Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Greatest Journey, part 5

I love to reread this each year, journeying through Advent, so I'm reposting it.

Continuing our examination of chapter five of  Go to Joseph, Father Gilsdorf considers the need for shelter, Jesus' impending birth, and the closed doors. An interesting theory is in the footnote so do not skip it.
Saint Joseph Seeks a Lodging in Bethlehem, James Tissot
Then, as the afternoon shadows lengthened into evening, Joseph began his search for a proper place for Mary, whose hour had come. Some scholars have suggested reading "the inn was no place for them," rather than "there was no place for them in the inn."(Luke 2:7)v The need was admittedly not just for any shelter, but for privacy and propriety. Yet the traditional meditation is forever valid: The heartsick Joseph on the first Christmas Eve knocking on doors and hearts was repeatedly rejected; Mary waiting prayerfully, quietly abandoned to God's providence, astride that blessed noble donkey; the Child within her abut to be born. "He came to His own, and His own received Him not." (John 1:11) People closed their doors in the face of the Creator, Savior, and Judge of the universe. It was a prophetic forecast of so many rejections in all the generations yet to come.

The Advent application good Christians have always drawn was to listen for Joseph's knocking and his plea to open the doors of our homes and hearts for Mary and her Child. "To those who did receive Him, He gave them power to become children of God."(John 1:12)

We move now in spirit to the refuge, probably a combination cave/stable used by shepherds like those still seen in the area, a place to shelter themselves and their flocks. We see Joseph busily and artfully preparing the place of delivery and the manger/crib for the Infant.

At this point we return to our opening reflections--Joseph the patriarch of the new and everlasting covenant, guardian and custodian of the Bread from heaven. God has appointed him "Lord of His house and prince of all His possessions." (CF Ps 105:21)

v Some scholars go beyond this. they say that the word commonly translated as 'inn"--katalyma--is actually best understood as a room set apart, a private room. The same word is used in Luke 22;11 ("And you shall say to the goodman of the house, 'The master says to you: Where is the guest chamber [or guest room] where I may eat the pasch with My disciples.'"). The theory here is that such a room was needed for childbirth, since, due to the blood loss associated with delivering a baby, a woman was ritually unclean for 40-80 days after a birth (depending on whether she bore a boy or a girl). furthermore, anyone who came in contact with a childbearing mother was also ritually unclean. Since Bethlehem was Joseph's town, and since he likely would have had relatives there, and since those relatives would have likely been inundated with other relatives like Joseph, the house would have been quite full. According to this theory, anyone in it would have risked ritual contamination by Mary's delivery. As a result, Mary and Joseph actively sought a less intrusive place (such as the stable attached to the house) and had the baby Jesus there. Again, this is only a theory, but it is an interesting one.
In part 6 Jesus is born.

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