AFTER Jerusalem, the city of greatest memories for a Christian, is Nazareth,1 the home of the Saviour.
Faith delights, amid the ruins that cover the Holy Land, to find this modest city still standing and inhabited.
Nazareth, in fact, did not disappear, like so many other biblical sites, in the long series of catastrophes that overwhelmed the country. Far removed from the most frequented roads of Palestine, and somewhat distant from the greatest centers of life, the old markettown of Galilee is even at this day almost what it was long ago. In a broad valley in the heart of the mountains that dominate the plain of Esdrelon on the north, behind the great cactustrees, in the midst of the grayish olive, the fig, the pistachio, and the slender almondtrees, its houses, built of white stone, are ranged, as formerly, along the side of the hill. Nearly all the buildings are of recent construction, but they represent, nevertheless, the invariable type of Judaic dwelling, with its quadrangular form, its outside stairway, its terrace of clay, and sometimes the upper room corresponding to the ancient aliyya or guestchamber. . Along the steep and illkept streets are scattered at random very primitive workshops where artisans are forging iron, carding hemp, and fitting the wood, according to the old methods of their elders, with very imperfect tools. As we stroll before these modest shops, we forget that nineteen hundred years have passed, and easily believe we are still living in the days of Joseph the Carpenter. When in the evening, the family goes out upon the terrace of the house to assemble in friendly intercourse or in prayer, one says to himself: Mary and Joseph did so, too; when the children scamper to the hillsides in their flowing woolen or linen tunics to give themselves up to their noisy, innocent sports, one wonders if it was not like them and in these same rocks that Jesus played long ago; and when the beautiful women of Nazareth, of the Syrian type in all its splendor, with the fullness of purity in their gaze and mildness in their speech, go to the antique fountain to fill their pitchers, holding, the while, their little children by the hand, one is tempted to look and see if the young Virgin of Juda is not among them as of old, going to take her place and to receive the congratulations of the gracious daughters of Nazareth.
At the turn of the street, the traveler comes upon a carpenter's establishment, and his imagination easily rebuilds the humble, peaceful home where Jesus passed thirty years of His life. This lowly hut opens at one side on the street, while the other side is concealed as if in a vault in the cliff. At the entrance a few coarse tools hung upon the walls, or carefully collected in their halfshut chests, plainly tell that neither the skill of the artisan nor his tools have progressed with the centuries in this little town. Sycamore or cedar boards almost squared lie here and there among the yokes, the ploughs, and the roughhewn bits of furniture. The shop never has any addition to serve as kitchen or familyroom. The workingman, today as of yore,2 prefers to set up his hearth outside of the shop. It is there that one should visit him, in the evening, to study the details of his domestic life. On the terrace which we reach by the outside staircase, the larger children, reminding us of James, Simon, Jude, and Joseph, the "brothers" of Jesus, solemnly seated around three stones arranged as a fireplace, or before an earthen stone, are dutifully watching the antique olla caressed by the smoke ere it mounts slowly toward the sky. Soon appears a young woman whose eye is mild and pure beneath its long lashes; she is the mother. Christianity has marked her with an impress that recalls the Virgin Mary. She is returning from the fountain, bearing, slightly inclined upon her head, the amphora filled for the evening meal. With a word and a look she makes sure that all has been in order during her absence, and at once takes and spreads the mat whereon the family will eat at sunset. More impatient than the others, a newborn child is crying in his cradle, and the mother eagerly bends over to console her famished babe. On her knees, she tenderly nurses him. And now, returning from the workshop, the father appears smiling and happy on the threshold of his home; he gladly forgets his weariness at this spectacle of a mother's love.
Thus lived the Holy Family. Mary, according to the Oriental custom, must have nursed her young son at least two years. When she weaned him, all her relatives and friends, following the Israelitic custom, assembled for a holiday, and came to congratulate her. By law the child still remained under the mother's direction until the age of seven; then the father began to care for him by teaching him the law of God and the profession he exercised himself.
