Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

South Sudan bishops condemn atrocities, appeal for help to prevent famine
A mother feeds her child with a peanut-based paste for treatment of severe acute malnutrition at a hospital Jan. 20 in Juba, South Sudan. South Sudan's Catholic bishops asked for the world's help to p...

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Grass-roots leaders join call for 'disrupting' oppression that hurts many
Representatives from small groups give the final message from the U.S. Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements Feb. 19 in Modesto, Calif. (CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski) MODESTO, Calif. (CNS) -- Affi...

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Be ashamed when tempted to use church for power struggles, pope says
Pope Francis greets a new priest during the ordination Mass of 11 priests in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 17, 2016. The pope warned against using the church in pursuit of personal ambitio...

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Pope's tip for becoming a saint: Pray for someone who doesn't like you
Pope Francis delivers his blessing to an overflow crowd gathered outside St. Mary Josefa Church after celebrating Mass at the parish in Rome Feb. 19. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) ROME (CNS) -- A practica...

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Employees of archdiocese volunteer to bring meals and good cheer to the homeless
Written by Shelley Wolf
Alicia Fleming, sales assistant for the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, laughs with a client while serving desserts at the South Park Inn in Hartford.(Photo by Shelley Wolf) ...

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Special Olympians show world that 'every person is a gift,' pope says
Pope receives a stuffed animal from a participant in the Special Olympics during a meeting Feb. 16 at the Vatican. The Special Olympics World Winter Games will be held in Austria March 14-25. (CNS pho...

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South Sudan bishops condemn atrocities, appeal for help to prevent famine
South Sudan bishops condemn atrocities, appeal for help to prevent famine
Grass-roots leaders join call for 'disrupting' oppression that hurts many
Grass-roots leaders join call for 'disrupting' oppression that hurts many
Be ashamed when tempted to use church for power struggles, pope says
Be ashamed when tempted to use church for power struggles, pope says
Pope's tip for becoming a saint: Pray for someone who doesn't like you
Pope's tip for becoming a saint: Pray for someone who doesn't like you
Employees of archdiocese volunteer to bring meals and good cheer to the homeless
Employees of archdiocese volunteer to bring meals and good cheer to the homeless
Special Olympians show world that 'every person is a gift,' pope says
Special Olympians show world that 'every person is a gift,' pope says

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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.

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