The Joyful Mysteries

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The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary
(Recited on Monday and Saturday)
1st Joyful Mystery-  The Annunciation of the Lord to Mary
    Background-  The date of Jesus’ birth: The fulfillment of Tabernacles
2nd Joyful Mystery-  The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth
3rd Joyful Mystery-  The Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ
4th Joyful Mystery-  The Presentation of our Lord
   [Franciscan Crown-  The Adoration of the Magi ]
5th Joyful Mystery-  The Finding Jesus in the Temple


- December 9, 3 BC/Tevet 2, 3759   ...
The true light, that enlightens every man, was coming into the world." (Jn 1:5-9). 

Our Father
Mary lived in the temple from the time she was weaned until she was twelve. + She was trained in the spirit of the law and prophets: philosophically an Essene.  The Essenes prayed, fasted, and denied themselves pleasures, as a sacrifice, to beseech God to send the Messiah.  Mary, along with many other Essene men and women, committed herself to a vow of celibacy as part of a “prayer chain” to bring the Messiah. + Mary’s private prayer was to be allowed to be the handmaid of the mother of the Messiah.  ... Thus, she learned to weave and sew providing the items needed for service in the temple while learning skills necessary to be a handmaid. ... With the consent of Mary’s father, in order to protect her wish to maintain her vow of celibacy, ... the priests, betrothed Mary to Joseph, who had also committed himself to lead a life of celibacy.  Mary’s betrothal was arranged by the priests.  The kiddushin, the betrothal ceremony, was celebrated before she left the temple when she turned twelve.  With the betrothal Joseph committed himself to provide for Mary’s support after she was no longer supported by her father.  At twelve, Mary could no longer stay in the temple. ... So she returned to Nazareth to rejoin her family.  At that same time, Joseph relocated from Bethlehem to Nazareth to be close to Mary whom he was now committed to protect and to provide for after she no longer lived with her parents. ...

A betrothal with intent to consummate the relationship usually only lasted a year unless one of the betrothed was under age: 12 for a girl, 13 for a boy. with the consent of Mary’s father +  As of December 9, 3 BC, Mary is 4 months past her 14th birthday. She has been betrothed 2 years and 4 months after becoming of age, well beyond the normal time between the kiddushin, betrothal, and the nisu’in, the husband taking his bride to his home.    When a couple is betrothed they are committed to each other, but each remains with his or her own family.  (HM-1)

December 9th, Tevet 2, was the last day of Chanukah that year.  While at the local well drawing a pitcher of water, Mary sensed a presence, heard a voice, and seeing no one she became frightened and fled to her home. +

There, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her saying: “Hail Mary full of grace!  The Lord is with you." (Lk 1:28)

This is the only time in scripture that an angel greets someone by title, "full of grace" in addition to a personal name. + Grace is what draws us to God. And the angel is indicating with the title that Mary is already completely drawn to God. Her love for God was so strong that she was already recognizable in the spiritual dimension as the Queen of Heaven and Earth. (HM-2)

Mary was greatly troubled and wondered what sort of greeting this might be (Lk 1:29). Asking herself why would this spiritual being refer to a 14 year old with such a title? A girl who aspires to be a handmaid! Gabriel continues: "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God." (Lk 1:30).

Gabriel says: “Behold you will conceive and bear a son and you will name him Jesus” (Lk 1:31).  (Yeshua: ‘Yahweh saves’). ... “He will be great and will be called ‘Son of the Most High’, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of David forever, and of his kingship there will be no end” (Lk 1:32-33).   

That is the Messiah!  Mary is to be the mother of the Messiah!  (HM-3)

But both she and Joseph have vowed to live a life of celibacy.  Mary asks: “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" - I am under a vow of celibacy. ...   (Lk 1:34).  (HM-4)

The angel tells Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Lk 1:35).   (HM-5)

God himself is to Father the Messiah!  Mary’s vow of celibacy is key to her selection (Is 7:14) ... There can be no possibility of another father.  (HM-6)

Gabriel continued: “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail!(Lk 3:36-37).”

Mary’s child is to be the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God!  How could Mary have said anything but yes?  There is one rather large problem: Joseph, her betrothed.  When Mary is found to be pregnant, Joseph can denounce her, and she will be stoned for adultery. ... Mary’s response is one of complete surrender to God: her heart’s only desire is to do God’s will.  To even consider the consequences is to attempt to control, which is against the complete surrender to God’s will. +

Mary says: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be it done to me according to your word.”  And the angel departed from her (Lk 1:38).  (HM-7)

God’s plan for salvation was dependent on a human.  With Mary’s “Yes” came the Incarnation: God assumed human nature!  God entered his own creation!  Jesus is both God and is fully man. 

As God’s plan unfolds, it is Tevet 2, the last (8th) day of the celebration of Chanukah.  The number 8 signifies new beginnings.  The feast of Chanukah celebrates the re-dedication of the temple after it had been profaned by the Syrian armies under Antiochus Epiphanes.  It took 8 days to complete the re-dedication.  For the people of Israel, that 8th day, in 3622, 139 BC, represented a new beginning in their relationship with Yahweh.  In the year 3759 on the same day on the Jewish Calendar, which occurred that year on December 9th of 3 BC, was another very new beginning in God’s relationship with man! God has become man! That day, the completion of Chanukah, is called the little celebration of light ... Chanukah is closely tied to the big celebration of light during the Feast of Tabernacles.  That day the true light that enlightens every man came into the world.  (HM-8)

God has answered Mary’s prayer, Joseph’s prayer, the prayers of all the Essenes, and of all Israel! What joy she must feel!  (HM-9)

Elizabeth got it right when she said: “Happy is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45). Share Mary’s joy!  (HM-10, GB, OMJ) ...

Reflections on the Annunciation

“And the angel departed from her”  +
I consider it important to focus also on the final sentence of Luke’s Annunciation narrative: “And the angel departed from her” (Lk 1:38). The great hour of Mary’s encounter with God’s messenger—in which her whole life is changed—comes to an end, and she remains there alone, with a task that truly surpasses all human capacity. There are no angels standing around her. She must continue along the path that leads to many dark moments–from Joseph’s dismay at her pregnancy, [the flight into Egypt, learning the names of the children slaughtered by Herod’s soldiers, the journey back to Jerusalem in search of her son], to the moment when Jesus is said to be out of his mind (Mk 3:21; Jn 10:20), right up to the night of the cross.
How often in these situations must Mary have returned inwardly to the hour when God’s angel had spoken to her, pondering afresh the greeting: “Hail, full of grace!” And the consoling words: “Do not be afraid!” The angel departs; her mission remains, and with it matures her inner closeness to God, a closeness that in her heart she is able to see and touch.

Why would God become part of his creation?
We are spiritual beings immersed in a physical experience, constrained by time.  You, Father, chose this physical experience as the mechanism to raise spiritual beings that are made in your image and likeness.  From all eternity, You planned to come into your own creation to show us how to be like You.  You knew man would fall.  You wanted us to learn to love.  You wanted us to choose to love.  You wanted us to learn that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for someone.  As the father of us all You knew the way to teach us was to teach by example; so, You, in the person of your son, became man to give us the example.  You wanted us to learn to see beyond ourselves.  We need to be shown.  Give me the grace to learn.  Give me the gifts of the Holy spirit so I can help to draw others to you.

Why was I blessed to be shown God’s love while others have not?
God has a plan for each of us.  We each have a role to play.  God has given me a task that requires the gifts he has given me.  Help me, Mary, to do what God has planned for me.  Give me the guidance to see the direction I must go.  Lead me to your Son for if I stay close to him I will be safe.  Mary help me to realize that everyone has a role to play in God’s plan.  Help me to see Jesus in everyone.  God loves us all the same and each has been given what is required.  We are all brothers on a similar journey.  After all the greatest human that ever lived, other than Jesus, who was also God, was you Mary, who aspired to be a handmaid!  In the spiritual dimension, greatest is determined by love; not power, fame, or wealth!

Mary’s love for God allowed her to risk life: Trust

When I love, make a sacrifice for someone, there is no guarantee that the beloved will accept my gift.  Jesus, when you sacrificed yourself on the cross, you knew not everyone you loved would accept your sacrifice.  You were willing to take the heart break of rejection you loved us so much.  Mary, you loved God so much, you were willing to risk anything, simply because it was your Love, God, who asked. Mary’s trust in God was such that she did not even need to consider the consequences.  It was God’s will, that was enough!

Prayer as more than words

Mary, you were completely drawn to God even as a little girl.  Your whole life was made into a prayer as you took a vow a celibacy.   Prayer is communicating with God or the saints in heaven.  We can also communicate with more than words.  Just as a picture is worth a 1000 words, an action is worth a 1000 pictures.  Help me to love without seeking recognition as you did.  Help me to do things for others without them knowing they have ever been done.  Cleaning up a mess (pet or child made a mess) before anyone knows it has ever happened and then never mentioning it.  Doing chores that belong to others to make their job lighter.  Every act of love is a prayer in action.  Help me to be grateful for all that has been given me, remind me to thank God for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Remind me to be grateful to others.  It makes someone feel good to receive acknowledgement of their contributions.  As we are all members of the Mystical body any act of gratitude is an act of gratitude to your son.   Never let me forget that your special ones are closest to your son.   That an act of kindness to one of the special ones whether infant, aged or handicapped is a prayer you will never forget.


The Annunciation happened on the last, 8th day of Chanukah. That feast celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple. A new beginning of the people’s relationship with God. The number 8 stands for new beginnings.  God became human on that day.
Mary immediately wanted to go to help Elizabeth and there were visitors from Jerusalem who would be returning home the following morning, since the celebration of Chanukah had ended. Nazareth was an out of the way place.  Caravans to Jerusalem were not a regular occurrence.

 The Festival of Lights
The 8th day of Chanukah, on which all the lights on the Menorah are lit is closely tied to the Feast of Tabernacles at which there were four giant Menorahs lit in the Court of the Women in the temple to symbolize the light provided by the pillar of fire during the Exodus.  The light could be seen all over Jerusalem and was even visible in Bethlehem.  What a coincidence that the Light of the World would also be conceived on the eighth day of Chanukah and 40 weeks later be born on the Feast of Tabernacles. I wonder which had the greater light: the four 75ft Menorahs in the Court of the Women or the 4 million candle power of the 9 candles per Menorah in a half a million homes of the Israelites.

There is something about the date of Jesus’ birth that the devil just doesn’t want it known. There has been centuries of obfuscation: Herod died in 4 BC, Quirinius didn’t serve as governor of Syria until 6 AD, and there was no reason to register. We have always known that December 25 is nothing more than the feast of the Roman sun god.

Looking directly at scripture.

