love this image of the Holy Family because it is real life. They have friends helping them to eat. They are eating and making their way. And so too must we.