THE CONCEPTION OF JESUS
(St. Luke i, 2656.)
THE genealogy presented by St. Luke, extending from Jesus to Adam, seems to establish between these two extreme terms a parallel which from the time of St. Paul has been logically developed in Christian dogma. If indeed Adam was the first of the old humanity, Jesus is the beginning of the new. Both appear to us the first stock of a new lineage, and, as they constitute the beginning, they must be created, not born. Since in them life will be raised up to a new level, or, better, since a new life is to be inaugurated, they shall not come forth in response to a normal effort of what already existed, but God will intervene to bring forth out of nothing that which as yet was not in existence.
Thus, in the creation of the first man, God takes a little earth for man was to have some original bond that should hold him to the world he was to spiritualize He breathes upon this clay. and Adam is created.
In the formation of the new man, God will take a drop of the blood of humanity that is to be purified, restored, and associated with divinity, and this drop of blood that has flowed through the veins not only of saints and holy women, but also of faithless kings and sinners, shall be the element of which His allpowerful activity will make use to form, without the aid of man, in the womb of a virgin, the Chief of the new humanity, Jesus Christ.
Like Adam, Jesus will have no father but God. He will be the true gift of heaven. Adam sprang from the earth; He from humanity. As some point of contact with the world they were to transform was required, Adam had his in a handful of clay, Jesus His in a molecule of living matter found in the purest and most perfect of the daughters of Juda.
In Nazareth of Galilee dwelt a young maiden of the house of David; her name was Mary.1 Of her origin and of her earliest years the Sacred Books say nothing. But, as if to make up for this silence, legendary lore has given us many strange and incredible stories. Certain Apocryphal Gospels are replete with them, but it would be wrong to look for anything of serious import in these puerile compositions.2 Wherever the work of falsehood is evident, neither art nor piety should seek for inspiration. All that is not the truth, being dangerous and unsound, ought to be earnestly rejected. Let us admit that we do not know whatever the true Gospels have not told us.
Mary was probably the daughter of HeliJoachim, and sister, or rather sisterinlaw,3 of the wife of Cleophas whose name also was Mary. Though belonging to the tribe of Juda, she had some connection with that of Levi. Her Davidic descent did not prevent her from being a relative4 (suggenhs) of Elizabeth and of Zachary, members of the sacerdotal caste.
At the time of her appearance on the scene of the Gospel history, she is already affianced to Joseph, an obscure descendant, like herself, of the family of David. It may be that, as she had no brothers, and, hence, was heiress by privilege of the paternal house, she was obliged by law to become the wife of one of her relatives. In any case, her rare virtues, her modest grace, were enough to gain her due appreciation in the intimate circle of her kinsfolk and to secure her the heart of her cousin.
There is no good proof that Joseph had reached a mature age, and much less old age, when he began to consider this alliance; and there is not the slightest reason why Christian art, in obedience to ancient legends, should have obstinately persisted in casting upon this patriarchal union the ridiculous appearance to which the illassorted marriage of an aged man to a young girl is always exposed. It was in the plan of Providence that Joseph by his work should support the Holy Family, surround it with his protection, and forbid calumny or any suspicion of the most chaste of spouses. This was hardly the part of an old man. The testimony of the Apocryphal5 writings has been accepted too willingly by pusillanimous minds that ignore one's strength over one's own heart, when God says he must remain a virgin by the side of a virgin consecrated by grace from on high. Whoever has a knowledge of human nature knows that it is not old age that begets chastity, but virtue. Virtue is no less courageous and powerful at thirty than at fifty. Youth, generous and enthusiastic, is never unequal to great sacrifices.
Joseph, therefore, like every Israelite who came to man's estate, sought to establish his domestic hearth. Celibacy was not held in honor among the sons of the patriarchs. In his choice of Mary, he had followed the predilection of his heart. The details of the preliminary negotiations, the last word in which was to belong to God alone, are unknown to us.