God wanted Moses to convey to his people some truths that He wanted them to never forget. Those truths form the very basis of salvation history. So, he made them a list of festivals to be celebrated every year (Lev 23:4-43): Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles. He called them “holy convocations, my appointed feasts” (Lev 23:2) . Convocation in Hebrew: “קָרָא”, (transliterated: “kaw-raw”), has two meanings and God meant both: a convocation and a dress rehearsal.
  • A convocation is when all the Israelite men, were to convene in the place designated for the worship of Yahweh: the place where the Ark of the Covenant resided (Deut 16:6). After the Exodus, but prior to David that place varied between Bethel (Jug 20:27), Shiloh (1Sam 1:3), seven months (1Sam 6:1) in the hands of the Philistines in Ashdod, in the temple of Dagon (1Sam 5:2), Kiriath-jearim (1Sam 7:3) and later Gibeon, in the house of Obed-edom (2Sam 6:11) . After David, it was Jerusalem. “Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Weeks [Pentecost], and the Feast of Tabernacles” (Deut 16:16). Women and children went to Jerusalem for Passover which is a family feast but were only required to go to Jerusalem for Tabernacles on Sabbatical, Shmittah year – years divisible by 7 (Deut 31:10-13). They did not need to attend the other Feasts. The holy family went to Jerusalem every year for Passover (Lk 2:41).
  • A dress rehearsal concept implies that the feasts are prophecies of something beyond themselves. These feasts form the cornerstone of the practice of the Jewish faith.
Jesus was Jewish, and the Jewish faith is focused on the Feasts of the Lord. Jesus said: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Mt 5:17-20). It is easy to understand how Jesus fulfilled the prophets, but how do you fulfill the law unless there is prophecy in the law: the law defines the Feasts of the Lord and requires that they be celebrated every year. Jesus has already fulfilled five of the seven feasts: Tabernacles, Unleavened Bread, Passover, First Fruits, and Pentecost and He fulfilled each of them on the specific day of each feast! Because God does not forget his promises, Jesus will also fulfill the two remaining feasts: Trumpets and Atonement.

The Feasts in date sequence, according to the Jewish Temple, solar/lunar Religious Calendar:
  • Passover (Pesach) is celebrated on the 14th day of the first month, Nisan. It is a remembrance of the sacrifice of an unblemished, male lamb; whose blood saved the 1st born sons of the Israelites. It is in fact a dress rehearsal for the sacrifice of God’s First-Born Son, the Lamb of God, to save all men. It happened on the 14th day of the first month. St. Paul says “For our Passover has been sacrificed, that is, Christ.” (1Cor 5:7)

  • Unleavened Bread (Chag Matzot) begins on the 15th of Nisan with the Seder Meal which was both the sacrificial meal for the Paschal lamb, slaughtered just before sunset, and a Todah, thanksgiving, offering of unleavened bread and wine. The Todah was in thanksgiving for the deliverance, about to be provided, by the blood of the paschal lamb: the angel of death would see the blood on the door posts and lintel of the homes of those who had participated in the Seder meals. The Angel of death would then "pass over" their houses (Ex 12:21-23). Animal sacrifices could only be made in the Temple in Jerusalem. Anyone offering sacrifice anywhere else was to be cut off from the people of God. Anyone who could not travel to Jerusalem was expected to celebrate the Seder in an un-bloody fashion as the primary event is the Todah. The word “Todah” means “thanksgiving”. Todah in the Greek is “Eucharistia”. The Seder is a dress rehearsal for the Eucharist: a Todah, Eucharistic, offering of unleavened bread and wine in thanksgiving for the deliverance [from sin] accomplished through the blood of the unblemished Paschal Lamb: The lamb of God. The Seder meal as the sacrificial meal for the Paschal Lamb is celebrated after the death of the Lamb. Since Jesus could not celebrate the Seder meal after his own death, God arranged for there to be two calendars in use in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus death. Jesus celebrated the Seder meal on the Essene calendar, on Tuesday Evening. The Essene’s were not allowed to offer sacrifice in the Temple. So, that Seder celebration was called an un-bloody sacrifice, celebrated just as the Jews celebrate the Passover Seder Meal today. For an exercise for yourself go through the Gospels and look at the time from the Meal in Bethany at which Mary poured expense perfume over Jesus to the feast of Passover. It is very confusing as some show it to be 2 days and some 5 days. They are both right! There were two Seder Meals! The Last Supper, a Seder meal, was initiated on the 15th of Nisan, according to the Essene calendar. God uses both calendars! It was completed on the cross, with the completion of the Seder ritual’s consumption of the 4th cup and the declaration of the Nirtzah: “It is finished”. That happened right before the death of the Paschal lamb, the Lamb of God, on the Passover Preparation Day: Nisan 14 on the Temple calendar! Jesus, the Lamb of God, upon entering Jerusalem, had been selected by the people on Lamb Selection Day (Palm Sunday) as the lamb for sacrifice for all the people by waving Palm fronds and shouting Hosanna.

  • First Fruits (Reishit Katzir) is the celebration of the first fruits of the harvest. It is an acknowledgement that God continues to provide for us. Jesus is the first fruit of the resurrection, opening the Kingdom of God and demonstrating that God continues to provide for us for all eternity (1Cor 15:20). First Fruits was the third day: Passover Eve (the day the Lamb of God died on the cross) is the first day; the first day of Unleavened Bread (the Seder) is the second day; and First Fruits is the third day. First Fruits was the day Jesus rose from the grave. So, in answer to the question: Where does it say in scripture that the Messiah must die and rise on the third day? Although most scholars will quote Hos 6:2, it is specifically in the fulfillment of Passover and First Fruits! (Lev 23:1-14). Passover, Nisan 15, the second day, is always a Sabbath. The Hebrew calendar is always tweaked so that two Sabbaths will never occur back to back: Friday & Saturday or Saturday & Sunday. That was because no cooking was done on the Sabbath and without refrigeration food would not keep for two days without cooking. Thus, the Feast of First Fruits, specified in Leviticus as occurring on the first day after the Sabbath, is always on the 3rd day. Thus First Fruits is always the 3rd day: to fulfill the Feast of First Fruits Jesus must have died on Passover Eve and rise on the 3rd day, the Feast of First Fruits according to scripture!

  • Pentecost (Shavuot) means 50 days and is the 50th day after First Fruits. It is a memorial of the day God himself came down on Mount Sinai in a cloud of fire and smoke and a blast of God's trumpet (Ex 19:18-19), to ratify the covenant with his people. It is a dress rehearsal for the day the Holy Spirit came down as flames of fire on the disciples, with a noise loud enough to draw a crowd of over 3,000 to the Cenacle, to ratify the new covenant written in our hearts.

  • Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) is celebrated on the 1st day of the 7th month. The feast celebrates God judgement: when all the world is judged before God’s throne. ...
    It is unfulfilled but thought to be the warning or illumination when everyone will see themselves as God sees them. The first of the two events that must yet be fulfilled before the Messiah returns is that the Gospel must have reached all men. If you think about it the only way that can happen is with the warning, a supernatural event in which all men recognize the truth. It is interesting to note that it is the only event that happens to everyone in the world on the same day. If you think about it there is no time when it is the same day everywhere in the world, but Trumpets is also a 2-day feast, oh what a coincidence!

  • Atonement (Yom Kippur) is the holiest day of the year. It is celebrated on the 10th day of the 7th month. It is unfulfilled. It is thought to be when the Jewish nation will acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. The second event, that must happen before the end, is the conversion of the Jews. That is not meant to be the personal conversion of every Jew but rather the acknowledgement by the Jewish people, the nation of Israel, that Jesus was/is the Messiah.

  • Tabernacles (Succot), the Feast of “God with us”, in Hebrew “Emanuel”, is on the 15th day of the 7th month. It is the feast that celebrates God’s physical presence with the Israelites, during the Exodus, in a pillar of cloud by day to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light during the Exodus (Ex 13:21). The feast is celebrated by living in Sukkot, tents with a thatched roof, through which the stars must be visible, and rain must leak into the dwelling. It is a dress rehearsal for the birth of Jesus; when God came to live among his people as the Light of the World and the Source of Living Water. Jesus was born in a stable, which with the thatched roof qualified as a sukkah. The stable was used during the winter to protect infant lambs during the first week of life, while they were still vulnerable to the weather. Jesus, like infant lambs, was inspected by Levitical Shepherds and found without blemish thus qualified to be selected for sacrifice on Passover: The Lamb of God! It is interesting to note that just as it says in scripture the first shall be last and the last shall be first (Mt 19:30, Mk 10:31): Tabernacles was the first of the Feasts to be fulfilled and the last in the list on the Jewish lunar, solar calendar.

Checking consistency with the rest of scripture

It is one thing to derive the approximate year of Jesus birth and to believe that Jesus fulfilled the feast of Tabernacles with his birth. It is another to show that is in accord with Matthew and Luke’s description of all the events surrounding the conception of John the Baptist and the birth of Jesus.
A birth on the Feast of Tabernacles explains:
  1. Why there was no room in the inn (the caravansary courtyard): it was full of wealthy men’s tents (sukkot). Noone could stay inside the inn, so the rich set up their sukkah in the courtyard where the poor people normally stayed.
  2. Why Jesus was born in a stable: it qualified as a sukkah and provided more privacy than a poor man’s sukkah.
  3. Why none of Joseph’s relatives opened their home to Mary who was about to give birth: she wouldn’t have stayed anywhere but in a sukkah.
  4. It fulfills both Jewish celebrations of light:
    • The Incarnation on the last day of Chanukah, the little celebration of light, when every family had lit all nine candles (one for each of the eight days of Chanukah and the center one to light the other candles.) Every family had Menorahs for each of the older children in addition to the family Menorah. A half a million families with just one older child each lighting their Menorahs produces 9 million candle power.
    • The Feast of Tabernacles, the great celebration of light, for which 4 giant (75’) Menorahs were erected in the Court of Women produced enough light to keep all of Jerusalem lit up all night.
One of the things about the story of the Nativity that struck me the most was that Jesus was born in a stable used to protect ‘paschal’ lambs from the weather. He was inspected by Levitical shepherds (All the shepherds around Bethlehem were caring for the flocks owned by the Sadducees and only a Levitical shepherd could declare a lamb unblemished). Jesus was found without blemish; thus, qualified to be a lamb for sacrifice on Passover: The Lamb of God. That would not have happened if He had not been born on the Feast of Tabernacles. He would have been born in a family home, remember Joseph was from Bethlehem. He certainly had friends and family there. In a culture with a strong tradition of helping travelers, Joseph would not have been refused shelter in his own home town, especially when his wife was in labor.

