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Archbishop's Desk

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  • Growing as a human person in the presence of God

    Last month, I was happy to join other bishops from New England for our annual retreat. One...

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Milestones

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  • Bristol native makes first vows as School Sister of Notre Dame

    WILTON – During a eucharistic celebration attended by more than 200 friends, family members and...

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Youth

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  • Northwest Catholic's freshmen come from 27 towns, one foreign country

    Members of the Freshman Contact program who helped the newcomers adjust. (Photo submitted) WEST...

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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.

Events Calendar

September 2014
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
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12:00 AM
Archbishop O'Brien Library , Bloomfield, United States
The Archbishop O’Brien Library will participate in a community-based project with Life Choice Donor Services, a non-profit organ procurement organization, during September, to raise awareness for organ [...]
Date :  September 01, 2014
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06:00 PM
St. Ann Parish, Avon, Avon, United States
The Social Justice Committee of St. Ann’s Parish in Avon will have its popular annual clothing sale from 6-9 p.m. Sept. 19 and from 8:30 [...]
Date :  September 19, 2014
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08:30 AM
St. Ann Parish, Avon, Avon, United States
The Social Justice Committee of St. Ann’s Parish in Avon will have its popular annual clothing sale from 6-9 p.m. Sept. 19 and from 8:30 [...]
10:00 AM
St. Paul Catholic High School, Bristol, Bristol, United States
St. Paul Catholic High School open houses at 10 and 11:30 a.m. Sept. 20,  7 p.m. Oct. 8 and at 10 and [...]
Date :  September 20, 2014
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11:00 AM
Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, United States
Applications are being accepted for the 2014 Catholic Youth Spectacular (CYS), set for Sept. 21 on the [...]
Date :  September 21, 2014
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12:00 AM
The Archdiocese of Hartford is participating again in the national Family Day program launched by [...]
Date :  September 22, 2014
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11:00 AM
Wampanoag Country Club, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – The 22nd annual Archbishop John F. Whealon Memorial Golf Tournament will take place Sept. 23 [...]
Date :  September 23, 2014
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06:00 PM
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Hamden , Hamden, United States
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Hamden will have its monthly Pro-Life Holy Hour Novena from 6-7 p.m. September 24.The Holy Hour will include exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, pro-life rosary, [...]
12:00 AM
Hartford GYN Center, Hartford, United States
The Pro-Life Ministry of the Archdiocese of Hartford will participate in the international 40 Days for Life campaign from Sept. 24 through Nov. 2. The success of the campaign is evident in [...]
Date :  September 24, 2014
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06:00 PM
Holy Family Retreat Center, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
"Know Greater Joy" is the theme of a Men's Weekend Retreat being offered Sept. 26-28 at Holy Family [...]
07:30 PM
St. Therese Church, Branford, Branford, United States
LYRA, an a cappella group of four professional vocalists from St. Petersburg, Russia, is returning to [...]
12:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield , Litchfield, United States
A Beginning Experience Weekend will be conducted Sept. 26-28 for divorced, separated and widowed men and [...]
Date :  September 26, 2014
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09:30 AM
Holy Angels Parish Center, South Meriden, Meriden, United States
MERIDEN – The Meriden-Wallingford Council of Catholic Women will sponsor a catered breakfast at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 27 at Holy Angels Parish Center in South Meriden. Guest speaker Deacon Thomas J. Davis [...]
12:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield , Litchfield, United States
A Beginning Experience Weekend will be conducted Sept. 26-28 for divorced, separated and widowed men and [...]
Date :  September 27, 2014
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01:00 PM
Polish-American Club, West Haven, United States
NEW HAVEN – St. Stanislaus Parish will have its annual picnic/harvest festival from 1-8 p.m. Sept. 28, rain or shine, at the Polish-American Club at 194 W. Spring St., West Haven. Polish and [...]
12:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield , Litchfield, United States
A Beginning Experience Weekend will be conducted Sept. 26-28 for divorced, separated and widowed men and [...]
Date :  September 28, 2014
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07:00 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
Caritas Christi Center will offer a New Life Seminar for the separated and divorcd from 7-9 p.m. on nine [...]
Date :  September 29, 2014
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