By Priest Anatoly Trepatschko


How often we hear theologians and spiritual orators lamenting from their pulpits that insufficient knowledge exists about the youthful years of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Unjustified are the lamentations.  Sufficient is our knowledge.  This unrevealing time humbly formulates before our very  eyes,  an early  life’s image,  slowly and reluctantly adjaring  itself in  historical tales and tradition.


What image of Christ does the Gospel sketch for us?  In the small distant city of Nazareth, we read in the Gospel, that in an ordinary little house Jesus grew in age.   Although,  His birth occurred in Bethlehem,  the city of David,  eyewitnesses of this  great and wonderful account  were now deceased.  Among those who remained living in Jerusalem or Bethlehem news of their whereabouts was soon forgotten.  Many  thought that this child was amongst those victims killed  under Herod’s suspicions.


In  Nazareth,  no one knew or even suspected  that Mary  and Joseph guarded these truths in the secrecy of their hearts,  not divulging  them to  anyone  because, no one would understand  them and  they  themselves  found it difficult to completely decipher.  Keeping Her reflections to Herself,  the Holy Virgin Mary  hardly spoke of these events to Her Son.  How could She tell Him?  In the meantime, young  Jesus  increased in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and man ( Luke 2: 52).


In such a home dwelled  Jesus, where Joseph labored for the well being of his family, Mary’s graciousness filled the home with gentleness  and  righteous love, while adolescent Jesus, with a heavenly light illuminated  it.  Undoubtedly,  this was a home of faith and  piety,  angelic purity, and peaceful perfection.   A home which  shone  for the whole world ,  looked  upon  favorably  by angles and saints  alike.


Eighteen years  passed after visiting Jerusalem for Passover, Jesus spent nearly all of His life  in the city of Nazareth, where the Son of God, Our Saviour,  lived thirty years  of His earthly life.  Nazareth,  His place of birth  and  place of residence,  for the exception of three to four years,  the city  whose name, then not so famous,  was recorded in scorn  and derision on His Cross.


A city that He was not ashamed to call His own, when referenced to in His persecutor Saul’s vision  (Luke 2:51;  Acts 22:8).  Nazareth’s  peaceful valley’s  and hillsides  saw  Him  slowly grow and mature from adolescence  to manhood, like any  son, brother, citizen, neighbor, or friend.   His Godly might did not appear suddenly and miraculously. Like the growth of a seed in the fields by His Nazareen  home,  it went unnoticed.  Slowly, one could notice a change, for His eyes  began  shinning with a bright heavenly  light and His soul unnaturally   covered itself  with untimely solitude.  From the onset,  His needs were above  everything  earthly,  appearing  heaven bound, where not one unclean  word  or thought were proper in His presence.  Once a youth, more pronounced  became His solitude,  only  to magnify in the years to follow.  Because of His sinless nature, how then could He be close to sin  and weakness?  It was natural of Christ  to draw closer to the elderly  rather than the young.  Respectful of Joseph, He showed  a son’s full devotion  to him and to His Mother.  Habitual in His later years  and even  in the days of His youth, He often withdrew to the furthest point in  solitude,  to the  surrounding valley’s and hillsides of Nazareth,  and  eventually even  the Virgin  Mary  stopped  alarming  herself of His whereabouts.