John the Baptist was most likely to have been born on Passover, March 20, 2BC. + The Jewish tradition has been that Elijah would return on Passover, Nisan 15. Thus, according to the tradition, to this day, the Jews leave a place for Elijah at the table, for the Passover Seder Meal. The angel Gabriel told Zechariah that his son, John, would have the spirit of Elijah (Lk 1:17). Although that makes the birth of John three weeks early, Elizabeth was certainly in enough stress. Mary was in her 15th week and Joseph’s arrival for the celebration of the Seder was his first encounter with Mary since the Incarnation.

We know from scripture that Zechariah was serving in the temple during his divisions “normal” course of service when the angel appeared to him (Lk 1:11). Normal course of service means he was not serving during one of the convocations during which a man from any division could serve. We know that he was of the division of Abijah (Lk 1:5) which is the eighth division. There were 24 divisions (1Chr 24:7-18), and each served for a week twice a year. 24 divisions twice a year is 48 weeks. There are 51 weeks (50 weeks and 4 days) in a year on the Jewish calendar. In a leap year there is an additional 4 weeks and 2 days. The temptation is to consider that the extra weeks were all common weeks or that the rotation continued during the leap year but paused during the convocations: festival weeks of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, when all men were required to be in Jerusalem ... . However Gemera Suka 55b-56a + and Rambam Hilchos Klei Hamkidash 4:4-6 + indicate that during the festivals all Kohanim, priests, could serve in the service that was specific to the holiday. They were selected by lot for that service. They would all share from the Lechem Hapanim, the showbread, and the two breads of Shavuos, the leavened bread offered at Pentecost, but other sacrifices were brought by the mishmar, the division of priests, of that week. Thus, the weeks served by each division shifted from year to year and the rotation never paused. That means a division could over time serve in any of the weeks. There is no reference in scripture as to which division of Priests was serving on any particular date. There is however a reference in the Talmud + that Jehoiarib was serving on the 9th of Av in 70 AD, and a correlative reference in Josephus when the temple was destroyed, + (Saturday August 4th 70 AD). All that needs to be done is to walk the Hebrew calendar back in time.

Luke tells us that John the Baptist began his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar (Lk 3:1), who reigned from September 17, 14 AD to 37 AD. ... That means his 15th year began on September 17, 28 AD and ended at his 15th anniversary which would have been Sept. 17, 29 AD.

John was the son of a priest and was himself a Rabbi. John was called rabbi by Jesus. Only a Rabbi could make a new interpretation of Scripture so it was not a title used lightly and applied to any teachers. John would have been trained as a Rabbi. A Rabbi began his ministry at age 30. We also know that Jesus was 30 when He was baptized by John and began his ministry (Lk 3:23), about 6 months after John began his ministry. So, if John was 30 by September 17, 29 AD then he was born in 2 BC or late 3 BC. There was no year 0. So, if he was born in 2 BC, he was 1 in 1 BC; 2 in 1 AD; and 30 in 29 AD. Thus, John would have most likely been conceived in 3 BC.

There are only 2 cases to consider:
  1. John was conceived Shevat 10, 3758 (Jan 26, 3 BC) which would imply that Jesus was born on Nisan 15, 3759. That might explain why the caravansary was full ... (there was no room in the inn).
  2. John was conceived Av 1, 3758 (July 13, 3 BC) which implies that Jesus was born on Tishrei 15, 3760 (Sept 13, 2 BC). That explains: why the caravansary was full; why Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger; why shepherds were sent to the manger; and how the Feast of Tabernacles was fulfilled, and even fulfills the Feast of Chanukah.
We know that Mary conceived right away since, when Mary arrived in Ein Kerem seven days later, Elizabeth knew she was pregnant. We could then assume that Elizabeth likewise conceived right away, especially since Zechariah was given great incentive to believe what the Angel told him. Since Zechariah didn’t initially believe, to make his point the Angel struck him mute (Lk 1:20). Scripture tells us that Zechariah served the rest of his week before returning home (Lk 1:23). If Elizabeth conceived on Av 1, 3758, the night Zechariah returned home; then Av, Elul, Tishrei, Cheshvan, and Kislev were the 1st thru 5th months of her pregnancy. Tevet is Elizabeth’s 6th month. If the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary on Tevet 2 then 278 days later (during the 40th week), + Mary gave birth on the 15th of Tishrei: The Feast of Tabernacles, The Feast of God with Us, The Feast of Emanuel.

The 8th day of the celebration of the re-dedication of the Temple, Chanukah, after the temple had been polluted by Antiochus Epiphanies, marked a new beginning in the relationship between the Israelites and Yahweh. That year, 3 BC, it was truly a new beginning in man’s relationship with God: God became man!

The Feast of Tabernacles and the 8th day of Chanukah are the two celebrations of light in the Jewish religion. On the eighth day of Chanukah all eight candles on the menorah are lit. + On that day Jesus, the light of the world, was conceived. On the Feast of Tabernacles four giant menorahs were constructed in the court of women in the temple and lit . The light from the four giant menorahs could be seen all over Jerusalem, making it light all night long, and the light from the 75’ menorahs could be seen in Bethlehem where Jesus, the light of the world, was born. ...

The dates of Jesus birth and death are readily established by looking at the Jewish Religious Calendar. Once the Feasts of the Lord celebrated by the Jews are recognized as Messianic prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus on the day of the feast it is easy to conclude that Jesus was born on September 13th, 2BC (the Feast of Tabernacles), and that Jesus died on preparation day for the Feast of Passover, April 3rd, 33AD (Nisan 14, 3793).

Thus, we have established from scripture the date of Jesus birth and validated it via the story of the conception of John the Baptist and the consistency with the narrated events surrounding the birth of Jesus. There should be no further requirement, but our atheistic society demands extra-biblical validation and Luke was kind enough to provide it.

Extra Biblical Validation.

The biggest obstacle to dating Christ birth is the belief that because Herod’s son began his reign in 4 BC, Herod must have died in 4 BC. Thus, Jesus must have been born before Herod died. However, Herod was reduced from a “friend” to a “subject” by Cesar Augustus in 4 BC + for sending troops into Arabia. He did not die! He then had to share his reign with his chosen heir, Antipater. ...

Antipater considered his two younger half-brothers who were of “Royal”, Hasmodean, descent a potential threat. He connived to have them executed for treason. Then Antipater plotted to kill Herod, so he would not have to wait to have control of the kingdom. His plot was discovered and exposed. Since Herod had been demoted, he had to get Varus, governor of Syria, to hear the case. (That would be difficult to do while dead.) Varus found Antipater guilty and left the punishment up to Herod. Herod ordered him executed. + Herod then decided to split the kingdom between his three remaining sons: Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip. Their reigns were antedated to when Herod was demoted to show the continuity of reign. Coins confirm that antedating was common. Herod died 3 years after Antipater was executed. +

Josephus gives two indications of the length of the rule of Herod: 1) He says Herod had a reign of 37 years from the time he was proclaimed king by the Romans and; 2) He says he reigned for 34 years after the death of Antigonus, which happened shortly after Herod took Jerusalem. + Herod took Jerusalem late in 36 BC. Josephus says Herod captured Jerusalem 27 years to the day that Pompey committed his abominations, which happened in 63 BC. He also said it was on the occasion of the 185th Olympiad which began in July of 36 BC. + Both clearly give 36 BC for Herod's capture of Jerusalem. If we use the common accession method of counting years of rule, + a practice the Jews copied from the Babylonians, the date to start his 34 years is on the 1st of Tishrei in 35 BC or on the 1st of Nisan in 35 BC (the beginning of the Temple year following the capture of Jerusalem). Israel’s Northern and Southern Kingdom used different methods of accession counting: one using the Secular year starting on Tishrei 1 and the other used the Temple year starting on Nissan 1. Which method that was used by Josephus doesn’t really matter as both imply a death in 1 BC. So, Herod's 34th year of rule would start with the 1st of Tishrei in 2 BC and end with the 1st of Tishrei in 1 BC or would start with the 1st of Nisan in 2 BC and end with first of Nisan in 1 BC. Now 34 years after 35 BC would give 1 BC for the death and end of the reign of Herod.

The crux of the debate on the date of the death of Herod lies in the statement of Josephus that Herod died shortly after having Matthias burned alive on the day of a “fast” and that very night there was an eclipse of the moon. +

The point missed by all the scholars is that: “Josephus calls the day of the fall of Jerusalem "the day of the fast" (νηστείας ἡμέρα; "Ant." xiv. 4, § 3); but in this he merely followed the phraseology of his Gentile sources, which regarded the Sabbath as a fast-day, according to the then current Greco-Roman view. Dio Cassius says (xxxvii. 16) correctly that it was on a "Cronos day," this term likewise denoting the Sabbath. + There are four candidate eclipses considered by the scholars:
  1. Friday September 15, 5 BC
  2. Monday, Tuesday Mar 12-13, 4 BC
  3. Saturday January 10, 1 BC
  4. Wednesday December 29, 1 BC

There is only one that falls on a Sabbath (Cronus Day) and it is also the most memorable: being a Total Eclipse centered over Libya just west of Jerusalem which lasted 3 hours and 34 minutes and was in total eclipse an hour and 39 minutes: certainly, worthy of being the eclipse mention by Josephus.

Herod died soon after the total eclipse of the moon as indicated by Josephus. The eclipse occurred on Jan. 10, 1 BC. +

Jul Date
Umbra Magnitude
Jan 10, 1 BC

Luke also ties the birth of Jesus to a census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria (Lk 2:2).  This has caused problems because Quirinius reigned from 6 to 9 AD. But considering that: “there was found near Tibur (Tivoli) in AD.1764 a fragment of marble known as the Lapis Tiburtinus, with part of an inscription, which is now preserved in the Lateran Museum of Christian Antiquities, as one of the important monuments bearing on the history of Christianity:

Lapis Tiburtinus
The inscription records the career and honors of a Roman official who lived in the reign of Augustus, and who survived that emperor. He conquered a nation; he was rewarded with two Supplicationes and the Ornamenta Triumphalia, i.e., the gorgeous dress of a triumphing general, with ivory scepter and chariot, etc.; he governed Asia as proconsul; and he twice governed Syria as legatus of the divine Augustus.
Though the name has perished, yet these indications are sufficient to show with practical certainty (as all the highest authorities are agreed -- Mommsen, Borghesi, de Rossi, Henzen, Dessau, and others), that the officer who achieved this splendid career was Publius Sulpicius Quirinius.  His government of Syria in 6-9 AD, was therefore his second tenure of that office. He had administered Syria at some previous time. Is not this earlier administration the occasion to which Luke refers? +
“Here again, however, we are confronted with a serious difficulty. The supreme authority on the subject, Mommsen, considers that the most probable date for Quirinius's first government of Syria is about BC.3-1.” +

That serious difficulty evaporates when we realize that Jesus was born in 2 BC not sometime before 4 BC as was assumed by Mommsen and others.

