Egypt represents the bondage of sin, the power of the world, the rule of the devil and the freedom of the flesh. In Scripture it signified what was contrary to the one True God and what was opposed to the children of God by persecution or by seduction.
Yet, by God’s eternal plan, His divine Son was to go there and to be called back, Mary being the vehicle of His obedience.
Mary knew very well that Egypt, the perennial enemy of the Jews, persecuted the children of Israel for 400 years and later, as an occasional ally, helped to corrupt their morals and turn them away from their God.
And yet as She carried Jesus in Her arms, She reflected upon how Egypt was to receive the mercy of God. God, who asks us to love our enemy, asked Mary to help Him give us the example.
Instead of rejecting Egypt, He approaches her. In so doing Christ wished to receive the protection of this people, to be fed by their grains, and sheltered in their slums. Later, He would repay their services by the preaching of the Gospel to them by St. Mark.
For the Jews however, Egypt had little sympathy and no comforts to offer. Mary’s daily life was very hard as She helped St. Joseph make a living in the slums where the Jews lived. Forced poverty, impossibility of a good job for Joseph, ambient paganism and the lack of the precious support of the external ceremonies of religion made life nearly unbearable.
To the unthinking mind, It would seem that Christ’s life in Egypt was of no use. But Mary knew differently.
In Egypt Christ set mankind the example, not only of loving one’s enemy, but the all-important example of merit. By freely living in exile among His enemies and by doing them good, Christ merited a reward due in justice to His infinitely valuable acts.
With these merits Christ paid for the sins of Egypt and the whole world. Mary too merited, in cooperation with Christ, by freely suffering the hardships of Egypt for Her Son. In truth, man’s whole salvation is based entirely upon the merits of Christ but also require his own. If a man does not merit by freely obeying the law of God out of love for God, he can in no way be saved.
Christ’s life in Egypt teaches us that above all, it is merit that counts. But the foundation of merit is the Faith. We must really believe in Christ, that by His divinity, He is in all places, holding up all things by His divine power.
With this in mind, we realize that nothing happens that He does not will or permit. Whatever He wills or permits is ours to bear, and to make fructify by our merits. For this, we need devotion to Mary, the one who best understood Her Son’s wisdom even in the darkest moments of His life.
Let us turn to Her to make us ready for the coming tribulations, realizing that they will be times of winning great merits for the kingdom of Heaven.