On the Sunday after Christmas, the solemnity of the Holy Family is celebrated in Nazareth. It was in this city in Galilee that St Joseph established the home of his family after returning from Egypt. In the shadow of the Basilica of the Annunciation, built to remember the pace where Mary received the angel’s announcement, there stands the smaller St Joseph's church, on top of what tradition indicates as the house where Jesus grew up with Joseph and Mary “and was obedient to them" (Luke 2,51).
The solemn celebration in Nazareth
On 31 December, the Custos of the Holy Land, fra Francesco Patton, celebrated the Mass of the Holy Family in Nazareth. With him there was also Mons. Rafic Nahra, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, and three friars from the community of the Custody of the Holy Land: fra Wojciech Bołoz, guardian and Rector of the Basilica of the Annunciation and of the Shrine of the Holy Family in Nazareth; fra Ibrahim Sabbagh, Latin parish priest of Nazareth and fra Carlos Molina.
For the families exhausted by the war and for newly-married couples
Hundreds of people took part in the celebration, during which the married couples renewed their matrimonial vows. In his homily, the Custos invited everyone to pray “for our families and for all the families in the world,” in particular “for the families that are suffering due to wars, near and distant. We remember in particular our brothers and sisters of the parish of the Holy Family in Gaza, who are really being put to the test by the war underway.” A thought also goes to the younger families, so that they are not discouraged by facing the difficulties of the present, but go towards the future with hope and confidence.”
In the house of the Holy Family
At the end of the Mass, the faithful went in a procession from the upper Basilica - where the Mass was celebrated – to the crypt of St Joseph’s church, the place where, according to tradition, there was the house of the Holy Family. A young newly-married couple, who celebrated this year their marriage and expecting their first child, carried the icon of the Holy Family. Here the Gospel according to Matthew was read, which in Chapter 2 relates the return of the Holy Family from Egypt and their establishment in Nazareth “so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled: ”He shall be called a Nazorean.” After incensing the holy place, the Custos gave the final blessing with the icon of the Holy Family.