Madonna House

Jesus in Nazareth

by Fr. David May

This was written as a poem, but because it is so long, we are printing it in prose form.

The baby’s mouth needs wiping; orange juice is curling round his chin. Nearby, the saw is teething lullabies. The hen has laid an egg that merits fetching. The broom sounds brisk; some dust is caught and tossed outside.

It’s Monday, hot and dry in Nazareth.

Tomorrow he’ll wax the table, build a shelf. She’ll wash the dishes, pick some pretty flowers. The babe will cry, the ewe release some milk; good food to eat, though simple, even spare. A decent house, though cold when it is cold.

Day in and day out, the pattern is maintained. The child grows up and waxes strong enough. He smiles and plays and helps around the house.

The neighbors’ children wax, their parents wane. They smile and play and help around the house. Each will have his house to live in and maintain. The people pass away; they never change.

It’s Monday, dry and hot in Nazareth.

The ordinary: mundane, pacific, dull.

It breeds dissatisfaction and contempt. We conjure thoughts, construct the marbled city, succumb to passion, imbibe intoxicants, engage in argument, declare a war, play the fool, or opt for loving wisdom.

So noble, all this effort labeled “man.” Great strivings, bold attempts to transcend. We know the fecund earth will draw, will draw. Yet even that we castigate in verse. We glory in crusades of castigation.

Jerusalem! Her syllables stir the juices of a lad, whisper glory, call forth the man.

But when you found your Father’s home, Jesus, when the wisdom of your heart graced the air, confounding elders, delighting sparrows’ brood, you saw not visions but the troubled eyes of Mary and Joseph’s sorrow for you both.

As time milled the grist of oxen hours, as vision deepened, as your powers grew, did inspiration gnaw to be expressed?

A widowed mother, unfinished table top, were not for you God’s senseless shackle, but were instead the snapping of a chain.

The point where timed with timeless is infused, where dust-destined dust with grandeur laid achieves the furthest reaches of the reachless:

The playground: children swing there. Watch the rope plunge and climb to breezes swept with sun.

The breezes swim like seals among the leaves. The rippling shade slakes the sweating brow. Dust-streaked, careless, trusting, each abandoned to a timeless afternoon.

Nazareth affords so few distractions: the weight of nothing, endless finity, quintessence of the reason for rebellion, which no human stirring can finally obscure. We falter here, fail, strain, collapse …

Beyond our ken, beyond imagining—a Nazarene now risen, glorified.

Thus so because content to be Son.

Reprinted from Restoration, June 1977, four years before Fr. David was ordained