We have established now that Quirinius was the Governor of Syria at the time of Jesus’ birth.  We still want to validate the rest of Luke’s statement, that there was a requirement to go to the ancestral home for taxation. The Romans levied both a Land Tax and a Poll tax.  The Land Tax was levied every 14 years and only affected the wealthy who owned property.  The Poll Tax was also levied every 14 years.  It affected both men (age 14 to 60) and women (age 12 to 60).  The Poll Tax required everyone to return to their home city and register.  The Poll Taxation occurred half way between the Land taxations.  There was a Land tax riot mentioned by Josephus which occurred in 6 AD.  Thus, the prior Land Tax would have occurred in 9BC and the Poll tax would have occurred in 2 BC and would have been executed by Quirinius during his first reign as governor of Syria from 3 to 1 BC. +

Jewish Temple Priest Rotation- Courses of Priest from 70 AD to 4 BC

This spreadsheet is very large so it will take a few moments to completely load onto screen. Temple rotation occurred at sunrise on Saturday morning so Jehoiarib would have begun serving at sunrise on Saturday August 4th. The priests were in the Temple saying the prayers for Sunday evening when the soldiers actually broke into the Holy of Holies.

To scroll down use the scroll wheel on your mouse, or the scroll bar on the right side of the spreadsheet. There are two sheets. Sheet1 shows the serving Division of Priest beginning in the week ending 8/11/70 AD and goes back in time to the week ending 1/5/3 BC. Sheet2 begins with week ending 1/5/3 BC and goes forward in time to week ending 8/11/70 AD. Also, those interested can view the full document in Excel format here.

Validation of the Jewish Calendar

Some scholars may complain that this is a derived calendar, whereas the Jews only started using a derived calendar after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD and therefore, all my dates are suspect at best because all the dates are on or before 70 AD. However the derived calendar was derived based on 2000 years of practice. And was self correcting every spring. So to validate the calendar I will demonstrate its validity using NASA’s solar and lunar eclipse records. All dates are going to be plus or minus 1 day because the date changes at sunset not midnight and because the Jews tweaked the calendar to prevent back to back Sabbaths. Because the Hebrew calendar is a lunar based calendar a total solar eclipse can only occur on the 1st of the month and a total lunar eclipse can only occur on the 15th of a month. We have shown that the temple destruction began on the 9th of Av, of 70 AD and the Talmud establishes that on the 10 of Av the priests were reciting the prayers for the afternoon of the first day of the week when the soldiers came into the Holy of Holies. On our derived calendar the 9th of Av is also a Saturday, August 4th and the 10th is thus also a Sunday the first day of the week: Sunday August 5th: exactly right. Once again the validity of the date of the crucifixion is easy because the moon rose over Jerusalem as a partial blood moon: in a partial eclipse on April 3rd of the year 33 AD. [27] (As referenced by Peter's speech referring to the day of Jesus' crucifixion on Pentecost (Acts 2:20) as a fulfillment of Joel's prophecy. (Joel 2:10) As shown in this Web publication the crucifixion happened on April 3rd, 33AD, the 14th of Nissan the eve of Passover. To validate the calendar for the date of Jesus’ birth we have:
  • On February 15, 3 BC a total solar eclipse #4757 which occurred on the last day of Adar, 30 Adar
  • On January 10, 1BC a total lunar eclipse #4821 which occurred on the 15th of Shevat
  • On July 5, 1 BC a total lunar eclipse #4822 which occurred on the 14th of Tammuz
  • Since Jesus was born on Tishrei 15, of 2 BC, which is after the solar eclipse of February 15, 3 BC at which time the derived calendar was exactly right and before the total lunar eclipse of January 10th, 1 BC at which time the derived calendar was exactly right; we have established the date of his birth.


- approximately 12/16/-3 to 3/19/-2 about 3 months  (Lk 1:56)
A Love Story

Our Father
As Mary reflected on the words of the angel, she realized the angel had given her a sign in the pregnancy of Elizabeth. Gabriel had said: “Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God” (Lk 1:36-37). (HM-1).

Mary rejoiced for Elizabeth. Elizabeth ... Elizabeth and Zechariah lived only 6 miles (9.6 kilometers) from the temple where Mary lived for 8 years.  Being childless, Elizabeth devoted care and attention to the children in the Temple.  During her stay in the Temple, Mary saw much more of Elizabeth than she did of her parents, who lived 90 miles (145 kilometers) away.  Mary knew how much her own child would mean to Elizabeth.  As she thought about Elizabeth, Mary also realized that Elizabeth, because of her age, would need help during the last months of her pregnancy and she was already in her sixth month.  Mary was delighted at the thought of helping Elizabeth.  She had to go to Elizabeth!  Now Elizabeth needed her!
Map of Palestine

It was the last day of Chanukah, an 8-day Feast, one of the few that does not require travel to Jerusalem.  Chanukah was an opportunity for people from Jerusalem to travel to spend the holiday with friends and relatives who did not live in Jerusalem. (On the other holidays, Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, everyone had to come to Jerusalem).  There were likely visitors from Jerusalem in Nazareth who would be returning to Jerusalem right after the feast, on Tuesday December 10th, the 3rd of Tevet.  We are told that “Mary made haste”.(Lk 1:39) Mary likely joined that caravan going from Nazareth back to Jerusalem, leaving the following morning.  Elizabeth lived in Ein Karem, Israel, which is about 5 miles (8 kilometers) west of Jerusalem.  Mary only went with the caravan as far as the turn off to Ein Karem, which is about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) north of Ein Karem.  “Mary entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. ... When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leapt in her womb (Lk 1:40-41), and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, realized that Mary was the mother of the Messiah.  (HM-2)

Elizabeth cried out in a loud voice; “Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:41-43). Elizabeth knows!

Mary followed the sign given by the angel Gabriel and is rewarded with confirmation of the angel’s message!  Now, suddenly Mary has someone with whom to share her joy!  God has not only filled Mary with joy at the Annunciation, He wants Mary to experience the full measure of joy, so He has now provided someone to share it with.  Someone who also has great joy to share: Elizabeth was barren and now she is pregnant and in her 6th month (Lk 1:37).   Elizabeth has just recently come out of seclusion (Lk 1:24) and somehow Mary already knows and has come all the way from Nazareth to help her. Joy is not complete until it is shared.  (HM-3)

Notice also that Mary turns everything to God.  Mary immediately proclaims how great God is: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for He has regarded the humility of his handmaid.  For behold henceforth all generations will call me fortunate; ... for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.  He has shown strength with his arm, He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their hearts, He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent empty away.  He has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his posterity forever” (Lk 1:46-55).

When did I last turn a complement to God’s glory where it truly belongs? When did I last give glory to God? (HM-4)

It is important to realize the humility of Mary.  She did not consider herself a candidate to be the mother of the Messiah.  Mary truly considered herself just a handmaid who loved God and her people.  She loved so much that she had committed to make her whole life a prayer to bring the Messiah into the world.  Now she is to be the instrument that brings him into the world.  (HM-5)

Elizabeth is also someone with whom Mary can share her concerns as well as her joy.  As Mary thinks about her situation she turns to Elizabeth for advice.  Mary has shared the story of the angel’s visit with Elizabeth.  Thus, Elizabeth knows that Joseph isn’t aware of it and that there was no mention of Joseph during the angels visit.  Mary had a deep love and respect for Joseph.  She does not want Joseph to be hurt nor does she know how to tell him.  Mary and Elizabeth surely talk about the approach to telling him and concluded that it was a problem best left for God.  They would not presume to know the rest of God’s plan or Joseph’s place in it!  It is the height of arrogance to attempt to do God a favor.  They would simply trust God to handle it.  (HM-6)

Mary would meet her betrothed, Joseph, for Passover.  As Mary’s betrothed, Joseph would have been expected to join Mary’s extended family to celebrate the Passover Seder meal. He probably traveled from Nazareth with Mary’s parents for the festival in Jerusalem. 

One Year Old Male Lamb
Mary’s extended family: relatives, friends and neighbors numbered about 70: men, women, and children. The minimum number required to consume a year-old lamb was 10 adult males (males over 13) with their immediate families, while the average number was 20 adult males.  The Paschal Lamb had to be at least 8 days old (about 12 to 15 lbs, 5 to 7 kg) and not more than a year old. A year-old male lamb weighed from 70 to 100 lbs. (32 to 45 kg). A small lamb weighing 70 lbs. (32 kg) produced 27 lbs. (12 kg) of meat. + The entire lamb needed to be consumed.  Anything left over had to be burnt.

Joseph has not seen Mary for at least 3 months.  By Passover Mary was in her 15th week ... (see the 4th month), enough to tell on a woman who was accustomed to fasting: a regular practice for a devout Israelite.  Mary was likely self-conscious and Joseph was perceptive enough to recognize the problem.  Mary saw the confusion and pain in Joseph’s face.  There was nothing she could say. 
Stages of Pregnancy
Elizabeth was overcome by the stress of the situation: seeing Joseph as he looked at Mary, watching Mary as Joseph looked at her, trying to protect Mary, trying to communicate to Joseph the integrity of Mary, but Mary is obviously pregnant, and yet Elizabeth cannot address the obvious.  The combination of the stress of Mary’s situation and the stress of Passover Meal preparations: three meals for the extended family, 70 plus people, to be prepared before sun down was likely enough stress to cause Elizabeth to go into labor and deliver early! ... That would have distracted Joseph and the rest of the family. More importantly, Mary would have been totally focused on helping Elizabeth. Joseph could not speak with her. (HM-7)  

After Elizabeth’s baby is born and the Seder meal finished, things began to settle down. Joseph laid down for the night in a common area (likely the roof) with the rest of the extended family. ...

His thoughts return to Mary and her situation.  Mary left suddenly 3 months ago, had she been attacked?  He was hurting.  He felt betrayed.  Then he considered the consequences to Mary.  It was not his child, so if he denounced her she would be stoned to death as an adulteress.  Over the two and a half years that he has known Mary, he has grown to love her.  Mary was such a good, kind, and loving girl.  She had an incredible love of God.  It was difficult to understand how this could have happened.  He could not let such a one be stoned.  If instead he just submitted a writ of divorce to the Great Sanhedrin, ... then she would be a repudiated woman and free to marry the father of her child, if that was what she wanted.  But, because he had not divorced her for adultery, people would think that he was the father.  He would be considered a “deadbeat” father and be scorned and possibly even shunned for casting Mary off while she was with child.  As shameful as that would be, he could not leave Mary subject to the law (stoning).  Joseph chose to divorce Mary privately rather than to make an example of her (Mt 1:19).  He chose to give up his own reputation for Mary.  Joseph chose to take on Mary’s "guilt”,  just as Jesus has taken on our guilt.  There is no greater love than to give up your life for someone (Jn 15:13)  
Typical home during Jesus’ time
Joseph fell asleep, praying over the problem, but his decision has been made.  An angel appeared to him in a dream.  It must have been a dream as only Joseph, in a crowded area, saw or heard the angel and yet it was so real that Joseph was wide awake at the end and could not doubt its reality.

The angel said: “Joseph son of David, do not fear to take Mary, your wife, for what is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit: she will bear a son and you will name him Jesus, ‘Yahweh saves’, for He will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:20-21).  

Naming Jesus was an adoptive act.  Joseph was to adopt Jesus as his own son.  The Angel had asked Joseph if he would take Mary into his home and be the father to Jesus.   I wonder if Joseph slept at all the remainder of the night.  Joseph pondered the implications of being a father to the Messiah, a father to the Son of God!  He had thought, with his vow of celibacy, he would never get to experience the joy of fatherhood.  He had thought that, even though he was a descendant of David, he was not worthy to even be considered to be in line for the fatherhood of the Messiah.  He took the vow of celibacy as a prayer to bring the Messiah. Now the Messiah was not only coming, He was coming into Joseph’s care!  His sorrow has turned to great joy: his prayer for the Messiah has been answered.  Mary is not an adulteress, she is the mother of the Messiah!  He can hardly wait for Mary to awake. 

Consider the joy in the house on the following morning, the morning following the Seder Supper.  Mary and Joseph shared the stories of their respective angelic visits: “Mary, an angel came to me last night …”  Think of the flood of relief and joy that poured over Mary at those words! 

Elizabeth and Zechariah are now parents of a son, just as the angel had told Zechariah. They are now also overwhelmed with relief and delight at the sight of Mary and Joseph together: hand in hand and grinning from ear to ear!  One look at the joy on Mary’s face and Elizabeth knows that Joseph is also part of God’s plan. 

Mary’s parents are told that they will be grandparents after all, of the Messiah! (Remember Mary’s father had to give his permission for Mary to take a vow of celibacy.) (HM-8)

The Seder celebration has a custom of setting an extra place at the table for Elijah, because of the tradition that Elijah would return on Passover. + That year, with the birth of John the Baptist, whom the angel Gabriel told Zechariah had the spirit of Elijah (Lk 1:17), Elijah did return for the Seder meal on Passover of 2 BC.

Normally the father of the groom determines when a marriage for a betrothed couple will be formalized: the nisu’in is celebrated under the wedding canopy.  Hence the saying “Only the Father knows the day and the hour” (Mt 24:36).  The father determines the day and the hour based on the couple’s behavior.   Think about that in the context of Mt 24:36. (HM-9)

But if Joseph was 30 years old then he alone could decide when the nisu’in is celebrated.  Joseph and Mary likely celebrated it that same day, while together with the extended family in Jerusalem.  Zechariah, a priest, has known Mary’s situation for three months.  He gladly officiates at the ceremony (with someone reading the words for him as is normally done even today for a priest or minister who lost his speech to a stroke).

Since John was born on Passover, his circumcision would have taken place on Passover Yizkor. ... Circumcisions took place on the 8th day even if it fell on a Sabbath.  Mary and Joseph would have stayed for the celebration.  They would not have left for home until Nisan 23. ...

And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zechariah,after his father. But his mother answered and said, “No, he will be called John.”

And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.” And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called.

Zechariah asked for a tablet and wrote as follows: “His name is John.” And they were all astonished and at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea.

All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.

And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for his people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David his servant [a prophecy concerning Jesus]  - as He spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old - Salvation from our enemies from the hand of all who hate us; to show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant.  The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

“And [concerning his own son] you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare his ways to give to his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Lk 1:57-79).  [Jesus is the dawn from on high, the “Sunrise”, who will visit us bringing ‘life’, ‘light’, and ‘peace’]. +

After sharing such a powerful experience as that which occurred throughout the Feast of Passover; Mary and Joseph did not leave until they had made plans to return in the fall, when they would be relocating to Bethlehem, a suburb of Jerusalem. ... Both Mary and Joseph knew that Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2), Joseph’s home town. Even if they hadn’t remembered it, Zechariah would surely have reminded them.  Knowing Mary was carrying the Messiah; Zechariah would have reviewed all the scriptural prophesies relating to the Messiah.

Mary and Joseph had been betrothed for almost 3 years.  Mary has been away from home, Nazareth, for just over three months and returns a married woman.  Joseph’s family is from Bethlehem where the wedding would have normally been held.  No one in Nazareth would have expected a wedding in Nazareth. 
Mary and Joseph left Nazareth for Bethlehem 3 weeks before Jesus’ birth, the last week of August.  They then fled from Herod by going from Bethlehem to Cairo, Egypt. ... The Holy Family did not return to Nazareth for almost 8 months.  They did not return to Nazareth until after Passover in 1 BC, returning from Jerusalem with the caravan from Nazareth on Sunday, April 15th, 1 BC.  The timing of Jesus’ birth versus the formalization of the marriage would simply never have arisen.  (HM-10, GB, OMJ)

Reflections on the Visitation

Mary’s initial thought was service
Mary, your initial reaction to the angel’s message was to go and help Elizabeth.  You immediately decided to go take a 90 mile, 6-day walk to help someone.  My reaction would be: “Good for her, I’ll bet she is excited.”  Teach me to focus on service for that too is prayer.  It is taking an active part in the Mystical Body of your son.  Help me to recognize opportunities to serve.

Turn the praise back to God
Mary, when Elizabeth recognized you as the mother of the Messiah, your first reaction was to turn the praise to God.  You turned Elizabeth’s focus directly to God.  Help me to keep in mind that all things come from God and all praise belongs to God.  If I am given the gift to accomplish something it is only because God has first given me both the opportunity and the skills necessary to accomplish it.  I have simply been blessed to be his instrument.

Do not presume to do God a favor
God can do anything.  He does not need me to do anything for him.  If he wants something he will ask directly or through one of his messengers (angels).  Most often though, He provides both an opportunity through a series of coincidences and a compulsion to do what He is asking.  If he has not asked, it is not time and He may even block my attempts to do so.  It is presumption to think that God needs me to do something.  It is likely not possible to be more arrogant.  Lord give me the grace to recognize that when you have not presented the opportunity it is simply not time.  Give me the wisdom to recognize when it is time.  Give me the humility to accept that I am not finished.  Give me the grace to see what still needs to be done.  Thank you, Lord for what you have provided already. God has given me the desire, so I must change my prayer to one of “Show me what I must do to be ready.”

Mary was given a sign by Gabriel
When Mary went to Ein Kerem to see Elizabeth she was also responding to the sign given her by Gabriel.  For her effort she was rewarded with confirmation of all that the angel had said, since Elizabeth realized she was carrying the Messiah.  Elizabeth’s words: “Happy is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:4were fulfilled at that very moment.

Joseph was not told until he had decided to give his life for Mary
Joseph, God chose to wait until you had decided what to do about Mary, before He let you in on his plan.  I think He wanted you to know that you had in fact chosen to give yourself for Mary.  He wanted you to know you had freely chosen love.  Help me to love.  Keep me aware of my choices in the little things of the day.  Picking up some trash on the floor, putting something left out away, taking out the trash, a word of encouragement, an acknowledgement of the effort of another, and doing what needs to be done are also acts of love.  You lived a life in the background, always there, always providing, always loving.  Help me to imitate you.  God has shown me that in doing things for love, that are never mentioned, God will not be out done in generosity:  Peace reigns, the Kingdom of God comes.  I wish I knew more about you, Joseph.  I love the staircase you built in Santa Fe.  That was something beautifully done and then you simply left, asking for no acknowledgement or payment.


- September 13, 2 BC/Tishrei 15, 3760
The birth of the Lamb of God

Our Father
That summer there came a decree, from Caesar Augustus, that the entire world should be taxed. ... Joseph, being from the house of David and intending to relocate to his home town, Bethlehem, now also had to go to Bethlehem to register for the poll tax (Lk 2:1-3). The census during the reign of Quirinius ... required all to travel to their own city sometime during the fall and winter months: when harvest was over.  Harvest completion was marked by the Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkoth, an 8-day feast, beginning on Tishrei 15.  

The Feast is in remembrance of God’s physical presence with the Israelites in the pillar of cloud and fire, during the Exodus (Ex 13:21).  It is also called the Feast of God with us, in Hebrew: “Emanuel”.(HM-1)

The Israelites lived in booths, called a sukkot, during the Exodus.  They were accompanied during their journey by the physical presence of God in the Pilar of cloud by day and a Pilar of fire by night.  They were also provided water from the rock that accompanied them during the Exodus.  Thus there are three components to the celebration of Tabernacles: lights, water, and booths: 

  1. The Illumination of the Temple Ceremony in which four oil fed lamps, seventy-five-foot Menorahs, provided light to the entire city all night long just as the pillar of fire provided light during the Exodus (Jesus is the light of the world).

  2. The Joyous Water-Drawing Ceremony. + On Sukkoth, water was also poured over the altar in a special ceremony. This ritual engendered such joy that it was celebrated with music, dancing and singing all night long.  It celebrates the fact that during the Exodus water flowed from the rock that accompanied them during their journey (Jesus is the source of living water.) ... (HM-2)

  3.                 Expensive Sukkah     Exodus Encampment        Minimum Sukkah
    Holy Land Caravansary

  4. Tabernacles is also called Shelters or Booths because during the entire eight days, all Israelites are required to live in shelters, called sukkot, like they did during the Exodus. The sukkot are tents for the wealthy but for the common people, like a carpenter and his wife, it was a kind of lean-to. A sukkah must have at least 3 sides, allow the stars to be visible, and have a cover of branches: a leaky thatched roof. If it rains you are supposed to get wet!

Joseph needed to go to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles as it is a convocation during which every Israelite male over 13 was required to go to the designated place of worship: Jerusalem. Bethlehem is a suburb of Jerusalem, just 5 miles (8 kilometers) south of the Temple.  Although it is only 70 miles (113 kilometers) from Nazareth to Jerusalem the route the caravan would take was 92 miles (148 kilometers) to avoid going through Samaria.

Travel arrangements were complicated by the fact that a large group, most of whom are on foot, could only travel 15 miles (24 kilometers) per day ... and Jerusalem was 92 miles (148 kilometers) away via the Kings Road. That meant a 6-day trip. Normally you would begin a 6-day trip on Sunday and arrive on Friday in time for the Sabbath. The Feast of Tabernacles, the 15th of Tishrei, was always a Sabbath and that year it fell on the Sabbath so for the 92-mile (148 kilometer) trip one would need to leave on the 9th. But the 10th of Tishrei was always a Sabbath since it was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day the year. Then the 8th that year was a Sabbath and the 1st was the Feast of Trumpets. For which the first day of the two-day Feast was also a Sabbath. Unless you wanted to spend a Sabbath or two in a caravansary you were going to have to leave on the 24th of Elul (August 24th).  Thus, there were probably 2 caravans from Nazareth that year. The first on the 24th of Elul enabling the travelers to spend all the feast days in Jerusalem and the second caravan would have left on the 7th of Tishri (September 5th) giving those travelers an extra ten days to finish the harvesting, but their trip was 8 days instead of 6. The additional 2 days were spent in a caravansary joined in prayer with other travelers.  It can be noted that a group with mounts (donkeys, horses, or camels) could easily make 25 miles (40 kilometers) per day making the journey in 4 days but everyone would need to be mounted. A group with no children or elderly could travel 20 miles (32 kilometers) in a day, making the journey in 5 days.

