Newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Hark the herald angels: How sacred music evangelizes, lifts up hearts
Msgr. Vincenzo De Gregorio, director of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, is pictured at an organ at the institute in Rome Dec. 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)   VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- 'Tis t...

Read more

Witnesses recall New Year’s Eve cathedral blaze of 60 years ago
Written by Jack Sheedy
Left, people gather to watch firefighters attack the blaze as it rages near the towers of the cathedral. The roof eventually collapsed after being completely involved in flames. At right, firefighters...

Read more

Museum featuring crèches of Germany
Written by Mary Chalupsky
German Nativity scene by Egon Wolfsgruber is placed inside a barrel with polychrome wood figurines. (Photo courtesy of the Knights of Columbus Museum)  NEW HAVEN – With its ancestral heritage, c...

Read more

Pope Francis meets Martin Scorsese, director of 'Silence,' at Vatican
VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) – On Wednesday, Pope Francis added world famous director Martin Scorsese to the list of Hollywood stars he has welcomed for a private meeting in the Vatican, following a...

Read more

Theater review: ‘The Front Page’
John Slattery and Nathan Lane in “The Front Page” (Photo by Julieta Cervantes)NEW YORK – Because of Nathan Lane’s presence in the cast,  the revival of “The Front Page” has attracted attention an...

Read more

Sacred music: a St. Mary tradition
Written by Mary Chalupsky
Nicholas Renouf, director of music at St. Mary Church in New Haven or four decades, accompanies the Schola Cantorum during a noon Sunday Mass at St. Mary recently. (Photo by Mary Chalupsky) NEW HAVEN...

Read more

Retirement Fund for Religious helps when communities can’t
Written by Administrator
Campaign photo for the 2016 Retirement Fund for Religious collection, which will take place Dec. 10-11 in most parishes. (Photo by Jim Judkis) WASHINGTON – The annual Retirement Fund for Religious ...

Read more

Hark the herald angels: How sacred music evangelizes, lifts up hearts
Hark the herald angels: How sacred music evangelizes, lifts up hearts
Witnesses recall New Year’s Eve cathedral blaze of 60 years ago
Witnesses recall New Year’s Eve cathedral blaze of 60 years ago
Museum featuring crèches of Germany
Museum featuring crèches of Germany
Pope Francis meets Martin Scorsese, director of 'Silence,' at Vatican
Pope Francis meets Martin Scorsese, director of 'Silence,' at Vatican
Theater review: ‘The Front Page’
Theater review: ‘The Front Page’
Sacred music: a St. Mary tradition
Sacred music: a St. Mary tradition
Retirement Fund for Religious helps when communities can’t
Retirement Fund for Religious helps when communities can’t

Latest Commentary

ARCHBISHOP

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, I wish all of you a holy Advent and a Christmas...

LOCAL

HARTFORD – Reverend Ivan Dario Ramirez and Reverend Israel Rivera have been incardinated in the Archdiocese of Hartford by Archbishop...

WORLD

Women religious gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 23, the day the high court heard oral arguments...

ARTS

Gabrielle Union and Colman Domingo star in a scene from the movie "The Birth of a Nation." (CNS photo/Fox) NEW...

FROM OUR READERS

ENFIELD – John Berube, president of the parish council of St. Bernard Parish, thanks Father John P. Melnick, pastor, for...

YOUTH

BRANFORD – More than 300 people attended the 10th annual Archbishop’s Columbus Day Breakfast, held at the WoodWinds this year...

MsgrLiptak_TNQ. Is the tradition referring to Christ’s birth in a "manger" based on the Biblical account?

A. Yes; St. Luke’s Infancy Narrative explicitly states that the newborn Christ Child was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. The Greek word for "manger" used by St. Luke is φάτνη (transliterated, phatne), meaning "manger," "feeding-trough" or "stable." (Lk 2:7). The text reads, "She [Mary] wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger…." (NAB)

The Greek for "manger" can also be rendered as "stall" or "feeding place." However, the usual and almost universal translation of the scene at Christ’s birth is "manger." It is a word that Luke repeats a total of four times in his Christmas story. For example, the "manger" is cited by the Christmas Angel in the message to the shepherds: "For today …a Savior has been born for you… you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manager…." (Lk 2:12)

Interestingly, Luke’s reference to the manger in his Christmas narrative is especially significant because of its "sign" value. Biblical scholars point to the prophecy of Isaiah 1:3: "An ox knows its owner,/ and an ass, its master’s manger;/ But Israel does not know,/ my people has not understood…."

This text indicates that the shepherds’ enthusiasm should be seen as in contrast with Israel’s nonchalance, indeed, nonconcern, regarding the Savior’s Nativity.

Reference to a "manger," given the real-life situation then (the German phrase is Sitz in Leben), would most certainly be part of a grotto or a small cave dug out of a hillside. (Was it a cave once used to safeguard King David’s horses?)

St. Justin Martyr (d. 165), a native of the area, recounted that Joseph, without a place to lodge in the village, cleared out one of the caves near the village. Origen reflects this same narrative at the beginning of the third century.

While discussing the manger of Jesus’ birth, it is important also to analyze the significance of the "swaddling clothes." (Luke 2:7 and 12) Curiously, these wrappings constitute a portion of the "sign" of the manager. The Greek used by Luke appears only here in his Gospel and contrasts with an Old Testament text of Ezekiel, in which the absence of such wrappings is mentioned as a "sign" of maternal abandonment. See The Truth of Christmas, Beyond the Myths, René Laurentin; trans. Michael J. Wrenn, 1986.

In the above-cited volume, Luke 2:7 ("She wrapped him in swaddling clothes….") is compared with Luke 23:53, the story of Jesus’ burial: "And he wrapped [it] in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb…."

An added note about the Cave of Jesus’ birth: Origen informs us that the Cave was venerated as early as his time (third century). In a famous work call Contra Celsum, he added, "What is shown there is famous … even among people alien to the faith."

For more details on the manger and the cave, see The Truth of Christmas, cited above. Currently, of course, we all are awaiting a new monograph by Pope Benedict XVI, who plans to add it to his two-volume Jesus of Nazareth series.