Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli
In this painting, the artist contrasts the simple clothes worn by the Child Jesus, his mother Mary and Joseph with the exotic garments and precious jewels of the Magi. God chooses to meet us in the simplicity of ordinary life.
Mantegna deliberately chooses a neutral background in order to focus our attention on the homage of the Magi to the new born Jesus. Our eyes should always center on Christ.
In a prophetic gesture foretelling Jesus’ suffering and death, Balthasar the Moor offers an agate vessel containing myrrh. Myrrh was used to soothe the suffering and anoint the dead. With unfailing charity, we are to anoint the suffering and care for the dying.
The young Melchior presents a Turkish censer filled with frankincense. The sweet-smelling smoke ascends before the majesty of God. So, also, should our fervent prayers arise before him.
The bareheaded Caspar holds a delicate vessel typical of China’s 15th century porcelain industry. In the artist’s day, such a rare and precious gift was given to the Sultan who ruled Egypt and to Lorenzo de’ Medici who governed Florence. To Jesus, the Word of God, who guides the course of the universe and governs the destiny of nations belongs our obedience.
Gaspar offers the precious vessel filled with gold, the symbol of royalty, to Jesus who ushers in God’s kingdom on earth. May our lives clearly say, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”
The Child Jesus rises from the lap of Mary. With the swaddling clothes falling from his body, he blesses the Magi. In symbol, we already see the Resurrection when Jesus rises from his tomb, leaving behind the burial clothes. May Jesus, born of the Virgin and Risen from the dead, bless us with joy and peace.
This Christmas, as we celebrate the ineffable love of God who humbled himself to take on our humanity, I join my prayer with yours for peace in our hearts and homes, in our country and world. And, I invoke on all of you and your loved ones, especially the sick, the suffering and those in sorrow, the blessing of God who makes his home in us.