An unconventional portrayal of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Nellie Edwards’ “Mother of Life” immediately draws the viewer’s gaze to Mary’s face, an expression of stoic serenity. Her glowing visage imparts an inexplicable restfulness; she articulates no rational explanation for her peace, yet her image communicates, in fact imparts, a definitive grace. Eventually, the slope of her mantle and bowed head guide us to the image’s center: the Light of Christ in her womb. We now discover the source of her firm tranquility to be the Christ-Child, whose radiance is almost too bright for our eyes to hold.
Editorial Note: This series features Nativity sets from Africa on display in the McGrath Institute for Church Life’s Sixth Annual International Crèche Exhibit.
Though the Christmas story centers around the joy of the birth of Jesus, who will bring “peace on earth,” and the promise of “God and sinners reconciled,” it nevertheless leaves important space for the darkness and difficulty of human life. From Mary’s fearful awe at the momentous Annunciation to the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt and the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, the Nativity story itself incorporates the brokenness of the world that Christ came to save. The crèche, then, as an artistic depiction of the Nativity, can emphasize the joy of Christmas, but it also invites moments of recognizing the pains, burdens, or fears which accompany human life.
On the feast of St. Nicholas, it’s customary among Christians to give gifts to loved ones, in anticipation of the greater gift-giving to come at Christmas, and to honor the Myran bishop and his unfailing generosity to those in need.
As our gift this year, I’d like to share a playlist I curated several Advents ago, featuring music to mark this beautiful season.
Pope Francis has spoken extensively of a “throwaway culture” in which items, creation, even human beings are deemed unnecessary or inconvenient, then tossed aside. The antidote? A “culture of encounter,” where we do not merely look at others, but we see them; we do not simply hear them, but we listen to them. Every member of the Church is called to minister to the Body of Christ in this way.
Editorial Note: This series features Nativity sets from Africa on display in the McGrath Institute for Church Life’s Sixth Annual International Crèche Exhibit at the University of Notre Dame.
Since the Middle Ages, recreating the story of Christ’s birth through a Nativity scene has been a beloved Christmas tradition around the world. These nativity scenes, or crèches, typically depict the Holy Family with the eclectic cast of characters found in the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke’s Gospels: shepherds, magi, angels, and animals crowd around the manger to welcome the newborn King. While many of these crèche displays are simply breathtaking works of art, their value goes far beyond their technical or visual appeal; the tactile and colorful materials inspire reflection on the entrance of God into the very tactile world in the Incarnation. This reminder of the humanity of Christ—from his humble bed in a manger to the loving attention of his mother and foster father—invites the viewers to enter deeply into the mystery of Christmas.