The Holy Family’s Disappearing Act

Rome - Flight to Egypt fresco in Basilica di Sant Agostino
ROME, ITALY – MARCH 27, 2015: The Flight to Egypt fresco in Basilica di Sant Agostino (Augustine) by Pietro Gagliardi form 19. cent.

Joseph had a dream telling him to rise up and take the child and His mother to Egypt. Herod’s guards went house-to-house searching for them and killing all the male children under the age of two. The Holy Family slipped away into the desert darkness, making their way to Egypt.

The people of Nazareth were probably like people of today. If you hear of a disaster near where someone you know lives, your mind starts to wonder about their welfare. Were they involved? Did they make it?

It would be several years before Joseph had another dream telling him it was safe to return. Just as suddenly, though not as urgently, they were able to head home.  Jaws must have dropped and tears flowed as they came home to Nazareth with a toddler in tow.  I’m sure someone said, “I never stopped believing that you were still alive.”

In many ways the Flight to Egypt anticipated Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. The innocents’ death prefigured His own, the escape from death–His resurrection, and leaving for another country–His ascension into heaven.  His return to Nazareth prefigured His coming again!

Jesus spoke in His parables about a ruler going to a far country to return when his servants did not expect it.  Those who figured that their master was delayed in coming, abused the other servants. These were cast out.  Those who never stopped believing that He would return, lived their lives accordingly. These were greatly rewarded.

In  Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s big lesson was to live in the spirit of Christmas all of the year long. Our job as Christians is take what we have learned this Christmas season and live in anticipation of His coming.

#trcot #tcot #Flight into Egypt

Referenced scripture: Matt. 2:13-23, Luke 9:41-48

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Simeon’s Sorrowful Prophecy

Maria Mutter Gottes

While the shadow of the cross is all over the Infancy narrative, it is especially strong in Simeon’s words to Mary.  Here it is that she is first told of the suffering both she and Jesus will experience.

“Behold,  this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:35

Most people know what happened to Jesus but few of us know the Seven Sorrows of Mary. That is why she is sometimes shown with seven swords through her heart.

This prophecy at the Presentation is considered the first sorrow.  Hearing that her son would be rejected and suffer was difficult.  She pondered those words as He grew.

She did not have to wait long for the second sorrow.  Joseph had a dream in the middle of the night telling them to flee.  They escaped one of the most horrific massacres ever but at the cost of living as an exile in Egypt.

The third sorrow was when she lost the child Jesus for three days when He was twelve years old.  Fulton Sheen had a wonderful sermon on Our Lady of the Empty Arms.  She experienced what it was like for sinners to not have Jesus and to search for Him.  Every time my autistic son has run away, I have prayed to her and the Child Jesus.

The fourth sorrow was the Way of the Cross.  She saw her son struggle with the cross as he was being cursed at and jeered by the crowd. Simeon’s prophecy was becoming very real to her.

The fifth sorrow was standing at the foot of the cross for three hours as her son suffered and died.  I think she stood there willing herself to be strong for His sake.  So, He could have a place to gaze and see pure love staring back at Him.

The sixth sorrow was when He was taken down from the cross.  Did she look at His hands and feet as she did when He was born?  Did she ever so carefully remove that hated crown of thorns as if He was still capable of feeling pain? As she wrapped Him in linen cloth for His burial, did she remember wrapping Him in swaddling clothes?

The seventh sorrow was the hardest.  So quickly was He taken from her.  Sunset was coming and He had to be in the tomb before the Sabbath.  No time for her to anoint His body, no time for mourning.  Soon there was a big rock between her and her son.  So much had happened in so short a period of time.  How long did she stay there? Did she hug that rock like she couldn’t hug her son? Did she remember the kisses of birth as her soul was ripped asunder into a chasm of unbearable pain? How reluctantly did she leave with John?

