One of the beautiful expressions of Faith of the Eastern Churches is sacred art, and especially that of the icon (Greek meaning ‘image’). Icons are prepared and painted often while the artist has been fasting and praying. The colors of the icons also have meaning. Icons are considered to meeting between the human person and God, the human person and the Saints, the holy ones (Greek – ‘hagios’). A certain form of the icon is known as a “Tryptic”, meaning three images. In these immediate past days, I believe that many of us have been praying in front of a special Tryptic: 1) The prayer life of the Church’s Liturgy, especially Saint Joseph’s day on March 19; 2) The election of Pope Francis; and, 3) the own events in the life of the local Church which are intimately united with the other two.That certainly is the case here.
On the Sunday Angelus December 18, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI gave a thought provoking reflection on St. Joseph. This can be the “center piece” for these days: “Beloved Pope John Paul II, who was very devoted to St. Joseph, left us a wonderful meditation dedicated to him in the Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos, ‘ The Guardian of the Redeemer.’ Among the many aspects on which this Document sheds light, the silence of St. Joseph is given special emphasis. His silence is steeped in contemplation of the mystery of God in an attitude of total availability to the divine desires. In other words, St. Joseph’s silence does not express an inner emptiness but, on the contrary, the fullness of the faith he bears in his heart and which guides his every thought and action…Let us allow ourselves to be ‘filled’ with St. Joseph’s silence! In a world that is often too noisy, that encourages neither recollection nor listening to God’s voice, we are in such deep need of it.”
St. Joseph is indeed our guide in these days, as he watches over the whole Body of Christ, as Patron of the Universal Church. We should take these last days of Lent and follow his example of living a life of Faith that encompasses recollection and listening to the voice of God in all aspects of our life and ministry. St. Joseph surely leads us to reflect on the first days of Pope Francis’ ministry as Bishop of Rome. His example leads us to reflect on the example of Faith that we live and give to others: fully Catholic, fully engaged in listening to the Word of God, and sharing it in service with others.
St. Joseph certainly prays for us here in Orange these days: from the joyous testimony of life with the over 1000 people present at St. Joseph in Placentia for the closing of the 40 days for Life. This event was accompanied by much prayer, joy, singing and testimony to the Gift of Life at all stages, especially before birth. We think, too, of the testimony of prayer and support given, for example, by the group of Hispanic women recently praying in front of Planned Parenthood. Many parishes groups from Orange do this on a regular basis. All of these testimonies of the dignity of human life lead us to further reflection on the necessity of giving this testimony in full freedom of conscience.
St. Joseph Day itself in Orange is marked by Mass and festivities at Mission San Juan Capistrano. The swallows did return to the Mission and the city. When the Mission bells were rung, swallows flew across the old Mission courtyard. There was a Mass and festivities that re-enacted the earlier times of Mission Life.
St. Joseph pray for us, the local and Universal Church!