AROUND THE WORLD AND THROUGH THE CENTURIES WITH THE UNBORN CHRIST CHILD
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Soon after the Virgin Mary learned of her miraculous conception of Jesus, she visited her kinswoman Elizabeth, who was also expecting a child, John the Baptist. This representation of their joyous meeting comes from the Dominican convent of Katharinenthal, in the Lake Constance region of present-day Switzerland.
Carved of walnut, with the original paint and gilding almost completely preserved, the figures of Mary and Elizabeth are each inset with crystal-covered cavities through which images of their infants may originally have been seen. The representation of the Visitation incorporating images of the unborn Christ and John the Baptist, found with some frequency in contemporary works from German-speaking lands, emphasizes the moment when, according to “The Golden Legend,” Saint John, being unable “to manifest his joy with his tongue,” leapt “with joy in his mother’s womb.” The Virgin tenderly places her hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder, while her cousin raises her arm to her breast in reference to her declaration, “Who am I, that the mother of the Lord should visit me?” (Luke 1:43).
Bishop Austin Vaughn (1927-2000), formerly Auxiliary Bishop of New York, who himself was arrested a number of times for prayerfully protesting in front of abortion facilities once wrote in an article entitled The Catholic Duty to Be Pro – Life: “It is not an accident, I think, that in the scriptures the first person, after Mary, who adored Jesus when He came into the world was St. John the Baptist….The second person who ever worshipped Jesus, after Mary, was an unborn baby, and I think God made it that way to tell us in our day and age the worth and importance of every individual right from the very beginning of life”.
Filed under: Advent, Christmas, How are we to honor Unborn Jesus, Incarnation, Pro-life
Our Lady of Hope, is renowned for her beauty. The image is from the second half of the 16th century but later restorations (one by Castillo Lastrucci), added to it‘s beauty and unmistakable Sevillian style. The Virgin wears a green coat with sterling silver lining, highlighting her magnificent crown. All year – except Advent – Mary holds the infant Jesus with her left hand and arm.
Below the statue (see above photos), in front of the basket appears an oval “O” iconographic detail of the Unborn Christ Child (reminiscent of the Advent “O” antiphons).
During Advent, the oval with the Unborn Christ is placed upon the Virgin, in front of her womb. (The infant Jesus is taken down from Mary’s left hand during Advent and placed in an ornate casing.) See photos below.
Then, on Christmas day the unborn Christ oval is returned to its place below the statue and the infant Jesus returned to Mary’s hand. These rituals give a unique charm to this statue and the Incarnation event.
Iglesia de San Martín de Tours de Sevilla
Filed under: Biblical Reflections, How are we to honor Unborn Jesus, Pro-life, The Incarnation
Elizabeth honored Unborn Jesus by recognizing Him and then blessing Him and His mother (Lk 1:42-43,45). Zechariah honored Unborn Jesus by blessing Him, testifying to Him and rejoicing in His mission of Salvation (Lk 1:67-79). Elizabeth & Zechariah together honored Unborn Jesus by welcoming Him and His mother into their home for three months (Lk 1:56).
“…And we must not forget the head of the household, Zachary. He, at any rate after the birth of his son, knew the secret too, for he spoke in his song of praise of the “Orient from on High (which) hath visited us.” (St Luke i. 78.) He had been ‘unable to speak,’ but Mary with her Son had been sojourning in his house, with the result that his doubts had all disappeared, and that he under stood already something of the ‘joy and gladness’ which Gabriel had promised should be his…”
We like Elizabeth and Zechariah should welcome Unborn Jesus with joy and faith – opening our hearts to the graces he wishes to give us. Our attitude towards all mothers and their unborn babies should also be open and joyous – we should welcome them into our lives and help them in their needs.
Mary honored Unborn Jesus by accepting wholeheartedly the Plan and invitation of God to be mother to the Messiah/Savior and by then loving Him (Lk 1:38).
“In all these days, my gaze has necessarily focused on this depiction of the Annunciation of Mary (see above). What fascinated me is this: the Archangel Gabriel holds a scroll in his hand, which I believe is the symbol of Scripture, of the Word of God. And Mary is kneeling within the scroll; that is, she lives her whole life in the Word of God. It is as though she were steeped in the Word. Thus, all her thoughts, her will and her actions are imbued with and formed by the Word.
Since she herself dwells in the Word, she can also become the new “Dwelling Place” of the Word in the world.”
“The Virgin is involved with Jesus and she is the only one in the whole world involved with Jesus. Thus she is the only one in the whole world adoring the mystery of the Incarnation, which was brought about on earth for the earth but unknown to the earth. She is the only one adoring Jesus. The more that she is the only one captivated by such a great subject, the greater is her involvement. She is devoted to it with all her faculties. All her senses are brought to bear on it, for it is a tangible mystery and tangible within her. All her senses should pay homage to her God made tangible for human nature. Her whole mind is concentrated on it. And the Spirit of Jesus, which enlivens this little divinized body, enlivens the spirit and body of the Virgin as well, through grace, love and a holy, gentle influence.”