 Passover, being the most important religious holiday of the year,  represented  only a fraction of all holidays consecutively  followed in the  Jewish calendar.   Four times during the year, in  July, October, January, and Marc h  these  holidays  were celebrated  by  the whole Jewish community  living in  Nazareth.  Fifty days  after Passover, crowds of  people congregated in Jerusalem to celebrate  the feast of Pentecost,  the feast of  firstfruits.   Such a gathering of multitudes is referred  to in  the II Chapter of Acts. The third holiday of importance, undoubtedly foresaw, Jesus and Joseph’s families participation in its celebration.    Pilgrims living in Nazareth and its surroundings intending to go to Jerusalem, gathered first in the city as a meeting place to discuss the upcoming journey.   They had to arrive before the 6th day of “shibanah”.  On this day and the 7th day the feast was celebrated.   For this reason, pilgrims left their homes a few days earlier.  For the most part, the first harvest was already gathered, enabling them to leave their homes.   Alongside the crowds of people dragged long lines of mules and camels laden with provisions and donations for the temple or the elderly and weak.  While passing cities and villages they were joined by other pilgrims.  Everyone rose early with shouts  “Arise and let us go to Zion, to Our Everlasting God”!  Thereafter, began the playing of flutes and the journey commenced with the singing of Psalm 121,  “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord”.  When Jerusalem came into view, many became overwhelmed,  falling  to their knees and  prayed with  uplifted  hands.  Immediately began the glorified singing  of  Psalm 48:2,  “Beautiful  for situation,  the joy of the whole earth,  is  Mount  Zion,  on the sides of the north,  the city of the Great King”.  The ending of the Psalm, exalted in song:  “For this God is our God for ever and ever:  He will be our guide even unto the death (Psalm 48:14) “.  Every group of pilgrims displayed  the banners of their cities or villages.  Upon reaching the walls of Jerusalem,  priests in their white robes  greeted the  pilgrims,  accompanied by a multitude of city dwellers, in holiday dress.  Reentering  through  the gates, the priests  sang loudly,  accompanied by the playing of the flutes:  “I  was  glad when they said unto me, let us go  into the house of the Lord.  Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem!”. (Psalm 121:1-2).   On the street and at their doorstep  busy  faces of merchants,  in honor of the procession,  rose and greeted them with words,  “people  from Nazareth  (or elsewhere)  welcome!”  With the approaching pilgrims,  huge crowds filled the air with joyous  shouting.  On the Temples elevations, rich and poor alike were participants  in  these processions,  placing their baskets on their shoulders and climing  into the male courtyard,  where they were greeted  by  the Levites, who joined  the procession  singing  along to the music of their instrument,  beginning with  the following words:  “Praise ye the Lord.  Praise God in His sanctuary: praise Him in the firmament of His power” (Psalm 150).  “By  this I know  that thou favorest me, because mine enemy doth not  triumph  over me.” (Psalm 40:11).  Doves tied  to baskets, where now handed over to the priests for burned offerings.  The first fruits and  gifts  were  removed  from the baskets with spoken words written  beforehand  by Moses:  “I profess this day unto the Lord  thy God, that I am come unto the country  which the Lord  sware unto our fathers for to give us.”   “And now, behold,  I have brought the first fruits of the land,  which  thou  O Lord, hast given me” (Deut. 26:3).  Then the pilgrims left the temple escorted by a large crowd.  Some of them went to rest with their relatives and friends, others with some of the many  homeowners who invited  them.  No doubt Christ was a participant in all of these events.  In the early days of His life,  He often saw how these overcrowded cities were  encircled  by  pilgrims  situated  on  rooftops in tents;  how windows and doors were covered in branches and flowers.


