WHY WAS CHRIST NOT BORN IN A LAND-WORKING FAMILY?
T WILL set down some facts about
Nazareth which seem to me to be as true as the fact that Nazareth still is what it once was, a small village in the hills of Galilee. But in setting down what seems to me to be the truth about the facts I shall not expect
all my readers to see with my eyes and to reach my convictions. Yet convictions that have been growing stronger and clearer over a span of three-score years may timidly be put forward by one whose day is now growing swiftly towards its evensong.
It is some twenty or twenty-five years since I realised the answer to my own heart-burning question — " If work on the land is mart's first work, why was not our Blessed Lord not horn in a land-working family?"
How Slowly my mind works may be gauged by the fact that this question baulked me for some years until 1 suddenly realised that the question itself seemed to give the obvious answer. If by God's will and purpose the land was the material basis of man's individual and social life; and if, again by God's swill and purpose, the normal family of parents and child] en was the social unit—the co-operative unit of land-work, then the Son of God could not be born in the land-working family because He could not be one child in a family of children.
Unit of Social Life
The land-working family as the unit of social life being a divine institute, could not he disturbed by the Incarnation which only added what was divine in the supernatural kingdom of heaven to what was divine in the natural kingdom of earth.
There was, then. great relief of mind in realising that the Inearmation made it impassible Jr the Son of God to be one of a family of sorts and daughters tilling the soil. From this therc came, with the joy almost or a revelation, that the Incarnate Word was in fact brought up, not to the primary craft of working the soil, but to the secondary oaf' of woi king in wood.
There was even a real though lesser joy in knowing that Jesus did not work in an exhaustible material metal (for one day, sooner or later, our metal mines will be exhausted), but in the poictically inexhaustible material wood, which, unlike metal, can be sown and grown.
Symbolized in Jesus of Nazareth
All this I could see to be contained and symbolised in our Saviour's little Jesus of Nazareth.
Yet a further fact seemed to complete and authenticate what Nazareth called itself in my ears.
How often in speaking to master craftsmen have I heard them speak of " learning at the bench." Moreover, the weasels' cottages in Gloucester, and later on, in Leicester showed me that " learning at the bench " meant learning a home craft under the eyes and usually from the example of one who was at once parent and master.
Nazareth stood out against the background of Jerusalem. and Alexander and Rome and all great cities., as the seat both of that " bench-learning" which alone can save Art from degradation and also of that home crafts Which alone can save the world from ruin by self-destruction.
New Order Schemes With this vision or conviction in my mind I am wondering if New Order schemes based on anything but land work and hand work are more or less than what Norman called "paper-logic."
I am even wondering if we did not turn hack or aside from God when we turned our young sons epd daughters from their homes to make or let them work in factories.
Sometimes, too, at night when the things men make in factories are throbbing in the sky or are making homes into dust-heaps on the earth the quiet, inoffensive homecrafts change memory into a pang.
Men once used to ask, "Can any good come of Nazareth?" To this question the sufficient answer is another question: " Has any harm come of Nazareth?" The housewife who, every week, hides the leaven in three measures of meal—is she as terrible as an army in (meehanizedl battle array? Is the village joiner or wheelwright like to raise a successful sedition against the central government? Are the village hand-looms weaving silk parachutes for the village blacksmith to use rar his land-mines'?
Before I have answered nty own questions my soul is on the brink of exploding into useless anger. But I turn to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph—all of Narazeth — and like David's harp that music of their selfless love bids my anger be still.
VINCENT MCNABB, O.P.