What can I say for you, to what compare you, O Daughter of Jerusalem? What can I liken to you, O virgin daughter of Zion? For vast as the sea is your ruin; who can restore you?  Lamentations 2:13

#trcot #tcot #The Presentation #Seven Sorrows #Mary

The Presentation Reimagined

Bruges - Virgin of sorrows in St. Salvator's church
BRUGES, BELGIUM – JUNE 12, 2014: The virgin of sorrows on the windowpane in St. Salvator’s Cathedral (Salvatorskerk) by stained glass artist Samuel Coucke (1833 – 1899) with Simeon and prophet Ann,

The Presentation is one of the joyful mysteries and I have imagined it many times over the years.  Mary proudly carrying her beautiful son while Joseph carried the two turtledoves.  They gave the doves to Simeon the priest who after offering the doves took the child in his arms and praised God.  Anna, an aged widow, nearby comes to see the baby as well.

Wonderful, beautiful, except it didn’t happen that way.  Mary and Anna  would not have been allowed any further than the Court of the Women. This was not just for women only, any Jew could come there, but  the women could proceed no further.

The Temple treasury was also in the Court of the Women.  Thirteen chests also called trumpets for their shape, lined the walls.  They were narrow at the top and large at the bottom.  Each trumpet was labeled for its purpose.  Trumpet Three was for people who wanted to offer turtledoves.  Mary and Joseph would have put a couple of coins in the trumpet.  Sometime later, someone would have come and gathered the money from the trumpet and figured out how many turtledoves the priests had to offer.  If not for Simeon and Anna, it would have been a very impersonal experience.

We don’t really know much about Simeon. He is just called a man in Jerusalem, it doesn’t specify a priest.  God truly must have inspired him to go when he did.  He saw that couple out of the crowd dropping a couple of coins into Trumpet Three and he knew this child was the One! He then gave a remarkable prophecy. First thanking God for allowing him to see the Messiah that he had waited so long for, then he prophesied regarding the future suffering of Jesus and Mary.  I’ve heard it called the second Annunciation.

Both Simeon and Anna were old. I believe they represented the faithful of Israel who had grown old waiting for the Messiah.  Simeon was from Jerusalem which at one point had been the capital of Judah the Southern Kingdom.  Anna was from the tribe of Asher which was the northernmost tribe of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. That descendant of that tribe had remained faithful speaks of a remarkable faith lineage.

To begin with after Solomon, the Northern Kingdom separated from the Southern Kingdom. They no longer worshipped in the Temple in Jerusalem their king had set up alternative altars.  Anna’s ancestors would have had to make the long trip to that Temple in defiance of the religious practices of their own tribes and country.  This occurred about 930 years before Christ.

Then around 721 BC, her ancestors were conquered by the Assyrians and deported to other countries.  Later the southern kingdom of Judah was also sent into exile to Babylon and the Temple was destroyed.  It would not be until 538 BC that the Israelites were even given a homeland again and that was for the Jews from Judah.

So her ancestors would had to have kept the faith for at least two hundred years in a foreign land separated from the Temple and worship before they would have had even an outside chance of returning. Most people would have been assimilated into the culture. The religion of their ancestors would have been an ancient myth if it had been passed down at all.  Anna represented the faithful of the Northern Kingdom of Israel who had contended for their faith for over 900 years.

The Messiah had come for both of them.  Their hearts are what picked the Holy Family out from the crowd. They knew the One that they had been waiting for.

#trcot, #tcot, #Simeon #Anna #Presentation

 

 

He was Called Jesus (Part Two)

Falling the walls of Jericho - Biblical scene

We continue our comparison between Jesus and Joshua.

Israel was not a nation as you and I would think of one.  The land itself was a series of tribal and family plots that would be held as that family’s possession in perpetuity. That is why over a thousand years later, all of the descendants of David went to Bethlehem.  It was their family’s city.

There are several chapters in Joshua devoted to which tribes got which towns.  Now no family was strong enough to fight off the current inhabitants of “their cities.”  It would take a nation or several tribes together to conquer the land. Joshua was the leader of the people and the army.  He determined where and how each battle was fought.

God had said that Israel was finally getting this land, not because they deserved it but because the people living there were so evil. Examples were the worshippers of Molech who burned their children alive as a sacrifice.  Others would worship their idols by having sex with temple prostitutes. God wanted all of the evil out of the country, they were to destroy the current inhabitants.  They were not to worship their gods or imitate their practices.

