The Flight into Egypt
by Francis Cuthbert Doyle, 1879
The prophetic words of Simeon gave the first blow to the loving heart of Mary. It was not long before a second fell upon her, and made her realise still more feelingly the prediction of the aged Seer, in all its stern and bitter truth. She was sleeping peacefully by the side of the slumbering Jesus, when her holy spouse awoke her gently, and bade her arise and follow him into the land of Egypt. During his sleep an Angel of the Lord had stood by him, and given him the order of heaven. It was short and peremptory: ‘Arise,’ said the Angelic visitant, ‘and take the Child and His Mother, and flee into Egypt, and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the Child to destroy Him.’ Without a word of remonstrance, he did as he was told, and with blind obedience, and a child-like trust in Providence, turned his back upon his peaceful home, his friends, his kindred, and set out with speed for the land of the stranger. Our Lady, filled with the same spirit, acted in the same heroic manner. There was no hesitation on her part. There was no unwillingness, no delay. To her, Joseph was the representative of the Eternal Father, and his word was to her like the sacred law of God. Her faith was unbounded. She did not ask if this could really be God, Whom she was bearing in her arms, and holding so closely to her bosom, that she could feel the beatings of His tiny heart. She did not waver when she beheld Him thus weak, helpless, and fleeing from the face of the persecutor. With her there was no petulant questioning about the propriety of this proceeding, no demanding why the Angel, who gave the message, could not lend his helping arm, to protect them from injury in the obscurity of their own home. No; there was nothing of this. She had penetrated into the folly of the Cross, and seen in it the deep wisdom of God. She understood that God is then truly great, when He makes Himself little, truly powerful, when He appears in the eyes of men weakness itself, truly wise, when His actions seem foolish to them, and truly royal, when he annihilates Himself, and acts as the servant of all. In all these things she said to herself: ‘The finger of God is here.’ It would be no wonder, no miracle, that God should act magnificently, or gloriously, or in a way to dazzle the eyes of men. But that He should humble Himself, that He should be an infant, poor, weak, a fugitive,–this pointed Him out to her as God. She bowed to His decree, and went into Egypt.’
Very obvious are the lessons which you are to learn from conduct such as this. The first is a complete and unbounded trust in the guiding hand of Providence. You are the children of a good Father, Who loves you with all the intensity of His divine nature. He is the Lord and Master of all things, infinitely rich and powerful. He knows all your wants, He sees and has compassion upon them. If, then, you believe this,–as you most undoubtedly do,– it will follow as a natural consequence, that your trust in Him ought to be without limit. Nothing can happen to you without His Will, or, at least, without His permission. Whatever, therefore, befalls you must be for your good, in some way or other. Even those things which seem to be positively evils and misfortunes, are very often sent to you for your good. Hence you must never repine, nor grow impatient, when you are in adversity, or when things seem going wrong with you, or when you have not all that you wish. Remember that God is infinitely wise, and that He sees farther and more deeply than you. And just as a child often asks for a thing which would be hurtful, and even fatal to him, and weeps and rebels when it is not given, so is it frequently with us. We regard things as misfortunes, and writhe under, and revolt against them, when in reality they are for our advantage. Therefore, in all that happens, whether it wear the appearance of good or of evil, whether it come to you as a friend or as a foe, receive it as the messenger of God. Bow your head humbly before it. Thus you will imitate Mary, who arose in the night and departed from her home without asking why or wherefore. She knew that God orders all things for the best. She accepted the will of her superior for the time being, as the Will of God, and without a remonstrance followed blindly in the way he pointed out to her.
Oh, may we always bear within our breasts, hearts as submissive and obedient to the decrees of God! And when what appears to be evil comes upon us, let us encourage ourselves to endure it, by the thought which nerved holy Job to be patient in misfortunes: ‘If we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil?’
The second lesson is no less obvious than the first. It is, that you should flee away in all haste from the face of those enemies, who seek to destroy your immortal soul. As long as you are in the state of grace, Jesus remains in your heart as in a sacred tabernacle. He sits there as on a throne, filling you with holy thoughts, and clothing you with strength against the attacks of your enemies. But nothing is more hateful to the devils than a good child, who is eager to love God, and to keep his soul free from stain; for they know well, that such a child is not good for himself alone. He is the source whence good flows unto others. If he happens to fall among a wicked set, he becomes unto them like a well in the midst of the desert. He creates around himself a fertile spot, which attracts and charms those who are parched with the heat of passion, and sometimes makes them turn their eyes to God. Hence it is the aim of the wicked spirits to cast Jesus out of his heart. They try to make these holy youths commit some sin, from which Jesus will flee, as He did from the face of Herod. Consequently, they leave nothing undone in order to compass this detestable end. It is your duty, therefore, to learn from the flight of the holy family, the great wisdom of fleeing from sin, and from all that might lead you into it. The devil strives to lead children into sin in various ways. He suggests to them evil thoughts, and filthy imaginations, which are very dangerous,–but only to those who do not flee away at once. If there is any delay or hesitation, these thoughts are as nets which entrap birds, or as birdlime which holds them fast, till they are secured by the hand of the fowler. Again, he tries to catch and destroy them by means of wicked companions, who speak wicked words, or do wicked actions. From all such as these, your only safety is flight. Stop up your ears, close your eyes, and flee away as Lot fled from Sodom, as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph fled from Herod. Think of that holy flight; and, if the devil should ever try to destroy the life of your soul, which is Jesus Christ, by inducing you to be guilty of sin, at once call to mind the Angel’s words to Joseph: ‘Arise; get thee hence.’ If you do not obey, both the Child and His Mother will be taken from you.