Glencairn Abbey Cards

Featured card of the day: The Flight into Egypt/An Teitheadh go hÉigipt

Today’s featured card is The Flight into Egypt (C22) / An Teitheadh go hÉigipt (C23). It seems to come from Sr Paula's middle or later years of Christmas card design, and is more minimalist and abstract than her earlier cards.

St Matthew tells us that when Jesus was a baby, King Herod, hearing that a new king had been born somewhere in his territory, and fearing this rival for his position, ordered all male children under two years old to be killed. So Joseph took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt for safety, returning only when the slaughter had finished. It is not uncommon to represent this event in Christmas scenes, even though its sombre tone is different from the more usual joyful atmosphere associated with Jesus’ birth.

Sr Paula’s depiction of the flight into Egypt is conveyed with very simple lines. Just the minimum necessary is included to portray the two adults, the infant, and the sturdy donkey: a few lines for their robes, a simple dot for the baby, the outline of the animal. Facial features are omitted, in a sense making these people anonymous, or representative of every fugitive.

The sweep of all the lines points in the direction they are going. A sense of haste is conveyed by the flowing, curved line at the top of the card, and by the lift of the donkey’s foreleg.

The scene is stark. The couple have no belongings other than the precious infant in Mary’s arms, and Joseph’s staff, carried by a traveler on a journey. The couple’s heads are bent sorrowfully, Joseph looking at the road on which they are going, Mary at the infant she is protecting. Only the donkey looks ahead.

Another donkey will one day carry Jesus into Jerusalem, on Palm Sunday, days before his passion, death and resurrection, the last days of his life.

The line at the top of the scene, flowing from left to right, gives not only a sense of direction and speed, it may also symbolize protection – though this family is fleeing from danger, they are protected by the cloud of God’s presence (as was Israel in the desert wanderings after the Exodus), or under the protecting wings of the Holy Spirit.

Two small dashes of colour in the lower corners of the card indicate a whole landscape, suggesting mountains, sand, distance, arid ground.

This card keeps before our minds the situation and stories of refugees and migrants all over the world today.

The verse inside the card is from St. Matthew: Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went into Egypt. The greeting is May the birth of our Saviour bring peace and joy to you and to all the world.

It is available in both English and Irish versions.

Our next reflection in this series will be posted on Monday.

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