A 21st Century Incarnation

As Christmas nears and nativity sets abound, it is easy for the Incarnation to appear kitsch. Just think of the nativity set that features a porcelain infant snugly sleeping under a canopy with well-dressed parents and well-groomed shepherds attending, like a solemn family camping trip. But this does not capture accurately the radical and merciful Incarnation.

Christ entered the world mercifully by dwelling among the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the suffering. His parents did not stay in the first century equivalent of a Marriott hotel, nor was he given birth in the first century equivalent of a sanitized and safe hospital. Instead, he was born among poverty and uncertainty. An image from Everett Patterson entitled, José y Maria, captures this raw, gritty, and merciful Incarnation. Set in 21st century urban America, Patterson has created an image of how the gritty and merciful the Incarnation is.

The merciful grace of God enters among those who cannot afford a cell phone nor find space at a cheap motel. It is a fitting image for the Jubilee of Mercy. It reminds us of how Pope Francis opened the Door of Mercy in the Central African Republic so that we might remember how God’s mercy is manifest among the marginalized and the poor. Patterson’s image is a reflection of Francis’ message. It serves as a fitting locale for encountering God through an influential element of Ignatian spirituality: the colloquy.

José y María - By Everett Patterson, used with permission

José y María – By Everett Patterson, used with permission

A colloquy is an intimate conversation with God, Jesus, Mary, or a saint. Think of it as a conversation you might have with your friend, mother, or teacher. You sit down, speak, listen, and just go where the conversation goes. One way to engage this conversation with God is through an image. Ignatius had this strong sense that God speaks to us through imagination and visuals; Patterson’s image is a suitable door through which one can enter and converse with God.

Consider using Patterson’s image as a reflection this Christmas, particularly in relation to God’s mercy in the Incarnation. Click the image to view a larger version.

Here are some guiding points that you are free to use should you feel them useful in your colloquy with God.

Take a moment of silence and name what you desire in this conversation. The desire can be anything: an answer about a job, making peace with relatives, doubt about God, or feeling grateful for recent good news. Use one of these questions as a springboard for conversation.

  • What draws your eye in this image?
  • Is there any figure with whom you’d like to talk? José? María? God?
  • What strikes you as merciful in this image?

If helpful, consider journaling. And if this image is not resonating with you, then consider finding another one that has recently caught your attention. God speaks to us through our intuitions, feelings, and imagination, so feel free to use this image (or another) as a doorway to talking to God about what you’ve been thinking and feeling.

Merry Christmas!

3 replies

  1. This is a most powerful illustration, one which I have copied into my journal. It is one I shal come back to time and again. Thank you for reminding me of it.

  2. Thank you for this reflection and especially the contemporary image.
    Do you know if a print is available for purchase? This image is rich in reflection and contemplation.

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