Family: An Incarnated Spirituality of Communion
The Holy Church has always remarkably emphasized the value of family as the cradle of Church and society. Church always focuses its keen care and concern for the family, constantly reflecting the family life from time to time. Church is concerned with the practicability of the theology and age old customs and hence it keeps open the new challenges that our families encounter within the Church and around the world. Church continues to be in dialogue with families to understand, encourage and to witness the Christian values with hope. Christian families and the world gladly welcome the new exhortation from Pope Francis: Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love).
Pope Francis discusses in this exhortation: the mystery of family life through the revelation of the Word of God, examines the actual situation of the families, explores the attitude of the Church expressed through centuries towards family life, two chapters are dedicated for love-life which is family, a proper guidance for the pastors, a general invitation to mercy and the final chapter draws a spirituality proper for family life. This reflection in the final chapter which draws a spirituality of marital communion.
- Creative and Formative Spirituality
The exhortation beautifully puts it: “Trinity dwells in the temple of marital communion” (314). Pope urges the Holy Catholic Church to look with veneration on the family because there dwells the Trinity within. Family is the temple. The occasion is marital communion. Look at the new point of order in worship. The whole Church is invited to respect, revere and worship the Holy presence of Trinity in the communion of love in the family. The Church plays up the role of the family not only with its functions but with the presence within. This is an interruption within the attitude of the Church. Family is set as a holy ground. Hence we are urged to pray the required revelation for our time in and through the Christian committed families. It holds the present as well as the future Church.
The Triune God is not a barren presence. From the very beginning of biblical history and even the pre-history Trinity appears in creative and formative role. Triune God brings a creative effect wherever in the bible we meet up with. Thus family becomes a ground of creation, a communion of creation and web of creation. Family is formed towards creative work of God. The exhortation shows up how magnificent is the role engraved on the family with the presence of Trinity. Each Christian family bears a duty of creation and formation. Because new generation is waited through family, new face of the Church is waited and a new world system is waiting for its revelation through family. Pope invites us to meditate the presence of the Trinity within our families and it naturally leads us to work out respectfully the creative and formative function within. Pope reminds us “families are not a problem; they are first and foremost an opportunity” (7). Family is an opportunity to worship the Triune God and an opportunity to wait hopefully our tomorrow.
- Family constantly diffuses Holiness
A temple of Triune presence reflected in family is surely fanning out a sphere of holiness in an around the world. Family builds up – what? Pope speaks in two ways reflecting on the biblical simile – ben and banah. Speaking on Psalm 128 Pope speaks “unless the Lord builds the city…” Building up is a blessing. An integral building up is what is aimed in and through family. Ben (Chid) is a means of blessing for banah (to build) (14). Thus families are invited to bear blessing around the world. Holiness is a presence that builds up. Whenever the Holiness of God dwelt within Israel the nation was built up, in single worship, as a single people and lived in a single Promised Land. Family that diffuses holiness is surely an agent of unity, integrity and peace.
- Family – the basic unit of Worship
Pope calls family life as spirituality of supernatural communion. This is indeed a perception beyond the natural reading. Man and woman come together not in natural longing but with a supernatural orientation and thus the communion in marital life turns out a spirituality of supernatural communion. The interpretation flows further into deeper levels of God experience. Family teaches a method of practical and realistic worship in life. Pope explains it; “The Lord’s presence dwells in real and concrete families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes.” As we live in a world of many masks in our societal life, it is still a promise that a communion of maximum possible openness is available in family life. Members of this communion welcome each other without a mask because the Lord reigns within this communion. Life and the realism within encourage family to be open. “Living in a family makes it hard for us to feign or lie; we cannot hide behind a mask.”
It further develops in to a spirituality of bond as the mutual concern brings together the divine and the human. When the divine love dwells within the family – in its holy ground, family cannot be otherwise. It urges the members to remain within the bond – the bond of the divine and the human. Family is thus a holy ground and a human ground (314-315).
The silence within the family is the most precious “meaning-maker.” Pope dreams it as a time to reflect the face and the presence of each other. The lovers in their early days fear silence, but for family it is a blessing to feel the presence and the face of each other. The silence reveals each other (12).
Pope quotes: “Love is the only light which can constantly illuminate a world grown dim”(Deus Caritas Est, 39). As family lights up an incarnated spirituality of communion, the Church is guaranteed of a genuine dwelling place of God. God reveals his presence in and through genuine dwelling, and family stands up as the best revealer of the Triune God. Let us hold our families in genuine communion, with an inborn spirituality. Let us take off our shoes for the Holy Trinity dwells within ground of family.
Fr. Tony Pazhayakalam CST