The Holy Family Tree (MATARIYA)
ACCORDING TO MATTHEW 2:13, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.” The Holy Scripture does not tell us about the length of the sojourn of the Holy Family in Egypt and the sites they blessed during their journey. The details of the great Flight into Egypt and the itinerary of the journey were left to tradition.
One of the best-known sites visited by medieval pilgrims and modem tourists is al-Matariya, which is situated about five miles northeast of central Cairo. According to one tradition, the Holy Family found shade under a sycomore fig tree that is still standing there. It is said that Jesus created a well near the tree and blessed it. When Mary poured the water on the ground after the bath of Jesus, a balsam tree grew. It is believed that this plant was used for the preparation of the holy oil or myron that had been consecrated since the time of the apostles. Today the site of the “Tree of Mary” is visited by many Egyptians, both Christian and Muslim, and tourists from all over the world. As well as the Jesuits’ Holy Family Church there is a ‘Mosque of the Tree of Mary.’ In 2000, the tree and the well beside it were protected by an attractive enclosure wall with beautiful interior decoration, and the site was renovated and landscaped on the occasion of the two-thousand-year celebration of the Holy Family’s Flight into Egypt.