Mary and Joseph joined the first caravan, as that provided them the safety of travel in a caravan with their possessions, since they were moving to Bethlehem.  It also allowed them to spend the feasts of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with Elizabeth and Zechariah as they had planned.  Mary and Joseph loaded their possessions onto a donkey cart ... and joined their neighbors traveling in the caravan from Nazareth to Jerusalem. During the 6-day journey from Nazareth the caravan stopped for the night at caravansaries: inns with a central courtyard.  The central courtyard was intended for the pack animals: camels, mules, donkeys, horses, and oxen that were used to transport the travelers and their baggage.  The courtyard provided security for the travelers’ property from wild animals and bands of thieves. The poor travelers stayed in the courtyard with the animals while the wealthy rented space in the inn.  The courtyard in unpopulated areas usually contained a mini market providing provender for the pack animals and food and supplies for the travelers.  (HM-3)

Mary and Joseph likely separated from the caravan at the turn off to Ein Karem just as Mary had done when she went to help Elizabeth.  They still had 2 weeks before the baby was due and they haven’t seen Elizabeth and Zechariah since John was circumcised and Zechariah regained his speech.  They remained with Elizabeth and Zechariah through the first of the holidays.  They planned to leave Ein Karem for Bethlehem on the 14th of Tishrei, Friday the 12th of September, and set up their sukkah in Bethlehem thereby spending the eight-day Feast of Tabernacles with Joseph’s family.  Joseph planned on preparing their house ... while they were living in the sukkah as was required during the eight-day feast.  They set out on Friday morning for the 6.75-mile (10.8 Km) trip to Bethlehem. (A donkey cart can travel 3 mph and can travel for 10 hours/day). + At 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) per hour traveling by themselves the trip would only have taken about 2.5 hours.  They were traveling along the south side of Jerusalem never more than a few miles (kilometers) from Jerusalem which would have been safe traveling.

Travelers without family or friends in Jerusalem, upon arriving in environs of Jerusalem, set up their sukkot in the central courtyard of the caravansaries with the pack animals and baggage.  This allowed them to leave their property in the caravansary and go to the Temple or market, as was required, without fear of losing their property.  With the courtyards filling up with sukkot even the caravansaries as far away as Bethlehem filled quickly.  For the next 8 days, no one lived inside!  The Greek word for “caravansary” which is used by Luke in his Gospel has been translated into English as “inn”.

Arriving at the caravansary in Bethlehem early Friday afternoon, Joseph discovers the courtyard is already full of sukkot (there is physically no room in the “inn”, the caravansary courtyard, to set up even a poor man's sukkah).  (HM-4)

Joseph has family in Bethlehem, so he seeks them out to set up his sukkah with theirs and at the same time to arrange for assistance for Mary who was now beginning labor.  It is suggested that rather than use Joseph’s sukkah, they use one of the nearby stables. + The stables were only used to protect new born lambs from the cold weather.  The stables are currently empty since the temple flocks are still in pasture. ...

Joseph’s sukkah does not provide the required privacy for giving birth.  The stable qualifies as a sukkah, provides privacy, and is much warmer than Joseph’s lean-to.  Joseph’s family is there to assist Mary with the birth of Jesus.  (HM-5)

When my daughter had her first child, a son, as she lay in the hospital bed holding her son, she looked up at me and said: “I didn’t think it was possible to love a human being this much!”  Worn out from hours of labor, hair in dis-array, with no makeup, her face radiated with so much joy, I have never seen her so beautiful!

Consider the joy felt by both Mary and Joseph.  They also know that their little baby boy is the long-awaited Messiah!   The baby is God’s Son.  God’s own son is the answer to their prayer for the Messiah!  (HM-6)

Their joy is magnified when shepherds arrive ... with news that a host of angels had appeared and that the angels were singing praise to God.  The shepherds explain that the angels told them where to find the child (Lk 2:8-16). Mary and Joseph are now sharing their joy with the shepherds!  (HM-7)

The shepherds to whom the angelic host appeared had been tending the temple flocks.  The Sadducees had a monopoly on Paschal lambs.  The Sadducees’ flock had more than 600,000 sheep and goats.  They controlled all the pasturage for 6 or 7 miles (10 or 11 kilometers) in all directions from Bethlehem.  When a ewe gave birth, a Levitical ... shepherd inspected the lamb.  If it was a male without blemish both the ewe and the lamb were moved to a separate flock and especially cared for.  The lamb was destined for the Paschal sacrifice in the Temple.  The shepherds, likely all Levites, were sent by the heavenly hosts to the stable in Bethlehem to inspect God’s First Born, Mary’s first born: The Lamb of God!  (HM-8)

Jesus is Mary’s first born, born in a stable used by the Levitical shepherds to protect new born Paschal Lambs from the weather.  He is inspected by the Levitical shepherds and found without blemish!  How else could the Lamb of God be born?  

Mary’s child is born in Bethlehem which means “House of Bread”.  Where else would the Bread of Life be born? (Like coincidences? Jessi Romero calls them "Godincidences.") In Arabic "Bethlehem" means "House of Meat". But wait. isn’t the Bread of Life actually the flesh of the Lamb of God! The Nativity is not only pointing to Passover but also to the Eucharist!

Jesus is born on the Feast of Emanuel, the Feast of God with us!  When else would He who is God, is now with us, and is even called Emanuel (God with us) by Isaiah (Is 7:14), be born?

Jesus is conceived and born on the two Jewish celebrations of light.  How else should the “Light of the World” be brought into the world?

The joy experienced by Mary and Joseph at the birth of Jesus, the source of living water, is the fulfillment of the saying in the Talmud: He who has not seen the Water-Drawing Celebration has never seen joy in his life.” +

Mary had much to ponder in her heart. (Lk 2:19) (HM-9)

This gives additional meaning to the words of Jesus to Pilate when He said: “for this I was born” (Jn 18:37). Jesus was a first born, born in a stable used for the temple flocks to protect the new born lambs, inspected by the Levitical shepherds, found without blemish, and thus qualified from his birth for a Paschal sacrifice: The Lamb of God.  (HM-10, GB, OMJ)

Reflections on the Nativity

God’s Providence
Mary, how many hundreds of millions of people read the story of the birth of your son and thought: Why was Joseph so late that there was no room in the inn?  Why was there no one, in a culture that valued highly “providing assistance to travelers”, to take you in so that you could have your baby in the warmth and privacy of a home?  God had a plan!  Your son was born in a stable used for the temple flocks to protect new born lambs from the weather. He was inspected by the Levitical shepherds and found without blemish thus marked for sacrifice on Passover as the Lamb of God.  All these things happened by the Providence of God not just for those living when you lived but also for us living 2000 years later.  Luke says you pondered these things in your heart.  Did you see the connections?  I take my life on the surface, based only on what my own senses perceive, one day at a time.  It is inconceivable to me that my life too is part of God’s plan.  My part may be small but it is a part of his plan.  The only requirement is that I love.  Love is action not feeling!  I must reach out to those with whom I come in contact.  When I submit myself to become God’s instrument He will use me in ways that I will only understand after I die.  What a joy to look forward to.

We see coincidences all the time.  We run into a friend at a store or are thinking of someone and they call.  There is math for that: it is called probability.  What is the probability that if I go into a store I will see someone I know?  That is a fairly high probability, I know a lot of people.  When you combine two independent events: “What is the probability I meet someone in the store I know, who was at Mass this morning?”  The number of possible successful outcomes is now significantly reduced because most of the people I know were not at Mass this morning and I don’t know all the people who were at Mass this morning.  However sometimes the series of coincidences (the number of events) gets to be so long it becomes obvious that this was planned: Linda always stops at the store, on her way home from Mass, to pick up a gallon of milk so she has fresh milk for her kids.  If I meet her at the store after Mass the probability was 100%.  When the probability of accidental happening gets so small and yet it happens that implies that it was planned!  Jesus is the Lamb of God.  Lambs are frequently born in stables.  New born lambs are inspected by Levitical shepherds.  Unblemished lambs are sacrificed.  What is the probability that Jesus would also be born in a stable, inspected by Levitical shepherds, and die on Passover?  Oh, and that He would be known as the Lamb of God and that He would be born on the feast of “God with Us”, the feast of Emanuel, that the Light of the World would be conceived and born on the two celebrations of light, that the Source of living water would be born on the day of the Joyous Water Drawing Ceremony?  It was planned that way!  Help me Lord to see your hand in the coincidences in my life.


- October 22, 2 BC/Cheshvan 24, 3760
Jesus meets his Father

Our Father
On the 8th day, September 20th, Tishrei 22, Jesus was circumcised at the local synagogue and given the name prescribed to both Mary and Joseph by the angel Gabriel.

After the Feast of Tabernacles, when the requirement to live in a sukkah ended, Joseph moved his small family into a home where they would be found by the magi (Mt 2:10).  (HM-1)

When a woman gives birth to her first child, if it is a boy, then he must be redeemed by the father.  The ceremony of redemption of a first born by his father is termed a Pidyon Haben.  It takes place on the 30th day after the birth (for Jesus that would have been: October 12th, Cheshvan 14th).  The offering for redemption, five shekels (Nm 18:15-16), is not mentioned in the New Testament but Joseph understood his role as adoptive father and we are told that they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord (Lk 2:39). (HM-2)

A woman, who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son, is ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as during her monthly period. Then the woman must wait thirty-three more days to be purified from her bleeding.  She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary (Lev 12:2-4).  The mother does not attend the Pidyon Haben. At the end of this period of purification the woman was required to make a sacrifice of a year-old lamb for her purification and a turtle dove or pigeon for sin (Lev 12:6).  If she could not afford that, then a sacrifice of two turtle doves could be made (Lev 12:8). ... (HM-3)

Mary and Joseph went to the temple to make the required sacrifice for Mary’s purification (Lk 2:22). Mary, like any woman who has given birth while the father is away, wanted to take Jesus to his Father, Yahweh.