When Jesus went around the countryside, He visited every town and village healing people of their diseases and casting out demons.  In the Old Testament, evil was found in the individuals consumed by it.  The only way to handle it was to destroy them.  With Jesus came the power to heal and deliver people.

As St. Paul said, “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Our mission is to free people not to destroy them.

Joshua never conquered all the land that he was supposed to. After people’s own home towns were conquered, they lost interest in fighting other people’s battles.  They kept the inhabitants as slaves instead of sending them to God. They ended up adopting the practices of the conquered peoples and committing grave offenses against God.

If you see someone whose life is a terrible mess, maybe it is because they have had no one to pray and fight their spiritual battles for them.  Many of us have become like the Israelites who were living in lands that were already conquered.  We ignore or look down on those who still have battles to fight.  Others of us enjoy our vices rendering us ineffectual in our prayers.

Jesus can direct us as to where and who to fight for, but His directions will be useless if we don’t respond. The Body of Christ is a lot like the nation of Israel.  It is made up of individuals and their souls. Spiritual battles won’t be won until we view our neighbor’s battles as our own. Nobody can conquer the enemy alone.

#trcot #tcot #Spiritual Warfare #Joshua

He was Called Jesus (Part One)

Baptism of Jesus

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Jesus means “God saves”. Jesus was not the first person in the Bible to have that name.  Joshua is spelled the same way in Hebrew.  Joshua’s story is very interesting when compared to Jesus’ life.

Joshua was a loyal aide to Moses. He was sent to reconnoiter the Promised Land with eleven other scouts. Only he and Caleb had the necessary faith in God to encourage the people to enter the Promised Land.  The other ten spies filled the Israelites with fear and doubt about God’s intentions toward them.  As a result, the people refused to enter the Promised Land. So, they were sentenced to 40 years of wandering in the desert. Only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter the Promised Land because of their faith.

Moses was also barred from entering the Promised Land because of a small sin that is debated as to what it was exactly.  The underlying reason I believe is that Moses represented the Law and the Old Covenant.  Following it would not be sufficient for entering the Promised Land of heaven.  For entering the physical land the people needed Joshua; for entering the True Promised Land of Heaven we need Jesus.

When it came time for the people to enter the Promised Land, Joshua had the priests bring the Ark of the Covenant into the waters of the Jordan.  When they did this the waters stopped and were backed up as far as the town of Adam.  The people crossed over on dry land just like at the Red Sea.

Centuries later, Jesus stood in that same place with John the Baptist.  John was a direct descendant of Aaron the High Priest.  John baptized Jesus in these same waters and the heavens (the Promised Land) opened. The effect of Christ’s sacrifice had an impact all the way back to Adam, the first sinner.

In Joshua’s day, all of the Israelites had to pass through the Jordan to reach the Promised Land.  Christians enter Heaven through the waters of Baptism.

#trcot #tcot #Jesus #Joshua #Baptism

Referenced Scriptures: Luke2:21, Numbers 13-14, Joshua 3, Luke 3:21-22

A Light to the Gentiles

Chistmas Stable In Bethlehem
A nativity scene of christs birth in bethlehem with the isolated run down stable being lit by a bright star on a dark blue sky background

When Simeon prophesied over Jesus at the Presentation, he called Him “a light for revelations to the Gentiles.” One of themes you find present in the Gospels is that the Gentiles seem to see and appreciate Jesus more than the Jews do.  Like us, they could be jaded and critical of the familiar.

It started in the Infancy narrative when King Herod, the political king of the Jews, tried to kill him. The Three Gentile Kings came from a far just to bow down and worship him.  They offered Him gifts; Herod sent an army.

During Jesus’ public ministry people clamored for Jesus to heal their loved ones.  The people in Jesus’ hometown almost felt entitled to miracles because they knew Him, but when Jesus did not perform one for them, they tried to throw Him off a cliff.

One the other hand with the Gentiles, you have the Roman centurion who says that he is not worthy to have Jesus enter under his roof, just say the word and his servant would be healed.  Jesus was astounded by this man’s faith.

