Our Lady of Sorrows Project: 2nd Sorrow – The Flight into Egypt

The first post in the series is

1st Sorrow – The Prophecy of Simeon

Now we turn to the:

2nd Sorrow – The Flight or Escape into Egypt. (Matthew 2:13-23)

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.”

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled,
because they were no more.”

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, 20 “Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”

Some days after the Birth of the Lord, the angel told them to flee because if Herod found them, Christ would be killed.

The Blessed Virgin’s sorrow springs from danger to her Son, but she must also have had confidence in God’s plan.  An angel told Joseph to flee.  An angel had come to Mary at the Annunciation.  An angel told Joseph the truth about Mary’s condition.  Angels had proclaimed the Lord’s birth and told the shepherds to come to see the Lord.  Hence, she is sorrowful in that there is danger, she is sorrowful in that someone would hate so much as to kill her Son, she is sorrowful in that she cannot return to her home but must go into the place that was full of demons when the Jews were there.  But, when an angel tells you to do something, you do it with confidence and you trust that it is the right thing to do.

It also seems to me that, even though news probably traveled at about 5 miles an hour in those days, Mary and Joseph would have soon heard about the slaughter of so many children, which would have immensely increased their sorrow, especially Mary’s.  How could she not have known that all those children died in connection with the birth of her Son?  A heavy burden.

So, the Sorrow of the escape into Egypt was not just for a few days.  It must have continued for a long time.

Of course Mary, Immaculate, would at the same also never have forgotten that God’s plan was in course.  She would have remained joyful in that surety, while sorrowing for others.  In this way, Mary gives an example of Christian sorrow, which must never be without confidence in God’s providence.  John Chrysostom preached in his commentaries on Matthew (8.2):

You yourself need not be troubled if you are suffering countless dangers.  Do not expect to be celebrated or crowned promptly for your troubles.  Instead, you may keep in mind the long-suffering example of the mother of the Child, bearing all things nobly, knowing that such a fugitive life is consistent with the ordering of spiritual things. You are sharing the kind of labor Mary herself shared.  So did the Magi.  They were both willing to retire secretly in the humiliating role of a fugitive.

The Holy Family, probably on the poor side, would have had to flee straight to Egypt without being able to collect anything of their possessions at home.  They had the gifts that the Magi gave them, which probably were able to support them well.  But not knowing how long they would be away, they must have lived frugally and must have worked as well.  A carpenter can work anywhere.  Still, I suspect that, in a foreign place, where it was hard to avoid contact with pagan demonic symbols and cults, they must have been pretty isolated, quiet, and unassuming in strict frugality.  So, the sorrow of the Blessed Virgin would have been made more complicated by their lack of certainty about the length of their exile.  And imagine the cares borne by Joseph, to protect and to provide.  Still, even in this sorrow and care, they knew they could rely on God’s providence.  He would take care of them.  They waited in frugal patience, coping with uncertainty through hope, by means of elbow grease and grace.

The flight into Egypt had to happen for other reasons.  Throughout salvation history, God foretold by revelation and inspiration of prophets certain signs by which His Son might be recognized.  In the account of Matthew 2 we are even given the clue: “This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet [Hosea], ‘Out of Egypt have I called my son.'”

Consider this messianic prophecy in Hosea 11:1 and Christ as the new Moses.  Moses had barely escaped being killed by Pharaoh in Exodus 2.  Christ barely escapes Herod in Matthew 2.  The Blessed Virgin and Joseph both would have known this episode in the life of Moses, so their flight into Egypt would have probably been for them a matter of haste for safety, but also haste for excitement.

Later, Christ would change water to wine, as water turned to blood while Moses sought to free the people and Christ would feed people in the wilderness with bread, as manna fed the people on their journey.  There are many Moses parallels.

In 1815, a Pope who had experienced exile and persecution by a dictator, Pius VII, approved devotions of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, with accompanying prayers for each Sorrow.  For the Second Sorrow, the prayer reads:

V. O God, come to my assistance;
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
V. Glory be the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost
R. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

I grieve for Thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in the anguish of Thy most affectionate heart during the flight into Egypt and Thy sojourn there. Dear Mother, by Thy heart so troubled, obtain for me the virtue of generosity, especially towards the poor, and the Gift of Piety.

V. Pray for us, O Virgin most sorrowful,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
Let intercession be made for us, we beseech Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, now and at the hour of our death, before the throne of Thy mercy, by the Blessed Virgin Mary, Thy Mother, whose most holy soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the hour of Thy bitter Passion. We ask this through Thee, Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

3rd Sorrow – The loss of the Child Jesus in Jerusalem

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  2. Julia_Augusta says:

    The Holy Family may have lived in one of the many Jewish communities in Egypt, for example, on Elephantine island on the Nile.

  3. The Egyptian says:

    In our area of the country, Later part of the Diocese of Cincinnati, the Society of the Precious Blood priests and sisters settled, the sisters established 10 convents starting in 1844 with Mary at the Crib Convent, New Riegel, Ohio and ending in 1856 with Mary’s Flight into Egypt, Egypt, Ohio. all named after some part in Mary’s life

    The little settlement of Egypt, Ohio was started much earlier on my ancestors land, The church was called St Joseph, the convent was 1000 ft away, the pastor of St Joe also served the sisters. So we have “Marys Flight into Egypt with St Joseph, the Church has several windows about the holy family and Mary’s flight. Just a neat little history lesson that always amuses me

  4. Pingback: Our Lady of Sorrows Project: 3rd Sorrow – The loss of the Child Jesus in Jerusalem | Fr. Z's Blog

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