In such a case the usual procedure of the chosen people was as follows: When the young man had determined his choice, he made known his desire to the father, mother, and brothers of the young maiden. If this was favorably received, they proceeded with the betrothal, that is, each party bound himself by oath to contract marriage. To the head of the family the groom offered the mohar, or principal present, which was the price of the bride,6 and to the members of the family the mattan, or friendly token of less importance,7 intended to acknowledge the favor which each one, according to his power, had deigned to grant him.
These charming customs, which are also found among the Greeks of Homer, and among the Germans, have been preserved for us in several places in the Sacred Books in stories as admirable for their simplicity as for their poetry. They are still partly in vogue in Nazareth.
The agreement made and the mohar given under Moses8 it varied from thirty to fifty shekels the young couple were considered legally united.9
Between betrothal and marriage, there was a certain time allowed to elapse: a whole year for maidens, a month for widows. The betrothed couple saw each other but rarely during that time; and they kept up their affectionate relations through the medium of one who was called the friend of the bridegroom.10
If the young maid were convicted of infidelity, she was deemed as culpable as if really married; she was exposed to ignominious repudiation with a bill of divorce, or could even be put to death. Philo tells us expressly11 that the betrothal imposed the same bonds as marriage, and conferred the same rights, except that of cohabitation. The bridegroom was frequently called the husband, anhr, and the bride also wife, gunh; an infant conceived during the time of betrothal was not illegitimate either in public opinion or before the law.12 Nevertheless the betrothed girl was always addressed as a maid, because she lived apart from her spouse, and could truthfully say that she had no husband.
Such was Mary's situation at the moment when God turned His eye upon her. She dwelt piously in her father's house or with her sisterinlaw at Nazareth, leaving Providence to guide the course of her life and to determine the lot of her youth. She had been promised in marriage before her mind had, perhaps, ever confronted the grave obligations imposed by the conjugal tie. There are some chosen natures which, absorbed in meditation and in the ecstasy of divine love, ignore the world of men about them and are interested in heaven alone. It is from heaven that they await the decisive sign which will determine for them their future. Their virtue consists in willing heroically whatever God wills. The Gospel tells us that Mary's was one of these meditative souls that delight in interior communion with themselves and with the supernatural world. God had filled her with graces, and she herself, by her cooperation with them, had certainly become, among creatures, the least unworthy of the attention of her Creator. The lively faith of the patriarchs, the noble aspirations of the prophets, the sweet and humble devotion of holy women, blossomed in her like a pure and fragrant flower, and of all created souls, after that of Jesus, there was not one more balanced, more free from stain, more holy than hers.
Judging that the time was come for the redemption of the world, God deputed His Angel to negotiate the alliance of heaven with earth and to make preparation for the Incarnation of His Son. Gabriel, the messenger of the GoodTidings, went down to Nazareth. It is of little interest to us whether the young maid was at prayer or at work, weaving cloth or spinning flax. For devout souls work is prayer, and their life, despite all human excitement and preoccupation, remains in perpetual converse with God, to Whom it is consecrated. She was alone when the Angel presented himself. "Hail, full of grace," said the envoy of Heaven, "the Lord is with thee." There could be nothing simpler or more gracious than the Angel's salutation to this lowly girl. It is not a good wish that he utters; it is a declaration that she is in a state of grace, and he felicitates Mary on her intimate union with God. It is a revelation for the simple child who has no suspicion of her extraordinary goodness. These words, as well as his sudden appearance, trouble her candor and disturb her modesty. Whence comes this salutation, and what does it mean? The Angel will tell her and thus put an end to all her anxiety: "Fear not, Mary," he says, "for thou hast found grace with God." He calls her by name to reassure her; and he reveals to her at once, together with her present sanctity, her future dignity: "Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and thou shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus." Mary, then, is to occupy, with regard to the Messiah, the place nature has assigned to motherhood. In her womb, as in a furrow that has been blessed, the rod of David shall spring up, and from this virginal womb, as from an untainted place of shelter, the flower of humanity shall issue forth. "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David His father: and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end."
What tidings! and how overwhelming to the pious Virgin! The desire of the women of Israel of so many centuries was, then, to be fulfilled in her. A son was promised her and this son was rightly to be called the Son of God. Never had man borne such an awful title. In the child of this promise it was to be the exact expression of a superhuman dignity and the proof of His heavenly origin. The true Messiah, it shall be His portion to raise up the throne of David, and to reign, with no other limit of duration than eternity, over the house of Jacob, of which all the faithful on earth shall constitute the mystical family.
All this is grand and beautiful, but disturbing to her virginal purity; hence the question so full of simplicity and candor dictated by her startled conscience: "How shall this be done, seeing that I know not man?" A virgin till that moment, she knows not man, and though her family had betrothed her to Joseph, she gives us to understand that she shall never know man, so great is her repugnance to all carnal union, however legitimate. Then Gabriel, eagerly but with reverence, calms the susceptibility of her troubled soul and imparts to her the secret of this chaste mystery: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."
Here, then, is no mention of the chief agent in all human generation, the father; it is the Holy Ghost who takes his place. The Spirit, Who in the beginning moved over the abyss to scatter abroad the lifegerms out of which our world was to spring, shall envelop Mary within His shadow in order to prepare a new creation, and, taking in her virginal womb the thriceholy germ that lay dormant there, shall rouse it from slumber, fecundate it, and quicken it with life.
And hence even from a human point of view we have a reason for calling the infant the Son of God. Even in His earthly nature He has no father but God. Therefore He is perfectly pure and holy, as was Adam, that other son of God,13 when he stepped forth from the divine hand. But while Adam most pitiably disgraced the human nature of which he was the first representative, the Virgin's Child shall raise it to its most sublime ideal, giving to His disciples, who are to be His true descendants, an example of all human virtues, realized in the free use of the soul's faculties under the rule and for the glory of God.
Mary religiously gives ear to the Angel's words. She asks no sign; her faith and her love can do without it; but the Angel vouchsafes her a sign, closely connected with the conception of the Savior. "And behold," he adds, as if to emphasize the unlookedfor utterance he is about to make, "thy cousin Elizabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren; because no word shall be impossible with God." Indeed, the laws by which God directs the world are not chains that bind His hands, but threads whose elasticity responds to all the plans of His wisdom and His mercy. The Angel, therefore, is right in saying that the word impossible is not God's.
These words penetrated Mary's soul like a ray of light, dispelling all the hesitation of her virginal candor. It was God that demanded a spouse or rather a human element for the creation of the new man. It was easy for her to consent to such an honor; but was there not a dark and menacing shadow in this perspective? Could not this miraculous way, over which the Angel sought to lead her, be the way of shame and scorn? How should she explain her condition to her betrothed? Would her strange story be credited? Would she be cursed or blessed, stoned or glorified? Everything foreboded the severest judgments, the most woeful future. Happily there was in the mother the heroic courage which we shall admire later on in the Son; she, too, believes herself able to bear the cross with all its dishonor, if it is a question of saving the world. If God be with her, she cares not for aught else. "Behold," says she, "the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word." Sublime words that reveal the state of that admirable soul, and which the most holy of creatures alone could find within her heart. Humility is the first to speak and offers a handmaid where a mother is sought; the spirit of sacrifice closely follows and gives utterance to the fiat, the consent that gives the Savior to the world; finally, hope in the goodness of God speaks the last word. But what a refined delicacy presides in all she says! In the original text by a shade of meaning untranslatable into our language, instead of asking that all this be done immediately,14 Mary most happily intimates that she leaves all to God as to the day and the hour for the accomplishment of this miracle. Not a trace of eagerness such as vanity might have suggested, not a sign of hesitation such as diffidence might have caused; pure heroism is what this gracious Virgin has attained to without having sought it.
The Angel withdrew immediately and bore back to Heaven that incomparable response of faith, love, and obedience.
Mary had but to await in silence the fulfillment of the divine message; but what must have been the emotions that stirred her soul! We shall soon hear again their lively echo in her hymn of thanksgiving. There is no doubt that from this moment her lifework became evident to her with all its griefs, its influences, and its triumphs; but humility and prudence warned her that the time had not yet come when she should reveal this divine mystery; and again her maiden timidity made her secret the easier and more dear. Mary knew how rare those souls are that enter simply into the designs of heaven, and how numerous are those impious souls that mar them. Would not this miraculous conception that was so exposed to calumny bring a smile to the countenance of a thoroughly malicious world, and would not the work of God be confounded in the minds of men with the work of demons?
At this moment, if Mary had been Joseph's spouse, her first duty would have been to communicate to him this heavenly message and to inform him of her consent to these divine plans, which would affect the conjugal right. We may even say that if she had lived with him in those relations of respectful but close affection which ordinarily bind the young betrothed, Joseph would not have failed to perceive in her candid soul the trace of the emotions awakened in her by this miraculous event.
Mary was only promised by her family. As she had herself given away neither her heart nor her own final promise, she felt herself almost free and somewhat as a stranger to her betrothed. Hence, with no fear of failing in what was right and becoming, she sought, outside of him, her first confidant for these great tidings. A woman's heart seemed fittest to receive the precious secret. In all probability her mother was no longer alive; Mary, therefore, naturally turned her thoughts to that cousin of whom the Angel had reminded her, and who, also being herself miraculously pregnant, would comprehend and appreciate better than any other this astonishing revelation.
The young maid arose and hastened into the mountains of Judea, to the sacerdotal city15 where dwelt Zachary and Elizabeth his wife. It was at least a good four days' journey from Nazareth to the hillcountry extending south from Jerusalem. But Mary, borne up by faith, a force that recks of no obstacle, set out from Nazareth, thinking nothing of the fatigue of the journey or of the inconvenience of her absence.
When she presented herself on Zachary's threshold, filled with the great joy she could withhold no longer, and shedding about the divine grace that flooded her soul, she appeared to Elizabeth like a heavenly vision. The holy woman, having conceived the Precursor, could not be ignorant of the fact that the Messiah was about to come, but she had no suspicion as to whence He should come forth. The sight of Mary roused again all her hopes, and the sound of the first words she heard stirred her to the very depths of her being. Immediately the child she bore leaped, as sleeping nature moves and smiles at the approach of the sun's first rays. As she perceived this interior sign that responded so well to the impressions of her soul, Elizabeth hesitated no longer, and, resigning her heart to the Spirit, Who took possession of her,16 she gave a loud cry.17
Like the prophets, under an influence from on high, she beheld in God's secrets what human eye had not yet looked upon, she heard what no ear had yet heard. "Blessed art thou among women," she said to her cousin, "and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"
So, then, the Incarnation is an accomplished fact; Elizabeth affirms it, because she experiences its miraculous influence: "For behold," she says, "as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy; and blessed art thou because thou hast believed; because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord." Mary listens in silence to this first congratulation addressed by human lips to her divine maternity, and in accepting it her soul generously refers it to the God to Whom she owes her exceptional grandeur. She has no need, like Elizabeth, of a special inspiration of the Spirit in order to speak of the mystery with which she is filled; she has but to let flow from her lips the sentiments of a soul absorbed in divinity.
However great her happiness, her expression of it is ever calm and majestic; it is not an ordinary woman who is about to speak, it is a queen, the spouse of the Most High; and in her accents there is a something divine that astonishes and fills with admiration hearts worthy of hearing the voice of heaven.
"My soul," she says, "doth magnify the Lord; and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior, because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid."
Joy and thanksgiving unite in arousing her most lively transports. She exalts the Lord by submitting to His empire, and glorifying His majesty by complete surrender of her being in adoration and gratitude. Her spirit, that most subtle and lofty point where the soul meets God, that tabernacle wherein dwell her ideas of the invisible world, has been agitated beneath the merciful influence of the Savior God. She, the humble daughter of the people, the frail offspring of a fallen family, the betrothed of an artisan, has received from Heaven the most consoling and most honorable attention.
"For behold," she continues in another strophe of her sublime canticle, "from henceforth all nations shall call me blessed, because He that is mighty hath done great things to me and holy is His name; and His mercy is from generation unto generations to them that fear Him."
