For the next seven weeks, which began last Monday, we are going to focus on the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which are prayed and meditated upon in the Rosary of the Mater Dolorosa. Last week we focused our attention on the first sorrow – The Prophecy of Holy Simeon. This week we continue our studies concentrating on the second sorrow, The Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt. To learn more about the Rosary and Litany, if you haven’t read my previous posts, I would highly encourage you to do so.
In the Gospel of St. Matthew, we read,
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.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.”
The Flight into Egypt by the Holy Family recounts the typological connections between Jesus and some of the Old Testament figures that also fled into Egypt. In the Book of Genesis, we see Jacob and his entire family flee into Egypt (46:1-7). In the Book of Exodus, we see the entire Israel nation; descendants of Jacob (also known as Israel) come from the land of Egypt (12:37). Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel and is considered the New Israel. With him, the new People of God come into being as the Church. Furthermore, we see the connection between Jesus and Moses, both were saved through God’s divine will as infants only to lead and establish the Lord’s people (Ex. 2:1-10).
At the command of God, Joseph, as head of the Holy Family and protector of their lives, takes the child and his mother and escapes the onslaught of what’s to come due to Herod’s fury (see Mt 2:16-18). During the New Testament centuries, there were large Jewish communities in the Egyptian colonies of Alexandria and Elephantine where Jesus, Mary, and Joseph could hide and feel protected from the hand of Herod.
To fulfill what the Lord had spoken in Hosea, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son “(11:1), St. Matthew anticipates that return of Jesus as the Son as the fulfillment of this scripture verse in two ways. First, Hosea should make us think back to the Book of Exodus when God calls Israel his “first-born son” (4:22). It is here where Israel is freed from the slavery under Pharaoh. Second, it brings us forward knowing that Jesus is the eternal first-born son (Rom 8:29) who is delivered from the tyrannical rule of Herod and comes out of Egypt to return to Israel.
Regarding the Flight into Egypt (and the Slaughtering of the Holy Innocents), The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,
“The flight into Egypt and the massacre of the innocents make manifest the opposition of darkness to the light: “He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.” Christ’s whole life was lived under the sign of persecution. His own share it with him. Jesus’ departure from Egypt recalls the exodus and presents him as the definitive liberator of God’s people” (#530).
As we continue our examination of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, let us pray for the intercession of the Holy Family that we may have the strength and courage to stand against all those who seek to destroy our lives as faithful Catholic Christians. Let us also ask for the intercession of St. Joseph, who was the Protector of the Child Jesus and Mary and is the Protector of the Holy Catholic Church.