Image Press, November 21, 2012.
In 2007, Joseph Ratzinger published his first book as Pope Benedict XVI in order “to make known the figure and message of Jesus.” Now, the Pope focuses exclusively on the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life as a child. The root of these stories is the experience of hope found in the birth of Jesus and the affirmations of surrender and service embodied in his parents, Joseph and Mary. This is a story of longing and seeking, as demonstrated by the Magi searching for the redemption offered by the birth of a new king. It is a story of sacrifice and trusting completely in the wisdom of God as seen in the faith of Simeon, the just and devout man of Jerusalem, when he is in the presence of the Christ child. Ultimately, Jesus’ life and message is a story for today, one that speaks to the restlessness of the human heart searching for the sole truth which alone leads to profound joy.
Summary (Courtesy of the Vatican Information Service):
"The theme of chapter two is the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist and that of Jesus. Rereading the dialogue between Mary and the Archangel Gabriel in the Gospel of Luke, Joseph Ratzinger explains that, through a woman, God 'seeks to enter the world anew'. In order to liberate man from sin, he writes, quoting Bernard of Clairvaux, God needs 'free obedience' to his will. 'In creating freedom, he made himself in a certain sense dependent upon man. His power is tied to the unenforceable yes of a human being'. Thus, only thanks to Mary's assent can the history of salvation begin.
"Chapter three is centred on the event in Bethlehem and the historical context of the birth of Jesus, the Roman Empire under Augustus, which extends from East to West and whose universal dimension allows for the entry into the world of 'a universal Saviour'; 'it is indeed the fullness of time'. The single elements of the story of the birth are dense with meaning: the poverty in which 'he who is truly the first-born of all that is' chooses to reveal himself, and therefore 'the cosmic glory' that envelopes the manger; God's special love for the poor, which manifests itself in the annunciation to the shepherds; and the words of the Gloria, whose translation is controversial.
"The fourth chapter is dedicated to the three Magi, who saw the star of the 'King of the Jews' and who had come to adore the child, and to the flight into Egypt. Here the figures of the 'magoi', reconstructed through a rich range of historical, linguistic and scientific information, are outlined as a fascinating emblem of the inner unrest and search for truth of the human spirit.
"Finally, the Epilogue, with the story - according to the Gospel of Luke - of the last episode in the childhood of Jesus, the last account we have of him before the beginning of his public ministry with his baptism in the Jordan. It is the episode of the three days during the Passover pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem, in which twelve-year-old Jesus leaves Mary and Joseph and stays in the Temple to discuss with the rabbis. Jesus, who was growing 'in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man', manifests himself in his nature as true God and, at the same time, true man, who 'thought and learned in human fashion'".
Reviews and Related Links
- Infancy Narratives Seals One of the Pope's Finest Gifts to the Church, by Kevin M. Clarke. (Zenit News Service):
Because of the timeless newness to these inimitable reflections, our coheirs to the kingdom will doubtless be reading these volumes long after we are in our tombs. With the second installment of the Jesus of Nazareth series, Pope Benedict gave Catholics plenty of food for thought for the Lenten season. His third installment similarly gives much for meditation for Advent.
- What the Pope Really Said About Christmas, by Kevin M. Clarke. First Things' "On The Square" 11/30/12. Clarke, adjunct professor of New Testament Greek at John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego, California, lays bare the media's bias and misreadings of the Pope's text.
- Being the Pope's Editor. Gary Jansen, editor of the book and of Image Catholic at Random House, talks to National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about meeting the pope, reading the pope, editing the pope, and encountering the ghosts of Christmas past, among other things.
- Read all about it: Pope has not cancelled Christmas (Reuters 11/28/12). "The day after Benedict's latest book "The Infancy Narratives - Jesus of Nazareth" - was published on November 20, Vatican officials found some headlines they were not expecting. ..."
- A vaticanista reads the pope's book, by John Allen Jr. National Catholic Reporter 11/25/12.
- Vatican blasts media coverage of pope’s latest book, by Allesandro Speciale. Religion News Service 11/29/12.
- Pope calls the Infancy Narratives an "Antechamber" to Jesus of Nazareth Volumes I and II (Zenit News Service 11/21/12).
- “The Infancy Narratives”: Not myths, just plausible stories, by Andrea Tornielli. La Stampa "Vatican Insider" 11/20/12:
The stories about Jesus’ infancy in the first few chapters of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew are not legends or imaginative reconstructions. They are not “midrash” either, that is, interpretations of the Scriptures through narrations, typical of Hebrew literature. They are “history, history which really took place, history which was certainly interpreted and understood on the basis of the Word of God.”