My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ’s Divine Nativity,
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!
"…So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed
for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son,
and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were
in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping
watch over their flock by night. And behold, an Angel of the Lord
stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were greatly afraid. Then the Angel said to them, ‘Do
not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy
which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the
city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the
sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths,
lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the Angel a
multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
‘GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST,
AND ON EARTH PEACE, GOODWILL TOWARD
MEN!’ " (Luke 2:6-14)
ON THE 26th of December, the Holy Orthodox Church
THE SYNAXIS OF THE MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS
Memory of the Flight Into Egypt
The Most Holy Theotokos’ flight into Egypt took place after the meeting of our Lord in the Temple at Jerusalem [Luke 2:22-39]. The Evangelist Luke informs us that "when they performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their city Nazareth" [Luke 2:39]. Now before Herod gave the command to slay the children from two years old and under that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof [Mattheww 2:16], the goodly and just elder Joseph was then warned by God in a dream, "Behold, an Angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, and take the young Child and His Mother, and flee thou into Egyp, and be thou there until I should tell thee; for Herod is about to seek the young Child, to destroy Him" [Matthew 2:13].
Thus, gentle and mild-mannered Joseph, when he arose, quickly set in order his household affairs. Then, full of faith, he took his son Iakovos (James) and, complying with the Angel’s bidding, "he arose and took the young Child and His Mother by night and departed into Egypt" [Matthew 2:14]. The Virgin rode a donkey, carrying the young Child in her arms. Joseph or Iakovos strode in front, taking turns in leading the beast.
According to Saint Kyril of Alexandria, Joseph fled into Egypt by the command of an Angel in the month of March, in order that "the lamb should not be killed in the milk of his mother" [Exodus 23:19]. Tradition places the entry of the Lord into Egypt at the 1st of June.
In Praise of Joseph
At the venerable age of 80, when most men have entered that stage of life of retirement and reflection, Joseph is called to active service. Saint John Chrysostom comments that "the elderly Joseph is not offended at hearing that he must flee home, family, and occupation. He resents not that he needs to fly, secretly, as a fugitive. He was a man of faith. Note that he does not make inquiry when he might return from dwelling in a strange land, although the Angel had spoken in an indefinite manner. Neither was he saddened nor embittered at the command, but submissive and obedient bearing these trials with cheerfulness.’
In icons depicting their flight, Mary is seen riding. We also see Iakovos (James), Joseph’s son, leading the donkey on which Mary is seated. Joseph strode behind the animal. Often w see the Infant Jesus astride on Joseph’s shoulders. There are other holy icons in which we see the Child Jesus and Joseph following behind the animal. Mary, then, is depicted turning about in the saddle and extending her arms to her Son, Who responds in like manner. It is not certain if other sons of Joseph accompanied them into Egypt.
The End of the Journey
"But after Herod died, behold an Ange of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Arise, and take the young Child and His Mother, and go into the land of Israel; for they who sought the soul of the young Child have died" [Matthew 2:19-20]. Thus, after the family had lived about three years in Egypt, till the death of Herod (4 B.C.), that prophecy was fulfilled spoken by the Lord, "Our of Egypt I called My Son" [Matthew 2:15; cf. Hos. 11:1]. Saint John Chrysostom says that "this makes the Virgin also in no common degree glorious and distinguished; that the very thing which was the whole people’s special endowment in the way of praise, she also might henceforth have for her own. I mean, that whereas they (Israel) were proud of their coming up from Egypt, and used to boast of it… this pre-eminence belongs to the Virgin likewise."
Christ did not return to Nazareth till after the death of Herod, which history records as in April of 4 B.C. According to Egyptian tradition, the sacred family found refuge in Egypt for about three years. Thus we arrive at the date of Christ’s birth as 7 B.C., which also coincides with the date of the census which is recorded to have taken place in about the years 7 or 6 B.C. when Quirinius (Cyrenius) was governor [Luke 2:2].
There was a good reason to believe that the divine travelers returned to Palestine by the same ay they had come. On the return trip, the holy travelers again lodged in the cave that is now beneath the Church of Saint Sergios in Old Cairo, the ancient Babylon of Egypt. Therefore, from the haven of Egypt, Joseph "arose and took the young Child and His Mother, and came into the land of Israel. But after he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judaea instead of Herod his father, he was afraid to go there. And having been divinely warned in a dream, he withdrew into the parts of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city which is called Nazareth, in order that it might be fulfilled that which was spoken by the Prophets, that He shall be called a Nazarene [Matthew 2:22-23].
Joseph then returned to Nazareth and abided there, resuming his former occupation as a carpenter. "And the little Child was growing and showing Himself strong in spirit, being filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him" [Luke 2:40]. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in Christ our Savior, God, and Redeemer,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George