It was therefore at this age that Jesus received His first lessons from Joseph in the workshop. Faith pictures Him with tenderness, lending to His fosterfather the assistance of His young arms, and to the pious conversation of His Mother all the attention of His most profound and serenely balanced soul. He could scarcely have found better masters on earth than Joseph and Mary, those two friends of Heaven illumined with the light of grace and associated with the very thoughts of God; but it was in His own nature that the Child bore the secret of His complete development. Samuel, Solomon, and a multitude of others had masters to form them; Jesus had not even the Hazzan of the Synagogue to instruct him.3 Great, therefore, was the astonishment of the Nazarenes later on, when they saw Him read and expound the law, as if He had studied it all His life. For the Evangelists, as for us, it was natural to conclude that He had learned everything by Himself. In fact, this is the logical consequence of faith in the Incarnation. If the Word of God was made incarnate in Jesus, It became in Him the divine flame whence the soul was to derive perpetual light, and the infallible preceptor to guide His humanity safely and without error amid the obstacles on His way. How did this influence of the divine Person act upon the human nature in Jesus Christ? It is difficult to say, for here we enter into the mystery of the hypostatic union. The greatest difficulties baffle the theologian4 who tries to solve this question. If he forgets that Jesus was true man as well as true God, or that He was true God as well as true man, he suppresses one element that constitutes His Person, and he nullifies the Incarnation. The wisest method, therefore, is thoroughly to be impressed with this twofold conviction, that Jesus had not alone the appearance of human nature and of divine nature, but both in full and complete reality. He was God like His Father, and man as we are, except in sin. Furthermore, as His Divinity was not lessened by His contact with humanity, so humanity was not absorbed, but merely perfected in its union with Divinity. It remains perfectly itself, employing its intimate and hypostatic union with the Word of God as its safeguard against error and weakness, but never developing into anything prodigious, inimitable, or useless for our edification.
It was important, indeed, that Jesus should live and act as a man among us, and that the God in Him should manifest Himself only when it was exceptionally necessary to draw the attention of the indifferent or incredulous masses by means of some prodigy. Nevertheless the man in this divine Personality was not separated from the God. From time to time and according to diverse occasions, He opened the eye of His soul to the light of the Divine Word, Whom He had essentially present in Him. There He read the work to be accomplished or the word to be uttered. Thus to natural and human science was added divine science to which He had recourse when events demanded it, and in keeping with the prudent laws traced by Providence Itself. These events were at all times in harmony with the regular phases of human life; and that is why the Evangelist remarks that the child grew in wisdom before God and men, as much as to say that though He had God's infinite knowledge at His service, the man in Jesus Christ made use of it only in proportion to His needs, and according to the laws that regulated the development of His human nature and of His divine mission. Hence in Him there was nothing abnormal or fantastic. As a Child He neither speaks nor acts like a man; such unnatural precociousness would have inspired every one with fear; He is pleased to be a Child in every way. As the years roll on, the sight of the world, contact with men, the habit of meditation will gradually develop His human knowledge,5 and, in perfect conformity with the will of God, He will perfect this knowledge by the aid of the eternal light He bears within Himself In this fidelity of Jesus's soul in consulting the Divinity, His human merit chiefly consisted, and it is one of the practical sides by which our Saviour presents Himself for our imitation.
We, therefore, shall leave to the apocryphal writings the pleasure of picturing the Infant Jesus with nothing common to childhood, living apart as in a nimbus of glory, with habits out of proportion to His age, or a miraculous power altogether premature.6
Our Evangelist paints Him with greater truth and charm, subject to His parents, and, by His obedience, modesty, mildness, intelligence, piety, and grace, drawing upon Himself the approbation of Heaven and of earth. By surrounding Himself with all the circumstances of childhood He has sanctified that lovable period of life and has made Himself the model of all as they traverse it.
It is known that at the age of about twelve years the Child enters into a period new as well for his moral as for his physical life. The horizon begins to spread more broadly before Him. It is then for the first time that Jesus lets us know the perfection of His soul, the elevation of His thought, and the depth of His religious feeling. Only one story of this period has been given us by St. Luke, but it conforms perfectly with what our devotion might expect.
This sudden manifestation of the spiritual grandeur of the youthful Jesus admirably unites the miraculous scenes of His nativity and of His baptism, and proves that, though hidden beneath the embers, the fire divine was none the less alive in the heart of Mary's son.
Every year at the feast of the Passover, the male representatives of each family went up to the Temple to participate in the religious solemnities. They were obliged to do this from the age of twelve years, which among the Orientals is the age of virility. Women were free to take part in these pilgrimages; and the most devout did not let pass the occasion of the great paschal solemnities without going each year to adore Jehovah in the Holy City. Jesus, having become a son of the law, as the Judeans were accustomed to say, since He was twelve years of age, prepared to go up to Jerusalem with Joseph. Mary joined them. Nothing was more legitimate for so excellent a mother than the pleasure of joining in the first pilgrimage of her child.
Jesus spent the seven days of the feast in a holy ecstasy. All the great memories of Judaism on which He meditated stirred His soul with delight, and, through the symbols of the past and of the present, He rose to a contemplation of the sublime realities of the future. When the time came to quit these privileged surroundings, He felt that His heart clung to it as to the essential element of His life; and while His relatives started on the return journey into Galilee, He, drawn by the Spirit of God, enthused by the great aspirations of His exceptional nature, betook Himself to the Temple, the official home of the religious life. Born to spread the truth over the world, He untiringly sought out all that might be preparatory to His glorious mission without a thought of the emotion which His sudden absence might cause His relatives.
