The Feast of the Epiphany was on Monday, which means we’re coming up to the end of the Christmas season and the first segment of Ordinary Time in the liturgical calendar. The first segment is between now and Lent, the second segment is between Easter and next Advent.
By now, the turkey is probably all gone, and unfortunately the ham too. The Christmas presents are all unwrapped and stashed in their places on the shelf, toy bin, or cabinet. As people return to work and school the joy of the season is ramping down, but at least a trace of the (hopefully!) warm and joyful memories lingers as people settle into the cold remainder of winter.
Around this time, the magi are on their way back to their respective homelands, and the Holy Family is traveling to Egypt, as Joseph is warned in a dream that Herod’s men are seeking his child’s life.
When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
After the dramatic contrast of waiting in the darkness of Advent, and then a sudden culmination as Jesus the Light shows up at Christmas, it may be time to sort of settle into the pew at Mass and enjoy the more placid change of pace. That’s natural and probably needed after all the preparation and celebration. We can’t be fasting or feasting in a major way all the time.
Even in their exile, which must have been quite dramatic, so much of it must have been relateable to our own experience of daily life: keeping an eye on each other, another eye on practical concerns, and another eye (figuratively speaking) on what we can do just to just to pass the time, making things more workable, endurable, enjoyable for ourselves and our families. I can imagine Mary stopping to consider trading her sturdy, reliable shawl for a nicer one, and asking Joseph’s opinion. Or Joseph offering to hold the baby for a while, to give Mary some much needed rest.
In the liturgical readings, it may seem odd that we jump from the Christ child sitting on Mary’s lap, to Jesus feeding five thousand followers as a man. We just got to know him (again) as a baby so to speak, and already he’s all grown up! But, of course, the scriptures don’t include much about the day-to-day lives of Mary burping the Christ child or Joseph teaching the infant Jesus how to hold a saw.
First, because all that’s in scripture is what’s necessary for our salvation, and second, because if we want, we can fill in the details from our own lives, in order to relate more thoroughly. And what’s necessary for us is follow Jesus, and to be fed. What’s necessary for us is to look to each other, and keep passing the loaves and fishes.
We still have a little more time with the child Jesus, liturgically speaking. Enjoy it! Draw close, and pray the simple prayer of St. Therese of the Child Jesus: “Draw me” – perhaps on the way to work, doing the dishes, or attending to another child in your family. Then, if you let him, he will.