The Catholic web has been discussing the pros and cons of the current Vatican Nativity. It includes extra figures meant to draw our attention to the corporal works of mercy.
Some have been outraged by the inclusion of a semi-naked male figure sporting a six pack, and others bemoan that they are as expressive as shop mannequins. I think it would be unfair to question the competency of the artists who executed the scene. I do not know what particular constraints they were under to produce the figures, and how much creative input they were allowed. If the tableau is skilfully rendered or not, the main question is whether it works as a piece of religious art.
There is a long tradition in Catholicism that art is a teaching tool, it exists that we should learn some spiritual truth from it.
Sacred art can be a "sermon" in pictures, and Integrity demands that a Nativity scene draw the viewer into the central mystery of Christ Incarnate. It is the contemplation of Christ as a babe, which is key to our treating others with love and respect.
The final battle - Sr. Lucia
Cardinal Caffera of Bologna recorded the prohecy of Sr. Lucia, who wrote that: "The final battle between the Lord and Satan will be about marriage and the family." She said that we mustn't be afraid, because Our Lady had already crushed Satan's head, but the family and the sanctity of Marriage would be the decisive issue. It was due to this that St. Pope John Paul II had urged the Cardinal to establish the Pontifical Institute for marriage and the family.
Eggs over easy
The inclusion of extra figures ministering the corporal works of mercy rather over-eggs the scene. It allows the viewer to take the easy route out; distrcated by the side show. Afer all, contemplating the vulnerability of God made man is immense.
In addition, the Holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was once upheld as a model for married family life. It is their parental virtues which deserve our attention in these times.
With the family unit as the core building block of society, its disintegration has gone hand in hand with the degeneration of our culture.
Society continues to undermine the vulnerability of children and their need for nurture, and guidance. They are too often regarded as a commodity, or a burden, rather than a gift from God. When we think of the attack upon the family in these times, it is essential to keep our focus on the Holy family of the Nativity. Their example, is one of putting unconditional love into practice.
The following link has some clear photos of the scene.
The Catholic Traveler
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