Life in Nazareth, the School of the Gospel (Paul VI)

Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus; the school of the Gospel. Here we learn to look, to listen, to meditate, and to penetrate the deep and mysterious meaning of this very simple, very humble, and beautiful manifestation of the Son of God. Perhaps we even learn, without realizing it, to imitate. Here we learn the right approach that will help us to fully grasp who Christ is.

Nazareth, the setting of Christ's living among us

Here we feel the need to observe the setting of his sojourn among us: the places, times, customs, language, religious practices, in a word, all that Jesus used to reveal himself to the world. Here everything speaks, everything has meaning. Everything has a double significance: first, a purely external meaning, which the senses and the faculties of immediate perception can draw from the evangelical scenes, like onlookers who simply study and analyze the philological and historical clothing of the holy books, which in biblical language is called "the letter."

Although this study is important and necessary, it remains in the dark, and can even arouse the proud illusion of knowledge in those who look at the external aspects of the Gospel, without a clear gaze, a humble heart, a right intention and a prayerful soul. The Gospel, in fact, delivers its interior meaning, that is to say, the revelation of truth and reality, which it manifests and at the same time hides from sight, only to those who position themselves in the light. This position comes from the uprightness of the mind, that is to say, of both the thought and the heart - a subjective and human attitude that each person should procure for himself – and at the same time this disposition emanates from the unfathomable, voluntary and free illumination of grace.

There is a "spirituality of Nazareth," at the school of the hidden life of Jesus in his parents’ house

This grace, on account of the mystery of mercy that governs the destiny of mankind, is never lacking; at least in certain hours and in certain forms, it never fails men of good will. This is what we call "the spirit." Here, at this school, we understand the necessity of having a spiritual discipline if we wish to follow the teaching of the Gospel and become a disciple of Christ. Oh! as We would like to become a child again and give ourselves to this humble and sublime school of Nazareth! We wish that, near Mary, we could be initiated to the true science of life and the superior wisdom of the divine truths!

But our stay here is very brief. We must therefore renounce this desire to pursue here the never-finished education to the understanding of the Gospel. We shall not, however, leave without having hastily picked up, or snatched, some brief lessons from Nazareth:

Lessons of silence, family life, work:

Let an appreciation for silence, this admirable and indispensable pause of the mind, be born in us again; we who are assailed by so many noises, worries and shouts in our modern, noisy and hyper-stimulated life. May the silence of Nazareth, teach us the recollection, the interiority, and the disposition to listen to the good inspirations and the word of the true masters; teach us the need and value of preparation, study, meditation, personal and interior life, and prayer that God alone sees in secret.

May Nazareth teach us what the family is, in its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character! Let us learn from Nazareth that the formation which one receives here is gentle and irreplaceable, and that, on the social level, it is primordial and without comparison.

 Oh Nazareth, home of the "carpenter’s Son"! It is here that we would like to understand and celebrate the hard and redemptive law of human work; to re-establish the consciousness of the noble value of labor; to remember that work cannot be an end in itself, but that its freedom and nobility, in addition to its economic value, come from the values that underlie its end. And in this place we wish to salute all the workers of the world and show them their great model, their divine brother, the prophet of all their just causes: Christ our Lord!


Paul VI,

Speech given on January 5, 1964, in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth