Prayer life in the Holy Family’s home in Nazareth

Each Sabbath Joseph and Jesus donned their taillit or prayer shawls and went to the synagogue, while Mary prepared the table for the feast. Indeed, on Friday evening women had the privilege to begin the liturgy of the Sabbath by lighting the candle of the feast and reciting the initial blessing:

"Blessed be the Lord who asked us to light the flame."

This symbolic gesture tells much about the vocation of women, who must light the flame, and therefore transmit life, hope and joy. Table conversations would not only be discussions about the scenes of violence that accompanied the presence of the Roman occupant - Jesus would certainly have turned the conversation beyond everyday life to the memory of Israel - He would have reminded His parents about God's promises to His chosen people, His Covenant, the gift of the earth and the commandments.

Every day life could make the Holy Family forget neither the essence nor the direction of the life. As members of the chosen people, even daily work taken in this light took on very distinctive nobility. Each morning in their home when Joseph and Jesus recited the Shema Israel and the prayer of Shemone Esre (or the Jewish prayer of 18 Blessings), Mary would listen in silence. Of course, she was allowed to join in their prayer and memorize it. It was enough that she whispered "Amen" at the end of the prayer to make this prayer her own as well.

Jesus, who knew the Qaddish by heart, the prayer recited at funerals in the village, must have certainly repeated this prayer in front of Mary, just as He would have recited His lessons before leaving for school or Sepphoris. Jesus wore tephilim (strips of cloth that the Jews wore during prayer) and He would not have shaved the hair on His temples, as the Bible required. Mary knew the significance of these commandments. Her sensitivity and intelligence must have opened up the home in Nazareth to a vision of the outside world, a world waiting for the arrival of God's Kingdom. The Romans did not understand the customs and habits of the Jews and were often ironical about these practices that appeared out of date to them. The coming of the invisible and spiritual Kingdom signified for Israel the sanctification of God's Name.

However what could this sanctification represent if not the acceptance of the Kingdoms' yoke and the removal of all pagan habits? Must one live separately to become holy? How can the King choose me to be His servant if I do not confess the love of His Name in my life? Doesn't God's Kingdom, this proximity of God with mankind, lead to the knowledge of the ways of the Lord so as to act with justice and righteousness?