WHILE ON A RECENT PILGRIMAGE, a friend took this photograph of the Virgin Mary and her new Son, found over an altar in Padua, Italy. I feel a great joy, not only for the painting itself, but that through this marvelous technology available to us, we're able to make the image a kind of Christmas gift to the world. Joy to the World, the Lord has come, let earth receive her King...Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing...."
The jewel-crowns the figures wear were likely added later - perhaps as a thank offering from someone who could afford it. They are lovely, but don't add anything to the real beauty of the painting, which is that of the two heavenly smiles breaking over our weary world.
God smiling on our world! God, in the Infant Christ, climbing all over us, the way a baby climbs up Mother's dress. And the dark clouds (let's name them) being pushed back by the brightness of their faces and the golden wisdom of their nimbused-minds.
This little Jesus already has his Christ-mind, which is why he looks at us with mischief. It's as if he's saying playfully, "Get ready! You think I'm adorable, and you might want me to stay a non-interfering baby, but I'm going to ask difficult things of you: to forgive endlessly, to seek God's Kingdom above money and things, to change your hearts, to become peace makers, to value the little and poor ones first, to welcome others in love, to lift the weak ones to their feet...but not to be afraid, I am with you!"