"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Why Jesus is depicted naked, lying on the bare ground - the Virgin, fully clothed, adoring the Lord?



The Virgin Birth.

Many Christians, even Catholics I've encountered, no longer really believe in the Virgin Birth, despite the dogma and the definition that Our Lady, Holy Mary, Mother of God is Ever-Virgin, before, during and after the Birth of Christ.

"The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ's birth "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it." And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the "Ever-virgin." - CCC

In art, painters have attempted to represent this truth in various ways.  Iconography does so magnificently in icons of the Mother of God of the Burning Bush and those like it.  Western painters have done likewise, as in the image at top.  It has been the way mystics have described the moment of birth, as well.  Western artists have shown the Child Jesus lying naked upon the bare ground, our Lady serenely adoring the Divine Child - St. Joseph often in the 'wings' fast to sleep - or more correctly, in ecstasy, the sacred moment hidden from his view.  Its mystery only matched by the unseen moment of the Resurrection.

The Gospel is masterfully depicted
in this narrative by Lippi.


Although the naked Christ in the Nativity is meant to convey several layers of meaning and inspire the hearts of the viewer, it is also meant to convey much deeper, doctrinal truths.  God became man - but his birth was miraculous - it wasn't like ours - it couldn't be if the virginal integrity of the mother was to remain intact.  But how does this happen?  How did the Incarnation happen?

In art, His nakedness and the impression of abandonment on the bare ground in the cold of winter definitely reflects the hearts of men and their rejection of God, as well as the human condition of poverty and want.  Yet the painter also attempts to depict the precise moment, as well as the 'nature' of His miraculous birth ... and as in the Lippi interpretation above, one may immediately recognize a connection to the creation story of Adam ... taken from the earth, naked, and so on.  Christ is the new Adam.

Who is this gate (Ezekiel 44:1-4), if not Mary? Is it not closed because she is a virgin? Mary is the gate through which Christ entered this world, when He was brought forth in the virginal birth and the manner of His birth did not break the seals of virginity. (St. Ambrose of Milan, The Consecration of a Virgin and the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, 8:52; c. 391 AD)

Perhaps no greater sign of creeping apostasy just may be the denial of these mysteries, these dogmas:  The cornerstone of Christian faith ...

I wrote about this before here.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I posted on poor cold baby Jesus yesterday, but your explanation from the artist's point of view made me think. As a mom, my instinct is still to scoop up that baby and wrap him in a blanket.

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