Federico Barocci captured the Holy Family escaping to Egypt. Although they are refugees in a dramatic, stressful situation, he chooses to show the delightful communion among them. Mary sits comfortably in the center of the family, busily collecting water. Perhaps she will wash the cherries or the toddler’s dirty hands. Her face, full of serenity and joy, is lost in thoughts that go beyond the work of the present. She is the model of so many mothers who, in spite of challenging circumstances, focus their energy on loving their children and creating an oasis of peace.

Saint Joseph stands behind the Madonna and reaches up into the tree to pull off a branch for the child Jesus. His strong arm and hand extend straight down toward the child as they both grasp the wood from opposite ends—one giving and the other receiving. This simple domestic gesture of providing for the son is strongly symbolic of what so many husbands and fathers do on a daily basis. Alongside their wives, they care for their families with hard work.

Jesus is next to Mary, and reaches out to Joseph. He receives love from both parents while returning that love with joy and gratitude.

The Holy Family reflects the divine family. One day the heavenly Father will also extend a piece of fruit— this time the bitter passion and the wood of the cross.

Although it costs his human nature, Jesus accepts it, thanks in part to the strength he finds in Mary.

 

—Fr. Mark Haydu, LC