Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
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Persecuted Christians often choose strategy of survival, says study
Daniel Philpott, professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, listens to a speaker during an April 20 forum at the National Press Club in Washington. Speakers at the forum released ...

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Make persecution 'difficult for others to ignore,' cardinal says
Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl speaks during an April 20 forum to release the findings of a study on responses to Christian persecution. (CNS photo/Bob Roller) WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With religiou...

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Living Stations of the Cross draws crowd
Written by Administrator
Archbishop Leonard P. Blair leads the living Stations of the Cross with Msgr. Daniel J. Plocharczyk at Sacred Heart Parish in New Britain on April 14, Good Friday.

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Pope to canonize Fatima seers May 13; October date for other saints
Portuguese shepherd children Lucia dos Santos, center, and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, are seen in a file photo taken around the time of the 1917 apparitions of Mary at Fatima. (CNS phot...

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Theater review: 'Come from Away'
NEW YORK – “Come from Away," the musical now at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on West 45th Street, looks back at that harrowing day in our history, Sept. 11, 2001, and shows us how the tragedy of th...

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Pope Benedict celebrates birthday with Bavarian guests, beer, pretzels
Retired Pope Benedict XVI makes a toast during celebrations marking his 88th birthday in 2015 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano) VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A bit of Bavaria, including German ...

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Persecuted Christians often choose strategy of survival, says study
Persecuted Christians often choose strategy of survival, says study
Make persecution 'difficult for others to ignore,' cardinal says
Make persecution 'difficult for others to ignore,' cardinal says
Living Stations of the Cross draws crowd
Living Stations of the Cross draws crowd
Pope to canonize Fatima seers May 13; October date for other saints
Pope to canonize Fatima seers May 13; October date for other saints
Theater review: 'Come from Away'
Theater review: 'Come from Away'
Pope Benedict celebrates birthday with Bavarian guests, beer, pretzels
Pope Benedict celebrates birthday with Bavarian guests, beer, pretzels

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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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