The next holiday in August attracted many to Jerusalem.  In the middle of this month, all Jews were obligated  to bring firewood to the temple, this being the reason for big celebrations in the capital.  Therefore, in the religious calendar of October 1st,  was celebrated  the New  Year or the Feast of  the  Trumpets,  Rosh Hashanah.  No work was allowed  that day.  This  was the day  according  to the Jews,  when  God  received an account of everyone’s actions of the previous year.  This was a day of atonement,  in  which your fate  for the coming year was sealed in heaven’s  book.  It was more a day of fasting,  than  merrymaking.  Special ascending  prayers filled the Synagogue  and no one could  eat before noon or sunset.  The following  eight  days,  the Jewish Great Lent, in  which were prepared meals  for the Day of Atonement.  This last day considered  the most triumphant and  holy,  was merely called  DAY.  It was the Sabbath  of Sabbaths, a day of complete peace according to the book of Leviticus 16:1-34 and Numbers 29:7-11.  By the testimony of historian  Josephus  Flavios, all  fasted in the course of 24 hours.  All communal or domestic  obligations  were stopped,  no one even washed.  This  whole day  was spent in the Synagogue where everyone stood dressed  in white garments  and covered  heads  and  where this attire thereafter,  was  used for their burial.  Each one, according to the law, confessed their sins before God.  This day  was  significantly jubilant in the Jewish year.  Christ could hear early on, how in seven days  at the dawning of the great day, the high priest repeated all ceremonies and  purified  himself  by sprinkling  the water of separation.  Christ could have heard  also, how the high priest spent the night before  the great day:  before Him or He Himself  read  loudly to keep from falling asleep,  because he could not sleep before the sunset of the following day. How shallow the teaching of the Rabbis  must have seemed , when He found out that they  had to change their clothes six times this day, wash their hands and feet eight times  and  their  whole body  five times between dawn and sunset.  Our Saviour,  often  saw,  how  the high priest  in  head dress with barren feet,  entered once a year the Holy of Holies  clad in a curtain of frightening  darkness, where only he was allowed to enter.  According  to  historian  Josephus  Flavios,  the high priest only spent a split of a second in this small,  dark, and  gloomy  room.   The rituals performed  where too numerous and complex,  even  this historian of Judaism had no intentions of naming  them all.  Worship performed by hundreds of priests,  completed after confessing thrice the peoples’ sins.  The numerous gathering of pilgrims,  at every  mention  of  Gods  frightful name,  three times fell to the ground sobbing: “Blessed be This Glorious Name,  unto the ages of ages”.  The high priest answered after each wail:  “you are cleansed!”  All of this  Our Saviour had to observe.


Five days after the Day of Atonement,  began the last celebrated holiday of the year,  the Feast of Booths or Tabernacle,  which commemorated the forty days of wondering of the Jews in  the dessert.  As the other Jews,  Jesus participated,  dwelling  in  booths made of leafy  tree branches built in  every courtyard, on every  roof top,  in  streets and  in open spaces of Jerusalem.  Christ also saw, crowds of people bringing  the best of their harvest to the temple.  Joyously,  each one carried palms or lemon branches.  A time for happiness in every home, a city  drenched in lights and total rejoicing.


The 25th  of December,  Kislev,  commemorating  the  rededication of  the Temple by Judas  Maccabeus,  Hanukkah,  the temple being  defiled  by the Syrians (1 Macc 4:52-59).   The  public gathered in the Synagogue , carrying  palms and other branches  in  hand, participated in festive services.  In  every family  the young  listened  to agitating stories of Maccabean  triumph  and were inspired to noble confrontations.  To this were added heroic achievements  of Judiphus and the Syrian Olophern.  In  Nazareth,  no child  remained ignorant of these  events.                                                                                                            


Purim,  celebrated in the interval between the Feast of Booths and Passover on the  fourteenth  and the fifteenth of Adar (March),  was  a  remembrance  celebrating  the freeing of the Jewish people in Persia, with the helpful assistance of Ester,  from the  evil plot of Haman.  The Book of Ester was read  in the Synogogue  with the intent to save a living memory of the significant event.  Children  raised  the  loudest  and most threatening shouts at every mention of the name of Haman. The gathered stamped their feet shouted forth with all their might, damned curses:  His name be effaced, perish the name of the impure.  Every year in the Synagogue of Nazareth,  Jesus had to see all this and hear,  how the reader wanted in one breath to read verses in which Haman and his sons were mentioned,  to emphasize  the fact,  that they were hanged  simultaneously.


