The birth of Jesus, celebrated by hundreds of millions every year on Christmas, is certainly one of the world’s best known stories. Surprisingly, this famous scene only appears in two of the four canonical gospels, Matthew and Luke. Of these two, Luke contains the more detailed description of the birth itself:
And Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7).
This verse has given rise to the popular image of the holy family in a barn on the outskirts of Bethlehem. Most of us assume that Joseph and Mary were looking for a hotel room and when they found all the rooms booked they had no choice but to sleep in a stables. Is this so?
Probably not. The most problematic English word in this verse is “inn”. Firstly. Bethlehem was far too small a village to have an actual hotel. Secondly, the Greek word which means “inn” pandoxeion (πανδοχεῖον) is not used here. Luke uses the word in 10:34 in his telling of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. But here in chapter 2 he uses a different word: katalyma (κατάλυμα). Based on the verb katalyo (καταλύω), which means “to put down one’s things”, the katalyma is simply any sheltered space used as a resting place.
Mary and Joseph were not looking for a room in an “inn” but simply the upstairs level of a typical residential house used as a bedroom. When visitors came, it could be used as a guest room. Due to the empire-wide census, numerous members of Joseph’s family had congregated in Bethlehem, and all the katalymata in town were occupied. Because there was “no room in the upstairs bedroom,” Joseph and Mary had to sleep downstairs in the main room of a relative’s house. This room was a sort of all purpose room. During the day it was used as a workshop. At night it was used to house frail animals, while the rest of the flock was left outdoors. The katalyma was not a full-fledged barn or stables, but it did contain a drinking trough or manger cut in the bedrock. This was the most convenient place to place the baby Jesus once he was born. So while Jesus was indeed born in a room used for animals, this was not strictly a barn.
A model of a typical Israelite house from the period of the Hebrew Bible.
Presumably first century homes in Bethlehem looked similar.
The katalyma is above whereas animals are kept below.
taken from: https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/holy-land-studies/room-inn/ accessed Dec 2017
Hearing the story of Christmas you can always expect a twist to it, but seeing and hearing it through the eyes of a child is extra special. Merry Christmas!
When the song of the angels has been stilled,
when the star has gone from the night sky,
when the kings have reached their far shores,
when the shepherds have returned to their flocks,
then the work of Christmas really begins:
to find those who are lost,
to heal those who are broken in spirit,
to feed those who are hungry,
to release those who are oppressed,
to rebuild the nations torn by strife,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to bring the light of the Gospel
into the darkest corners of our world.
We pray that we might radiate the light of Christ,
through the kindliness of our presence
and the determination of our purpose,
every day of our lives.
May the joy of the angels,
the eagerness of the shepherds,
the perseverance of the wise men,
the love of Joseph and Mary,
and the peace of the Christ child
be ours this Christmas.
And may the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
rest upon us and remain with us always.
http://www.denismcbride.com/diary.php accessed November 2017
End of School Year Reflection
As approach Advent and Christmas and celebrate the end of another school year, like the Roman god Janus, we look back and look forward.
Fr Richard McBride would like to share a little reflection we could do together.
When you pause and look back at this year, do you think the world is a safer place than it was this time last year?
Do you think our world has progressed much?
Do you think you are a better person? How have you grown this year?
What good things have happened to you? What bad experiences have you endured? Has this year been for you a good time, a time of growth, a time of blessing?
Have any of your loved ones died this year? How are you managing their loss? Or has someone you love moved away, out of your life, leaving you forlorn? Is there a new absence in your life?
Have you made new friends? Has it been a good year for your family? Have you stayed close to them? Do they know that you love them?
Do you feel better about yourself now than you did last year? Are you still excited about your vocation, your career, your work? Or are you content in retirement? How have you changed?
And when you look ahead to the coming year, how do you feel? Is there anything you are afraid of? Is there something you are dreading? What are you looking forward to? Anything?
It’s important, though not easy, to look back with kindness, and to look forward in hope.