As Mary and Joseph entered the temple, after Mary’s purification in one of the many baths located just outside the temple, Simeon approaches (Lk 2:27). Simeon recognized Jesus as the Messiah, he takes Jesus into his arms saying: “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all peoples, a light of revelation to the gentiles, and glory for your people Israel”(Lk 2:29-32). (HM-4)

Simeon + follows Mary and Joseph into the temple and is thus present when they introduce Jesus to his Father: “Yahweh, your Son!”  Consider the joy felt by Mary and Joseph as they presented Jesus to his Father.  (HM-5)

Mary also rejoices with Anna, an 84-year-old widow of the tribe of Asher, who recognizes Jesus and goes off telling everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Lk 2:38)

Both Simeon and Anna (Lk 2:36)   filled with the Holy Spirit, have recognized not Mary and Joseph but the child and give glory to God! According to Jewish Law, it takes two witnesses of an event to prove that the event occurred as described by the witnesses. It is not a coincidence that Luke provides two witnesses to the presentation of Jesus. (HM-6)

Consider the joy Mary felt when strangers exclaimed over her new born.  Even more so, the joy she felt when her child is recognized for being special.  Jesus is recognized as the Messiah even as an infant! (HM-7)

As they were leaving the Temple, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary: “Behold this child is destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many may be revealed” (Lk 2:33-35). 

Mary holds her son close to her heart as she realizes that Simeon’s prophecy will come because of her son.  (HM-8)

Simeon has witnessed what he perceives to be a dedication to temple service.  Mary and Joseph did not make a sacrifice for the redemption of Jesus after presenting him to his Father so from Simeon perspective Jesus, the Messiah, has just been very appropriately dedicated to the service of God. Since Mary and Joseph must have forgotten to record the dedication, Simeon was happy to take care of that for them. ...  (HM-9)

Mary +  and Samuel +  (1Sam 1:28) were presented to God by their parents because they each were God’s answer to a fervent prayer for a child.  They were intentionally dedicated to God’s service in the temple, by their parents, even before conception! 

Both Samuel and Mary, dedicated to the temple, were brought back to the temple to stay when they were weaned (able to live without their mother) but it was not required to bring the male child until he became of age because his dedication was for life.

God initiated Jesus’ conception.  Mary had no intention of dedicating Jesus to the Temple.  Mary and Joseph knew Jesus was to be the Messiah.  They were simply bringing Jesus to his Father. (HM-10, GB, OMJ)

Reflections on the Presentation

Joseph and Mary acknowledge the Fatherhood of God
When a woman whose spouse is on military deployment gives birth, the first thing she wants to do is bring their child to his father.  Mary, you were no different.  By law you could not go into the temple for 40 days.  You were an hour away from the temple, but you could not go.  You were completely drawn to God as Gabriel testified.  Now you were holding your son, God’s Son!  Joseph has adopted Jesus at God’s request and he too wants to be with you as you brought to God his own son.  Just from a human perspective it had to be an incredibly joyful moment.  From a spiritual perspective, it was indescribable, even unimaginable!

Joy tempered with sorrow
The presentation was a complex event.  It was at the same time a Joyful Mystery and one of your sorrows.  It filled you with incredible joy to be able to introduce your son to his Father. Your joy was amplified when Simeon and Anna recognized Jesus as the Messiah.  As a new mother, all praise directed to your son was shared by you.  You were on such an incredible high when, as you were about to leave, Simeon brought you down: “A sword will pierce your soul!”  These were words you immediately recognized to be prophetic.   It made you want to hold your child close to your heart because you knew it meant the sword would come because of your son.  There would be those who would resent, even hate, your son. 

As Joseph took you by night to Egypt you began to see just how much the world could hate; then you were told about the children in and around Bethlehem who were killed as Herod attempted to kill your son. ... Many were children you had met in your brief stay in Bethlehem. They were the children of the mothers with whom you had shared the joys of new motherhood.  Your heart was ripped apart.  You felt all the pain of those 20 mothers.  Your child was safe but theirs were gone!  Lord give me the grace to accept the losses that must come.  Allow me the wisdom and compassion to be able to console those who feel the pain.

Joseph is the Adoptive Father of God’s Son
Joseph was told by the angel to name the baby Yeshua, “Yahweh saves”.  Naming is an adoptive act.  The angel was telling Joseph to adopt Jesus as his own son.  Joseph took Jesus to a Synagogue and made the offering of 5 shekels to redeem Mary’s first born.  Joseph knew that Jesus was conceived by the action of the Holy Spirit and that Jesus would grow up to become the Messiah.  Joseph, you were a carpenter who swore to live a life of celibacy as a prayer to bring the Messiah.  Now your son is God’s son!  What must it have been like to hold God?  To hold him in your arms and rock him to sleep?   He must have fallen when he was learning to walk, and you held him when he cried.  God cried in your arms!  You taught Jesus to be a carpenter.  You taught God!  You learned humility from your son.  So, you chose to always remain in the background.  You chose to love and to serve providing for Mary and Jesus.  Teach me to love as you loved.  Help me to provide for my family.

Adoration of the Magi

- November - December, 2 BC / Kislev to Tevet, 3760

Our Father
We all associate the “3 Kings” with the Nativity; the arrival of the kings is a mystery in the Franciscan Crown rosary. + The magi didn’t arrive until after the presentation. (Mary’s offering was two doves: they had not received any gold). The actual number of magi is unknown. What we know about the Magi is the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh which remind us of Isaiah 60:6. (Both frankincense and myrrh are types of incense.) (HM-1)

Their origin was from the East.  It is thought from either Seleucia (Babylon was destroyed in 325 BC and a new capital city, Seleucia, was established 27 miles (43 kilometers) to the North) or possibly Persepolis if Cyrus or Darius had moved the wise men back to Persia.

It took 4 months for a large caravan to travel from Babylon to Jerusalem. + It was 1090 miles (1754 kilometers).  It is 1420 miles (2285 kilometers) from Persepolis to Jerusalem.  A small group on camels would average 25 miles (40 kilometers) a day carrying up to 300 lbs. (136 kg) per camel for a few days.  For a longer trip the average was closer to 18 miles (29 kilometers) a day.  Thus, the trip would have taken a minimum of 72 days from Seleucia and 94 days from Persepolis, allowing for 1 day of rest for every 6 days of travel for the camels and men.  (HM-2) 

Beginning on Tishri 1 (September 11, 3 BC), the Jewish New Year of 3759 and throughout 2 BC, 3760, there occurred a rare triple conjunction of Jupiter (the king planet, through its retrograde motion) and Regulus (the king star) they intersected on 9/11/3 BC, 2/6/2 BC, and 5/7/2 BC. The Magi likely interpreted this rare triple conjunction as a giant neon sign in the heavens blinking KING-KING-KING. This all began at the Jewish New year and all within the constellation of Leo (the lion, a symbol of the tribe of Judah).  So, it heavily symbolized a Jewish King from the tribe of Judah, a clear indication for those familiar with the Messiah. + (HM-3)

“Attempts to identify the Christmas star with a planetary conjunction, comet, or supernova are futile.  The protoevangelium of James (21:3), Ephrem the Syrian in his commentary on the Diatessaron, and Chrysostom in his commentary on Matthew all rightly recognize the so-called star does not stay on high but moves as a guide and indeed comes to rest very near the infant Jesus.  Matters become clear when we recall that the ancients generally believed stars to be animate beings, and the Jews, in particular, identified them with angels(Job 38:7).  The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, 7 and Theophylact must be right in identifying the magi’s star with an angel, and one may compare the angelic guide of the Exodus (Ex 23:20,23; Ex 32:34) + (HM-4)

All this symbolism of a Jewish king from Judah was enough to get the well-versed Magi moving to Jerusalem, but you can understand why the average citizen of Jerusalem missed it. + (HM-5)

The wise men were of the group of scholars that was originally formed and led by the prophet Daniel in Babylon.  Daniel left an inheritance for the Messiah and instructed the other scholars in how to determine the date of the Messiahs birth based on the stars (Nm 24:17).  His instructions to them were to pass the task down through the generations of scholars until the appointed time and then to take the inheritance to the new born Messiah.  The triple conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus indicated the time was near.  Leaving for Jerusalem on the first day of the following Jewish new year would have them arriving in Bethlehem in late November or December depending on whether they came from Seleucia or Persepolis and how long they were delayed in Jerusalem. (HM-6)

Daniel had been shown the heavens at the time of the Messiah’s birth and told them what to look for in the sky.  Daniel had also been shown the number of years that would pass before the coming of the Messiah.  Armed with the time frame to start looking and what to look for; the Magi found in the sky the formation foretold by Daniel and headed off to Jerusalem as instructed by Daniel ... (HM-7)

The Magi would have arrived in Jerusalem sometime in November or December of 2 BC saying: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” That they have come to worship the new born king implies that they were worshipers of Yahweh and followers of Daniel.  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet Micah: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Mic 5:2) While in Jerusalem seeking direction from the priests and scribes, Simeon likely told the Magi to ask for Mary and Joseph when they got to Bethlehem.  (HM-8)

Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared (the first conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus). And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. (The early Church Fathers assumed that the star was angelic at this point as the star had to have been low enough to designate which house it was over). When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house, they saw the Child with Mary his mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. (Mt 2:1-12)

Herod would have figured out that the Magi weren’t coming back by the end of December.  The triple conjunction began on 9/11/-3.  It was now 12/-2 so if the baby was born on 9/11/-3 he would already be over a year old so to be safe he ordered the death of all boys in and around Bethlehem that were 2 years old and under. ...

Herod died sometime between the total lunar eclipse on January 10, 1 BC and March 25, 1 BC. (HM-9)

God recognized that Mary and Joseph would need money to pay for the trip to and from Egypt as well as to pay for the redemption of Jesus when he was 12.  God provides. (HM-10, GB, OMJ)

Reflections on the Adoration of the Magi

The End from the Beginning and Artistic Contrasts
There are several elements which anticipate the stories end.  Here as there the issue is Jesus’ status as the King of the Jews.  Here as there the Jewish leaders gather against him.  Here as there, plans are laid in secret.  And here as there Jesus’ death is sought.  So, the end is foreshadowed in the beginning.  But there are also artistic contrasts.  Here a light in the night sky proclaims the Messiah’s advent.  There the darkness during the day announces his death.  Here Jesus is worshipped and there He is mocked.  Here it is prophesied that Jesus will shepherd his people Israel; there it is foretold that Jesus, the shepherd, will be struck and his sheep scattered.  Here there is great rejoicing; there we find mourning and grief. +

Why would they bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh?

Isaiah speaks of the coming of the light and that Gentiles would come on camels bringing gold and incense. Both frankincense and myrrh are incense. Jesus, like Melchizedek, was priest, prophet, and king; and He was both God and man. Jesus would choose to sacrifice himself for us.  Gold is a gift for a king. Frankincense is a gift for an offering of a smell pleasing to God.  Myrrh is a gift of an incense used for embalming. What did Mary and Joseph do with the gifts? Is that where the money for the redemption of Jesus came?