 Such was the  Jewish religious year with  its 59 celebrated holidays, visually observed by Jesus. Every event with its distinctive differences and its constantly repetitive influences on  the peoples  voice,  thought,  and  life materialized in numerous  forms.  Religion  and  politics  always fused in a theocratic society.  In this fashion,  these two principles  exhibited greater influences  on mankind,  a  constant worry  for every Jew.  In such an atmosphere, Christ spent His life on earth.


But,  neither the services  performed in the  Synogogue,  nor the holidays celebrated in  Jerusalem and attended lovingly  by  the Galileans, did not extend , so to speak,  the greatest influence on  the developement of wisdom in Jesus.  As in the teachings of the Rabbi,  these festive holidays  served  in various ways  as a means  for grasping and understanding the Holy Book, in which  His Heavenly Father revealed  Himself to Israel.  On every page of the Gospel,  it is evident, that Christ as Timothy (II Timothy 3:15),  from  childhood  knew the Holy Scriptures.   With confidence we can say,  that in Joseph’s house the Scriptures were read daily,  perhaps  stricter than elsewhere.  In agreement with the teachings  of the Rabbis,  accordingly  “three  sitting  together and  not discussing the Law”,  were likened to people eating  pagan  sacrifices.  The teachings of Christ stand out for their clarity,  joyousness,  and  simplicity  and  exemplify  purity and holiness,  as a result of His clean and saintly  upbringing.   Remembrances  in  images of His home life and  a childhood  filled with love,  the Gospel speaks of them.   Hints of innocent child like play,  their  nearness  to the Kingdom of God;  images of a father defenseless against his sons  pleas;  deeply  touching,  the show of His homelessness; Christ comparing  Himself  with the birds of the air and foxes  who have their holes (Matt 8:20; 11:16; 19:13-15; Luke15:12), showing us that in the course of His entire life , He always returned  in thought to His pure and happy  Nazareen  life.


We undoubtedly know,  the first teachers of Christ were the Virgin Mary and Joseph.  While sitting at their feet, He learned  to read the Scriptures.   According to Josephus  Flavious,  pious  Jewish  parents  seriously  concerned  themselves  with  the acquisition of  ancient  hand written manuscripts,  on  which was inscribed  the law in ancient Jewish lettering and guarded them as a saintly   family  inheritance.  More affluent families possessed complete sets  of the Testament  in scrolls or Egyptian papyrus,  the less fortunate possessing lists of Laws or Psalm Books.  Christ’s deep understanding of Scripture is  found  everywhere in the Gospel, so profound was His knowledge that even His enemies had to concede and recognize  Him as a Teacher.  He often disputed the opinions of  Pharisees and said to them  “Have ye not read?” (Matt 12:3).   The Old Testament in its entirety was as familiar to Jesus as it was to the Virgin Mary,  exalted in song  “my soul doth magnify the Lord”.  And in His childhood Christ absorbed  a heavenly wisdom,  quenched  by  purest  waters of ancient writings. He referred to the Bible when rejecting things of little importance and of no value, when it related to his religious teachings of the day.


