Be Thou There

A detail of Joseph’s dream, from a twelfth century icon of the Nativity.

Now the angel having thus appeared, talks not with Mary, but with Joseph; and what says he? ‘Arise, and take the young Child and His mother.’ Here, he says not any more, ‘your wife’, but ‘His mother’. For after that the birth had taken place, and the suspicion was done away, and the husband appeased, thenceforth the angel talks openly, calling neither child nor wife his, but ‘take the young Child and His mother, and flee into Egypt’; and he mentions the cause of the flight: ‘For Herod’, says he, ‘will seek the young Child’s life’.

Joseph, when he had heard these things, was not offended, neither did he say, ‘The thing is hard to understand: Did you not say just now, that He should save His people? and now He saves not even Himself: but we must fly, and go far from home, and be a long time away: the facts are contrary to the promise’. Nay, none of these things does he say (for the man was faithful): neither is he curious about the time of his return; and this though the angel had put it indefinitely thus: ‘Be there until I tell you’. But nevertheless, not even at this did he shudder, but submits and obeys, undergoing all the trials with joy.

And this because God, who is full of love to man, did with these hardships mingle things pleasant also; which indeed is His way with regard to all the saints, making neither their dangers nor their refreshment continual, but weaving the life of all righteous men, out of both the one and the other.

from Saint John Chrysostom’s Eighth Homily on Matthew

6 comments to Be Thou There

  • Maria

    I am thankful to you Father Justin!
    This is the whole of my life! The icon and the text
    I was waiting for this context …
    As I saw it once before or a similar one years ago, I think

  • Richard Saloom

    Father Justin,

    Would this work have been done by local artists or those from Constantinople/other parts of the empire?

    The words of Saint John Chrysostom are amazing. He truly deserves the sobriquet of Chysostom.

    • Father Justin

      This icon has been dated to the middle of the twelfth century, and attributed to the environs of Constantinople, by the late George Galavaris. A catalogue of the objects on display in the Monastery Treasury (the Skevophylakion) was published in Greek in 2015. An English edition will appear later this year.


    This reminds me of 1 John 4:18
    Perfect love drives out fear
    My Bible study group has chosen this subject for this week. Most inspiring icon Father Justin

  • Filip A. Petcu

    Dear Father, thank you for the great news about the catalogue in English, of the icons of the Skevophylakion. Please keep us posted.

  • Dominique Baron

    Dear Father, thank you for your comments. This icon of the Nativity, although small in size, is full of details.
    St Jean Chrysostom’s words sheds a clear light to understand this scene.
    I read somewhere that this icon was part of a diptych. Is the other part in the monastery or elsewhere ?
    Do you know what it represents or could represent ?
    Thank you very much for your time and all what you do Father Justin.

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