Monday, February 17, 2014

On The Day We Remember the Flight into Egypt

Caracci 1663
We take for granted, I think, that the Holy Family traveled places.  They went to Jerusalem all the time, traveled to Bethlehem, fled to Egypt, came back....  But, what we might not think about is how they did all this traveling. For us, it's just a matter of hopping in a car, or  a plane or on a train maybe to take a trip, but it was not so easy for folks at the time of Christ.  Pretty much everywhere they went they walked.  If someone had a little money, a donkey might be used to carry belongings on a trip, but seldom was it used to ride the whole journey.  And,since they were very poor, Mary, Jesus, and Joseph would likely not have had a donkey most of the time and would have had to carry the necessities for a journey on their backs!

Wm Hole 1500s

There is an amazing man named Arthur Blessit who became fascinated with the actual day-to-day realities of the travels of Jesus and Mary, so much so that he made it his life's goal to travel in their footsteps -- and beyond.  He's traveled the world carrying an eight foot cross on his back.  On his website, he calculates the mileage walked by both Our Lord and His Blessed Mother.  Following is the information he tallied on the travels Our Lady made on foot in her lifetime -- conservatively based on the information we have solely in the Bible:
Mary the Mother of Jesus


Ansaldo 1620s
* Mary was probably carried to Jerusalem till she reached 3 years of age. Mary would have walked from Nazareth to Jerusalem and back ‘at least’ once a year from the age of 3 till the Jesus when she may have been about the age of 20. The one way mileage was about 120 (193) each way and thus it would be about 240 miles round trip (386 km). Mary Walking: 240 miles (386 km) per year from Nazareth to Jerusalem round trip x 17 years = 4,080 miles (6,565 km)!

(This would mean walking roughly the distance from DesMoines, Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska  and back -- once a year) 

*After she conceived by the Holy Spirit of God she ‘walked’ traveled from Nazareth to south of Jerusalem where Elizabeth her cousin was pregnant with John the Baptist (130 miles, 209 km). She then ‘walked’ traveled back to Nazareth (130 miles, 209 km). Then with Joseph she ‘walked’ traveled back south of Jerusalem to Bethlehem (130 miles, 209 km). During all this walking travel of 390 miles (627 km) Mary ‘was’ with Child!

(This is roughly the distance between Washington D.C. and New York City.  Imagine walking that roundtrip pregnant!)



* Mary, Joseph and Jesus must have lived in Bethlehem for about two years. Jesus was taken at least twice to the Temple in Jerusalem by Mary and Joseph for Circumcision and then again for Him to be ‘presented to the Lord’. (Luke 2:21-24) Let us count these two visits to Jerusalem for a total of 25 miles Mary walked.

(This is roughly the distance across the entire city of Denver)

Philip Otto Runge 1805
To learn about the legend of the Sycamore tree under which the Holy Family rested in Matariya, Egypt, go here.

* With Herod the King seeking to kill Jesus an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and he was told to flee to Egypt and they lived there till the death of Herod. Then he was told again by an angel to return to Israel and they came to live in Nazareth. (Matthew 2:13-23) The normal mileage from Bethlehem down to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, through Gaza across the Sinai Desert and into Egypt to the Pyramids along the Nile would be about 350 miles (563 km). Mary traveled with the infant baby Jesus at about the age of two for 350 miles (563 km) through the desert.

(This would be roughly the equivalent of a walk from Boston to Philadelphia -- and back the long way)


Dore. Click and print for a lovely coloring page!

* Mary, Joseph and child Jesus at about the age of 4 or 5 walked (traveled) from Egypt across the desert past Gaza and Joppa along the Mediterranean Sea to Nazareth. Mary walked about 400 miles (643 km) from Egypt to Nazareth with Jesus and Joseph.

(It's about 400 miles from Chicago, Illinois to Minneapolis, Minnesota)
* Living in Nazareth Mary would have gone at least once a year to the Temple in Jerusalem and back. This would surely have been at Passover or at least one of the Temple festivals. Jesus begins His public ministry at about the age of 30. Let us say they came back to Nazareth when Jesus was 5. For 25 years, Mary would have made round trips to and from Jerusalem once a year. Mary walked 240 miles (386 km) round trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem for 25 years, this = 25 x 240 = 6,000 miles (9655 km)!

