Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Flight into Egypt

Most of our thoughts today are (naturally!) centered on the fact that tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the
first day of Lent -- which makes today Shrove Tuesday -- otherwise known as "Fat Tuesday."  And, no kidding, we are indulging today in the goodies we'll be giving up tomorrow!  I'm already on a diet that's wiped out most of my food addictions -- but I'm taking the opportunity to eat meat breakfast lunch and dinner -- and, since we're all giving up the TV for Lent, we're enjoying a marathon of movies today.  The kids have ice cream planned for later, too, since they're giving up sweets -- and are planning decadent snacks that I don't even want to know about...  It's all very distracting -- and fun!  

But, I don't want to be so fat and lazy today as to miss out on one of our favorite lessons from the life of Christ.  See, today the Liturgical Calendar marks the memory of the Holy Family's journey into Egypt.  Having picked up and moved, ourselves, many times in the last few years because we've felt it was God's will to do so, I identify with this journey and draw comfort from it.  Talk about blind faith and obedience!  Not only did St. Joseph immediately understand the will of God speaking to him through a dream and begin to pack immediately for Egypt - but the Blessed Mother -- who didn't have the dream, herself -- picked up and prepared to go to Egypt (of all places!) at the word of Joseph -- out of obedience and trust in her husband -- and perfect faith in God.  

But, think about it.  Mary just picked up her belongings (meager though they were), wrapped up Baby Jesus, and started...  WALKING to 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 train maybe -- to take a trip, but it was not as 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 on for 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 the Holy Family, 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
* The Blessed Mother was probably carried to Jerusalem until she reached 3 years of age. She would have walked from Nazareth to Jerusalem and back ‘at least’ once a year from the age of 3 until about the age of 20. The one way mileage was about 120 miles  each way and thus it would be about 240 miles round trip. So, totaled walking mileage: 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 Des Moines, Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska  and back -- once a year) 

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

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

* Mary, Joseph and Jesus must have lived in Bethlehem for about two years. In that time, little 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, where they lived until the death of Herod. Then St. Joseph 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). The Blessed Mother 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)

Click and print for a lovely coloring page!

* The Holy Family, when Our Lord was about the age of 4 or 5, walked from Egypt across the desert past Gaza and Joppa along the Mediterranean Sea to Nazareth. Our Lady would have walked, then, about 400 miles (643 km) from Egypt to Nazareth with Jesus and St. 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, then, Mary would have made round trips to and from Jerusalem once a year. That means she 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 of Our Lord, we find Mary in Cana with Jesus. (John 2:1-11) We know that 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) Certainly, we don't 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). Altogether, 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 miles from Nazareth to Jerusalem and return. (Age 3 till 20)

• 390 miles while with Child.

• 25 miles From Bethlehem to Jerusalem twice.

• 350 miles from Bethlehem to Egypt

• 400 miles from Egypt to Nazareth.

• 6,000 miles from Jesus at age 5 until age 30.

• 912 miles recorded during the public ministry of Jesus.

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

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

This means that during her lifetime Mary, the Mother of Jesus, walked almost ‘HALF’ the distance around the world!

How much have you walked this week?

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

*Repost from 2011 (Incidentally, one of the best research projects I've ever gotten to do!  Putting facts and mileage to the history made it more than just a story for me...)

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