Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

On the way to Bethlehem!

AND JOSEPH WENT UP from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he belonged to the house and family of David, to register with Mary, who was engaged to him and who was soon to become a mother." (Luke 2:4-6)

Here is a moving picture of Joseph and pregnant Mary on their way to Bethlehem. Mary has gotten off the donkey - perhaps her back was hurting or she needed a stretch. She places her feet mindfully along the rock path, while Joseph gives her the support of left and right arm. God is entering the world in great delicacy. Nothing is forced.

The sky is bright except for the dark cloud in the upper left of the painting. Is the darkness already gathering as Simeon will portend to Mary:

"This child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a portent that will be much debated - you yourself will be pierced to the heart - and the thoughts of many minds will be revealed." (Luke 2:34,35)

Or is the darkness being pushed the other way - dispelled  - as Christ the Word of Light enters our world in Mary's womb?

A large and strange rock formation dominates the scene. To enter our world God has to hurdle or circumvent all the barriers of human history. And there are the obstacles of the human heart God navigates for us to become new Bethlehems: ignorance, immaturity, foolishness, pride, greed.

Or is the prominent rock formation an image of Christ himself? Saint Paul writes in his First Letter to the Corinthians 10: 1-5:

"For I would not have you forget brothers and sisters, that though our forefathers were all protected by the cloud, and all passed safely through the sea, and in the cloud and the sea all, as it were, accepted baptism as followers of Moses, and all ate the same supernatural food and drank the same supernatural drink - for they used to drink from a supernatural rock which attended them, and the rock was really Christ..."

Dash your thoughts against Christ the Rock, Saint Benedict teaches in his early rule for monks. The to-be-dashed thoughts Benedict has in mind are the thoughts that destroy: hatred, revenge and the thoughts born of stereotyping and arrogance. "Change your mind and you change the world" we hear in a contemporary Broadway song. 

Furthermore, could the great rock perhaps be an image of Calvary? But the cow turning the corner looks surprised! As animals seem to have extra senses - does this lower beast sense the wide-awake news of Easter around the bend?

Look, the trees are budding and the birds have returned! God is beginning a new season of covenanted love - budding in the freshness of Christ-God.  Can you feel it?

This Wednesday ~ December 4th ~ 
begin a novena with me
on this blog as we approach
the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe ~ December 12.

(A novena is simply a prayer-discipline of nine days)


  1. It's curious, the donkey is draped in red while Joseph and Mary are both in solemn colors. Perhaps it is a scene already mirroring Christ's Passion. The donkey on which he was carried into Jerusalem brandishing crimson, and the mourning of the Holy Family.

  2. Yes, the donkey must sense Easter around the bend, as he bears the red of Christ's blood on his back. Does he wear that read cloth as a foreshadowing of the Passion? Thank you for these thoughts as we enter Advent. I will be looking forward to following the Guadalupe Novena.

  3. Yes, Father, I can feel it! The joy of the season is upon us as we ready ourselves for Christ's birth. Mary carries the burden of pregnancy with Joseph her spouse at her side. May we all feel that support as we make our way through the weeks to come. So that we might be truly ready to greet Jesus with joy and gladness.