Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Hidden Life

I have been reflecting on Our Lord's hidden life: that period between His infancy and His public ministry, with help (naturally) from Frank Sheed's To Know Christ Jesus.

Apart from the Finding in the Temple, we know almost nothing, of course. But almost is the operative word.

We do know a little, and can deduce a little more, and even speculate a bit beyond that.

What we know is that 'He went home and was subject to them.'

We also know where home was, a village called Nazareth, and that He was raised there by the Blessed Virgin and St Joseph.  We know that they will have taught Him, by word and example, as He grew up; and we can assume that He went to the village school, probably in the synagogue (or perhaps outside in hot weather) where the curriculum would have been reading, writing and knowledge of sacred Scripture.

As a good Jewish family, they would certainly have observed the Sabbath, and heard the Shema read at the start of each synagogue service: three passages of scripture that they would also have recited twice a day at home (two from Deuteronomy, and one from Numbers).

 We can safely assume that He worked with St Joseph, the Carpenter.  After all, He remained at home till the age of thirty.

And I think we can speculate a little, too.  For example, it is unthinkable to me that these carpenters of Nazareth would have turned out anything less than the very best they could. He would necessarily have been skilled at, and I surmise would have loved, his craft.

Likewise, they will have sold fairly; in that culture, that would have necessitated bargaining - for that is the process by which fair deals were reached.

We can also deduce that He did nothing spectacular: His neighbours were astonished when He suddenly came to prominence.

And He did not marry. Sheed points out how unusual that would have been for a man of His age, to be still a bachelor: but He had a different vocation.

So what light do we gain from this? I think it valuable. A certain type of Christian will often say 'What would Jesus do?' I am generally wary of that approach; apart from anything else, what He did was always the action of God Incarnate. Moreover, His public life is so different from the situation in which we normally find ourselves.

However, in the Hidden Life, there may well be things to apply to our daily lives: fair dealing, doing the very best we can in our work, commitment to prayer, obedience to our lawful superiors, and fidelity to our vocation.  And the fact that He chose to spend thirty years living a very ordinary life in a village, but always ready to turn His hand to God's work, is a wonderful reminder of the value of the everyday - when offered to God.


Jonathan Marshall said...

"A certain type of Christian will often say 'What would Jesus do?' "

I too am very wary of that approach - not least because the answer to the question is usually "Why, whatever I would do, of course!"

Ben Trovato said...


Precisely so!