Feast of the Holy Family

Deacon Blaine Barclay

December 31, 2017

All families are called to holiness, and the example of the Holy Family will help us get there.  In our readings today, there are actually two holy families.  The Jewish holy family of Abraham Sarah, and Isaac; and the Christian Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Both families are iconic, proto- families, models, exemplar families of faith, who teach us lessons about faith and family.

Let’s begin with the most ancient ’holy family’.  Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac.  They came from a place called Ur in Mesopotamia, modern day Iraq.  They were nomads who wandered and kept sheep, trading their meat, wool, and milk.   Ur was actually their market town.  Mesopotamian culture at the time was polytheistic, they worshiped many gods and represented them in a variety of idols of wood and stone and metal.

In the middle of all of this, later in life, Abraham, ’Our father in faith’, has a foundational experience of an invisible God, who claims to be the only God, who makes and keeps promises, who invites Abraham and Sarah into a relationship of trust, a covenant relationship of faith.  What does this God promise this elderly couple?  What impossible future does the word of this God make possible?  They have no land, no children, no future.  Dissipated among the fragmented field of the plurality of gods, they have no hope.  In the middle of this their scattered lives God calls them to a future.  God promises them descendants ’as many as the stars in the sky, the sand on the seashore’.  The promise is for their children’s, children as well. God promises them a home-land, a promise land, a place for their descendants to dwell in, for all generations to come.

So transformative is this call, promise, covenant, future, that they are given new names.  Abram becomes Abraham, Sari becomes Sarah. Sarah, long barren, becomes pregnant with child.  The child’s name is Isaac (Itzak in Hebrew) which means, ’to laugh’.  Sarah said, ’God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me’.  God turned her sorrow into joy, her mourning into dancing, her tears into laughter.  Family, becomes for her and for all of us, the place of laughter, of forgetfulness of self, and mutual delight in the presence of the other members of the family.

Was Sarah and Abraham’s laughter an end to sorrow and struggle for them?  No, long was their future journey.  But, given the joy and laughter also given with this promise, Abraham and Sarah left the security of their homeland and set out in faith, trusting in the promises of God.  As our second reading says; ‘[Abraham] set out, not knowing where he was going’.  Sounds like my life sometimes. About Sarah it says; ’by faith Sarah herself… received power to conceive, even when she was too old, because she considered him faithful who had promised’.  Let us also enter with faith into Gods promises, God’s future, God’s gift of faith and laughter.

So, now with the backcloth of our Jewish holy family, with their gift of faith, of trust in God’s future, God’s promise, God’s gift of laughter, let us turn to our other Holy Family, the first family, of the new covenant, the Messianic family; Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  What lessons do they have to teach us and our families, what promises, what future do they invite us into?

We know that they were a poor family, can only afford to offer two young pigeons.  So, we know from their example that poverty alone is no barrier to holiness.  We also know that they were open to receive the faith testimony of others, that they listened to the righteous, devout testimony of Simeon, ’that the child’s father and mother, (Mary and Joseph), were amazed at what was being said about [Jesus]’.  They received Simeon’s blessing even though the promised future included a sword piercing the heart of Mary.  Every mother and father worthy of the name, embraces the task of suffering ‘with’ the struggles and trials of their children.  There is no pain quite like the pain of the one we love.  Mary and Joseph said yes, not only to the profound mystery of the Incarnation, but to a participation of in the suffering of their Son as well.

They listened also to the testimony of the Prophet Anna.  Yes, women can be prophets, perhaps more than men.  Powerful was her testimony; ’She never left the temple, but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day’.  Anna praises God and speaks about Jesus to everyone who will listen.

In response to all this testimony about their Son, what do Mary and Joseph do?  Their response is as simple as it is profound. ’When Mary and Joseph had finished everything required by the Torah, the law of the Lord, they returned to…their own town of Nazareth’.  They went home, and attended to ’the duty of the moment’, the hidden life of Nazareth, the little things done with great love.  They watched and waited, and hoped for their child what every parent longs for their children.  Growth, strength, wisdom, and the favour of God.  As our gospel puts it; ’The child gre

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.