Egypt and Other Rough Places

Keniset Mari Girgis

“Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:15)

In Egypt they venerate the places where the Holy Family lived during their quiet sojourn there. Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus left their homeland and went to the country where their ancestors had been slaves.

Of old, in Egypt, God had shown His mighty power, working great prodigies to bring about the liberation of His beloved people. Now God came in the flesh to Egypt, an infant fugitive. And He spent time there in a state of perfect quiet, nursing at the breast, listening to His foster father and mother sing to Him the very songs that He Himself had taught King David to sing a thousand years earlier.

Forgive one another, as you have been forgiven…Bear with one another with compassion, kindness, humility, and patience…Be thankful. Sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3)

The Holy Family lived all this and more, with sweetness and gentleness among themselves greater than we can imagine. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph show us the peace that the merciful love of Christ can bring to a household, to a town, to a country—to the world.

elgreco_holy-familySt. Joseph took the family to Egypt to find peace when Herod threatened bloody murder and slaughtered the innocent in the kingdom of Judah. We can gather that Egypt knew a lot more peace that year than it did in 2013. AD 2013 has been a rough one for the land out of which God called His Son. And especially rough for the Christians in Egypt. They still venerate the places where the Holy Family sojourned; they pray and light candles at the well where Our Lady drew water to use to bathe the little body of the infant Son of God. But the Christians of Egypt do so living in fear, living in the ruins of many burned churches and shattered lives.

The Holy Family migrated to Egypt and stayed there for some time. Doesn’t appear that anyone ever demanded to see their immigration papers. 2013 has been a heartbreaking year for immigrants in the US. After a hopeful summer, when it looked like a worthy spirit of gentle-hearted compromise might prevail, the cause of the innocent immigrant child, who now has grown up and hopes for a life like any American young person would hope for: that cause got ignored again, that person got forgotten again, during a fall of nonstop federal-government nonsense.

And how many innocent unborn children have lost their lives in our country in 2013? Well over a million. Let’s listen to our Holy Father, Best-Dressed Man of the Year, Pope Francis:

Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development… Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question…This is not something subject to alleged reforms or ‘modernizations.’ It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.

So the world has groaned under some grievous injustice and violence during this year 2013. But the Holy Family’s quiet life together teaches us to hope. Jesus Christ dwells at the heart of the world. He dwells here with us. And His gentle love will triumph over every evil.

I did a little bit of research into the Coptic veneration of the holy sites of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph’s journey in Egypt. Ancient oral and written traditions offer some information. Apparently, as they travelled, the Holy Family dwelt in a number of different types of places, under different kinds of roofs, and in caves.

Let’s recognize that under the roof of every Catholic church or chapel, we come together under the same circumstances as the Holy Family traveling together. The God-man Jesus Christ, present with us in the sacrament, makes a family out of us and gives us a share in His gentleness and peace. His love binds us together, and, as time passes, we grow closer to Him and to each other.

JMJThrough our whole pilgrim lives, we sojourn, like the Holy Family sojourned, longing for our true home, which is with God. 2013 has come and gone. 2014 no doubt will also see strife and pain, injustice, and the suffering of the innocent.

But 2014 will also see us learn to love God and each other better. 2014 will see us stepping forward as real heroes for Christ. In 2014, we will be better Christians, better champions for the people who need us to love them and stand up for them. During 2014 we will get closer to heaven or die trying.

I think many of us, at some point in our young lives, learned to write JMJ at the top of our papers. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. JMJ. May I do my schoolwork, write my assignments, finish my tests, with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Let’s write JMJ at the top of 2014. Let’s imagine the year to come is a blank piece of paper, over which we will write the life we want to lead in the year to come. Let’s head the paper with the initials JMJ. May I do everything in 2014–sleep and wake, eat and talk, work and rest—with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph helping me. Let’s move forward together with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, a loving family, united by Christ.

One thought on “Egypt and Other Rough Places

  1. Father Mark,

    I’ve always been struck by Scott Hahn’s assertion that on the timeline of the relationship of God with man, Egypt was the preeminent power in that part of the world for 4,000 years. As was the Holy Family, the pilgrim church is also a church on the fringes of the world of power, as He would have it. And, we would be better served by recognizing that than by assuming that worldly power is ours. We are also urged by the Bible to accept worldly power as God’s will (Romans 13: 1-7).

    So, we’re presented with an image of church as a weak worldly force on the fringes of society; and we live in a nation where the current political reality is one of warring political factions, and loud, angry voices in the public square — including the use of propaganda to shape opinion to conform with one’s own world view. What’s a poor church to do? How about prioritizing, then applying the corporal acts of mercy where they are most needed, person-to-person? How about making our voice a peaceful, respectful, but very public dissent to the insanity visited on us by the secular forces within our nation, including the Federal Government?

    See you on January 22nd! No, don’t bother looking for me; I’ll be there, but climbing sycamore trees is banned by Government Regulation (please refer to 29 CFR Parts 1910 and 1928). So, I’ll be looking over the tops of the heads of the assembled from the top of the one-foot-high landscaping wall at 12th St. & Constitution Ave., N.W., and will have no problem spotting a tall, lanky rube from Rocky Mount, Virginia.

    in God we trust.



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