The Flight into Egypt
The Life of Mary As Seen By the Mystics by Brown, Raphael, 1912
AFTER THE PURIFICATION, Mary and Joseph decided to stay in Jerusalem for nine days in order to renew their offering of the Child Jesus and to acknowledge their gratitude for the great blessing which God had given them. Every day therefore, from noon until midnight, they prayed humbly in an obscure corner of the Temple.
On the fifth day the Lord said to Mary: “My Spouse and My Dove, you cannot finish the nine days’ devotion. Herod is seeking the life of the Child. In order to save your Son’s life, you must flee with Him and Joseph into the land of Egypt. The journey is long, hard and very tiring. Suffer it all for My sake, for I am and always will be with you.”
The Mother of God answered meekly: “My Lord, dispose of me according to Thy Will. I ask only that Thou permit not my Son to suffer and that Thou turn all pains and hardships upon me.”
But as she left the Temple with the Infant Jesus in her arms, Mary’s compassionate heart was filled with sorrow for Him, and she wept.
At home in their two rented rooms she prudently kept the disturbing news to herself, since she had not been told to reveal it to her husband. St. Joseph noticed that she was troubled, but he thought that it was due to Simeon’s prophecy.
That night, while Joseph was sleeping, an Angel in the radiant form of a young man appeared in his room and said to him:
“Arise, and take the Child and His Mother, and flee into Egypt, and remain there until I tell thee. For Herod will seek the Child to destroy Him!”
Taking Joseph by the hand, the Angel raised him up, and vanished. … St. Joseph dressed hurriedly … he said to [Mary, after having been given permission to enter her room] anxiously:
“My Lady, God wills that we should be tried further, for His holy Angel has announced to me that we must flee to Egypt with the Child, because Herod is planning to take His life. Prepare yourself, my dear wife, to bear the hardships of the journey, and tell me what I can do to alleviate them.”
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“My husband and master,” replied Mary calmly, “if we have received from God such great blessings and graces, it is fitting that we should joyfully accept temporal suffering. Wherever we go, we carry Our Lord with us, and He is our comfort and our country. So let us proceed to fulfill His holy Will.”
Then she went to the crib at the foot of the bed, where the Infant Jesus was sleeping, and falling on her knees she awakened Him and took Him in her arms. At first the Divine Babe wept a little, but when Mary and Joseph asked Him for His blessing, He gave it to them visibly.
After St. Joseph had hurriedly packed their few belongings on the donkey that had traveled with them from Nazareth, the Holy Family left Jerusalem shortly before midnight on their long and dangerous trip to Egypt.
If Mary held in her arms the Infant Jesus, Who was well wrapped in swaddling clothes and supported by a large piece of linen which was tied around His Mother’s neck. The Blessed Virgin wore a long cloak that covered her and the Child, and also a wide veil.
Although Mary and Joseph were filled with anxiety for Jesus, they felt greatly encouraged when, as they went through the city gate, all the splendid Angel protectors of the Mother of God again appeared in bright human forms and changed
the night into day for them. As the Holy Family journeyed southward in the direction of Bethlehem, Mary longed to visit and again venerate the holy grotto of the Nativity, but her Angels informed her that such a delay would be dangerous. Then, with St. Joseph’s permission, she sent one of the Angels to warn St. Elizabeth to hide with her son John in the desert around the town of Hebron, where they were then living.
The Holy Family spent their first night in a cave in the hills south of Bethlehem, off the regular caravan route. They were thirsty and exhausted, and Mary was so sorry for her Child that she wept. But at her prayer a spring of clear water suddenly gushed forth, and a wild goat came to them and allowed Joseph to milk it.
Late the next day, as they were crossing the desert near Hebron, they ran out of water, and both Mary and Joseph suffered keenly from thirst.
St. Elizabeth and John were then hiding in a cave on a hill nearby. Suddenly John felt that his Lord was close and was suffering. He fell on his knees and prayed fervently with his arms extended.
St. Elizabeth sent one of her servants with generous gifts of money, food and clothing to the Holy Family, which he overtook near Gaza. There they rested briefly, while Mary shared these gifts with the poor … Then the Holy Family set out on the long and difficult journey …
During the first night in the desert the Holy Family rested at the foot of a small sand dune. After they had eaten and after Mary had nursed her Babe, St. Joseph made a sort of tent with his cloak and some sticks in order to protect the Mother and Child from the wind, and he slept near them on the ground, resting his head on the sack that contained their belongings. Mary now perceived that Jesus was offering up to His Father all their hardships, and she did likewise, praying with Him and with her Angels most of the night.
Within a few days the poor travelers had exhausted all their small provisions of fruit and bread and water, although they tried to make their supply last longer by not eating several times until nine o’clock at night. And while they were thus suffering from hunger and thirst and fatigue, a strong wind and sandstorm arose. Finally, at Mary’s fervent prayer for her Son and her husband, the Lord commanded her’ Angels to serve them some nourishing food and drink.
During the long journey, while Mary walked or rode on the donkey, always holding her Divine Son in her arms, she, often thanked Him for having made her His Mother. Three
times a day she nursed Him, and whenever they stopped for a rest she caressed Him tenderly. A few times the Infant Jesus wept tears of love and compassion for mankind, and Mary would weep too. Often Mother and Son conversed mystically.
At other times St. Joseph would talk with Mary, frequently asking her what he could do for her or Jesus. Sometimes he would humbly and devoutly kiss the feet of the Divine Child and take Him in his arms and beg Him for His blessing. Thus the Holy Family passed the ten days of their flight across the barren desert, consoling and cheering one another in mutual kindness and love.
OUR LORD SAID TO ST. BRIDGET OF SWEDEN:
“My flight to Egypt I showed the infirmities of My Humanity and fulfilled the prophecies. I gave too an example to My disciples that sometimes persecution is to be avoided for the greater future glory of God. That I was not found by My pursuers, the counsel of My Divinity prevailed over the counsel of man, for it is not easy to fight against God.”
—AND THE BLESSSED VIRGIN MARY SAID TO VENERABLE MOTHER MARY OF AGREDA:
“I was not alarmed in my exile and prolonged journey. Since I trusted in the Lord, He provided for me in the time of my need. Even when help is somewhat delayed, it will always be at hand at a time when it will do most good. Thus it happened with me and my husband in the time of our destitution and necessity.