As Christmas approaches, let us make some considerations about this great feast.
What were Our Lady’s thoughts on Christmas Day? What did Christmas represent for Our Lady? We must consider that Our Lady carried Our Lord within herself as in a tabernacle. She evidently had the greatest intimacy with Him; she maintained a soul-to-soul relationship. Our Lord was already conscious within the maternal womb. He had the faculty of thinking from the first moment of His being. Thus, He was in continuous communication with her, not only as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity but as the God-Man with His Mother.
Under these conditions, we must not imagine that the birth of Our Lord was an event in which Our Lady got to know Her Son. She already knew him intimately and ardently. Thus, what did Christmas represent for Our Lady?
One obvious thought is that Christmas represented the moment when Our Lady gave Our Lord to the world. Thus, Our Lord left the maternal cloister and came into the world through her arms. Our Lord’s birth happened in a mysterious way, without harming Our Lady’s virginity. It must have been a blessed moment, full of great manifestation of joy and most intimate contact.
Our Lord must have been born through a most intense act of love. Our Lady must have been raised to an inexpressibly high degree of mystical rapture when coming into contact with the divinity of Our Lord. We can imagine that this act of love and the birth scene were presided over and examined by the three Persons of the Holy Trinity and all the angels of Heaven with songs and festivities. Thus, this moment of Our Lord’s birth must have been the object of one of the most magnificent feasts in Heaven, and the greatest glories in the history of mankind.
While Our Lady had an unimaginable degree of spiritual intimacy and union with God, I believe the birth of Our Lord represents something more for her. She had not yet seen the Sacred Face of Our Lord or His whole Body. Physical reality serves as a symbol of spiritual reality. Thus, His facial features served as a physical representation of the spiritual perfections of Our Lord, Who was most perfect and had no form of fraud, deception, inadequacy or flaw.
The faces of men generally, though confusingly, express what is inside their souls. Thus, imagine how the Most Sacred Face of Our Lord and His whole Body reflected the interior of His soul! By seeing His face, His gaze, and every member of His Body, Our Lady acquired new insights and knowledge about Our Lord, whose physical presence revealed His whole mentality and soul. Hence, she had a new reason to love Him; she had a new motive to unite herself to Him. These reasons certainly provoked acts of ineffable adoration that Our Lady presented to Our Lord on that Christmas night.
Every facial expression, and especially the gaze, expresses the mentality of the person. In their own way, the neck, shoulders, hands, feet and body as a whole also express a person’s mentality. Thus, imagine Our Lady contemplating this unmistakable expression of Our Lord’s psychological and supernatural character, and profoundly adoring Him.
This notion of the Infant Jesus’ mental and spiritual side was completely deformed by Renaissance artists and needs to be corrected. To give an idea of the Infant Jesus’ highest purity, Renaissance artists present Him as a silly, expressionless baby playing and moving without manifesting any indication of having a conscious mentality. I find this portrayal hard to believe since I have the impression that the Face and Body of the Infant Jesus already expressed all those qualities that we admire in Our Lord as an adult. We see how He transcends all things. His soul exists in an entirely superior realm of things. It calls to mind His comment: “My ways are not your ways, nor are my thoughts your thoughts.” His interior life seems to occupy an entire Heaven within Himself, from which He looks benevolently down upon mankind. His goodness toward a distant humanity brings His mercy closer. We see already in His Infant Face all the balance, distinction, affability and strength that should inspire in us to strive toward these truly ineffable moral perfections.
Christmas is the first manifestation of all these qualities of Our Lord, which were the objects of Our Lady’s adoration. Our Lady’s relationship and union with Our Lord at that point, is something beyond our understanding.
Saint Joseph, who was close to her, also participated in this act of worship as her husband and the father of the Infant Jesus. We can imagine Saint Joseph’s tenderness, respect, enthusiasm, adoration and veneration upon seeing the Child he knew was the Son of the Holy Spirit and Our Lady. However, Our Lord legally belonged to him. Through the person of Saint Joseph, He became a son of David, and thus fulfilled the prophecies. Saint Joseph would look at that Child and think that He was his God and the God of all men. At the same time, He was his son and the son of his wife. Considering the holiness of Our Lord emanating from the scene and above all from His Person, we can imagine what all this meant to Saint Joseph!
We should be enchanted by the idea that the human Person and Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ at Christmas manifested His holiness, which in turn manifested the dignity of God hypostatically united to human nature. This consideration is what we should ponder on Christmas Eve. Our attention should not be on the scene portrayed by many holy cards depicting the Christmas scene with a light-filled manger of the Infant Jesus, in which He is shown as a little boy with a silly face. The light did not come from the straw; it came from the Child, and above all, from His Most Sacred Face!
This meditation would be most interesting to use this Christmas. Let us ask Our Lady and Saint Joseph to help us understand it well and to give us encouragement for a truly recollected and pious Christmas.
The preceding article is taken from an informal lecture Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira gave on December 21, 1965. It has been translated and adapted for publication without his revision. –Ed.