This school year is closing down. Let us hand over the past to God for God’s healing blessing.
Let us ask the Lord to face the future with us because we do not want to face it alone.
Let us pray for each person who reads this, and for all those we love and cherish: that each one might know the promise of the Lord that brings the Gospel to a close:
“Know this, I will be with you even unto the end of the world.
http://www.denismcbride.com/diary.php accessed Nov 2017 written 18 December 2012 –
THE WATER AND THE LIGHT
In the Gospel of John, we find a famous saying of Jesus: “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Jesus cried these words out “on the last and great day” of the feast of Tabernacles. Why did Jesus speak of water? Was there anything in the celebration of Sukkot that was connected to water that would explain Jesus’ use of this image?
In the days of the Second Temple, the height of the Sukkot celebration was the water libation ceremony. Sukkot is the beginning of the rainy season in Israel, and the libation of water was performed to invoke God’s blessing on the year’s rains. During the ceremony, a large procession ascended to the Temple, led by a priest who bore a special golden vessel filled with the sparkling spring water. The water was then poured onto the altar. During this ceremony, the lamps were lit in the Temple courtyard as a sign of the festivities. It was a very joyful procession, indeed.
The sages of Israel testify to the celebrations of the water libation from the days of the Second Temple, and the description of this ceremony can be found in the Mishna. The Talmud states that “one who has not witnessed the Festival of the Water Drawing (held on the nights of Sukkot in the Holy Temple) has not seen joy in his lifetime!” Jesus uses the images of this celebration, to illustrate his words. Once we understand this context – once we understand that the Light and the Water motif played a significant role in the celebration of the Feast Tabernacles – the words of Jesus acquire a more profound and rich meaning. It is in the context of this celebration, while the procession with water was walking through Jerusalem, that Jesus says His famous words about “living water”. It is in the context of this celebration, while all Jerusalem was glowing with the light from the Temple, that Jesus also spoke these words: “I am the light of the world.”
Saint of the Day for September 8
The Church has celebrated Mary’s birth since at least the sixth century. A September birth was chosen because the Eastern Church begins its Church year with September. The September 8 date helped determine the date for the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8.
Scripture does not give an account of Mary’s birth. However, the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James fills in the gap. This work has no historical value, but it does reflect the development of Christian piety. According to this account, Anna and Joachim are infertile but pray for a child. They receive the promise of a child who will advance God’s plan of salvation for the world. Such a story, like many biblical counterparts, stresses the special presence of God in Mary’s life from the beginning.
Saint Augustine connects Mary’s birth with Jesus’ saving work. He tells the earth to rejoice and shine forth in the light of her birth. “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.” The opening prayer at Mass speaks of the birth of Mary’s Son as the dawn of our salvation, and asks for an increase of peace.
We can see every human birth as a call for new hope in the world. The love of two human beings has joined with God in his creative work. The loving parents have shown hope in a world filled with travail. The new child has the potential to be a channel of God’s love and peace to the world.
excerpt from https://www.franciscanmedia.org/nativity-of-the-blessed-virgin-mary/
This Sunday in the Liturgical Year celebrates the Transfiguration of the Lord.
I have always found that the interpretation of the Transfiguration by the Redemptorist priest Fr Denis McBride a very moving interpretation that speaks greatly to me. I would like to share some of his insights that he writes in his book, Jesus & the Gospels (2002. p. 135)
“Transfiguration is not a solitary event in the Gospel, but one that happens over and over again. Throughout his public ministry, Jesus transfigures many people – the broken, the wounded, the wayward. He calls to the deepest part of people; he sees in teh afflicted more that others see. Jesus whole healing ministry is transfiguring the broken through the power of God’s love . The power that transfigured Jesus is the same power that works through him in transforming others.”
The experience of transfiguration can be interpreted as one where Jesus grows closer to who he really is. And we all grow closer to who we really are when we hear our name called in love! When that happens we become radiant and we are better enabled to face the future – whatever it holds.
