The Home: Unique Space of Salvation
In the Bible, salvation does not take place in the Temple or synagogue. It takes place in the home. The avenging angel in his mission to destroy the first born of man and animal “passed over” the homes of those who had the blood of the paschal lamb sprinkled over the doorposts of their homes.
1) “Israel’s Passover was and is a family celebration. It is celebrated in the home, not in the Temple. In the history of the foundation of the People of Israel, in Exodus (12, 1-14), it is the home which is the locus of salvation and refuge in that night of darkness in which the Angel of Death walked abroad. For Egypt, in contrast, that night spelled the power of death, of destruction, of chaos, things that continually rise up from the deep places of the world and of man, threatening to wreck the good creation and reduce the world to an uninhabitable wilderness. In this situation it is the home, the family, which provides protection; in other words, the world always needs to be defended against chaos, creation always needs shielding and recreating. In the calendar of the nomads from whom Israel adopted the Passover festival, Passover was New Year’s Day, i.e., the day on which the creation was refounded, when it had to be defended once again against the inroads of the void. The home, the family is life’s protective rampart, the place of security, of `shalom,’ of that peace and togetherness which lives and lets live, which holds the world together.
“In the time of Jesus, too, Passover was celebrated in the homes and in families, following the slaughter of the lambs in the Temple. A regulation forbade anyone to leave the city of Jerusalem in the night of the Passover. The entire city was felt to be the locus of salvation over against the chaotic night, its walls the rampart protecting the creation. Israel had to make a pilgrimage, as it were, to the city every year at Passover in order to return to its origins, to be recreated and to experience once again its rescue, liberation and foundation. A very deep insight lies behind this. In the course of a year, a people is always in danger of disintegrating, not only through external causes, but also interiorly, and of losing hold of the inner motivation which sustains it. It needs to return to its fundamental origin. Passover was intended to be this annual event in which Israel returned from the threatening chaos (which lurks in every people) to its sustaining origin; it was meant to be the renewed defense and recreation of Israel in the basis of its origin. And since Israel knew that the star of its election stood in the heavens, it also knew that its fortunes, for good or ill, had consequences of the whole world; it knew that the destiny of the earth and of creation was involved in its response, whether it failed or passed the test.
“Jesus too celebrated the Passover according to these prescriptions, at home with his family; that is to say, with the Apostles, who had become his new family. In doing so he was observing a current rule which permitted pilgrims who were traveling to Jerusalem to form companies, the so-called habhuroth, who would constitute a family, a Passover unity, for this night. That is how Passover became a Christian feast. We are Christ’s habhura, his family, formed of his pilgrim company, of the friends who accompany him along the path of the gospel through the terrain of history. Companions of his pilgrimage, we constitute Christ’s house; thus, the Church is the new family, the new city, and for us she signifies all that Jerusalem was – that living home which banishes the powers of chaos and makes an area of peace, which upholds both creation and us. The Church is the new city by being the family of Jesus, the living Jerusalem, and her faith is the rampart and wall against the chaotic powers that threaten to bring destruction upon the world. Her ramparts are strengthened by the blood of the true Lamb, Jesus Christ, that is, by love which goes to the very end and which is endless. It is this love which is the true counterforce to chaos: it is the creative power which continually establishes the world afresh, providing new foundations for peoples and families, thus giving us `shalom,’ the realm of peace in which we can live with, for and unto one another. There are many reasons, I believe, why we should take a new look at these factors at this time and allow ourselves to respond to them. For today we are quite tangibly experiencing the power of chaos. We experience the primal, chaotic powers rising up from the very midst of a progressive society – which seems to know everything and be able to do anything – and attacking the very progress of which it is so proud. We see how, in the midst of prosperity, technological achievement and the scientific domination of the world, a nation can be destroyed from within, we see how the creation can be threatened by the chaotic powers which lurk in the depths of the human heart. We realize that neither money nor technology nor organizational ability alone can banish chaos. Only the real protective wall given to us by the Lord, the new family he has created for us, can do this. From this standpoint, it seems to me, this Passover celebration which has come down to us from the nomads, via Israel and through Christ, also has (in the deepest sense) an eminently political significance. We as a nation, we in Europe, need to be back to our spiritual roots, lest we become lost in self-destruction.
“This feast needs to become a family celebration once again, for it is the family that is the real bastion of creation and humanity. Passover is a summons, urgently reminding us that the family is the loving home in which humanity is nurtured, which banishes chaos and futility, that the family can only be this sphere of humanity, this bastion of creation, if it is under the banner of the Lamb, if it is protected by the power of faith which comes from the love of Jesus Christ. The individual family cannot survive; it will disintegrate unless it is kept safe within the larger family which guarantees it and gives it security.”
2). J. Ratzinger, “Prologue” Enchiridion Familiae
“In the letter which Saint Ignatius of Antioch – on his way to martyrdom in Rome – wrote to the Christians of Ephesus, there is a phrase, difficult to translate, of great density, which powerfully calls the attention of the reader. I