The Canaanite woman begged Jesus to heal her daughter.  When Jesus rejected her because she was not Jewish, she humbled herself and said that even the dogs may eat the crumbs that fall from the children’s table. I am astounded at her humility.

The Gentiles understood Jesus authority and their own unworthiness.   The religious leaders of the day were just trying to trip Jesus up and discredit Him.

During the Passion of Christ it was the gentile Pilate who called Jesus the King of the Jews.  The priests and religious leaders who cried that they had no king but Caesar!  Pilate placed above His cross in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”.  When the chief priests tried to get him to change it to “This man said, I am the King of the Jews” Pilate refused. “What I have written I have written.”

Now all of the apostles and disciples were Jewish, so obviously Jesus was not rejected by all the Jews. However, once Peter converted the gentile household of Cornelius in Acts the door to salvation was cracked open.  The Gentiles poured into the household of God.  They could finally eat more than the crumbs that fell from the children’s table.  They were adopted children themselves. Simeon’s prophecy was fulfilled.

#trcot #tcot #Light to the Gentiles #Simeon

 

Jesus, Moses and the Death of the Innocents

Church of St. Anne - Transfiguration
The internal painting of the church of St. Anne, an illustration of the Transfiguration. The author – Ivan Protsiv.

There are two stories in the Bible where innocent babies die.  They are integrally related.

The first one came when Pharaoh ordered the slaughter of all of the newborn Hebrew boys by having them thrown into the Nile river.  It is as if Satan knew somebody big was coming and he inspired Pharaoh to slaughter all the Hebrew boys just in case.  In a story, that young children are told, Moses was put into a basket and was pulled from the bulrushes by none other than Pharaoh’s daughter. God’s chosen child was spared so the plan of salvation could move forward.

The death of the Holy Innocents in Jesus’ day should bring this story to mind.  Satan could tell that something was up but he was blinded to the truth.  So he inspired Herod to slaughter all of the boys under two just in case. God’s chosen child Jesus was spared so the plan of salvation could move forward.

The mission of Moses and the mission of Jesus were similar–to deliver God’s people from bondage. Moses freed them from the bondage of the Egyptians and Jesus freed us from the bondage to sin and death.

To further cement to the two stories when the Holy Family went to Egypt they needed to pass through the old territory assigned to Simeon to do it.  Simeon means “God has heard”.  This harkens to what God said at the Burning Bush to send Moses to Egypt.

Let me adapt it to Jesus.  “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt (sin), and HAVE HEARD their cry because of their taskmaster; I know their sufferings, and I (Jesus) have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians (Satan), and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with mild and honey (heaven).”  See Moses and Jesus had the same mission from God.

God through Moses produced plague after plague each time calling upon the Egyptians to repent.  They would repent briefly and then add further oppression and misery.  The plagues were actually merciful, calling upon them to repent before the final plague came upon them–the death of the first-born son.

Jesus performed miracle after miracle for the people. Moses’ first plague was to turn the waters of the Nile into blood. Jesus’ first public miracle was to turn water into wine. More miracles followed as He healed their diseases, cast out demons and multiplied food before them.  Each time calling them to faith in Him before the final judgment of death to God’s first-born son.

In each case, before God’s final deliverance, the people were to celebrate the Passover meal.  Jesus took the place of the Passover lamb.  The Israelites were to take the blood of the Lamb and mark the door with blood at the top, bottom and both sides, like a sign of the cross.  The lamb’s death was to take the place of the death of the first born son in that household, saving his life. Our lives were spared when Jesus,the Lamb of God, and the First-born of the Kingdom of God, died for us.

At the Transfiguration Moses himself referred to the Passover Passion events in Jerusalem as Jesus’ exodus.

And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.

The purpose of each Exodus was not just to deliver us from slavery but to bring us to the Promised Land.

In these days we have been witnessing a world-wide slaughter of innocents through abortion.  I wonder if that portends the final exodus?

Referenced Scripture: Exodus 3:7-8, Luke 9:31