Ordinarily the pilgrims' caravans were quite numerous. One was easily lost sight of amid the multitude of travelers who, some of them mounted and others on foot, armed with long staffs, chanted psalms for the sanctifying of their journey, and were separated into regular groups of men, of youths, and of women. Jesus, beloved of all, gracious and affable, was, perhaps, in the habit of passing from one group to another, leaving everywhere the charm of His speech, and sharing His presence among friends and relatives, all of whom were eager for the pleasure of keeping Him near. This accounts for the fact that Joseph and Mary journeyed an entire day without noticing His absence. The affection of all was, of course, sufficient protection to His youth. Moreover, if Mary and Joseph traveled in different groups, the former might easily have supposed that the child was with His father, while the latter might have believed He was with His mother. Among the Orientals a boy of twelve years begins to enjoy a certain liberty and to be responsible for himself.
When evening had come they halted.7 Travelers in the East usually limit the first day's journey to a distance of twelve or fifteen kilometers (eight or ten miles). All, therefore, assembling for the night, they were counted. Jesus was not there. Mary's and Joseph's emotion must have been great. They sought Him among their relatives and friends, but all search was fruitless. The next day, at first break of dawn, the father and mother set out again for Jerusalem and reached there only at nightfall. That evening they gave up hope of finding Jesus among the great multitudes that had come from all parts and were but little troubled concerning a child who himself felt no anxiety. It was only on the day following, and, consequently, on the third day, that Mary and Joseph found their son in the Temple, in one of the synagogues8 where the rabbis assembled to teach the law. One may yet see among the Askenasim and the Sephardim, in Jerusalem, how this teaching was carried on
Editor's note: Mgr. Camus was not aware of the fact that `Ashkenazim' did not exist in the time of Christ. The `Ashenazim' are a mongol race of people living in the Caucus Mountain region between Russia and Turkey who embraced Talmudism in the sixth century A.D. `Talmudism' is the proper name for `Judaism' since Juda, the fourth son of Jacob-Israel did not start a new religion opposed to Old Testament Catholicism. `Ashkenaz' was the grandson of Japheth, the third son of Noah. `Ashkenazim', therefore, are not from the tribe of Juda, and cannot be called `Judeans' or ethnic `Jews'. If such people are present in the Holy Land today or in the time of Mgr. Camus, this can only be well after the conversion of the mongol Khazars who trace their ethnic origin to Japheth, and not to Shem from which the word `Semite' derives.
Each master, installed behind a desk, has before him those who desire to hear him or to question him; so that one may count as many groups as there are rabbis teaching. When we read that Jesus was seated in the midst of the doctors,9 we must understand that He was not on one of their seats, but among the groups which, gradually falling silent, had crowded around Him to witness His youthful intelligence in its encounter with the aged doctors of Israel.
The teaching of the rabbis was conducted by the way of question and answer. Then, as today, the doctors aroused the attention of their disciples by a question, and awaited a response from the most sagacious. They then discussed the answer given, and ended by putting forth their own solution of the difficulty. At other times they desired to be questioned, in order to prove their natural perspicacity and their perfect knowledge of the law. For Jesus, merely to speak was to make Himself at once remarkable for the clearness of His responses and for the surpassing originality of His questions. It was natural that the genius of the new humanity, speaking by His mouth, should astonish these representatives of oldtime Judaic formalism; and the aged doctors were filled with admiration for the youthful Nazarene.
Joseph and Mary knew well who the Son was that Heaven had confided to them; but, accustomed as they were to see Him leading a life humble, modest, submissive, and reserved, they were deeply affected at this His first revelation of Himself. Could they withhold their admiration when they beheld these aged doctors of the Synagogue, famous men whom the pious Galileans venerated as prodigies of knowledge and of authority, filled with surprise and enthusiasm before their youthful interlocutor? Joseph, because he was father only by delegation, takes no active part in this; he admires the child in respectful silence. But Mary cannot check her maternal heart, and tenderly utters a mild reproach, as if to justify her momentary negligence: "Son," said she, "why hast thou done so to us? Behold Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing." If a mother's heart were always accustomed to reason by syllogisms, we might say that Mary did wrong in worrying, since she knew that a son such as He could not go astray. But the impatience of maternal love and its fears are always swifter than reason. Jesus does not neglect to remind His mother of this indirectly. "How is it that you sought me?" says He. "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?" This is the first utterance that tradition gives us as coming from the Savior's lips. Brief as it is, it reveals the depth of this youthful soul who knows but one true father, God; but one business worthy of Him, the business of God; but one house outside of His Father's dwelling where He is to be sought, the temple of God. One may see in this an abridgment, as it were, of the Gospel; for it defines not only the truth of the Incarnation, but also its object, which is the reestablishment of the Kingdom of God here below. Neither Mary nor Joseph understood at the time all its meaning. To receive all the lightsome radiance of these words, they should have beheld the Messianic work in its entirety. Mary religiously treasured them in her heart, and later on wonders at their marvelous realization.
