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The first step in these meditations dedicated to Nazareth - the house of Mary! – is to grasp "the law of the house" as the embodiment of the general law of love, since true love is always communion and distinction, bonding and personal freedom, filial obedience and initiative, nuptial intimacy and fruitfulness, union with God and mission in the world. The second step is to grasp the originality of the Holy Family of Nazareth, its specificity, what makes it unique, and for this very reason, meaningful for everyone.

A singular and exemplary family.

We are easily tempted to see the Holy Family as an unattainable ideal of perfection, a model far removed from common experience, an object of contemplation incapable of guiding concrete family relationships. Things are different: “To return to the deep meaning of the family,” observed Card. G. Colombo – “is precisely to return to Nazareth, where the only true model of family for us shines, where the law of life and love reigns full.”

All the more so because in Nazareth, there is not only the model of the family, but the model of all Christian life. Adrienne von Speyr, a great 20th century mystic, says that "in Nazareth, the model of the Church of all times originates and is implemented". This is a wonderful paradox: the singularity of the Holy Family is the reason for its exemplarity, and its uniqueness is offered for our imitation. It was precisely in Nazareth that family relationships were sanctified once and for all. Nazareth is like a spring from which countless streams flow. And the reason is simply this: in it the presence of Jesus, the Son of God becoming man, the revelation of God is historically realized in family format! In this sense, Mary and Joseph - says von Speyr - "already live for the future Christianity, that is, for us, and the house of Nazareth is by no means an isolated house, nor a closed paradise, but has doors and windows open to the Church", because the experience of the Holy Family "is shaped by the relationship with Jesus", where "everything that is human becomes eternal", is welcomed and transfigured in the sphere of God. From Nazareth onwards, this miracle also happens for us and for our families: when Jesus is present, everything changes, everything is transformed, everything heals, everything blossoms!

An ordinary and extraordinary family

Nazareth is the spectacle of a family in which the ordinary and the extraordinary are at home, where the divine and the human dwell in each other, where it is possible to find God in human affections and in the simple gestures of every day, in the labours and trials, in the light and shadows of the happy and painful events that mark the lives of all. In this sense, Pope Francis, with his very direct way of expressing himself, says that the holy family is a special family, but not a strange one, and he emphasises this in order to ask Christian families not to isolate themselves from other families and not to become enclosed in their own self-defence: "No family can be fruitful if it conceives of itself as too different or separate. Let us remember that the family of Jesus, full of grace and wisdom, was not seen as a 'strange' family, as an estranged and distant house from the people" (AL 182).

And indeed the public manifestation of Jesus left his countrymen stunned, who said, "where did he get these things from?"... "Is he not the carpenter's son?"... "We know his mother and his brothers" (Mt 13:56). Indeed, to those who stop at appearances, there is nothing extraordinary in Nazareth. There is an honest workman, a humble woman and a well-behaved boy, one with his work in the shop, the other with her household chores, the third, though good and intelligent, for the moment devoid of any conspicuously extraordinary signs. In Nazareth, God's presence is manifested not in a glorious manner, but in a weekday manner, not in full light, but in concealment, not in special gestures, but in daily routines.

Living as a family contemplating the Holy Family.

Starting from the family experience of Mary and Joseph, where God became a child and thus a face, a gesture, a word, every Christian family can experience God in its own home. After all, the Holy Family, where Heaven descended on earth, stands at the crossroads between the family that is God and the families of God. In the Holy Family, the Trinity of God and the familiarity of man - both a mystery of love and life - meet. And so the Holy Family is the first Christian family, to the point that, as Fallico notes, there is “a sort of holy covenant, a true and proper intimate, profound and inseparable agreement, between the ecclesial community and the Christian family”, and that “the first real experience of the family as a domestic Church took place precisely in Nazareth in the home of the Virgin Mary, wife of Joseph of the family of David”.

It is therefore necessary for every family to be inspired by the story of Mary and Joseph, to learn to become aware of God's presence, to recognise the signs of His passage, to give thanks for the gifts of His Providence. And the first step - as Pope Francis suggests - is to "penetrate the secret of Nazareth, full of the scent of family", to contemplate the faces, places and events with intelligence and love: "we need to immerse ourselves in the mystery of the birth of Jesus, in Mary's “yes” to the Angel's announcement... in the “yes” of Joseph who gave Jesus his name and took charge of Mary; in the shepherds' feast at the manger; in the adoration of the Magi; in the flight to Egypt, in which Jesus shares in the pain of his exiled, persecuted and humiliated people... in the admiration of the doctors of the law as they listened to the wisdom of the adolescent Jesus... in the thirty long years in which Jesus earned his bread by working with his hands" (AL 65).

We can learn three things from the extraordinariness of the Ordinary life of the Holy Family:

1. We learn to go beyond appearances and to look at each other, spouses, parents and children as God looks at us, in God's light, with the importance that each one has in God's plan;

2. We learn the great value of common actions, because it is in the fidelity of daily gestures, before great gestures, that every authentic path to holiness is lived out: in fact, only to those who are faithful in the little, can much be given and entrusted (cf. Lk 16:10);

3. Finally, let us learn the great value of trials, because in order to arrive at living the primacy of God's will, it is not so important to understand or not to understand: what counts is to purify one's gaze and heart, desires and expectations, and then to immerse oneself in the mystery of God and let oneself be led by Him with trust and docility!

Fr Roberto Carelli - SDB

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