Knowing fully her sudden greatness and her future and universal glory, Mary foretells her place in the future with a certainty of foresight equaled only by her modesty. She herself is but the humble pedestal bearing up the weight of a work constructed by the power, the holiness, and the mercy of God. Therefore it is God alone that she glorifies in the very midst of her joyful outbursts, God Who surrounds His servants with His mercy, and with His wrath hurls down His foes.
The time for this intervention by God is already come; Mary, Elizabeth, and Zachary are its first proof. The coming of the Messianic kingdom will only serve to make this glorious revolution universal.
The inspired Virgin goes on: "He hath showed might in His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich He hath sent empty away."
Such will be the dominant idea in the Gospel: the weak are to overcome the strong. God wishes us to know that He has no need of our assistance in the accomplishment of His works. Selfabasement, cleansing of the soul, confession of helplessness, these are what are required, and then divine goodness will come to raise us up. The Pharisees in their pride, the rich of earth, Herod and Caesar are turned aside, and two poor daughters of Israel are selected to become the objects of Heaven's great manifestation. Pride, tyranny, fortune have ceased to reign. God abhors them, and shelters with His affection, with His holiness, with a ray of His glory, humility, lowliness, and poverty. Faithful Israel shall witness it. While the enemies of God are overthrown, Israel shall be favored with the fulfillment of the promises made to the patriarchs This is the idea of the fourth strophe, which terminates the canticle:
"He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever."
In all the Gospel we have only this page to introduce us into the spiritual life of the Blessed Virgin;18 but what a lightsome disclosure of an interior life such as our most filial devotion could never suspect! How unjust the judgment of that life, if, because her part is commonly unmentioned, we had confounded it with those ordinary lives that make up the history of humanity! What glowing warmth beneath that modest, calm exterior! Mary had nourished her youth with the finest passages in the Sacred Books; the memory of the heroines of the Old Testament occupied her heart, and when she speaks the praise of God, she reverts to their thoughts, their expressions, which have been the constant food of her soul.19 How strong and religious the breath that makes this young Virgin's breast to heave! She does not speak, she sings. The Hebrew language lent itself well to this unconscious transition from the vulgar form to the poetic and measured. The Semite's soul, under a deep impression, passed without an effort from conversation to the hymn, and mounted gradually to the most beautiful accents of lyric poetry.
The silence Mary had preserved up to that moment, with regard to her heavenly communication, had served only to move her to a livelier emotion and a more eloquent outpouring on the day when she should reveal her secret. This is why her piety, her gratitude, her spiritual joy, her abnegation, all speak at once from her lips. The soul of the illustrious faithful of the Old Testament had passed into hers. These great servants of Jehovah spoke in no more sublime, no more proud, no more generous accents than Mary as she prophesied, with a holy trembling, the new religious revolution and the triumph of the friends of God. Like them, she loved her people. The last word of her canticle is a touching cry of patriotism. She knew and honored God better than they.
Her stay in Zachary's house was rather long; she remained there three months. This theocratic atmosphere was in harmony with the state of her soul. It was made up of the most perfect products of Israelitism in delicacy of religious sentiment and in supernatural aspirations. In sweet effusions of piety and affection, they all glorified God and fortified their faith.
When John was born Zachary, as we have seen, regained his power of speech, and he, too, gave voice to his canticle. He had put himself in unison with the soul whom we have just heard.
After having taken part in the family feasts in honor of the birth and circumcision of John, Mary returned to her own house20 to await there until it should please God to take account of a moral situation the gravity of which was getting more marked day by day.
