Edward W. Said

This Sunday I will be preaching the homily for the Third Week of Advent on Matthew 2.13-15. In this passage Jesus is exiled to Egypt in preparation for his exodus back to the land of his people. These two themes of exile and exodus will be the focus of my sermon.

I read Edward W. Said‘s essay “Reflections of Exile” in preparation. This is the opening paragraph, which I find captures exile quite well (from Reflections on Exile and Other Essays, p. 173):

“Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted. And while it is true that literature and history contain heroic, romantic, glorious, and even triumphant episodes in an exile’s life, these are no more than efforts meant to overcome the crippling sorrow of estrangement. The achievements of exile are permanently undermined by the loss of something left behind forever.”

The story of the Jews is one of exile. Adam exiled from Eden. Abraham exiled from Ur. The children of Jacob from the land of Abraham because of famine. Israel exiled into Assyria. Judah exiled into Babylon. The Great Diaspora in 70 CE because of the Romans was the final, great exile.

Jesus’ exile into Egypt embodies this, yet Jesus experiences exodus as well. Exodus is the solution to exile. Abraham’s exile was his exodus as well. Moses led “the Exodus” out of Egypt. The Jews relived exodus out of Babylon. Jesus is the exodus.