Why is this Feast celebrated today, instead of closer to Christmas?
Because in Old Testament Law, a child wasn't a son of Abraham or a true
part of the family until his circumcision at 8 days of age, an event of
Christ's life that we celebrated on 1 January (from 25 December to 1
January are 8 days).
There are few private devotions associated with this day, though the
blessing of children by their parents, the renewal of marriage vows
(even if just privately), and consecration of the family to the Holy
Family are a few:
to the Holy Family
O Jesus, our most loving Redeemer, who having come to enlighten the
world with Thy teaching and example, didst will to pass the greater
part of Thy life in humility and subjection to Mary and Joseph in the
poor home of Nazareth, thus sanctifying the Family that was to be an
example for all Christian families, graciously receive our family as it
dedicates and consecrates itself to Thee this day. Do Thou protect us,
guard us and establish amongst us Thy holy fear, true peace and concord
in Christian love: in order that by living according to the divine
pattern of Thy family we may be able, all of us without exception, to
attain to eternal happiness.
Mary, dear Mother of Jesus and Mother of us, by the kindly intercession
make this our humble offering acceptable in the sight of Jesus, and
obtain for us His graces and blessings.
O Saint Joseph, most holy Guardian of Jesus and Mary, help us by thy
prayers in all our spiritual and temporal needs; that so we may be
enabled to praise our divine Savior Jesus, together with Mary and thee,
for all eternity. Amen.
Say an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be three times.
A reading for
the day, written by St.Bernard of Clairvaux (A.D. 1090-1153):
The Feast of
the Holy Family
By St. Bernard of Clairvaux
In Mary we
praise that which places her above all others, that is, fruitfulness of
offspring together with virginity. For never has it been known in this
world that anyone was at the same time mother and virgin. And see of
Whom she is mother. Where does your astonishment at this so wondrous
dignity lead you? Is it not to this, that you may gaze in wonder yet
never sufficiently revere? Is she not in your veneration, nay, in the
esteem of Truth itself, raised above choirs of angels? Does not Mary
address the Lord and God of all the angels as Son, saying: Son, why
hast thou done so to us?
Who among the angels may thus presume? It is enough for them, and for
them their greatest honour, that while they are spirits by nature they
have become and are called angels, as David testifies: Who makest thy
angels spirits. Mary, knowing herself mother, with confidence calls
that Majesty Son Whom the angels in reverence serve. Nor does God
disdain to be called that which He disdained not to be. For the
Evangelist adds a little later: He was subject to them.
Who was subject to whom? A God to men. God, I repeat, to Whom the
angels are subject: Whom principalities and powers obey: was subject to
Mary; and not alone to Mary, but to Joseph also, because of Mary.
Admire and revere both the one and the other, and choose which you
admire the more: the most sweet condescension of the Son, or the
sublime dignity of the Mother. For either am I at a loss for words: for
both are wondrous. For that God should obey a woman is humility without
compare; and that a woman should have rule over God dignity without
equal. In praise of virgins is it joyfully proclaimed: that they follow
the lamb withersoever he goeth. Of what praise shall you esteem her
worthy who also goeth before Him?
Learn, O Man, to obey. Learn, O Earth, to be subject. Learn, O Dust, to
submit. The Evangelist in speaking of thy Maker says: He was subject to
them; that is, without doubt, to Mary and to Joseph. Be you ashamed,
vain ashes that you are. God humbles Himself, and do you exalt
yourself? God becomes subject to men, and will you, eager to lord it
over men, place yourself above your Maker? O would that God might deign
to make me, thinking such thoughts at times in my own mind, such answer
as He made, reproving him, to His apostle: Go behind Me, Satan: because
thou savorest not the things that are of God.
For as often as I desire to be foremost among men, so often do I seek
to take precedence of God; and so do I not truly savour the things that
are of God. For of Him was it said: And he was subject to them. If you
disdain, O Man, to follow the example of a Man, at least it will not
lower thee to imitate thy Maker. If perhaps you cannot follow Him
wheresoever He goeth, at least follow in that wherein He has come down
If you are unable to follow Him on the sublime way of virginity, then
follow God by that most sure way of humility; from whose straitness
should some even from among the virgins go aside, then must I say what
is true, that neither do they follow the Lamb withersoever he goeth. He
that is humble, even though he be stained, he follows the Lamb; so too
does the proud virgin; but neither of the two whithersoever He goeth:
because the one cannot ascend to the purity of the Lamb that is without
stain, nor will the other deign to come down to the meekness of the
Lamb, Who stood silent, not merely before the shearer, but before the
one that put Him to death. Yet the sinner who makes after Him in
humility, has chosen a wholesomer part than the one that is proud in
his virtue; since the humble repentance of the one washes away
uncleanness, but the pride of the other contaminates his own virtue.
Truly blessed was Mary who possessed both humility and virginity. And
truly wondrous the virginity whose fruitfulness stained not, but
adorned her; and truly singular the humility, which this fruitful
virginity has not troubled, but rather exalted; and wholly incomparable
the fruitfulness which goes hand in hand with her humility and her
virginity. Which of these things is not wondrous? Which is not beyond
all comparison? Which that is not wholly singular? It would be strange
if you did not hesitate to decide which you regard as most worthy of
praise: whether the wonder of fruitfulness of offspring in virginity,
or of virginal integrity in a mother: sublimity of Offspring, or
humility joined to such dignity: unless it be that we place both
together above each one singly: and it is truly beyond any doubt more
excellent and more joyful to have beheld these perfections united in
her, than to see but one part of them.
And can we wonder that God, of Whom it is written that He is wonderful
in his saints, shows Himself in His own Mother yet more wondrous still.
Venerate then, Ye spouses, this integrity of flesh in our corruptible
flesh. Revere likewise, Ye virgins, fruitfulness in virginity. Let all
men imitate the humility of God's Mother. Honour, Ye angels, the Mother
of your King, you who adore the Offspring of our Virgin; Who is your
King and our King, the Healer of our race, the Restorer of our
fatherland: Who among you is so sublime, yet among us was so lowly: to
Whose Majesty as well from you as from us let there be adoration and
reverence: to whose Perfection be there honour and glory and empire for
ever and ever. Amen.
Prayer to the Holy Family
Christe, qui Mariae et Ioseph subditus, domesticam vitam ineffabilibus
virtutibus consecrasti: fac nos, utriusque auxilio, Familiae sanctae
tuae exemplis instrui et consortium consequi sempiternum: Qui vivis et
regnas in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
Christ, Who, being made subject to Mary and Joseph, didst consecrate
domestic life by Thine ineffable virtues; grant that we, with the
assistance of both, may be taught by the example of Thy Holy Family and
may attain to its everlasting fellowship. Who livest and reignest