Monday, December 19, 2016

Why the Pope's Christmas card has baby Jesus squared

Two expressions of the divineThere’s something a little unusual about the Pope's Christmas card. 

There are two baby Jesuses ― one held by Mary and another held by a midwife sitting underneath her. 

Every year, Pope Francis digs into the Church’s centuries-old treasure trove of religious art and chooses an image for the front of his Christmas card.

For Christmas 2016, Francis has chosen a scene from a 14th-century fresco painted by the artist Giotto di Bondone inside a church in Assisi, Italy.

The image has all the usual hallmarks of a modern-day nativity scene ― shepherds, angels, animals, and the Virgin Mary. But take a closer look and you’ll realise that there’s something a little odd about this Christmas tableau.

There are two baby Jesuses ― one held by Mary and another held by a midwife sitting underneath her.

According to the National Catholic Register, this 1313 fresco is unique in that it uses two little children to represent Jesus.

The website reports that Giotto painted Jesus twice to illustrate two sides of his nature ― the human and the divine.

The two midwives at Mary’s feet are embracing and supporting one of the babies. 

A representative for the church’s convent, Enzo Fortunato, said in a statement that this emphasises the idea that Jesus is not a stranger to the world, but “part of the humanity to which we belong,” according to an NCR translation.

Both babies are wrapped tightly in swaddling clothes, which Mr Fortunato said recalls the need to “alleviate the suffering of others.”

It’s also significant that the fresco is located at Assisi, the same town where the Pope’s namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, was born.

Mr Fortunato told Ansa that Pope Francis chose the painting from Assisi because “St Francis was the one who invented the Nativity scene.”

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