About this blogger:
Ronda Chervin received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University and an MA in Religious Studies from Notre Dame Apostolic Institute. A widow, mother, and grandmother, she currently teaches philosophy at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Write to her at chervinronda@gmail.com.
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“Iconographic tradition has theologically interpreted the manger and the swaddling cloths in terms of the theology of the Fathers. The child stiffly wrapped in bandages is seen as prefiguring the hour of his death: from the outset, he is the sacrificial victim, as we shall see more closely when we examine the reference to the first-born. The manger, then, was seen as a kind of altar.”
— Pope Benedict XVI (2012)

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English Weekend House Parties 21st Century Style & Holy Day Masses
published 31 December 2012 by Dr. Ronda Chervin

I am a big fan of English novels, especially ones written by the greats such as George Eliot, the Brontes, Jane Austin, Dickens, etc. In many of them the plot unfolds during long weekends at manor houses. The sumptuous feasts, the hunts, the evening games, become for me a kind of archetype of old-fashioned hospitality. On such English weekends, Sunday morning saw most of the family and guests off to the old Church in the village. I was reflecting on the contrast between those scenes and extended family visits 21st century style. Some obvious differences might explain part of the problems of weekend plus visits in our times. Contrast the 10 acre mansion in rural England with a small house in the suburbs in USA today? Contrast the butlers, and maids, cooks, handling all the physical things with one harried mother imploring help from the visiting women to feed 20 at a table that usually serves 4 people with card tables for extensions on either end? Contrast some of the guests off at 6 AM to the hunt back then, now jammed into a family room to watch TV with empty six packs decorating the carpet…No wonder grumbling, sarcasm, and grim faces can manifest under such circumstances!

In a general way one could find a pattern like this: joyous arrival of family and friends with the feeling that one has the most beautiful, perfect, wonderful family and friends in the whole world; little conflicts about trivia with the feeling that how can anyone do these stupid, wrong-headed, dysfunctional things; large conflicts about politics, morals, religion with the feeling that one needs to leave all these people and join a radical activist group who all agree with me or repair to a hermitage; after sufficient libations of “sister” alcohol a feeling that I won’t be able to stand it when this amiable group separates at the end of the visit; as the weekend comes close to an end the sour-grapes feeling that one should never give or accept such invitations; at the actual time of departures – hugs and tears!

On the part about Sunday Mass or Christmas Mass or Easter, one could add this contrast. In 19th century England, home festivities were a joyful overflow of Church attendance. In our Catholic Church there was a teaching about “the domestic Church.” It stood for all believers did in the home to live out the faith and hand it on generation to generation. Nowadays, sometimes, we have a sort of heresy of domesticity in which non-practicing Catholics and members of other faith groups as well, substitute for the Church liturgies home traditions chosen cafeteria style. Of course, done with love, God doesn’t reject the Christmas trees, carols, Nativities, presents, etc., but how does Jesus feel when his flock refuses to come to receive His very Body and Blood on the same days?

My prayer: Jesus, You don’t want us to spend visits of family and friends in bickering, harsh judgment, and anger! You don’t want us to spend holy days exhausting ourselves in hospitality like your friend Martha? Yet You do want us to be close to family and friends even when there are real conflicts. We offer to You our pain when others reject the supernatural gifts You bring us in favor of the human gifts. We pray that we may find ways to emanate Your love to all and show our joy in Your most august gifts, so that others may also long for them.