THE CHRISTMAS CANVAS: ‘The Rest on the Flight to Egypt’ by Luc Olivier Merson (1879)

The first Christmas was far from comfort and tedium. Twelve days had not yet passed and adversity struck. Post the visit of the Magi the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him about the impeding peril. ‘So Joseph got up taking the Child and his Mother with him left that night for Egypt.’ (Matthew 2:14). Fleeing with fear, they barely escaped Herod’s hounding army and a maniac plot of mass murder. 

Journeying, wandering, hoping, praying, they came a long way into the vastness of the open desert. As the wind whistled through the air, the coldness of the deep winter caught up with the pilgrim family. The little donkey shuddered as he plodded onwards with his precious load. Weariness soon weighed them down. They decided to stop and rest for the night.

As darkness poured over the desert, stars drilled down the sky. The wayfarers came across a solitary sphinx and decided to camp by its side. The air was clear. Yet the lonely travellers saw nothing, heard nothing. But something throbbed, something gleamed. It was the stark horizon that beamed for joy on having the Holy Family in its midst that holy night.

The sphinx shared in its cheer. It graciously obliged to serve as a chaise lounge to the Virgin Mary and the Christ child. As the Madonna and child fell asleep within its rest, the Sphinx raised its head blissfully glorifying God. For that night it lost not itself in the shadows of the constant solitary darkness. Christ Child was the source of divine light. 

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