1 The name Mary seems to have been very common at this epoch. Several women of the Gospel bore it, e. g., Mary Magdalen, Mary the wife of James, Mary the mother of Mark, and others. But while these are called Maria, the mother of Jesus is invariably called in the nominative, Mariam. In Josephus, Antiq., iv, 4, 6, this same name is written Mariammh or Mariamuh. It is possible that the letter m was added to come nearer to the original Hebrew Miriam, made famous by the sister of Moses, the only one of this name among all the women known in the Old Testament, for I Paralip. iv, 17. probably speaks of a man. Ordinarily the etymology of Hebrew names is easy to establish, especially of those of women, who nearly all have names of fruits, flowers, animals: Gazelle, Lily, Rose, Apple, etc. But this is not the case with this name, and the variety of meanings proposed for Miriam is large. The Greek Onomastica, falsely attributed to Philo and Origen, say that Miriam comes from mar, bitter, and iam, sea or, again, from mareya, sovereign if it be derived from the Aramean. St. Jerome says this: "Melius est, ut dicamus, sonare eam stillam maris, sive amarum mare. Sciendumque quod Maria. sermone Syro, domina nuncupatur." Copyists having, at an early date. written stella for stilla, although the great doctor never meant to translate as star the substantive mar, which, in Is. xl, 15, signifies drop, and is rightly rendered in the Vulgate by the word stilla, we know how much poetry and eloquence have profited by this mistake. But if Mary is a transformation of the old Hebrew name Miriam, the latter ought to suggest the real etymology. But, by suppressing the ending am, which is neither a substantive nor an adjective, nor even a suffix of the third person plural, but an appendix without meaning, we find ourselves confronted by two roots, marah with a heth, and mara with an aleph. The first signifies "to be rebellious," the second "to be fat," which among the Orientals is synonymous with "to be beautiful." Hence, Miriam, with the suffix, would signify "our rebel" or "our beautiful one." The latter meaning would be more agreeable than the first, but probably not so well proved.
2 One of these had great success and a lamentable influence, especially in the Church of the Orient. This was the Protevangelium, thus named because it reports facts anterior to what is contained in our canonical Gospels: the miraculous birth of Mary; her education in the Temple, where she was fed by the bands of angels, the series of prodigies that moved the high priest to confide her to Joseph, already an old man and burdened with a family, etc. This book, attributed to James, the brother of Our Lord, is mentioned by Origen in Matt. iii. Known probably to Clement of Alexandria, Strom., vi, and to St. Justin, Dial. e. Tryph., 78, we find it widespread in the Orient in the fourth century. Cf. Greg. of Nyssa, Orat. in diem nat. Christi; Epiphanius, Haeres., lxxviii, 7, and lxxix, 5, etc. Although it was by no means accepted as canonical, it was read as a book of edification in the liturgies. For this purpose it had been translated into Syriac and Arabic. Finally, it found its way into the Occident under a double form and with diverse developments in the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary and in the Gospel of the pseudo Matthew. It was in this way that it had an influence on the histories of Mary and of Joseph, which an illinspired piety thought necessary to write. If the readers of these legends ever have the legitimate curiosity to run through the Apocrypha from which they are derived, they may easily judge of the credit they deserve. Cf. in Thilo and Tischendorf, Ev. Apocrypha.
3 It would be somewhat surprising that two sisters should have borne the same name. Mary, the wife of Cleophas, may have been sister to Joseph. St. John xix, 25.
4 St. Luke i 36.
5 The Apocryphal Gospels agree in representing Joseph as a decrepit old man. The author of the Protevangelium ix, 2, makes him say: presbuths eihi; in the PseudoMatth. viii, he says: "Senex sum et filios habes, ut quid mihi infantulam istam traditis, cujus aetas minor est nepotibus meis?" According to the History of Joseph x, the pious carpenter married at the age of ninety years and died at the age of one hundred and eleven, thus surpassing by a year the age of the son of Jacob, whose name he bore. St. Epiphanius obstinately follows this extravagant opinion (Haeres., li, lxxviii, etc.), and thinks that Joseph, having married at eighty years of age, returned from Egypt to Nazareth at eightyfour, and died at ninetytwo. By his confident acceptance of this apocryphal tradition, this ecclesiastical writer, whose ideas are frequently peculiar, prepared the way for those who assign to Joseph, as children by a former marriage, four sons, James, Joseph, Simeon and Jude, and two daughters, Salome and Mary (cf. Haeres., xxviii, 7 and lxxviii, 9. Cf. Anchorat, 60). These sons are in our Gospels called the brothers of Jesus. However great might be the personal authority of the doctors who share this opinion, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Chrysostom, and Cyril of Alexandria, we know how vigorously St. Jerome refuted them in his book against Helvidius by his appeal to the authority of Apostolic Fathers, Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Justin the Martyr, etc. The only indication in our Gospels, brought forth to prove that Joseph was advanced in age when he espoused Mary, is that he had very probably died before Jesus began His public ministry. Indeed, after the incident in St. Luke, ch. ii, 42, he is no longer mentioned. But to give any value to this conclusion we must admit that old age is the only cause of death, which is not true The text of the same Gospel tells us, ii, 51, that Jesus was subject to His parents, i. e., to His father and to His mother, and this inclines us to think that Joseph, after finding his Son in Jerusalem, had the happiness of serving Him a long time as His father, perhaps for fifteen or eighteen years.
