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The hen gathers her chicks to protect them from impending danger

The mother hen is thought to contribute decisively to regulating the chicks’ rhythms of activity and rest.

ZOE AUTOR 102/Antonio_Cruz TRADUCTOR Roger Marshall 14 DE ENERO DE 2024 11:00 h
Photo: [link]Michael Anfang[/link], Unsplash CC0.

The natural instincts of the hen and other poultry is to spread their wings over their chicks to protect them from the cold, the heat of the sun, heavy rain or the threat of predators.



This fact was common knowledge in Bible times, both in the Old and New Testaments, as is clear, for example, in the words of the psalmist: “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 36:7). And in those of Jesus Christ himself: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37).



Now we know that communication between the chicks and their mother begins even before they are hatched. It appears that the embryos call out repeatedly to the hen, and these sounds help them so synchronise their exit from the shell. After they are hatched, the chicks are perfectly able to distinguish between the clucking of their own mother and that of other hens.



However, during the first three weeks of their lives they are unable to regulate their body temperature, so they must regularly seek the warmth of their mother, who is always ready to gather them under her wings to protect them. The mother hen is thought to contribute decisively to regulating the chicks’ rhythms of activity and rest.



[destacate]During the first three weeks of their lives they are unable to regulate their body temperature, so they must regularly seek the warmth of their mother[/destacate]Hens communicate through clucking and body language. The sounds that they emit express emotional states, attitudes of dominance or leadership, alarm or situations of risk, mating calls, etc., though the appearance they assume at each moment is often difficult to interpret.



They have a whole repertoire of gestures and signals through which they communicate euphoria, pain, sickness, fear, sadness, happiness or a state of alertness. When they detect the presence of a dangerous bird of prey flying overhead, hens instinctively open their wings to cover their chicks and they lie low on the ground to hide and remain unnoticed. But on other occasions, they can react with great courage to defend their young. At times, hens have been seen confronting animals much larger than themselves, like sheep or cows, when they come too close to their chicks.


Jesus Christ’s lament over Jerusalem in which he compares himself to a hen protecting her young (Matthew 23:37), is nothing short of his final farewell to the thousand-year-old city. The Master thus sums up God’s desire to bring the city’s inhabitants under the protection of his wings of refuge. God always wanted, like the birds hovering overhead, to shield Jerusalem, to deliver it, ‘pass over’ it and save it (Isaiah 31:5). But the inhabitants of Jerusalem never wanted to be saved.



[destacate]The sparrowhawk, the falcon or the fox would first have to kill the hen in order to prey on the chicks[/destacate]As soon as the chicks hear the alarm call from their mother they run as fast as they can to take shelter under her wings. The sparrowhawk, the falcon or the fox would first have to kill the hen in order to prey on the chicks. In the same way, the Lord Jesus achieved the deliverance of the Jews from the forthcoming destruction. But they refused to believe him. That was why the Son of the Most High, on the occasion of his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, wept over the city and prophesied its impending doom. (Luke 19:41-44).


And, as a matter of fact, this was precisely what happened in 70 AD. Jerusalem was besieged by the emperor Titus, and Hebrew temple was laid waste. It was all over in 73 AD, with the fall of Masada at the hands of the Roman army. What would have happened if Jerusalem had believed their Messiah? Would that have altered the course of history?



What is certainly true is that Israel’s capital habitually sacrificed the prophets of God and stoned those he sent to them, as is clear from the numerous tombs around the edges of the “holy city”. Jesus knew that the same fate awaited him. And, despite everything, his attitude to them was like that of the tender and caring hen which utters its lament against the eagle that is bearing down on them. 



He knew that God would finally abandon the temple, which had become a den of corrupt traders and money-changers. This temple would no longer be the place where God dwelt, but the location of the “abomination of desolation” (Matthew 24:15), an empty and derelict house because the one who sustained it was no longer present in it. Instead of the “house of God” the temple would become a mere “house of man”.



Chapter 23 of the gospel of Matthew ends with these words: “For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:39). The Master is prophesying here that Jerusalem will not see him again until his Parousia, his coming in glory at the end of history. The Israel that rejects Jesus will see him return in the name of the Lord, but will it be too late?



[analysis]

[title]One more year[/title]

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