Why did God provide the celestial symbolism?
Mary, I suspect that you didn’t notice the celestial symbolism. Yet God so arranged the events that it is obvious that it had to be planned. It was another thing God did for us living 2000 years later so that we would believe.

Finding in the Temple

– April 5th, 12/Nisan 25, 3772
A foreshadowing of Jesus’ death and resurrection

Our Father
The Passover Festival in 3772 (12 AD) would have ended on Nisan 22 (a Sabbath) so the caravan from Nazareth would have departed for their return on the 23rd of Nisan.  Mary and Joseph discovered Jesus was missing on that day (April 3rd).  Their return to Jerusalem would have been on the 24th of Nisan (April 4th) and they would have found Jesus on the morning of the 25th of Nisan which is April 5th on the Gregorian Calendar.  The finding in the temple has traditionally been considered a foreshadowing of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  In fact, it happened on the Gregorian Calendar on the same days as Jesus’ death, April 3rd, and Resurrection, April 5th.  (HM-1)

This mystery is both one of Mary’s sorrows and a Joyful Mystery.  Being one of Mary’s sorrows is an indication of how much Mary and Joseph were hurt because Jesus stayed behind in the Temple.  To hurt one’s parents is a sin and Jesus didn’t commit a sin!  We are missing something!  (HM-2)

When Jesus was introduced to his Father as an infant (at the time of Mary’s Purification); Simeon, a leading Pharisee, recognized Jesus as the Messiah as the family entered the temple.   He saw what he assumed to be Mary presenting Jesus for dedication to temple Service and so Jesus was recorded as dedicated to temple service.  Then, unless He was redeemed, when he became of age, turned 13, he had to stay in the temple just as Samuel stayed in the temple.

It says in the Torah:  The Lord said to Moses, “speak to the children of Israel and say to them: If anyone vows to give himself or one of his family members to the full service of the Lord, and circumstance changes so that he cannot keep his vow, he shall pay a redemption price to be freed from that vow.  The value of an adult male from twenty to sixty years old is to be set at fifty pieces of silver; for an adult female at thirty pieces of silver; for a young male from five to twenty years at twenty pieces of silver …” (Lev 27:1-5). (HM-3)

“If anyone making such a vow is too poor to pay the required amount, he must present himself or the other family member to the priest who will make an adjustment of the redemption price according to what the man can afford.” (Lev 27:8).    (HM-4)

Jesus was 12 years old when he stayed behind in the temple (Lk 2:42) An Israelite boy becomes of age at 13.  The family traveled together each year to Jerusalem for Passover, Nisan 15(Lk 2:41)

Simeon lived until 20 AD + and would have remembered Jesus and looked for his coming to the temple each year at Passover.  Simeon would have been looking forward to the day that Jesus would be coming under his care and likely asked Jesus each year, from the time Jesus started his education, if He was staying.  Simeon had explained to Jesus that it had been arranged by his parents when He was presented as an infant, an event that he, Simeon, had personally witnessed.   Simeon may even have shown Jesus where his dedication was recorded.  During each visit, after Jesus had begun his education, Simeon would have spent time with Jesus to observe his progress.  Simeon at some point would have told Jesus that He had to be in residence before He turned 13. Even if Simeon had died in 10 AD, when he was replaced as the leader of the Sanhedrin, Jesus would have last seen Simeon when he was 10.  Now at 12, knowing his family would not return to Jerusalem before his birthday, Jesus had to stay.

Since his parents had presented him He logically assumed that they planned for him to be dedicated to the Temple and knew that He would need to stay. (HM-5)

Mary and Joseph had presented Jesus to his Father.  They did not however intend to dedicate him for temple service; but there was no legal distinction. The dedication had been recorded by Simeon. They needed to redeem Jesus. When Mary finds Jesus, she says: “Son, why have you done this to us?” (Lk 2:48).  Mary didn’t realize that Simeon had recorded the dedication for her and the corresponding legal implications.   (HM-6)

Jesus responds: “Why were you looking for me?”  He was doing what the law required.  “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49).  There was no sin: Jesus could not leave.  What must Mary have thought and felt?  Her son was 12 years old and his family left him; without even saying “Good-by”!  (HM-7)

At his response, the Holy Spirit opens Mary’s mind, she understands: Mary had been committed to the Temple, so she also knew the requirements for the young men. Jesus must be redeemed (released from temple service) before He becomes of age, turned 13, or be committed to temple service for life.  Mary presented Jesus, so she had to release him from temple service while she could; before He was responsible for himself! At the same time, Mary realized the pain she had caused her son by leaving without saying anything.  That hurt more than the pain of his loss.  Mary was sinless but still human.  Neither she nor Joseph checked for Jesus when they left or at any time during the 15 miles (24 kilometers) traveled that day ...

Luke says that Mary and Joseph did not understand what Jesus said to them (Lk 2:50). ...  Mary and Joseph didn’t comprehend the intensity of the hatred the priests and scribes would have for Jesus.  If they had not redeemed Jesus, the devil would have prompted a priest or scribe to check and they would have found that Jesus was dedicated to the temple as an infant.  Jesus would have been forcibly made into a temple slave. Remember, we are in the middle of a spiritual battle and the enemy, the devil, knows far more than we do.  Our only recourse is to stay close to Jesus.  Jesus was doing both what the law required and what was necessary in God’s plan.  (HM-9)

Mary and Joseph are overjoyed that they have their son back and that He will remain with them.

It is apparent that Jesus did not use his divinity, or He would have known that Mary wasn’t aware.  Jesus was totally focused on his humanity.Jesus was like us in everything but since (Heb 2:17). That means he had to go to school to learn and needed to study.  He grew up as a normal (although exceptional) Jewish child, adolescent, and young man. Jesus obtained knowledge by studying; beginning as was custom at age 4 and continuing his education through a formal program of study to become a rabbi, until, at age 30 He was given “authority”.  Authority meant that he could make new interpretations of scripture.  The scribes could only read existing interpretations.  All rabbis also learned a trade.  Jesus was a carpenter, taught by Joseph.  Jesus followed the law.  He would have completed all the requirements to make new interpretations of scripture. (HM-10, GB, OMJ)

Reflections on the Finding in the Temple

Jesus did not use his divinity.

If Jesus had used his divinity, He would have known that Mary and Joseph were not aware of the requirement for Jesus to remain in the temple.  Knowing and allowing them to be hurt as they were, would be sinful.  Scripture tells us Jesus was like us in everything but sin.  Jesus did work miracles but so have many saints.  Jesus did raise the dead but so did Elisha and Peter.  Jesus knew the hearts of people but so did Padre Pio (he wouldn’t absolve a woman until she confessed having an abortion). Both Padre Pio and Jesus’ mom bi-located, Jesus didn’t do that, but He did say you will do still more than I have done.  Mary, while I am afraid of anything miraculous because of my own ego, I believe in miracles and still petition you and your son to intervene in the lives of us still on earth.

There is a spiritual battle going on.

Mary, you were only 27 when you were confronted with the realization that your son was missing.  You checked with all your neighbors and discovered that Jesus and not been with the caravan at all.  He was still in Jerusalem.  The wait until daybreak to begin the trip back to Jerusalem was horrible.  That next day ended in frustration.  You were back in Jerusalem and had checked with all your relatives and friends where Jesus might have gone and it is nightfall again.  Once again you must wait until morning.  I know you were praying for your son.  Praying that you would find him safe.  Did you begin to suspect that the spiritual battle had begun again?  The devil had struck another blow: distracting you throughout the first day’s journey.

When you found Jesus and asked him why He had done this you were stunned by his answer: “Why were you looking for me?  Didn’t you know that I must be in my father’s house.”  Suddenly you realize Jesus must be redeemed!  But you know you never intended to dedicate Jesus to temple service.  Yet you must redeem Jesus since you presented him!  At that point, you probably realized you were once again in the middle of a “God thing” although you can’t see the whole picture: the foreshadowing of Jesus’ death and resurrection as well as preventing a future move by Satan to hinder Jesus’ mission.  You are grateful that the solution is simple: redeem Jesus and you can go home.  Mary help me to see the things that I don’t understand as just that: “God things”.  Help me to trust as you did, that God is in control and that He directs events according to a picture beyond my ability to see.  Did you wonder if this was the sword that Simeon was referring to?  I’ll bet you knew in your heart this was not it.

In the presentation joy is followed by sorrow and now sorrow is followed by joy.
The Presentation and the Finding in the Temple are both Joyful Mysteries and one of your Seven Sorrows. The Presentation was joyful until Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce your soul: joy followed by sorrow and now the Finding in the Temple is intense sorrow followed by intense joy. Jesus is found safe and will return home. My life is like that too. There is both joy and sorrow. Thank you for the joy, thank you for sharing the joy with me. Help me through the sorrows that must also come. Sorrow is always associated with loss and nothing in this life except love will last. All though even love can be rejected which brings sorrow. Give me the courage to love without worry about rejection.

There is only one life. It will soon be past. Only what’s done for love will last.


James Ignatius McAuley said...

Glen and Greg, this is very good. However, I think you could flesh this out by reading the Protoevangelium of James. It's antiquity is attested by Origen in his Commentary on Matthew , so we are talking pre 250. The other useful books are the Six Books on the Death of Mary, Stephen J. Shoemaker. Recourse to these ancient works would allow you to add in the ancient traditions of Eastern Christian's.

Greg Biltz said...

Thank you for the kind words. I have quoted the Protoevanglium of James in three places. I do have a problem with the time line however. The Protoevangelium has the Incarnation happening when Mary was 16. Mary told the children at Medjugore in 1984 that she would be 2000 on August 5th of that year.
( For Mary to have been 16, Jesus would not have been born until 1 AD which means Jesus would have only been 28 at his baptism, when Luke clearly states that He was 30.
I wish I had known about Shoemaker's books when I was working on the Assumption and Coronation. There is a scarcity of material available on those subjects. I would like to read The Life of the Virgin: Maximus the Confessor by Shoemaker at some point when I can afford a copy. As an old guy on fixed income I don't have a budget for $20 e-books. I have great respect for the Eastern Church Fathers. The writings of the desert Fathers are very insightful. I had a spiritual director who as a priest first served with the Byzantine rite. His spirituality made a big impact.

David Pileggi said...

Thank you for the website and the meditations on the mysteries of Our Lady's Rosary. Several times in the Joyful Mystery's Annunciation, it has been written, "Mary's vow of celibacy". Isn't it correct to say her "vow of virginity'? Celibacy is the state of being unmarried.

Greg Biltz said...

Thank you very much for taking the time to read the reflections and then to ponder them. The distinction is that celibacy is a conscious choice to abstain from all sexual activity while virginity is the state of never having had sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex. As there are many forms of sexual activity that do not necessarily involve intercourse a vow of celibacy will result in virginity but goes far beyond it.