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[Image: The-Infancy-Narratives.jpg]

"At the end of this lengthy chapter, the question arises: how are to understand all this? Are we dealing with history that actually took place, or is it merely a theological meditation, presented under the guise of stories? In this regard, Jean Danielou rightly observes: "The adoration of the Magi, unlike the story of the annunciation [to Mary], does not touch upon any essential element of our faith. No foundation would be shaken if it were simply an invention of Matthew's based an on a theological idea" (from Danielou's The Infancy Narratives, p. 95.). Danielou himself, though, comes to the conclusion that we are dealing here with real historical events, whose theological significance was worked out by the Jewish-Christian community and by Matthew.

To put it simply I share this view."

(Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. Translated by Philip J. Whitmore and published by Image, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, 2012, p. 118.)
Is this the book where he says that there were no animals at the birth, and that it didn't take place in a stable or a cave? 
Is it supposed to be bad that he believes that the three wise men actually existed?
(11-30-2012, 07:17 PM)Crusading Philologist Wrote: [ -> ]Is it supposed to be bad that he believes that the three wise men actually existed?

Yeah, I'm a bit confused.
Yes.  A careful review of the Life of Brian has made all of this perfecty clear now. 
It is bad that he thinks it does not matter and there would be no problem if St. Matthew made it up to convey a theological idea, as if theology and history can be at odds.
(11-30-2012, 07:20 PM)Jacob Wrote: [ -> ]
(11-30-2012, 07:17 PM)Crusading Philologist Wrote: [ -> ]Is it supposed to be bad that he believes that the three wise men actually existed?

Yeah, I'm a bit confused.

I think Philly is pointing out the problem in saying "This is a historical reality, but if it weren't it wouldn't matter."  Kinda like how Rahner said his faith wouldn't be shaken if we found Christ's bones buried in the desert.  It's quintessential double speak, really.  You assert orthodoxy right after saying that it doesn't matter.  Insidious, IMO.
More excerpts:

Mary wrapped the child in swaddling clothes. Without yielding to sentimentality, we may imagine with what great love Mary approached her hour and prepared for the birth of her child. Iconographic tradition has theologically interpreted the manger and the swaddling cloths in terms of the theology of the Fathers. The child stiffly wrapped in bandages is seen as prefiguring the hour of his death: from the outset, he is the sacrificial victim, as we shall see more closely when we examine the reference to the first-born. The manger, then, was seen as a kind of altar.

Augustine drew the meaning of the manger using an idea that at first seems almost shocking, but on closer examination contains a profound truth. The manger is the place where animals find their food. But now, lying in the manger, is he who called himself the true bread come down from heaven, the true nourishment that we need in order to be fully ourselves. This is the good that give us true life, eternal life. Thus the manger becomes a reference to the table of God, to which we are invited to receive the bread of God. From the poverty of Jesus' birth emerges the miracle in which man's redemption is mysteriously accomplished.

The manger, as we have seen, indicates animals, who come to it for their food. In the Gospel there is no reference to animals at this point. But prayerful reflection, reading Old and New Testaments in light of one another, filled this lacuna at a very early stage by pointing to Is.1: 3. "The ox knows its owner, and the ass it master's crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand."

Peter Stuhlmacher points out that the Greek version of Hab. 3:2 [Habucuc] may well have contributed here: "In the midst of two living creatures you will be recognized  . . . when the time has come, you will appear" (cf. Die Geburt des Immanuel, p. 52.) The two living creatures would appear to refer the two cherubs on the mercy-seat of the Ark of the Covenant (cf. Ex 25:18-20), who both reveal and conceal the mysterious presence of God. So the manger has in some sense become the Ark of the Covenant, in which God is mysteriously hidden among men, and before which time has come for "ox and ass"--humanity made up of Jews and Gentiles--to acknowledge God.

Through this remarkable condition of Is. 1:3, Hab. 3:2, Ex. 25:18-20 and the manger, the two animals now appear as an image of a hitherto blind humanity  which now, before the child, before God's humble self-manifestation in the stable, has learned to recognize him, and in the lowliness of his birth receives the revelation that now teaches all people to see. Christian iconography adopted this motif at an early stage. No representation of a crib is complete without the ox an the ass. (Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, pp. 68-69.)
The familiar Latin text was until recently rendered thus: "Glory be to God on high and on earth peace to men of good will." This translation has been been rejected by modern exegetes--not without reason--as one-sided and moralizing. "God's glory" is not something to be brought about by men ("Glory be to God"). The "glory" of God is real, God is glorious, and this is truly a reason for joy: there is truth, there is goodness, there is beauty. It is there--in God--indestructibly. (Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, p. 74.)
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