Would would it take to transfigure you?
Who could transfigure you?
Who calls our name in love?
Whose name do we call in love?
Images sourced from Creative Commons
McBride, D. (2002). Jesus & the Gospels. Hampshire, England: Redemptorist Publications.
Elizabeth Pike in her book The Power of Story begins by saying: “I firmly believe there is power in story. A culture’s mythology is its living spiritual beliefs and is born within its stories; their loss is always a moral catastrophe.” (2011, p. 1) Before the books of the Bible were written down, they were spoken. In other words, behind the print there is a long, long oral tradition that comes through in the written text.
In our own time there are some who believe that the great stories have had their day. Most people even believe that only the facts count. For them, only perceptions of what’s directly visible form the basis for scientific views and world-views. Above all people who live by common sense know that there are only hard facts. The rest is fantasy, fiction; at most an amusing distraction. Nevertheless, storytellers and poets can be closer to experiences and feelings and in an important way express what a ‘fact’ is .
Ronald Rolheiser draws attention to what is all but lost today, namely the fact that reality is more that just physical, that it has layers that we do not perceive empirically, that there is more mystery within the ordinary life than can be measured. The mystical imagination is not only as real as the scientific imagination; it reveals what science on its own could never tumble to – the many grace-drenched and spirit-laden layers of reality, even inside the law of gravity, that are not readily available to the senses.
Andrew Greely maintains that story, meaning biblical stories and their spinoffs- is the reason why Catholics stay in the church. He says it’s the poetic, metaphorical, and ritual dimensions of our faith that is so captivating and possessing.
Thomas Long expresses it this way:
The odd thing about biblical stories is that there are so many of them. There are battle stories, betrayal stories, stories about seduction and treachery in the royal court, stories about farmers and fools, healing stories, violent stories, funny stories and sad ones, stories of death and stories of resurrection. The claim that the Bible is a story book is not far off the mark (Preaching and the Literary Fonts of the Bible).
Pike, E. (2011). The Power of Story. Mulgrave,Vic: John Garratt Publishing.
Bausch, W.J. (1989). In the Beginning there were Stories. Mulgrave, Vic: John Garratt Publishing.
To some it may come as a surprise to learn that Shavu’ot (Pentecost) is not originally a Christian festival.
The Hebrew word Shavu’ot means weeks. In Jewish tradition 7 is the perfect number (the number of creation) and 7 times 7, even more so. It is a week of weeks or 7×7 which is 49 days.
In ancient Israel, the number seven represented divine perfection. It was considered a powerful, unbreakable number because it could not be divided by common small numbers which people used to count on a single hand. The word for seven in Hebrew- sheva שֶׁבַע– is linked to shevua שְׁבוּעָה– an oath. When someone wanted to make a very strong promise, they would take an oath as though to say: “let the divinely perfect number seven be my witness that I…” (http://lp.israelbiblicalstudies.com)
This weekend we celebrate one of the three most important festivals on the Jewish calendar, Shavu’ot (The Festival of Weeks or Pentecost)—the other two being Pesach (Passover), and Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles).
At the time of Jesus, pilgrims would travel to the temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice on these three festivals. In fact, as we will hear in the first reading this Sunday, that’s why all of Jesus’ followers were gathered together in the upper room, to celebrate the Jewish festival of Shavu’ot:
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” —Acts 2:1–5
To some it may come as a surprise to learn that Pentecost is not of Christian origin. The roots of Shavu’ot—both agricultural and historical—lie in ancient Israel.
Shavu’ot commemorates the time when God gave the Israelites the 10 Commandments, the way by which they were to live their lives. It is on that day that the Hebrews became a nation.
For the first Christians, Pentecost was the day they received the Holy Spirit, which dwells in the hearts of all believers, commanding the way they are to live their lives. Pentecost celebrates the unity of the first Christians and the birth of the Church.
adapted from http://www.massexplained.com