Yesterday was the celebration of the Holy Family. The readings from the saints was an address by  Pope Paul  VI on the life of the Holy Family’s life at Nazareth. This can be found on last year’s post for this feast.

This year, talking about the Holy Family with Neil, I thought about the life Jesus might have experienced at Nazareth. The theologian Edward Echlin writes this about the landscape around Nazareth:

“The valleys in lower Galilee run east to west and are fertile and well watered, a ‘land of milk and honey’. These were soon appropriated by elites, Herodians and Romans in the time of Jesus, hence his parables’ inclusion of tenants, workers and dispossessed. Peasant families lived and farmed, in partial self-sufficiency, on the thinner soiled ridges. The Nazareth ridge was especially fertile, and irrigated by spring and wadi. There is still evidence of Iron Age terracing, towers and presses. Crops know to Jesus included cereals, brassicas, root and forage crops, olives, grapes pomegranates, dates and possibly some apples.“

Echlin goes on to explain that even craftsmen like Joseph and Jesus, would have had to have a family plot to supplement their income and all in the area would be expected to help with the harvest when the time came.

Jesus’ childhood, once the Holy family returned to Nazareth would have been full. There was work, in the home, preparing food, in the workshop working with tools and wood (and possibly stone too.) The family would have been part of a community, with aunts and uncles, cousins and friends. When Jesus was young there would have been time to play once work was done. Maybe he and his friends climbed olive trees or ran up and down the hillside.

Thinking about this makes me aware of the reality of the Incarnation. God leaves his heaven and enters his own creation. Here he runs in the warmth of the sun, bangs his fingers with tools, gets splinters in his fingers, plants seeds in the dirt, feels the seasons changes. He takes part in work and rest. He listens to the song of birds and reads the scriptures on rough, ancient scrolls in the synagogue. He feels hunger and thirst and tiredness.

Christ didn’t just drop down out of heaven to play for a while, like the Greek gods in the myths. He grows in Mary’s womb, he is born, he learns, eats, drinks and sleeps. This is what his human nature means to be bound by time and to live out a human life. The is no escape route to Mount Olympus. God is completely a part of his Creation. As we see from the Gospel stories there is both joy and sorrow here. Jesus celebrates at the wedding in Cana and generously and, miraculously provides the best wine for the party and he weeps at the tomb of his friends Lazarus.

God, who created a physical universe, a concrete world, with all its details comes to be a part of it, to experience it first hand as a human being.