Long years spent in Nazareth’s  solitude and humbleness ,  reflected  a  time not wasted  frivolously or engulfed in  idleness or in the dependency on others.   Residents knew that Jesus, like Joseph,  labored  to earn His daily bread .  To the Jews,  knowledge and handiwork were closely knit together,  and were not regarded as matters of  incompatibility.  Love the work of thy  hands,  said  Shemaya,  Hillel’s teacher and in Gamaliel’s family there was a saying, a joining  of studies  of God’s  Law with the studies of commerce could guard against sin,  whereby studies alone were considered dangerous  and damaging (Delitch) .  Rabbis  dedicating one third  of the day to studies of God’s Law,  one third to prayer, and the last third to work,  commanded a special  respect.  Stories fondly  told of famous teachers bringing  their own handmade chairs to class and how the Rabbia Finees  worked as a mason while being elected High Priest.  According to the words of F. B. Farrera,  Rabbis who commanded such respect in Christ’s time, some were flour grinders,  others carpenters,  shoemakers,  tailors,  bakers,  doctors,  builders,  money exchangers,  scribes,  carriers, ironsmiths,  and servers in the Synagogue.  In  this  nation, whose teachers could not receive payment for their instruction,  honest work enabled such teachers a means of livelihood  without any false offenses.  Years spent in Nazareth were equally  divided between  studies of written  revelations and  carefully observed phenomenon in the environment and in man’s  surroundings.  From the Bible we can  fully observe  that  nothing escaped from Christ’s view.  Lilies and grasses of the fields, mentioned in His Sermon on the Mount;  hens  gathering  lovingly their chicks under the wing;   birds of  heaven  scattered all over  the world,  while feeding themselves without a care;   sheeps following their shepards  and  loosing their way and perishing  in  the desert;  dogs so well known in the Eastern cities;  foxes  having their dens in wooded  thickets;  plants  and flowers;  all of these were noticed  and  taken into account when  preparing  for His Ministry.  And  human beings  were also not exempted  from His site;  their childish play,  pleasures of a riper age;  a  bridegroom and his bride;  the wailers and death;  fortresses and palaces of Kings;  satin dresses of noblemen;  rich owners of lands and vineyards;  guards,  merchants,  voyagers,  paupers,  debtors,  sowers  and  laborers  in  the vineyards or fisherman by  the sea,  fatiguing work,  the imprisoned  and anguished,  were all seen and  heard  by  Christ  and  remembered.   His overview not superficial, of  man’s pertinent traits; their happiness, suffering, actions and deeds,  their traditions,  pride and humbleness,  their pretences and sincerities,  failures and  accomplishments. This constant permeability characteristic of a great innate trait possessed by Christ namely:  amongst all imperfections and  mistakes prevalent to man,  He never lost sight of man’s innermost dignity,  who often considered  himself a lost sinner.


He did not reject publicans and sinners.  Even in them He found good  qualities.   In Zaccheus He saw the son of Abraham, in Mary Magdaleen a weeping sinner asking for forgiveness, and in the dying thief,  the  return of a prodigal son.  On all of these occasions,  hearts  secrets  where not only  discovered  through permeability, a  property of man ‘s  mind.  The all knowing Christ, penetrated  the very  secrets of the soul and joined  them together with the very breath of a flaming love (Matt. 7:9-11; 12:35; Luke 13:16; 19:9).  Like a brother and a friend to all, coming forth  to seek and to save that which was lost.  He looked upon all men  with an unending love,   regardless  of their origin.


Nazarean life in her tranquil obscurity was sparingly  referred to by the evangelists,  but in God’s concerns it had from the start  to the finish, a definite purpose and a wise objective,  serving as a preparation  for the great events culminating  in the last days of Our Lord’s  Life,  Christ’s incarnation of God’s Word,  even though partly this word  was sealed in silence.   He was the light, as spoken by St. Gregory the Theologian,  which  had  to “shine in darkness,  even  though for a short time this light was concealed from people’s view”.  He had to excel above all surrounding people,  in the highest spirit of His nature and was separated by it from all friendliness to evil.  Because of His human nature,  He had to mature the same way,  gradually as His fellow man.  Such a steady development in His everyday  achievements,  made His Life outwardly  resemble the lives  of His contemporaries.  Otherwise,  they could not be surprised  when He revealed Himself.  Spending these years in quiet solitude, Christ observed the world of man  in the same manner  He often observed the beautiful view of the surrounding cliffs of Nazareth.


Year after year passed by and  even though  He was busy with  everyday  work,  His Hour had not yet come.  Excelling in humble patience,  tremendously good natured and always actively kind, of gentle love and disposition to everyone in His surroundings,  loved and respected but, dressed in the Divine Light of His perfect humanity,  fully aware of His Godly Origin, so, peacefully Christ spent thirty years of His Life.