(240 miles is about the distance from Baltimore, Maryland to Norfolk, Virginia)


* During the public ministry we find Mary in Cana with Jesus. (John 2:1-11) Mary was with Jesus in His ministry (Matt.12: 46-47; Mark 3:31; Luke 8:19)She was present as Jesus was crucified. (John 19:25-27) The disciple John was asked by Jesus to take care of Mary. (John 19: 27) Mary stayed to live with the early believers in Jerusalem. (Acts 1:14) We do not know the full extent of her travels with Jesus during this three year period but she surely went to the Passover three times, traveled to Cana round trip (12 miles, 19 km) and Capernaum round trip from Nazareth (60 miles, 96 km). The three Passovers including a one way from Nazareth to Jerusalem = 240 x 2 = 720 + 120 (one way to Jerusalem) + 72 = 912 miles (1,467 km). Mary walked at least 912 miles (1,467 km) during the 3-year public ministry of Jesus.

Total miles walked by Mary the Mother of Jesus!

Albrecht Durer.  Click and Print
for another great coloring page!
•4,080 Nazareth to Jerusalem and return. (Age 3 till 20)

•390 While with Child.


•25 From Bethlehem to Jerusalem twice.

•350 Bethlehem to Egypt

•400 Egypt to Nazareth.

•6,000 From Jesus age 5 till 30.

•912 During the public ministry of Jesus.

•Total: 12,187 Miles (19,612 km) Mary the Mother of Jesus Walked by the time she was about 50 years of age!

The distance around the world at the equator is 24,901.55 miles (40,074 km).


This means the Mary the Mother of Jesus Walked almost ‘HALF’ the distance around the world!


 The Flight into Egypt, as well as the Riposo -- or rest -- of the Holy Family, has been a favorite subject of artists since the beginning of Christian art.  There have been countless depictions! Many paintings are highly stylized and not very realistic, but this is a tendency we can easily forgive as they were graceful studies of a weary and gritty journey -- but a journey lit  with the beauty of the Divine Presence -- the Child Jesus safe in the haven of His Mother and St. Joseph's obedient care.

 Here are a few more paintings we've enjoyed looking up this morning:

Can't find the painter of this beautiful depiction.  Love the rich color and the pyramids in the distance.  Where is their baggage, though?

George Hitchcock - 1892  This is a lovely pastoral view of the Flight - but we wonder if it really would have looked like this in the desert between Bethlehem and Egypt.  And why is St. Joseph lagging so far behind?

George Hitchcock - 1895 A very different take on the same subject by Hitchcock, who seems to have moved onto Impressionism.  This one feels lonely and cold to us, compared to the other.  And again, St. Joseph lags way behind.

Luc Olivier Merson 1879.  This painting captures the desert starkness, we think, and is very beautiful in its simplicity, but we have a hard time imagining Our Blessed Mother crawling up to sleep in the arms of the little sphynx.. 

What do you think? Do you have a favorite?
*Repost from 2011 (Incidentally, one of the best research projects I ever got to do!  Putting facts and mileage to the history made it more than just a story for me...)

4 comments:

Bia said...

wow ... this was wonderful! now, i'm going back to re-read it and study it.

thanks for sharing!

MLE said...

The painting that you couldn't find an artist for is "The Flight Into Egypt"- Frederick Goodall

Marilyn Friesen said...

How does a person get rights to download a picture for a book cover?

Lisa said...

You'll want to research copyrites and public domain, Marilyn. If you're talking about the classic paintings above, it's not a given that they are in the public domain and can just be used willy nilly; you may well have to buy permission to use them for a book. You'd need to find out about each one, individually, though. To purchase royalty free stock photography, however, which might be easier (depending on what you're doing),check out this site: http://www.ehow.com/how_5433679_buy-stock-photography-book-cover.html

In the blogging/internet world, things are a little more loosey-goosey than they are in the world of book publishing. If I had a big, highly trafficked blog, I would have to be more careful than I am -- and do worry sometimes that one of the pictures (which I love to use) will come back to bite me... as I don't do much research on them. Among most Christian writers and artists, especially, there's an informal understanding that we can "borrow" one another's images if it is not for monetary gain of any kind, but that the image is being used for the honor and glory of God. And, most importantly, attribution is given whenever possible -- though sometimes, with the nature of the internet, unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult... Anyway, that said -- for a book you need to do a lot more footwork! Go for it!

Good luck!