Cardinal Berulle (1575-1629) – writing about Mary’s attitude in the hours and days after the Annunciation.
We can imitate Mary in honoring Unborn Jesus by living his word and welcoming Him into our lives and by loving Him with our whole heart, mind and will. We also honor Unborn Jesus when we welcome unborn children into our world by our witness to their sacredness and by giving loving help to their mothers.
Filed under: Biblical Reflections, How are we to honor Unborn Jesus, Pro-life, Unborn Jesus
The Annunciation by Nicolas Poussin
How did the Archangel Gabriel honor unborn Jesus:
The Archangel Gabriel honors Unborn Jesus through the profound reverence with which he announces His entrance into the world (Lk 1:5-17, 26-38).
Gabriel was sent to a nobody, who had next to nothing, and who lived in the middle of nowhere. Or so it would seem. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” Why would an angel show such reverence towards a human being? Why would Gabriel, whom the bible tells us stands “in the presence of God” (Lk.1:19), speak in this way? He himself answers the question: because she had “found favor with God” (Lk.1:30).
He also honors Unborn Jesus by the respect and adoration he shows the Unborn Word of God.
Like Gabriel we too can worship the Unborn Christ Child and show great reverence to his mother. We can also honor Unborn Jesus by the respect and reverence we give to each unborn baby made in His image and likeness and by the love and support we give to their mothers.
Filed under: Biblical Reflections, How are we to honor Unborn Jesus, Pro-life, Quotes from Great Christians, Unborn Jesus
Meeting of Mary and Elisabeth by Marx Reichlich, Austrian painter (b. 1460, Salzburg, d. 1520, Salzburg) Alte Pinakothek, Munich
Sunday was the feast of the birth of St. John the Baptist. In honor of St. John we are posting a short series entitled:
How are we to honor Unborn Jesus (and all unborn babies made in his image and likeness)?
There are countless ways to honor Christ Unborn. But one way to consider this question is to reflect on the eight people and one angel mentioned in the Gospels as particularly honoring Jesus during His 9 months in the womb. These 9 are: the Archangel Gabriel, Mary, Unborn John the Baptist, Elizabeth and Zechariah (John’s parents), Joseph and finally the 3 wise men.
We would like to start with 2 quotes about unborn John who stands in the place of all unborn babies – who in a sense is every unborn baby.
Cardinal Bérulle (1575 – 1629) wrote extensively on the Unborn Christ Child. Here he reflects on the Visitation when the unborn John the Baptist leaps with joy:
“God has become a child, and so he wants first to be known and adored by a child, and this is one of the first emanations of the childhood of God, manifesting himself to the universe. God is a child, the world ignores, heaven adores, and a child is the first person in the universe to recognize and adore him, and he does so by the homage and secret operation of God himself, who wants to act upon children. He wants to honor himself as child by giving the first knowledge of himself to a child in the world, making him his prophet in the universe. Thus the Infant-God is recognized and manifested, not by and angel, but by a child. So his first prophet is a child, just as shortly his first martyrs will be children.”
Bishop Austin Vaughan (1927-2000), Auxiliary Bishop of New York, who was arrested many times for peacefully praying and protesting in front of abortion facilities, wrote an article called “The Catholic Duty to be Pro-Life” in which he reflected:
“It is not an accident, I think, that in the Scriptures the first person, after Mary, who adored Jesus when he came into the world was St. John the Baptist…The second person who ever worshipped Jesus after Mary was an unborn baby and I think God made it that way to tell us in our day and age the worth and importance of every individual right from the very beginning of life.”
There is a very worthwhile apostolate called One More Soul. On their website they describe themselves as “a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading the truth about the blessings of children and the harms of contraception.”
They have many outstanding pamphlets and DVD’s on different subjects – chastity, infertility/fertility, contraception etc. Recently they came out with a pamphlet about the Unborn Christ Child.
The 12 page booklet entitled The Life of Jesus in the Womb – A Meditation and a Prayer by Kathleen Curren Sweeney is a loving and beautiful tribute to the pre-born Christ Child. In this booklet, the author describes the ordinary growth that each child in the womb experiences but that Our Lord himself sanctified during those wonderful nine months. We see Christ being prepared for the work of Salvation. “The whole destiny of the world is held in your tiny form.” (p.4)
Throughout the booklet, Kathleen Sweeney has a prayerful love and understanding of the Pre-born Christ’s solidarity with all pre-born babies especially those who are most vulnerable today. This is a perfect pamphlet for Respect Life groups to order for their parishes. To order this booklet click here.