It seems that nudity is the innovative, new attention grabber in the Vatican’s newly-unveiled nativity scene rendition.
In an inauguration ceremony last December 7, the Vatican unveiled the official nativity scene in St. Peter’s square. The nativity scene features 20 terracotta (clay/ceramic-based) figures, some as tall as 6 feet. What is striking about the new nativity scene is that instead of the traditional rendition where the focus is simply on the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, this year’s version focuses more on the integration of the 7 “corporal works of mercy” into the scene.
The scene includes life-size figures of a naked man being “clothed”, a dead man being buried, and a prisoner being visited. The representation of the night of Jesus’ birth, Pope Francis said, is “inspired by the works of mercy” and is a reminder “that Jesus told us: ‘Do to others what you would have them do to you.’
A Naked Man Steals the Scene in the Nativity!
Most people’s eyes would probably be led first and attracted to the “unique” sight of a naked man prominently featured in the official nativity scene of the Vatican – set right at the forefront of the giant Christmas tree.
Even Facebook Disapproves Of the Image of the Naked Man in the Nativity
Interestingly enough, even Facebook itself disapproves of the image of the naked man in the nativity scene. Our initial Facebook ad to promote this article was disapproved by Facebook with the following reason given: “Your ad can’t include images that are sexually suggestive or provocative.” The image we used for the ad was the exact image of the naked man in the nativity scene in the Vatican. Below is a screen shot of the disapproved ad due to the sexually suggestive image used:
Where is the Baby Jesus?
At first glance, it is quite hard to find the baby Jesus in the entire scene. It is also quite a challenge to decipher which of the figures is St. Joseph. The Blessed Virgin Mary, usually portrayed in nativity scenes as carrying the baby Jesus, is set merely towards the side, and is not prominently displayed.
The sheer number of life-size figures on the set – much larger than the baby Jesus – will all but guarantee that people will have much difficulty in finding Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the entire scene.
The scene has been crafted, it seems, to shift focus principally on the “innovative” aspects of the new nativity rendition – the integration of images portraying the corporal works of mercy. Serving fellow men – instead of worshipping the new-born Saviour – is the unmistakeable focus of the entire scene.
Negative Reactions to the “Hideous” Nativity Scene
The nativity scene has solicited a firestorm of mostly negative reactions on Twitter, with some calling it “hideous” and “extremely sacrilegious”. Some have even called on fellow Catholics to pray a rosary of reparation after seeing the nativity scene. Here are some of the reactions to the nativity scene, after the images were first posted by the reporter Edward Pentin on Twitter:
The Last Nativity Scene of Pope Benedict XVI
The new nativity scene promoted by Pope Francis is a stark contrast to the nativity scene of Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 in what was to become his last Christmas celebration as Pope. The 2012 nativity scene was traditional in its rendition, with the central focus clearly on Jesus, Mary and Joseph (see image below):
We have seen all over the world a concerted effort to de-emphasize the birth of Jesus in Christmas, and to associate Christmas with “holidays” rather than Our Lord’s birthday. Many world leaders, like previous U.S. President Barrack Obama, use the phrase “Happy Holidays” to greet others during Christmas, instead of the proper “Merry Christmas” which rightly focuses people on the “Christ” in Christmas.
The “secularisation of Christmas” has led to Christmas becoming associated more and more with holidays, vacations, gifts, Santa Claus, reindeers – everything except the birth of Jesus. Children think of Christmas more as a wonderful time to receive materials gifts from Santa Claus – instead of a time to give their own little gifts to the forgotten birthday celebrant, Jesus Christ.
Let’s Bring Back the “Christ” in “Christmas”
Many will argue that there is nothing wrong with the new nativity scene, since it focuses on an important aspect of the Pope’s teaching: mercy and compassion for our fellow men, as manifested through the 7 corporal works of mercy.
However, the Vatican’s new nativity scene does not help at all in fighting the global secularisation of Christmas. In fact, it aggravates the problem – instead of focusing on the birth of Our Lord, we focus instead on the needs of fellow man.
Christmas is not about celebrating prisoners and clothing a naked man – it is the birthday celebration of Jesus Christ. May all of us help, in our own little way, to fight this “secularisation” and “humanisation” of Christmas.