6 Gen. xxix, 18, 27; xxiv, 11, 12. Jos. xv, 16. I Kings xviii, 2326. II Kings iii, 4.
7 Gen. xiv, etc., and Le Camus' Children of Nazareth
8 Exodus xxi, 32; xxii, 15.
9 Deut. xxii, 23.
10 St. John iii, 29.
11 De Spec. Leg., p. 788. Cf. also the texts of the rabbis in Lightfoot, Horae Hebr., in Matt. i, 18.
12 Selden, Uxor. Hebr., 2, lib. ii, ch. 1, and passim. This observation decidedly favors the opinion that the conception of Jesus took place before Mary's Marriage.
13 St. Luke iii, 38.
14 Mary uses the aorist genoito, not the present.
15 The question arises what city this was. Some suppose it to be Machaerus, the first city of Judaea after Jerusalem, and situated at the foot of the Arabian mountains. Others Ewald, Townsend think it was Hebron, which was in the mountains of Judaea and was one of the principal sacerdotal cities. Many others Ritter, Raumer, Robinson believe the city of Judaea was no other than Jutta, of which the book of Josue speaks (xv 55, and xxi, 16), and which was classed among the cities of the sacrificial priests. None of the manuscripts indicates any fault of copyists, and if the Evangelist had really wished to name the city where Zachary lived, he should have done it when he mentioned him for the first time. We see nothing, then, to prevent us from following the exact indications of tradition, and admitting that Zachary dwelt in AinKarim, about three and a half miles southwest of Jerusalem, and nearly four miles northwest of Bethlehem. The disciples of the Baptist, as well as the Christians, must have wished to preserve the memory of the place where their master had first seen the light of day; and Tobler's observation that the tradition concerning AinKarim dates no farther back than the Crusades is without foundation. The scene of the Visitation probably took place in Zachary's country house, where Elizabeth had retired, a short distance from the city.
16 St. Luke i, 4.
17 St. Luke i, 42.
18 It is hardly necessary to mention here the singular variant in the three manuscripts of the Itala, and confirmed, according to Origen in Luc. Hom. vii (translated by St. Jerome), by several Greek witnesses, which places this sublime canticle on the lips of Elizabeth and not of Mary. There is nothing, either in the text or in the intrinsic testimony, to justify us in paying any attention to a reading manifestly at fault.
19 In the Psalms xxxiii, 4, xxxiv, 9; lxv 18, 19; cx, 9; cii, 17, etc., and especially in Kings ii; Gen. xxx, 13; Ex. xv, 16, Deut. vii, 9; Isa. xli, 8, and Mich. vii, 20 exegesis has sought and found the beautiful thoughts contained in the canticle. For this comparison see Geikie, The Life of Christ, vol. i p. 109.
20 The expression used in St. Luke i, 56, kai ipestreyen eis ton oikon auths, gives us to understand that she was not accompanied by Joseph and that she yet dwelt in her own family. There seems to be no reason why; Joseph should not have been mentioned, if he had made the journey with her. It has been said, though without proof, that among the Judeans the young betrothed women were not supposed to travel. There must have been a servant, a few relatives or friends, with her as company on her journey to her cousin's This would not have been difficult, since at that epoch of the year. Nisan (MarchApril), many went to Jerusalem in caravans.
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