The Way of Beauty
THEME: Christ's birth, the Nativity in Bethlehem
FOCUS OF THE MEDITATION: By reflecting upon the birth of Jesus, we are able to see in a new way. The central mystery of our faith unveils for us something of the desire of God as we meet Jesus in an unexpected way, as a newborn babe.
Bernardino di Betto (called Pinturicchio)
Room of Mysteries
Focus your heart and attention on each of the characters in this painting and attempt to experience what they did. Joseph kneels on one knee to the left of the fresco. Mary, having just given birth, marvels along with her husband at the new life before her, the Prince of Peace.
We often feel inadequate or incapable of accomplishing the work God has ordained for us. St. Joseph can be a great friend to us in these moments, for he could not fathom the call of God either. But he remained faithful, not to be defeated by danger or unknown paths.
Let's now turn our attention to Mary, the Blessed Virgin. Her garb is royal blue, and she is positioned with hands folded. Joyfully she kneels in awe of her newborn child. Keenly aware of the mystery she contemplates, her own flesh witnessed the majesty of the Most High. During her pregnancy, for nine months she must have wondered: who is this king of glory growing in my flesh, sewn in my womb? What will he look like and who will he be?
The Savior of the world lay directly on the open grass, naked. A rich red cloth is beneath Jesus and hay from the trough serves as his pillow. He is not tucked away, but can be seen in full view by passerby, viewers who adore him from below. Jesus came for all, and even in his first moments, was sent to all.
The fact that God became man in Bethlehem changes everything. This is the good news we all long to hear and experience.
Lying in the manager, he awaits us still, beckoning us to open our hearts to make room for him.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.And she gave birth to her first-bornson and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.
And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
PRAYER AND REFLECTION
"Heaven and earth collide in this extraordinary event. Angels and human beings worship the newborn king. What homage will you bring to the Infant Savior today? What road do you need to take to arrive at Christ's Nativity?"
The comments above are taken from Meditations on Vatican Art by Fr. Mark Haydu. To truly enter into this Visio Divina, I suggest purchasing the book as each masterpiece comes with a complete description, prayer and reflection, and spiritual exercise.