Continuing our examination of chapter five of Go to Joseph we continue with Mary and Joseph on their trip to Bethlehem. I love Father Gilsdorf's idea that Mary and Joseph might have planned little side trips on the way to Bethlehem. That's just the way that Tom and I do our trips, so it makes the whole thing suddenly come alive for me. And it gives me a glimpse of Mary and Joseph as a married couple, which is also a lovely "coming alive" moment.
In part 5 Mary and Joseph arrive at Bethlehem.
We may conjecture further about the last miles as they approached their destination. Would Mary and Joseph have chosen to bypass Ein Kerem, which was directly on their path? It was situated two miles north of Jerusalem. Can we suppose that, had they stopped there, the place where Mary had so recently aided her cousin in her own recent pregnancy, that there would have been a grand reception? Can we permit ourselves to picture the possibility of a reunion of the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth with Mary and Joseph, with little John sleeping in their midst? If this happened -- and again Scripture doesn't mention it -- Mary and Joseph would have had a day or so of rest and comfort in the generous company of Zechariah and Elizabeth. They also would have had the chance to replenish their supplies.
Saint Joseph, José de Ribera (1591–1652)
Despite the silence of the Gospel account, we will dare add one more rather plausible conjecture, Jerusalem lay directly on the path to Bethlehem. Would Mary and Joseph have failed to enter the Holy City? If so, would they not have paid a visit to the Temple? What a fulfillment that would have been it! The Holy of Holies had been vacant for centuries. The Ark of the Covenant vanished when the Temple was destroyed at the time of the deportation in 587 BC.
But dare we imagine that Mary, the new Ark of the Covenant, enters the new Temple? Within her womb resides the Shekinah of the Tabernacle.iv God's only begotten Son fills the Temple with a real incarnate divine Presence. He was in His Father's house.
One might construct another scenario. Perhaps a departure from Ein Kerem in the early morning, a visit to the Temple later in the morning after a two mile walk, about noon, and a final dealine to be met -- five miles of rather desolate travel slightly southwest to Bethlehem!
And thou, Bethlehem, of the land of Judah, art by no means least among the princes of Judah; for from thee shall come forth a leader who shall rule My people Israel. (Mic 5:2 as cited in Matt 2:6)iv The Shekinah--or Sh'cheenah--was the dwelling or the very Presence of God.