The Child, obedient and submissive, left the Temple and went down to Nazareth to await in patience there the hour appointed by Providence. There He plied the tools of the humble trade of Joseph, his fosterfather. The Nazarenes became accustomed to see Him bent over His work in the shop, and when He rose up, later on, to fulfill the mission which at the age of twelve years He had set as the ideal of His life, they were astounded and troubled by the irresistible authority of His words. God is often pleased to form great souls in silence, to fashion them gradually in humility or even in suffering, and then, of a sudden, He casts them upon the field of battle where they are to glorify Him. Jesus, His Son, followed this providential law, and it was after eighteen years of meditation and of humiliation amid the fatigues of the workshop that He determined to enter upon His public career.
1 Keim had no sufficient reason for insisting, in his Life of Jesus, on the name Nazara in preference to that of Nazareth, as it is found in the great majority of manuscripts. Even though Nazara were the primitive form of the name, it would not follow that this form was most in use in the time of Jesus. The testimony of Julius Africanus and of a few others is not equal to that of all the manuscripts which give Nazaret or Nazareth. We may, therefore, consider it certain that the etymology of the name is from Nêtzer (Isa. xi, 1), a sprout, a shoot, because of the shrubs that cover the hills encircling the town, and not from Nozerah, the protectress (IV Kings xvii, 9). So that there is something providential in Joseph's selection of Nazareth for a domicile after the return from Egypt. Isaias had said that the Messiah would be a rod, a sprout (Nêtzer) out of Jesse. Jesus, later on commonly called the Nazarene, was, then, taken by all for the rod of the prophecy, feeble and humble like the little shrub, valiant and illustrious like the royal race from which He was descended inasmuch as this same figure of the sprout is found, not, however, with the term Nêtzer, applied to the Messiah by Jeremias xxiii, 5; xxxiii, 15; Zach. iii, 8; vi, 12, we can understand how the play upon words suggested by the text of Isaias, was a temptation to St. Matthew ii, 23. Nêtzer reminds him of Nazaraios. Especially desirous of showing the perfect fulfilment of the Old Testament in the New, and heedless of the fact that Nazareth had not been mentioned even once in the Bible, the Evangelist thought it proper to conclude that the Nêtzer of the prophets was realised in Jesus the Nazarene.
2 Cf. Historia Josephi fabri lignarii, ch. iv, in the Apocrypha of Thilo, P. 13.
3 Elementary instruction seems to have been introduced into Palestine only at a much later date, by a son of Gamaliel, the High Priest Jesus, about the year 65, that is, shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem and the complete subjection of the Judaic people. Cf. Van Gelder, Die Volksschule des Judischen Alterthums (Berlin, 1872); Simon, L'Education des enfants chez Les anciens Juifs (Leipzig, 1879), and Keim's Life of Jesus, vol. ii, p. 131, etc.
4 See in Schanz, Evang. des h. Lucas, 148, the opinions of the Fathers of the Church.
5 The two passages in St. Luke ii, 40 and 52, both establish a correlation between the physical development and the moral development, so evident that it seems difficult to admit that the one was real, the other only apparent. It is for theology to explain the mystery, if it can, by observing that apparent participle plhroumenon, poorly translated in the Vulgate by plenus, expresses, as well as huzanen and proekopten, the idea of a fact not accomplished, but which is being gradually accomplished.
6 Even if the miracles related in the Apocryphal Gospels were not as puerile as they are ridiculous, we might reasonably doubt them on account of their perfect uselessness. How, indeed, could they have served a cause the defence of which was not a child's duty? Were they not such as cruelly to embarrass Mary and Joseph and to place them in a most painful situation? St. John, moreover, decides the question by saying that the miracle of Cana was the first miracle performed by Jesus and that the cure of the Centurion's son was the second. Again, the astonishment of the Nazarenes at the time when Jesus begins His public life could not be explained if they had long been accustomed to see Him work miracles.
7 Tradition gives EIBireh, ancient Beroth, where there was an excellent spring, which would determine the caravan to halt there, if they went from Jerusalem to Galilee through Samaria. But did the pilgrims follow this route? The hostility which they had to fear on the part of the Samaritans renders the supposition improbable.
8 One of them was prope atrium in monte templi. Gloss. Joma, t. 68, 2. See also Lightfoot, In Luc., ii, 46
9 The rabbis claim that the auditors always stood during the lessons given by the doctors and that the deplorable custom of sitting down was introduced only after Gamaliel (cf. Megillah, 21), but their assertion is unfounded (see Vitringa., Synag., p. 167).
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