Art that comforts
Vatican News

Vatican Museums: Come, let us worship #2

“The depiction of Jesus’ birth is itself a simple and joyful proclamation of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.” These words of Pope Francis recall how the birth of Jesus has inspired generations of artists throughout history to evangelize through beauty. Every week the Vatican Museums and Vatican News offer a masterpiece from the pontifical collections, which are accompanied with a reflection from the Popes.

John of Paul (1395/1400 ca. 1482); Altar-step compartment: The Nativity and the Annunciation to the Shepherds; Tempera on poplar; 1435 ca.; Vatican Art Gallery © Musei Vaticani

A splendid nighttime scene of the Nativity and the Annunciation to the shepherds, in which St. Joseph is depicted as an old man, shown from behind as he sleeps next to a dead tree, which alludes to his exclusion from the birth of the Son of God. The two women near Mary—who are the midwives of which the apocryphal gospels speak—represent those people who believe (the woman who looks toward the Virgin) and those who doubt (Salome, who turns her back). In the background an angel lights up the sky appearing to the shepherds. But the supernatural light which radiates from the Child, placed humbly on the ground, is much brighter.

© Musei Vaticani
© Musei Vaticani

“In the stable at Bethlehem, Heaven and Earth meet. Heaven has come down to Earth. For this reason, a light shines from the stable for all times; for this reason joy is enkindled there… With the humility of the shepherds, let us set out, during this Holy Night, towards the Child in the stable! Let us touch God’s humility, God’s heart! Then his joy will touch us and will make the world more radiant.”

(Pope Benedict XVI – Midnight Mass, Christmas 2007)

Under the direction of Paolo Ondarza
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06 December 2020, 09:00