Our context is Octave of the Nativity of the Lord. An “octave” is a period of eight days when liturgical time is suspended during an octave and the feast continues uninterrupted. In imitation of creation and the final summation of the universe at the end of all things, we rest within the Christmas mystery and consider it from different angles in our liturgical worship.
God in His divinity came to light as our brother in our humanity. He came to save us from our sins and reveal us more fully to ourselves (cf Gaudium et spes 22). When He came in His first coming, He came to be a part of a human family. In the infant Christ, with Mary and Joseph humbly and protectively bent over Him, we see who we really are more fully than ever we could before His birth.
The presence of Christ in the midst of His Holy Family is an icon of how He should be present in the midst of every family. That is how important a family is.
That is also why the powers of hell will attack the very concept of the family at its roots. They will attack the family and its members, destabilize it, even while drowning Holy Church’s defending and clarifying voice in the public square. When we detect the malodorous fruits of hell in society, we know the family is on its heals. Today’s prayer, in the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which Satan and the fallen hordes hate and undermine with relentless attacks, grounds the family in Christ’s self-oblation on the Cross.
Here is the Super oblata, the Prayer over the Offerings:
Hostiam tibi placationis offerimus, Domine, suppliciter deprecantes, ut, Deiparae virginis beatique Ioseph interveniente suffragio, familias nostras in tua gratia firmiter et pace constituas.
Deprecor, by the way, is not just “to pray”, but “to pray earnestly.”
This Super oblata is essentially the same as the Secret of the Mass of the Holy Family found in the older form of the Missale Romanum though the word order has been changed a bit since 1962.
One might at this point ask, “Why change it around like that?” Partly for style, partly for emphases… this time.
We offer Thee this sacrifice of appeasement, O Lord, humbly bent down in earnest prayer, so that, as the recommendation of the virgin Mother of God and of blessed Joseph intervenes, you may establish our families firmly in Thy grace and peace.
CURRENT ICEL (2011):
We offer you, Lord, the sacrifice of conciliation, humbly asking that, through the intercession of the Virgin Mother of God and Saint Joseph, you may establish our families firmly in your grace and your peace.
“But Father! But Father!” some of you are moaning, “Appeasement? Pfft. You are a troglodyte. You said that this prayer grounds the family in the Cross, but the Cross isn’t in the prayer! You put the Cross into everything because you hate Vatican II!”
That placatio means “a pacifying, appeasing, propitiating”. Propitiation… appeasement… because of our sins… Sacrifice… Cross…. Get it now?
As the family in general goes, so goes society.
It is fitting that we should use the language of appeasement in begging Him to form and shape our families.
But what do we find as we look around today? Legal abortion, growing legalization of euthanasia, same-sex marriages, high divorce rates, young women disposing of newborn infants in garbage cans, scientific experimentation on living human beings, experiments in cloning, the distortion of physical, sexual differentiation in favor of post-modern, deconstructed, personally, selfishly chosen “gender” , same-sex “marriage”.
The concept of the family is breaking to pieces.
It is good to pray that God might be appeased. Sometimes it is said that if God does not strike our society down, then He owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology. His image and likeness is being profaned now in more horrible ways than those ancient sinners could have and on a scale that they wouldn’t have been able to conjure.
In his annual address the Roman Curia in 2012, Pope Benedict said:
Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. … [F]rom being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. [And to dispose of.] When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man.