The family between the creation work and the salvation feast
A great fresco of the family as it is described in the Scripture, “between the creation work and the salvation feast”: as cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, world famous biblicist and president of the Pontifical Council for the Culture, has pictured it in his speech opening the first day of the theological pastoral Congress.
Embellished with literary quotations and with several allusions to the present socio-cultural context, he has started his analysis from a famous declaration the antropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss made in 1952 «The family as the union of a man and a woman together with their children, a union that is more or less lasting and socially approved, is a universal phenomenon that can be found in any kind of society». A centrality of the family still existing today: on the basis of a recent survey, European citizens consider the family fundamental and in 46 countries (out of 47) they put it on top of the most important social realities.
Taking the “house” as a symbolic element, cardinal Ravasi has started identifying the foundations of the family in the couple relationship, the one between a man and a woman “that are equal in their radical dignity but different in their individual identity”: a unity of love that in Christianity is given “a transcendent seal”.
Ravasi has then seen the children as “living stones”. The fullness of the family, he has added, is entrusted to the offspring that can be not only biological (as it happens in adoptions). “God is the creator – he has explained -, the man and the woman give life and continue the history of salvation”. And concerning to this, he has added one of the sentences Giovanni Paolo II pronounced during his apostolic journey to Mexico in 1979: «Our God, in His most intimate mystery, is not a solitude, but a family. (…) Therefore, the theme of the family is not at all extraneous to the divine essence».
And again, the family-house is composed of rooms, the first of which is the “room of grief” (“the believer must have a realistic look upon things”, has said Ravasi: “the Bible itself is a constant witness of this, starting from Cain’s brutal fratricidal violence on Abel and from the arguments among the children and the wives of the patriarchs themselves”; ending up with Jesus who “knows the anxiety and tension of the families using them in His parables”. Today – the cardinal has continued – we are witnessing new lacerations of the fabric of the family, a mixing of socio-cultural phenomena that “shakes the traditional system of the family” and that turns the house into something “liquid”.
In front of these phenomena the Christian family is asked not to close itself behind the house doors, because “the family is not a monad but the first cell of society”, and this gives it a huge responsibility.
The last room identified by Ravasi is the one of the feast and of the family joy. “Uncommon events such as globalization, digital civilization, the development of science (neuroscience and biotechnologies), the meeting of different people and the so-called “melting pot” of cultures represent a “molteplicity of experiences” that can enrich the feast of the family, provided – as the cardinal has pointed out - “it is able to treasure its Christian identity in a non aggressive and integralist way, managing to remain vital and colourful and not ending up in a generic and indefinite syncretism”.
The feast is essential for the life of the family because – Ravasi has ended his speech paraphrasing the Jewish mystic Abraham J. Heschel – “when they celebrate the holiday liturgy, the man and the woman enter the temple of eternal divine time”. In this way, “the authentic holiday is neither an empty and still horizon nor a mere week-end”, but it is “the symbol of transcendence that is available to the creature”, a unique opportunity to make time more human.