The Blessing in Between
"The Holy Family with Dog" by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
In between His birth and death
Between Christ’s first and final breath
In between the manger and the cross
Between Mary’s joy and sorrowful loss
Was the blessing of the years spent in their home
Cherishing time as family alone
The blessing of laughter as Christ played
Then days filled with Joseph teaching his trade
The blessing of learning from one another
Christ both leading and listening to father and mother
The blessing of Mary’s awe and wonder
Keeping in her heart the treasures she’d ponder
The blessing of quiet days spent in prayer
Silent smiles across the room they’d share
The blessing of the Family of Nazareth
Together at Joseph’s bed before his death
The blessing of this unrecorded time
Before the ascent of Calvary they’d climb
The blessing of preparing for what was to come
While treasuring years as Holy Spouses and Son
Little is said of the Holy Family’s “in between”.
About a month ago, I was led to contemplate the concept of “in between.” As a student about to finish the final year of my undergrad and squirming in the uncertainty of what comes next, I found myself viewing this next season of my life as the “in between.” In between school and the realization of my future vocation. A season of simply “passing the time.” Couple these thoughts with awaiting the end of lockdown and the feeling of the “in between” grows stronger.
As I pondered the in between, I was struck by the parallel to the liturgical calendar. The Church, too, is in a time of in between, between the Christmas, Lenten, and Easter seasons. My contemplation was then guided to the Holy Family’s in between in scripture: the unrecorded time of silence between Christ’s Birth and public ministry, Death, and Resurrection. I was particularly captivated by Mary’s perspective of this time, and how she would have not perceived it as a time of “in between” simply spent awaiting what was to come.
How Mary must have cherished those moments, those years with her family which are unknown to us. Luke tells us about the disposition of our Mother’s heart. That it was pondering. With the mystery of her Son’s birth, and the prophecy of His future suffering as well as the piercing of her own heart, how much more would Mary have treasured daily life with her family (cf. Luke 2:34-35). What goes unrecorded is not any less notable in the heart of the Mother. What we could see as the “in between” in scripture was filled with precious moments of the intimacy of family life; moments held dear by each member. So, too, is our own “in between” not simply transient or unimportant.
The example of the Holy Family’s silent life is a gift to us in the midst of what we feel to be our own hidden seasons. I have been captivated by the beauty and importance of silence this past year, especially through The Power of Silence by Robert Cardinal Sarah. Cardinal Sarah profoundly articulates this mystery, as he writes:
“The silence of the Church’s life, it seems to me, is connected to the mystery and gentleness of the divine voice. In order to hear it, you have to turn your ear because the Holy Spirit does not speak loudly, nor do Jesus and His Father. When the Word became man and came to live in Nazareth, for thirty years the Nazarenes saw nothing! It takes time and silence, therefore, to discern the voices of heaven, which are discreet and infinitely respectful”
(The Power of Silence, p. 222)
May this be our unrecorded time. The time when we unite ourselves with the Holy Family of Nazareth in their quiet moments which we can only imagine. May we ponder how Joseph smiled at Mary throughout the day, what the Child Jesus’ young laugh sounded like, the family’s conversations at meals, and how they lived their lives in prayer. May we not simply be anticipating or awaiting what is coming next, but truly find the Lord now. In between.
The blessing of pondering these unknown years
And uniting ourselves to their joys and fears
The blessing of being invited into their home
To contemplate this time as family alone
The blessing of knowing our ‘between’ is not wasted
As the goodness of the Lord we have tasted
By the blessings in between for Son, husband, and wife
May we join in the silence of their hidden life