Today is the Feast of the Holy Family in the Catholic Church, and it was a true celebration of family for me. Last night I went to Mass with my oldest daughter and her family and my second daughter and her family. There were 15 of us and we filled four pews of the patio outside where we had Mass. I thought of the difference between Christmas and Easter. At Easter, I was alone for the first time in my life and could only watch Mass on live stream. I remember it being a rather somber time with the Pope giving a special Urbi et Orbi blessing in a rainy, empty St. Peter's Square, and the Easter Vigil Mass filmed in our parish in an almost empty church. Now we can once again go to Mass and receive Communion, and to be able to attend with so much of our family was a great blessing I also will no longer take for granted. I treasure every hug and every chance to talk in person; playing Christmas duets outside with three of my grandsons on trumpet, horn, and trombone was something I had been hoping to be able to do for a long time.
The reading from Isaiah for Christmas has the line, "The Lord has bared his holy arm," not to strike his enemies dead, but to reach down and offer us his son, a baby born to a homeless, migrant family who could find only a cave with a feeding trough where they could lay him, a tiny child vulnerable and pursued by the soldiers of Herod, his fugitive parents fleeing over the 400 miles of desert to Egypt where they had to learn a new language, adapt to a new culture and build a new life.
I remembered looking down at the star carved
in the stone of the narrow niche hung with lamps
and thought of the long journey to arrive—
the crowds, the smells, the noise,
no hospital, no rooms or beds, or compassion
until someone pointed to a cave forgotten
in the onslaught of winter travelers
with a pile of straw in a corner where they could rest
for, of all who came, they looked the weariest
until at the child’s dawning they rejoiced
and angels began to fill up the sky,
whose silent echoes I still heard in Bethlehem.