I grew up in a small family: 2 sisters, 4 grandparents, 1 aunt and 1 uncle. My Mom was an only child. My Dad had one sister. Perhaps this is one reason why community¹ in the Church is important to me. But the importance of community and the Communion of Saints is greater than any comfort it gives me.
January 1 is the Solemnity of the Holy Mother of God, a holy day of obligation for Catholic Christians. On January 1, we recall the First Council of Ephesus in 431. The Council was assembled because the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, had objected to the title Theotokos (Greek for “God-bearer” or Mother of God) being given to the Virgin Mary. His point was that no creature could bear The Creator.
The Council taught otherwise. We must call Mary Theotokos, the Mother of God, because failing to do so would sever the Divine and the human in Christ. The dilemma of how a creature could bear The Creator is not resolved in Mary; it is resolved in Jesus Christ², the God-Man Who took the flesh of the Virgin Mary and became man to to accomplish our redemption.
What does any of that have to do with community? The Lord’s great act of love and condescension puts a new face, literally, on the meaning of community. This is infinite, eternal community—His solidarity with us in our flesh; in our joys and sufferings of our lives; in experiencing death. Jesus Christ, fully man and fully God, paid the penalty for our sin that we might live eternally. That is community!
Still, a short postscript can be added to show yet another dimension of community. After Mass on January 1, I paused to kneel at the Crèche beside the altar. My wife and I had been away over Christmas and this was my first opportunity to pay homage to The Holy Family in this way. I was joined almost immediately by several others, parents and children of the parish—unforced, unprompted; motivated by love for our Lord. What joy! We didn’t need to speak. We were united in Christ and in this visible display of devotion. What a wonderful sense of family; what a joy-filled demonstration of community in Christ.
That experience also demonstrates the days of the Liturgical Year we call “Holy Days of Obligation” are actually “Holy Days of Opportunity.” In the liturgy, in the community, and most of all in The Eucharist, we are always given much more than we could ask or deserve.
Come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord. That truly is Christianity Richly!
² Fr. Jay Scott Newman, January 1, 2014 homily at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Greenville, SC. I have footnoted this statement because it was one of the most incisive in his homily, but I am indebted to Fr. Newman for the substance of much of this post. I simply have placed it in the context of thinking about community.