The icon was unveiled and anointed on the 21st August 2017, during the launch of the one-year programme of preparation at the National Novena in Knock, Ireland. It has now started to travel to each diocese in Ireland to encourage reflection and prayer as part of the journey of preparations to WMOF2018. The icon is accompanied by petition boxes, where families can write their intentions and prayer. Contemplative communities around Ireland will pray for the intentions collected during the coming year.
This icon takes the form of a triptych which looks, from the outside, somewhat like a house with front doors. On these outside doors, we are presented with the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, who carry with them the desire of God to protect. Their heads are bowed in adoration and service of God, the Holy One. On the base is the inscription “Amoris Laetitia”, ‘The Joy of Love’, the title of Pope Francis’ post-Synodal exhortation on love in the family, the source of our reflections during the World Meeting of Families 2018.
When the doors of this icon are opened we see in the centre the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph seated at table, sharing a meal and sharing their faith. Their faith was celebrated in their home. It is in our home that the reality of God-with-us is communicated and passed on to future generations. Their gathering around the table is reminiscent of the Three Angels in the famous 15th century Icon of the Holy Trinity by Andrei Rublev. Christian Marriage is sometimes compared with the Holy Trinity, as a communion of the giving and receiving of love that is life-giving. Indeed, the family is called to be the “living icon” of the Most Holy Trinity.
Similarly to the icon above, the Holy Family have a place at their table for us. They invite us to join them. They are no strangers to the trials of family life. They themselves have been refugees, fleeing the violence of Herod. They have known great anxiety. Hence the radishes and bitter herbs of the Passover meal represent the sorrows and trials of the people of Israel in their slavery also represent for us the trials and sacrifices of patience and love experienced in every family. The presence of the unleavened bread and cup of wine on their table call to mind the Eucharist for us.
Flanking the Holy Family icon are those two Gospel narratives: the Raising of Jairus’ Daughter and the Wedding Feast of Cana. Passages in the Gospels in which we see Jesus’ deep compassion and concern for marriage and for those living with the burdens of family life.
Composed by Ephrem Feeley
Love bears all things, endures all things
Love longs for all things good, love never ends
Love is not resentful; it is not rude.
Love is not arrogant, nor boastful, nor jealous,
but love rejoices, rejoices in the truth
The joy, of love, a joy for all God’s family,
The joy of love transcending time and space.
Our Love for each other mirrors God the Father’s love.
The joy of love: a joy for all the earth.
All can find salvation troubled souls find peace.
Here is found tenderness, compassion and justice
Here God reaches down to us and touches us with grace.
Love is our fulfilment, in God’s dwelling place.
Love is the mystery of Father, Son and Spirit,
Love is communion of blessed Trinity.
to love with tenderness, to walk humbly with God,
to give our lives in service to others.
The joy of the Gospel is the joyful love of Christ!
love longs for all things good, love never ends.